Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bad Traveler Goes to Israel

Two weeks ago was my travel break from the castle, and off i flew to meet sylvia, the best friend of my childhood with whom i've kept sporadic touch over the years.  and now we're a pair of old ladies.  The trip started off horribly, when [first] i fell down on the way to what my information said was my my flight spot when i changed planes.  okay that was my own fault.  but thru a nasty set of circumstances not of my making, i missed not one but two flights, and though it wasn't my fault it cost me 700 euroes. and spent an entire night wandering around the airport at turkish airways alternately blubbery and blustery.   two bits of advice from that.  dont save money by switching planes when direct flights are available. you may, like me, lose money instead, and even if  you do save the money, the aggravation mightn't be worth it. and 2, don't for god's sake do it if the middle airport is turkish airways!

the worst part of that experience, however, is what it did to my depression. as old readers know, i've spent over 3 years in a varying depression which since october has been extremely mild, thanks to a combo of meds.  but it's always felt like skin beginning to scar, weak and vulnerable.  that whole airline business broke the fragile scar and i was pretty much of a mess thru the week.  but i managed to have fun with sylvia, whose patience is saintly.  how lovely to see her again! she lives in tel aviv now, and the weather was what she called awful, i called delightful.

that tuesday, she was working for  an hour with some arab school kids where she does weekly volunteer work. i asked if i could tag along and watch; the organizer asked if, with 3 volunteers out, i could fill in for one of them.  so, with no idea of what i would be doing [sylvia tried to explain but that got me further  confused, and my mind was in bad shape after the trip incidents] but i ended up as she said i would figuring it out by following what she was doing, and worked with a little girl named monica--adorable but very restless; thank god i teach college kids!

thru the week we ate and sat in coffee shops and parks a lot, and i of course had to nap a lot, but there wasnt much i awfully cared about seeing except sylvia and the sunset  over the  Mediterranean in tel aviv.  then we spent a couple of days in jerusalem, where sylvia lived until recently and where her friend sue still lives. i knew sue also; she had lived around the block from me and sylvia when we were kids, but in their mutual lives in isreal they had seen a   lot of each other and grown much closer. most of our time together was fun. then we went into the Old City, about which i knew nothing, but which sounded great. and i'm sure it is. but a disaster for my addled brain, all b/c of a misunderstood wise crack. they asked if i wanted to go to the catholic cathedral, and i thought they were joking, since i've long been a very ex catholic. i've seen some splendid cathedrals over the years, but the idea of spending limited time in jerusalem at a cathedral seemed silly to me, so i chuckled at their joke and followed along with them.  in fact, they were being kind to a christian, even ex christian, friend. which would have been okay but i'm frightened of walking since i fall pretty often and i'm very claustrophobic.  we began walking through what i assumed would be a small, bazaar-like area....and walked, and walked, and walked, on lovely slippery steps through a beautiful and endless maze, me afraid to say anything because i needed to hold in what breath i had.  luckily a part of my mind stood aside, first of all because it kept me from screaming, running, or crying; second because i was able to make a mental record out of what was a onetime experience.  except for the narrowness of the street, leading thru to other narrow streets from whence, i gathered, crawled yet further narrow streets, it looked like mideast bizarres look on US spy shows.  the goods sold were beautiful, like walls of multicolored silks reaching almost to the sky [the 'almost' saved me; i could see sky and remind myself that there was an end to the labyrinth, even if no way to reach it].  i was pretty close to sobbing at this point, and finally told my friends what was going on, and  just as they began to put their energy toward finding the quickest way out, a friend ran into sue. he was a gorgeously garbed ethiopian. he asked us to sit with him; sue looked pleadingly at me and i pulled up a smile, and found a tranquilizer in my wallet.  all around us walked people of different mideast populations, seemingly perfectly comfortable with each other. i was taken by the sight of 2 women passing in different directions: one was a catholic nun in the sort of medieval-based habit of years back, the other a muslim with full body and face covering. the similarity of the outfits was startling.
i tried to focus my mind in the part that saw the beauty of the place, and realized i was glad  i was seeing it; also that i would be a wreck the rest of the day. eventually they got me out of the maze, and the sheer sight of open air was magnificent. [it isn't hard to find magnificence in Jerusalem, built on the famed pale beige Jerusalem stone].  soon we were eating at an airy restaurant and laughing. sleeping that night was hard; the claustrophobia and weakness had gotten thru to my bones; luckily there was a lot of light and air through the windows.  back to tel aviv the next day, and sylvia and i had a leisurely dinner on the beach.  bathers filled the area; the weather was warm enough for brave swimmers, and the Mediterranean, even with a disappointing piss-yellow sunset, was impressive.

the return of the breakdown has lasted since my return, though today has been a bit better.  that's unfortunate, and may mean a new medication when i get back to boston mid april.  but worth it, definitely.  i wish i could describe the feeling of re-knowing sylvia, exploring each other's thinking, never really enough time and much of  it marred by my feeling of dependency on her to get me anywhere, with my fear of everything [part of the whole depression].  two  little girl, knowing ech other as teenagers and 20-somethings; years of sporadic communication--even getting together briefly on two of her short trips to the US. and now 2 old women, facing age very differently, having lived very different lives, but the 2 kids still there.  i'd love t go back and see her again--on a nonstop trip!--when i'm less dominated by depression.  but what i got, i got, and despite the  fight with my mind, well worth what it cost to get it.

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