Friday, December 16, 2011

Oh Wouldn't You Like to Be, My Neighbor

A week before I started my course I decided enough was enough of moving around between friend’s houses and parents of friend’s houses and finally went apartment hunting.  After spending many hours on various websites looking up apartments (in Hebrew, go me!) I compiled a list of apartments and phone numbers for the next day.  I wish I could explain in words how much I was dreading this “apartment hunting day” I had scheduled myself on my day off from the army.  In order to not pay for the public transportation I was going in uniform, it was hot, I knew it would be frustrating, from experience I assumed it would be quite unsuccessful, tiring, confusing, and anything else you can imagine.  To add to things I was doing it on my own because it so happened that none of my Israeli friends were around that day to help me, my sister was still in the states, and my other friends were working since it was in the middle of the week.  I figured if I ever made it to the point of signing a contract I had a few people to call up to sit with me so I didn’t mess up or get cheated/ripped off.

Before I left Tel Aviv in the morning to set out for my dreadful day I decided to check online one last time in the morning to see if anything else was posted.  Apartments are posted and rented daily here to the point where it doesn’t even make sense to look up apartments before the week you want to move, or in my case, the day you go looking.  I found an apartment listed not in the neighborhood my sister and I were looking but in our price range and size.  I decided to go to this apartment first in dire hope that it would sweep me off my feet and I wouldn’t have to lug myself all around the city in the heat and try to find all of these other apartments.  I showed up to this apartment, which, may I mention, was in an AMAZING location, and fell in love.  It was about 5 or 6 am Boston time but I was so giddy I couldn’t wait to call home and talk to Allie about it.  I talked to my mom for a while, biding time until it was reasonable to wake Allie, while I sat for a few minutes across the street from the apartment and watched 3 other people look at the apartment as well.  In the mean time I pretended like I was going in the direction of the other apartments to take a look at them too, because it’s not smart to take the first thing you see.  I finally woke Allie up and told her about the apartment, she agreed maybe I should check out the other ones too just in case but after about 10 minutes of trying to call the other apartments as well as figure out where they are we decided together to stop being idiots and to take the amazing first apartment we saw.  I called the realtor back immediately and said I was ready to sign.  I discussed and signed the contract all by myself and we had an apartment…just like that!

We live in a super cute apartment in an area of Jerusalem called Nachlaot.  Nachlaot is very much in the center of the city, an old, fairly religious neighborhood that turning to a more young, hip place to live as well.  The neighborhood is comprised of old windy street made of white Jerusalem stone and it is kind of like a little maze to walk around inside the neighborhood.  We have a convenience store, neighborhood bar, little coffee shop, and Gelateria right across the street.  This is on top of the 3 minute walk to the central Jerusalem market, a 5 minute walk to the center of the city and all the restaurants/bars/pubs there, and a 1 minute walk across the street to a huge, gorgeous park called Gan Sahker.  Oh, and a 10 minute walk or 2 minute bus ride to the central bus station.  Could it be a more perfect location? I think not.  Good find Lauren!

I’m barely ever home but Allie’s doing a great job slowly getting everything together in the apartment and when I’m home we capitalize on shopping for furniture and accessories for the apartment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beautifully Intertwined

I went to an apartment to buy a used microwave and they planned to meet me back at home to deliver it so I didn't have to carry it back.  I am crossing the street to wait to meet them at the corner of my street and two Americans from California ask me if I speak English and if I know how to get to the market.  I am explaining how to get to the market when my realtor crosses the street and we bump into each other and say "hi" and catch up for a minute (in Hebrew).  The couple delivers me the microwave as I continue talking to the two women from California about what I am doing in Israel and a short synopsis of how I got here/why I am here.  I carry the microwave back across the street while continuing to talk to them for another minute then enter my apartment, take off my IDF uniform, turn on American country music, and start the kumkum (hot water boiler) to make myself a cup of tea.  

