I am back from America. On this last trip I was speaking to A one morning on the phone and mentioned that I had a surprise for her that she would get on my return. "Can we just Face Time right now so that I can see what it is?" she asked me. I told her I wanted to keep it as a surprise but I was amazed at how different the world looks to her. One hundred years ago if someone were going to make the journey from Kansas to Haifa port it would be an arduous journey by boat. (OK they had luxury cruising but I'm traveling coach). Today my daughter just takes for granted that when we are separated by an ocean all she has to do is push a button to see me live. And frankly, it's not "easy" getting from Tel Aviv to Kansas, but relative to 100 years ago it's practically like teleportation. "Beam me over" USair.
It sometimes feels like I"m living parallel lives in my Israel life and my US life. I have even started to recognize some of the other commuters. Most of the airline staff is familiar to me. I've mentioned before that I often meet other physicians making the commute, but on this last trip I met a group of engineers who spend two weeks out of each month working in Israel. They're from Phoenix, and while I didn't specifically ask, it wasn't my sense that any of them were Jewish. I couldn't help but imagine that parallel life. A bunch of women in Phoenix (because frankly with the exception of me, one dentist and one pediatrician the majority of commuters I have met have been men) commiserating about their husbands who are off working in Israel. And then the women of Modiin (and many other Anglo communities in Israel) saying goodbye to their husbands Sunday afternoon as they head out to America (or Europe). Except the women here look forward to the suitcases of goodies that their husbands bring back. Do these women in Phoenix hanker for the rugelach or Bamba that their husbands could bring?
Which brings me to another point of the commuter lifestyle: My life as a mule. In short, I bring things back that we either can't get in Israel (though that list is getting much smaller) or are cheaper. Pretty much everything is cheaper. Don't get me started on gasoline, because we all know I can't bring that back in my suitcase. My kids are always torn between missing me and looking forward to their next delivery. Let's take Shredded Wheat as an example. Shredded wheat cereal in Israel is somewhere between $8-10/box. I can get it for $3 in Kansas, so it's a $5-7 savings for every box I bring back. Our new pet rats have to sleep on special shredded paper bedding that is about 1/3 of the cost. Now clearly, I wouldn't fly across the ocean to pick up 50 lbs of merchandise, but since I'm already there working it only makes sense to fill my bags. Fortunately, on this trip the gate agent was more interested in talking about Israeli politics than being particular about the scale, so he let an extra 2.26796185 kilos (aka 5 lbs) go through. My mom and I have a tight operation packing my bags. I always land saying I don't really need anything this time, and then we find ourselves weighing and repacking multiple times before heading back to the airport. Now, that woman knows how to pack! Lucky for me , they don't weigh your carry-on. And now I know that a peanut butter sandwich is fine--just no tubs of peanut butter in your carry-on. ("Never surrender" is my new motto!) Now America is a big place, and if any of you are from the coasts, you are likely asking yourself right now, "Where in the world is she getting cereal for $3/box?"
Another thing I've noticed: Things are expensive here, but the adjustment is much more noticeable for those of us coming from the Midwest than Americans living in larger, more expensive cities. Who knows? Maybe a businessman from LA who reads my blog* will fill his suitcase up next time he travels to Kansas.
*Someone has advised me to issue the following disclaimer: Any representations made in this blog (hereinafter the "Blog") are not intended to be construed as a recommendation of any service, action(s) or course of action(s), product, TV dinner, good, bad or lukewarm idea, or any other thing, as defined under the broadest definition available between US and Israeli law. The Blog makes no representation as to the readership of the Blog or lack thereof, either in total or in its constituent parts, with regards to identification or description of either individuals or demographic trends. Any resemblance of persons described herein to any other person, living or dead, real or fictional, is purely coincidental. All rights reserved. Gustabus non disputandum est. (Thank you, Michael)