fitting a square peg into a round hole

We have all heard about how horrible Americans are, and the sad thing is, it’s usually true. American tourists are perceived by the world at large as loud, insensitive, selfish, obnoxious, and way too comfortable with their western worldview to relate with people from other countries. We’ve all seen those people, at least in the movies. Obviously, I don’t want to “be that guy” but it can be difficult to try to fit in a culture you know little about and a language you don’t know at all.

We arrived in Tel Aviv at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon, and I had to go through customs so I could get my Israel visa. Since our layover in Newark, the other, more knowledgeable students had told us multiple times to be sure we told the customs-people that we were tourists not students. Students only get a one-month visa for some reason, while tourists get a three-month one. Because we are technically in both categories, we were eligible for either. At least that’s what they told me.

Still, I felt like a dirty liar telling the lady that I was a tourist, especially when she asked me what I would be doing in Israel. “Studying,” I said mindlessly. I had thought about all the ways I could tell them that I was a tourist. I was going to see the land. I was staying in a Moshav. I was with a travel group. All those other students who are getting three-month visas? Yeah, I’m with them. But “studying” just kind of fell out of my mouth.

“So you’re a student then?” she said.

“Uh…no I’m a tourist.”

She cocked an eyebrow and gave me what I assumed was an Israeli death stare. “You’re studying but you’re a tourist?” She had a thick Israeli accent, but sarcasm knows no dialectal bounds.

“Yeah, that’s right.” I was getting uncomfortable. This was going very badly. I wonder if they imprison lying Americans.

But she just shrugged irritably, asked me how long I would be in the country, and told me that I would have to renew my visa because I would be there five months instead of three. I think I managed to create a new United States stereotype: Americans are really bad liars.

We took a bus from Tel Aviv to Moshav Yad Hashmonah, and one of the IBEX professors—Abner Chou—told us about the area we were in. Tel Aviv is where the ancient city of Joppa used to be. Joppa was, of course, where Jonah went to buy a boat ticket to Tarshish, away from Ninevah and away from what God had commanded him. He refused to bring the mercy and love of God to the Gentiles. Many years later, Simon Peter (Bar-Jonah) preached the message of “neither Jew nor Greek” to a crowd of Gentiles in Joppa in Acts 9 and 10. God had sovereignly worked to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. To Us. Our faith, as proclaimed by the hills of Israel, is real.

And who said the Bible wasn’t literary?

One of the things I had to bring was an outlet adapter, so that my American plugs can fit into the Israeli outlets. American plug prongs are square shaped, and so they can’t fit into the round holes of the outlets here without that small piece of technology. Those square plugs are insufferably American: they don’t fit anywhere else in the world.

More blog stuff tomorrow, hopefully. I didn’t have time to post what happened today, walking from Yad Hashmonah to the Arab city of Abu Ghorosh. I’m already behind on this thing.

Oh, we’re going to Jerusalem today.

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