Earlier today I decided to go to the shuk to purchase some much-needed groceries. I left the apartment, map and directions in hand, and nervously proceeded to the market area, just a few blocks from our apartment.
I came to an area full of little one-room stores selling all manner of goods. Rows and rows of juice bars, shoe stores, and clothes stores with rich and vibrant colors bedecked the hot and glimmeringly bright pavement of Jerusalem stone. Lines of busses crowded the road, and pedestrians walked through construction areas nonchalantly, chattering through the noise of a drill grinding into the pavement. They spoke in Hebrew, but their clothing identified them as members of many different communties - Orthodox men with black hats and tzittzit, Orthodox women with long sleeves, skirts, and thick stockings, women who were conservatively dressed but in more Middle Eastern rather than European styles (bright scarves over their heads rather than hats or snoods), men in button up shirts, men and women in t-shirts and shorts, and women in Muslim-looking attire. I imagne that in time I will come to understand better the distinctions that this clothing does or does not signify (a friend of mine who lived for a time in Jerusalem told me that as she came to understand the importance of clothing in Jerusalem as a socio-religious signifier she became uncomfortable with being so labled and categorized), but for now it all merely added to the color and energy of the area.
After quite a bit of wandering, I finally stumbled upon a food store, where I made a few very heavy purchases (cans of beans, a jar of mustard, etc). I needed to find some fresh fruit and vegetables and then I would be content to return home. I carried the heavy bags, shifting them uncomfortably from arm to arm as I found myself on streets I could not find on my little map (granted I am rubbish at reading maps...). I continued to wander, knowing that little was at stake as I would eventually either find myself at home or call Daniel for help. Eventually, quite a bit later, I found myself back on a familiar road and made my way to our apartment, without the fruit and vegetables, tired and with aching arms.
When I returned home, I opened my bags to find that I had taken not only my bags but someone else's as well! I had pilfered someone's bananas and chicken breast! I felt terrible, but knew that the person was probably long gone and didn't know if I would be able to find my way back to the store where I'd made the purchase, so I put the chicken in the refrigerator until we can find a friend who wants it (D and I are both vegetarians).
When I told this story to Daniel, he surmised that I might never have actually made it to the shuk, which is why I didn't see any food stores. So the upshot of all of this is that I went grocery shopping and returned hours later with only some of what I'd wanted to purchase, and some items I'd never purchased at all! Embarrassed and tired, I reassured myself that probably everyone is just as clueless on their first day in Jerusalem, right??