Friday, April 10, 2009

Hot Water

Of all people who should know, my family are the last people on earth who seem to understand how and why I can live in the Middle East for great lengths of time.

At the moment, I am writing this while I wait for the hot water heater do its magic. In this part of the world, a hot shower requires some additional planning and work. For example, one must flip a centrally-located red switch called a "dood", otherwise known as the hot water heater. American folks in Israel refer to it as "The Dude". Unless a cold shower is preferred, it takes about 15-20 minutes for the dood to warm enough water for a fast shower.

Patiently, I wait.

Of course, waiting is nothing new for me. Many miles away, I spent my first two decades of life very much accustomed to doing the same thing in the suburban American home that my father owned. Because good vodka never came cheap enough, we were always struggling to make ends meet. Rather than acknowledging the remote possibility that his physical and emotional addiction to alcohol had anything remotely to do with why he found himself always looking for work, my father devised a very specific way of living in our home. For example, the hot water heater was only turned on once a day. Toilets were not allowed to be flushed in excess. Lights were always off. Plastic grocery bags from the store were recycled for the use of covering food. Although we owned a proper clothes dryer, it was not allowed to be used. Instead, clothing was hung next to the wood stove that we used to heat our home because buying wood in bulk was far cheaper than paying for electric heat. Because it was my father's money, of course, he controlled our grocery list. While there was always some random ingredient or another in the kitchen, there were never any pre-packaged snacks or fun juice drinks. Of course, nothing eaten was ever allowed to go to waste. One of the lighter sides of this way of living had to do with the fact that my father was blessed with the ability to grow just about anything. His resourceful composting for his garden meant that fresh herbs and vegetables were always in abundance the summer time.

At the time, people labeled my father as a drunk, eccentric hippie, who the neighbors regularly spotted naked and pissing off our back deck. Although his eccentricity bordered on terroristic styles of control and emotional manipulation, I will generously admit (even with a chuckle) that this was a great way to describe the man who raised me. Although I have not seen him in several years, I am comfortable saying with certainty that he continues to live this way today, especially now that he lives like a hermit the countryside. The last I heard, he had procurred a goat for making his own cheese...

Anachronistically, some would commend our way of living as very "green", and it certainly was. As a result, I developed a way of paying very close attention to my impact on the space around me. I learned how to see everything as a potential resource. I developed a way of surviving through a great deal of adversity. Hence, my comfort in the Middle East.

The Middle East is full of this way of living. At least, this is how I find it. Despite a certain air of violence and diagnosable schizophrenia, people tenderly attend to their animals and garden outcroppings, even in the most unpredictable of places. High and low-level terror insipidly blends together into a way of life that exists under beautiful, clear skies and breathtaking sunsets, among people who love their families and hate violence but accept all of this as a given. Where the average family lives within the spectrum of generic poverty (especially by US standards), the concept of "living green" is otherwise seen as the only way to live. No one can afford to exist beyond their means. Unfortunately, this way of life is extremely foreign to most Americans, but I feel most at home. I might be able to argue that as a child in America, I was the only kid in my class who knew where my hot water heater was located in the house that my father owned. In fact, it was necessary to secretly learn how to operate it so that I could occassionally trick the timer in order to take long, hot showers when my father was away. I dare say that many of my contemporaries in the US have no idea where or how their hot water heater works. Therein lies the difference.

Of course, not everything in the Middle East is about drugery or a Depression-style way of living. Likewise, I cannot describe every moment of my childhood as so black and white. But in the silent spaces between the moments of my so-called present tense, I find myself wanting to thank my father for being such an inconsistent, self-righteous ass in between those refreshing moments of his tenderness.

But for now, it seems that my shower is ready.



Anonymous said...

Retrospect always seems to blur the space between black and white, good and bad, appropriate and not. You are a wise daughter to know this and accept your dad for him.

Restaurant Gal said...

Sorry, that was my comment. Forgot to put in my URL! Take care, okay?

Namaste said...

Thanks, RG! You're the cutest.

KassyK said...

I love Israel...not just because my father is Israeli but because I feel such a kinship with the land...and I am not religious at all.

I love that you can be in Tel Aviv and the suburbs surrounding(where the vast majority of my relatives live and very comfortably) and it very much has the European feel and style to the area combined with Mid Eastern culture.

And then you head to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (my other aunt lives on a kibbutz there) and it is like a different world.

Fully Middle Eastern and with such a mesh of Arab and Israeli. Very different than the more Euro and beachy feel of Tel Aviv but so special and just unique to most places in the world.

I really enjoy these stories and as someone more knowledgable about the other areas of Israel (I've only been to Jerusalem twice eek!)...I find this all so interesting.

Be safe. I am thinking of coming there as soon as I get work. I really miss of my favorite beach cities in the world and Raanana, where I lived for a while and just miss dearly.