Monday, May 30, 2011

we are a lot of things, but we aren't crazy..

I took my ulpan final test last week. I felt really confident afterward, actually I think I should have taken the test for one level higher because the test was pretty easy. Good thing it doesn't actually count for anything except for my own personal assessment of my level of Hebrew right now...which is going to change after a week of being in the army anyway. We still have class until the 14th, minus three days next week for the holiday of Shavuot. No one is going to class anymore really so it's a nice private lesson with like 6 of us each day. I've also been babysitting a lot which is good because I need the money and it keeps me busy, and the kids are adorable!

Speaking of the army...I went to the recruitment office last week for the 3rd time and finally got the ball rolling. I had a mini interview with the nicest guy named Amos. He sent in my request to enlist (because I am volunteering, I am not being drafted since I'm a girl over 20). The request was approved by his commander and should be approved by the head of recruitment for the army this week. Amos told me that hopes my request is approved with no problems because "at hamuda" which're a cutie. To which I replied, thank you, but I'm not sure that will help me get into the army. I spoke with Amos in Hebrew the whole time! go me! So once my request is approved I can have my testing day, hopefully next week, where I have an interview to assess my Hebrew level and some tests to see what jobs are fit for me. My friend Daniel is being a great help and using his connections in the army for me so hopefully the two of us together can get me into a good job! I'm still trying to enlist this summer.

I am moving out of my ulpan, and Jerusalem, on June 15th. I will be moving up north with my sister for the summer, until she goes to the states in August. And yes, that means I'll be living on the beach for the summer :). I am not entirely sure if I will then move in with our adopted family in the north or come back to Jerusalem, it depends on a few things including when I am enlisting and such. Right now it looks like at least by November, when Allie gets back from the states, we will move in together in Jerusalem.

Everything is going really well here, I'm excited to move on to the next step (and get into the army already!). 5 months already, as of yesterday.

And I'll end with this: a lot of people in Italy (Itamar's friends from school there) could not understand why I moved to Israel. It seemed so foreign to them. A lot of people don't understand why we (all those that fit in the category) would move to Israel, especially from a country like the US. This song came on my IPOD the other day and I looked at it in a different light for the first time. Instead of seeing it from the point of view of a boy and a girl in a relationship I saw "we" as all of my friends here and everyone else who made aliyah..

we were young, we were wild, we were restless
had to go, had to fly - had to get away
took a chance on that feelin’ - baby
we were lovin’ blind - borderline reckless
we were livin’ for the minute we were spinnin’ in
maybe, we were a lot of things
but we weren't crazy

Italy Part 2: Venice and Florence

Before traveling to venice I looked up how to get from the train station to Ca D'Oro hotel, where the Nichols' were staying and I was to meet them. The website said to take shuttle bus number 1 and get off at the Ca D'Oro much easier could it be? Well, I walked out of the train station and found myself, ignorantly, standing in front of a canal and wondering where the street was where I picked up the bus. I soon realized that the canal was the street, and that "shuttle bus one" was actually a boat, cool! Asked around, hopped on the boat, 20 minutes or so later I got off at my stop and found the hotel. Contrary to my belief it actually wasn't that close to the stop which seemed silly to me since it has the same name as the stop? I asked the receptionist for the room number and up to 205 I went.

How funny (and awesome) it was to knock on the door of a hotel in venice, a week and a half after deciding to buy a plane ticket, and see Brendan, Kyle, and Alyssa Nichols! It was a bit rainy and they traveled from Rome that morningso we rested up a bit before we headed out for lunch and the Gallerie dell’Accademia. The museum was pretty good, although it didn't have the best layout. Something to note if you're traveling in Italy, especially in the north, lunch is only served, for the most part,until 2pm. After that you can find some pizza or pasta (what else would you want?!) at some places but not full menus. Back to the hotel to change and get ready for dinner then out for the first of 3 wonderful and entertaining dinners with the Nichols. Not eating pork or most seafood limitsthe options but my pasta and veggies were deelish! The tiramisu for dessert was amazing as well.

