So now I'm with my dad's sister and her family, including Oren. Who remembers Oren? "Hi, I'm your cousin, can I stay with you for a while before I go to South America" Oren? Yep. Anyway, it's so cool here. Kfar Giladi is beautiful and the house is full of artwork and I have internet and HOW NICE it is to eat food cooked for three or four people instead of one hundred. Lunch was the usual kibbutz fare, shnitzel and pasta salad and ordinary salad, but dinner was chicken (which was good, though chicken makes my jaws tired) and potata (ze achla- extremely yummy) and corn that we bought at the shuk (no good. Corn here tastes like soap) and Israeli salad (tomatoes and onions and all sorts of things chopped up fine- not a leaf in sight, like American salads. I actually ate tomatoes, and liked them for once. Tamari, be proud of me) and bread that Erella made from scratch (with nuts, that I still ate, and liked) spread with hummous that Erella made from scratch (also good stuff). After dinner I drank a cup of tea (rosehip tea. Are those things even edible? Whatever, it had honey in it and was good). I feel very much at home here already. The family is so welcoming. But I think the biggest contributing factor is that they let me do things for myself, and even help out a little. They let me carry my own suitcase, and for that alone I would have been grateful, but then I was even *expected* to help carry groceries and set the table and clear it afterwards and stuff. It was great. I felt like a part of the family.
I've been extremely clumsy lately. I'm always dropping things and hitting things with other things or simply falling over. It's starting to worry me. My mind keeps torturing me with scenarios in which it's like "it started out with small things, just an increasing clumsiness blah blah" and then I get all scared. But seriously, I've fallen down more in the past week than I have in the past few months. For no reason at all- I'll just collapse. I twisted my ankle badly during one fall. It's still hurting me. And I've spilled things and dropped things- this evening alone I knocked over a water glass, dropped the tea bag and spoon into the tea and splashed it, and dropped and broke a bowl at lunch. I felt bad but nobody seemed angry about it. Still, I'm getting worried.
I had an adventure today. You see, Aba planned out how I would get to Kfar Giladi, but I don't think he told them, or the counselors, or me, or if he did, we all forgot completely. So I talked to Lindsay yesterday and asked her how I should get there. "Well, you'll take our bus with the rest of us to the airport and they'll pick you up from there, right?" she said. Okay. So I called them and talked to Oren, who said, "Oh, well, you'll be taking a bus to Kfar Giladi, right?"
"I'm not sure I'll be allowed to," I replied. "Not by myself."
"What? Why not? What do they think you are, four years old?"
Now, I've never ridden any bus other than the CATA buses to the mall and back, and even then I manage to get myself into trouble by being a stupid n00b. Buses that go across the country- a FORIEGN country, in which I cannot read the writing, and am far from perfect at the language, are a whole other matter. I can handle taking a plane by myself. I know how planes work, and with planes everything is already arranged in advance anyway- it's simply a matter of following the signs to the gate and then following the signs to the luggage claim. I've done it millions of times. But even so, Eema and Aba went over the procedure for LaGuardia over and over and over, and I called them from my cell phone to check in and make sure I was on the right track every turn I took, even though I was with three other people. Buses? My family doesn't ride buses. Even with them along, it would have been new and exciting. I don't know how buses work. I don't know what you're supposed to do for a bus. Riding the CATA buses by myself still makes me a little nervous, even though now I know to pull the yellow rope before we get to my stop. And that was on a route that I had studied and studied. No, I didn't know how to ride a bus. The *smart* thing to do would be to tell Oren all of that, and ask that he come pick me up. I could just explain that... that I was four years old. To the guy who had come to New York to look for work, found his way to us, and then hiked all over South America, by himself. To explain to a country full of independent, responsible youth that I was a spoiled, sheltered American.
"I'll look into it."
When I talked to Sara Polon that night, I was fairly confident that she would refuse, and I would have a good excuse to tell Oren. "Yes, I'm sorry," I would say, "but they're legally responsible for us and all that, I know it's stupid, but people in America are so sue-happy that they take every precaution. I know, it's really stupid, but I guess you're going to have to come and pick me up." I made a mental note to work on sounding disappointed.
