Thursday, December 2, 2010


Yesterday Dima and I finally ventured out to our first cultural activity since coming to Israel, it only took us 10 months! We went to the theatre, to see The Kreutzer Sonata, it’s an adaptation Leo Tolstoy’s novella by the same name. It was lovely.

It had a fantastic actor in the title role, the only role – the whole thing was a monologue! I am told he is a famous Israeli actor by the name of Moshe Ivgy, he was captivating. I have never been more awed by a person’s memory than I was last night, an hour and a half of just him talking/acting. The staging of the play was really well done, I was very much impressed. But the best part was that there were subtitles! It turns out that it is a relatively normal practice in Israeli theatres to have subtitles for performances. I personally like this very much. Granted they were in Russian so I had to really concentrate on the reading, but having resigned myself in advance, to complete incomprehension (since I knew the play would be in Hebrew and sadly my Hebrew skills are still nowhere close to CULTURE level, but I have almost reached children’s tv programming level) this was a welcome surprise. One thing is for sure, if I have not mentioned this before, moving to Israel is doing wanders for my Russian language skills.

Today I decided that it was time for my “yearly” health check-up. I say “yearly” only figuratively since I have not had one in many years. That is not to say that I have not been to a doctor in that long... kidney stones anyone? Unfortunately, it turns out that a check-up includes blood tests, no wander I have not had one in so long.

The blood tests are not administered in your doctor’s office, the way it works here is that you are sent to, what I would call, a Blood-test giving factory. It’s a department dedicated entirely to administering blood-tests, so all the people who have been condemned to various blood-tests come here. After some prerequisite bureaucracy (its Israel after all), your number gets called and you go into a room full of about 15 nurses all taking blood from their victims.

In the past, when I have had tests done in US in a private room, I usually concentrated on anti-smoking/drugs/unsafe-sex posters that are inescapably in every doctor’s office. But here I was surrounded by other poor souls going through the same thing (the ones I saw looked almost as unhappy as I felt), so I could not focus on anything around me besides the NEEDLES, everywhere I looked there they were. I finally had to close my eyes with my hand and concentrate on that, there was a little bit of whining as well (I can’t help myself). I imagine I looked like a 3 year old. Now, you may think that I am over dramatizing and making a big deal out of nothing, but if you know me (and you should if you are reading this) you should know how horribly afraid of needles I am, its virtually a phobia.

On the bright side since all these nurses do, day in and day out, is take blood, inevitably they have to get proficient in it. Mine was very good, no endlessly searching for veins or false starts (hate those) when they don’t stick the needle in properly and then have to start all over. Overall it was better than it could have been and quite efficient, even with the bureaucracy.

Happy Chanukah! I was looking forward to the play so much I almost missed it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Past Month and Half (Part 2 of 2)

So there are 2 interesting events that took place in recent past worth mentioning:

1 – An Open-House weekend took place a few weeks ago in Tel Aviv. This is an annual event that showcases interesting interior design or architecture, basically anything having to do with design. For a weekend people open up their own condos/houses/offices to the public. Mostly its interior decorators showing off their work (either in their own houses or in their clients'). Of course, for those interested in design or voyarism this is a great opportunity. I was excited for both reasons.

I got a map of all the open houses, figured out the perfect route and schedule and set out on my way. Well… it did not turn out as planned. As it happens, there are a lot, and when I say a lot, I mean HOARDS, of people with the same idea. Upon seeing the first house with a huge line out front I figured let’s skip this one and come back to it later (when it dies down); for the next house I stood in line for 45 minutes under the blazing sun, dying of dehydration, but I made it through! The house was underwhelming.  Don’t get me wrong it would have been perfectly nice, but for 45 minutes in sweltering heat! Not worth it. At this point I was still determined to see what I could.

