Wednesday, September 29, 2010
A few months ago I began feeling aches in my left leg, which I thought I had stopped feeling. Most prominently, I've been having trouble ascending stairs, and after a long day any kind of walking became painful and extremely tiring.
When I was in Israel over the summer, I had x-rays done and a local "senior orthopaedic surgeon" said my femur looked fully healed, but perhaps I had some soft tissue damage in my knee.
When I returned to the States, I decided to seek a real specialist. When I went to Penn Surgery for a follow up on my hernia repair, I asked the surgeons there to recommend an orthopaedic surgeon. Luckily, there was an intern there who had worked with some of the ortho surgeons and he gave me a list of specialists in orthopaedic trauma.
To cut to the chase, I had a CT scan of my leg done and an MRI of my knee. They revealed that the fracture in my femur has not healed and that I have some cartilage damage in my knee. Blood work shows that I have a minor deficiency in vitamin D. Another test I did in Israel indicates that I have the bone density of a 70 year-old woman.
What is the now the likely scenario is as follows:
1. On Friday I'm seeing a doctor in the metabolic bone clinic. He'll probably have me take vitamin D and perhaps other supplements, at least for a few weeks.
2. In 2 months I'm going back to see the new ortho guy. He says that in some 10% of the cases like mine, nutritional supplements alone promote bone healing. In the rest of the cases, surgical intervention is needed. Assuming the latter:
3. There is probably a bacterial infection in the bone. I will have to undergo surgery to remove the metal rod currently implanted in my leg, as it only attracts more bacteria. In its lieu, a temporary antibiotic rod will be placed in my leg for 6 weeks.
4. Six weeks later, I'll need more surgery, this time to remove the antibiotic rod and have some other form of internal fixation.
All in all, I'll probably be unable to walk independently for about 12 weeks in December-January. I'm not sure I'll be able to work. I sent an e-mail to my supervisors at F&M today asking that we think of a contingency plan in case that happens.
I'm glad I finally have a better idea what's wrong with me. It's inconvenient that I won't know whether I'll need surgery before the end of November, but it's better than being completely in the dark or being told that I'm okay, and the pain will just go away sometime in the future.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Unlike the United States, however, children of such workers are not immune from harsh treatment, including the threat of deportation, even if they were born in the country. Thus, thousands of children, who were born in Tel Aviv (and elsewhere in the country), who have acquired Hebrew as their native language, who have never visited any other country, are now being forced to "return" to places they have little to no attachment to.
Yesterday I attended a small demonstration in southern Tel Aviv, one of the poorest areas of the city, where many immigrants, both "legal" and "illegal" live in dire circumstances. Just a few days ago, my father and I happened to have seen Jeremiah, a documentary focusing on the "legal" (i.e., Jewish) component of that equation. I have just learned that the director of this film, Eran Paz, has one the Jerusalem Film Festival prize for best director of an Israeli documentary.
Photos from last night's demonstration are available here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2232275&id=1413811&l=219000c678.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
My mother had heard of a sale at a popular local optical store chain: buy a pair of prescription lenses for NIS 99 (ca. $25), get a frame (limited selection) for free. So naturally, we went, and I got myself a pair of readers to supplement my progressive lens pair of glasses from Philly.
Since that was a success, she suggested I get yet another pair, this time for distance. Since I wasn't crazy about the frames offered at the first location, we went to a different one today. When we got there, the Russian-accented salesperson we first encountered asked us to wait for a moment. Then she calls, "xamudi!" – which in Hebrew means 'cutie!'
I asked my mother, "was she talking to me?" We both were puzzled. Then a smily white-cloaked optometrist with a slightly Arabic-accented Hebrew comes out and tends to us. I then realized his name tag read ħammu:di, which in Arabic is a common hypocoristic of muħammad.
I guess this story really should have a point. But whatever point I point out, it is likely to sound corny, so just draw your own conclusions. Or don't.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I've been to England many times before. More accurately, I've been to London. A few years ago I attended a conference in Newcastle upon Tyne, and I've also been to Edinburgh once (which, of course, is in Scotland, not England). You've already had the chance to read about the highlights of my Manchester experience from a couple of days ago, and when Maciej mentioned to me that Liverpool was just forty minutes away, it seemed silly not to hop on a train and check it out.
Ideally, I'd explore the city and all of its Beatles-related landmarks: Abbey Road, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields. But I decided to begin my tour visiting The Beatles Story, a rather kitschy museum, somewhat reminiscent of Elvis's Graceland in Memphis (which I visited with my father when I was living in Austin, "because it's also in the South..."). I'm glad I went, though, because I would have regretted it had I skipped it. And it allowed me to see Liverpool on a gorgeous sunny – yet not hot – day, including a ride on a ferris wheel, something I cannot tell you when or where the last time I had done most recently was.
