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?

Dressing for Neighborhoods in Jerusalem

I have a 45 minute walk every day this summer, to and from class.  The walk is interesting because it takes me through three different neighborhoods, and as I pass through the neighborhoods, I have to adjust how I carry myself.

I’ll show you how it works chronologically, going from my flat to the university.

1) Nachlaot: an ancient neighborhood that mixes religious people and hippies, in the downtown area right next to the big open air market.

This is where I live, and it’s cool.  Most of the streets are winding, pedestrian walkways, and the buildings are so close together that you can hear your neighbors across the way scraping their dinner plates.

There used to be signs asking people to dress modestly in the neighborhood, but I think the hippies took them down.  I live next to a Yeshiva, but I can still basically wear whatever I want.  I go out in my running clothes relatively comfortably.  This is what’s great about downtown Jerusalem, you can wear whatever you want! You want to dress like Moses?  Nobody will look twice.  You want to dress like a slut?  No worries, you won’t be heckled.  You want to dress in tourist gear and/or typical American clothing and talk loudly and obnoxiously?  You’ll fit right in.  Want to dress like a religious Jew or Muslim?  You still fit in here.  Downtown, you’re free to be yourself!

2)  Mea Shearim:  an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood, where the extremists who aren’t busy living on the settlements live.

This neighborhood scares me more than any other neighborhood.  Here I have been shouted at (for wearing pants), attacked (for driving on a main road on a Saturday), and I’ve read/heard too many stories of stone-throwing and spitting.  They are not fond of outsiders in their neighborhood, and even have billboards warning against tour groups going through, and explanations of how women should be dressed.

There is one main road, Shivtei Israel, that connects downtown to the “other” side, and it’s a huge shortcut.  So, I take this shortcut every day, and every day I am nervous.  Today was a lovely 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so I decided to wear a dress.  This dress is fine for downtown, but I was nervous about walking through Mea Shearim wearing it, so when I approached the neighborhood I wrapped a scarf around my waist, adding an extra few inches to the length of my dress.

The scarf did the trick, I didn’t get spat on!  But my (lack of) clothing still got a reaction.  Every single male I crossed paths with shielded his eyes.  Most would entirely turn their heads away and cover their eyes and continue walking, and one who was guiding a man in a wheelchair turned to face the wall until I passed.  It’s not pleasant, but I will take being treated like a leper over being stoned.

3)  Sheikh Jarrah: an Arab neighborhood that contains what many consider the “downtown” of the Arab side.

Ok, this neighborhood isn’t as interesting as the others, because it’s relatively normal.  Most of the men wear long clothing and the women wear hijabs (headscarves), but if you look different, it’s not a big deal.  This neighborhood is used to expats because it’s where a lot of the aid workers hang out.

I mean, I wasn’t entirely comfortable walking through Sheikh Jarrah wearing my dress, but the only attention I received was stares.  And I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a girl, because I’m wearing less clothing than Muslim women, or because Arabs just stare, a lot.  It’s a cultural thing I guess.

I do have to be careful with my clothing in Arab neighborhoods, but unless you pass a group of young guys trying to be cool by saying, “How are you?” in a thick Arab accent, there isn’t any harassment.  Just weird staring.

And that, is my walk through three different neighborhoods every day.  I would love to take pictures to show you the different ‘hoods, but I’m too scared to take a picture of Mea Shearim.  So, either come visit or use your imagination!

Joiners

I read an article in the New York Times; it was interesting, but I want to take one paragraph out of context and focus on that.  The author, Roger Berkowitz, describes people like Adolf Eichmann, head Nazi during the Holocaust, as being joiners.  It’s not Eichmann that fascinates me, but Berkowitz’s explanation of what a joiner is.  Read the paragraph and see if it resonates with you,and see if you can think of modern day joiners.

Here it is: “That evil, Arendt argued, originates in the neediness of lonely, alienated bourgeois people who live lives so devoid of higher meaning that they give themselves fully to movements. It is the meaning Eichmann finds as part of the Nazi movement that leads him to do anything and sacrifice everything. Such joiners are not stupid; they are not robots. But they are thoughtless in the sense that they abandon their independence, their capacity to think for themselves, and instead commit themselves absolutely to the fictional truth of the movement. It is futile to reason with them. They inhabit an echo chamber, having no interest in learning what others believe. It is this thoughtless commitment that permits idealists to imagine themselves as heroes and makes them willing to employ technological implements of violence in the name of saving the world.”

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who connected with this paragraph as I found multiple commentators also referencing it.  The other commentators spoke of the Republican party being full of joiners.  Because of my context, I first thought of the joiners as a majority of the people in this country: the Zionists and settlers, the suicide bombers and stone-throwers, and many in between.  Additionally, many expats who come are joiners as they are usually more politically vocal and outraged than the locals.

It’s easy to point fingers at joiners, but it’s difficult to turn it on yourself.  To some degree am I a joiner?  I think we all are.  I definitely used to be; I was an Indie joiner, an athlete joiner, a literary snob joiner, but I was mainly an Evangelical joiner.

Although I’ve been working hard to become less of a joiner in recent years, I’m sure I still am to some degree.  Because to be completely independent is, as the article stated, lonely and alienating.  It’s important to be part of communities that share purpose, but this article reminds us to be careful of the evil of allowing ourselves to be so swept up in our community’s movement that we become joiners.

“Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’”

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/misreading-hannah-arendts-eichmann-in-jerusalem/

A Brief Blogging Question: Unicorns

I’ve been procrastinating the work I swore I was going to do today by reading other blogs, and I surface from this time-wasting fun with a question: Why does seemingly every blogger reference unicorns?