I moved on to the next place… same thing, and the next place.. same thing. I decided that I would go to the the #1 place on my list and wait it out. Again, I was not the only one with that brilliant idea. The line was by far the longest. I stood in line for about ....1.5 hours after which the organizers came out and said that it would close in 20 min and if you were in line behind a certain cut-off person you were not going to make it, but you were welcome to wait and see. I was behind that cut-off! I was completely disheartened and boiling hot, so I finally gave up :)

I have pics of this on Facebook, there are other pics in there as well, but if  you see one with loads of people that’s probably a line to one of the houses. Here is the link:

2 – There is a silent rave (party) that takes place at a café that is around the corner from my house. I have seen it a few times now, its completely bizarre! They set up a DJ station in the middle of the street, at the café, and give out wireless headphones to anyone who wants them, a large crowd gathers and people dance around to the music that only they can hear. They get a little rowdy but its not bad. Its super funny to watch because all you can see is the crowd swaying, some sing along which is even funnier. I have never seen this before anywhere. The pics of this are in the above link.

Other than this I don’t have anything interesting to report. I still go to school everyday, although I seem to have hit a wall of sorts. There is just too much information, we are learning in 5 months what usually people take years to learn, either that or I am dumb or not studying enough, either way it’s a bit discouraging.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Past Month and Half (Part 1 of 2)

Let’s start form most recent events (that are worth mentioning) and work my way back:

One of the benefits of living in Israel (as opposed to US), is that Europe is just a short flight away with almost no time difference. I took advantage of this opportunity last weekend and joined Dima in Geneva.

It is a very beautiful, classy, smallish European city. It was a pleasure to walk and look around, which is pretty much all we did the whole time, with some breaks for food and Museums. It’s a very very expensive place and I think one way they try to make up for it is: the municipal museums are free (very nice) and public transportation for tourists is free as well (comes in very handy). Its an interesting contrast to Tel Aviv: Geneva is very clean, very looked after, and while its much older, it’s in much better shape. Of course not being involved in any wars for the past at least 400 years helps. One other point of note; everything closes very early, which I have become unused to, we tried to go out for food at 10:30pm, it was very difficult to find any restaurant still serving, here 10:30pm is still prime dinner time.

Here are some pics (and comments) from the trip:

Before Geneva, life was as usual. I came back from my whirlwind trip to US. Let me tell you: flying across the world for less than a week is not very smart, because the minute you kind of start getting over the jet-leg you have to fly back and start the process all over again. Of course I got sick as a result, and the fact that I ran around trying to see and spend time with every family member in St Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee did not help.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Eilat and Perta

This past weekend I finally went on a trip that I have been planning since before I moved to Israel. I finally got to go to Petra in Jordan.

The only way to do it from Israel is to go on an organized tourist tour from Eilat, unless of course you know someone in Jordan, which I do not. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world but I was set on seeing Petra, and since you never know when Israeli relations with the countries surrounding it might go sour, I wanted to do it while I still knew I could. Although I am not sure how many Israelis actually go there, everyone that I saw going from Israel to Jordan was a foreign tourist.

So the trip is an all day affair: you meet the tour people at the hotel at about 7am and don't get back to the hotel until about 8pm. The morning is a complete waste of time; we were at the border a little after 7am and did not get on the tour bus on the Jordanian side until 10am. Fist we waited for 1 hour for the border to open, apparently this is done to beat the rush of tourists coming in exactly at opening time, which is 8am. However this strategy only works when there are no aggressive, rude, entitled Russians pushing their way in front of everyone. In the end it did not meter, and they were the last to get their passports, which made me feel really really good :)

Once the border opens there is a mad rush for Israeli customs, once you go though that you wait around some more, for everyone in the group to go get their stamp so that everyone goes together. Then there is a bit of walking through no-man's land (I guess there is a space between the 2 sides, I have never gone from country to country by foot/car, I have always flown, so this was an interesting experience for me) and you enter the Jordanian customs. There, the way it works is really strange; your group's tour guide collects everyone's passports, and he submits them to customs, which means that they never actually check that the passport you give them is actually yours. I don’t think they ever even looked at the picture. Anyway, we waited for about 1 hour for them to finish whatever they were doing, but eventually we got our passports back and were able to finally move on.