Rather than continuing this installment in any kind of verbose fashion, I choose to simply refer you to a photo essay of sorts, which can be viewed here. It also includes a few more tidbits from Manchester, among which was a compulsory photo op in front of Old Trafford, the home stadium of Manchester United. It is, after all, World Cup season. Which reminds me that Liverpool was probably the first English football club I've ever heard of, mostly because the first Israeli player to ever make it to the European Leagues, Avi Cohen, did it there sometime in my tweens.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
When I looked at the menu earlier in the afternoon, I saw many familiar items, such as "foul bi-hummus," which, to the credit of the proprietors, was attributed to Egyptian cuisine. Many other items were known to me through various Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, yet there was something about the combination that led me to decide to wait for the restaurant to open at 5:15 and dine there.
The foul/hummus combo was not bad, but the "Armenian Goulash" was mouthwatering. But beyond the food, I was intrigued by the cultural and geopolitical context of it all. Two of my colleagues and friends at F&M are of Armenian descent. So I have had some exposure recently to both cultural issues (mostly through Sylvia, from whom I've learned a bit about the evolution of popular Armenian music in the diaspora) and political ones (through Susan, who makes sure we all remember the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottomans).
As I sat down, I heard in the background what sounded to me like the kind of mediocre pop music that I heard in a recent presentation by Sylvia on campus. I remembered that she had told us that since most of the Armenians in the Turkish diaspora spoke Turkish, there music, too, was sung in the language of their occupiers/hosts/future genocide executioners (uh oh, now I'll be denied entry to Turkey on Saturday...). I tried to find a sensitive way to ask the restaurant owner about it. It occurred to me that uttering the word "Turkish" might be insensitive, so instead I asked him, "what language is that song in, Armenian?" He paused for a few seconds and replied, "yes, Armenian." I immediately suspected that he wasn't telling me the truth. I even recorded some of the music on both my digital camera and my BlackBerry, so that I could later play it to Sylvia and a Turkish friend of mine for language identification purposes.
However, since I was almost the only patron in the restaurant at the time, the owner and I began talking about where we were from, and so on and so forth. It turned out that he was born and raised in Istanbul and loved the city, and moved to England when he was seventeen. One of his brothers actually lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. And his wife, my waitress, was from Poland. I reminded him of my question about the song and confessed that I had been cautious not to bring up Turkey and Turkish, but he assured me that he had no problem talking about it. In fact, the next set of songs that was playing was in the language of Armenia's next occupier – Russian.
Of course, I mentioned that I, too, lived near Philadelphia, that I was from the Middle East and recognized many of the food items on the menu, that my grandparents were from Poland, from which they departed before their people were subject to genocide, and that I had Armenian friends with whom I have recently been discussing these issues. I mentioned the Polish friend with whom I was staying, and pretty soon the wife/waitress joined in too, and we found that as different as we each are, we really had a lot in common.
The interesting thing for me personally is that ten years ago, I probably would have kept my mouth shut. I think that a combination of my training in ethnographic and sociolinguistic fieldwork and a certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that I've been ingesting daily for the past six years has helped me be more inclined to engage people in such conversations and explore issues about which I am curious. I also noticed that I had probably adopted some variety of American political correctness, which was superfluous for these people, who have chosen a different home away from home.
It's bedtime for me. Tomorrow (or rather, later today) – Liverpool!
My mother always makes fun of me for choosing the most complex, indirect routes between the US and Tel Aviv, very much unlike the only acceptable option during most of my childhood and adolescence: JFK-TLV-JFK (or TLV-JFK-TLV, depending on where our "home base" was at the time), usually non-stop, usually on El Al.
The most natural route for me these days is PHL-TLV-PHL on US Airways, earning miles in its Star Alliance partner, United Airlines, where I am, for the second time, a Premier Executive (aka Star Alliance Gold) member. As you can see, this blog post is already taking a different direction than my usual political and social ranting and commentary. The two of you who find this interesting may read on. The rest of you, move on to my next post, which will also be here today (and which will only interest two people as well, but two different people).
Originally, I was supposed to be at the tail end of Franklin & Marshall's first ever summer travel course in Cairo. The combination of my recent accident and subsequent surgical procedures and a denial of my Egyptian visa application left me in Lancaster until a few days ago. But I had already booked my onward journey from Cairo to Tel Aviv via Istanbul, including a two-night stopover, complete with hotel reservations, so I decided to make the best of it.
Also, my friend Maciej, who teaches at the University of Manchester, keeps asking me to come visit him, either here in England or in his home in Warsaw, and my friend Roy and his wife Maya have extended a standing invitation for me to visit them in Zürich, so I embarked on a task involving what I probably do best: booking flight reservations!
