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Thanks for nothing, America

August 9, 2010

I used to like being from the land of ubiquitous dish-washing machines, sinks that grind up your garbage, machines that can clean 20 pairs of jeans in 40 minutes, dryers that are more than a useless novelty, where central air exists in most houses, and not having a car is abnormal. But it has completely spoiled me for life anywhere else.

Sure I got used to life without a car when I lived in a big city with subways and trains, but I didn’t have to shop for a giant hungry husband who can eat his own weight in groceries every week. I got used to not having a dishwasher in most of my apartments while in college and grad school, but I also never cooked — meaning I also didn’t miss having a garbage disposal. I got used to having a tiny (but amazing) washing machine in Japan and even learned to live without a dryer, as almost everyone does. I got used to radiators while living in old Bostonian buildings, but I never stayed in town during the summer long enough to know how unbearable it is not to have central air.

Thank you, modern pampered suburban American childhood, for not giving me the capacity to cope with heat, humidity, and the rest of the world.

There’s been a heat wave in Israel this past week courtesy of some hot desert air straight from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Not only was it unpleasant to be reminded of my proximity to an even scarier Middle Eastern country than the ones that shoot rockets at my new home all too frequently, but this air is something else. Not only is it the kind of air that makes you feel like you’re simultaneously incinerating and drowning, but it’s air that can’t be conquered by technology like back home. There are no vents and buttons here to conveniently change my home from hell to happy in a few minutes.

I lived through horribly humid summers in Tokyo where mold would grow on anything that didn’t move, but apartments are so small there that one AC unit was enough to keep things cool. And Paris was practically cold in summer, especially when you’re living inside an elegant old stone building. While I hate to complain, my Israeli abode is massive in comparison to any of my downtown dwellings, and the AC unit, while formidable, can’t reach the bedrooms on the opposite side of the house. Which is where I’m sitting now, wide awake at dawn because, once again, it’s too hot to sleep.

While I miss plenty of things — dishwashers that, unlike spouses, don’t make excuses when you demand their help, and garbage disposals that don’t involve a bag of food waste sweltering in the corner of my sink, and having a car — it’s the heat that reminds me every moment of every day how good I had it growing up. It’s a shame I never knew that until I left America.

Israeli porcupine
Even porcupines don’t like living in a desert.
(This guy lives at the Ra’anana Park Zoo and I’ve never seen him look happy about it.)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2010 3:33 pm

    Hi Katie,
    I feel your pain! The heat in Israel is really something else, and I’ve been told that I live in one of the hottest places in the country (Jordan Valley). Luckily I live in a small enough apartment where the AC is enough. I’m not an AC fan but here it’s either use it or die!
    I miss US central heating… I always wondered why it never caught on in Japan! (other than Hokkaido)

    I really hope for you and me that it’s true when they say “one more month” of this heat here.

    • August 12, 2010 10:27 pm

      Hope all is well in the holy land! Everyone in Israel I know has been complaining how much hotter it is this summer…I’m scared. I’m showing up in a bathing suit. On El Al. Period. Maybe we’ll get to meet in real life some time soon–preferably somewhere with a great AC.

      • August 13, 2010 1:16 am

        You might not want all the extra attention on the flight! Hopefully it will have cooled down by the time you land. Once you guys are settled, it would be great to sit down and compare notes on your first impressions (and our husbands could complain about school to one another so we don’t have to hear it).

    • August 13, 2010 1:10 am

      Maybe electricity is too expensive to make it popular, plus homes tend to have very thin walls and little or no insulation to keep the heat in? I was always disappointed by the relative abundance of devices to keep warm (I miss 床暖房 and 炬燵!) and yet the most advanced cooling system after AC is a 扇子。

      Good luck staying cool! The heat wave broke here a few days ago and it should stay under 100 through the weekend. Fingers crossed.

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