Every morning when my alarm begins to chime at 6:00 am, I groggily open my eyes and mumble (in one language or another):
"Good morning, Jerusalem."
I put the water on to boil for tea. If the sun is shining, I wander out to the small balcony of my flat to give a wave to the Arab construction workers, who began their day well into my lazy dream cycle hours before. The ones who have figured out that I speak a little of their Arabic give a wave and a flirtatious hello.
"How are you?," I yell to the guy who is always on the scaffolding across the way.
"I am well, thanks be to G-d," he says in Arabic. "How are you?"
"I am the same, thanks be to G-d," I literally reply.
I shuffle back inside as the teapot begins to sing and amuse myself with the mental note that it is nice to be thankful for the little things.
After taking a month to get myself settled, I am starting to more or less establish a routine. I have Hebrew, Kabbalah and a couple of other interesting classes each morning, 5 days a week. The afternoons are sometimes filled with an educational field trip that is usually pretty interesting. Soon, I plan to start teaching English classes once a week back in my favorite refugee camp in Bethlehem. I have made it so that I am available on Thursday afternoons to go over to Bethlehem and do a couple of classes with children and adults. Afterwards, I will spend every Thursday night in Bethlehem with family and friends, with the possibility of staying through the weekend. This way, it feels like I am doing something for the community while also nurturing the relationships I have there.
In addition to all of this, I am working on my dissertation a little bit each day. I am eating well, sleeping soundly and also running in the early evenings. Today I ran all of the way to the Old City walls and back again, which is about 5 miles or so from my working class side of town. Of course, the miles fail to account for the hills of Jerusalem, which are mighty. For that matter, the miles also do not include the gawking men, or the people who cannot figure out why a woman is running on the sidewalks for fun. Today, a cab driver yelled a string of obscenities from his window--something about my sexuality being "wrong", among other things. With the universal symbol of the (non-verbal but always effective) raised middle finger, I was happy to acknowledge his comment and reply in kind. Still, while I never leave home without pepper spray in my sports bra, I am happy to add that running in itself has not made me feel this strong, centered and happy since I was in high school. It's actually pretty great.
Slowly and steadily...it feels like I am climbing back into myself after a very long hiatus. In the moments where my heart is pounding while my legs send me through the rutted streets of this complex city, the thought has regularly crossed my mind that I wasn't quite able to admit to myself how much physical trauma I experienced from last year until now, and how I let it all impact my connection with simply being.
"Slowly, slowly," I remind in Arabic--my favorite phrase--a reminder to pace not only my breathing, but my being.
Climbing back into oneself takes time, I suppose. Oddly enough, I happen to be one of those strange little humans that can only do this in far-flung, stone-covered watering holes in the desert.
Who knows? Maybe this time I'll come closer to getting it right.