Sunday, 4 January 2015

Cultural clashes - London and Tel Aviv

Dear readers, I am pleased to announce that one of my aliya goals is now complete -

I write from my bed in Tel Aviv, having had an accidental 2 hour nap post-first day of my new job in Tel Aviv. Yes, you read correctly - I am living (!!) and working in Tel Aviv, as of a few days ago.

I am the happiest person in the world right now - thank G-d, a lot of amazing stuff has happened in the past few weeks since my last post, that has made my life in ulpan seem like a bizarre and distant cheese-dreamish memory. It's almost like it never really happened.

The last week or so of my stay in ulpan was actually rather great - I had the whole place to myself, and despite having some awful combination of laryngitis and bronchitis (the type of combo which of course only I could ever get), and having to go to the emergency doctor in the middle of the night, I had a great time. I hung out with the shomrim and the cats, climbed up on the roof and did some more exploring.

I ended up leaving a few of my things - the stuff I didn't put in Oranit - in a cupboard in one of the rooms in ulpan, somewhat naively. When I returned, I saw that a strange combination of items had been stolen as the door wasn't locked - most importantly, the thieving bastard had nicked my kettle and my hair straightners!! Such a combination is of course devastating to a Jewish Brit, but unfortunately, it seemd to be the case that my love of tea and straightened hair was my downfall. Never mind.

So, decaffineated and messy of hair, I returned from my trip to London.

It was very nice to go back and see my family and friends - even if I didn't get around to seeing everyone, or not even as much as I would have liked to. Little Louis is now a mahusive version of when I last saw him, with his enthusiasm and bounciness undiminshed. He almost knocked me over when I got through the door.

Unfortunately, I also was told that Dylan, my other doggie who was left alone after Benjy's sudden death in the summer, is (in the words of my mother), 'not very well'. In 'in your face Israeli' translation, it means that he is slowly - but naturally - dying. It wasn't the nicest thing to come home to - both of my babies, Benjy and now Dilly - who I raised from puppies - will have died within a year of each other, one suddenly, unpredictably and horrifically, and the other slowly (but apparently not painfully, so thank G-d for small mercies) and gradually. It's a horrible thought to think that the next time I see him, when I return for a few days for my brother's wedding, he will be either a diminished version of my beautiful and proud little boy, or potentially not there to greet me. but, that is the price I have to pay for my life choice.

It was very strange being back - I had obviously not expected life to stand still sans moi, but I also didn't expect my return to reflect how much I had changed in such a short space of time. It has become apparent that I have Israelified, in the (slightly bastardised) words of my mother. I hadn't realised how quiet and calm stuff in England is, and the shock of suddenly it being Christmas, and cold (it reached -8 degrees C one night I was there), and everything being in English, and the types of discussion going on around - the weather; inevitably, forthcoming weddings; Christmas TV (of which I watched none); some headline news about late trains - was quite a shock to the system, and different to the stuff of everyday Israelis, which is more along the topics of (to put it in a condensed manner) - when will there be another war; from which direction and who; the respective merits and conditions of living in Jerusalem,, Tel Aviv, the North and South (these last two points are inextricably linked); cultural clashes and segmentation amongst the olim (immigrant), religious and secular communities and much, much more.

Being back at home with my parents and siblings, and going to all of the places I used to when I was back in England made me realise how different and new my life is in Israel. I am thrilled that I live in one of the most insane, by turns frustrating, wondrous and beautiful countries in the world, where I am (FINALLY) able to communicate with people from all over the world in one common unifying (resurrected) language, which is concurrently highly logical and illogical; that I've achieved something that most people only dream of, and which doesn't usually go beyond a mere dream - I've emigrated and shaped my life to almost exactly how I wanted it to be - it is by no means perfect, but it's made me feel content.

And therefore, as great as it was to see people, I realise the sheer extent of all the stuff I needed to do to set up the next leg of my adventure, making the decision to return two days early, which turned out to be a rather good move.

Moving from one city to another in Israel is unlike anywhere else. It's not a case of get up and go; more of you need to move every aspect of your life - bank, medical centre, formal re-registration of your address, bus pass etc - to your new city, which is often only an hour or so away. Event though I haven't yet done this, the extra two days gave me time to get my stuff from Jerusalem and Oranit and schlep it to my new place in Tel Aviv.

I hired a car for this purpose, which was rather a strange experience as I'd become confused about driving on English roads during my London trip. On my first drive out after six months in my lovely little car, I had to really concentrate on which side of the road I stuck to, and how roundabouts worked (because, if you think about it, it actually makes far more sense to go around it anti-clockwise, as in the rest of the world).

And so, driving along from Jerusalem to Oranit to Tel Aviv on the right hand side of the road, on the way to my new life in Tel Aviv, Lana Del Rey blaring from the radio, I felt pretty damn chuffed with my lot (and the 700-odd tea bags I schlepped back from Tesco because, however Israeli I become, I will always need real, hard-core English tea).

Even if this elatedness (is that a word?) is only a temporary thing and eventually subsides into every day contentment and/or I eventually take it for granted, I know for certain that there are two moments of this past year that will forever remain etched into my conscious mind as two of the happiest (with please G-d more to come) - the day I finally made it back to Israel, and the day I finally set up shop in Tel Aviv.

I was also really excited to start work today - where I timed my first day to a 'First Sunday' company party (complete with wine and decadent food treats) and a free company umbrella. It's a 15 minute commute from door to door, my boss is awesome and the company is really young, friendly and fun.

I've not always made the best choices in life, or even so far on this journey (read: that whole ridiculous 'relationship' episode), but every so often, even in the depths of a massive oncoming rain and snow storm (expected this week in Israel), things seem to have a way of evening out.

Happy new year to you all, from one of the best cities in the world.

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