Saturday, March 17, 2012

Live, Love, LAUGH

The last post was a little serious and potentially nerve-wracking for those of you who are not familiar with the situation here, so I just wanted to make sure I noted how much fun I've been having on base lately.  I manage t find myself laughing so hard I either fall over in my chair, fall or have to sit on the ground, or desperately feel like I have to pee my pants.  All of the above circumstances usually coming with tightened and sore ab muscles. Laughing is such a great tool for happiness...I'm not talking smiling or being happy, but pee-you-pants laughter, and I have been getting plenty of it.  We end up singing or dancing or doing something else weird at least once day, usually toward the 12/1am hour, and I love it.

We just got new girls and they're all great, the only bummer is they changed the majority and now more people speak English I think than Hebrew. This isn't good for me A. because I need to learn Hebrew and B. because all the work is in Hebrew.  I still speak as much as I can and they speak Hebrew with me, which I suppose is the best I can do.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And my mommy is coming in less a month, YAY!


Last weekend the IDF targeted a terrorist in Gaza, the head of the Palestinian Resistance Committee, while he was planning another attack on Israel.  After the killing came the Palestinian response, a barrage of rockets on the citizens of southern Israel.  The IDF didn't sit back and watch it's citizens living in fear, they attacked back, targeting a total of something like 20 terrorists in the Gaza Strip.  In response over 300 rockets were fired into Israel over 3-4 days.  There was a ceasefire later in the week but rockets continue to fall, thankfully at a much lower rate.  The Israeli Air Force has also struck back after the ceasefire I'm not sure how many times, I think two or three.  That being said, and even though it doesn't make sense, there is still a "ceasefire" so that's at least better than the situation last weekend.

Because of my job I got to be pretty much in the middle of it.  Of course I only really had to deal with things that were relevant to relations with Egypt which came about every so often over the week, including the fact that they brokered the ceasefire, woo-hoo!  I got to know a lot more information though, because of my location, which was awesome and made me feel kind of important.  It's neat to know about things before anyone else, and to know things that other people can't know, and then to see what gets published in the news and what the public finds out about what's going on.  The not as cool part would have to be hearing rockets falling all day and night for a week.  Now a little bit about that...and I apologize in advance if it is a bit order-less, since I'm still processing the whole week in my head and it is still order-less to me...

Backing up a bit...there were 24 hours between the time when we received information regarding a very probable terror attack that was about to happen and when we received information that the IDF was going to try and stop the attack before it could take place.  Those 24 hours, and especially the few hours between when we found out the IDF's plans and when they took place, had a very eerie calm-before-the-storm feel.  It's hard to explain but we were just slowly getting ready, preparing for repercussions that we knew would come after the IDF took the initiative to defend Israel.  We received many talks from our commander about what to do in case of an emergency or a "code red" siren, who would take over what jobs in the ops room, taking down the helmets and vests that we might have to wear, etc.  We were sitting and waiting (not really, we were busy but in a weird, calm, way) for the inevitable attacks to come. 

Thankfully we only had "code red" sirens twice, telling us that a rocket was headed for our location.  Both times they landed a few hundreds meters in either direction and thankfully not on us.  A code red siren means we have 15 seconds to get to shelter before the rocket falls.  The first code red was when I was sleeping, stupidly without pants on.  It was very confusing waking up to the alert, which isn't very loud, waking up the other girl in my room and then putting on my pants while running to the shelter.  From now on I will always sleep with pants on, I learned my lesson.  Anyway, I left my base one day to do something with my commander and the roads were completely empty.  It was a beautiful 75 degree sunny day without a cloud in the sky and no one was outside, it was such a creepy feeling.  Everyone in the area was told to remain within 15 seconds of a shelter at all times because of the heavy rocket fire.  

