16 December 2007

16 December 2007

Not much is new, the usualy schoolwork and jobhunting taking up the majority of my time. Having downloaded most of the classic Christmas songs and watched almost all the standard TV specials online, I'd say I'm fairly virtually satiated with the "holiday season." As I’m about to hit the road again with Birthright Israel (now in capital letters!) for ten days, here’s a bunch of words quasi-logically put together to tide over the rare reader of this blog:

I had a second interview for job where I’d be working for The Man. For fear of jinxing the potential, I won’t reveal the name. All I’ll say is if I get this job, it’d mean dressing up for work and getting paid well to schmooze. Can you understand why I don’t want to jinx this?
The interview was brief, intense but somewhat fun. In front of a five-person interviewing board, I was asked all sorts of questions about myself in Hebrew and why I’d be the right candidate for the position. 30-40 minutes later, with a reserve of adrenaline still stored up inside, I made my way to school.

The shtetl of Anglo blogs has been busy commenting on one of the most recent commercials of YES, Israeli satellite cable company.

Laughing? So was I. Did you ever see the one from 2005?

Not laughing as much now, right?
How about the latest for having the freedom to watch all the latest movies each weekend?

Where to begin….YES, a cable company which operates only in Israel is advertising in English, using a marketing strategy which satirizes popular aesthetics, only to succumb to (inevitable?) racism. For being a TV junkie, I’ve done a good job not signing up to a cable company just yet. Eventhough YES carries more recent American shows and the new Al Jazeera English channel, can I still sign up for a company who thinks this is acceptable?

(Feel free to weigh in on this debate and donate 200 NIS/month to the “Subscribe Jay to Cable” campaign)

I was in Israel when the 2005 commercial came out, and I remember debates raging in the Hebrew newspapers about it. Native-born Israelis thought it was funny, Anglos thought it was incredibly offensive. A commercial for a movie channel mocking Vietnam War POW’s? How about a commercial for life insurance using Israeli POW’s still unaccounted for in Gaza and Lebanon, my normal reply to those who find this funny.
The commercial with the ultra-Orthodox is particularly complicated, as it's full of American Jewish connections: Dancing in the streets of New York City to the track ubiquitously played at every Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Who is this ad marketed to, Israelis or American Jews? It’s definitely easier making fun of a group of people who seem so far away (ultra-Orthodox, America in general, etc.), but at the hands of a bunch of Jews? We do so well making fun of ourselves, creating masterpieces of satire that are part of Israel’s cultural cannon (the comedy troupe Hagashash Hahivver, for example), that perhaps we’re now bored of looking at each other.

The latest one hasn’t caused as much of a furor, perhaps because it’s brand new and also perhaps to this country’s fungible attitude towards those of color. Even in America, where the debate rages on about the acceptability of the usage of the “N-word,” I don’t expect there are commercials airing anywhere which use the actual word to help sell a product.

03 December 2007

03 December 2007

Rewind two weeks ago: After a long two days at school, I get a ride into Tel Aviv and meet up with two college friends. The plan was to spend a Thanksgiving Shabbat (Shanksgiving) that week with college friends in TLV and the following week have Shanksgiving with DC friends in Jerusalem. We loaded up the hundreds of shekels’ worth of groceries, including a gigantic turkey breast and six turkey drumsticks, into a cab and made our way to one of their apartments. My other college friend in Tel Aviv, who also goes to graduate school with me, wasn't in class that Friday morning and his phone was wasn't picking up. He must be asleep, I thought. As we’re about to arrive, the other friend calls and says he’s found a 16-pound turkey that he’s been cooking for almost the past two hours. After lots of initial frustration at the abundance of turkey, hours of cooking, a quick nap that did me little, and more cooking, it was beginning to look like Thanksgiving. All the turkey was cooked, and cooked to perfection, along with all the trimmings. There was a bit of a culture shock for the veteran Israelis who normally aren't sure what to make of a holiday they’d otherwise assume is Christian in nature; lucky for us Anglos they stayed clear of the jellied cranberry sauce I hauled in from Jerusalem. A successful dinner party.

A few days later, I was still eating leftover turkey with a huge smile on my face. Even more reason to smile, I had gotten a job interview. To be precise: I got a job interview before officially applying for a job. One of the perks of the protektzia system here (i.e. it's who you know that counts). The interview goes amazingly well. There’s potential to be cynical about how well it went – like being told before it’s over that I’d be coming back for a second interview – but I ain’t complainin’.

A few days after that, I took another Coordinator job with my colleagues at Hillel. Good money, good helping out colleagues, good experience to keep racking up.

Rewind a few days ago: Shanksgiving Part Two took place with DC friends in Jerusalem. Lots of wine, lots of great food, lots of unending entertainment. I think we all laughed hard enough in the course of the night to burn off a decent percentage of consumed calories.

Last night, after going out to see a friend’s band perform in the city center, the rain begins to pour down. I’ve developed a sixth sense for meteorology and luckily brought an umbrella, albeit small. Soon I was escorting two friends under my umbrella, which attracted the attention of every Ars in the area. “Can I use your umbrella?” they’d shout and try to get under it. “Not so much,” I would forcefully respond, only to get more and more annoyed with the volume of requests. Finally one teenager asked a bit too roughly and I let loose with a few choice expletives that still make me proud as an otherwise polite Anglo to have used.
We cross the street – jaywalk in front of a cop manning a car checkpoint, oy oy oy – speaking in loud English. At the sight of these three Anglos with their English, the female traffic cop standing in the pouring rain starts to sing the chorus of the pop hit “Umbrella” (Under my umbrella, ella, ella, ey, ey, ey). After a month of getting stopped by the police one too many times, this was just the response I needed -- getting to laugh at a cop.

21 November 2007

21 November 2007

The other day I got taken for coffee by my health care service. More correctly, the survey-taker they hired took me out for coffee. Apparently there’s enough interest in the satisfaction and needs of American immigrants that they hired a consultant to interview the likes of me. As if free coffee and participating in an Israeli institution’s newfound caring for new immigrants – especially the stereotypically rich Americans – wasn't rewarding enough, I was given gift certificates that are valid at stores as varied as Tower Records (we still got it here) and supermarkets.
The survey was exactly 30 minutes, entailing questions about my health care service back in the States and how much I knew about my services here. The best question was hands down about comparing the four health care funds: “If each of them was a person how old would they be, what would they do for a living and where would they live?”

The gift certificates and creative questionnaire were a great diversion from what has become a rather sedentary lifestyle. Aside from schoolwork, it’s been a lot of looking for jobs. I think about working so much so that last night I dreamt one of my former colleagues had moved his office to my graduate school, and was so excited to see me that he hired me as an inspector of security protocol for trips in Israel. I was basking in the morning sun atop the mountain fortress of Masada when the workmen renovating the apartment below woke me up.

It’s been grey, cold and wet here the last few days, but the weather wouldn't stop me from a job-hunting advice meeting. I arrive right on time, well-dressed and using English full of complex sentences and dependent clauses, hoping that somehow this meeting would transform into someone walking in with an employment contract to sign. I got great advice and a few leads on job postings, but alas, no contract to sign. I decided to stock up on discounted magazines at the bus station and made it home a few minutes’ ahead of the first deluge of the afternoon. The electrical storms that have graced the coast since Sunday finally made their way here, lighting up the terracotta-colored sky like a strobe light. The rain falling by my bedroom windows, amongst the still-leafy trees, gives the appearance of a frigid rain forest.

I have to now get myself outside amidst the continuing rainstorms, as I felt compelled the other day to rent Thanksgiving-themed movies. “What’s Cooking?” which must have repeated itself on the NYU closed-circuit station ad infinitum during my tenure there, was only a precursor to the modern classic “Home for the Holidays.” The movie’s witty, the writing is'nt so bad, and the dinner scene is one of the best portrayals of a dysfunctional family ever. As people were too lazy to illegally upload the movies onto YouTube, I rented them from the well-stocked video store a half-hour walk away.

Now they’re due, the rain’s still coming down, but there’s hope….once the requisite turkey and Beaujolais Nouveau is put away, out comes the most wonderful time of the year: Jelly doughnut time.