Having canceled my December trip to Israel with US Airways, I had over $1,100 in credit with them that I felt compelled to use. So I booked the outgoing and incoming legs of my trip with them, namely PHL-LHR and ZRH-TLV. I planned on staying in London for the night and then flying to Manchester. So the next leg on my trip was LHR-MAN on bmi. The first two legs of my trip have been executed. my next flight, in three days, will be MAN-IST, followed by two days in the former Ottoman capital and then IST-TLV, both flights on Turkish Airlines. After a month(!) in Israel, I'll be flying TLV-ZRH on Swiss. Since booking round trips is cheaper than one-way tickets (usually), I booked a return flight (ZRH-TLV) for December. I may or may not use it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
2. The Museum
This will be a tripartite post, mostly for ease of reading.
Monday, May 3, 2010
On December 13, 2009, I almost got killed. Those of you who have been in touch with me have known this for a while. For the record, I was a non-fatality in a fatal car accident on southbound US-222 in East Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I was proclaimed “in critical condition,” having broken my left femur and left ulna, suffering a grade-1 blow to my spleen and herniating my left abdominal wall, subsequently allowing my colon to slip into a 4-5 cm gap between the muscles that form the wall, which is really the part that could have killed me. My passenger, a former student of mine, who is about to graduate from Franklin & Marshall College in just a few days, was virtually unhurt and went on to spend his winter vacation with his family and friends in Brazil. The woman responsible for the accident, younger than many of my students, who found her way northbound in the southbound lane en route to her home in nearby Denver, PA – a place I had only known of from the road sign that leads motorists from Route 222 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike – died instantly. When I was aboard the ambulance I heard someone say the word “fatality.” I recall asking, “did I hear the word ‘fatality,’” and the silence that ensued, which to me was a confirmation of what I thought I had heard.
I wanted to write all this as soon as my father brought my laptop to the hospital. Resuming my blogging “career” seemed like a good way to pass the time in my three weeks of hospitalization and the months of recovery to come. At first, however, I was only able to use my right hand, and for a devout lefty like me, that was a hindrance I could barely tolerate. I did gradually resume my updates on Twitter, which I saw at least once described as micro-blogging. And it was through that medium that earlier tonight I was urged to “blog more.”
What to write about after such a long hiatus, especially one in which my life was turned upside-down, is not an easy decision to make. In many ways, I am exactly the same sarcastic, obnoxious, cynical son-of-a-bitch (sorry, mom) that I’ve always been. For a while I was the grouchy disabled guy in a wheelchair that we all pity and forgive, but still want to punch in the face when he reacts like an asshole trying to accomplish easy tasks like crossing the street in the snow. For a short period of time, I took a break from caring much about human rights violations in my native Israel and the Palestinian territories it so arrogantly clings on to, or LGBT issues that have been dear to me at least since 1999 (though, secretly, long beforehand).
Two weeks ago, one of my orthopedic physicians has cleared me to walk, sans wheelchair, sans walker, sans cane. Just me and my own two legs, one of which will probably never fully gain the bone density it had before my injury. I still tire quite easily. I still rely on pain-relieving medications (though less on those scary, habit-forming narcotics). I am not going to Cairo with my students on a summer program that I came up with and feel like I’ve abandoned. And I have not been without at least one of my parents around for over forty-eight hours, even though I recently turned forty.
On my first morning in the rehabilitation unit at Lancaster Regional Medical Center, which was my home for two-and-a-half weeks after being released from the ICU at Lancaster General Hospital, I asked to see a psychiatrist. Earlier that morning I had cried like a baby in front of my father after enduring the embarrassing experience of having my ass wiped by a nurse’s aid whose appearance couldn’t help remind me of Kathy Bates’ character in Misery. My regular psychologist, who is based in Philadelphia, called me at least once a week to check on me, but for several weeks I felt as if my physical injuries were distracting me and preventing me from feeling my good ol’ depression.
A lot of this is over now. More and more things seem as if they are back to normal. I spent most of the spring semester teaching, most of it full-time. I have traveled independently to Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia on several occasions. I’m in this interesting position of having the greatest excuse to refrain from doing too much work, combined with the desire not to sink into oblivion, either professionally or socially.
To be clear, I have had the utmost flow of support from colleagues, friends, acquaintances, students, the few relatives I am still on speaking terms with, you name it. And it was genuine. My biggest fears at first were that (1) I’d need Kathy Bates to keep wiping my ass for years to come, and (2) that people would get tired of caring and that I would be left alone in my misery (no pun intended). Neither happened. I learned to use my right hand for the former (don’t give me any “TMI” bitching now), and, if anything, I have people caring in doses that are a bit overwhelming at times.
I will pause here, for three almost prosaic reasons. First, this entry is already a tad longer than what I would have cared to read in one chunk had this been, say, your blog. Secondly, I want to have an incentive to keep writing. Thirdly, I want to get some sleep tonight. And this being a blog, I don’t have to adhere to any rigid beginning, middle and end rules, right? So here I am, unorthodoxically ending in the middle of nowhere.