Monday we decided to walk to the main part of the city instead of taking the boat which was a great idea. We made a quick stop at the Rialto market, a cleaner version of the Jerusalem shuk, and continued on to Piazza San Marco. We toured the Basilica and the Bell Tower before going into Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace. I was in love with the floors in the Basilica and the bell tower gave amazing views of Venice. We had some panini's for lunch and then split up for some free time the rest of the afternoon. Brendan and I went to Harry's, the bar that invented the Bellini and where Hemmingway (among others) was a regular. The Bellini was certainly not cheap but it was delicious and I'm glad we splurged. We walked back to the hotel and rested a bit before going on our Gondola ride! The ride was great, Mr. and Mrs. Nichols brought along wine, cheese, crackers, and bread and the tour around the city was beautiful. After the ride we went to dinner at a place we saw on one of the canals during the ride. I had yummy tortellini. We (the kids, haha) had some fruity alcoholic drinks after dinner and then walked around our neighborhood, had a few more drinks at and outdoor bar and went back. Tuesday morning we set off for the last stop, Florence.

After arriving in Florence and dropping our stuff off at the hotel we met up with Alyssa's friend and her mom for lunch. We walked up the 462 stairs of the Duomo cathedral to experience the breathtaking views of Florence. 2+ hours of waiting in line later we finally saw the David...and wow, was it worth it. It was said that after seeing the David, because of it's immense perfection, it is not necessary or worth it to see any other sculptures. I truly felt this while walking around the rest of the museum and quickly passing the many other sculptures. Well, okay, maybe I was just tired after waiting in line so long.

We got a bit lost on the way back to the hotel but arrived just in time for Mr. Nichols to climb under the closing gate of the corner store and buy some wine and pizza for a pre-dinner appetizer. We went up to the roof of the hotel for another drink at the bar before heading off to dinner, and the best meal of my life. I am not exaggerating, Peperoncino was the name of the restaurant and it was amazing. Our waitress teased me a lot while we had our appetizers and wine, she was pretty funny. She poured me maybe one sip of wine into my glass, maybe she could tell I had already had three drinks before dinner? I ordered Cappellacci filled with pecorino cheese and walnuts on butter and sage. And I think there was a little bit of heaven on the side, too. I am not a slow eater and I ate this pasta so slow, savoring every bite, and I was legitimately sad when I finished my last bite. At the end of dinner the waitress gave us girls, Mrs. Nichols, Alyssa, and me, hand-made ashtrays...kind of weird but a nice gesture! We walked back to the hotel and had a few more drinks on the roof (limoncello!) before calling it a night. Well, actually, before taking a quick dip in the roof-top pool and then calling it a night.

Brendan and Kyle left in the morning and Alyssa and I spent most of the day at the pool. My flight was moved from 11pm to 1am so I took my time taking the train to Verano for the trek back home. Note to self: do not try and bring peanut butter, contact solution, body lotion, or mousse back into Israel next time...I had to throw it all out. In my defense, I brought the peanut butter FROM Israel and had already eaten at least half of it, but contact solution? c'mon security man, give me a break! I thought only the US was that strict on flights.

