Another year older

January 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I turned 36. No longer considered a youth by many standards, yet deep inside I still feel like a child. A child who needs and wants to be loved, cared for regardless of what she does and who she is. So in a way, it’s quite apt that this year, I’m back home to celebrate my birthday, as well as to spend the Chinese New Year.

The last few months have been trying on many levels. I discovered many things about myself, about our relationship and the inner demons that reside deep within me that I have failed to exorcise. There are days when I feel that I have nothing to hold on to, and that I don’t know what I can trust about myself anymore. Perhaps the relocation was done too hastily, without thinking it through or perhaps I will never be ready for it because I am not able to be honest with myself what it is that I want or desire, in the deepest and darkest parts of myself where I am now only starting to understand.

Although life ahead is not exactly a clear picture, I will, on this day, count all my blessings and remind myself how far I have come, from lying in my bed 2 years ago, not having any strength or energy to even get out of bed, to now having a psuedo normal life overseas, making new friends and starting a new life. Happy birthday to you Lipeng, you have come a long, long way.

12.12.12, stolen

December 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today is 12.12.12, a wonderful alignment of numbers, deemed auspicious for couples to get married. All over the world, especially Asia, there are mass weddings and check this out, an increased number of caesarian operations, to have their babies delivered on an auspicious date!

For us here in the vineyard, it started off as a bright and cheery day, only to end in a not so nice way. During his work day, Itay’s bike was stolen right under his nose. Well, not under but rather near his nose. He was working at a client’s place, and parked his beloved on the  entrance balcony (note, it is still under private property). Normally, as vigilant as he is, Itay would chain up his bike. But for this afternoon, just for a mere few hours, he did not lock the bike and by late afternoon, while walking out to meet a carpenter, he realised to his horror that his beloved is gone.

Just to let illustrate how devastating this is for Itay, you have to understand the importance of this bike. Not that it is an expensive, gleaming bike that you see most people parade on the streets nowadays (minus the new brooks saddle), the Gitane is a simple skeletal humble bike assembled together by Itay’s good friend from France, Vincent. In fact, this was the bike which Itay carried over from France on the Eurostar on a company trip back in the UK days. Since then, the Gitane has been Itay’s faithful companion, rain or shine, even in the occasional snow in London. Even when we were dating in London, the Gitane was always a dear companion, following us wherever we went.

Now that it’s gone, there is a huge emptiness at our entrance, reminding us of its absence. We wonder where it has gone, who has taken it and how the hell they knew about the residential property with the bike. There are no clues, no reasons. Itay immediately thought about my bike that was stolen earlier in June this year and admitted to me that he wasn’t too sympathetic towards my loss, and now he empathizes with me. I didn’t make too much of it, because that bike was not really mine to begin with. Instead, I thought about the pain of loss, especially when it is sudden and without reason. And as long as we are alive, we will have to learn how to live with it.

And perhaps, this is what 12.12.12 eventually meant for us.


December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

It is already December.

The last few weeks went by in a blur, especially after the ceasefire. As if the heavens knew about the ceasefire plans, the week immediately after the assaults there was rain, rain and more rain. The rain was excellently timed, bringing a much appreciated calm to the city.

During the “Pillar of Defense” operation, I received many pleas from my friends and family to leave Israel and return home, especially when a bomb went off in the center of Tel Aviv. It was hard not to say the truth, that I was afraid and shaken, and I would definitely feel much safer if I was not in Israel. Instead, I chose not to speak about my fears to them and tell them that I would be viligant, that everything is going on as normal (which is largely true) and if things got worse, I would leave Israel. Even when I said that, I was not sure if that was possible. What if there was a terrorist attack in the airport, or on the plane?

Every morning we would wake up and check the news, and I was constantly checking the US travel advisory. Theresa told me that the US has an excellent intelligence and if they were advising their citizens to leave, things must be bad… Luckily for me, that day never came.

After the first encounter with the siren, I became easily startled by sounds of airplanes, ambulances and loud motorcycle engines. Even though I know deep inside that statistically it would be quite a far stretch to be hit by a rocket from Gaza, especially with Israel’s Iron Dome, I was still nervous. It is hard to imagine how anyone lives with perpetual sirens and running to the bomb shelter every other day. How hardened their hearts must have become, or how resigned they must be to their fate?

I know this ceasefire will not be permanent. It will take some time before the dust settles and soon enough, probably in a couple of years, there will be another attack, another retaliation and more bloodshed. I don’t know how the Israelis do it, but from now on, when any Israeli says to me, “What can you do?” or “Life has to go on”, I will no longer take it as a passing comment. Instead, I shall remind myself of the unpredictability and fragility of life, and that I should enjoy and make full use of my time on earth.

Missiles part 2

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

After the siren yesterday, I wasn’t able to sleep properly, mostly from the fear and anxiety of another siren, and also from knowing that I had to wake up early to finish some work.

