Saturday, April 30, 2005

Just OK

By the way, I finished reading Seventh Heaven (you can read what others have to say at Amazon by clicking the link) by Alice Hoffman a few days ago. It was just ok.

The new book is The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton.

Of course all of this reading is a way of procrastinating from studying Hebrew!

What a Night!

Thursday night I went out to a bar to meet up with some friends. It was a lot of fun. Dancing. Talking. Just general merrymaking. The details are a little hazy. I didn't really drink too much - it's just with the lights, the music and tons of people - it was all just a little overwhelming. Well, it got time to go and my friend Sharon offered to give me a ride. For some reason, I reached for my house key in my pocket and couldn't find it. Nor my cell phone. They had fallen out. Panic! Sharon looked around in the throng of people and found my phone, thank goodness. But the key was really lost. Totally pointless to look for it. Sharon said that I could crash with her, but she has cats. I am really allergic to cats. So, this guy Eduardo offered to let me stay at his place. He's from Mexico of all places and a doctor studying trauma here. Israel is probably a good place to study trauma.

We left my number with the bartender in hopes that someone will find my key.

I called Yaacov to let him know what was going on, but there's not much he could do from the US. He said that he would call his dad in the morning and would get someone to come and let me in.

At this point, I really just wanted to cry. I know it's not a big deal. But I was embarrassed and frustrated. But I didn't. I was a big boy.

So at 8:00 on Friday morning, I was up and wide awake on Eduardo's sofa. Yaacov calls his dad. His dad calls a locksmith. I take a cab home in my smelly clothes that I slept in...no toothbrush either. I wait for the locksmith to arrive.

By 10:30 I am back in my apartment. New lock. New door handle. 1500 sheckles lighter. (about $330)

The best part about this whole experience (other than really appreciating Yaacov and his dad coordinating help! and Sharon and Eduardo being great friends! Thanks!!!!) was that while I was waiting for the locksmith to come, I found a strange photo (I've scanned it and posted below.) in the street in front of our building! Look at it! So weird! It made me laugh out loud! The guy has some toy duck on his shoulder and the front of his shorts are wet! I've been really looking at my neighbors to see if I can figure out who it is. When the woman upstairs moved out this week, she had a lot of trash and this might have been part of it. Oh my goodness, it is so funny!

Weird Guy Pic

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Planes, trains, and automobiles

Yaacov is in NYC for a couple of days. I have the week off from ulpan because of the Pesach holiday. So, I have been trying to keep myself busy. I've cleaned, shopped, done LOTS of laundry...and today I went to Tel Aviv for the first time by myself.

I didn't want to take the car, because I would probably get killed driving in TA. I HATE taking the bus (yucky) or a cab (expensive). They do have these cab buses, but I wanted to support the infrastructure. So, I took the train again...along with half of Jerusalem.

Context: The train from Jerusalem to TA leaves ten past the hour, every hour until like 7:10pm or so.

So, I walked 10 minutes to the bus stop nearest my house that goes to the train station. I waited for 30 minutes or so. The ride to the train station is 20 minutes, so I was really pushing it to get to the station, go through security, buy a ticket and make the train! The driver went on the normal route, but at the end he didn't go to the train station. I asked him in broken Hebrew if he was going to the train station. He said, (all of this is in Hebrew) "Why didn't you ask me before now?" I responded that I thought that the bus whet there all the time. Well, he turned the bus around and drove, just for me, back to the train station. On the way he asked me if I was single and gave me his phone number so that I could call his daughter!

Well, I ran out of the bus at 10:00, dodging traffic, to the train station, opening my bag as I ran for the security check. Long story short, I made it. The train was PACKED! I sat beside a cute lady from NY that was visiting her daughter and her family. Nice conversation. Cute.

Met up with my friend Adam in TA at Dizengoff Center. It's a big shopping area in TA. We went to a cute cafe for lunch. Then we had tasty ice cream. After hanging out for a while, Adam went home to work and I went to the beach. I hung out on the beach in my little suit for about an hour. I didn't want to repeat the burning experience I had last time. I got dressed and headed to the train station...and when we finally arrived in Jerusalem, I waited for the darn #24 bus for like 15 minutes and then just got a cab home. Next time, I'll just drive to the train station.

Next day...April 28

Not getting much sleep. I am staying up too late and getting up too early.
This morning the woman two apartments above mine is moving out. The movers were making lots of noise VERY EARLY this morning. The other day after coming back from the mall I got a parking space right in front of our building! But I moved the car this morning so the guys wouldn't bump into it as they move that woman's stuff out. I can tell by the noise that they're not too careful.