11 November 2007

11 November 2007

I’m walking to a friend’s for lunch on Saturday, dressed rather nattily: plaid pants, grey merino sweater over a pink oxford cloth dress shirt with a button-down collar. I live a total of five minutes away and arrive on her street just on time. As I’m crossing the street, a police car pulls in front of me from seemingly nowhere and the cop, easily in his 20’s, asks me for ID. Since it’s the law for citizens to carry ID, I take it out of my pocket and the guy asks me if I live in the neighborhood. Paralyzed with fear, I say yes, and he puts my number in his car’s computer. Five minutes later, he hands my ID back and wishes me a Shabbat Shalom, driving away. I’m shaking, I’m furious, I mouth an expletive at his rear window and walk up the stairs to my friend’s apartment.
I normally say I have no problem getting stopped, since as far as I know I’m not involved in any illegal operation. Sure, I blast Arab music in my apartment, but the neighbors and the next-door health clinic have yet to call the cops on me. And there are days when I know I could be targeted, based on how I look. I’m trying to believe that this cop was simply bored and wanted something to do by pulling me over. After all, he was darker in skin tone than me.
I’m trying not to think about it, remembering to write some snappier responses to bring along for the next time being stopped Walking While Semitic. In the meantime, I’ve joined the mainstream and am thoroughly enjoying The Next Big Thing: Little Mosque on the Prairie, a Canadian sitcom about the interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims in a small town in Saskatchewan. The show is funny, right on topic, and a great remedy for being racially profiled.

It’s becoming winter. The jelly doughnuts started appearing on bakery shelves a few weeks ago in a two-month preparation for Hannukah, the scarves are back, and it’s Festigal time.
Festigal (or Pestigal, for the grammatically correct) is apparently this annual nationwide concert/performance for kids featuring the most popular celebrities. Each year, there seems to be a theme song that gets its own music video, which is nothing more than rewritten classic (and already painful in their original form) international pop songs. One year it was “I Need a Hero,” another year it was “The Final Countdown”…this year is “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling, who wrote it as a response/idolization of David Bowie and his Ziggy Stardust image. I remember hearing this song ten years ago on the classic rock station along with the Moody Blues and Supertramp…and now it’s the theme song inevitably to be sung by thousands of schoolchildren.

After watching every conceivable Halloween special from American TV (it’s amazing how many Americans mark the holiday cycle by what’s on TV, a fact proven by the comments on internet sites with these videos), it’s slowly time for the Thanksgiving specials.

Postscript: It rained nonstop for close to two hours this evening! Hopefully they sell rubber galoshes here, otherwise maybe I can melt some Crocs into something more useful.

29 October 2007

29 October 2007

The other week, my healthcare fund wished me a happy birthday by sending me a deal on laser hair removal. I’m still not sure what to make of it (annoyed? flattered that I have no other helth concerns? confused?), except that it makes total sense in a country as Semitic as this one.

The last few days have been spent looking for two important things: a job and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Looking for a job in this country isn’t difficult just because I’m a student; rather, all I’ve been seeing are spots in call centers (chances are, if the operator you’re becoming annoyed with over the phone isn’t from India he/she’s over here), which doesn’t have much in the way of intellectual stimulation. A few leads, but not many.
For me, passage of time is connected with specific television shows, and to a lesser extent, movies. If it’s Halloween, I have to see Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, Charlie Brown, and Disney’s Halloween Treat and Hocus Pocus. After many days of online searching, I finally saw the Great Pumpkin and now all is cosmically well. It just wouldn't be possible to pass 31 October without seeing it at least once.

(Hopefully) More to write on Halloween, as it’s one of my favorite holidays, especially passing the day in Israel as there’s very little equivalence in the Jewish holiday cycle.

24 October 2007

24 October 2007

Last week was the beginning of school. Here’s a concise summary of my new program:
-Going to school on a campus that was once a military base and now looks like Southern California. Palm trees, glass-and-concrete contemporary architecture next to log cabins, attractive people, Italian bottled water in the cafeteria….Graduate school or Beverley Hills 90210?
-First lecture by the professor I’m hoping to have as a thesis advisor. 90 minutes of brilliance on a stream of conscious thought.
-A self-imposed two hour break in the middle of the day to do research, catch up on reading, and of course time at the yuppie cafeteria.
-A class on politics taught by a former doctorate candidate I knew from NYU when he led a program for my student group. A lot of reading for this class – as expected – but could do without the passive-aggressive comments from students trying to sound witty but only end up sounding like they have no self-control.
-A mandatory course on decision making taught by the dean of the program which unfortunately veered at times into self-aggrandizing (we’re reading his book, using the software he designed, etc.).
-Waking up to get to school for an 8:30am class? Even if I sleep over at friends’ in Tel Aviv, it’s an hour commute in the morning…
-…only to arrive at a class with a soft-spoken professor presenting a slide-show with the lights off.
-Another required course that almost hits four hours with the first half taught by a professor so loved by his former undergraduates that he allows them to interrupt class with their tardiness and use Hebrew in what’s supposed to be an English program; the second half taught by a guy who thinks he’s funny, but his inability to pronounce English correctly and control his volume when pausing lends to moments where students jump out of their seats every five minutes out of terror as he screams his point through the microphone.

All of this, on top of not nearly enough books in the library for everyone (not to mention not being ordered for sale), and it’s still looking to be a great program. IDC’s quickly gain its’ own esteem with me, not just on it not being Hebrew Univ.

My birthday came and went, being one of the better ones I’ve had in a while. I got a surge of greetings on Facebook from friends and former students from birthright israel which is still very touching. The party friends threw for me was well attended, tastefully crazy, and next to no mention of the age connected with this year (I don’t really care for another five years or so).

Still looking for a job, not the most exciting of tasks...

By the way, if you want to get an update of my blog by email, sign up at the top righthand corner....I know that must sound riveting to some, but considering that my updating is anything but predictable, it could save on superfluous trips to this site (as opposed to more important ones like YouTube).

17 October 2007

16 October 2007

Monday was a nationwide awareness day for road safety, an issue that is incredibly important as thousands of citizens are killed in road accidents each year. How did I commemorate this special day? By getting a ticket for jaywalking.
Almost comically, I was waiting for the light to change at a very busy intersection. Two older people crossed against the light and I restrained myself at first, thinking that while the street was completely clear it wasn’t worth risking it; half a second later, I cross the street on a red light. Two seconds later, I catch in the corner of my eye a policeman walking towards me. Not wanting in the least to turn this into a scene, I quickly confessed to crossing on a red light. He took my ID, ran it through his car’s computer, and wrote out a ticket for 100 NIS. As much as I didn’t want to admit he was right, he was…if I want cars to respect the law, then pedestrians have to as well. Even though that cop didn’t bother ticketing the other pedestrians illegally crossing the street at the same time.

I also didn’t want to waste any more time, as I was on my way to my new school for orientation. After a few hours in Tel Aviv with a good friend from college, I ventured out to campus in the middle of rush-hour. Herzliya’s city center is kickin’ at 6pm, resembling an American beach town in the summer than a regular weekday evening.
After signing-in to the orientation, I join the rest of my soon-to-be colleagues in sizing up the competition, making the place already feel like being back at elitist NYU. The open orientation itself was a repetition of the open house several months ago, with some new information here and there, such as potentials for jobs and internships (USA-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Prime Minister’s Office, and *mouth-watering* UN Headquarters). Someone asked about moving from the non-research track to the research track (which I’m in) – the head of the program and soon to be dean of the school (and one of the foremost political scientists in the world, apparently) said that the research track was composed of a select group of students with very high profiles, GPA’s and backgrounds. Later, when we broke into our respective tracks, he repeated that factoid and said to me personally “Jay, I’m very glad you’re in this program.” Stroking my academic ego like he was, I was floating.
Getting home took forever, as I got a ride from another student along with another Jerusalemite to the neighboring town’s bus station where we waited for a full hour for the bus back.
Wednesday I woke up at a reasonable time to get to Tel Aviv for a job interview. I got a call from one of the tour operators for birthright israel to be a coordinator for their winter trips. I get to the place exactly on time, get ushered into a room where only one of the three interviewers introduce themselves, and I start giving my usual professional background story. We then get into the details of the job and five minutes later, it’s all over. The job requires someone to manage the logistics of trips on the ground, which are spread out over the country and thus requires a car. “You do have a driver’s license, right?” “No,” I respond, watching the main interviewer shoot a piercing look at the guy who phoned me about the interview, as if he left out a rather important question over the phone. “Clearly this wouldn’t work,” said the interviewer, understandably, but decided to continue with the meeting. Awkwardly, I was told I would hear from them this coming Sunday. As I left, I realized the job would entail me missing school for a long and extended period of time, something I may have considered back at Hebrew Univ. but not at a school where the soon-to-be-dean had me trying to deflate my head before classes had even begun.

