Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Room With A View

"...A key to a room of your own and a mind without end..."
--Indigo Girls, "Virginia Woolf"
For what it's worth, the Universe decided to give me a bonus prize when I moved into my campus apartment this month. I happened to win the lottery and get a room with a view. Of course, I'm not talking about just any view. From my bedroom window on the Student Village on Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem, I can look directly to the West and see the Dome of the Rock glittering at the center of the Old City in the distance. I can see everything from the ancient city wall to the Mount of Olives. The landscape of Jerusalem is a hilly, hodgepodge layering of old and new--white Jerusalem stone jutting skyward in bold edifices created by man in a spot claimed to be created by God. In the cool evenings, the Arab folks in town like to set off fireworks into the night sky, and my bedroom window becomes a personal picture show of light, history, politics and people. At the moment, I cannot help but wonder if maybe this is a karmic consolation prize for adapting so well to the harsh conditions of the refugee camp on the other side of the wall. Now, at any time of the day or night, I can take a long, hot shower with an abundant supply of water that is diverted to Israel and denied to my friends in the West Bank. Of course, since I now intimately know the human cost of this resource, I find that I feel guilty and depressed when I watch the water slip down the drain pipe beneath my feet. I think of how much is being wasted on my comfort. It reminds me of the analogy of sand slipping through fingers. Given the political situation here, if it is not sand, it is water. There's just so much dynamism in the Middle East that it is impossible to hold onto anything too tightly. Beyond this, you never know when something you wish to hold in your hand will magically transform into a miracle or a poisonous snake. For my part, I listen to my gut, sometimes looking before I leap, other times necessarily leaping before I look. In all cases, I uphold my end of a promise that I made to my favorite aunt before I left the US: "Smile at everyone, trust no one."

Still, a girl from Virginia who came half way across the world to live what she writes in her doctoral dissertation cannot forsake her room with a view. As Virginia Woolf would say, it is most certainly a "room of one's own". In fact, my late adolescent obsession with Woolf comes to the surface of my mind as I write this. I can't help but wonder if Woolf's personal darkness might not have been so bad if she could have traded the dreary skies near London for the burning sunshine of Jerusalem. Over a hundred years later, I am especially sensitive to the fact that I am living in the tradition that Woolf left behind for us. As a daughter, sister, best friend, partner (and future mother)-- I am standing on the shoulders of giants and dancing through life in the most unexpected but well-deserved manner. Perhaps this is why the view is so incredible.

Yes, I am nerdy and somewhat prone to bookishness, but this doesn't seem to impede my ability to laugh at myself and make new friends. Ex-patriots tend to attract other ex-patriots. I am particularly enjoying my ability to throw a good dinner party. At the moment, I'm sharing an apartment with a Swiss guy from Argentina and a Catholic Polish girl with an obsession for Jewish history. On any given day, I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Arabic. Of course, this doesn't include the laundry list of languages around me that my mind cannot comprehend. Of all people, my newest friend is a kid from Uzbekistan. Today I made the acquaintance of an interesting rabbinical student from Panama. He doesn't know it yet, but we're going to be best of friends by the end of the week. I just know it.

Meanwhile, my "research" is temporarily on hold while I spend the next five weeks packing Hebrew into my head. As I do this, my mother writes me emails asking if I am completely out of my mind. I love how my mother asks the hard questions, the ones that subliminally induce self-doubt in me on a daily basis--Yes, the ones that I have learned over the years to silence when there are so many more interesting things to do with my life's energy. Still, the Moms worries that I'm lost and wandering off-course because she may not have breast fed me long enough in childhood. Or something. Of course, these fears are completed with the very real maternal worry that I will lose myself to the schizophrenia of being a doctoral student in an equally schizophrenic political situation. Deep down, I think that she's scared that I'm going to fall off the deep end, join a cult, and spend the rest of my life howling at the moon, and, god forbid, never shaving my armpits again. If this happens, god forbid, she won't have American grandchildren. Personally, I find it ironic how the woman who gave me life never once fails to be the champion of absolutely everything I do while consistently underestimating the self-awareness she practically put in my milk bottle.

For what it's worth, every day is a challenge, and I am distinctly aware that my life until now has prepared me for this moment. Of course, living one's dream is scary stuff. Very scary. And not particularly easy. My mother, for example, sees me precariously flying in the clouds and yells a cautionary reminder from her perch that I happen to have no net. It's true. I have a put a tremendous gamble on my future by being here now. But still, I couldn't be here, I couldn't possibly be doing this if it wasn't for all of the hands that have carried me thus far and continue to appear and walk with me through this life in a most incredible way. For this, I am so blessed and thankful.

In the end, I am quite certain that I will eagerly trade a security net for a room with a view. Any day. For the record, visitors are highly encouraged and most welcome...



Restaurant Gal said...

A room with a view allows you to see it all. A room of your own with a view--that is the best of all.

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

I think what you are doing is wonderful, and I always enjoy your posts. I am almost always smiling when I'm done.

And when my mom asks me if I'm out of my mind, I reply, "I certainly hope so."

PhDs have to be a little nutty.

Jay said...

Hmm. I never knew the Indigo Girls did a song about "A Room of One's Own." I remember reading it when I was a younger land and it really connected with me. It's good to hear you are well.

VJ said...

Don't worry, when you get back we'll be at war with the Canadians for their water. If not too soon off. But on the other hand, there's YeeHawindustries.com They've got Namaste:
[http://www.yeehawindustries.com/store/retail/script_files/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=POSTERS/Signs&image=NamasteSign.jpg&img=&tt=&tfile=tn_NamasteSign.jpg] For Mom's they also have 'Relax' & 'You are my Sunshine'

For Cheap too! Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Zed said...

I love your writing, your perspective, your attitude. It can only bring you all your biggest and boldest dreams. Wishing you all the best every day.