Monday, March 21, 2011

Taper Time

I finished my last long run today, 12 miles, and I am now in the last 2.5 weeks of tapering off before the half marathon. I've been having some ups and downs during training which has left me a bit uncertain about how well I am going to do in the race. The first hurdle that I overcame in training was the decision to stop running up the big hill from my apartment and instead to walk up the hill and start my runs at the top. Here is a picture of about 1/3 of the hill. I live a mile down in a valley, and to start long runs off with 1 mile uphill is really just stupid, I have come to realize. The only problem is this certainly isn't the only hill I encounter on my runs, especially on my long runs.

Today I ran all but 2km of the Jerusalem Half Marathon route for the race next weekend. (So you're not confused, I'm running the Tel Aviv half marathon, they're 2 weeks apart, good planning Israel). Serious props to whoever the hell is running the Jerusalem marathon, I barely made it through the half marathon with those hills! Granted I have been sick all weekend, but excuses aside, it was a tough 12 miles. Can't argue with the amazing views and history of the Jerusalem marathon route though, I guess maybe that's why people are crazy enough to do it.

Yesterday I ran a beautiful, FLAT, 6 miles down the shore in Tel Aviv to the new and improved Yaffo port. There is a new park in Yaffo (southern city of Tel Aviv) and it is gorgeous. Jaffo is the oldest port city in Israel but is very run down now. A few years ago they started tying to rebuild the port and the boardwalk and I am very impressed with the progress! I wish I had a picture. Anyway, this run made me feel a little better about the race because, although I was tired due to being sick this weekend, I was able to run at a much better pace than I do on the Jerusalem hills.

I ran the Hartford half marathon in 2007 as training for the Boston Marathon in 1:56 and some odd seconds. Ideally I would love to finish the Tel Aviv in 1:50 but I will have to decide if that is realistic over the next few weeks as I do shorter, quicker runs to finish training.

Also, if anyone is interested, the meat eating thing has gone no where since I last posted. I have yet to have a meat meal in the dining hall both because I haven't wanted to try them and because the lady hooks me up with the veggie option every time I get in there before I have a chance to speak. I'm going to have to tell her soon that I want to try some meat, I think she'll probably be happy, but I have to admit I do like the special treatment.

a whole new world...

Happy Purim!

This weekend was the Jewish holiday of Purim, a very fun Jewish holiday! On Purim everyone dresses up in costume and drinks and lot. We are commanded to be happy and drink until we "can't tell the difference between our friends and our enemies." This is the holiday when everyone bakes hamentashen (the triangle cookies, if you've seen them) that look like Hamen's hat, the enemy of the Purim story. We are celebrating the fact that Queen Esther saved the Jewish people (seems to be a common theme
for Jewish holidays...saving the Jewish people).

The holiday starts off with fasting called the Fast of Esther because Queen Esther fasted before telling King Ahasuerus that she is a Jew. (The king was going to allow Haman to kill all the Jews). Anyway, I was not fasting on Thursday as I have never fasted on this day before, it's not all that common in terms of observance by those who are not religious. Thursday was also St. Patrick's Day and I was really excited to go out with friends to the center of Jerusalem and drink Guinness at local Irish themed bars. After my run and lunch Thursday I took a nap and I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. I went out and celebrated a little anyway with friends but continued to feel sick for a few days. Momma suggested that I may have had a bit of food poisoning and the symptoms really matched up for a mild case (of course). I've never had food poisoning before and even this mild case was not fun. I spent Purim weekend recoverin
g from whatever it was, which has brought me to my current conclusion. I will, from here on forward, always fast on the Fast of Esther, because nothing can argue with karma.

me as Aladdin, Purim 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Veggie No More

Yes, I dare say, the time has come for me to make the switch (and accept the facts) after 3.5 happy years of being a vegetarian, I AM DONE! First off, I've actually been eating chicken a few times a week for the past few weeks anyway, and here's why...

You're probably thinking something along the lines of, "she misses meat, craves it, and wants to eat yummy meals again." I am actually, truly, saddened to say that this is most definitely not the truth. I wish that I was not as grossed out by most meat and fish as I am, if this was the case the switch would be much easier. On the contrary, however, I still find that I am more or less forcing myself to eat the chicken (unless, of course, it is Daniel's mom's shabbat chicken or the Morse's turkey meat balls, those I truly love!)

So why AM I making the switch then? There are infinite health benefits for me to switch back to eating poultry (and eventually, maybe) meat. Most importantly I need to note that I do not have complete control over my food options right now. At ulpan we are served lunch and dinner everyday, I only provide myself with breakfast and minimal snack/small meal options. It doesn't make sense to spend money buying all of my own groceries when I have already paid for the food here. Therefore, my substantial meal options as a vegetarian here are severely limited.

