I almost forgot to punch out my 15-minute Friday piece until I checked my WordPress Reader and saw that the Daily Prompt today pushes us to “Go Serial.” I started going serial accidentally last week when I found myself compelled to write yet another poem about Kfar Manda, the Arab Village down the street from Hannaton, the kibbutz village in which I live.
I was in Kfar Manda because I heard from my friend on Hannaton they had a great health clinic with good doctors and lots of services the smaller clinics here in the North don’t typically have. The two clinics I normally go to were closed and I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t want to wait until the next morning, when my doctor would return to the office.
Going to the health clinic is always a test of bravery for me here in the outskirts of this country. You never know how good the doctor’s English will be and you never know if your Hebrew will be strong enough to indicate which organ feels busted or which region needs attention.
I still don’t know how to say vagina in Hebrew.
I do now, however, after many awkward interactions, know the grownup words for peepee and poop.
It took me 6 months of living in Israel before I felt comfortable going to the doctor without my husband in attendance. But it took me 2 1/2 years of living here before I felt comfortable driving in and around Kfar Manda.
This week was the first time I drove in alone. And I only felt comfortable doing so once I saw on Google Maps that the clinic was only a few blocks from the main road. That said, Google Maps doesn’t really work in villages Northern Israel: neither the Jewish nor the Arab Villages have street signs. And so directions “to turn left on Peleg Street” don’t help in real time. So even though the clinic was only a few blocks in, I needed help from the locals to get me there.
By a mix of my broken Hebrew and theirs, I found my way to the clinic and was graciously supported by the Arab doctors and nurses. The only difference between this clinic and the one I normally go to was language. The promotional signs from the health plan, for instance, were in Arabic instead of Hebrew; as were the conversations between the health professionals.
My solo trip into Kfar Manda didn’t end there. I had to go for an Xray. I could have waited a few days and scheduled an appointment in Karmiel, the nearest city. But I wanted to get the Xray over with. So I asked the doctor for directions.
In typical Middle Eastern style, he pointed out the window and told me in Hebrew to walk this way, that way, and then straight, straight, straight for 50 meters and I’d see it.
I nodded and did as I was told.
Except after 45 minutes in the heat of the day trying five different versions of “this way, that way, and straight straight straight” I only found myself at a market, a pharmacy, and at a store selling curtains.
It was time to go home or talk to people.
I chose to talk to people.
7 or 8 people later, I found the hair salon whose owner pointed me to the bank whose member directed me to the restaurant that was above the Xray center.
I found it.
And in doing so, I found another way of looking at Kfar Manda.
A perspective that involved real people, not just characters in stories. Stories based in fact, yes, but stories also based in fiction. In assumptions. In racism. In fear.
Stories I had been told and stories I told myself.
And so, with personal experience, my understanding of Kfar Manda shifts.