I don’t have an opinion on unicorns, because I don’t think about them, and because they don’t exist.  So why does everyone else?  What am I missing?

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This is the first picture that shows up when you type “unicorn” into google images.

I take it back.  This picture tells me that I do hate unicorns.  I guess it only took about 30 seconds of contemplation to come up with an opinion.

Why this picture makes me hate unicorns:

1) This photo tries to make the unicorn look like a real creature, and that’s stupid.

2)  It reminds me of what I truly despise: soft, hazy, ethereally-set, galloping horse pictures.

3)  I feel that this picture was created with the intention of being inspirational, and that the viewer is meant to feel empathy for the sad-looking unicorn.  And this makes me irrationally angry.  Really.  I can’t stop myself from grimacing as I write this.

Well, I guess that instead of being different, and trying to set myself apart from the foolishness of referencing unicorns in my blog, I joined the ranks.  But maybe this means that I’m, like, a real blogger now?

Crying

Once in a great while I’ll start crying, for no reason that I can decipher.  I love it when that happens.

It’s cathartic, releasing you from months of subtly pent-up emotions that are too small to be recognized, but build up over time.  And then bam, one day you have a little cry, and feel that much better, without even realizing you were feeling under-par in the first place!

You can probably infer that I don’t cry regularly, however, my best friend in high school, Megan, did cry regularly.  Megan was the kind of person who cried when Comet the dog on Full House got lost for an episode, or during a commercial for batteries with the Energizer Bunny.  (In order to preserve the integrity of my friend, if you didn’t catch it on your own, note that I am exaggerating).

So one time we’re hanging out at her house and watching a movie that just came out on DVD, The Notebook.  At the point in the movie where the old couple are dancing when suddenly Allie’s Alzheimers comes back and she doesn’t recognize her husband and she shoves him away in terror, I lost it.  I turned to Megan and said, “Are you crying, too?”  A great surprise to me, she said no.  Thankfully, Megan was sensitive enough to wait until after the movie finished to laugh at me.

The real irony of the story is that in popular culture today, crying during The Notebook is completely cliche.  And it’s the only movie that ever made me cry.  (Although Toy Story 3 almost broke that record because come on, I’ve loved those toys for like 10 years, and my heart isn’t made of stone!).

Aristotle writes about the benefits of catharsis in his book on drama, The Poetics.  He says that catharsis is necessary to rid us of negative emotions like pity and fear, and that’s why we should watch tragic plays, because we can vicariously experience these emotions through the story and characters, and be rid of these negative emotions.  Aristotle claims that Oedipus Rex is the perfect tragedy for this, and it is a good one indeed, but since I don’t have a fear of fate (or killing/sleeping with my parents) and I don’t pity him, because I don’t like him, I’ll stick to watching The Notebook for my catharsis.

Carbon Monoxide Leak

Ever since the school year ended on Thursday I keep thinking of the scene in Arrested Development when Michael sends everyone out to get a job  and then walks in the house to find the whole family draped over the furniture, immobile.

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“Is there a carbon monoxide leak in this house?”

I’ve been so lethargic that I thought I actually had a carbon monoxide leak in my house.  Thankfully that’s not logistically possible, or else I probably would have been running for the hospital because I’ve been watching a lot of House lately.

My first year of teaching I had some friends who were concerned that I had mono because of how tired I was.  They managed to make me worry too, but in the end it was simply exhaustion from being a first-year teacher.  And my exhaustion now is not from being sick or poisoned, but just from being the end of the school year.  Can you imagine the energy that is expended when an introvert teaches teenagers?!

I really don’t know how the rest of you normal folk survive without a summer vacation.  What do you do when you get burnt out?

Candles at Home

When I Skype with my parents I mostly talk to the inside of their noses.  This is a vast improvement on our family home videos where my dad would film the ground while he was walking.

Usually, though, my parents eventually manage to set the iPad down or hold it stable long enough for me to see them.  And it makes me homesick.

I hadn’t realized it before, but I’m not homesick for the house or place, which I’ve never lived in, I’m sick for a nostalgic sense of home.  Home isn’t my parents’ house in the States, home is wherever they are.  Particularly my mom.

She’s an over-packer, but not the typical kind.  She doesn’t over-pack because she’s scared of being unprepared for a situation, she over-packs because she brings gifts with her wherever she goes.  In her suitcase 50% of the items belong to a category called “I brought this because I thought you might like it.”  These items are sometimes new, but often they’re from her closet or own personal things.  No matter the length or distance of the trip, if she’s seeing friends or strangers, my mom fills her suitcase to the limit with “things you might like.”

Because her suitcase is filled with “things you might like”, my mom creates home wherever she goes.  When I visited my parents in Shanghai last year, my mom managed to bake for me a ham she brought with her.  When she visited me in Jerusalem I was left with an entire table full of goodies that I had missed, mostly things I had missed subconsciously.  And when I saw her for just one day in Las Vegas at Easter, she brought local newspaper clippings, clothes, and knick knacks from around the house, which she held up one at a time saying, “Do you want this?  I thought you might like it.”

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My parents making me feel at home in their hotel apartment in Shanghai

My favorite, however, is how she brings candles with her wherever she goes.  The first thing she does when staying in a hotel room is fill it with burning candles that bring the smell and aroma of home.

After being relatively nomadic for several years, one of the things I most look forward to in the future is creating my own home.  I haven’t learned how to do it yet.  For my next move, I’m going to give everything away, then start fresh and try to create a home for myself.  I’m sure I’ll bring my mom in to help me.  In the meantime, I’ll burn my candles, the ones my mom brought me.