Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coming "home" - take 2

This is the second time I've come "home" to Tel Aviv.  This time, it felt like I really was returning home.  I was looking forward to it.  It felt familiar.  I think a big part of that has to do with having our own space in a functional state now.  It's amazing how comforting it is knowing you're going home to your own bed, and having access to a few basic familiar things.

The grocery store, while still a challenge to find first-time purchase items like ricotta and lasagne noodles (yes, I made lasagne), is getting a little easier each time.   At the bulk counter, when my Hebrew was too limited to help me explain that I was looking for salted pumpkin seeds, they sent over a nice older gentleman who it turns out lived in Boston for a while, helping his brother run Rami's in Coolidge Corner and Framingham. 

I also stopped by the little shop where my sewing machine was getting fixed.  The repairman spoke English with me, and was quick and efficient.  When I left, a friendly Israeli stopped me to tell me that the plastic strip under the front of my car was dragging on the ground (thanks to the high curbs in the grocery store lot) and he even got on the ground to try to fix it for me.  It was a nice reminder of the potential value that this type of culture can provide.  The best way to describe the culture here may be through the words of an Ulpan colleague from Chicago.  He said that one of the reasons he loves coming to Israel is the connection and sense of community he gets from the people around him here.  I think this can still sometimes be found in small towns in the U.S., especially where there is relative stability and/or longevity in the population.  But it comes from a traditional European sense of family.  It seems that a communal sense of living has held on more strongly with the immigration to Israel, likely due to the recency of the process, as compared to the cultural changes that have occurred in the U.S. over the last 12+ generations of immigration there.  As someone from one of the most individualistic areas of the U.S. with family immigration having occurred between 3-12 generations ago, I still find aspects of this communal cultural behavior uncomfortable, such as the lack of appreciation for personal space.  But this time, I was pleasantly surprised by experiencing the positives, without the discomfort of the corresponding negatives. 

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