"Oh," said Sara. "Well, I'm not really happy about it, but I guess that the trip is officially over as soon as we get to the airport and hand out the tickets, so I don't see why not. You're eighteen, right?"
"It's close enough." We didn't get back to the hostel until way after midnight that night, and my cell phone was out of batteries, so I couldn't even call my parents and ask them for help.
I said my goodbyes through a light haze of panic, counting down minutes until seven o'clock when I decided it would be late enough to call and not wake people up. We were already on our way to the airport when the time came. Erella answered the phone.
"Hi... this is Leora speaking."
"Ah, Liora! Oren tried to call you last night."
"Yes, we were out." I swallowed. "So... I'll be allowed to take the bus."
"Fine, fine. You'll want to go to Kiriat Shmona."
"Hang on." I leaned across the aisle. "Jocelyn, do you have a pen?"
"Thanks. Okay. Sorry. What Shmona?"
"Kiriat Shmona. Take bus number 842 or 845, they'll be on the seventh floor." I scribbled frantically on the back of my left hand. "So call us when you're about fifteen minutes from the stop, and we'll send Oren to come and get you, okey Liora?"
"Okey, great! See you soon, bye bye."
"Um-" Too late. I gazed at the tiny amount of almost meaningless information on my hand. 842 845 7th floor Kiriat Shmona. Wait, seventh floor? No way a bus station had seven floors. Buses can't go up or down seven floors. She must have meant second floor. Darned accents. I crossed out "7th," wrote "2nd," and gave the pen back. As we pulled into the parking lot, Benny snarled out "WELCOME!!!!" over the intercom. Everyone jumped. The sleeping kids startled awake with wild eyes.
"What in Eru's name is *wrong* with this guy?" I groaned.
"I hate that man," said Deborah. "I really really hate him."
When we got off the bus at Ben Gurion Airport in Jerusalem, I sought Inon and showed him my hand.
"Oh, there's no need for all of that. You can get a bus from here to Kiriat Shmona. Go with Avner- he's going home on the bus too. There he is."
"Wait, I have to get my suitcase." I fought my way through the crowd to the belly of the bus. I slung my North Face backpack on, my BBYO backpack over that, hung my shoe bag on my suitcase, and tied my sleeping bag to that. It was a clumsy arrangement, and I had to keep stopping to make adjustments, but I could carry everything. "Okay, I'm ready."
"Trek One! Go inside and get your passports!" Called Lindsay.
"Well, almost ready." I trotted alongside Avner, stopping to throw my sleeping bag back on top of my suitcase.
"You have to hurry," he said. "I can't wait for you. I can be inside only for a minute with my gun." I glanced again at the huge rifle slung over his shoulder.
"Right." My suitcase rattled over the threshold. I replaced the sleeping bag on top. "Sara? I need to go." She opened a brown envelope.
"Sure. You're a dual citizen, right?" She began pulling out passports and checking the pictures inside. I could see Avner waiting impatiently a little ways away from the group. Finally she found them both.
"Deborah," I called. "Goodbye!"
"You're leaving now?"
"Yeah. I'll visit you in Toronto, okay?" I didn't dare look at Avner as I took the time to hug her. Finally I turned and ran after him. The soldier was gone.
"It's no problem. The bus is two floors down, right?" We checked the sign. "One floor down. Gai, telech ita. Tase sivuv. Gai will go with you, okey?" He gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek. "Bye, darling. Enjoy visiting your cousins."
"Thank you so much." I threw my sleeping bag on top again and followed Gai. He waited for me as I maneuvered my luggage onto the escalator, then we walked quickly around the almost empty floor. We paced back and forth in front of a line of tables for a few minutes until Gai noticed a sign pointing outside. Rattle rattle rattle. Replace sleeping bag. The two of us looked at the empty parking garage.
"Slicha," said Gai to a woman standing in the middle of the hall. "Efo ha otobus le Kiriat Shmona?"
