Life in the Center of the World: the “this is cool” version

I live in the center of the world.  That is, if you’re going by this ancient map of the world.

jerusalem map

Ancient map of the world depicting Asia, Europe, and Africa, with Jerusalem in the center

The mosaic of this map is in the Cardo in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and there is a new tiled version outside of City Hall.  My memory of historical facts is poor, but I believe that this map wasn’t symbolic: people actually believed “all roads lead to Jerusalem.” (Please correct me if you know the real history of this map).  Of course we have all seen a modern globe and know now that Jerusalem is not in the center of the world.  But I tell you, sometimes it feels like it is.

Although Jerusalem isn’t in the center of a map, it is often the center of attention and has been for centuries.  Because of this, I really feel sometimes that I live in the center of the world.  Oftentimes I am overwhelmed by this feeling and living in the tension breaks me down (note: I had a huge emotional breakdown over it last week).  But sometimes I think, “I live in the center of the world.  That is so COOL!”

I had that thought recently because I was seeing my “world” in public places:

1)  A Cookbook

The new best-selling cookbook, Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi references my school and my church. And I’m not even joking when I say that the pictures in the book are so familiar that I’m looking to see if I’m in any of them.

jerusalem cookbook with words

My school and church are discussed on the page about Lamb

2)  A Commercial

I went to the movie theatre to see Jurassic Park in 3D (best movie-going experience of my life) and was surprised when I saw a commercial before the film that looked familiar.  First I shouted, “Hey, that’s my neighborhood!”  Then I shouted, “Hey, that’s my street!”  And finally, “Hey, that’s my HOUSE!”  It was cool.  If you want to see what it looks like where I live, just watch this commercial.  I know every place in it.  *Note: where the kid rolls around in grass doesn’t actually exist.  I saw them filming one day and was happy to see we had a new patch of grass, but when I came back later it was disappointingly and suddenly gone.  At least now I know why it was there for a day!

3) A Movie

An Israeli movie came out this summer and is being shown in every theatre I know of.  It’s cool because it has Patrick Stewart in it, but also because all of the hospital scenes were filmed at my school!  The filming took place last year; school started a couple days late because of it, they used my classroom for props and whatnot, and Patrick Stewart autographed a copy of Romeo and Juliet for me.  And now, the movie is out and my school is in it!  So cool.  Here’s the trailer, however our school didn’t make into the trailer itself, just the film.  But watch the trailer anyway, because it’s good.

Hunting Elephants Trailer

4)  A Conclusion

I remember when I first moved here a friend of mine from college was passing through the city.  I was taking her to the main sites in the Old City when she asked me, “What’s your favorite thing about living here?”  I replied, “There is always the potential for something to happen.”  At that exact moment, we saw Bill Clinton walk down from the Dome of the Rock and over to the Western Wall, where he impeccably proved my point.  I am excited about moving back to the States eventually, but I do wonder if I’ll find myself a little bored after living here, in the center of the world.

Clinton 018

Bill Clinton at the Western Wall (being guarded by an extraordinarily furry policeman)

Michigan and Other Places

With all the news about the bankruptcy, I’ve been thinking about Detroit lately.  Actually, more accurately, I’m trying not to think about Detroit.

I’m not from Detroit, but since living overseas I find myself identifying with the city and claiming it as my own; to me, it has come to represent Michigan as a whole, and my home.  I used to be excited to read about Detroit on the rare occasion it popped up in the news, but these days I cringe when I see a headline and immediately turn elsewhere.  What Detroit is going through pains me.

The news is reporting what I’ve been aware of anecdotally — Michigan is dying, almost dead in fact, and on life-support.  I’m often nostalgic for my home, but what I miss doesn’t exist anymore.  I used to go home to visit a multitude of friends and family, but if I were to go back now I would have only one friend to visit, only one friend who hasn’t yet emigrated elsewhere to a better place.  On Facebook I saw pictures of my old group of friends “up north” for the fourth of July weekend.  But the group has changed a lot so that I only recognize a smattering of faces, and they’re of people I’m not in contact with anymore.  It makes me wonder if I did go back to this place I miss, Michigan, would I be accepted?

There’s a deep part of me that wants to return home, but alongside that desire is a fear that that home doesn’t exist anymore.  Michigan is dying, friends have moved, and I abandoned the state and those that remained.  I wonder if they could forgive me for that.  I wonder if I could fit in again, and find a home again.

I expressed these thoughts to my boyfriend of almost four years when in a flash I finally understood an infinitesimal part of what his life is like.  Anis is Palestinian, and for the first time I was able to feel genuine empathy for his situation.  I asked him how it felt to not have a recognized country, to have a land that is not technically his, to be homeless.  I finally began to understand.

Geography is important.  I have great respect for my father and his opinions, but one I don’t share is his thought that geography is irrelevant.  He travels a lot and he says that all places are the same and if you’re there long enough, you’ll like it just as well as anywhere else.

I disagree because in geography you have cultures, societies, languages, landmarks, people, and atmosphere.  Every city feels different.  When I visit a place I am able to learn about the people and culture based on how the city feels.  Switzerland is xenophobic and dull, Lithuania is depressing and defensive, China is ignorant, Paris is haughty, Marrakesh is traditional, Istanbul is modern and diverse, Jerusalem is mentally ill, and Detroit is struggling against itself.

I realize that I’m rambling; I apologize.  To sum up what I’m saying, geography matters to a person, and I think it matters a great deal more than we credit it.