During the course of the weekend we laughed and joked a lot, played around with our vests and helmets, danced, sang, and had a very typical Shabbat on base.  The booms heard in the distance were a constant reminder of the situation, but even being so close to the action didn't bring our spirits down.  I think you have to do this in order not to go crazy.  Now I have never been in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Sderot, or any of the other places that are barraged with either bigger, more powerful rockets or smaller rockets at a rate of way-too-many per hour, so I cannot say I would act the same in that situation.  Something tells me, though, that when you're faced with a situation like that you have to try your hardest to keep your mind off of it in order to remain in any way sane.  That's exactly what we did, and it worked perfectly.  Now that I've been home for a few days and have been taken out of the situation I have been thinking about what's behind the rocket firing, and how angry it makes me that the situation is the way it is here.  I'm not going to get into anything because I don't have the energy but damnit why can't people just live together without trying to kill each other, UGH! Is that really so much to ask...

Sunday, March 4, 2012


13 hour layovers are my new favorite thing.  It's like a free way to explore a new city every time I fly! I can't wait to book my flights depending on the location of the layovers, now :)
Amsterdam Centraal
Layover Tour Location # 1: Amsterdam
Line to Anne Frank House
I looked up a few things to do in the city before I left the States and planned to visit a few different museums and touristy spots around the city. After figuring out how to get out of the airport (and yes, I had to ask someone how to "get out of here") I took the train to the central station.  I followed the directions I wrote down prior and took the tram to the Anne Frank House.  Thankfully I arrived at 9:15, 15 minutes after opening time, because when I finished the tour at 10:15 or so there was already a long line outside, and I heard it's basically always like that, all day.  The museum/house was amazing, it took me a little bit to get into it but once you walk up one of those narrow, steep staircases you begin to feel a bit what it must have been like to be cooped up in that attic, unable to leave or even see the sunlight for fear of being noticed and sent away.  Honestly the thing I loved most was how many different people were in the house with me, from all over the world, learning about Anne Frank and her story.  Parents teaching their kids about this important piece of history comforted me and made me feel like people care.  Sometimes it's really hard to remember that not the whole world is against you, or hates you, when you live in Israel.
Across from the Anne Frank House
I realized that the Anne Frank House was only two stops on the tram so I decided to walk back to the central train station and get a map in order to spend the rest of my day touring the city by foot.  My next stop was the Van Gogh museum, which happened to be pretty close to the Anne Frank Museum and I did a great deal of backtracking walking back to the central train station, oops. Anyway, it was a great, fairly typical, (for someone who knows next to nothing about art) museum.  Glad I saw it, not much more to note there.  From the Van Gogh museum I decided not to go to the diamond museum because I don't really care about diamonds and I'd rather not support the cause of collecting/producing diamonds which has a bit of a sticky, not-very-humanitarian background to it.  I also opted out of visiting the Rijks Museum because I wasn't much in the art-museum mood and it looked HUGE...but beautiful. Next time, maybe.  Instead I opted for the Heineken Brewery, great choice.

Red Light District
On the way back to the central train station I stopped at a local coffeeshop for a nice cup of coffee. Yes, I actually only had a cup of coffee.  I opted for the outside seating so as not to be overwhelmed with the goings on inside of the coffeeshop, and thankfully I didn't even have to think twice about what I would be ordering since I am a soldier girl now and that makes even certain legal drugs off-limits for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my coffee and book in the warm winter sun.  Kind of by accident my next tourist stop was the Red Light District.
It was on the way back to the train station so hell, why not take a peek.  It was 3 or 4 in the afternoon and I wasn't expecting to see much but boy was I wrong.  I chuckled a little thinking that the girls looked like porcelain dolls in boxes as they were standing in the windows. I like to imagine that all they do is just stand in the windows all the time, that made me feel more comfortable and not sad. The point was to say I saw it, and I did.

I proceeded to make my way back to the airport, bought a Starbucks Coffee, and slept for an hour or so before I could check into my flight back home to Israel.

Things to note about Amsterdam:
There are a ton of bicycles and not a lot of cars. The cars that do drive around with the tram don't beep their horns and it makes for a mysteriously but lovely quiet city. I think there are 40% more bicycles than the amount of citizens or something like that.