"Kiriat Shmona?" She looked down at us. "Ein. Tzarich lakachat rakevet." All right, this was just not fair. Nobody had said anything about trains. I looked helplessly at Gai.
"You want me to go and ask my father?"
"Okay." I replaced my sleeping bag again as he went and brought Inon. He spoke to the woman for a minute, then turned to me.
"No big deal, you take the train to Tel Aviv and then the bus from there to Kiriat Shmona, from the Central Bus Station there. Come on." I followed them back up the escalator and we started walking to the train station. "Now, the train will not take you to the bus station. It will take you to the Central Train Station. You'll have to go from there to the bus station." This was getting a bit much for me to handle. Wandering around Tel Aviv? Alone? "When you get out of the train station, you'll be in a big square. Go right, walk across the whole parking lot, maybe five minutes, you'll get to the bus station. There are three bus stations. You want the Central Bus Station. Tel Aviv Merkaz."
"Tel Aviv Merkaz," I repeated to myself. "Merkaz."
"Yes. There are six... eh... terminals there. The fourth one will take you to Kiriat Shmona. It's the last stop. You have money?"
"Good. It will cost maybe fifty shekels. Hineh." We had stopped in front of a large machine with lots of Hebrew writing on the screen. "Here, you need a train ticket. Gai, tikne la echad."
"Adult... Tel Aviv... Tel Aviv Merkaz... oh, is that all? Look. Only twelve shekels. Ze mamash zol." I agreed, it was cheap- about two fifty. I let go of my suitcase. It fell over. I propped it up against my leg, dropped my BBYO bag, set my North Face bag on the ground, propped my suitcase back up, took out a twenty shekel bill, bought the ticket, and set all my luggage back up. I repeated the directions back to Inon as we walked through the station. I stuck my ticket in the slot and walked in, calling goodbye. Gai and Inon left.
I was alone. The intercom was speaking in Hebrew, using terms I didn't understand. I looked around. There was nowhere to go except for down. I called the elevator and walked in, adjusted my sleeping bag, and stood there for a minute until I remembered that I had to press a button. This would have set off another round of panic had there not been only two buttons, one of them corresponding to the floor I was already on. I pressed the other one, labeled "T", and went down.
The train was standing at the station already. I picked a car and looked in. "Slicha?" I called. "Ha rakevet hazeh olechet le Tel Aviv Merkaz?"
"Ken, ken." I stepped across the foot-wide gap onto the narrow stairs, hauled my suitcase in after me, and wrestled it through the narrow door. To my surprise, Alon was sitting there, looking bored. I sent a prayer of thanks that I had picked the one car that had one of our soldiers on it, even if it was Alon. "Nu?" He said. "Get out of the doorway, you're blocking it."
"Slicha," I stammered, shoving myself into his booth. He looked at me. I explained the situation, and the instructions I had been given.
"That's wrong," he said casually. "You should stay on this train until you get to Haifa. Then you can take a bus from there. It's rush hour. Going to be a traffic jam in Tel Aviv."
"But Inon said Tel Aviv," I protested. I trusted Inon a lot more than Alon.
"You want to? Okay. You do what you want. It will take you forever."
"But my ticket only goes to Tel Aviv."
"Nobody will check."
"What? You're a tourist. Everyone can see that." I winced. "Even if they catch you they won't do anything bad."
"Fine, so you go to Tel Aviv. But you don't turn right. In fact, you don't want to go to Tel Aviv Merkaz. I get off at the same place, I'll show you. Then you go to the bus station and take your bus to Kiriat Shmona. It's on the sixth floor."
"I was told second."
"Okay, maybe I don't know." He returned his attention to his cell phone. I watched the countryside fly by outside my window, deciding that I really didn't like Alon.
