Saturday, October 8, 2011

Home is Where the Heart is ....

I should start by saying that I live in a tower. Seventeen steps up (and around and around) and another fourteen to the bedroom. I anticipate midnight aerobics as the washroom is on the first floor.

I have been settling in, putting my own touches to my new home.
Today I have decided to leave my tower and go for a walk about my new city. The best way, I think, to get to know a new place is to get lost. Which I promptly did. I decided to go a different route than the way I knew, thinking I actually did know where I was going. But the best rule of thumb is always walk in a circle, and always get home before dark.

As I walked down, around and back up again, I realized a number of things – I do actually live on a mountain, neighbourhoods  the world over are all the same , with babies crying, little boys playing ball in the street and washing hung on the lines. And in this city there is a sense of familiarity although I can’t read, write or speak  the language, however a smile goes along way.
So I have walked around, bought my wooden spoons – one cannot cook without the proper utensils - and made my way home. I have also verified the fact that you cannot see into any of my windows from street level (unless you are close  to being two stories tall).

I have treated myself to a lovely meal at a local restaurant – the Christmas Hotel – and am becoming more comfortable in my new surroundings.

On another day… I get up and head out  for a lovely long walk to find my  grocer – Automatic Groceries -  just down the road and up the road and around the corner to the left.  It has been raining and the air is fresh and cool. It reminds me of England, oddly enough. I am getting a sense of the neighbourhood and am recognizing roads and land marks.  My grocer has everything imaginable, all in the smallest place imaginable. And it smells so good in there - spicey and rich.
The sun has come out so I decide to head to the old city. I walk around the outside to the New Gate (David’s Gate) and noticed how things change as you head up the street towards West Jerusalem - Pretty parks and grassy areas to sit, very clean, very Western in many regards.

I walk into the old city from the New Gate (new being a relative term as it is only newer by a few centuries) and now I am in very familiar territory. Seems odd not be counting heads every few minutes.
I walk back through the Souk (market) to the  Holy Sepulcher and pop in for a deep breath of ancient incense and spirituality. I love that it is so familiar to me. I wander to favourite altars and say silent prayers for peace. This place slows me down. I came rushing in and really had to think about slowing my breathing and taking a quiet moment among the hundreds of people who have come to pay respects, walk where Jesus died, and awkwardly stand in line for their turn in the empty tomb. I smile at an elderly gentleman, obviously exhausted from running around with his tour and he smiles back in unspoken acknowledgement of feeling hot, sweaty and tired, yet oddly exhilarated to actually be HERE.

I totally get it.

This afternoon I am going  to do a wash in the washing machine (a front loader with what I think are universal sign language instructions but I am not sure which universe ‘cause I don’t understand them) so I have pushed every button and turned every knob, added soap and said a prayer. I think I have it figured out. I hear running water and see the clothes begin to tumble so something is happening.  In the meantime,  I will set up my drying racks and get ready to  watch my clothes dry.
[And on a side note – I have been here four  times previous to this stay and not once has anyone ever mentioned the whole – the pipes are too small for toilet paper – concern.  I have been taken quietly aside to be told that I need to put my toilet paper in the garbage container beside the toilet. And yes to the first question that pops into my mind, that, too.] 

Ah, well, it is all part of the adventure and as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans – oh that was in 70 CE; what I mean to say is when in Jerusalem …