Tomorrow's the first day of school!

14 October 2007

12 October 2007

When I was in the States, I decided to go to New York City for a few days out of a searing need to just be there. No plans needed, no places required, just to be back in The City. Meeting up with a friend from college, we decide to find each other at the rally by the UN Headquarters protesting the President of Iran’s presence at the annual General Assembly. While this was supposed to be an anti-Ahmadinejad rally, by the looks of the crowd it had the trappings of a pro-Israel rally. Buses of yeshiva students dressed in polo shirts and flat-soled shoes, agitated post-middleagers, Brooklynite cantors leading the crowd in Hatikvah: this was a bad flashback to rallies back in college. This trapping Jewry, energized political activism turned into ethnic particularism led by antequated leadership, is something I definitely don't miss in Israel.
After a few minutes of being there, I’d had enough and we left for coffee. As we’re walking we pass a bunch of swarthy men in ill-fitting suits, no ties, and speaking what clearly sounds like Farsi. “It’s his [Ahmadinejad’s] entourage,” I said, nudging my friend who at first didn’t believe me. After picking up coffee at the clearly Israeli-run joint (my Isradar spiked just by looking at the barista through the window), we retrace our steps only to be motioned by a Secret Service agent to the other side of the street. A crowd has gathered, using their arms as antennae for their cellphone cameras. Several minutes later the president of Iran comes out with his two body-doubles and board a convoy of various service vehicles (tinted SUVs, police cars and one ambulance) to the tune of New Yorkers cursing. Too many security agents to do anything drastic, and the convoy went on its way to Columbia University for the infamous speaking engagement. To be sure, we won’t be seeing that entourage any time in this neck of the woods.

More time zone-blurring moments:

-Arriving back from the States to find a pamphlet in Hebrew among my mail, a Jews for Jesus propaganda by an American missionary who uses cartoons and specious logic to debase anything except Southern Baptists
-TNA Wrestling in TLV! I already missed the monster truck rally in June.
-A Hebrew adaptation of the musical Avenue Q (the one with puppets)

Back in the States, an Icelandic band is playing at a synagogue! Múm is scheduled to play the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in DC on 7 November…Yes, yes, my former job is co-sponsoring the Israeli Idan Reichel Project at the same venue on the 12th, but an Icelandic band at a synagogue? All I need is nonstop Tel Aviv-Reykjavik flights to see some of my favorite acts and all will more or less be well.

Tomorrow is the orientation for my new graduate school, will try to remember to take pics of the place.

08 October 2007

06 October 2007

Got back into the country a few days ago from almost a month back in the States.
Where to begin?

For starters, I’m not going into the Israel Defense Forces any time soon. After months and months, I received two letters in the mail the morning before my flight. While there was no IDF insignia on the envelopes, they both came from Human Resources: The first one read that they received my request for an academic deferment, the second one read that not only did they accept it but because of my age I would be receiving a total deferment from the army.
As much as being in the army would afford me some financial stability, being back in school is the best outcome – at least for my brain, which needs to get sharpened up again after a long period of dullness. I can now start looking for a job which would ideally allow me to break even after paying bills AND connect to my professional interests (just about any thing, returning to work for birthright israel, etc.)

I arrived back in the States about a month ago after a nondescript flight via Madrid (except for being lucky enough to have two seats to myself for the transatlantic leg of the trip). Although I had been back in the States in April, the culture shock this time around felt more pronounced. Everything seemed bigger and more spread-out, and not just because I flew into Northern Virginia. An average trip to the supermarket was overwhelming. Remarks like “Wow!” followed by “there are so many choices here,” sounding more like a bad sitcom script about a Soviet peasant visiting the USA after the fall of Communism, nonetheless comprised my vocabulary, already failing from the lack of English used in the past several months. Reacculturating to DC, everything was painted in a veneer of familiarity. Yet there was no honking of car horns every five seconds, no pushing, 65 degrees F feeling like the Arctic, countless Please’s and Excuse Me’s from complete strangers….this was turning into an even worse type of sitcom.
The trip to the relatives in Ohio for Rosh Hashanah was much needed and not just for the nonstop eating. This was the first year in a long time that I didn’t laugh out loud at synagogue during the more whimsical portions of the liturgy. True, I did smirk and had to shut my eyes to block out any potential encouragement form my family to laugh. Stricken with jet lag, I was up in time to save a row for the whole clan along with my grandmother and cousin. The cantor, who are been shipped in from his home in Israel for the holidays ever since he left the congregation, normally brings his wife on the dais to lead some of the liturgy and this year their sons helped as well. The cantor and his son, no older than 12, chanted together the Prayer for the State of Israel and I did all I could from breaking down in the middle of services. After months of general frustration and an eventual dodging of the draft, here is this boy, within 10 years of his call-up date, singing his heart out in blessing The State alongside his father in front of people he otherwise won't see for another year.

I got back after a rough flight – on the last leg of the flight, I was surrounded by a group of Spanish Catholic pilgrims, including the two in my row who were easily the loudest and most obnoxious middle-age Spanish Catholic pilgrims I have ever encountered. For the entire flight they wouldn’t shut up, until finally I rolled my eyes hard enough for them to get the picture. Top it off with an Israel electronic music producer in first class who kept making surgically-lifted eyes at me under his sunglasses, and a Passport Control packed with so many Israelis returning that I contemplated jumping ship and joining the Foreign Passport line, and it was back to business in the Holy Land.

As I said the last time, the trips back to the States are not only good to see friends and family but to re-appreciate why I live where I do. This was a longer trip than the last, perhaps a bit too long, as my Hebrew and Israeliness need to be revved up again after all that drawl and politeness. Not having much to do this week isn’t the best way to return, and coming back for the crowds-inducing holiday of Simhat Torah was a bit overwhelming, but to be starting school in a place that at least sounds fantastic is enough for now.

Okay, that’s over…time to find a job…

29 August 2007

28 August 2007

The other day, I got so fed up with waiting around to find out whether or not I got the academic deferment, I emailed my contact at IDC to say I would go to the recruitment board personally and camp out until I get a reason based at least somewhat on logic. I asked for the name of the person she was working with, perhaps as a way to expedite the process. I got both the name and phone number of the person -- when I explained that not only had I been waiting for some itme for an answer but that I'd shortly be leaving the country for the holidays, that got the ball rolling. Soon they were asking for my acceptance letter to IDC, which had me going once more to my favorite place -- the recruitment board.
The guard at the entrance told me he thought the person in charge was in a meeting. Although it was already 3:30pm I decided to take my chance and entered. The floor looked like they had decided to commemorate the first anniversary of the Second Lebanon War by having soldiers trudge in fresh Lebanese mud. Two yeshiva students were waiting outside the office. After ten minutes of waiting, I decided I would return in the morning.
I'm almost home when the phone rings. It's the army. They want my recruitment letter faxed to them ASAP and my deferment request would be as good as approved. After explaining that I don't own a fax machine nor have any access to one, I ran home and asked my contact at IDC if she had a copy, and if so would be so good as to fax it over to the army. A few minutes go by as the clock on my cell phone flips to a quarter to five. Their office is closing, I nerviously say to myself, do they have a copy or not?! They did, they faxed it, and soon afterwards I got confirmation from the army that they received it.

