Sunday, August 28, 2005

Back to Work

OMG, today I sat through a seven-hour meeting for the project I am working on. Basically it was an overview of what the team needs to complete over the next month. There's a lot of work.

Here's what's happening. There are two museums, Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC and the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA that are putting together an exhibit around the Dead Sea Scrolls. Basically, these museums will get ten or so very important scraps of parchment and they want me to help them make a museum exhibit out of it - in the next 30 days!

The guts are more or less in place. They know which scrolls are going to which museum. They know which pottery shards, baskets, etc are going where. But the artifacts are just one part of an exhibit. My job over the next few weeks will be to search the archives of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and pick photographs to help tell the story of the discovery, conservation, and cultural importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It will also be my job to help keep the team working at the IAA and the Israel Museum moving forward on this project as we near the absolute, final, WE HAVE TO HAVE IT, production date. So, I have my work cut out for me.

After almost a year of what Yaacov calls "hanging out", it's a shock to my system to have to pay attention for more than three hours or so. I'll keep you posted on how well I do...


In today's Hebrew the word shalom ("peace") is used as both a greeting and a parting word. It's "hello" and "goodbye". When I started writing this blog, I named it Shalom Israel because I was saying hello to my new country. I could have very well also called it Shalom North Carolina.

Since arriving here, I have had the opportunity to say shalom for the first and last time a lot. One of the interesting things about Jerusalem is that there are many people from all over the world that just come to study for a year, six months, or even for less time. Mainly I've met people from the US, but I've also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of people from Australia, the UK, France, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Italy, Canada, and Spain. Some folks I met through ulpan. Some of them I have worked with during my volunteer work. Others I met at parties or other social events. I've made meaningful connections with some of these folks and it has been hard to see them leave.

I was prepared to put in work to make new friends, but I wasn't prepared for the transient nature of Jerusalem. It's hard for me to invest in the friendship if I know that the friend is going to be leaving just when things start getting good.

Here's a quote from Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck:

One of the Four Noble Truths taught by the Budda was that any permanence we perceive, in ourselves or the world around us, is an illusion. Clinging to that illusion, trying to force things to stay as they are, leads inevitably to suffering.

I guess that I am learning this lesson. It seems like when whole time that I have been in Israel not one single thing has stayed the same. The folks that Yaacov and I hung out with when we first got here - well, we don't see them much anymore. I have deleted about as many phone numbers from my phone as I have put in. The pace of the change seems overwhelming and I wasn't prepared for that.

Every person I meet asks me, "What's it like for you to live in Israel?" What I would answer this week is that it's great to meet cool people from all over the world, but it's a damn shame that I have to say goodbye so often.

So here's to gazing in the river - and realizing that no moment - no matter how sweet - can last.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Temporary Insanity

Tuesday morning Yaacov and I went to the "Misrad HaPanim" (aka the Office of the Interior Ministry). My visa expires on Sept 1 and, obviously, I need to get it renewed. I don't want to get into all of the details of how I am able to stay in Israel even though I am not Jewish. Let's just say that there IS a PROCESS and I am following it as best I can.

For those of you unfamiliar with Israeli bureaucracy, please imagine your local DMV. To the mix add clerks that are underpaid, overworked (debatable) and way under-motivated (there's a union, of course). Throw in a good helping of different languages - Hebrew, English, Arabic, Russian, and French just to name a few. Think institutional paint job, bad fluorescent lighting, uncomfortable chairs, crying babies, dusty plastic plants, and long lines.

Yaacov and I met with a clerk. We sat across from her desk in a room with stacks of papers, passports and ID cards everywhere, a copier, half-dead plants - ok - it's just so not organized. We filled out the form. She asked me what I had been doing in Israel for the past six months. Then she explained that in order to renew my visa that she needed a letter from the police saying that I hadn't committed any crimes since I have been in Israel. She didn't know how long it would take - maybe three to six weeks. "Call back in a month and see if it's here."

So, what to do in the meantime?! Well, we paid the money for the renewal. She entered all of the info into the computer. I need to carry the receipt in my passport until it's all official.

I don't know why, but every time I go to this office and through this process, it makes me COMPLETELY BONKERS!!!! After we left the building, I threw a little temper tantrum in front of Yaacov (poor thing!). After a couple of hours I felt better, but I am still totally frustrated by the whole crazy mess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More Birds

I'm obsessed - please forgive the bad "paint" job.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Don't Look! It's Gross!

A couple of posts back I put up a picture of myself at the Dead Sea. In the picture you could see a big scar on my leg. Sam asked about it - so, here's the story.

