Friday, December 30, 2005

Update 2: Bloggers

On this trip to the US, I got to see/meet a couple of bloggers.


Here I am with Sam. My mom and I met Sam at a truckstop not far from his workplace. Yes, folks, no cafes in central NC. Truckstops. And people ask me if it was hard to move to Israel!

It was great to meet up with Sam after following his blog and emailing each other. Thanks, Sam!

The girl in pink is CJ from That CJ Girl on her trip to Indonesia this summer. She's my cousin. We've been Christmas-ing together for almost two weeks! CJ and her mother made a scene in the airport when they picked me up last week. Imagine sorority girls seeing each other after Spring Break. CJ hasn't blogged in a long time :-( because she's been busy with school and such.

I also got to visit with my friend Jenn. That isn't Jenn in the picture! It's her dog Bella that she writes about frequently. Jenn, my mom and I met at Porter's in Raleigh. We had a wonderful visit but it was too short! Jenn gave me a cool watch for Christmas and she got fun things from the Old City - olive wood doodads and Ahava stuff.

I am thinking that my next trip to the US will be a Blog Tour. I will fly around the country and meet up with bloggers (and even non-bloggers! gasp!) that I like. I wonder if I can write a grant or get someone to sponsor me - Continental Airlines are you listening? Hello Hilton folks?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's a Boy!

My cousin gave birth to a baby boy today. I haven't seen it yet, but pictures and details will follow soon!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Prego

My cousin is having a baby today! I am so excited that I am going to be here for this! Check back for updates, pics, etc.!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Update 1: Reading List

I've decided to do the "Shalom Israel Update" in a mini-series. That way I don't get bored typing and you don't get bored reading. This update is about what I've been reading.

I brought the book Money by Martin Amis with me on the plane. I haven't read any more of it though. It's been hard to get into. It's on the list.

My grandmother bought me Tuesdays with Morrie. It read it in two days and it was GREAT! It's touching and reflective. It's a wonderful way to remind ourselves about the meaning of family during the holidays and rededicate ourselves to important work in the new year ahead.

I am now reading Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. My friends Ingra and Ron gave it to me for Christmas. I am only a couple of pages in, but I can already tell it's going to be lots of fun. Vowell is witty and dry - terribly funny. I just love her writing. I think that I enjoy her books more because I have previously heard her voice. Her dead-pan delivery and interesting tone and cadence echo in her writing. Fun!

I am going to try to find a couple of more titles while I am here. But I got so much loot this Christmas I am now beginning to think of how to pack it all for the return trip.

Happy Holidays, Everybody!

Yes, I am in the middle of the no-so DMZ of the epic "war on Christmas" - and I dare to wish you Happy Holidays! Be merry or die!

Ok - too much holiday excitement and not enough long winter napping. I have been traveling around NC and SC for the past several days. I've got lots to share, but it'll have to wait a day or so.

Tune in tomorrow for an update.

For all of those that care - I am STILL SOBER! Wahoo!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sick-o and Lifetime Disappointment

I "get" most of the TV commercials in Israel. They want you to buy yogurt, newspapers, or a particular household product. I don't "get" (anymore) the ads here in the US. I forgot how annoying they are. I think that I am on the verge of buying a very expensive car if these guys on the radio will just stop yelling at me....plus I get a free cruise, satellite radio (a new must-have), and a shopping spree if I buy it before Christmas.

I have spent probably 30 minutes watching TV since I've been here. It's mainly been the news - weather report. But in that short time, I have been convinced that I need new medication for health conditions that I didn't even know that I had. I've seen ads for about 5 medications that are new to me since I was here in May.

In Israel folks learn about new medicine the old fashion way. Someone complains just once and then they get a flood of advice about what they should be doing to cure themselves. Most of these cures probably involve an etrog. Seems a lot more human than some unknown actor sharing with me about their over-active bladder.

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I went to lunch today with my grandmother at Bridges Barbeque Lodge in Shelby, NC. Afterwards, she suggested that we "walk it off" at the mall across the highway. She mentioned that she had a discount card for Waldenbooks and offered to buy me a book - "Whatever you want, honey." Well, we had fun looking. I selected a book and we went to the checkout. She put the book on the counter and reached for her wallet while telling the clerk, "I have a discount card. Wait just a minute." The clerk said, "I'm sorry but we don't take those cards anymore. They all expired and now we've merged with Borders." My grandmother looked at the clerk sweetly and said, "Even the lifetime cards?" The clerk nodded her head in the affirmative.