I Am Fortunate for My Fully Functioning Brain

On the train to Venice I had an extremely weird encounter with an Italian man. A man in his mid to late 60's looking pretty shabby and smelling of stale cigarettes sat diagonally across from me in the four-seater area of the train that I was sitting in. I was busy jamming out to my IPOD (literally jamming, mouthing the words and bobbing my head, loving life and taking in the beautiful, rainy, Italian views out the window). I had both my book, Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger, and my journal on the little table. Sometime shortly after the man sat down I began reading the 3rd or 4th story in my book, leaving my headphones in and IPOD on. Thought that I would mention the obvious here...this book is clearly in English and I probably couldn't look more like a tourist in the mix of all the ever-so-fashionable Italians. Anyway, maybe 10 minutes later I notice the man making hand gestures and talking, apparently either to me, or to no one. I tried not to pay attention and continued some combination of reading/writing/listening to music. I couldn't help but notice that the man's hand gestures and mannerisms did not seem friendly, moreover, it sort of seemed like he was angry with the person he was speaking to (which at this point I pretended not to realize was clearly me). I paused my IPOD a few times but since I do not know Italian I had no idea what he was saying or why he was so angry. The man continued to speak, off and on, for the next hour or so all the while I grew increasingly more uncomfortable, both because he was gesturing into my personal space and because I had to use the restroom.

I thought I was stuck for the next hour and a half of the ride as I did not want to leave my things while I went to the bathroom until, way out! My window began to leak on me because of the rain. Perfect, I thought, I'll move one set of seats back, and I did just that. I then thought to myself, once I sat down mind you, well, if I'm going to move I might as well take my stuff and go to the bathroom. After a minute I took my suitcase and backpack to the bathroom with me and when I walked back into the car I sat on the other side of the train, about 3 sets of seats away from my friend. Why I didn't think to switch carts is beyond me.

I continued listening to music and started painting my nails. My friend now gets up from my old seating area and starts walking up the train car. He leans in to my new seating area, says something angrily in Italian way too close to my face, and proceeds up the car. I decide to look across the aisle in a very confused manner making sure that the other passengers knew that I do not understand what he has been saying to me for the past hour +. My friend walked back down the car and repeated this leaning in and talking to me. It took 5 or 6 trips of this man up and down the car, stopping ONLY at my seat and talking at me on both his way up the cart and back down the cart before I finally had gotten so fed up I decided I needed to do something. I was enjoying the ride so much and this man was ruining it for me! As I took out my headphones on one of his passes I said, muffled to myself, "what the fuck?!" and out loud "I do not speak Italian!!" "ahhh" replied the man and he walked back to his seat for the remainder of the train ride.

What was it about me that drew this man to me and why did he not either A. give up sooner, or B. pester someone else after I spoke up? Oh yea, and what the hell was he talking/arguing/angry about for 2 hours?!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Italy Part 1: Trieste

So I kind of spontaneously decided to buy a ticket to Italy a few weeks ago, and I left the following week, May 12th. I landed in Rome and took a train to Trieste on the north eastern coast and border with Slovenia. Well, actually I missed my train because myflight was delayed so I (stupidly, because it wouldn't have made a difference) bought another expensive ticket, and THEN I went to Trieste. I got proposed to upon exiting the train station in Trieste...what charm those Italian's have! My friend Itamar has been studying a masters in International Business in Trieste this year so I stayed with him for a few nights.

The first night I got there we went to meet up with his friends for the best idea in the world...aperitivo. Aperitivo is the time between 6-9/930ish when Italian's go out for a drink (spritz, usually) and you get served a lot of food, for free. As we sat around with Itamar's friends I had the typical drink, I forget what it's called but some type of spritz with prosecco and and orange slice, while basket after basket of chips, bread, crackers, little pizza squares, etc came to the table. By the time it was was time to go get "dinner" I was pretty much full and could have bypassed dinner all together. We were in Italy though, so I couldn't do that. We went to a great pizza place and had a delicious perfectly Italian pizza.

The next day Itamar and I got coffee by his apartment and then went down to the beach to walk the boardwalk. The beach isn't much of a beach, more like a sidewalk that people lay on with rocks down to the water. The more we walked down the boardwalk the more topless women we saw...ohhh Europe.

At the end of the boardwalk was the Miramare Castle which we toured around for a bit. The Castle was beautiful and the history was marginally interesting, built for Ferdinand Maximilian who became the Commander in Chief of the imperial Navy. It also served as home for American troops from 1947-1954. After the Castle we went to get gelato and ate it in the Piazza Unità d'Italia,a gorgeous piazza that faces the water and allows for ample people watching :). We went to dinner then a party at Itamar's friends that night.

