High highs and low lows, that's how I describe most of my weeks here. The highs came from feeling like I belong in this city, in this country. The lows come from the uncertainty of wanting to stay, but having no reason. I've never yearned for a city as much as I yearn for Tel Aviv. Every time I leave, I can't wait to come back. There is something here, between the manicured boulevards or the graffittied back alleys. The cafe culture where people meet up to chat about who knows what or take out their lap tops and work on whatever it is that keeps them typing away. A city of dreamers. People who work here either do what they love or are scraping by because they love this place and can't leave, like me.
I can't leave. I felt it when I first arrived in the disgusting heat of August. I had my travel backpack and was heading to the Central Bus Station, reluctant to travel more but with no where else to stay. Tel Aviv is not Israel, but its one of the best representations of it. Its beautiful in its people and diversity. Perfect bodies sun-tan on the beach while desperate African migrants steal their bags. Homeless men sit on the corner with festering sores on their legs begging for change and teenagers shriek with excitement to be on the street in the evenings. A shirtless, curly haired, young guy sets up a drum kit and bangs along to a speaker blasting Michael Jackson on the corner of the street. Young couples, better suited to be partying in a club, walk with their baby carriage and a dog on a leash. Bars fill up and pour onto the street and if you're an English speaker you're sure to get picked up.
I've never felt like I belonged more than I have here. I've also never been so scared that I'm not wanted. I get this city, but then I'm constantly challenged on my beliefs.
The buildings are old. They are falling apart and dirty. But they each have a balcony and the sun is shining and the air is sweet.
Its been six months in Israel and I've had the most amazing time. I started out my trip with a lay-over in Istanbul, calling in sick via skype to my former job from a cafe surrounded by Turks chatting, smoking hookah and sipping coffee. I learned the first amazing reality about traveling alone, you're really never alone. I visited mosques with an Italian girl, I talked with young Turkish boys in the square, I shared an amazing seafood dinner on the Bosphorous with a complete stranger, we were only put together by a mutual friend. I arrived at Tel-Aviv Ben Gurion at three in the morning to be greeted by the most amazing, loving, smiling friend I've ever made. We had only known each other for five days, six months before, but now we are sisters. We spent three amazing days together bonding, laughing and partying.
I traveled, I stayed, I left, I explored. I volunteered in a dairy, in a moshav, in the South of Israel. I thought I would hate it but found it to be one of the most fulfilling two weeks I've ever had.
I met boys. Lots and lots of boys. I had fun, I made mistakes, I had my heart broken.
I made a best friend. An unbelievable person that I didn't realize I needed so much.
It's the end. No, it's AN end. I was so fearful in the beginning of being on a "program" and I did my best to separate myself from it. Now that its over I feel like I'm clinging to it like its my last hope. This program gave me an opportunity I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else. Working at The Jerusalem Post was an unbelievable experience and I've never felt such a loss with it being over. The people I met were inspiring - in their abilities and their modesty. They work so hard to only sometimes feel the rewards of working in the news. It is the most exciting job and in the most interesting place.
I'm moving into a new apartment with an Italian artist and an Israeli named Ronnie. They both have twenty years on me easily. My room is a shoebox but I have three windows all at eye level. The apartment is only three minutes walking from the beach and just outside the Yemenite neighborhood and Ha-Carmel shuk. I made a deal for two months because I've started working a temporary job that will last that amount of time. It's the weirdest feeling to be moving and everything changing, but being in the same area and having life continue on as usual.
I don't want to be living in uncertainty month to month, but its all I can afford now - both monetarily and in life decisions. But the one thing that is certain, I freakin' love Tel Aviv and I can't leave yet.