With the training I am doing on these hills for the half marathon it is really just stupid of me to try and source my energy and fuel for my muscles from a mostly carb, low protein diet. No matter how hard I tried to pick the best options this always seemed my ratio. I am really quite sold on the Paleo diet, and would love to eat like this (well not love, since I LOVE bread) but in oder to have a diet that remotely resembles Paleo I need to switch over to eating meat again. It might be a while before I can stomach the thought of eating red meat but who knows, maybe the day will come. Until then, bring it on chicken and turkey! One big problem...even the poultry and especially the fish at ulpan really gross me out. I'll report back about how I'm doing once I try to eat my first few meat meals here.

I am really excited to kick the carbo loaded cereal and bread and cut back to my goal of 50-70 grams of carbs a day. I researched this number but I'm not sure it's totally right for me, it's just something to aim for. Maybe this will help me to shed the last fussy 5-7 pounds that I've been trying to lose since I gained them freshman 15 style.

If you have any tips about paleo send them my way, until then I will be making a list of what I can and can't eat and trying desperately to figure out what has the least amount of carbs in this quite...interesting...ulpan dining hall style food. Also, if anyone wants to buy me this book I wouldn't be upset.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Learning to Live

I just got back from spending Shabbat in Shorashim, a community in the north where my sister's (and now my) "adopted family" lives. This is the second Shabbat I have spent in Shorashim since I have been here this time and I just want to take the time to make note of the difference between the two. When I went to the Morse's at the end of January it was just before my transition into starting to enjoy ulpan. I had had a few rough weeks in Jerusalem emotion wise; I was nervous about making friends, scared that a made the wrong decision moving here, and missing home. All of this showed in my interactions with people everyday but it took me a little while to see it in myself. That Shabbat at the Morse's, however, made it blatantly obvious to me that something (or a few things) were off. I was more quiet, reserved, and not as happy and easy going as I naturally am. I think it was so obvious to me at the Morse's, as opposed to in Jerusalem, because that was a place were I should have felt comfortable. I knew the family, I was with my sister, eating home cooked meals, sleeping in a real bed, etc. Since that weekend I have seen a complete turn around in the way I feel here. I have spent more time with my new friends and I am forming great relationships, I have settled into a routine and am really getting used to my life here. This weekend I found myself really excited to go to the Morse's and to see my sister for Shabbat. I was more relaxed, outgoing, and happy. Wow, what a relief :).

It's not easy to be here, that's for sure. The hardest thing for me, of course, is missing my family and friends. I miss my momma and Dani everyday, and in all honesty, I'm not sure how much that will change. I don't think about home in a nostalgic sense, as though I wish I were there, it's more as if I wish I could be here and yet still see my family and friends.

This song came on while I was on the bus home tonight and I think it describes pretty well what I am doing right now...

you gotta live to learn, you gotta crash and burn
you gotta make some stances, and take some chances
you gotta live and love, and take all life has to give
you gotta live and learn, so you can learn to live
-Darius Rucker

On that note...homework then bed time so I have some energy to run 11 hilly, hilly miles tomorrow.
countdown to Tel Aviv half marathon race day: 4 weeks from yesterday.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I live over the Green Line and I don't know how I feel about it

I'm sorry this post took so long. I'll admit, I have been dreading writing it since the moment I said I was going to in my last post, three weeks ago. I thought planning on writing a post would help me to make sense of my feelings about my exact location, but unfortunately it hasn't. Here goes nothing:
The Green Line is the colloquial term for the 1949 Armistice Line that was drawn up after Israel became a state in 1948. After the Six Day War in 1967 the Green Line was used as the line between Israel and the areas that were won in the war: West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula (returned to Egypt).
Currently the Green Line is not recognized as any sort of international border but, I technically live in an area on the West Bank side of the line. According to Israel, East Talpiot (my neighborhood) is a ring neighborhood of Jerusalem, just as something like Newton is to Downtown Boston. According to international law, settlements in the West Bank are illegal.
East Talpiot was established in 1973 as part of the increased building after the acquired land in the Six Day War.
Now, what does it mean that even though my neighborhood is over Green Line it is populated by Jewish Israeli's to the point where Israel considers it part of Jerusalem proper? This is what I don't know the answer to. My head, when looking at the facts relating to the boundaries and building laws, says it makes sense not to consider East Talpiot part of Israel/West Jerusalem. But it is hard to actually believe that for a few reasons. First, looking at how developed and how Jewish the area I live is, it makes it difficult to say that it is not part of Israel. My second reason I think puts things into perspective the best. Israel captured land in a war because they had a stronger military and were more equipped than their enemy. After acquiring this land as part of Israel they decided to build in an area (I'm JUST talking about where I live) where no one lived in order to make more space and more affordable housing for their citizens. If any other country besides Israel did this would they be at fault for that? Something tells me it would be a different story. Many countries have done the same thing. I cannot fault Israel for building a strong army to ensure the protection of the country in the future.