My grandmother didn't say anything. She just looked really disappointed. I wanted to yell at the clerk and her manager that was standing beside her: How can a lifetime card expire?! How could you not give my sweet grandmother notice that her card wouldn't be good anymore? Can't you DO something? Merry Christmas! Ha! Bah humbug!

My grandmother is 79 years old. She lived through the Depression. She can tell sad stories about hard times and find the kernel of beauty and joy in them - shaking her head and smiling at the same time. I guess that's the difference between a 28 year old me and a 79 year old her. She's learned to tell the difference between the things she can and cannot change. She naturally chooses to tell someone that just disappointed her, "Have a nice day!" - and really means it. Sure she could have saved 10% if she argued a little. She might have expressed her disappointment to the clerk and her manager. But the $1.30 she would have saved wasn't enough for her to even frown or give it a second thought - even though $1.30 to a Depression era grandma is still big money.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Greetings from Christmas - I mean, America

Christmas started as I got on the plane at Ben Gurion and they were playing Christmas music! I flew Continental.

It's about 7:00am here and I just wanted to let everyone know that I made it OK. My flight from Newark to Charlotte was cancelled yesterday for "mechanical problems" but I was re-booked on one that left just two hours later.

Turns out that my mom's neighborhood is a hot spot. There are about 7 people with unsecured wireless connections that I can use in reach of my mom's house! It's probably a ploy by W to eavesdrop on me though.

I got my Holy Land gifts for my family wrapped last night. We're having lunch at my dad's house today and I wanted to have the gifts all ready. Everything made it here in one piece.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Outta Here!

I'll be leaving in a couple of hours for my big Christmas trip to the US. I am excited but also anxious. The flight over there - yikes! In any case, I'll be hanging out with my mom in Rock Hill, SC for most of the trip. She doesn't have internet access and I think that the only "hot spots" in Rock Hill are truck stops! So, I won't be posting often. I'm taking my camera though and will fill y'all in on everything when I can get connected.

Merry Christmas! Happy Channukah!...and all that jazz.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas is Coming

I am getting ready for my visit to the US and I've been Christmas shopping! There's no Christmas music playing here. There isn't a Santa at the mall. The weather was absolutely beautiful today - sunny and 70s as I ran all over Jerusalem. Not Christmas weather for me. Even though it doesn't feel like Christmas, I had a ton of fun today shopping for folks.

I don't want to give my surprises away but I'll share with you a little bit.

My first stop was at the "Dead Sea Gallery" at the end of Jaffa Road. It has the best prices on Ahava stuff in Jerusalem. The guy that works there is really friendly and gave me lots of samples. Then I headed to east Jerusalem to the Palestinian Pottery. I love this place! It's right across from the US Consulate in east Jerusalem. Click on the link for lots of pictures of their work and to read about their history. When I visited today I met Marie Balian. She was absolutely charming! Normally her son runs the shop, but he was in Amman for a few days. She was born in France and moved to Jerusalem after marrying. She's the main artist and has taught a group of very talented women how to paint highly decorative objects. Part of the pottery is a museum, another part is the gallery, and another the factory. Pieces came out of the kiln while I was there and I got to see the whole process! Marie shared with me about preparing her exhibits for the Smithsonian and how she learned this art. I can't wait to go back and visit with her again.

The following picture is from their web site. It'll give you an idea of the kinds of things I bought.


Then I went to the Old City to buy lots of little surprises. I finished up my morning having shawarma. Now, just to load my sleigh!

Monday, December 12, 2005

10 Minutes in Be'er Sheva

For the project that I have been working on, I had to get a specimen of Dead Sea Salt. I am delivering it when I go on my upcoming trip to the States. I know that I could have just driven to the Dead Sea to collect some salt for myself, but I wanted to make sure that I was going to get a good piece. So, I called up the Dead Sea Works which is now part of ICL. They're the people responsible for the "collection array" at the Dead Sea or the southern basin. Their PR people were really helpful. They collected these pieces of Dead Sea Salt for me. All I had to do was to drive to Be'er Sheva and pick them up.

The salt: the left one is about 20cm long and the right one is about 28cm. Cool, huh?!