The internet is a wonderful thing. I've run across a couple of fun sites thanks to Minty. Check out Pictures of Walls and PostSecret. Have fun!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Eyes Open

This is my favorite site of the day: http://www.eyeonisrael.com/ . If it doesn't open on the first load, click on the image to re-load. It's an interactive map of Israel. You can click inside the boxes and check out the local sites. Blue and pink dots guide you to silde shows of towns and such. Have fun.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Whatcha Doin?

The main reason I write this blog is so that my family and friends that live in the States will know what I am up to without me having to call them all the time.

This week I get to experience my first Passover or Pesach in Israel.

What's Pesach?
Pesach is a springtime holiday that celebrates the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt - when they fled the oppression of the pharaoh and began their 40 year journey to Israel.

Here in Israel, Pesach is marked by frenzied spring-cleaning with a spiritual component in which traditional Jewish households rid themselves of Chametz (leavened food products) and usher in the holiday of renewal. The night before the holiday begins, adults hid pieces of Chametz throughout the house. Children the search the darkened house for Chametz with the aid of a candle, feather, and a spoon. By the light of the candle, children find and sweep Chametz into the spoon with the feather. Then the Chametz is thrown away or burned the next day.

Families hold a traditional Pesach meal called the Seder (literally: order) in which they read the Passover story from a book called the Hagaddah, drink four cups of wine, and eat symbolic foods such as matzah, karpahs (parsley), Charoset, eggs, and maror. The matzah reminds us of the bread of the Hebrew slaves that was made quickly before their departure and didn't have time to rise. The maror recalls the bitterness of slavery. The charoset, which is very tasty, recalls the mortar that was used to make bricks in Egypt. The eggs and parsley evoke the hope of this springtime holiday.

Schools and work places are closed and it's quiet in Jerusalem.

Burning Chametz

Friday, April 22, 2005

On Being Israeli

My friend Jess from ulpan invited me to a pot-luck dinner at her house on Wednesday night. It was a lot of fun hanging out with folks from ulpan in a different setting! Everyone made a little something - all veggie. I made a tasty dish with onions, diced tomatoes, and chickpeas. We also brought spicy, curried pita...yum!

So, being an American in Israel, I resisted the urge to arrive exactly on time (6:00)...so Yaacov and I got there at 6:05. For a while Yaacov was the only Israeli there. It was fine for him, after spending most all of the past 5 years in the U.S., he felt pretty comfortable.

We put out all the dishes and lit little tea candles. It was lovely. Everyone was having fun. In a while the next Israeli arrived and after hanging out for about 5 minutes said, "Where the hummus?"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Peeling

A week ago Yaacov and I went to Tel Aviv for part of the day. He attended some academic lecture and I went to the beach. I SO looked like a German tourist hanging out in front of the big hotels in TA. Well, I wasn't going to be out there for a long time, so I didn't wear sunscreen...I know what you're thinking--oh, no...

First of all, many guys here wear little bathing suits. A wonderful chance to pull out the Speedos. So parts of my body were getting sun for the first time!

Well, I really didn't get much sun on the beach; most of the damage happened after Yaacov picked me up and we went to Jaffo for lunch and the flea market. My hopes for the beach were that I would loose some of my tan lines from walking around Jerusalem in a tank top. Well, I got home and after wearing a short-sleeved shirt most of the day, my arms looked like I had dipped them in pink paint.

A couple of days later, I started to peel. I think that it's all done now.

Just goes to show you that you can get up in the morning and have the best intentions - and you get back in the bed at night with a sunburn. Go figure.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Zen Train

Today Yaacov and I took the train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. For those of you unfamiliar with the topography on Israel, let me tell you, it's more that just a train ride! Basically, Jerusalem really is a "city on a hill" surrounded by many (steep!) hills. It's a challenge to get up to Jerusalem!

There was once a train to Jerusalem that was built during the Ottoman Empire. They say that it was so slow climbing the hills and winding through the valleys to Jerusalem, that you could get out and pick flowers and jump back on! Several years ago, the old train to Jerusalem was abandoned due to the slow trip. It wasn't practical. (FYI according to the Israel Railways website the first train rolled into Jerusalem in 1892 and passenger train service was stopped temporarily in 1998.) ...oh yeah, the new train to Jerusalem started on April 9!