Nothing is resolved quite yet, but two important lessons from this continuing epic:
-I got more done to advance my case in several hours than what had transpired thus far. I'm not doubting my contact at IDC at all, but it's interesting that I got father ahead after I was told we had bothered the army enough.
-Israelis have a fetish for fax machines. "Could you fax it to me?" was asked by three different people in one day. They're scared of email, but faxing? Fuggetaboudit.

Yesterday I decided to pursue an equally important goal: going to the beach. After a late start of filling my iPod with various radio shows (and getting introduced to This American Life), I headed out for Tel Aviv and its municipal beaches.
Just like in America, there are public places that are a microcosm of the entire society: transportation hubs, areas of entertainment, shopping malls, etc. Although I promised in this blog's intro not to fixate on "Only in Israel"-type moments, here are some from a random day at the beach in late August:
~A pack of arsim trying to bury their friend in the sand, incurring the wrath of the beach-chair rental guy for using his shovel, and the most adamant of the friends, the obese one, using every expletive known in the Semitic language family (including the Arabic and Hebrew versions of "son of a prostitute" in one breath. Very coexistence.)
~The two guys, one shirtless and the other in a polo, trying to sign up American tourists for a new credit card on the beach. Last time, they were spotted handing out cans of Goldstar beer to those who signed up. Ruin your credit score and get a free can of warm Israeli beer!
~French, French, and more French. Notable spotting: Improvising shade on a baby stroller with a monochrome Yves Saint Laurent scarf.

I met a friend from college and his dog for a walk and decided to check out a quasi-rally nearby. The parents of Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was kidnapped a year ago near the Gaza Strip, decided to celebrate his birthday the other day in public with a cake and stickers/magnets/flags calling for his and all MIA soldiers to return home. Drawing news vans and onlookers, the somber music and fake-looking cake combined with passers-by loading up on the free giveaways was not competition for the dog and his playful encoutners with other dogs. An interesting type of rally which hopefully had more participants after we left. A sad and pathetic state of affairs.

Coming home on a sherut, the driver made a detour to an alternate road since the main road was backed up with traffic. We took Route 443, that road, which during the worst of the violence in the past seven years was barred to American diplomats. The road takes a northern approach to Jerusalem, cutting through the "West Bank" and passing by all sorts of notable security-related landmarks. The van was silent, both because of the late hour and with the realizaton of where we were. Silent, except for the three women sitting next to me in the back. Their loudness increased when they answered their cellphones and the one next to me was at the point of hysteria upon retelling the story of how someone named Sharon was 90 minutes late in meeting her (Sharon can be a male or female name here). I was trying my best to not flip out at this irate woman's intense obnoxiousness by blasting my iPod and the broadcast of This American Life, ironically about heartbreak. If I wasn't slightly convinced that this woman would stab me with her eyeliner pencil if I told her to shut up, I would have; instead I sank into the corner and joined in the collective exhale of the other passengers shen the talkative trio got out.

24 August 2007

Scene: any time in the last month

Got over the ear infection quickly, only to discover a true miracle. After much searching, I finally found limes in this country. Incredible.

Summer in Jerusalem weather-wise is enviable: dry heat during the day and a 20-30 degree F drop at night that theoretically requires long sleeves and no air conditioning. Except for the occasional heat wave (like the one we’re in right now), “summer” is perhaps a misnomer here.
That all being said, one thing I could do without is the amount of fireworks shot here. It seems every night someone is celebrating something with a fireworks display of at least five minutes. Now I love fireworks like every other red-blodded American expatriot, but there's a limit to the amount of times one can hear 'BOOM' echoing across the valleys. Walking around the other night, I was amazed at Israelis and tourists out and about with looks of panic on their faces as a huge display was detonating in the center of town. Then again these are the same people who caused four deaths in car accidents in 24 hours the other day.

This country is currently experiencing the 2nd Plague of Egypt. Whether they’re from the Parisian suburbs or the port city of Marseilles, they’re to be found everywhere in this country on their vacation: loud and blocking sidewalks in Jerusalem; loud, half-naked and blocking sidewalks in Tel Aviv; and so on. They snatch up the bargains at the end of season sales, they cut lines without blinking an eye, and numerous other offenses that have me cursing under my breath. Their obnoxiousness rivals that of the American tourists, an incredible feat indeed.
A friend accused me of being a racist, which doesn’t really fit here. The Washingtonian in me naturally dislikes tourists, especially the ones who act as if they own the location they’re visiting and can do whatever they want because they’re throwing money around. Self-centeredness is not a good trait, even on the already awful French.


I let slip in a previous post that I was waiting for a deferment. The vast majority of Israeli citizens have to serve in the army or perform national service, including new immigrants. For myself, a single male who moved to Israel at age 24, the requisite service is six months; as I’m an only child, I cannot be automatically placed in a combat unit and will end up in a desk position, in slang known as a jobnik. While the term can be used in a derogatory manner, the last thing I would want to do is basic training for six weeks with a bunch of 18-year olds who’ve never worked a day in their lives, not to mention cause undue stress to loved ones back in the States. My call-up date is November 7, interestingly enough the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

At the same time, I’m transferring to The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya for a Masters’ in Government. From the day I applied I told them I would need help in acquiring a deferment from the army for the duration of my studies. A person working for Student Services would be working on the case, I was told. One week was spent getting a hold of the person. Another week was spent explaining my details. The next week involved me going to Herzliya in the middle of a lightning protest that shut down the main entrance & exit to Jerusalem, in addition to taking three separate buses, just to meet to go over my story. And then the last several weeks have been comprised of me calling and emailing said person for updates, being told we’d find out by such-and-such a time, and repeating the process over and over again. Sounds fun, right??

For the last month I’ve been waiting, unable to move forward with any plans, job prospects nor any thing else, waiting to find out what’s happening next year. Not just because I’m anxious for an answer, I decided a while ago that I would be fine with either outcome. While going into the army now will help me financially (soldiers with no immediate family in Israel get many perks) and potentially advance job prospects here, continuing in academics would be equally rewarding and beneficial.
So for now it’s a lot of waiting around, going to the beach in Tel Aviv, drinking water and exercising. If I don’t hear soon, before I head to the States for the holidays, then most likely I’ll ask for a deferment from school and get the army over and done with. I’m told I look good in green.

03 August 2007

2-3 August 2007

Random Political Celebrity Moment:

Tipsily walking back from the annual Beer Festival, a friend and I walk by two men engaging in a conversation in the middle of the street after midnight, one barefoot in shorts and a T-shirt and the other in a black suit. As I walk by, I notice their faces. As soon as we pass them, I turn to my friend and say “Omigod! Do you know who they are?! That’s Dan and Sallai Meridor!”
I call my friend who moved to Israel last week to tell her who was standing right by us, and she said I had to talk with them. Gathering all the strength a man has with his share of beer in the bloodstream on a Wednesday night, I went up to them.

Translated from the Hebrew:

“Excuse me, are you the Meridor brothers?”
“Yes we are”
“I just wanted to introduce myself, I moved to Israel from Washington, DC. I think you know my friend who used to work in the Embassy?”
“Of course! What are you doing now?”
“I’m transferring my studies in Government to the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya”
“Best of luck to you”
“Thank you, nice to meet you, Shabbat Shalom”

I was talking with a former Justice Minister and the current Israeli Ambassador to the USA in the middle of the street in the middle of the night with no security guards. Up there with motorcades and the drones of surveillance planes in the middle of the night, random politician spotting makes this place feel more like DC. WOW.

Today was mainly spent waiting for the doctor-on-call at my healthcare clinic to diagnose what I already self-diagnosed: ear infection. Never having one when younger, I could quickly tell that the black hole of pain on the side of my head wasn’t normal. After two hours of waiting, she finally prescribed a lot of antibiotics to be taken multiple times per day. Blecch.
The rest of the day was spent updating my CV, getting interviewed for an article on nightlife in Jerusalem, and stocking up on East Asian groceries at a store where the Japanese female cashier told me about a concert this Saturday night in flawless Hebrew.

Fun, pain and surrealism all at once. I think I'll continue my rental contract through next year...

