Now that I’ve concluded my day-trips for the season, I’m back to quotidian life–the office, some volunteering, study groups, laundry, cooking, cleaning, collecting houseplants, the regular. But even the routine is not quite routine here.
Part of it is just that living adultly is still new to me. I’m doing all sorts of things on my own, hey! And so what if mopping sometimes results in breaking the shower, or dusting in a sore hamstring. This week, I cooked rice for a study group. It didn’t turn out as fluffy as I wanted, yet for the first time my tadik was unscorched. “Hm,” I thought. “Well, tadik’s not very good as leftovers. And I’m the only one around.” Standing by the kitchen sink looking up the mountain toward the Dan Carmel, eating a bowl full of fresh tadik, I realized the joy of independence.
But a lot of it is my environment. The air is different, for one. Hamseen has arrived. While it’s not as if I can see motes floating in front of me, looking out to sea, the horizon is obscured by a thick haze. Apparently this dust has traveled up to Israel from the Egyptian desert in a climatological Exodus. Maybe the hovering dust is the Middle Eastern equivalent of Midwestern leaves falling in autumn?
Even the simple act of walking is different here. You know, being on a mountain, everything is steep. Plus, in the Bahá’í gardens, most of the paths are gravel. I have two pairs of shoes that I wear to the office: my flats and my heels. They are both practical shoes, unobtrusive black leather with plenteous arch support. Even so, walking in heels on gravel poses a challenge–I mean, walking in heels is a challenge, period. So I do an ungraceful slow march. It’s rather like trying to walk on snow with a veneer of ice–I need to dig in my heels but also keep moving. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until the other day when not one but two people, after watching me, commented sympathetically on the difficulty of walking with heels here. “It’s such a challenge! Your poor heels!” And then someone pointed out to me that one heel is actually broken, causing a distinctive “clip-clop” whenever I walk on hard floors. She recommended a cobbler. My experience with cobblers is limited to the shoemaker and the elves.
Fruit. Let’s talk about fruit. The Persian coworkers at my office are wonderful people for all sorts of reasons, and one reason is that they always bring fresh fruit to break time. (I, on the other hand, contribute the occasional sugary, buttery baked good.) Mango, pomegranate, oranges, grapes, apple, pear, peach, nectarines… and recently, we’ve entered fruit territory that is foreign to me. There’s lychee–inside the bumpy red skin is white flesh with a subtle fragrant taste. Figs are delicious in dried, jam, or Newton form. In natural form, however, they are just weird, mushy and seedy. And guava. I tried it because I thought it was a strange seedy pear. No–with its overripe scent and nearly salty flavor, it is definitely not to be compared with pears. There is pomelo, a huge citrus (actually, citrus grandis) with a super thick rind that needs to be practically sawed off and a bitter membrane around the flesh that also needs to be peeled off. It’s not for the lazy fructarian! It tastes like a tentative grapefruit and looks like it belongs among the many balls from gym class that always threatened me, maybe a yellow medicine ball or the enlarged tennis ball that smacked me in the face. “Ok, guys, today we’re going to play pomelo.”