But today Yaacov and I rode on a newish, modern train. Now, it was slow through the hills, but my goodness it was worth it! This train is totally a tourist train or for folks not in a hurry...the Zen train. The scenery is beautiful! After leaving Jerusalem the train weaves through wooded valleys and by streams. It's wonderful!

The train speeds up on flat ground after Beit Shemesh and makes a couple of stops (Lod, etc) before coming to Tel Aviv.

All in all, it was a great trip. 90 minutes. No worries about a car -- where to park -- traffic -- crazy Israeli drivers. The trains run on time! Yaacov and I calculated that for one person it's cheaper to take the train than to drive a car (just gas not other car costs), but for two people a car is cheaper. Yeah carpooling! Buses take you anywhere in Israel, but the train is more spacious and just better! Plus I think that buses hold maybe 80 people per engine...the train has a much larger capacity per engine...I reckon that's less pollution?

So, if you've got time to spare in Israel, take the Zen train. You'll love it!

Me on the train!


Yes, I am that red! Got a little too much sun! Y thinks that I look scared in this picture. We just sat down from running to catch the train!

Yaacov on the train!

Yaacov in Tel Aviv


I like the symmetry of this photo! In Tel Aviv they plant these great shrubs for hedges and they form them into entry ways! It's quite common, but I wanted to snap a picture for those of you who haven't made it over yet...Mom, Jennifer, Nancy, CJ...oh yeah, EVERYBODY (except Dean)!

Funny Woman


Look carefully at this woman. She is holding a paper Asian-inspired parasol that is just a little bigger than her head. I guess you had to be there.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Good Ones

What the river was showing her now was that she could flow beyond the brokenness, redeem herself, and fuse once more. ...she could let it stop her--or she could acknowledge the rock and have respect for it, alter her course to move around it. ...it looked as if the water were trying to crawl upstream, back across the surface of the rock in dozens of small hands...over the years the rock would be transformed...

From Stones from the River

I just loved this book. It was a story about a story teller that finds the essence of humanity in her own story...in our own story. Hegi reveals a deep understanding about human nature through the experiences of Trudi, the main character.

Being in Israel and in a cultural ulpan, one learns a lot about the Holocaust which was a subject of Stones from the River. The other day we were reading a passage about Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum complex here in Jerusalem, and somehow I've been deeply changed ever since. Yes, I have seen the images of Jews, gypsies and gay people being shot and dumped into mass graves. I read the Diary of Anne Frank. I knew what happened. But somehow walking home from ulpan that day I began to realized that the people that I passed on the street may be survivors of this horror, or the children of survivors, or the children of people that were murdered in the Holocaust. In the US, I had a tough indifference skin about the Holocaust. Sometimes I thought that whenever Israel or Jews felt like they needed some political push they would use the excuse of the Holocaust. (Not to say that that sometimes that doesn't happen...) ...but oh-my-goodness, this book brought to life the experiences of someone that saw what was happening, wanted to fight against it, but ended up being powerless to the wave of anti-Semitism and hatred.

Of course the book is fiction, but the facts of the Holocaust cannot be denied. The author uses what we've learned from Holocaust research to craft her story. This gives the book power beyond "The Sound of Music".

Friends, Israel is a great place. It's very "first world" - but it hasn't been that way for long. It would take a lot of pressure for a family to decide to come here in the 1930s, 40s, or 50s as Israel itself was having it's own wars (ok, anytime for that matter).

It's nice when a books awakens something deep inside of us and brings about an awareness of the world that we didn't have prior to reading the book. Books are unique in the way the characters become part of us, part of our own experience, as we read.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Umm, no.

Message: 20 Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2005 20:35:51 -0000 From: "isramets" >Subject: English and maths tutoring for elimentary school students
Let your child improve their english and maths in a friendly and fun environment, at a very reasonable price.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What You've Been Waiting For...

The next book is Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman. I have already started...

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Best

Ok, so I don't know if it's the best book I've ever read, but it's up there. I just finished Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi and I absoultely loved every minute of it. It was just marvelous in so many ways - that I will go into at another time. If you've read this book, I'd love to hear what you think about it too.

It's a little past 11:00 here and I am heading to bed. I think that I have already picked out my next book...which will be announced tomorrow.

Nite, nite!

Crap

Earlier, in an interview with NBC, Sharon said the atmosphere in Israel is "tense" like the "eve of the civil war." But elaborating further at the news conference, Sharon said while there are tensions, he believes the Gaza withdrawal will be successful.

Spin.

Crap.

Spin.

Ugh!

To all my friends and family - things are very good here in the Holy Land.