The day started sunny and warm, without any residue of the night before. By noon time, I had completed my work and we decided to walk to Nachalat Binyamin for some sauntering in the outdoor market. The streets were a picture of the normal Friday weekend, tourists at the market, locals rushing about with their errands, a symphony of hollering of the market vendors. As we passed the main  square at Shuk Ha Carmel, Itay pointed out to me a regular street busker drummer who is now a semi-establishment on Fridays.

About halfway through the market, we heard the siren again, rising above the racket of the market. Again, it started soft and almost taking a dip before it became louder and clearer. Within split second, I could here spurts of Hebrew words of disbelief and everyone scrambling to find a place to hide. Itay took my hand immediately and we walked quickly, following some people. I had no idea where we were going but Itay specifically told me not to run. After walking briskly for half a minute along restaurants, we finally went into a stairwell with around 20 other people while the siren continued wailing.

This is where the schizophrenia began. Within the 20 or so of us in the stairwell, a small group started to take pictures of themselves in the stairwell. Others started chatting with each other, presumably expressing disbelief at the time of the siren. Someone then decided that we should keep quiet and started shh-ing everyone to shut up. Itay continued holding my hand and put his arm around me as we sat in the stairwell, waiting for the terrorizing sound to stop.

In about less than a minute, the wailing stopped. Immediately everyone started walking towards the exit and started talking and laughing to each other, a stark difference from what I learnt about these sirens – that one should stay in the safe space for 10 minutes after the siren. Then, when the exit door opened, sounds of the external street started drifting in. There was music, drumming and people talking, just like a regular boisterous street. Itay then recognised one of the stairwell-ers and started chatting with him, an old friend who lost contact.

When we finally walked out of the stairwell, I felt like I have stepped into a movie set where scenes are on cue of the director. The regular drummer has already begun his set, drumming up an infectious beat,criss-crossing with the techno music blasting from some party supplies shop. People were browsing the kiosks along the market, and the outdoor cafes were still packed with people sipping their coffee. What, did these people even get off their seats during the siren? Who knows.

We lost the mood to shop completely and decided to have a coffee instead. About two streets away, a cafe was bustling with live jazz musicians jamming to a “Happy Birthday” tune for one of their customers. We live in a schizophrenic world indeed.

Time of missile: 16 November, approximately 1.15pm

Missiles part 1

November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The first time it happened, I was typing away at the table rushing for a deadline and Itay was cooking chicken soup for in the kitchen. The sound was unfamiliar and by the time I understood what it meant, I felt my chest closing in and my mind went into a blank. Itay stepped out of the kitchen immediately and told me we had to leave. “Where to?” I asked. “What do we bring?!” And I took another look at my laptop with my work on the screen. There was no time to think, I had no idea what to do. “Just go!” he grabbed my hand and led me out of our apartment.

The siren continued and we walked briskly down to the basement, not exactly sure what’s there. “I think there is a safe room downstairs”, Itay reassured me. The whole time my thoughts were swirling, what the hell is happening? Surely they are not shooting at Tel Aviv? We finally reached the basement and stayed in the empty room while the siren lasted. After that, we waited for a while more before making our way upstairs.

My nerves were still recovering from the shock when we returned to the apartment. Itay checked on the internet and told me that the Hamas has started shooting at Tel Aviv. I can’t believe my ears when he told me that. Isn’t Tel Aviv outside the firing range of the Hamas’ missiles? Didn’t Tel Aviv have a bubble that was immune to the aggression in Israel, just like in 2008? He seemed shocked too and we didn’t know what to say to each other.  While we both tried to process our own thoughts about what just happened, he went into the kitchen and turned the stove back on and tended to the soup. Just like waking up from a dream, I went back to my mac and carried on with my work.

Fifteen minutes later, we stood at our balcony and watched for signs on the streets. There was no trace of the earlier siren, people were speaking on their mobile phones or walking their dogs as if nothing happened. Very surreal.

Time of siren: 15 November, 6.30pm

Sunflowers at the door

November 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

For many months now, we have been unsuccessful in sustaining the growth of any plant or flowers at our doorstep. Perhaps it was the lack of direct sunlight or the landing is too sad for any plant to grow. Even our neighbour had plastic flowers.

One Friday afternoon, as we stepped out of our flat, we noticed something different about the flower pot at the door. Without any notice, the elderly couple who live across from us placed two of their plastic sunflowers in our deceased pot, as if to share with us some of their joy of having perpetual bloom.

Even though we are not big fans of fake flowers, this gesture brought some warmth and sunshine to our hearts. Like what the Chinese say, better to have a good neighbour who lives next door than a fantastic relative who lives far away.


Hello & goodbye, London my love

October 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s been a wonderful 10 days in my favourite city in the world, although now I am paying for it with a whacked out lower back muscular strain. Must be all the walking and shopping. Lots to update, in a bit.