Detroit’s problems are obviously affecting the people currently residing there, especially the senior citizens, but they also affect all of Michigan, and anybody who has a connection there.  I don’t think all of my friends wanted to move away, but they were literally out of options.  Ideally I would love to move to Dearborn, near Detroit, because there Anis and I could live in both Michigan and Palestine at the same time.  But that will never happen, because there’s nothing there for us.  There is no industry, no jobs, no life.  I wish I could say, “I’m going to move back to Michigan one day!”  But I won’t. Because that would be going backward.  I want to go home, but my home is dying.  And even though I’m far away, and possibly not even accepted by my home anymore, it still pains me to see it like this.

 

Crime and Punishment: in my head

Crimeandpunishmentcover

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is my favorite book of all time, but that’s not necessarily because I enjoy it.  I do, obviously, enjoy reading it, but I think it’s my favorite because of how intense an effect it has on me.

The first time I read it was in college, so the reading schedule was fast-paced, forcing me to really immerse myself in the novel.  I did, and it had such an obvious impact on me that my professor, Dr. Nancy Dayton, actually told me to me stop reading!

I haven’t re-read the novel since then because it is such a massive undertaking, but I assigned it to my students for summer reading so I’m diving in again.  Well, I got behind on the reading for a week and had to catch up this weekend.  I thought that I had outgrown the influence of Dostoevsky, but one lengthy dose of Raskolnikov and I swear that I’m insane.

I can’t think straight.  I don’t feel like myself.  I’m constantly in my own head and have trouble interacting with people.  I am insecure and arrogant at the same time.  I walk around as if in a stupor.  My thoughts are disjointed and grandiose.  My emotions are alternately numb and severe.

All because I read some Crime and Punishment this weekend?

Yes.

Whenever I hear the question about who you would like to have dinner with, living or dead, my answer is always Dostoevsky.  I want to talk to him, to understand him, because I think that by knowing Dostoevsky I’d be able to know myself as well.

dostoevsky

He looks scary, who could imagine such incredible things came from his mind?

Fyodor Dostoevsky is my literary soulmate.  Who is yours?  What piece of work affects you?

Crippled

My hunched back aims my head down

causing my eyes always to be facing the Underground.

My shoulders burdened by the hump on my back

I carry my load on the leg on the left,

dragging the right leg of reason

scraping it along the gray pavement

my stained brown shoe digging

and digging the ground into confusion.

 

From head to foot I am a cripple.

Breathing hard, moving slow, sloshing my step.

 

My handicap makes a mess for all to see,

for me to see,

see farther Underground

deeper into the filth

into the confusion of me

 

And I lose more respect

for the damned cripple

that is me.

Morning Glory Muffins

These muffins are not hallucinogenic.  When I told my dad I made these, he thought I was referring to morning glory seeds, which apparently kids used to smoke back in the day.

Rather than get you high, these muffins fill you up in a hearty way.  The recipe is from my Aunt SuAnn, who, if she were 30 years younger, would be the ultimate hipster because the only food she buys from the store is milk, because they have beef cows now.  Everything else is homemade, from her garden, and organic.  So you know that this recipe, coming from her, rocks.  And even though it’s healthy and significantly less-sweet than today’s muffin cakes, it doesn’t taste like you’re trying to behave.  It tastes like breakfast should be: real, hearty, healthy, and deliciously tasty to kick-start your day.

The ingredient list is kind of long, but you’ll feel good walking out of the grocery store as you look down and see how healthy your purchases are.

Morning Glory Muffins

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup shredded apple (I used one red, one green)

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup flaked coconut (they only sell unsweetened here and it totally worked)

1/2 cup raisins (I used dried cranberries because raisins in muffins is yucky)

1/4 cup chopped nuts (I just used sunflower seeds, I like it because they aren’t chunky and you don’t notice them)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Combine eggs, oil, applesauce and vanilla; mix well.  Add flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, apple, carrot, coconut, raisin and nuts; mix until blended.  Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pan, filling cups half full.

Bake on 350 for 20 minutes.  Makes about 16.

Love

I’d almost forgotten about love.

I’m trying a new church, and today they talked about love.  That’s to be expected at church.  But somehow, it felt new again, because I had almost forgotten it.

Since moving here I’ve learned a different kind of love, one that is more action-based and practical, and that is good.  Very good.

But what I miss is community love.  Saginaw, Michigan, the town where I’m from, was once again named one of the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States.  While the city itself doesn’t have a lot going for it, I know that if I am ever in need, I can return to Saginaw and be enveloped in love.  Between my high school friends, family, friends of the family, and teachers, I always feel a community of caring around me.  Even strangers are friendly, because the Midwest is wonderful like that.

It’s likely that I’m seeing things through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, but one love I know is real, that I miss, is the love of my family, both immediate and extended.  We do the best we can with Skype, but I do look forward to the day when they’re a phone call or a quick plane ride away.  But for now I’m thankful I at least have my niece Layla putting her mouth on the screen to give me kisses.  That’s the best.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or unhappy, because I’m not at all.  I have love in my life; and it is beautiful and rich.  It’s just not all nearby, or in one community.  So I guess at this point I’m just being greedy, because I want it all.  I want to live in a global society where I travel and move, but I also want the benefits of a life-long, loving community.  Is it possible to have both?

Re-entering the world: Facebook

I finally did it!  I re-joined society.  I got back on Facebook.

I’m not sure how long I was off, maybe six months or so.  It was good; refreshing.  But it’s also refreshing to be back, because I’ve missed being able to communicate with long-distance friends and family, which is basically everybody.  Now that I took the time to clean it up, I think I’ll get more out of it than before.

Maybe at a later date I’ll share my philosophizing ideas about Facebook (don’t worry, I won’t just parrot what every other cultural critic says), but right now I am tired from de-friending people and deleting all of my photo albums sans two.

This probably didn’t warrant its own blog post, did it?