Weather

The high in Jerusalem today will be 85 degrees F.
The high in Tel Aviv will be 93 degrees F.
Hello, Spring!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Can You Guess?


If you can guess where this satellite picture was taken, I'll give you a big kiss.

The little black dots are actually people. This picture was readily available on the internet. Hmmm.

Guess away. Comments are quick and easy!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Waiting

I finished reading Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler a couple of days ago. It was pretty good. It sort of read like an afterschool special except I didn't get the important message. Basically it shows how people change through various life events. Well, surprise, surprise, surprise! It was entertaining though even without sex and bad words. You know what it reminds me of?...an extended story from Reader's Digest. So, if you like those stories from Reader's Digest, you'll like this book.

Now I am reading Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. I am really enjoying this book. It traces the life of a dwarf (waiting to grow) in Germany from birth in 1915 through 1949 or so. The book is a little over 500 pages full of wonderful prose. I was a little intimidated at first, but now that I am about 200 pages into the story, I am having fun. The pace is just right. The novel is unfolding this story of WWII in Germany like an important note that someone always carries in their pocket...folded and unfolded at the bus stop...read and re-read so as not to forget how it all happened. Even though I am into finished, I would highly recommend this book!

I buy books in Jerusalem at Sefer ve Sefel (book and mug). Click on this link to take you to a nice article about this store. The part about the bookstore is toward the end of the article. It's a great bookstore and a far cry from Barnes and Noble (good and bad).

I have been waiting for my tax refund. My NC tax refund was deposited in my bank account today. I am waiting for my IRS refund. I was surprised by how much I am getting back. Usually I try to estimate and take enough exemptions so that I don't owe a lot and I don't get a lot back. I am thinking about buying some new summer clothes with part and investing the rest. Anyone have good experiences with online investing? Let me know!

I am waiting to get some good sleep. I haven't been resting well lately and it shows in my attitude and energy level. I have been staying away from caffeine and drinking camomile tea before bed. I also like using lavender essential oils in a diffuser in the bedroom. But I am still zonked in the afternoon.

Ok, I am rambling now.

Franklin Street!

This was these scene last night at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia Streets in downtown Chapel Hill, NC after UNC's win! Wahoo!

We Won!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Now offering...

...anonymous posts! Some folks mentioned that they didn't want to sign up for Blogger just to be able to post to my blog. So, at their request, I am now offering anonymous comment posting! Yeah!

Go Tar Heels!


The men's basketball team of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (aka: UNC, Tar Heels, Carolina), my alma mater, is playing in the National Championship tonight (US time)! Now, I am no sports fan, but it's hard to keep from being excited when your school might very well prove themselves to be the BEST in the nation (again).

The story of this year's season and such is all over ESPN.

By the way, the game will be held in St. Louis. I never though of St. Louis as a fun town until I went there last March for a conference. I had a great time there. It was probably the company more than anything. Thanks Nancy for partying with me!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

What To Do?


This is a picture from 1928 of EK Powe School in Durham, NC. In the US I taught for about four years. Almost two of those years were spent as a first grade teacher at Powe. The windows in my room were the ones on the bottom floor on the far left. It was a smelly old basement but I had a great time there. Teaching really is a challenging job. I left Powe to work in an amazing job at the Museum of Life and Science. At the Museum, I helped develop and research a math exhibit that is still in production.

But here in the Holy Land, I have no idea what to do.

I really don't want to work with children directly anymore. By this I mean I don't want to have the responsibility of being the main teacher. I might be interested in being an English teacher or doing fun activities in English with a class for 50 minutes or so. My days of being responsible for a room full of kids all day are LONG over.

I would love to continue my museum career. There are lots of great museums in Jerusalem. There's even a great science museum like the one I worked for in the US. But getting a job there will be tough and Yaacov and I are going to move to Tel Aviv this summer. So, it doesn't really make sense to even try to find a career oriented job here.

I could just get a plain, old job. But the pay is so low that it's almost not worth my time. For example, David Sedaris writes about his experiences being a Macy's Christmas elf and cleaning houses. I could DO that. Well, being a Christmas elf would be a challenge in Israel, but the cleaning part would be easy enough. I am subscribed to a listserv called Janglo. It's for English speaking folks in the Jerusalem area. At least 3 or 4 times a day there's a posting for "cleaning help". Everyone wants someone who is "legal". Well, I am legal. I have actually have a work permit! Now, let's see...30nis/hour plus travel cost up to 10nis! Whatever! Turns out that the going rate for housecleaning is about 40nis per hour. That's about $10 per hour for hard and ungratifying work. It might be interesting to see how other people live, but not for $10 an hour.

