Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Lost in translation
A number of years ago, I took this photo in Netanya, a town on the coast of Israel. At the time, I was highly amused by the multiple personality disorder of the restaurant, but I realised it probably summed up rather well the struggle that some Israelis battle with - identity. If you are a recent "Oleh" or immigrant, you might have an English/Australian/American/S.African/Spanish/French/Iranian/Ethiopian accent to your Hebrew. If you are "Second Generation" your parents may have raised you trilingual (Hebrew/English/Mother Tongue). If you are over 60, it is possible that trilingual includes Yiddish as the Mama Loshen.
I then got to thinking about my own crisis of identity at the weekend - that weird sense of isolation in the place you are supposed to call "home". It wasn't language that singled me out as different. It was a longing for something “other” which I found as nebulous and unfathomable as a sea fret. Sometimes it is as basic as someone using an idiom you haven’t heard for years, or a book in a second hand store that transports you to another place and time in a country far away.
The thing that is guaranteed to stop me in my tracks is smelling a wood burning fire in the air. It reminds me of bonfire night as a child in England, of crisp autumnal walks in the village I lived in the Vienna woods, and the refugee camps of Africa. I have been on a six year mission to get a wood burning stove in New Zealand. I suspect it would make me feel less of an immigrant and more like I’d come home.