We drove though Aqaba; it’s the Jordanian city on the Red sea, basically right next to Eilat, in Israel. And then drove for about 2 hours though Jordan to Petra. From what I saw, the country is much poorer than Israel; however there was a lot of development and construction in Aqaba which was very very nice to see.

Petra was huge, amazing, and totally worth the money. You can see picks and specific commentary on Facebook:

Afterwards we were fed some yummy food and drove back to the border, where yet again we wasted about 1.5 hours total, on both sides, waiting for customs to do their thing. Israel disappointed me on the way back, whereas in the morning they seemed to be much more organized than Jordan, in the evening it was complete chaos.

We spent one day in Eilat over the weekend, it was extremely relaxing which was very much needed. I don’t know how but it was actually chilly and rainy in Eilat the whole day we were there. How it’s possible that it rained in May, in the middle of the desert, practically in Africa (Eilat is right on the border with Egypt, which is in Africa) is beyond me. It actually did not bother me since all I wanted to do was sit around read and relax. Had it been sunny Dima would have made me go swimming and snorkeling which I really had no interest in doing. So the rain turned out to be a great thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pesach, Ulpan and More

Sorry for not posting in a while, no excuses just lazy :).
So let’s see:

There was Pesach, petty big holiday - Israel half stops half slows-down for the entire week. We did not do much for the holiday. Since this is when school is out and many adults get time off of work; everyone goes on vacation, which means that to fly out of here is insanely expensive and to stay in a hotel in Israel is also expensive (and booked), and since we did not plan ahead of time we did nothing. Hung out, chilled, ate! We did prepare the Sader ourselves which was pretty cool. Did a bit of seeing the country but not much more.

There was one hiking trip that went terribly wrong. We went up north to the mountains, for a beautiful hike that started very well, however we did not plan ahead of time (are you seeing a trend here????) and ended up switching to the wrong path midway which took us in a completely wrong direction. So when the hike was finished and we thought we were back at our starting point, near the parking lot, we were actually on a different mountain! I am not joking we actually ended up on the wrong mountain. But of course at this point we had no idea, so we started walking further thinking the car would be close. Over 2 hours later, with no car in sight and with the night upon us, I forced Dima to agree to stop and ask for help (which I ended up doing anyway) and only then did we learn how terribly lost we were. There were 2 options: take the hike the same way back, which was pretty much impossible since it was dark and we would get even more lost or some wild animal would eat us, or somehow go around the mountains which would take all night if we went by foot. In the end I found some nice people who drove us to a relatively close-by gas station, and there we got a cab which drove us, for an hour, to our car. I think I lost about 5 years of my life-span during the time we were lost.

You can see Pesach pics with commentary on Facebook:

Couple of Days ago it was Yom HaShoah (Day of Remembrance), it was pretty intense. First off, unlike other holidays when inevitably some places (restaurants, stores) stay open, on the eve on Yom HaShoah EVERYTHING closes! If you did not have food at home, too bad... starve, cause NOTHING is open. We did not realize this and decided to go out to eat, it was a sad sad experience. Most channels on TV are turned off, the 5% -10% of channels that did not get turned off, broadcast only Holocaust related programs. On the day of, at 10am sharp there is a siren that goes off in the streets everywhere in the country and people stand in memory of the murdered. If you are working you stop, if you are driving you stop, if you are exercising you stop, everyone and everything stops. Very moving…

After Pesach I started the Ulpan (Gordon). Its actually very nice, the teacher is very good, the students seem cool, and it feels good to have something to do, although I could stand to have it start a little later; 5 days a week at 8:15am! What’s wrong with 10am???? But the best part is that I might actually be able to communicate with people around me soon! Also meeting new people is a nice bonus. I don’t know what the demographics of students in other Ulpans in Israel are (I would imagine a little different than this one) but here everyone is from all over: Russia, US, Europe (everywhere in EU although mostly France), South America. Overall everyone is pretty young - mid 20's to mid 30's with a few exceptions, mostly single, if married then more married women than men, and very few with kids.