31 July 2007

Enjoy the slightly blurry,

metaphysical pics of the outdoor market at night full of partygoers
29 July 2007

Despite being one swelter of a day, the heatwave started to break this afternoon as the breeze that pours through my southern window returned, along with a very overcast sky. The temperature read 80 F on my alarm clock, which it hasn’t registered for some time. If this was summertime in my native DC, it would the sign to get inside as the heaven are about to send down a huge storm. Even here, overcast skies are a very ominous event.

At about 7:30pm, the sky got darker and as I looked outside I could’ve sworn I saw rain fall. To further investigate, I took out a rather empty garbage bag to the communal trash, just to see – alas, no rain. The branches of the willow tree across the street were waving about furiously like pompoms in the hand of an overeager cheerleader. Just as I convinced myself it was raining, a rumble seemed to come from outside the window.

Thunder?! I excitedly asked myself. Nope, the roaring boiling of water in my electric kettle.

I went to a party in the shuk, at first reaching what looked like a bar mitzvah party back in the States – out-of-date music, Jews awkwardly dancing, and a lot of people standing by the walls. Hoping we found the wrong party, turns out the Greek music party that took place the other week was going strong. Pictures above.

27 July 2007

27 July 2007

It’s hot here. Despite a daily regimen of several popsicles and cold showers, nothing can compete with the heatwave that stubbornly sits on the city. The air-conditioner that I’ve valiantly avoided using all this time needs to be fixed, helping my apartment turn into a walk-in humidor.
Today is hovering around 38 degrees Celsius, to which everyone has responded by lowering their inhibitions and proudly displaying their sweat marks. Today is also the start of several weeks’ of festivals, fairs and celebrations falling under the banner “Jerusalem Summer, A Special Summer for Everyone,” this year being the 40th year of the unification of the city.
One of the day’s events was a block party on an alley off of the pedestrian mall in the city center. While this pedestrian mall is home to tourist traps and equally annoying tourists, this alleyway is home to a café/bar normally unapproached by non-locals. There were vendors of all kinds, serving alcoholic drinks varying from the local arak to the more European shandy and even the dreaded Red Bull energy drink with vodka. The live bands may have a song or two on mainstream radio, but the tourists would have no context for their sounds (HaGirafot, MC Karolina, Soulico), providing a nice change of pace to the normal street music (Russian violinists playing Israel's Best Hits, Korean Christians singing a capella, American hippie-wannabees trying to capture the sound of their parents' generation). The scene was definitely young: the hipster-meets-Eurotrash look of Mohawks, white-rimmed sunglasses, slip-on Keds and t-shirts with incomprehensible English; the forced hippie look of flowing pants or skirts, meter-long dreadlocks and looks of smugness-cum-chill; and the occasional clueless who stumbled onto the scene. While it was fun and a nice break from the doldrums that usually encompass central Jerusalem, and the wind finally returned to cool off the pulsating crowd, it was still too hot to be outside.

More coverage to come, hopefully with pictures.

25 July 2007

24 July 2007

The cool breezes on which I last posted are all but gone, leaving us in full-fledged summer with little relief in the evenings. It’s back to crossing the street just to walk in the shade, two shekel (50 cent) popsicles every few minutes and extending one’s stay at a store or friend’s apartment to absorb their air conditioner’s bounty.

The other day was Tisha B’Av, “the saddest day in Jewish history” or more perhaps “the Jewish Friday The 13th” when we commemorate the destruction of the two Temples and a whole host of other catastrophes. Jews seem to always fight wars in the summer, with the heat potentially getting to their heads. Despite or because of its mood, the book which is read to commemorate the day, Lamentations, is one of the most powerful in the Bible. True, it’s full of gore and gloom as the author, traditionally ascribed to the melancholy prophet Jeremiah, describes the destruction of the First Temple at the hands of the Babylonians; but it’s so angst-filled and existential that the former teenager in me eats it up every year. We may be asking to return to the days of old, where devotion to our national deity entailed blood sacrifices and the subsequent communal barbeque on the Temple Mount; but when else during the calendar year do you hear Jews chanting, in the traditional Near Eastern poetic form of parallels within a verse, “Why have You [God] forgotten us utterly/Forsaken us for all time?” (5:19) Combined with the melody used to chant the scroll, and you got one public fast that predates that puts the Gothic outlook to shame.

After the open house at the Interdisciplinary Center the other week, I decided to apply. I only took one class in International Politics as an undergrad and I barely passed, being completely turned by the theory-based approach. True, my whole four years was about learning in an interdisciplinary manner, and the idea of being a diplomat floods my mind with images of Embassy Row in DC and cocktail parties with English being only one of several languages used to recall witty anecdotes, both of which compel me to start walking towards the Foreign Ministry under the blazing Mediterranean sun – but would that be enough to get in?
Two days after I applied and sent everything in electronically, I got a brief voicemail message that I was accepted into the four-semester research track which includes writing a thesis. There’s so much to consider before paying the inevitable bill that will arrive – am I willing to pay the difference in tuition from Hebrew University, am I going to move to Tel Aviv to be closer to campus, will their army liaison help me in getting the academic deferment that up until now I’ve been struggling to receive – that at first all I needed to hear was that I got accepted. That’s still sustaining me as I await further developments, look for a job and figure out when I’m next going back to the States to visit.

We’ve just entered another general strike declared by the Trade Federation. Almost every public sector of the market is affected, except most notably (and importantly) the banks and bus companies. Unfortunately, the strike includes the airport which will start tomorrow morning. Not only does this mess up the hordes of tourists that have thankfully returned to the country for the summer, but a very good friend of mine from high school is immigrating tomorrow morning, technically a few hours after the airport strike begins. Even if she is able to arrive, most likely it means she won’t get her luggage and the paperwork she has to fill with the various ministries will have to wait. Welcome to Israel, indeed.

Lots to figure out and lots of motivation but little interest in going outside and into the furnace of late July.

14 July 2007

14 July 2007

Thursday was Part One of my Arabic final which would entail solely of translating an article into Hebrew with the use of dictionaries. Called in the entirely original Hebrew an “unseen,” this type of testing baffles me. If there were vocabulary words we had to know in advance, or if there were questions about the article that needed to be answered, this would prove an important test; while knowing how to effectively translate is an important skill, somehow three hours of thumbing through a dictionary seems like a waste of time.
As if the style of testing wasn’t frustrating enough, the first sentence of the article summed up everything wrong with Arabic education in this country: “What’s Israel’s differentiation between an ‘agent’ and ‘spy’”?
I grew angrier and angrier as I translated the article, as it was clear we’re learning Arabic for the sake of working in the security services in the near future. Never mind understanding our neighbors in the way Spanish is taught in the States, let alone getting some history, culture, and society enrichment…we need to learn how to translate from the Arabic “the two spies were sentenced to seven years, one of which was commuted.” I left the test foaming at the mouth, cursing the school out as I made my way home.

How did I get over this? By going to an open house of a new degree program at the Interdisciplinary Center, the first private university in Israel. After a long time of planning and waiting, they’re finally ready to open an MA in Government program with a focus in either Diplomacy & Conflict Studies or Counter-Terrorism with an optional research track. My two good friends from NYU and I went, salivating over the program and its teachers. The registrar of the program is a fellow NYU graduate; the classes sound incredibly interesting; the place bills itself as an elite insitution of higher education; the three of us together again in a self-described elite school.…I know I’m not content at Hebrew U and often fantasize about leaving without a definite plan, but the morning at the IDC in Herzliya seemed to fit together.

Shabbat was spent eating at friends’ and catching up on sleep. Saturday was filled with cool breezes rushing through my apartment, carrying along with it the bells from the Monastery of the Cross, located in the nearby valley and thought to be the spot where the tree from which The Cross was made grew.

