My latest challenge has been health related; I won't go too far into it because it wasn't serious, but I think it's a pretty common part of traveling. My stomach was not happy for several weeks which ultimately lead me to missing a week of classes and a much anticipated trip to the south. It was a really tough decision not to go on the trip. Tessa of last year would have just pushed through it. But it's been made clear throughout this year that The Lesson of my gap year is to learn how to take care of myself in varying situations and locations
. I missed the camels and the hike in the desert and Masada and the Dead Sea, but it was the right thing. I stayed three days alone on the Kibbutz, a little scary at first but also a relief to be alone for the first time in so many weeks. One morning I woke up and it was sunny, after pouring for the past week. I took my spare pillowcase and my book and my water and headed for the field in between my dorm and the studios. As I got situated in the grass and opened my book of Oscar Wilde plays, I heard the incredible pianist I spoke about earlier playing "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler for the company's ballet class. And the play I was reading happened to be Salome, about King Herod, set in Israel, and I think I just laughed at how perfect the moment was.
I thought it was jet lag at first. And then I thought it was a process of adjusting. Now I am half way through and I still get this strange feeling that I am in some sort of oasis. It's hard to describe, I've never had this feeling about a place, but I feel sometimes that I'm in a mirage that will disappear at any moment and I'll have to come back to reality. Maybe I would do better to just describe to you what I see. Orchids and all manners of citrus trees grow everywhere I look. Mom's and dad's together bring their toddlers to the fields outside the dance studios. They play, literally frolicking in the grass; the dog comes along too and plays with the kids. It's like a Gap commercial
. And the dogs go off on their own and they play follow the leader; they trot around the Kibbutz going on little adventures. And then they lie down together, like people might, for a nap in the shade. The elderly couples sit side by side in their Kibbutzcars (vehicles like golf carts which make it easier for them to travel around the Kibbutz) stopping at the Markolit or the laundry facilities to chat. There are not just Israelis here, but people from all over the world. Not just Jews, but people of all religions. Not just dancers, theater technicians, and artists, but factory workers, landscapers, and electricians. I look outside my window and I cannot believe I live here. It's not really a good or bad feeling, but a dizzy feeling that I'm floating a few inches off the ground.
It's the challenges that do bring me down to earth. The homesickness, the fatigue, the stresses of life in the studio that perhaps are keeping me somewhat grounded, though I do hate to admit it. I'm feeling a little more at home, a little less disoriented. I've realized that emotionally, spiritually, mentally I can become slowly more and more comfortable and open. But physically, it will always be hard because here I am like a baby. I have no defenses for whatever little things are in water, the food, the air. I've always been healthy; I now find it funny how little tolerance I have for things here. I can't eat a single vegetable at the moment. The pollen made my nose bleed
. The grass makes me itch. Whatever combination of things that were making me sick, would probably have had no effect on me were I home. It has been humbling, and frustrating, and funny as I said before. In thinking of the coming heat, I can only laugh as a person in a canoe might, looking up ahead to the coming drop of a waterfall.
This past Saturday, I saw the new KCDC show entitled "Sand." It was (I just sat here for maybe 2 full minutes trying to think of a way to convey how amazing this show was but there are too many words - wonderful, beautiful - that I use too much and I worry that they loose their meaning.) The show opened with a woman dancing under a stream of sand center stage. Slowly the sand covered the whole stage. The dancers had the challenge not only of keeping their footing but also of breathing in clouds of dust as they danced. I was concerned for them before and after the show, but during, I was mesmerized. One of the reasons I love this company is that while they are doing this incredibly physical and technically specific choreography, they are emotionally alive and so engaging because of it. It was, as always, inspiring to see the company perform.
It is now a few days later; we are in Pesach (Passover). Last Monday, we were invited to join host families for the Seder. Another dancer in my program and I were assigned to a family in Yechiem, a neighboring kibbutz
. Having never experienced a Seder, I was a little nervous; I knew that depending on how religious the family, there could be hours of reading, praying, singing, etc before the meal. The family who received us was wonderful. They were so friendly, they spoke English, and they had a fantastic sense of humor. We ate in their garden, telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt to the sound of croaking frogs and birds. And I actually really enjoyed the reading of the Hagada. They had two Hagadas for us with English and Hebrew and were scrupulous about keeping us up to speed with their speedy reading; we also were invited to read (in English of course), and as the youngest I got to read the four questions. I expected to feel like an audience member, not knowing the Hebrew or the songs. Instead we were included in every step (and there are a lot). There was much laughter and banter throughout. When we sang Echad Mi Yodea (a song, like 12 days of xmas, in which each verse adds a new aspect of tradition with increasing numbers) every person at the table was assigned a number or two, and whenever our number was called, we stood. This produced the most laughter, I think. At quieter moments, we sometimes heard other families in Yechiem singing familiar songs.
The food was (surprise!) wonderful. We had the wine, matzah with horseradish, eggs in salt water, gefilte fish, and matzah ball soup. After the soup I was feeling close to full, and then came the meal: chicken with mushrooms, rice, lamb and gravy, broccoli, and many salads. It really felt like a familiar family dinner with lively conversation and comfortable atmosphere. And being in the garden, and also knowing that most people in Israel were having the same celebration, it was a kind of magical experience.
We danced Wednesday and Thursday, and now have Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off
. I don't know what I would do without this break. My body is exhausted. But at the moment, after two wonderful Seder dinners, and a Shabbat last night, a three hour walk to and from the glorious arab market in Tershicha, some purposeful walks in the rain, and the knowledge that coming home is not to far off has brought me a rare moment of complete contentment. Life has begun to feel normal here, finally. I don't have to think about where I'm walking or how I'm going do laundry or even to some extent what my I am supposed to be doing here. I've kind of accepted that this is not a situation in which setting goals is going to help me. I honestly don't know what I'm doing here; it might take me 10 years to figure that out. In the meantime, I am figuring out other things, like how to eat and sleep and dance. At this moment, and from speaking with many other friends on the program I know that many people feel this way, I have such a profound longing for home and my family. But it's like a race in that seeing the finish line makes the end more enjoyable. I don't want to wish these last months away. I don't think I will. My roommate and I talk about home a lot. We feel the same way; we both love the program, love Israel, love this company, but also can't wait to go home. And we are close, but still only half way. I predict that by the end, I will be excited to come home, but if given the choice, I would rather stay in Israel continuing the program. Two more months will be just enough time to get completely comfortable and attached. Isn't this just how life works?
Well now I'm off to eat some of Natasha and Jenya's Russian Salad (they're my married friends from Russia, I have married friends already) and some Passover cookies (I may be the only one who finds them delicious).
It is hot finally, and windy; beautiful sunny weather has come after months of thunderstorms. It feels as though summer has just been dropped on top of us, and I am having trouble contemplating the fact that this is not actually summer in Israel; it's still just spring. I have passed the 10 week mark; I am half way through the program. It flew! It's unnerving how fast it's gone, and how much I've learned in such a short amount of time. It feels like the most full part of my life, and perhaps the most challenging.