A couple of days into the "Spring" semester (it was January!) of my Junior year at UNC, I was playing kickball with the rest of the girls in my class. See, I was taking a class that was basically "How to Teach PE" - it was all education majors - mostly women - you had to take it. The prof. was showing us how people don't really exercise during a game of kickball or baseball. She was demonstrating that with such little time devoted for physical activity in schools that as teachers we should pick games that get more children active for longer periods of time - not just one kid using spurts of energy to run from one base to another while the others stand around.

I kicked the ball and ran to first base. Someone else kicked the ball and I ran to second base. I can't remember if I tripped or what, but as I came to second base, I fell and heard a popping noise. It was not a popping noise from outside of my body - it sounded like it was coming from inside my body. I heard it with my heart; not with my ears.

Here I was on the gym floor in front of a bunch of girls. I managed to push myself up and stand but I felt really weird. I realized that I couldn't move my left leg. I was thinking, "MOVE!" but it wasn't DOING anything. So, I hopped on one foot off of the court and kind of sat down. It's hard to sit when your leg won't bend. I reached down and touched my leg. There was a big lump in my thigh and (this is so gross) I felt my knee cap on the back side of my knee! I must have turned sheet white because the teacher came over and they called an ambulance.

It didn't really hurt. It was just really uncomfortable.

Less than 24 hours later, my parents were in Chapel Hill walking beside me as I was being wheeled into surgery. The orthopedic surgeon to the US Olympic Basketball team was to be my surgeon (he was the bone doc to Michael Jordon), so I wasn't too worried.

I spent the weekend in the hospital. I went home on Sunday and was headed back to class on Monday. The recovery from this was really the hardest thing that I have EVER done. My mom wanted me to come home, but that would mean a year delay in finishing my degree because of the way classes were offered. I was committed to staying on campus. It was a good idea too. Even though I was away from my family, I was in a dorm that had a handicap shower (I could sit down) and I could get free ride to my physical therapy twice a day. I was able to hang out with friends and keep studying.

We were observing in schools off campus and my friends Meghan and Laura would come and pick me up every morning at the crack of dawn. I would scoot in backwards (butt first, then legs) into the backseat of their car - leg immobilized - my crutches! It was a mess. I couldn't have done it without those women. (You gals are great!!!)

The injury didn't hurt when it happened - but after the surgery I was in big pain. I remember sitting on the table during my first PT session and the therapist was like, "Lift your leg." Um, dude, I can't. The muscles couldn't "remember" how to fire. We used shock treatments to help the muscle fibers to remember how to fire. It took a week or so before I was able to lift my leg off of the table. I remember that it was such a triumphant feeling when I was able to move my leg under my own power. My therapists were great. I had two of them - one in the morning and another in the evening. Plus there were a whole range of students that I worked with too. They pushed me to the limit and beyond. I am glad they did too. We stretched, we lifted, we iced, we rode the damn bike miles and miles and never left the room.

In the end, my left leg is not the same as my right one. I have great range of movement, but sometimes it's tight. Sometimes it hurts. I can't always get into all of the yoga positions that I want to. The muscles in my left leg are smaller than the right one. But when I look at that scar on my leg, I am really damn proud of myself. It's a reminder of how hard I worked to overcome a shitty situation and the kind of determination that I am capable of. Plus it scares little kids sometimes.

If you want to read more about what happened and see GROSS pictures, you can follow this link.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bound to Happen

I guess it was bound to happen at some point...

The other night at about 3:15 AM, I got a call from someone in my family who had been watching the news and decided to call to check on me. You can't blame them for worrying - with rockets hitting Eilat, protesters pouring paint thinner on police, Hammas threatening to continue their terrorism, etc., etc.!

Well, friends and family - Israel is (right now - DST) 7 HOURS AHEAD of Eastern US time. That means that when it's 12:00 noon in NC, it's 7:00 PM here. Just keep that in mind when calling. I'm happy to hear from you all - just not in the middle of the night. I've put a little clock here on my blog to help you.

In other news -
I photographed two green birds with my camera in the tree outside of out apartment. It's a family! Here they are:

The birds are sort of in the center of the picture - sorry for the bad picture, but the afternoon light was playing tricks on my camera. The light in the background is the sun reflecting off of the building across the street. Yep, it's sunny here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

It's a Bird!

This morning as I was making breakfast, I heard a bird eating outside of the window - you know, the sound of a bird beak cracking seeds. There are always lots of birds making noise outside of the window, so I really didn't pay attention. Anyway, I finally looked out of the window and saw the green bird I mentioned in a previous post. Fun!

