This has to be one of the most polyglot places on earth! First of all, there are six alphabets in common use by residents: Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, and Ge’ez. Think about that for a second–I frequently see storefronts with signs in four scripts! On the streets and in the shops you’ll hear residents speaking Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian, Armenian, Yiddish, Amharic, Tagalog, and I’m sure many others I have not heard. As for the tourists, I have picked up conversations in German, Spanish, French, Polish, Italian, Danish, Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Korean, and probably others I have not recognized.
What there is not so very much of is food that Liam can eat! It’s a hard place to be a fussy vegetarian. There aren’t even the fast food places that you see in some other Israeli cities. Everywhere you turn there is hummus, falafel, bread loaves, pickled vegetables, ice cream, bagels, coffee, and various meats–and not much else! No rice, no green salads, no soups, no Italian, no Mexican… in short, almost no Liam-food! Needless to say, I am not eating very well.
But whether the two are connected or not, it’s not been a huge problem because I have very little appetite and have been sick a lot the past few days. Something here has not agreed with me. Last night I hardly slept a wink, a combination of construction noises, loud kids, and feeling sick as a dog. So to-day I feel predictably weak and listless. *grumble* I am having a great time intellectually, but my body is saying “take me home NOW!”
As far as the brain-work goes, things are proceeding tolerably well. I had my first meeting to-day with an Israeli academic, and that seemed to come off smoothly enough. He gave me a lot of great leads for works to read and people to contact, and a lot of excellent advice about working in Israel. He put my mind much more at ease vis-à-vis actually spending time here talking to the Haredim and working with Israeli resources. Not that the project seems any easier: far, far from it! But I am learning what I need to do, and that’s an excellent step in itself.
I did some walking to-day again after the meeting, heading over to the Zionist Central Archives and attempting to speak with the curator of the photo collection. And from there I walked up to Jaffa Street at its northern end and walked down towards the part I already know. On the way I slipped into a few markets, including the large shopping spread on Ben Yehuda Street where I finally had lunch. Right now I am sipping a drink at a coffee house, and when it’s done and the camera has finished dumping the day’s photos, I’m probably going to stumble back to the Old City and try to get to sleep early. Maybe if I can sleep early enough in spite of the light & heat, I’ll be able to sleep through the obnoxious construction noise…
In spite of it all, though, this is shaping up to be a great trip. Sure, I’m sick as hell, and tired, and it’s damned hot, and I can’t get good food; I miss my animals, my girl, and my family. But I am learning a lot, collecting photos (many of them research, as I’m studying the social construction of space), meeting people and having interesting conversations, getting a lot of exercise, studying Hebrew through my tapes and practising it everywhere, picking up more Arabic incidentally, enjoying the people-watching, and getting in a tolerable amount of reading. I even picked up a couple of Hebrew books to study with, and one that’s important to my research and not being translated. I am physically and emotionally exhausted, but in many ways I am revved up and enjoying myself immensely.