It happened, finally. I’m feeling travel weary. I’m typing this outside a coffee shop on the first floor of a mall in Tel Aviv. Last week, I was with some of my nearest and dearest in Italy — Cinque Terre and Firenze. Now, in Israel, I am catching up with some of my dearest friends from my working life. I visited Israel fifteen years ago and spent an amazing two+ weeks touring the country – we had marvelous guides and visited all over. This time, I’m intentionally not wandering so much. This time, I’m taking it much easier – smiling and laughing with friends, soaking in the lovely sunshine and colors, and admitting to myself that I am travel weary.
A friend who took a sabbatical a few years ago talked to me about how he contended with many different emotions and that is happening to me now. My dream life is more vivid than usual, or at least I’m recalling them more. They’ve often been mixed up snippets of important people, places and times in my past. So…a dead uncle walked in and smiled, looked very peaceful and shook the hand of a great uncle, still alive. Naturally, I woke up expecting an email or a phone call that my great-uncle had died. (Thankfully, not so.) I dreamt that a writer friend, who I think is in her early sixties, announced that she was pregnant by saying, “Who gets pregnant when they’re fifty-five?” My fifty-fifth birthday arrives in May, so do with that what you will all you dream interpreters. I know what it means to me — my life is still pregnant with possibilities. In a dream last night, I was back competing in gymnastics somewhere, but the floor mats had gotten wet. Now that I think of it, I’ve had a few gymnastics dreams since I’ve been overseas. Often some part of my brain is aware that it’s been far too long and that I can’t possibly do what I used to — I watch a lot and I’m happy to be with my friends, but I don’t actually do the old routines.
I am sleeping well here in Tel Aviv and yet, I am tired. I thought it was a good idea planning Tel Aviv after Florence – and it was in terms of the travel details, but I allowed myself no time to try to process all I saw and experienced in Italia before coming to Israel. Instead of “ken” for yes, I was often saying “si,” my first days. As I always do in a foreign country, I’m wishing I could understand more of the language – here though, when I hear Ivrit (Hebrew), I think of the Hebrew teachers from my old teaching days and I can hear them in the hall, or the teachers’ lounge. I hear a few familiar phrases or words and wonder why I didn’t listen to my first grader son when I started working there who said I should take Hebrew while there!
Unlike in Italy, there is less English posted on signs here. Most people do speak good English, but if I choose to explore on my own, it feels a little more challenging with less visible English around. Here’s a shot from the Carmel Market the other day:
Yesterday afternoon, I took the train from Netanya to Tel Aviv by myself. My friend helped me get situated in Netanya and I was able – easily – to get on the right train. But when I got off — at the same station I had walked to without any problem from my apartment in the morning — I must have exited from a different door. I could not orient myself. I had walked over through a bus station and when I asked for directions to the bus station and walked to it, I was pretty sure it was a different bus station. I was getting ready to just flag a taxi when I thought I’d ask one more person for help – the walk was only ten minutes in the morning and it seemed ridiculous to take a cab. I happened to ask a young woman, Hagid, who pulled out her cell phone and looked up where I was going and announced it was too far to walk, she would drive me. So, I had a personal escort take me home – a kind spirit who works in the diamond district. This is the second time so far on this sabbatical that a stranger has offered me a ride — the last time I was in the Highlands of Scotland with a friend. We had planned on taking a taxi back from the end of our walk. When the director of a town recreation center, in Corpach I think, heard we were planning on a taxi, he offered to drive us back to the hostel. A taxi would be too much money. So, we took him up on it and had a lovely talk in the car.
Lovely people are everywhere in this lovely world. As are poor people. And rich people. And mean people, I suppose, but I seem to manage to avoid most of them.
This donne, geveret, frau, femme is one tired woman. Tired and grateful. Forgive me for sifting my thoughts by writing them down, but I am pondering a few Flannery O’Connor quotes and I guess, I’m living them:
I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.
I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.
And, later, when I’m less fatigued, I will figure out again how to capture those quotes as images and replace the typed versions above.
Traveling mercies, one and all.