Here it is from the other side.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Do You Work Here?

A couple of postings ago I was complaining about the difficulties of breaking into the workforce in Israel and the career compromises people often have to make here. Sometimes there aren't jobs in your field. Sometimes your Hebrew isn't good enough for you to be competent here in what you did in the "Old Country".

In the past couple of months I have been mistaken for someone that has a job. Once it happened twice within 10 minutes! I was in a supermarket in Talpiot and someone asked me if I knew where a particular item was located. (This was all in Hebrew of course.) After that I went to a hardware store and a guy asked me, "Do you work here?" The best one happened in the Old City. It was the day that Yaacov and I went to buy sandals and after our shopping we bought "bagel-le" (If someone knows how to write this better phonetically, please assist.) "Bagel-le" is a big hoop (like a stretched out O - note to self - take a pic) of baked dough with sesame seeds on top that you kind of dip into zatar. Yaacov gave the guy at the "bagel-le" stand a big bill and the guy had to go make change. While he was gone, we were just standing around waiting and a woman came up to me and ordered a "bagel-le" - like I worked there! It was a hoot!

I used to work for a science museum that had a uniform policy. Our shirts were almost the same color as the shirts and smocks at Wal-mart. If I happened to wear my uniform shirt to Wally World, I was bound to be asked several times Wal-mart work related questions.

Maybe I look responsible or helpful? I don't know. It's just kind of ironic that people everywhere think that I work there, and here I am complaining about not having a job - or more specifically complaining about the problem of finding an Israeli career.

Well, I got a job. Not just any job either! I will be working on a collaborative project between the Israel Antiquities Authority and a museum in North Carolina. I am very excited about this work experience. It's great for my career and the pay is good too! This job has been up in the air for about six months, and I was beginning to think that it wasn't going to happen. So, you just never know. Yeah me!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I'm Now 28

Yes, folks, believe it or not, I was actually born on this date, 28 years ago.

I've had a good birthday. I got lots of cards, ecards, and birthday wishes. Yesterday we went to Abu Gosh and had a nice birthday meal with Yaacov's family. I even had a couple of crazy (but cute) guys sing to me "Happy Birthday" on my cell phone. Yaacov and I went to his parent's house today and swam. We visited his brother's new apartment and then visited his grandparents. It was a very "family oriented" day.

A blogger I'm familiar with shared 44 things that he wanted the world to know on his 44th birthday. I thought that it was a neat idea. I've been working on my list of 28 things today. Right now I'm up to 20 - I hope I am able to come up with a couple more in the process.

1. I was having trouble starting this list because I thought that I needed to say something meaningful for #1.
2. When I grow up, I want to be like my grandmother Frances. She's the kindest, most giving person that I know.
3. I enjoy gardening but I haven't figured out the combination of soil, climate, etc. to keep the plants on the patio looking good. (It generally reflects my success of adjusting to Israeli life in general at this point.)
4. I enjoy a good dirty martini.
5. I was voted most intellectual in high school.
6. I taught Kindergarten for two years and I taught first grade for (almost) two years.
7. I am a good singer.
8. I am a combination of neat freak and lazy bum. I piss myself off a lot.
9. I'm scared to try new things and generally order the same thing at restaurants.
10. My middle name is Holland.
11. I own less than .5 of a share of IBM stock. It makes me laugh that I actually pay taxes on the dividend that it yields.
12. I love Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They give me heartburn but I eat them anyway.
13. Living in Israel is the first time that I have lived outside of North Carolina.
14. I am very safety-minded. Buckle up!
15. One of my granfathers was a highway patrol officer. The other was a farmer.
16. I have one brother who is 13 months younger than I am.
17. I love JIF peanut butter and Lance Toastchee crackers.
18. I took more Spanish than I needed to in college because I had a serious crush on someone in the classes. (I took levels 3, 4 honors, 21, and 23!)
19. I don't remember Spanish but sometimes when I'm speaking Hebrew the Spanish word pops out instead.
20. I am a hair product snob but also a cheap-o. I use every last bit I can squeeze out.
21. Rough elbows are a turn off.
22. I am an OK cook but I appreciate good food.
23. I am somewhere between an ENTJ and ESTJ.
24. I bought my first house when I was 22.
25. I've donated to public radio.
26. My waist is a size 27 - that's inches.
27. My favorite color is blue.
28. I've had two dreams that I remember in Hebrew!