I had not been to Be'er Sheva before, so I had to pull out the map to figure out a way to get there. One cool tool for finding your way in Israel is e-maps. It's the Israeli version of Mapquest. After planning my route, I called a journalist friend that zips all over Israel and he recommended a different way. Back to the map again... This morning I took his route. (For those of you in Israel, I took Hwy 1 to Hwy 3 to 40.) It was an easy, fun drive. I drove through rural areas and it made me think of NC. I got to see where the food comes from in Israel!

Here's a map to help you get an idea of where I went today. I "borrowed" it from the CIA World Factbook online. You can click on it to make it larger or follow this link.


I followed the directions that the PR guy gave me and drove right to the complex. But I didn't see the sign that indicated the building. So I spent some time wandering among several buildings and asking around until I found the right one. Of course, I addressed everyone in Hebrew which, in the case of trying to find my way, can be problematic. My Hebrew is good enough to carry on a conversation, but when it comes to specifics like, "Walk to that white gate right there. Press the small blue button and someone will let you in. If not, come back and we'll call someone." Well, that can be tricky.

The salt was in a big box when I picked it up and I unwrapped it once I got to the car to check it out. Pleased with what I got, I decided to have a snack before heading back to Jerusalem. I pulled out my yogurt, granola bar, and banana. I got a little yogurt on my hand while eating and without thinking licked it off. I quickly remembered the nasty taste of the Dead Sea...it's super concentrated salt with lots of other bad tasting chemicals. Just handling the salt for a short time was enough to leave a yucky residue on my hands. Thank goodness I had my banana left to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

I didn't really want to hang out in Be'er Sheva for long. It wasn't as bad as I thought that it was going to be though. It's a bustling, dusty, industrial town in the desert. It's like a lot of Israel - growing and trying to find its way in the 21st century.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

JJ's Day at the Beach

So the day started out kinda strange. I had a dream about Michael Stipe. In the dream, I was hanging out at something like a county fair with Michael but I didn't know who he was. He was flirting with me though! Well, he was at the fair to give a concert. He did his performance and afterwards for some reason I was wandering around the parking lot (???!!!). Michael's limo pulled up behind me and he had his driver flash his brights on my ass. Then I woke up. Weird! I don't think that performing at a fair is so ridiculous for Michael Stipe - I mean, he is from Georgia. The thing that got me was him riding in a limo. Michael, if you're reading this - do you actually ride in limos? Please say no.

After I recovered from the dream, I got dressed and headed out to meet my Norwegian friend "JJ" for brunch at the beach in Tel Aviv. Folks, it was December 9 and I was headed to the beach. I had my towel and bathing suit in my bag. December 9! Na na na na na - in your face cold people! After brunch, we met up with Yaacov and found a nice spot to hang out. I changed into my little suit right there on the beach. After I was all fixed, JJ looked at me and said, "Ready to go in?" Ok, it was a warm day and all, but the water was c-o-l-d! It was refreshing though and we had fun swimming around until I lost feeling in my toes.

This is a picture of the section of the beach where we were hanging out.

I am now back in J-town getting ready for the week. I have ulpan tomorrow and I am procrastinating from homework thanks to a new-to-me podcast called Fox and the City. It's "queer comedy romp that's gay fun!".

I also have a meeting at the Rockefeller Museum later in the day tomorrow. Tune in for that exciting post!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Totally Tel Aviv

Y and I are spending some time in Tel Aviv this weekend. He's going to a meeting this morning at the university and I am hanging out. He just left and walked to our car parked on the side of the street. As he did the beep-beep to unlock the car, a woman on the 4th floor of a nearby apartment building called down and asked, " Are you leaving?!" Yaacov said that he was. She said, "Oh, can you wait a minute?! I'll be right down. My husband is on the way home and I'll save the parking space for him." Yaacov pulled away and the woman took up her position - standing in the parking space.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Beautiful Man

Yesterday I was dashing to the grocery store for odds and ends to make dinner. On my way there, I passed a local Jerusalem character. I passed that guy in Kikar Tsarfat (France Square) that asks for money in his loud raspy voice - BAVAHKASHA! HABIBI! As I walked toward him he said to me in English (I hate it when people address me in English here. It makes me feel so outsiderish. I think that it's my tennis shoes - but I am not giving them up to fit in.), "Beautiful man, give me some change!" I shook my head no and walked past and then he PINCHED ME! He pinched me on the arm! It wasn't a hard pinch, but it was a pinch! I still don't know what to do about it. I think that when I see him next time I might pinch him back. But he did call me beautiful - so that's gotta count for something.