When I was in high school I worked at a grocery store. I don't think that would be for me anymore either.

In the US I was qualified to do all kinds of things. I have a degree from a great university. I am smart and responsible. Plus even though the economy wasn't all that great, there were jobs. Here I don't feel confident enough with my Hebrew yet to work with the public. I have only been studying for about 5 months. Maybe a simple job like stocking shelves or working in a gallery with shipments or something would be appropriate. A job that would let me practice Hebrew without the performance pressure.

Email me if you want to hire me.

Happy Birthday!


Today is Y's birthday! Happy! Happy!

Hmmm...

So I have been up this morning since about 5:30 old time and 6:30 summer time. We switched to summer time yesterday. I woke to the sound of strong winds swishing around and lots and lots of birds. The birds chirp loudly at sunrise and then they settle down. The winds have calmed as well. We've even had a few drops of rain. It might very well be the last rain of the year.

With all the noise and commotion, I wasn't able to go back to sleep. I did go back to bed, but nothing happened. I got up and read more of my new favorite blog http://ontheface.blogspot.com/. I also checked with CNN to see if the Pope was still alive.

When I was in the bed waiting for sleep to come again I had lots of great ideas for blog entries. There were interesting things to post about and share. But now that I am in front of the computer, nada. Ugh!

Oh goody! I just remembered one idea!

Being Israeli can get you killed.

There is an aspect to culture here that some call hutzpah (insolence/attitude) that can make life a pain (and can even get you killed). What I am talking about here is basically a lack of personal regard for others. One of my biggest beefs is with people that park all over the sidewalk. First of all, Jerusalem is a difficult city to get around as a pedestrian. People drive fast. It seems as if you're risking your life sometimes just by crossing the street where there isn't a dedicated green light for pedestrians. Sidewalks can be narrow and spotted with dog shit. The biggest problem though is people that use the curb and sidewalk as parking. Often times the cars don't leave enough room to pass on the sidewalk. You have to step out onto the street to pass. Not good.

I totally understand that people need to make deliveries, drop passengers off, wait to pick up a friend, or run into a shop for just a minute. I understand that parking in Jerusalem can be a pain to say the least - especially at night. There has to be some middle ground though!

We have metal poles along some roads to keep people from parking on there. Many intersections have them as well to keep cars out of the line of sight so people can make safe turns. Streets without these poles are fair game though. (To be fair, I saw them in Paris too, so it might not be just an Israeli problem.) During the day, if you're parked on the curb for too long, you'll probably get a ticket. But at night or on Shabbat, no cops = free parking.

So here's my point, the other day I was sitting in a cafe and saw a woman in a wheelchair go up the sidewalk. There was a big delivery truck parked on the sidewalk in her path. She had to get off the sidewalk and onto the street which was a challenge with the big drop from the curb. A friend was walking with her and he helped her down. Now he was pushing her in the street around the truck. There wasn't another ramp to get on the sidewalk until the end of the block, so the guy pushed her in that direction. Most of this was taking place without any traffic, thank goodness. Soon a car approached and it waited behind them for a minute. Then the driver honked at them! Can you believe that???!!! He honked his horn at a woman in a wheelchair! Oh my goodness! I was so furious!

Sometimes we forget that we aren't alone in this world. It's not all about us. Being considerate of others isn't doing them a favor, it's just what you're supposed to do. Yaacov thinks that I take this to an extreme. I am always pushing the shopping cart to the side of the aisle when were in the grocery store even when there's nobody else around.

Sometimes at night people "create" parking spaces and reduce the size of the roadway. I am convinced that emergency vehicles would have a really hard time getting through. A fire truck needs a lot of room! I wish I was a police officer when I see folks parked that way. There should be a special fine for parking in such a way that emergency vehicles can't pass. Instead of a fine, people would have to do community service at a hospital or something. No! In addition to the fine!

The other night a whole family (both parents and three children) was killed in a car accident here. They where in a mini-van and made an illegal u-turn in a crossing for emergency vehicles. To make the u-turn the van had to basically come to a stop. When it entered the travel lane a car traveling at full speed hit the van from behind and pushed it into oncoming traffic. It's a horrible story. Of course these kinds of things happen everywhere, I am sure. Yet there is this attitude here though where people push the envelope of safety and common sense that makes it seem more likely.

Stop. Think.

Don't get me started on construction workers and their occupational safety standards!