A Green Bird

Yesterday Yaacov and I went to visit our new neighbor. The girl that bought and then renovated the apartment two floors above us finally moved in. There are some minor things left to be done in her apartment (some light fixtures, installing the kitchen sink, buying a refrigerator, etc.) but for the most part it looks great. The best part is her big, fresh, clean bathroom. In our apartment we have two little rooms that make up the "facilities". One just has a toilet - it's a tiny, tiny room. The other one has a full sized tub, a sink mounted to the wall, and some storage space. There's no counter - nothing. It's a tiny, tiny room too. Seriously, I bump my elbows on the walls sometimes and you have to close the door in order for you to have enough room for you to brush your teeth over the sink.

Anyway, her apartment looks great. She has a balcony that runs the full length of our building and since it's on the 4th floor, she has a great view of the neighborhood.

We were all sitting out on the balcony yesterday enjoying the wonderful Jerusalem weather and I saw a green bird fly into a nearby tree. I was interested because we don't have green birds in NC and this looked just like someone's pet parrot. I watched it for a little while and got a good look at it. After returning home and searching for "Israel bird green" on Google, I learned that it was a Rose-ringed Parakeet of some type. Cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Good Night

Last night Yaacov and I went to dinner at the home of Aharon Barak and his lovely wife Elisheva. It was an informal gathering of the people that work in Barak's office and their partners etc. It felt like a family gathering - there was some law talk, but I was able to "bubble" that out. (I am hereby making up a new verb. To bubble - read Lisa's blog and you'll get it.)

It was fun to meet the people Yaacov talks about and to put faces with names.

Ok - there were probably about 15 of us or so. We all sat around the living room and shared dinner together. There were small groups of conversations - mainly in Hebrew, but some in English. There are some English-only speaking people that volunteer in Barak's office. I overheard a guy on the other side of the room say that his birthday was on Shabbat - this coming Saturday. That's my birthday too! I eventually moved my way across the room and told him that we had a shared birthday. First of all he couldn't have been less excited. (The guy was American I guess. He had just taken the Bar in the US and had spent pretty much all of the meal talking about it.) The guy sitting across from us said that his birthday was August 22 and I wondered aloud what was nine months prior to August. The first guy said (something like), "It's mid-November. My parents were probably on some ski holiday in Switzerland." I am NOT kidding you! That is what he said. It was the most pompous, arrogant thing (you should have heard the tone!) that I have ever heard anyone say in my whole life. Seriously, it sounded like he was on a soap opera.

I might not have sounded so ridiculous if the vibe at the Barak' s hadn't been so chill. It seems to me that they are just salt of the earth people - kind and totally normal.

I ended up wearing grey summer weight wool blend slacks and a black short sleeve dress shirt.
(If you want to know the juicy bits from the night's events, you'll have to take me out for drinks.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

What To Wear?!

On Wednesday I am going to dinner at the house of the Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. What should I wear?

North Star

Something happens to young professionals that move to Israel.

Some people have jobs lined up before them move here. They might work for an international company or already speak Hebrew enough to get a job in mainstream Israeli culture. Some people have a valuable skill or expertise that puts them in demand.

Some people just get lost.

For the past six years, I have been working in education. I was once a classroom teacher and then found myself doing interesting work as a researcher at a science museum. Teaching was HARD WORK, but I enjoyed learning about how children learn. It was interesting to me to see children "get it" and a challenge for me to keep them engaged and learning. My work at the museum was similar. Instead of planning for my class, I was helping to anticipate the learning behaviors of many people and to help create an environment that was intellectually stimulating for all.

I guess for all of that time I bought into this career path. One job would lead to another. Generally I'd stay in education. Eventually I'd go to graduate school and develop new skills. I didn't know exactly what the road ahead held in store for me, but I was confident that I could craft something fun out of whatever came my way.

I've taken about a year off from the work force (although it doesn't seem that long) to learn Hebrew and to "figure out" Israeli life. Well, it's going to take more than a year - maybe in three or five years I'll have a good understanding of how things work here. What the heck am I going to do in the meantime?!

I went on a job interview yesterday. Yes, it was my first job interview in Israel! It's not a job in my "field" (whatever that is) but it's a job that I can do - I have the skills. It's not intellectually stimulating, but it might be fun. Going on the interview got me thinking about what I'm doing here - what do I want to do? How can I make money doing it?

My mom just sent me the book Finding Your Own North Star. It's on it's way across the ocean. Perhaps it will provide some insight. This transition is uncomfortable and I am not enjoying all of the self-reflection. It's dis-empowering to have experienced success and opportunity in your career and then to be limited by a situation beyond your control - but yet you still have to work. The barriers of language and cultural differences seem so large.