I'm going to stop here because I really don't like to get into political discussions and there is SOOO much to cover here. I am not talking, to those who want to play devil's advocate, about the right to actually have a Jewish state on the land, I'm trying just to specifically talk about the one area where I currently live, because that's where my Ulpan is. I want to be aware of what it means to me that I live on the piece of land that I do, but it is really complicated and there isn't a right and wrong answer in the discussion. Hopefully I won't be compelled to write any more controversial blog posts for everyone's sake :).

Israeli Football League

Last Thursday night I attended the Lions vs Rebels semifinal game for the Israeli Football League (IFL). When I say football I actually mean American football, for once. Both the Lions and the Rebels could be considered Jerusalem teams although the Rebels are technically from Judea (Southern West Bank) but most of their players live in Jerusalem. I am going to attempt to capture a fraction of how wonderful this whole experience was, if only i were a better writer...

Before my two friends and I arrived at the game I mentioned that I thought it was going to be something like a pee-wee football game with not many fans. I was only a little off...

To my surprise the stands were packed with some combination of anglo/english speakers, religious fanatics, and israeli youth. The latter being the smallest category. There were hot dogs and beers for sale, just as one would expect at a football game, although we were not sure if they would have beer so we brought some wine for ourselves anyway. We arrived just a few minutes before half time and I spent most of the time taking in the scene instead of watching the game. First, the field was quite small, 60 meters long (80 with endzones) and narrow, too. The uprights of the "goal post" were plastic poles stuck on top of soccer nets behind each endzone. As you can imagine these were entirely neglected the whole game, as if kicking a field goal or going for 1 point after a touchdown were simply not an option. In the middle of the field was, of course, none other than the New England Patriots symbol! I didn't know it then but the reason the stadium is called Kraft Stadium is because Robert Kraft (the owner of the NE Pats and the NE Revolution) supports American Football in Israel, or, the IFL. Super cool.

At halftime many of fans went on the field to toss around footballs, also typical. Apparently, however, it is also common to walk over to the other side of the field where the coaches are talking to the players in order to listen and then hang out with the players. My friends and I, cups of wine in hand, walked right over to go say hi to our friend who plays for the Lions. This was a little strange but whatever, very typical Israeli. After halftime my friends and I switched sides so that we were be sitting on what we thought would be the home (Lions) side. Although there were many Lions' fans in the stands there were also many Rebels' fans on the sideline right in front of us.

Almost all of the Rebels' fans were religious, and I always find it marginally entertaining to see religious Jews acting in such a rowdy manner, although you think I'd get used to it by now. Yelling, cursing, really putting down the other team, just as one would expect at any major football (or any sport for that matter) game in the states. I didn't even know Israeli's knew the game of football, so this was pretty entertaining. There were many vuvuzelas present to enhance the cheering, as to be expected, but I must admit I was a little surprised to see enormous shofars being blown as well. Although less surprised to see bottles of alcohol being passed around the stands.

The cheering was a hilarious combination of hebrew and english cheers and chants, but there was one that topped them all, the "yes we can" chant. That's right, in English, "yes we can" over and over again. For those of you that remember (i know, a whole two years ago) and can put two and two together, this cheer came about in Israel from, basically, making fun of Obama. I have heard many Isaeli's say "yes we can" in a playful, mocking matter in conversation (in fact, my teacher said it today in class!) but it was even funnier at the game. Everyone knew the cheer, it's just a regular old cheer to them now, and I enjoyed understanding the context that it came from.

At one point in the game the old, chubby, Jewish man holding the down box (just googled that- the sign telling the current down) turned around to the stands and said in a concerned manner, "where is my wife?" To which the ref right in front of him must have replied something like, "who gives a crap about your wife right now, pay attention!" But the old man continued, facing the crowd, not paying attention, "But I can't find her anywhere." Haha, only in Israel.

It was kind of comforting to be able to watch some live football over here, and to see players take off their helmets and be wearing kippas underneath. It was also fun to see the names "Goldstein," "Schwartz," "Horowitz," and "Ashkenazi" on the back of the jerseys. Speaking of Ashkenazi, the quarterback for the Lions, he is the son of the last Chief of General Staff (Commander in Chief) of the Israeli Defense Force, Gabi Ashkenazi, who just retired on February 14th.

All in all, I wish I had gone to more of the games this season as it was way more entertaining than I thought it would be. Oh well, there is always next year.