05 July 2007

04 July 2007

I thought Israelis were very patriotic for theUSA today. On the ride back from campus this morning, the neighborhood ultra-Orthodox were in droves along the road waving and screaming at passers-by; the same revelers created bonfires and set other things on fire, in good American fashion; and walking past the Interior Ministry office, I noticed they took the day off along with the postal workers and other civil servants.
Maybe I was hoping for a little bit of fireworks here, but it turns out Israelis weren’t being patriotic for America on this fine Independence Day. The ultra-Orthodox were protesting the newly appointed government ministers, the rise in bread prices or a myriad of other topics in the best way they know how: burning down their own neighborhoods. The civil workers were on strike, for reasons unreported in the papers today. Oh well, there’s still plenty of illegal fireworks to be shot off and beer to be consumed in this country of ours.
Despite (or perhaps because) I grew up in The Nation’s Capital, I’ve never been that patriotic. I’m a big supporter of nationalism in general, but the USA itself hasn’t been one of my passions. Sure I can’t stop watching reruns of “The West Wing” and I’ve always looked forward to the fireworks on the National Mall. Sure I met up with friends tonight and we ended up drinking Miller Genuine Draft beer. Not to mention I’m up at a very late hour listening to Ray Charles sing the best version of “America the Beautiful” ever recorded. But these are all symbols and clichés, and while they bring up great memories for me they have no patriotic weight.

But listening to the Israeli national anthem? That one gives me chills every time I hear it.

Happy American Independence Day from the land that inspired the quote on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout the generations…”

03 July 2007

02 July 2007

So much to update and most I’ve already forgotten.

I finished another round of supervising birthright israel buses, this time as school already had resumed. When reading for each class amounts of 20 pages in English per week, homework for Arabic is already manageable, and being bored is one of the nicer ways of describing the state of affairs with my studies at the present time, taking off two weeks was exactly what I needed. Three of the four latest buses were comprised of participants who’ve already graduated college, creating a relatively calmer atmosphere and great bonding opportunities with them. Even with a few bouts of drama and one hospitalization for dehydration (I lost the bet with a colleague on this one), it was an excellent experience. Some good stories as well.
To add to the excitement, my mom and one of my aunts were here for the past three weeks. A combination of work and vacation for my mom, my aunt hadn’t been here in 34 years and so they traveled around the country, and we met up for a family friend wedding (playing The Muppets and 60’s British pop music during the processional) and quality time in Jerusalem. Originally I was going to hang out with them here and there, definitely when they would be in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but the last group of buses came a few days after they arrived. At first I was hesitant to take the job because they were coming and undoubtedly wanted to see me. I decided to take the job, not necessarily because I needed the money, but because I want to make this situation as “normal” as possible. When a relative visits you from another state, often you don’t take off the entire time they’re in town to be with them. Even though a 6,000 mile flight is not a visit to another state, this place is going to be my home for the foreseeable future and so it feels great to have friends and especially family coming to visit as if it’s a routine event. Let’s hope more are coming in the near future, including both of my parents.

Last night I met up with colleagues and we all ended up meeting at an “Only in Israel” type of event in the covered section of the shuk (outdoor market). Crammed into one of its alleyways, with a café as its epicenter, is a Greek music dance party. The trio face the café entrance while the participants crowd around on either side, some a table strewn with empty glasses and bottles, others hovering around. Perspiration mixes with the cool breeze, leaving an eerie glaze on the olive-skinned revelers under the fluorescent lights. At the same time the music transports us to a more Aegean location, it’s clear we’re in the market where only hours before fish heads and sugared pecans would have welcomed us.

Off to sleep in a slowly cooling apartment. We’ve been smacked by a two-week heatwave which I luckily avoided by being on the road and away from home, where the antique air conditioner isn’t working. The cool evening breeze that typifies Jerusalem in the summer is slowly coming back, along with my favorite parasitic house pet: the mosquito.

*I just noticed that this hasn't been updated in quite some time. To the handful of readers who read this, thanks for not nagging me to update, and I promise to try to write more often*

24 May 2007

23 May 2007

On one of my few breaks from working the last two weeks, I read online that there would be a bus from Jerusalem going to a midnight produce picking in honor of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.
One of the more popular service projects that birthright israel groups undertake is with a group called Table to Table, where students glean fields for fruits and vegetables. According to the Torah it’s a commandment for landowners to leave the corners of their fields unpicked so those who are poor can come and harvest for themselves. The holiday of Shavuot this week entailed bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the Temple as an offering, and The Book of Ruth which is read on the holiday details how the poor would glean the fields.
We arrive at a field in the seemingly middle of nowhere, driving on a dirt road with a green field in the distance illuminated by a row of floodlights and dotted with people. The crop du nuit is potatoes, grown in rows that have already been ravaged by school kids. Some may be above the soil, instructs the guy in charge, and some may need to be dug out with your hands.
It’s an amazing sight with native English speakers, girls in yeshiva and Ethiopian teens gathered in a field in the middle of the night with the same thought on their minds: Not getting dirty. Watching the teens run around and pelt each other with potatoes, I thought back to DC public elementary school and going as a class to a pumpkin patch for Halloween. Perhaps I’m reading into this too much, perhaps it’s the rampant racism in this country, but there’s some connection between people in a lower socio-economic bracket and not “getting into” picking produce on a farm for fun.
As much as I am and most likely will always be a city guy, there’s something in me that awakes when in nature. As the director finished his words, I’m on all fours wearing a backpack and clawing through the dense soil looking for potatoes. After 90 minutes, the skin on my hands is raw, my thumbs about to fall out, and many a designer fingerling potato has been found.
Soon we’re all spent, and we make our way to the bus and back to Jerusalem. As I didn’t get to participate with my buses in their service project, it was a great opportunity. Just like working again for birthright israel I left the program exhausted, needing a shower, and feeling great about myself.

School is re-starting after more than a month on strike. The Student Union and the government agreed on a plan to freeze any tuition hikes for the next two years, and allocate more funds to academic scholarships. The universities decided not to cancel the semester, and instead extend it 2-4 weeks into the summer. Meanwhile I haven’t been in class since before Passover, nearly two months ago. Looking over the last material covered in my Arabic course, I’m even more confused about it than before.
If you’ve read the last few posts here, it’s pretty clear I’m not psyched to go back to school. I’m looking into other possibilities to continue my studies in this country, but in the meantime attempt to soldier through the next 4-6 weeks.

20 May 2007

18 May 2007

I just got back from two weeks of supervising four Taglit-birthright israel buses, worked with more than a dozen staff, met more than 160 students, traveled from the Lebanon border to the “banana straightening factory” in the south near Dimona (as the you-know-what is euphemistically called), survived a heatwave in the mountains and rain in the desert…and school is still on strike.

It felt natural going back to work for Taglit, with the long hours and alcohol/hormone-fueled student drama. It felt great to be an accessible educator again, getting students to think and ask more questions. It felt exciting to travel through this country again and stay in some rather nice places (chalet in the North with a hot tub). Most of all it felt amazing to be doing something, feeling challenged and useful. Certainly says volumes on both the last two weeks and graduate school thus far.

I’m experiencing some interesting hangovers from the last two weeks (no, not the type experienced by my students during the trip from alcohol they theoretically weren’t supposed to have): I’m always hungry, after endless feedings from hotel buffet lines; my apartment looks smaller and smaller in comparison to hotel rooms; and I have a great tan (albeit of the farmer’s variety).

More to come after a night of gleaning the fields and some research into what’s next.

02 May 2007

02 May 2007

The strike continues, with several attempts to end it to no avail. Meanwhile, I'm going back to work for Taglit-birthright israel, supervising four buses from Hillel for close to two weeks. Besides getting paid (!), this will be an excellent respite from the boredom that has crept into my everyday life lately.

Anyways, gotta get back to packing and hopefully a small nap before greeting my first bus at the airport at 3am!

