Monday, June 20, 2011

Always Carry A 200 Shekel Bill

The process to convert your license is pretty absurd. The first step is to go to something like a certified eye glasses store and pickup a "tofes yarok," I guess that means a green form. The optician at the store does a very quick eye exam, takes a picture of you, and prints out the form. The form and process costs 40 shekel. I count my change and realize I have 35.50 or a 200 shekel bill. Like a typical American I take out the 200 shekel bill and like a typical Israeli he asks if I have small change. I said, "no, I only have 35 shekel" to which he replied, "that's fine." In case I haven't learned yet...literally EVERYTHING is negotiable!

Another reason why this experience was "Israeli": 1. While I was walking out the door the other woman getting the same form asked me if I already had the name/number of a good driving teacher. I told her that I am just starting the process and I haven't looked into it yet. She pulls out her phone and tells me to call her driving teacher to set up my lesson because he is the best, she gives me his name and number and we are both on our way. Correct me if I am wrong but I think that would only happen between friends in the states, not complete strangers.

Now I just have to fill out the rest of the form, go to the doctor so he can sign the form, bring the form to some office to be stamped, schedule a lesson and "practical test", pay money at the post office (don't ask) for the lesson, pay a lot to take the test, hope I pass the first time, return to the random office to get my temp license, pay a lot to the post office again (yea, i know, post offices do everything here) to activate my temp license, wait 8 weeks for my real license to be mailed (to an address I don't live at anymore). all this just to get my license...AGAIN! ohhh Israeli bureaucracy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

sumer lovin'

It's officially summer time for this girl! Ulpan is over and I moved up to Allie's in Nahariya until the end of August.

The move was an adventure. We were instructed to have our stuff out by the bus that the Ulpan ordered for us at 8:30am. At 8:50ish I brought my stuff down (like a good Israeli), got my deposit back, ate some breakfast, and went out to load the bus. At 10:30ish we were off, 21 of us, mostly Russian or Spanish speaking, all headed somewhere in the vicinity of Tel Aviv. First stop, Lod, dropped two off there and we were off to Holon. First minor difficulty:the bottom door to the bus opens and our stuff spills out into the highway (see photo: us gathering our belongings from the highway). Of course of the 4 or 5 bags that fall out two of them are mine. New duffle bag scraped up and a damaged pair of sandals...bummer, but maybe more exciting than upsetting actually. We made it to Holon, then Bat Yam followed by Yafo, Tel Aviv proper, getting lost in some areas north of Tel Aviv (people who don't actually know where they are going to be living and who do not speak Hebrew or English talking to a bus driver who doesn't know the area at all and doesn't speak English is always a joy!), and 4 hours later I arrived at the Tel Aviv train station. For those of you who are unaware, this drive would have taken maybe 40 minutes in a car.

I got off the bus into a group of about 50-60 elementary school religious girls in uniforms on some sort of field trip. They proceed to stare at me as I seriously struggle to make it to security. I'm not kidding, they were legitimately walking directly in front of me turned around staring at me. At one point I was so fed up I actually said, in Hebrew, "What, is this funny to you? Move, please." Sorry little girls for being a jerk, but you were obnoxious. After getting all my bags through security and buying my ticket I had to face all 60 of the girls again to insert my ticket and get into the train station. As I'm shoving my bags through the turnstiles, sweating profusely and clearly exhausted, they stand DIRECTLY on the other side staring at me. Actually two of my bags hit them in the legs because they wouldn't move. Ugh, they were SO annoying. Here is when I said to them, "Why are you standing RIGHT here?! Move, please". Anyway, I made it on and off the train with the help of a really nice girl on the way on and a really nice soldier on the way off who carried my stuff to the taxi. Three trips of three flights of stairs and 7 hours later I am here, Nahariya Israel, about to head out for a beautiful night run along the beach (thanks for convincing me, Brendan!)

I think I will manage living one block from the beach just fine this summer :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Shark and The Fish

"Over 1700 days have passed since Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas terrorists, on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza, on 25th June 2006. Since then, Gilad has been denied visitation by international humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross and any real contact with his family and the outside world.

