"Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living." - Albert Einstein
Here I am, alone, sipping a chilled glass of Rose in the September heat, cooled by sundown and today's blowing breeze, documenting my meandering thoughts on life as I know it. I am surrounded by families and friends, locals muttering in a number of languages, mainly Hebrew, which to my delight, I can sort of understand. Everyone is sat listening to the beauty that is a live orchestra, a two-string quartet with a keyboard and and a lady dressed in red, singing opera, completing the quartet. The lady is dressed in red, an off-the-shoulder number, Israeli by assumption, with her stereotypical dark ringlets blowing in the wind singing Italian classics. The orchestra are set on a marble and stone stage amongst the stone buildings, centuries old here on Andromeda rock, riddled with history, enjoyed by people of all ages. A different sound to what you hear on the radio, far stemmed from the electronic house we dance around in the dingy, alcohol fuelled nightclubs of today. Classical music is a treasure I enjoy, and in my eyes, not by enough people in today's society. The plastic chairs surround the stage, filled with couples and families, children running around, some even coming to speak to me, engaging for moments in Hebrew, before they disappear into the night, afraid from shyness, but intrigued by the curiosity that inspires them to break out of the shyness they so far fear. It is like something out of a movie, effortlessly romantic and beautiful, except this is the beauty of the home I now live in. So different from the culture of England that I grew up knowing. I am captivated by the sounds of the violin, my favourite classical instrument; made by strings, woven out of animal intestines. GROSS I know, except for those who don't know, you now do.
Today, I woke up, later than I expected, except after feeling over-wrought with feelings of stress, uncertainty, the feeling of not fulfilling my true desires and being off-balanced, it was time to be alone with my thoughts and clear my mind. I cleaned my apartment, put on my favourite summer dress and set out with no true destination. Just the desire to wander and discover Tel Aviv, alone.
As a self-proclaimed coffee addict, I need coffee in the morning to break me from my croaky morning voice, and unknowing clumsiness. However, I refrained from drinking any until I found the perfect coffee place to lap up every single drop of the finest, freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffee. As I enter the stone, cobbled streets of Yaffo, I stumbled across BASMA, 'Grandma's Coffee' house, an arabic cafe founded in 1914 by a family dating back over a century ago. The place is picture perfect, with copper turkish coffee pots of all shapes and sizes lining the walls and hanging from the old ceiling. Furnished with curtain fabric sofa's dominating the interiors, with tables and chairs that mix and match, reminiscent of something you would imagine finding in a traditional Arabic grandmother's home. The outdoors are lined with mahogany wooden tables and straw woven stalls and chairs, for where you are then served coffee in a turkish coffee pot only to be poured in a miniature, floral teacup and saucer accompanied by 3 small shortbread biscuits. A coffee experience to be adored and enjoyed by the best of us, due to it's authenticity and feeling of homeliness sojourned by my short time spent at this cute, little coffee house.
Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you find hidden treasures. Across the way from me, sit an Arabic family of 10, smoking Hookah (shisha), gossiping and laughing about life, my ears filled with the music of the Arabic language, with Hebrew intertwined, then appropriately interrupted through my conversing with an interesting American couple, middle-aged, non-jewish but living in Israel for business and leisure. The stories of those met on my travels intrigue and inspire me, as it broadens my mind and interest me on a cultural and also intellectual level. I am instantly filled will wonder and enjoyment through colloquial conversations with travellers and locals alike.
Alia, the owner of this beautiful coffee house, sat with me to tell her tales of how she endeavours to bring people of all cultures together through fresh coffee, and conversation on culture and life. She kindly gifts me a pack of their freshly in-house roasted coffee, 2 spoons mixed with hot water every morning she explains. In a small country, taking up a small percentage of the Middle-East, inhabited by Christians, Muslims and mainly Jews, there is an abundance of hatred and fear, unfortunately. What Alia seeks to do, is bring people together, and I support every aspect of her desires. We need this here, to make peace, it starts in society, so I am all in. I have been invited to join in the cultural conversations enjoyed daily, I will seek to spread the word and share this with my friends here, so they too can enjoy the experiences shared through this small and hidden coffee house in the Arabic town of Yaffo. How much did I spend for such a heart-warming afternoon? 15 Shekels (approx 3GBP well-spent).