This funny combination of buying used appliances, finding a way to get them delivered, always seeing someone you know, giving directions in English, and explaining what the heck I'm doing living here couldn't be a better example of my life. 

What a perfectly complex yet beautifully intertwined and just a bit confusing life I am living.  :) 

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm Alive!

Still there?

So it’s been over two months since I last updated…oops.  It is a perfect example of how the past two months have flown by, however, and I really struggled to keep in touch (as if I don’t struggle enough with that regularly). 

So since I last wrote I started…and finished…my training course for my job in the army.  It was a 6 week course from the end of October until December 1st.  I did what is called 12-2 meaning I was on base for 12 days and came home for two (every other Shabbat at home).  That is probably the main reason why time flew by so quickly.  I was back to the rules like basic training where I could only use my phone during meal breaks and during my hour before bed where I had to shower and get ready for the next day.  I’ll split the course into thirds to explain how it went.

The first few days/two weeks were really difficult for me.  We spent the entire day, 7/8am until 8/9pm in a classroom learning about the system of the army and then how it all relates to our job.  There was so much army terminology that I didn’t understand that it made it really hard for me to follow the lessons the first couple days.  I, unlike many of the Israelis, didn’t grow up in a society were everyone goes to the army, and these terms were not common language for me.  Not to mention that I didn’t and still don’t have any idea what most of the words are in English (again, because I didn’t grow up with army terminology in my lexicon).  The best part of all the new vocab is that you have to remember every word twice, because no one uses the full words in the army.  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is in abbreviations and acronyms (like NASA).  I was a bit stressed the first few weeks, especially because of the weekly tests, which were really difficult for me.  It was not enough to sit in the lessons, understand the Hebrew, simultaneously take notes in Hebrew, and review during every break, I had to then understand what the heck they were asking me on the test and then figure out how to get the answer out in some relatively comprehendible style of Hebrew.  Test scores week 1: 45, 48 corrected to 63, and a 65.  Did I mention an 80 is passing?

The next two weeks of the course were more fun and less stressful.  I had gotten the hang of how to get the most out of the lessons, I asked more questions, and we had trips around the country which helped with the “out of the classroom” more hands on type learning.  Test scores week 2: 68, 76…movin on up!

The last two weeks were a lot more fun with many more out of the classroom activities, trips, general knowledge learning, etc.  We broke up into our specific positions, either Liaison (me) or International Military Partnership Activity (yea, I just translated that directly, sorry).  The former dealing with the countries on Israel’s border; Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt (holla!), and the latter dealing with all the other countries in the world that Israel talks to including Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America, you name it.  I spent even more effort on hanging out with friends and having a good time the last two weeks than I did the previous month and it seems like it paid off; test scores week 3: 81, 84…hell yeah!  I don’t know what I got on my final test because I never got it back (shows you how much the scores actually matter) but my final grade for the course overall was 90.  The final grade includes the tests, simulations, the half hour presentation I did on Iraq, my job of managing our supplies for a week, and then things like effort, relationships, ability to work with others, how we deal with the system of the army and the course specifically, etc.  From a 45 to a 90 in just 6 weeks…not too shabby ;)

I’m going to wrap it up and I’ll post again soon.  We had our ceremony on November 30th (Shout out to my best friend Jen’s 24th birthday that was the same day!) and my sister, Eli, Daniel, and mahhm Deborah all came to support me.  Sidenote: Mahhm brought me turkey and absolutely delicious pie (both pecan AND pumpkin) from Thanksgiving since I was on base and missed it, big Mahhm points right there.  Anyway, it was great to meet everyone’s family since I had known some of the people for 4 ½ months already (since basic training) and felt like I knew so much about their lives and their family/friends.  We got certificates and pins to put on our uniforms, my commander gave me his pin off his uniform instead of a new one, he was the best. 

We got our assignments the next day…I’m a liaison to Egypt! More on that to come…

P.S. I have pics but my internet is in the process of getting fixed so they will be uploaded this weekend.