24 April 2007

22-24 April 2007

Sunday wound down quickly as everyone got ready for Memorial Day. As stores and restaurants closed early, I ventured out with a friend to the Kotel (Western Wall) for the official state ceremony. The original plan was to go to a local ceremony, but I got convinced to try to find a place at the state one. We get there early enough to get a standing spot by the barricade, several yards from the seats for select soldiers and bereaved fmailies, and appropriately far from the speakers' podiums. To our left were all my former students from Hebrew U -- a bit awkward but they were too excited to be there. At one point an Orthodox couple came up to us and the husband said to his wife "These nice people are going to move for us, so you can stand here and the men will move to the left, won't they?" After hearing the man huff and puff for a few minutes over no one's response, I turned around and told him that "that's not how it [gender separation, normal for praying at the Kotel] works on Yom Hazikaron." They left and I managed to calm down, furious at yet another American's insolent need to not speak Hebrew in Israel. Who's commemoration was this anyways?
The ceremony would get started in a few minutes, as the speaker a few feet from my head announced (I was the tallest for quite some distance in the growing crowd). The giggling yeshiva girls behind us were silenced by an irate Israeli woman, and in came the honor guard. Then the acting President & Speaker of Knesset. Then the IDF Chief of Staff. The one-minute siren went off. The ceremonial flame was lit with the help of a widow of a soldier from the Second Lebanon War, who it was announced used his body to shield his fellow soldiers from a grenade. The Israeli version of "Taps" was played. The President and Chief of Staff spoke humbly about consolation and security vs freedom. Mourner's Kaddish and the funerary prayer El Maleh Rahamim was said. The National Anthem was sung. And it was over.
In 30 minutes a wave of emotions washed over the attendees, myself included, in a way no other ceremony has. Short and meaningful, a great way to remember.
We decided to try for another commemoration, tihs one a night of classic songs about soldiers and lost loved ones. As we didn't reserve the free tickets in advance (as many didn't) we waited for a long time for any chance of getting in. After standing at the box office for a long time, many people had given up and gone. I was about ready to do the same, until we moved to the entrance door. More waiting, they finally found us seats which ended up being better than had we ordered in advace -- center orchestra.
The event was practically like Yom Hazikaron assemblies in high school: roses and candles strewn about the stage, readings and performances, and the Anthem at the end with no applause throughout. The difference? Besides two popular musicians' performances, there was the classic Israeli activity of communal singing. The words are projected on a big screen, but instead of the synthesized sounds of karaoke, there's a live band and everyone sings. All the classic songs of love, endless metaphors of gardens and beaches, and the multi-generational audience sang together songs as old as the State itself. A great way to end a powerful evening.

The next morning, after not sleeping well at all, I got up early to trek to Har Herzl, Israel's Arlington Cemetary. I was invited by a family friend and former colleague to go with her family to visit the grave of her husband's brother, killed in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. I ran to catch the bus, only to end up getting off to grab some water (it got real hot all of a sudden). At the central bus station, free transport was being provided to the cemetary. The traffic got heavier and heavier, and we eventually were let out to trek the last few blocks on foot. At the entrance teenagers were giving out bottles of water, flowers for the graves and booklets of the prayers -- all for free. What a potential moneymaker, my American mind thought, and here they were giving away expensive flowers out for free.
We met at the gate, and walked quickly to the section where the grave is located. As we're running to get there, the two-minute siren goes off and we instantly stop where we are frozen in thought. The siren ends and we walk to the grave, up on a terrace with other graves of soliders from the same war and lots of family members at each one. Each grave says the persons name, their parents, their place and date of birth, and where & when they were killed. Each family had their own way of honoring their relative, from cleaning the tombstone to the types of strewn flowers. Family reunions were taking place, a seemingly odd choice of location but incredibly dignified and warm. We listened to the official ceremony through loudspeakers, the event taking place on the other side of the ridge. The Prime Minister spoke well, the pomp ensued, a 21-gun salute punctuated the air, and everyone sang the Anthem in a loud unison. Shortly afterwards, we left with everyone else. Once again, powerful and brief.
The rest of the day was a communal daze, with few cars on the road and few people out and about. It felt like a religious holiday, but without the rabbinic prohibitions against work. After taking a nap, I started making plans for the start of Independence Day. The music on the radio was amazing as always: the classic Israeli songs from the army entertainment troupes, classic singers, and more. Hebrew may not be the best language to convey facts and science, but it dones a great job with poetry and emotions. Combined with a sound stemming from traditional Jewish themes and pop structure, true classics.
I slowly got myself together and off I was to Tel Aviv. I met a friend from college at his place and walked to a party thrown by high-school friends around the corner. Their place was a huge apartment on the up-market street appropriately called Rothschild Boulevard. I saw a friend from high school who moved back to Israel eight years ago, as well as people from all parts of my life, stocking up on drinks before hitting the town. The target: a block party in the gentrified neighborhood of Florentin. After some time, we were off.
The crowd got bigger and bigger, until we were surrounded by people dancing to music pumping from the nearby apartments, a blend of Jamaican dancehall and house music that provided enough ethnicness for the crowd. The intersections were full of 20-somethings and stands of alcohol on sale. A party like this could never happen in Jerusalem. Not just the huge gathering of people outside with little security -- but the hordes of well-dressed young people who can stay out until dawn at a party. I stayed out for a while, witnessing all sorts of drama unfold, until my ability to stay upright began to fade. Let's just say there's a huge difference between 20 and 25 when it comes to staying out late and partying. I made it back to Jerusalem very late (birds chirping and night slowly dissipating) and woke up too late for another party.

Creating new rituals where the background is Jewish is mesmerizing. Everything about the last 48 hours felt Jewish, depite its secular content. Aside from a great 48 hours of reflecting and honoring this new country of mine, it got even better: I got asked to work again for birthright israel and Hillel, coordinating four buses starting next week for a very good price. From being bored at school and the lack of school (strike keeps going and going and going...) to feeling deflated from my last job experience, this is exactly what I needed to hear. We'll see what happens should school restart, but it'll be great to be doing something again that brings me some satisfaction.

22 April 2007

21 April 2007

One of the purchases I made while in the States, which I previously mentioned, was a large stack of magazines. Among those purchased are what I would call “grooming” magazines. Yeah, I bought them, so what of it? Granted, they push a lifestyle that is bent on buying brand labels and looking one’s best.

You were expecting a counter-argument here?

While some of these magazines try to transcend materialism by writing about current events, some of them end up turning their columns into soapbox rants, with poorly developed arguments and nonexistent research. One of the magazines notorious for this type of writing, after an interview with Justin Timberlake and a spread of a man with slicked-back hair dressed in various Italian labels, decided to publish what reads as the intro of Michael Chabon’s forthcoming “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.” Chabon is the same author who wrote “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” the historical fiction novel that paralleled the origin of the comic book industry among Jews in the 1930’s.
The previewed pages spell out another dimension where there’s a Jewish states in Alaska, full of Ashkenazim who seem to have found familiar roots in the frozen tundra of North America. It reads like a combination of a season of Northern Exposure, an Isaac Bashevis Singer story, the Haaretz weekend section and numerous portrayals of Jews in American media, highbrow and lowbrow. While the average two hours of primetime American sitcoms probably contains a handful of Yiddish words popularized in popular culture over the course of a century, Chabon goes the extra mile in using terms and references that only Jews well-educated in their own history would know (e.g., “the big Litvak lady” at the “Polar-Shtern Kafeteria”). Even the setting in Alaska parallels the Jewish Autonomous Region in Siberia that Stalin set up in the hopes of solving “the Jewish question” through mass emigration to the other side of the USSR.
The chapter raises all sorts of issues, from usage of Yiddish or Hebrew as a Jewish lingua franca to Israel vs. Diaspora relations, written expertly by the author. After a few paragraphs of reading on a jetlag-induced narcoleptic afternoon, filled with streets named after Jewish thinkers and visions of a snow-covered shtetl with signage in English, I instinctively yelled out “WHAT THE...IS THIS DOING IN DETAILS MAGAZINE?!”
There are plenty of American Jews who have and do critique aspects of their identity in the mainstream media, much to the chagrin of the established Jewish community who becomes worried that these skeletons in the closet will be exploited by others or misunderstood by the vast majority out there otherwise unaware of the basics of Jewish identity, not to mention current issues and dilemmas. I tended to vaciliate between the two sides, usually based on whether or not I agreed with the the speaker. Living in the Jewish States, it's all viscerally academic.
I’m curious as to why a magazine such as this, otherwise hawking designers and high-end liquor, would not only choose to print literature but one so chock full of cultural essentialism. Is the readership of this magazine really the departments of Judaic Studies in top-tier colleges who swap advice over the latest in men’s fashion in between lectures on the Essenes?
I’m interested in seeing content of the May edition, even if it’s priced 400% more in Israel. In the meantime I’d suggest picking up a copy of Guilt & Pleasure. It may be funded by a mega-philanthropist, but it’s very insightful reading that’s meant to be discussed in a salon-style meeting and (hopefully) won't leave you itching to send a check to the ADL.

