Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I'm a Good Friend - More Tourists & Pilgrims in Israel

Today was certainly a full and eventful day. Waking up with a slight sugar-hangover from the 10 brownies I ate at a party last night at the yeshiva, I had a healthy breakfast and then checked my email, and while doing so I got a phone call from a girl I met on my flight. It started out very promising:

“Hey Danny. How would you feel about making some money?”
“I’d feel great about making some money. What’s the job?”
“Moving a bed and frame. It’s about a 10 minute walk from my apartment.”
“No problem! It’ll take me half an hour.”

Yeah right. After I waited about an hour at the bank just to receive my ATM-withdrawal card (read: ATM, not debit, a concept that hasn’t reached the Israeli shores, besides the combination Visa credit-debit scheme to put people in debt), waiting mainly for a very animated guy to stop yelling at each and every clerk over something I couldn’t figure out, I finally made my way to the #18 bus stop. I took this bus every day, twice a day, for a whole summer, so I knew where to go…only they changed the stops for it.

So after making the 20 minute hike to Emek Refaim, probably the nicest and most expensive area of Jerusalem (it really is heavenly there), I finally met up with my friend. I should have known the day was going to be drawn out. We walked to the apartment where the mattress was held, and as she was told the mattress and frame were waiting for us on the balcony. It was on the first floor. No one was home. The problem was that the balcony was about 7 feet off the ground.

So after I found a chair and jumped onto the balcony, I had to figure out how to hand a queen size bed and fully wooden frame to a 130 some pound girl. A deep apology goes out to the landscaper and his bushes. We decided that we would have to make two trips, after I really thought long and hard how I could carry both the frame and mattress together. So, as I’ve done before, I hoisted the mattress onto my back and started walking. I planned ahead: I wore shorts instead of jeans.

So, imagine a 6’4 guy carrying a queen sized mattress down a posh Jerusalem street that not only houses where I had my internship at a political think-tank, but also the Greek consulate, and a slew of other beautiful homes. Now remember that this thing is on my back, with a 5’4 girl pushing it from behind to make sure it didn’t fall off. We were a miserable sight. I was sweating like Patrick Ewing. I had to walk mainly in the street because the sidewalks were too narrow.

I thought it was pretty fun. She was really trying to find a van or delivery truck that would help us out, and I thought we were in luck when one of these stopped, offered to help, told us to wait because they had to turn around, and then it zooms off never to return. Eventually, when we were about 3/4ths of the way finished, a sketchy delivery driver said something to the girl, and finally we had our mattress in the back of a huge truck mixed with bags of rice. I finally got to ride in one of those crazy things, and the guy driving it was only slightly less crazy. His name was ‘Demitri,’ obviously a Soviet-bloc immigrant. I’ll just say one thing about Demitri: He literally forced us to eat ‘garinim,’ or sunflower seeds with him. She politely refused once, twice, then he got serious and I found myself with about 10 of them. Then he made us take more. I was already thirsty from sweating out about a liter after the walk.

Finally we got the mattress up the steps, into her 4th floor apartment. Nice day. Chug water. Wonder why she is paying $400 a month for an attic, literally. Pity her roommate who is dying over the previous tenants cat fur gift. Return for the slightly less laborious frame. Luckily I was able to carry that on my back for about 3/4 of the way, then we did a 70-30% distribution on the carry.

I have to say I had a lot of fun. It’s nice to get out there and help somebody, especially if you don’t really know them that well. Even if a ’10 minute walk’ really was about a mile. She offered me money in the beginning, as I said, but I refused. I just wanted to help; I wanted to be useful. And I’m bored out of my mind right now because the yeshiva is in a sort of holiday break, with nothing going on. Besides, she’ll buy me dinner or something later. It did take three hours after all.

On my way back to the Old City I encountered hordes, literally hordes, of foreign tourists all wearing t-shirts of the countries they are from. I knew that not even the corniest of tourists all coincidentally happen to wear their countries boldly on their shirts. I found out later that there was some type of parade, where people were just jumping up and down in procession, representing their countries, giving out flags, simply being merry. Norway, Denmark, Brazil, England, America, all types of places were represented. There are very few things as refreshing to a beleaguered state as seeing direct international support. Even if it made my normally 15 minute walk take double the time.

The last thing to mention is that my closest and really only true friend at the yeshiva left tonight for New York. His name is David, he was in the sailing pictures I posted. He’s going back to get a job, get his life on track, and potentially even start a business selling his mom’s “unbelievably delicious and unbelievably healthy” cookies. His family seems to be super-health nuts, vegetarians at times, and his mom makes a walnut, almond, and date cookie that apparently is the best thing since sliced bread. Look out for “Dr. Mier’s Kitchen” in the near future. I told him to put some chocolate chips in there.

Moving to another country, 7,000 miles away from your family, essentially alone and on your own is really a more difficult thing than most people can imagine. You have to do a lot of stuff to reestablish your life, like deal with banks and phone companies and government agencies, and even if these things all go smoothly it really reinforces the idea of your permanence and your solitude. No one in the world can do these things for you! You, and you alone, are the person that must take control of your life, no matter how difficult things may seem. This type of transition, for sane people, necessitates introspection and dialogue on the meaning of life, the meaning of your life, who you are, what you want to be, and how you are going to achieve your goals. The first period the transition is the hardest, in my opinion, because everything is slowly seeping into the consciousness, the realization of the immense choice made. The choice to literally change one’s life.

David helped me make this transition by not only being someone that listens, but by being a more experienced person that was able to bring in professional perspectives. We shared psychology books, self-help books, and the information gleaned from all sources, be it secular or religious. He is a similarly afflicted individual; one who searches for deeper meaning.

What I’m saying is that he will be sorely missed. And as I parted with him, as he was loaded down with all his bags, I realized that not only will he be missed, I will be missed as well. Mutual assistance, a mutual friendship, even if it is only a month long, is one of the dearest things to lose. There is no feeling such as loss, no feeling as intense and genuine, true and searing as finding a friend amidst a sea of solitude, only to return to that solitude so abruptly.

Don’t worry about me, I have plenty of people to talk to here. There is a great guy that I’ve known for over a year now that is here. Really a great human being, one of the greatest I’ve met in my entire life. But there is a difference between connecting with someone, feeling a certain singularity stemming from a similarity in personality, and simply being able to admire and talk to a person.

But as I truly believe: Whatever we are given is given for a reason, there is a purpose behind our possessions and interactions, and it is not up to us to decide when these things or relationships will end. We simply must make the most out of everything in our power…and we must take comfort in the knowledge that we never took anything for granted.

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