There are port-a-potty type things in the middle of the sidewalks for men to pee in. It's kind of weird but better than them peeing on the side of the road I suppose.
A lot of people speak a lot of languages. Or because I don't understand Dutch I thought it was 5 different languages not one, that could also be the case.
There are an unusual amount of falafel shops, guess they're in high demand.

The buildings are flat in the front. Sometimes so flat that they actually lean forward into the street, it's a little bit scary.
The flower market has more fake flowers than real ones, but they're still pretty.

That's all for now, stay tuned for my next layover adventure...

Spontaneous Home Visit

In the past year I've bought two plane tickets, one to Italy and one to Boston.  Both vacations were for about a week and both tickets were bought a week before I flew.  I think I should keep up with this trend of spontaneity...

I flew home to Boston for a week this past month and boy what a great week it was!  I managed to fit a many things in, see a lot of friends, and spend quality time with Momma and D.  Here are some highlights (or just the most of trip in bullet point):

-Seeing mom in the arrivals hall when I landed...never gets old :) (she's obviously taking money out so I can go to dinner with friends later cause I didn't have any dollars, or my American debit card on me, thanks mom!)

-Trader Joe's for delicious wine and a yummy Jewish bakery for rugellah and humentashen
-"surprising" dani at her track meet (although I'm pretty sure she expected me to show up then and didn't believe that I was landing later that evening and going to miss the meet.
-Mexican dinner with the Ruby girls, so glad we could all meet up (minus those out-of-towners, you were missed!!)
-Seeing my grandparents
-Running mild winter day miles on the good old streets of Whitman, MA
-Marylou's for amazing coffee
-Mall with Jen. Forever 21 is great, even though they have one in Tel Aviv now it's still not as cheap.
-Beautiful home cooked dinner with me and mom and Jen and her mommy. And lots of wine ;)
-Going out in Plymouth for Rebecca's birthday with Whitman-Hansoners (and buying Bud Light and a Cadbury Creme Egg on the way down. Both just as delicious as I remember)
-Going out with BC/Fris friends in Boston and truly appreciating the MD 20/20 present that the girls provided me with for the evening, you know me too well. (and moving in to Tom's apt for the night for a sleepover, see picture..)
-Marylou's for amazing coffee
-Quan's Kitchen Hanover for dinner with mom and D, most delicious chinese food in the world.
-Sundae pack from Peaceful Meadows with Pistachio ice cream. Again, girls, you know me too well :)
-Millies breakfast with Kasey Black, just like old times, just as delicious.
-Hanging out with the Somerville apt boys and dinner with Bren in Davis Square (I think?) Amazingly delicious dinner AND no parking ticket for parking 10 hours in a 2 hour spot,'re good stuff.
-Free pilates class with Dani at her work, the Hanover Y.
-NH with momma and D for a relaxing night in an adorable hotel (once we found it through the snow and darkness) and a gorgeous day of skiing/snowboarding at Sunapee.

-Stopping to buy tax free tequila and margarita mix in NH on the way home because it was "National Margarita Day"
-Making delicious margaritas with mom and inviting the girls over to enjoy with us

-Marylou's for amazing coffee!
-TARGET with mom. I do not remember having so many options for things like deodorant, or mops. I was overwhelmed to say the least...

-Dairy Queen cookie dough ice cream and fudge blizzard

 -Making funfetti cupcakes with mom's homemade pink frosting
-Sleepover with the girls <3 <3 (you were missed Mandii..)
-Blueberry pancakes for breakfast
-Haircutttt (even though my friends in the army gave me one a month ago, this was my first actual haircut in over a year...) And Dani cut her longgg hair and donated it to make a wig! You go girl!

I'm sure there were other things that I forgot about that were just as great. And there were a few things that I wanted to do but didn't manage including visiting the Dempsey's (I'm booking you guys for a scrabble game or two in July!) I also wanted to hang out a bit more with BC friends because I feel like we didn't get to catch up enough, but I think I did pretty well for having a week. I ate waaay to much junk food, and ice cream, brownies, cake, REESES, etc, but all in all, I'm glad I decided to have Allie buy the (just a bit too) expensive ticket at 1:30am while I was on base...for the following week.