"This is our stop. Come on, come on, why have you got so much stuff?" I ignored him as I wrestled the luggage out the door. A man helped me haul the suitcase across the gap. Alon jumped over after me. "Okay. You see that bridge there? Go left. Past that bridge. The bus station is on your left and it's huge, you can't miss it." He turned and vanished into the crowd. Alone again. I stuck my ticket into the slot and shoved past the turnstile, then tried to drag my suitcase after me. The turnstile stuck. It took several seconds of maneuvering as I pulled everything underneath it, while Israelis waiting in line glared at the stupid tourist. I replaced the sleeping bag, threw away my ticket, and set off walking.
I was past the bridge. Right or left, there was nothing there.
I hate you, Alon.
For some time I just stood there. I have mentioned before how much I dislike the city of Tel Aviv. It's hot, smelly, crowded, and ugly- basically everything I dislike about big cities. I was pretty scared. There was nobody to ask for help. My cell phone was packed away- I didn't even remember which bag it was in. I was surrounded by strangers, completely lost in a foriegn city.
I couldn't stand there forever. I started watching the soldiers. Finally I picked a small group of soldiers with bags and started following them. And yes indeed: they led me straight to the bus station! I did a little dance inside my head. Ha ha Alon, I got here in spite of your crappy directions. Take that, Independent and Responsible Israeli Youth!
I replaced the sleeping bag on top of my suitcase again and followed my soldiers into security. The lady looked at my suitcase and sent me to a different line. (Replace sleeping bag.)
"Please open ze bag," said the other security guard, a young African Iraeli man. I blinked at him, threw my backpacks onto the table, and started unzipping them. "You speak English, right?"
"I speak English and Hebrew," I told him in Hebrew.
"Please close ze bag," he said.
"No, no. Please open ze bag. Ech omrim 'tizgeri et ha tik?'"
"'Please close the bag', you were right."
"Ah, please close ze bag. I practice. Please close ze bag. 'Tik' ze 'bag?'"
"Ken, 'tik' ze 'bag.'"
"Tov, az achshav ha mizvada." He helped me hoist my suitcase on top of the table, then unzipped the top. All underclothes. He closed it again and opened the main compartment. "Nu? It's not your bag, no need for you to look," he told the line behind me. (In Hebrew. He was talking to Israelis, after all.)
"But can you hurry up?" A woman asked. "You're taking your own sweet time!"
"Nu, so go to the other line." She left, and he finished with mine. "Okay, so please close ze bag." I arranged everything again, but had a hard time getting it through the doorway. "Wait wait wait, I help you." He came over and carried my suitcase over the threshold. "You got it now?"
"Ken, todah rabba." I smiled at him. He blew me a kiss and then turned back to the line. I grinned to myself as I went on, charmed. And reset my sleeping bag.
Now I was at least in the right building, but there didn't seem to be any buses around. Everything seemed to be touristy stores or food stores. And I was plenty hungry, but a bus was more important. I followed signs that had little bus icons on them for what seemed like forever. Honestly, it's a BUS STATION, you'd think that the point would be to actually have some buses somewhere. But noooo. They just hate me.
Me: *waits five minutes for guy at ticket counter to notice me* Ani tzricha lalechet le Kiriat Shmona...
Guy: Tilchi le (word I don't know)
Guy: Shama! Shama! *points*
Me: But... oh... okay. Thanks. *wanders off, still clueless*
Me: *waits two minutes for lady at information counter to notice me* Efo ha otobus le Kiriat Shmona?
Lady: Eged. Ritzpa shiva.
Me: Okay. Todah.
And so I wandered off in the direction of "Egged Station," which is the best name ever. Too bad it isn't pronounced like it's spelled. Apparently it really is on the seventh floor.
I hate escalators. Insert much replacing of sleeping bags on top of suitcases.
Seventh floor, Egged, numerous terminals here. Soldiers to the rescue once again! I asked an officer in uniform which train was 842, and he kindly helped me find the platform. The bus pulled up a few minutes later, and the driver came through the door. I walked up expectantly.
"You want something?" He asked.
"Do we get on the bus now?"
"No. You see what it says up there? Quarter to ten! That's forty-five minutes from now!" He walked away.
