Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Culture Shock - Part 2 of 3

One of the most annoying aspects of culture shock is the safety issue (and since I have mentioned it previously, I won’t talk about the rockets). One result of the ongoing conflict here is the never-ending presence of security guards at nearly every public building. Imagine going through airport security just to buy a light bulb. It’s not always that bad but one needs to look at it as a small price to pay for a little “peace of mind” to know that not just anyone can walk into the grocery store unchecked.

(Bank security guard during Purim)

What is most disturbing to me is that all of the schools here look like prisons with their high metal gates surrounding the perimeter and armed guards patrolling the premises. It is because of past terror attacks on Israeli children in their schools that such security is mandatory. Unfortunately, terrorists have no shame to stoop to this.

So, as a result of said terrorists, people here in Israel will often give you the "stare". No matter where you are or what you may be doing, you can count on people looking at you as if their eyes are burning a hole through you. At first you feel self-conscious like something must be wrong with the way you look, like your appearance so unusual that they try to gaze inside your soul to figure out what your deal is. For a while I would just look back at people and shrug like saying “What?” until they stopped. Then one day I was at a coffee shop with some friends and realized that I was staring at people who passed by in the same way. Why? Just trying to be vigilant and careful, I guess, ahem…

One of the most potentially traumatizing and intense cultural experiences in the Middle East is going to the market, or shuk.
Not all are the same, but just go to one and you’ll get the idea.
With all of the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy outdoor shopping area, you can feel like all of your senses are being physically assaulted.
After a while, though, you get used to it and actually look forward to seeing what delectable delights are for sale this time around, like radishes the size of your fist and artichokes that could choke a horse.
For me, it helps to go with my Middle Eastern wife, whom I believe has the genetic disposition to bargain more effectively than I could ever dream to be able to do. However, the master Jedi has to be her mother who should strike fear into any poor merchant victim whose shop or stall she might decide to grace).

Best of all, you get to meet some of the most interesting people that you normally don’t get the chance to meet otherwise.
It’s always an adventure and you can’t beat the prices.

Another thing I find myself missing is the show "Sanford and Son". As in Fred Sanford. That's S-A-N-F-O-R-D period.
For the nearly two months we had to wait for Rima's passport before we came, I got into a routine of watching Sanford and Son with her after we put the kids to bed (we didn't want the kids to learn bad words from it like "you big dummy"). They say that humor doesn't translate from language to language and I'll say there is some truth to it after seeing some of the popular shows that are on here. Then again, what can compare to Fred about to have the "big one"?
We don't have cable so I don't get to watch much TV anymore. Even if we had it I wouldn't be able to change channels on account of my artha-ritis.
Anyway, watching TV is bad for you - it can give you a heart attack, you know, a BIG one. As in, “I’m coming to join you, honey” big.

-Enough on the difficulties because we’ll just “count it all joy.” Part 3 will be about the GOOD things that we have to get used to in this new place.

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