In Arabic, Basma means: a smile, something I wouldn't even try and take off my face right now. I can't stop smiling. Life is so beautiful and is characterised by such experiences, that we take on ourselves, from being open with ourselves and the world and the people around us, to then stumble across and find. Life really is what you make of it. My biggest advice to those of you reading my ramblings on life, would be to be open-minded, talk to strangers and enjoy the simple things in life beyond what money buys you and material things. The best experiences are spent through understanding people and your surroundings, not from lavish goods.
However, take my advice with caution, I say this to the best of you, those who have an understanding of street-awareness; by all means do not be frightened of society, but know who is worth a conversation and who is not. We are taught as children not to speak to strangers, especially growing up in the UK, it is almost socially unacceptable since childhood to talk to strangers who stop in the street. Maybe why foreign travellers deem us as cold. Whilst we should teach our children to be street-smart, we should also teach them when it's right and when it's wrong. By being scared, we close ourselves off to opportunity and understanding and learning more about society and humanity. So be aware, but be open to the beautiful little experiences earned through meeting absolute strangers; that in turn enlighten you and place a huge smile on your face, not forgetting the other person, who too, enjoyed your company, conversation and warmth.
OK so another example, all experienced in one day. About 20 minutes ago, a beautiful lady, 50 years old, blonde, dressed in a LBD (little black dress), an Israeli mother with a warm smile; asks me in Hebrew if she can have a cigarette. As I offer her a cigarette and my lighter, she takes a seat and we start conversing in Hebrew. A family lady, a beautiful one at that; I mean she definitely doesn't look 50! Her warm and honest smile, lets me know she is harmless. So she sits. We speak in Hebrish, a mixture of Hebrew and English as a full conversation would not prevail in purely Hebrew. We speak about life, men, family and culture. Again, my face is accentuated with a smile, but more importantly I feel at home and I am touched by her presence and words. It doesn't end there, she leaves me her number, and asks to meet me for coffee in Ramat Aviv at the Mall, nearby where I studied Hebrew and somewhere I regularly shop...shortly after my hard-earned paycheck...WHOOOOPA.
Afterwards, she leaves to go back to her family (after her 'secret' cigarette) she comes back maybe 40 minutes later, to greet me with her husband and children. She can't have looked much older than 30, she was just someone that sat with me for 5 minutes. We are almost 30 years in age difference, yet enjoyed each others stories and company even if for a short time, only to be continued... Both of us are left with an effervescent smile. I don't know why people choose to speak to me, in fact, many question why I seek to speak to others, the feeling isn't always reciprocated. Arguably, this can often worry my father and sometimes my friends who do not think in the way I do, however, I believe I have a deeper understanding of life and people to know when it is right and when it is wrong. Henceforth, I am only ever graced with wonderful conversations and experiences, that I will undoubtedly treasure forever.
There is a prominent divide between our remembering self and our experiencing self. My remembering self remembers both the happiest memories spent with my family and friends. Also reminded of the darkness that engulfed me in my teen years, a deep loneliness filled with self-hatred which 'unfortunately' engrain in my mind. However, enlightened by my experiencing self who feels completely at one with myself, at home and in love with the world, curious about more than what I know and enlightened by those around me, it is far less than 'unfortunate'. In fact that fear of being by myself, 'alone' has left me. I thank my past, all the experiences that almost took me away from this earth, now have my feet firmly placed on the ground, not to leave (unless I go to space, eagerly anticipating this day). Every teardrop and feeling wavered has left me with a deeper and emotional understanding of the world around me, whilst I cannot see into the soul of others, I feel enamoured by the people that grace me with their presence. Each life experience is a lesson learned and leads to growth in ourselves. My friends joke 'Bianca you will talk to a wall, but if you don't care about someone, they are nothing to you'. I am open to those I meet, I enjoy the company of likeminded wanderers, those who are curious and hungry for life. Yet, arguably I have no time for those who I know will not be worthy of getting close to me. That doesn't make me a nasty person, I believe it makes me strong, letting those in who will bring light to your life and in turn be open to receiving that light.
In conclusion, as a wanderer in this big, at times bad, but beautiful world, I have found solace in the experiences enjoyed from being by myself. When I am by myself, I actually don't feel alone. Today has reminded me why I made such a huge decision to leave my family and friends in the UK, to move to Israel; where my close friends are scarce by choice but loved deeply, my understanding of this country limited until discovered. Yet, here I am finding myself, step by step. I have met people who have touched my soul, interesting minds, which have engulfed me, left me even more curious, excited and ready for the life I have to lead ahead. I now enjoy being by myself, what a wonderful feeling, one money can't buy. You are never truly alone.