I went to the state hospital last week for a dentist appointment. The dentist was all business, and super direct about the things he felt I could do better to care for my teeth, in a way that was off-putting at first, but also strangely familiar. The dentist was clearly not of Equatoguinean decent, and although his Spanish was good, it was clear to me that Spanish was not his first language either.
Another doctor walked in to show up a photo on his phone. I assume it was business, because the other doctor was in scrubs and wearing a surgical mask. The two began speaking to each other in Hebrew, and I was struck by a wave of homesickness so powerful it brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t actually cry in the dentist’s chair, but I did let the dentist know that my last tour was Jerusalem. The confession opened the floodgates to conversation.
We agreed that both of our countries are terrible at moderation, both as a nation and individually. We agreed that Jerusalem is an incredible city, but that it’s also very very heavy (he lived there for several years). And we agreed that being an expat in EG is a kind of escapism, one that both of us appreciate all the more after spending time in Jerusalem.
My husband and I have spoken about the phenomenon of leaving a place where you were unhappy, only to have the unhappier memories fade with time until our nostalgia is more rose colored than angry. It’s a defense mechanism, I think, that keeps our souls healthy, rather than turning them dark after holding bitterness in our hearts for years after departing.
Despite the frustrations of living in Jerusalem, I made genuine friends, learned a hell of a lot, and came out a better person. As time goes on, I miss more and more: the dairy sections at the supermarket, the feeling of living surrounded by history, and even the stereotypical Israeli frankness. I know it’s a quality that can be frustrating, but I never left a difficult conversation with an Israeli wondering where I stood.
So here’s to Jerusalem, to challenges overcome, and to finding peace. L’Chaim! I’m glad I’ve finally started to miss you.