When Gilad was eleven years old, he wrote a story entitled "When the Shark and the Fish First Met". In this allegory, Gilad writes about a young fish who meets a young shark. Although natural enemies, they decide to become friends and live in peace. Here is Gilad's story:
A small and gentle fish was swimming in the middle of a peaceful ocean. All of a sudden, the fish saw a shark that wanted to devour him. He then began to swim very quickly, but so did the shark. Suddenly the fish stopped and called to the shark: "Why do you want to devour me? We can play together!" The shark thought and thought and said: "Okay- fine: Let’s play hide and seek."
The shark and fish played all day long, until the sun went down. In the evening, the shark returned to his home. His mother asked: “How was your day, my dear shark? How many animals did you devour today?” The shark answered: “Today I didn’t devour any animals, but I played with an animal called FISH”. “That fish is an animal we eat. Don’t play with it!” said the shark’s mother. At the home of the fish, the same thing happened. “How are you, little fish? How was it today in the sea?” asked the fish’s mother. The fish answered: "Today I played with an animal called SHARK." "That shark is the animal that devoured your father and your brother. Don’t play with that animal," answered the mother. The next day in the middle of the ocean, neither the shark nor the fish were there. They didn’t meet for many days, weeks and even months.
Then, one day they met. Each one immediately ran back to his mother and once again they didn’t meet for days, weeks and months. After a whole year passed, the shark went out for a nice swim and so did the fish. For a third time, they met and then the shark said: "You are my enemy, but maybe we can make peace?”The little fish said: "Okay."
They played secretly for days, weeks and months, until one day the shark and fish went to the fish’s mother and spoke together with her. Then they did the same thing with the shark’s mother; and from that same day the sharks and the fish live in peace."

This story Gilad wrote is amazing and has extremely clear parallels to the situation here in Israel. I took the story from the NU Campaign website where they made a shirt in order to support the efforts to bring Gilad Shalit back home. The NU Campaign is amazing, they make t-shirts for all types of causes and their proceeds benefit these causes. Check them out here and order a shirt for whatever story touches you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Peace Out, J-Town Down

I had my "first order" at the army last week! It was a loonngg day of testing, and I'm glad to finally have this step behind me. I arrived at the recruitment office at 8:30am and left at 2:30pm-ish. The first thing I had to do was sort of an interview, the girl asked me about my parents and family, when/where I was in school, what I studied, where I worked, etc. After she filled in all my information including names/addresses/phone numbers of basically every person I know in Israel, she gave me the hardest Hebrew test ever. Apparently the test is standardized and everyone gets the same one, and yea, that means Israeli's too. After telling her that I didn't know any of the words int he first three sentences she gave me it got a little easier and I could do some of the things she was asking of me. The girl was really nice and told me that I was doing really well, apparently I wasn't really supposed to be able to do it because it is intended to be hard for Israeli's. Anyway, we went on to talk more in depth about my family, what I want to do in the future, what I am expecting in the army, why I made Aliyah/decided to join the army, etc. I did all of this in Hebrew fairly easily, pretty cool.

I went to the medical exam floor after the interview, which was pretty standard. Urine test, quick physical exam, height, weight, and I have an optometrist apt. on Monday to send them my glasses prescription since I didn't know the numbers really, and certainly not in the measurements here. I sat around a bit longer (see future post on the situation that occurred with a little religious boy while I was waiting) and then took the psychotechni test on the computer. I thought this test was pretty easy, two parts where I identified shapes, patterns, and relationships between shapes. Everything was in pictures which is right up my alley, I love those kinds of things. After I finished everything I finally got a sandwich and headed up to see my buddy Amos who has been helping me through my process.

Amos looked at my profile and told me that I was really smart, so apparently I did well on the psychotechni test, although I don't know what my score was and don't know what it is out of. He said "100 and 100" but that could be out of 500 for all I know, haha. Or it could be out of 100. Either way, his buddy tried to put me down because I'm almost 23 and everyone else taking these tests is 18. This is something I'll have to get used to...the age difference. Oh well, what can you do, I don't think I learned intelligence or how to identify shapes in college, but maybe. In the end I don't think I did well enough on the Hebrew test to be exempt from the army ulpan (hebrew course) which is a huge bummer. I really don't want to spend more time in ulpan before starting the army, maybe I'll only have to do 3 weeks, but I'd rather just get thrown in there and not waste any more time, I'll pick up the Hebrew eventually!

After my day of testing I went up to Shorashim to the Morse's ("adopted" family) for Shavuot, the holiday that was this week. Great food holiday, especially for a used-to-be veggie since it's all dairy meals! We had our meal Tuesday night outside with everyone from the community (Shorashim is a moshav, like a small community, not as socialist as a Kibbutz) eating together. The desserts are amazing because they can be milk/cheese based, unlike when you eat a meat meal and (for kosher reasons) desserts are "parve," which means has no milk or meat. yummm cheesecakee! Wednesday we had a yummy poached salmon with blintzes and yummy salads and cheeses. And homemade cheesecakes. Allie and I came back to Jerusalem Thursday and spent the day around town. We met up with friends at night and she left for Beer Sheva Friday morning. It's my last weekend in Jerusalem! Leaving for Allie's in the north on Wednesday. Summer on the beach, yes please! Currently my plan is to be in Nahariya with Allie until she goes to the states in August. I will then move to Shorashim with the Morse's until Allie comes back from the states in November. Hopefully then we'll move to an apartment in Jerusalem with a few other friends. Also, hopefully I'll be in the army at some point this summer, and throughout these moves.

My enlistment date should be coming in the mail, along with my job options. I'll have to work whatever connections I can in order to actually get a decent job, though.