So far I like it, although when the work starts piling up and I start getting behind I am sure I will change my tune.

I think now you are up to date.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Israeli Fashion

I have been making some observations about Israeli fashion. Here are some of the impassions that I have so far (if you are not interested in fashion stuff don’t read on):

Overall -    The look here is very relaxed, which most of the time is nice, however…. I have been shocked at what I have seen people wear to work, not that it’s horrible, it’s just that it would be considered completely inappropriate in the States. For example, the girl/woman that was working with me to open my account at the bank wore what in US would only be tolerated as weekend day-wear to hang out in, may be go to the grocery store or the gym. This was not an isolated experience, she dressed like that every time I came to the bank, and there are other examples. Most of the people I see just dress really relaxed, lots of jeans.

Men -      One thing I noticed is that they dress more colorfully than in the States, which is a good thing until you start getting in to the Ed Hardy territory. (HATE Ed Hardy!!!) But I haven’t really seen that here, so good for them. I also don’t think most men here know what a suit or a tie are. From what I understand men in general don’t like either of those things too much, so I guess men in Israel should be happy about their ignorance in that respect.


      Cloths – as in US leggings are very popular, which goes along with the relaxed, comfortable look quite nicely. Otherwise the usual casual look prevails. Going to a wedding tomorrow so I will have more fun observations, however I have been to one here before and all I can say is that more than one person (both men and women) was wearing jeans or a jean skirt/dress thing, or a jean onesie – it was not cool... at all.

     Shoes - they are all about the boot, this is a chunky boot, a cross between a regular boot and a cowboy boot. It also seems that the shorter leg height (on the boot) is much more popular than the higher length. There are not a lot of heels, and the few heels there are, are on the shorter and thicker side. Overall the shoes are much more chunky than what I have become used to. Chunky in an artsy-craftsy way not chunky in a polished way. The only time I have seen elegant , high heels was at night when we went out to a clubby area, otherwise Israelis like to stay low to the ground in sturdy shoes.

Honestly I am a bit perplexed about the shoe/fashion thing. Israelites are much more influenced by European fashion than by US fashion (there are much more European labels here than US ones). From what I know the European look is much more elegant and polished than the US look. So what gives? Why the chunky and super duper casual???

I understand that it’s a cultural thing that influences the casualness, but still….

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

1 Month Anniversary and more

Last Wednesday the 17th of March marked 1 full month since we came to Israel. We celebrated this momentous occasion by going out to a restaurant. Except we did not plan ahead of time (we like to be spontaneous) so we ended up walking around for almost 2 hours looking for just the right place. We do this sometimes and what usually ends up happening is:

a.  We get excited to find the perfect place
b. Start looking for it with the best intentions
c. I start getting hungrier and hungrier
d. Dima gets very picky, and even though we pass many places none of them seem to fit Dima's criteria for the night
e. I get very cranky from the hunger
f.  Dima can't pick a place because the "perfect place" does not exist
g. I start feeling like I am about to pass out
h. Dima gives up because I am pretty moody by this point
i. I pick the first place I see just so I can get some food in my empty growling stomach
j. We eat whatever the restaurant has, which usually is not what either of us would have wanted, sometimes.... we are pleasantly surprised
k. We never learn from past mistakes and inevitably repeat the cycle

This was that kind of an experience, however, thankfully we were pleasantly surprised this time. Well at least I was. We ended up going to a type of restaurant I have wanted to go to ever since we got here. Its a place where you order yummy, succulent skewers of meat and with them come unlimited varieties of salads. I love the whole concept. I ended up very happy with the whole thing... I mean how can one not be happy with fresh delicious meat and salads?!

Later last week, for our weekly adventure, we went to an Israeli Army museum, which was basically a large outside space full of tanks (it used to be the British Mandate's fort/prison or something). Basically Dima's idea of heaven. Mine... not so much, but it was very nice outside so i made the best of it.

Here is a link to the pics from that trip: