Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Fly Into the Party

Tel Aviv Round 2. 

I'm back in Israel, for just one week this time so decided it's time to bloooooog again. As soon as I stepped off the plane the adventures have commenced. 

First, I run into my coworkers in line for a rental car.  While they get upgraded, I get downgraded because I'm too young for an upgrade and they are out of cars in the rented class.  Seriously.  I have a very cute, bright orange Nissan Micra. So Euro.  Then I proceeded to drive it on airport walkway while following the exit signs from the garage.  The exit signs for pedestrians look exactly the same as the exit signs for cars and the ramp was hidden.  The best part is no one noticed except for some homeless lady who just looked at me so blasay (accents don't seem to be working so forgive my borrowed French expression grammar mistakes). My driving adventures continue when I get to the hotel and can't figure out the whole entrance thing, circle around, wait at the security gate again and then follow the security car onto the pier.  Yep I drove on the pier, realized something was wrong, parked, and ran away. No one seemed to notice, thank god.  This town must be so jaded to crazy drivers.

Within two hours of my arrival I made it to an Israeli house party where the arak was aflowin. Jet lag, work the next day irrelevant.  But really would anything else be expected?  Sleep is for the weak.  Actually I think this was a genious idea because I slept at normal(ish) hours and immediately was on the right time zone in the morning.  Clearly this is gonna be habitual.

Making the most of my week here.  Drove the team to work, trying my best to practice Hebrew, rented a bike share for the week, biked to Jaffa, HaTachana (the station- a converted old railway station), and the port (namal).

Weather is lovely, beach is packed.  Can't believe I'm back here and mostly can't believe how natural it feels to be here.

More adventures to follow.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

11 Essential Hebrew Words & Phrases

These 11 phrases already have people thinking I'm Israeli and they'll work for you too!

  1. Od Echad, Bevakasha = Another One, Please
  2. Sababa = Cool/Ok.  As in "How are you" "Sababa" or "I'm saying all sorts of things in Hebrew that you completely don't understand because you only know one Hebrew word." "Sababa". If this is the only word you can remember, well then you can communicate pretty well in Israel.
  3. Ani Rotza (f)/ Rotzay (m) = I want ... Important for getting you want!
  4. Ken/Lo = Yes/ No. Almost as essential as Sababa
  5. Yella/ yella.yella = Come On (1 yella)/ Go Away (2 yellas). To say to get someone to get them to move it or really before anything like "yella, bye" or to an annoying person that you do not want to talk to "Yella, yella".
  6. Ma Nishma/Ma Kore/ Ma Shlomka = How Are you? It's good to pretend to be polite, people will like you more.
  7. Balagon = A mess
  8. Ya yin = Wine, essential to my vocabulary clearly
  9. ALLO! = EXCUSE ME!, Used when someone cuts you off in line or on the road, as in "Allo!, I know this is Israel and there are no rules of ettiquette in lines but WTF you just cut in front when I've been waiting for 20 min"
  10. Col Tov! = All Good!
  11. Eyfo Sherooteem? = Where's the bathroom?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Ultimate Israeli Weekend Roadtrip

553 km/344 miles. All 3 major cities- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa. The Dead Sea. Masada. The Negev. 1 weekend left. 0 plans. Complete Epicness.

View Driving directions to Tel Aviv District, Israel in a larger map

So last weekend was kind of a bust as far as traveling goes due to weather, so obviously I had to go big and make up for it.  Plus this was my last weekend in Israel and there was so much ground left to cover.  Definitely my best weekend yet, which is good cause it's the last.

I set my alarm for 7:45am on Friday morning, so naturally I woke up at eleven.  Unfortunately missed the amazing hotel breakfast and feeling pretty lethargic from Thursday night.  (So the weekend here is Friday and Saturday and the work week is Sun-Thurs, so Thurs, Fri, and Sat and every other day of the week are the big party nigths here).  Decided to walk to HaCarmel market for breakfast. OMG, overwhelming.  This is what I think of when I think of Middle Eastern bazaars.  Super crowded, extremely narrow, noisy, all this bargaining and money exchanging, Hebrew (and maybe Arabic?) being shouted at me and most of the stuff being sold is pure crap ... and this is coming from me, I love crap.  Anyways still pretty cool.  Got a great marzipan croissant and hamentaschens for breakfast, escaped the market craziness and headed back to my hotel to start the journey.

Floating in the Dead Sea!
So I finally got my shit together and off my ass at 12:30ish and hit the road.  Btw I don't have a GPS and didn't bother printing directions, waste of paper.  At first the lack of GPS was a problem, involving my 30 min drive from work taking 3 hours.  But my general attitude has been "Fuck it! I'll figure it out" and well, I have.  Just like I strongly believe eating dirt as a child has made my immune system stronger, not having a GPS has made my navigational skills and Israel knowledge better. 

After getting a little lost in Jerusalem (missed a turn) and heading towards Ramallah, I finally figured shit out and fortunately was able to get gas at station on the Highway 1 that actually goes through the West Bank as my tank was almost empty and empty tank + desert = fun times.  It's funny cause every gas station has a camel as well.  Really wish I rode one, might have to go back!  

So I made it to the Ein Gedi public beach and the Dead Sea is soooo amazing.  You really float! The public beach was great cause it wasn't touristy or crowded at all and it was free.  But let me warn you, that shit STINGS (when you splash it in your eye) and TASTES DANK! Met two really nice girls who were studying abroad in Jerusalem from Canada and the US and ended up staying in a hostel with them in Ein Gedi and having a great dinner there.  Food never tasted so good!  Then we went to a concert at the Kibbutz down the road where they sang old American songs haha.

Made it to the Dead Sea, Finally!

Rock Hyraxes at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

My Little Mazda2 in Front of Masada

Then at the crack of dawn I drove to Masada and climbed it as the sun rose!  So peaceful and spiritual!  No one around to ruin the serenity, best thing I've done yet here with the Dead Sea a very close second.  I explored the ruins and climbed down.  Then it turns out the road back was closed til 11 for a race and the officer didn't speak English .... awesome.  So I just drove.  Stopped in Ein Bobek to see the resorty area of the southern Dead Sea and used the Le Meridian's private beach on the sea.

Ruins atop Masada

Then I drove on hoping I'd eventually see signs to Tel Aviv.  Lots of scenery but it's the desert and I had to go to the bathroom and well, good luck.  Finally stop in Arad and man on Saturday it's a ghost town minus a few old Russian ladies.  But I did learn the word for bathroom, sherootim, super necessary.  Finally beg the lady at some cheap motel to let me use it, as if Arad is so crowded.  Then I continued through the desert and Be'er Sheva, up through Asdod and back.  Saw lots of cheap and Bedouins!  And these...

So I finally make it back and try to go back to Be'er Sheva to skydive but it was too windy :S but nothing stops me from having an adventure, so I called a co worker and drove to Haifa!  Such a cool city built up a hill, reminiscent of SF.  The Bahai Gardens are beautiful!  So many levels that it looks like the city was built around the gardens.  Then we ate awesome hummus at Abu Shaker.  On the ride home, we stopped in Caesarrea to see the Roman ruins in the coastal town.  So beautiful and serene!

Bahai Gardens
Then back in Tel Aviv for good at 7pm, ready to crash and get ready for work Sunday (the work week is Sun-Thurs) and then I get a call from my coworkers that we are going out, no excuses.  So we raged and sang karaoke and raged some more and then got pizza.  Back at 3 am, only to run into another coworker riding home from his evening. So we went out for another drink....  Then I went to work the next day. Yea that's Tel Aviv for you.  Sunday was rough.

More adventures to come, fingers crossed!  Cheers!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jaffa, and Tel Aviv life

So I know that I'm way over due for a post, so I'm gonna first recap my past 3 weeks and then make a separate post about my epic weekend.

First of all, I really really like Israel.  It's a pretty cool place and I feel way more comfortable here than ever imagined.  Tel Aviv is an awesome big city, not religious at all.  Everyone is young and it's super vibrant.  Even on weekdays all restaurants are open til at least midnight and bars are always packed.  It seems like people don't work at all.  Work days here are more like 10-8 than 8-6, no one in my office arrives before 9am.  Sometimes people come in closer to 11 or noon.  Definitely my kinda style.  Weather is nice. The city is right on the beach and the food is great as well. All in all I am enjoying myself a lot here and could definitely live here permanently.  Though I've realized through my travels and moves that I can be happy anywhere and deal with any kinda weather, I mean I did live in Ithaca for 4 years and loved it.

So recap of my travels thus far....

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to Drive Like an Israeli

Follow these easy rules to quickly learn how to drive like an Israeli:
  1. Use your horn as much as possible. The more noise you make, the faster traffic moves. It's a fact.
  2.  Don't use your turn signals. You are the only driver on the road so using these are just a waste of time. Plus using your turn signals is like wearing a big sign on your head that you are a foreigner.
  3. Along with #2, merge lanes as much as possible and as quickly as possible. The more lanes you cross = more points and more points = winning!
  4. If there is a pedestrian in the cross walk, don't stop. Instead try to get as close as possible to the person to scare them off. As we all know, cars have the right of way so pedestrians should move for you. Plus, the closer you get to a pedestrian = more points and more points = winning!
  5. You may have heard that it's near impossible to find parking in Tel Aviv. This is a blatant lie! There is plenty of unoccupied sidewalk all over the city! If there are people on the sidewalk, just honk your horn and continue to park, they will move out of your way.
Now everyone will think you are a local, until you open your mouth that is!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Holy Land

Today is my first full day in Tel Aviv. I'm currently sitting on my hotel patio (at 4am nontheless) facing the Mediterranean Sea and Tel Aviv Beach trying to beat jet lag. I arrived yesterday afternoon after a 20 hour flight and a 2 hour romp getting lost on the highway, ending up in Herzliya and then continuing to drive all over the city. I can now add Tel Aviv to the fast growing list of cities I have gotten lost driving in. My first day of work here starts in a few hours. I'm excited, it looks to be a good 3 weeks.

View From My Balcony
This is my first time in Tel Aviv, in Israel. My first time in the Middle East or any place east of Western Europe. I just checked off a new continent off my bucket list! I got Asia now, North America, South America, Europe- 4 down, 3 more to go! It's a little weird being here. Mainly because it feels so normal and that weirds me out a little. Tel Aviv really is like any big city anywhere, any big city whose downtown lies directly on the beach. It reminds me a lot of California. The geography and climate and even buildings are reminiscent of San Francisco. It's about 10 degrees warmer here. SF was in the 50s/60s when I left, I think it was aroun 68 yesterday on the beach. I really good just be sitting in my SF loft, I only remember I'm in a foreign country 10,000 miles away from home because 1) all the signs are in Hebrew and 2) the outlets are different. The hotel is incredible, more like a posh city apartment overlooking the beach (OMG BEACH!). People look the same, dress pretty similar too. I am continuously suprised when I hear everyone speaking in Hebrew as everyone just looks so American to me. Tel Aviv really is a young city. On the beach I walked by the hipsters, the hippies, the yound couples in love. So SF like. Though there are a lot of Americans here as well and most everyone speaks very good English. Though I'm starting to be thanksful for all those years my parents bribed me to go to Hebrew School as at least recognizing that gimel on the Ayalon sign was probably the biggest reason why I found my way into this city at last.

When I woke up flying over the Aegean Sea yesterday, the beauty and emotion that filled me just shook me to the core. I could clearly see the sea and traced all the islands we flew over with the map on the flight. The crisp blue, oh and the approach into Tel Aviv! What a sight!
Israel is a place I have long deferred from visiting. I had opportunities yes, but never seized them. But now that this work opportunity has spring up, I'm so excited. It's definitely ironic if you know my background. I'm glad I can finally experience this magical place, where our society as we know it was born, but my way without the religious pressures or expectations or overscheduled group acitivies.

Work starts soon, gonna have to prepare myself for the Tel Aviv rush hour. This Sunday-Thurs work week is also gonna get some time getting used to. But first I'm just gonna enjoy the view while the city sleeps.

Cheers to a new adventure!

Sunset on Banana Beach, Tel Aviv