Later in the afternoon, I was hanging out at Restobar. Two guys were having coffee near me. One was about 60 years old and the other was in his 40s I think. After they paid the bill the older man got down on one knee in the middle of the cafe and lifted up his chair. They are regular cafe chairs - you know, wooden dining chairs. Anyway, this guy balanced one leg of the chair on just one finger and held it in the air. I've seen this trick on TV before, but it was just so strange to see him do it in the middle of this cafe!

Last week I bumped into my friend Demetri with his mom and sister. His sister took this picture of us - now you can see the beautiful man for yourself (I'm on the left).

Welcome to Mayberry

In a few days I am going back to North Carolina and will be speaking my mother tongue - Southernese.

I thought that I'd share with you some observations I found online about Southernese. (I'd give credit to the site - but it has some other *objectionable* content.) Maybe they should have ulpan in the South for transplanted Yankees?...

Only a Southerner knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit, and that you don't "have" them you "pitch" them.

Only a Southerner can show or point to you the general direction of "yonder".

Only a Southerner knows exactly how long "directly" is - as in: "Going to town, be back directly."

Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc. make up "a mess".

Only Southerners grow up knowing the difference between "right near" and "a right far piece." They also know that "just down the road" can be 1 mile or 10.

Only a Southerner, both knows and understands the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.

Even Southern babies know that "gimme some sugar" is not a request for the white, granular sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl in the middle of the table.

All Southerners know instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of potato salad. If the neighbor's trouble is a real "humdinger" (crisis) they also know to add a large banana puddin'.

No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn. (This also works in Israel!)

A Southerner knows that "fixin" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.

Only true Southerners say "sweet tea", (we do not like our tea unsweetened) sweet tea indicates the need for sugar and lots of it.

And a true Southerner knows you don't scream obscenities at little old ladies who drive 25 MPH on the freeway. You just say, "Bless her heart" and go your own way.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pulling an Elizabeth Taylor


Did you know that Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism for her fourth husband, Eddie Fisher?

When I was thinking about my move to Israel, I wanted to learn Hebrew and there was a class that was offered at the synagogue down the street form my house. (I was living in Chapel Hill, NC at the time. There are very few towns in NC where you can say that a synagogue was down the street.) Unfortunately, the class was offered during the middle of the work day. I am sure that you can imagine the retired folks chatting in English about their grandchildren while the frustrated teacher tapped her fingers on the desk. So, I came to Israel knowing "shalom" and that was it. Yaacov once tried to teach me to say "I love you" in Hebrew but got tickled at how I tripped over the singular, masculine, pronoun-thingy. Those of you who have learned Hebrew know what I am talking about. I don't think "I love you" is going to help me at the shuk anyway but maybe it's worth a try.

I even thought about converting. Yes, I considered pulling an Elizabeth Taylor. I knew that not being Jewish was going to be a problem with living/staying in Israel. The rights for non-married partners of Israelis are not defined by legislation but rather through the bureaucratic process and judicial review. So, becoming Jewish would solve some problems about living in Israel. Plus converting in the US would be easier than converting in Israel because of the variety of conversions abroad that are recognized here. To convert in Israel, it's my understanding that you have to make an Orthodox conversion - and to me that's right up there with walking on water.

But now that I am here, the only thing I am converting are my old recipes into metric measurements. I've decided that learning Hebrew is being Jewish enough for me.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Having a Heat Wave...

Yesterday was the warmest December day in Jerusalem in the past 50 years. It was 28 degrees C/82 degrees F and sunny! Where did that weather pixie get to?...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Alt-Shift

A couple of weeks ago I was working in the numismatics lab of the IAA. I needed to use a computer and when I started typing all of the letters on the screen were in Hebrew. My computer at home is Hebrew-enabled, so I knew just to press Alt-Shift to switch to English. When I started typing again the text was in Arabic. I tried it again and typed in Russian. I eventually made it to English.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another Feather in NC's Cap

It looks like NC will soon have another accolade - it's about to be site of the 1000th execution in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Just warms my heart...Merry Christmas everybody!

Read more about it here.