Archive | September, 2011

Doubly Displaced

27 Sep

I am not just a foreigner in Athens, I’m a double foreigner. When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t have a one-word answer. I could just answer “Canada” . Everyone loves Canada and people usually smile (as opposed to when I say I’m from Israel). But it’s not that simple. I don’t live in Canada anymore, and “Canada” doesn’t answer the obvious question of what I’m doing here with an Israeli husband and son.

This year, I’m doing the very Israeli thing of moving abroad  “for a while”, and yet in Israel I’m still something of a foreigner.

I moved to Israel more than eight years ago, in 2003. I can’t say that I don’t fit in there. I do. I’ve adapted, as much as one can adapt to a foreign country which is not where you were born and grew up. I don’t have the same nostalgic childhood memories as almost everyone else, and I will always speak Hebrew with an accent. So in Israel when people ask where I’m from it feels more natural to reply “Canada”. Because in Israel that’s where I’m from. That’s how people perceive me, and that’s how I perceive myself.

When facing the world though, it’s not as simple; having spent a good part of my adult life in Israel, my worldviews are decidedly Israeli. My life is now shaped by the warm winters and hot summers, the endless drought, the yelling, the hummus, Eyal Golan, Master Chef, the constant threat of war, and sometimes war and terror. I don’t even know if Blue Rodeo are still together.

The truth is I feel hybrid most of the time – with not one foot firmly on either continent. When I go back to Canada, I don’t feel completely Canadian. I live in the fucking Middle East, for God’s sake!

Now doubly displaced in a country to which I have no connection thus far, I find myself longing for that familiar foreignness, the place I’ve grown used to and love despite my many qualms and frustrations with the state’s policies, the endless financial woes, and life in a pressure cooker.  It’s especially hard at this time of year, when everyone is busy bringing in the New Year weeks in advance and letting all the sweetness drag out.

I even miss the feeling of being different THERE. Here, I don’t speak the language. There, I know how to maneuver, and I know what to expect as a foreigner. I’ve grown used to my strangeness. Here, everything is just strange.






Foot spa

26 Sep

I heard my feet sigh with pleasure the other day. A deep, heaving, joyful sigh, borne of years of frustration and discomfort.  It was the first time. They were thanking me.

Besides my happy feet, I came to another realization: I am a Birkenstock girl, and I will never change.

The epiphany occurred last Tuesday at a fashionable shoe shop in Kolonaki, near where we live. The Naot sandals I have had for more than a year were all stretched and killing my feet.  It was really heard for me to walk up the steep hills of our new neighborhood, with its poorly paved (at best) to non-existing sidewalks with Amitai’s stroller. I dragged my feet because the sandals didn’t keep them in. Arrgghh. That didn’t make me happy.

So, I decided to go back to my roots, as Aharon likes to say. I have long been a dedicated Birk wearer. They cuddle my wide, flat feet just so, like no other sandle. They’ve taken me around the world, and my feet have always been happy in them. Four years ago, I decided to take a chance on the local, Israeli brand, Naot.

I bought two consecutive pairs and they both withered beneath my feet after a year. So disappointing. I always try to buy local but come on. Naot just suck.

So when I found myself in Athens with aching feet, I knew I had to go back to the originals. Plus, I have a family history with Birkenstocks. My father, from whom I inherited my flat, wide feet, also wore them. In fact I bought him a pair in Germany 11 years ago (in addition to my own) and he never got to wear them. So my brother started to wear them and also got hooked.

Until the other day, I thought I could play with my allegiance to Birkenstocks. I could at least get a pair that look nice this time. That was one of my considerations when I switched to Naot.

I tried on a stylish pink pair with a strappy big toe holder (I hate those). No. What was I thinking. I needed the big, plain, ugly, brown leather pair. The kind that people stereotype other people like me for. I even tried to go for the faux leather pair as a nod to my vegetarian husband, but my feet started to sweat in them. In an air-conditioned store. In September. Foot sweat in the hot Israeli summer sun? Not for me. This ain’t the Black Forest, honey.

I didn’t think of putting back on the shoes I had walked in with. And my feet have been tightly nestled in the Birks ever since.

Some rudimentary impressions of Athens

17 Sep

We’ve been here in Athens for three weeks already. A few of my first impressions:

1. Greeks like their coffee. They really like their coffee.

2. The nightlife here is completely wild, especially in our ‘hood of Kolonaki.

3. Dust.

4. Greece is much like Israel, only softer around the edges and less rational (or at least the Greeks are not constantly trying to justify that what doesn’t make sense actually does).

I like Greek. I know some words, and am starting to master the alphabet. It has a nice intonation to it, and reminds me of Spanish. It’s fun to constantly try to decipher a new alphabet, like I’m a kid again learning to read.

And today I finally got to The Body Shop store around the corner from our apartment (!) after three weeks of not having time. It was Bliss! I didn’t have enough money to cover all of the products I had amassed at the cash, but I smell really good.

Once the two boys wake up, we’re going to check out a new vegetarian restaurant. I’m still waiting for the souvlaki and seafood!