Ok, enough whining - I'm off to clean the apartment and shop for groceries. These things I CAN do.

I'm sure I'll figure something out...

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Dead Sea

Today I visited the Dead Sea with Yaacov, his brother Zohar, and our friend Adam. It was my first trip to the Dead Sea. I know, I know - I have been living in Israel almost a year and it's less than an hour away from Jerusalem. Hey, I finally made it. If I had known that it was this cool, I would have gone sooner.

There are several options when visiting the Dead Sea. You can go to a hotel spa and pay for a spa treatment (massage, pedi, mani, etc.) and then use the facilities at the hotel (pool, beach, sulfur tubs, Dead Sea water tubs, Dead Sea mud tubs, etc). This runs about 150 nis ($30) and some include lunch. We choose the cheap version. For 25 nis (about $5.50) you get access to the Dead Sea, freshwater showers, chairs and some tables, hot showers, and changing rooms. There's also a bar/deli, fruit stand, and gift shop. There are lots of Dead Sea joints like this to choose from. Next time we'll check out another one and I'll let you know what we think. If you go the cheap-o route, be sure to bring lots of bottled water and snacks.

Anyway, this place was very chill and relaxed. There were some families, lots of tourist (lots of Asian tourists, yeah tourists!), many Jewish Israelis, and some Arab Israelis. It was like Disney Land in its diversity. I heard all kinds of different languages.

This was the view from my chair. They have canopies pulled between posts to provide shade. It's just too hot to be in the sun a lot.

You have to walk down the bank to get to the water. It's hot! Bring flip flops or sandals that can get wet. The little palm frond-covered huts mark the way to the water.

Here are some Russian ladies having a good time. After they found a good spot, they started rubbing the fine black mud all over each other.

Just like Zohar! Here's his scary face! Check out the guy in the back ground to the left too!

This guy had fun in the mud.

Floating and relaxing is the name of the game at the Dead Sea. The water is warm and you float effortlessly. It's like walking on the moon. There are some rocks near the shore, but as you get further out it's just sand and mud. You just dig some up with your feet or hands and rub it in.

The only bad part of the day is that I got a drop of Dead Sea water in my eye and it really hurts when that happens. You just have to get out and rinse it out...right away! If you have any cuts or scrapes they will sting in the water. Don't shave before you head to the Dead Sea!

And as requested, here I am in my bathing suit! (I'm on the right.)

We're just hanging out after a long hard day at the Dead Sea. Check out my hair - and beard!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

St. George's

St. George's Cathedral is an Anglican church near the American Colony Hotel. We visited St. George's with Kobe on our little tour of the area. It was Saturday morning and we were the only people around - the church was quiet and empty. I found out later that Mordechai Vanunu has been a resident of St. George's Guest House since his release from prison - but I didn't see him there.

Anyway, I don't usually get too excited about churches - although I really enjoy visiting Notre Dame when I am in Paris. However, this church seemed friendly and cozy.

Here's one of the things that I particularly liked.

Each chair in the church had a handmade cushion depicting scenes and verses from the Bible. I think that the cushions were made by church ladies in England (There are several with the names of English towns embroidered on them.) and sent to this church.

This one made me giggle.

Here's a view of the interior - all of those chairs have little handmade pillows on them.

Here's the view from the other direction.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Marco Polo

Yaacov and I like swimming in his parent's pool. It's a great way to cool off from the Israeli sun.

Here's Yaacov at one end of the pool. They have a cover over the pool so that one can use it year-round. The water is heated in the winter!

This is the view from the patio.

Here's another view toward Jerusalem. You can see the neighbors' houses in the foreground. Not a bad place to hang out, not at all!

Monday, August 01, 2005

American Colony Morning

Shabbat before last we went to have coffee with our friend Kobe, his parents, and our new friend Sharon. We met at the American Colony Hotel. The American Colony Hotel is just an amazing place - full of interesting history and beauty. They have a cool website, so be sure to check out the links about if you have time. (It has music too, fyi.)

Kobe is a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was once an trainer for tour guides in Jerusalem and moreover he remembers everything. So touring with him is a lot of fun and informative.

This is the view of the roof top patio as photographed from a hallway window in the hotel. Nice, huh?!

This is a photo of the ceiling in the Pasha Room of the hotel.

Here's some ceiling detail.

This picture was also taken in the Pasha Room. There's an upright piano and hanging above it is a plasma TV. I thought that this was pretty Israeli - old and new together.