On Saturday Itamar had a going away picnic at a park near his school. We lugged snacks, beers, blankets, and two glass (3 liter) jugs of wine up to the party and, although the picnic was in a beautiful park and
was a lot of fun, no one even opened the wine jugs! In retrospect I guess we should have bought smaller bottles of good wine, but it was 3 euro per jug and we just couldn't resist...Jews. Had aperativo and went out with Itamar's friends again Saturday night around Trieste.

Sunday morning we got coffee on a rainy morning and walked to the train station, off to Venice!

pictures and part two to come...bed time for now :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Independence Day Facts

Today is Israel's 63rd birthday! Here are some facts you might not know...

"In terms of inventions Israelis have given the world the Uzi, the mobile phone (partly), camera chips for phones, SMS messaging and the first anti-virus software; Israel has the highest percentage of home computers per capita and the third most educated workforce on earth, with 12 per cent holding advanced degrees. The country also has more engineers and scientists per capita than any other country around the world, and has more companies quoted on the high-tech NASDAQ stock exchange than any other country outside the United States, more than all of Europe, India, and China combined.

Israelis are also at the forefront of medical research into heart transplants, strokes and Hepatitis C. Incredibly, some Israelis are even at work on a space mission, which could make that tiny state of seven million people the third country to land a probe on the Moon. Jews on the Moon? Conspiracy theorists won’t know where to start.

In the last ten years Israeli scientists have won five Noble prizes in the sciences, a tally bettered by only four other nations, while per capita Israel produces more economists than any other country.

Israel also publishes a huge number of Scientific and Technical Journal Articles, some 16,470 in 2005, more than the entire Arab world and Iran combined. And the Jewish state produces an astonishing number of inventors. Last year in the United States Israelis registered 1917 patents, just below Italy (58 million people) and the Netherlands (15 million) and way ahead of its neighbours Saudi Arabia (58) Turkey (45) Egypt (20) Kuwait (14) UAE (9) Iran (8) Lebanon (5) Jordan (1) and Syria (0). Israel itself grants 2500 patents a year, putting it in the top 20 of all countries and again more than all its neighbours combined. Israel is number one in the world for medical device patents per capita and number four for biotechnology patents per capita. And its biotechnology exports are now worth $6 billion a year."

So give us a little bit of credit, we're really not as bad as people make us out to be! haha.

Monday, May 2, 2011

and whoever preserves a single soul, it is as though he had preserved a complete world

This is a line from the Talmud saying that to save one life is as if to save the entire world. The idea comes from the fact that we all started from one human and now we are an entire population. In the creation story there were pairs of animals created and pairs of trees/flowers/etc but humans were only started with Adam, then came Eve after. Therefore, to kill one man is as if to kill the whole world, and to save on man is as if t0 save the whole world.

To make this Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) even more meaningful for me I was able to take part in doing just that...saving a life. As some of you may know I donated bone marrow in December to a three year old girl with Leukemia. She received the transplant the second or third week in January and on March 18th I received a request to donate a second time to her. This time I was only going to donate white blood cells so no injections beforehand as with the stem cell donation.

Today my friend Eli went with me to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem and was a trooper while I was hooked up the the machine for 4.5 hours while it went through all of my blood and extracted the white blood cells. The doctor was a little rough, he kept pushing on the IV site on my left arm even as a winced in pain and told him it hurt a lot when he touched it. The site was working fine so he didn't get why it hurt. Either way, it hurt, but the pain was nothing compared to what this little girl has been and will be through in her life. Here's the certificate they gave me, it says thank you for saving a life! In really nice Hebrew.

I couldn't stand when the siren went off for two minutes at 10am today but I thought about the victims of the Holocaust, this day is really for them. Also, though, to show how far Israel and the Jewish people have come from this disgusting and devastating tragedy.

Am Yisrael Chai...The people of Israel live...