I leaned my suitcase against the wall, set my BBYO backpack on top of it, held my North Face backpack in my lap, and sat down. For some time I watched water drip from the ceiling onto a puddle on the floor. I guess I must have looked rather forlorn, because a woman came up to me and asked "yalda, hakol beseder?" ("Girl, is everything all right?")
"Ken, ken, hakol beseder. Ani rak mechaka la otobus." I indicated the bus in front of me.
I took out Fellowship of the Ring then, and read a bit, so that no one else would think I was all lost and forlorn. At some point I found my cell phone and called Erella to tell her what time the train would be leaving the station. She figured that she'd send Oren to meet me in Kiriat Shmona at around twelve o'clock.
Nine forty-five. I threw my luggage underneath the bus- except for my North Face bag- and climbed on, keeping fifty shekels in my pocket for a ticket.
"Le'efo?" Asked the driver.
"Kiriat Shmona." I handed him the bill.
"Od shlosha shekalim." I opened my backpack. I didn't want to fiddle around for three ten-shekel coins, so I just handed him the hundred. He could give me thirty back. "Ein lach shlosha? Chamishim veh shalosh shekalim le Kiriat Shmonah."
"Oh!" I said, feeling stupid, and took out three one-shekel coins. He handed me a ticket and I sat down. I should have explained myself, maybe, said that I had heard shloshim instead of shlosha. Whatever.
The family sitting across the aisle from me had a bit of drama- a little girl of eight years old, a younger boy who looked about five, and a third little boy who looked about two. All very cute, with books that had names like "Eliezer ve ha Gezer" which means, by the way, "Eliezer and the Carrot." In which Eliezer grows a giant carrot and then needs help from all sorts of farm animals to uproot it. The three kids were very cute, especially the eight-year-old girl, who was dressed all in pink- but like all little kids confined to a small space for an extended period of time, they got bored and figety and didn't want to sit still. And there mother yelled at them in Hebrew. It's a very weird sensation, to hear a mother scolding her children in Hebrew, because I automatically assume that it's meant for me, since it's in Hebrew. Imagine hearing your mother's exact voice yelling at some other kid. You straighten your spine automatically, even though you know she's not yelling at you, because that voice in an angry tone is a signal for you to be scared. Weird sensation.
There was also a creepy American tourist who was a little *too* interested in the little girl. This is why I hate the fact that everyone can tell I'm an American tourist. This is why I make it a point to speak Hebrew whenever possible, just to set myself apart from people like this, who are idiots and come to foriegn countries and give us a bad name.
Despite wanting to look out the window, and being cold because the people in front of me had their fans pointed right at my face, I very quickly fell asleep. I woke up when the bus stopped for the driver to take a break about an hour later. The little girl went and bought popsicles for herself and her two little brothers, because they were grounded from leaving the bus since they had been little brats and the mother couldn't leave them alone.
When we started again, a group of soldiers got on. One of them sat next to me.
"Ahh, it takes too much space," he complained of the giant semi-automatic rifle that he carried, trying to find a way to sit comfortably with it so that it did not block the aisle.
"Oh," I said.
He fell asleep though, which is a shame, because I wanted to talk to him.
So for the next hour, I watched the window, which went up and up and got steadily greener, and I watched my soldier sleep, and I watched little Israeli children be antsy, and I listened to Hebrew storybooks read aloud, and I watched signs read "Qiryat Shemona - 26" and then "Qiryat Shemona - 14" and then "Qiryat Shemona - 4" and then "Qiryat Shemona".
I got my luggage from underneath the bus and went to the parking lot, but got lost and ended up in the bus terminals. I had a fun, fun time dragging my suitcase down two flights of stairs to the restrooms because I didn't want to leave them unattended, and had a fun, fun time digging through my suitcase to find pads, and then a fun, fun time dragging my suitcase UP two flights of stairs. And then I saw Oren. Well, I saw the back of his head, but he'd lived in our house; I can recognize him from the back.
So he brought me to Kfar Giladi.
It's so beautiful here.
(This was written August first. It just took me a while to finish. Beware, as soon as I get home I'm going to start writing the Livejournal Entry From Hell.)