Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Long awaited, I'm sure

It's been awhile...
I tried to post from Israel, but couldn't quite figure out the buttons in Hebrew. I got back to Bologna yesterday afternoon around 2 and crashed for the rest of the day. I woke up briefly to unpack, do some grocery shopping, and eat a light meal, then I went back to sleep until 8:30 this morning. It's strange being back in Italy. My Italian is definitely rusty, after almost a month of English, but my Hebrew has certainly improved. It's so odd how much I can understand, even though I never speak. I find myself following my relatives' conversations easily, without thinking about it. It's so different from how I understand Italian- that requires intense concentration, translation of certain words. But with Hebrew, it's as though it's already in my head, I just absorb it without thinking. I think after college I will have to spend some time in Israel, re-learn the language for real.

My vacation was amazing. Tel Aviv is such a cool city, especially in the summer. The beach is packed with gorgeous, suntanned people, cafes, bars, and restaurants, and at night the whole city is alive with music. I stayed there for about a week, listening to amazing bands (my favorite was a girl named Rif, about our age, who sounds like an Israeli Fiona Apple), eating incredible food (and a lot of it), and exploring the city. Afterwards, I spent a few days at my uncle Amichi's house in Pardes Hanna, waiting for my parents to get in. After 17 years of shyness and cold-shouldering, my girl cousins have finally opened up to me. I had a great time hanging out with them, as well as my aunt and uncle, who are always lovely. It's so strange being a part of a big family when I'm in Israel. They're all so tight knit, their lives completely interlocked even as they whirl around one another in a flurry of activity. I've only ever really been close to my nuclear family, and for most of my life my brother's have been so at odds with my parents that my relationships with them have been kept separate. Being in Israel is dislocating, I know that by blood I am a part of this clan, but I can't help feeling irreconcilably (sp?) foreign.

When my parents got in, I moved with them to a house we rented from an old lady on Kibbutz Sdot Yam. It's the most incredible place- right down the road from Caesarea, a Port City built by Herod in the Roman Era, and immediately on the beach. The grassy lawns are overflowing with Roman artifacts, many of which have been claimed as lawn ornaments by the kibbutz inhabitants. Our house boasted two at the entrance and four more as plant holders on the modest tile porch. The woman herself, Ester, was a pretty amazing character. She arrived in Israel in the 30s, before the Zionist movement even began in earnest. She came from Yemen, and her entire family made the trip on two donkeys. When she got to Israel, she joined the Palmach- the first Israeli military, composed entirely of young volunteers. There, she met her German husband, married, and moved to Sdot Yam. The house was full of pictures of her, her husband, children, and grandchildren, wedding pictures of women in elaborate Yemenite costume, her husband's German family looking somber in suits and buttoned-up dresses. The sea was about a minute's walk down the path, and every morning my parents and I woke up at 6 am for a walk to the ruins of Caesarea, followed by a swim in the Med, breakfast, and a nap. It was so good to see them again, to spend some time being totally lazy with the people I love best. We did do some touring- we spent one day at the Holocaust museum, Yad Veshem, and another in Tel Aviv, where I showed my mother the boutiques on Shenkin Street (which she loved) and toured the art museum, which had a surprisingly large collection of Picassos. Afterwards we went to dinner at a restaurant called Manta Ray- it's right on the southern end of the beachfront promenade, and it was absolutely incredible. One appetizer was a cylinder of crab meat on top of dates, topped with some kind of sweet/spicy chutney, dinner featured mussels and chorizo in a fennel scented broth, calamari and shrimp in a creamy white sauce with parmesan and figs, and the most perfectly fried calamari I've ever had. The only thing that could have improved it would have been my favorite Berkeley dining companions to over-do it on Sangria and laugh at my Dad's terrible jokes.

Now that I'm back, Bologna seems terribly lonely. I know this is just the beginning, that soon I will feel at home here in my little, sunlit bedroom, but for now, I can't help wishing I was on the plane with my parents, back home to California.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I stayed home from work today with cramps/hangover. It feels strange to sit around with nothing to do. I rarely take days like this, but it's kind of nice to steal a slice out of my usual schedule. I feel like by skipping work I've created extra hours in the week to just lie in bed. I have been working full, full time and it's so frustrating to come home at the end of each day too tired to do anything but crash. This is my last summer as an irresponsible student and I feel like I'm making a mess of it by being too responsible.

That said, Ashby is a lovely place to be. The weather has been mild, not the unbearable hot stickiness of May, but more like how it was in Berlin last summer. Parts of me ache for my dorm room in Berlin. It was stark white and empty because all I had fit into a tiny suitcase. This year has been a blur. I can't comprehend how quickly time has flown.

Our new roommate is moving in mid-August. I'm looking forward to the fresh energy, and also to having a settled house. I'm anxious about the transition. I feel like a sort of Madame here, not in the pimp way, but just like I am the Lady of the House since I have lived here longest and manage all financial transactions. People look to me to check if things are ok. It's a funny, strange feeling.

That's all for now.

First Italian Poem


It’s July in Rome, and I can’t sleep.
Even as the sun dips languidly into the horizon,
in timid increments, like a cautious bather
the heat still lingers. It hangs
draped over rooftops, across clotheslines
strung like cobwebs between flowered balconies,
caught by the fibers of the starchy sheets on my hard mattress,
pricking beads of sweat from my restless legs and feet.

The fan churns weakly in the corner, defeated
by the humid weight of stagnant air. And despite
the itchy, pressing warmth, I will not throw
the blankets back. Because uncovered
here means unconfined, borderless, and thus exposed.

And I have already felt my edges start to blur,
standing in the courtyard of San Pietro,
head swept back to follow marble pillars
up their gleaming length into the too-large sky,
feeling so untethered I could almost
shuck this tiny clumsy body, atomize
into the ivory-cradled blue – almost.
Except the heat enfolds me, layered thickly like a bandage,
compressing me into myself, until I can look down
to find my feet still balanced on the cobblestones.

So I’ve lied awake since midnight, counting down
until those precious few cool hours before dawn,
willing myself heavier, dense enough
to remain whole, contained without
the ballast that once kept me grounded,
gave me shape.