It’s finally getting warm here, taking a walk on Shabbat for the first time in a while on a nearby path past rosemary bushes so full of bees it sounded like the NASCAR race on TV you inadvertently flicked onto with the remote control.
The student strike continues on, and on the docket now are the ultimate in Israeli experiences: Memorial Day and Independence Day, 48 consecutive hours that fill the average Israeli with an extra helping of intense emotions. Teenagers have been selling Israeli flags with clips for cars all along the streets, with cars zipping by with at least one or two adorned flags. The local newspaper not only put out an official guide to all the memorial ceremonies and Independence Day celebrations, but published their list of the 100 most defining Blue and White concepts (even after last year’s Top 10 versions in the Haaretz and Yediot Ahronot papers, this is a must read for anyone looking for an understanding of Israeli society).
Here sales for coolers and beachwear are for Independence Day and never for Memorial Day, not like we do back in the States where we turn both into a moneymaker. Somehow the idea of a Memorial Day sale on grills and women’s clothes doesn’t fit into a country where the jury’s literally still out on the last war, not to mention practically everyone in this small country knowing someone who’s died in a war or terrorist attack (also included in the commemorations). That being said, tomorrow I’m hoping to buy a TV (at long last!) before the first of two nationwide sirens sound in the evening that announces the start of Memorial Day. I may not get cable installed for a few days' more, all I need in the meantime is a regular broadcast channel to watch the ceremony marking the end of Memorial Day and the beginning of Independence Day. Called "The Torch Lighting Ceremony," this ceremony annually broadcasted live from Har Herzl (the national military and political cemetery in Jerusalem) is the height of patriotism and nationalist kitsch. Think every patriotic symbol, performance and speech you've ever seen witnessed and then condensed into a square plaza.

More to come in the next few days.

17 April 2007

17 April 2007

Part 1
I arrived back in Israel Sunday afternoon, exhausted and rather disoriented. The flight back from JFK via Madrid was decent, save the non-defrosted kosher meals and the Israeli who had to make friends with everyone on the plane. I shot him a look of annoyance every time he tried to make eye contact.
Flying on Iberia to and from Israel was an interesting linguistic experience, as my six years of learning Spanish flooded back into my immediate brainwaves like blood rushing to one’s head after getting up quickly. Soon I was mimicking the stewardesses’ Castilian accents, full of lisps that came in handy as they were just as adamant as Americans in speaking their native tongue. Spanish and Hebrew blended into one seamless language full of long vowels and absent of the sound of the letter of my first name. The Madrid airport was visually impressive, the duty-free extensive but not as good as Israel’s (not that I could afford anything) and the little food that wasn’t covered in Spanish ham decent (read: a salad and a thick omelet sandwich that makes the thin Israeli version even more pitiful than it already is).

But this wasn’t a trip to Spain. I landed in JFK several weeks ago. I watched the overweight family in front of me go through security and the TSA agents screaming and cursing at one another, and knew I was back in America. After a few days in DC, my parents and I drove to our relatives in Ohio – a nine-hour drive that I normally hate, but this was my chance to soak up some Americana. In no time I was immersed in drawls and Cracker Barrel and endless tracts of land. Pesach was its usual spectacle, at least 20 people per night at my aunt’s with the requisite family dynamics. I lead the s’darim, trying to keep a progressively fading crowd captive, and helped to instigate a family-wide debate over the nature of freedom and existence of universal values that left me as the more philosophically liberal voice at the heated table (moral relativism, onward!). Just as important, I took advantage of my cousin’s free drinks perk at Starbucks several times, not to mention making her blast one of the country music stations while driving around. A good yet abbreviated trip to the Midwest.

My inability to shop like an Israeli at duty-free (read: with abandon for the sake of a good deal) was made up for in DC stocking up on magazines, clothes and the always important Airborne.

Friends and family keep asking how the trip was, my first once since emigrating. As I summed up to one person, “It’s great to be there, it’s great to be here.” Coined in a state of delirium after sleeping for 16 hours, tihs line that would make Dr. Seuss proud best sums up my situation. Even though I know I made the right decision in moving here (a crappy school and lack of work situation notwithstanding) it was great being back in the States and it’ll be great to be back again. For me it took a trip back to the States to internalize how much I missed family & friends, and how much they miss me – a great feeling indeed. Despite the almost 24 hour voyage each way, I didn’t mind the actual act of flying, so there will be future attempts at creating a life Here and There simultaneously.

Part 2
Trying to stay up as long as possible to avoid jet lag, I pass out around 10pm only to wake up a few hours later still dressed. Ten hours later, I slowly get up out of bed in time to hear the siren marking Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Memorial Day. I was planning on going downtown to see life stop for a minute, crazy drivers and all – as it does every year – but all I managed to muster was getting out of bed and go right back to sleep. The siren, which will also be sounded next week for Memorial Day, is as much about a moment of reflection as it is about recognizing the fragility of everyday life here in Israel – the same siren, with its piercing winding-up and winding-down effect, is the same one sounded should something more immediate occur.

Several hours later, I forced myself to wake up after a self-record of 16 hours! The jetlag this time is fierce, overpowering even a second cup of coffee.

The Student Union began a strike before break was over, and continues at least through 18/4 with no reports of it ceasing soon. My interest in going back to working full-time grows with each day, as I’m finding myself more and more restless in a good way, wanting to get immersed in something impactful that can provide disposable income.
That's it for now, tomorrow's a new day of no school, a possible to Tel Aviv and the definite continuing of jetlag.

27 March 2007

27 March 2007

On the way to school this morning, two buses from my line came arrived at the same time -- a common occurence, as time-keeping is an abstract concept here for those who are expected. Gunning it down the narrow streets of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods all bus lines are obliged to cross, the driver spots a huge backup of cars at the next turn. He simply yells out in Hebrew "Traffic Jam!" and proceeds to make a detour around the street, missing two bus stops along the way which no one needed. Perhaps because we're so starved of strategic quick-thinking leadership here, I certainly felt more at ease with the driver (better than the situation the other day, when the driver started screaming at a woman who entered the bus through the wrong doors with a large suitcase and didn't understand the driver's insistence for her to get off. Everyone was holding their breaths).
As if there wasn't anough corruption going on here, now we have a Finance Minister accussed of embezzling funds from an NGO and a newly appointed Justice Minister who appointed 12 ultra-Orthodox rabbis to 15 rabbinic court positions who have the power to rule on conversions, marriages and divorces. At least there's a pending petition to annul the appointments.

I'm getting ready to leave the country for a bit, the first time as an Israeli citizen and traveling on two passports. People have asked me if I'm excited to go home. I tell them I'm excited, but the word "home" gets tricky. Granted, many of my English-speaking friends here are not immigrants themselves, so I don't necessarily expect them to instinctively think about the choice of words. If I had to explain it in detail, there's home and Home -- the former being where family and friends are, and the latter being where one's dreams and ideals are. For me, it's Israel, just as for some it's on a tropical island or in the house they grew up in. There's so much potential to come from this country in which I can have a direct part for it not to be the place of dreams and ideals for me.
There's a radio ad campaign on the Army-run stations with popular entertainers doing the voice-over. The script is more or less the same:
Celebrity:"You know all the trails in South America. You've hiked all over India and Thailand. But when was the last time you hiked a trail in Israel?"
Announcer:"Getting connected with Israel. Because Israel is us."
The Diaspora Israel activist in me loves this ad, agreeing that there's so much to discover and appreciate in this small country. The Israeli inside me says "chool" (an acronym for "out of the country/land") is the place to recharge one's batteries. I'm not sure if either side is totally convincing but just in case I'm bringing last week's extended weekend section of Yediot Ahronot to read in the airport with it's "51 Reasons to Live in Israel" guest column (I'm slowly witching back to the Hebrew newspapers, which are much more interesting and entertaining than the overtly pretensious English ones). I'm looking forward to the comfort and challenge of being back in the States, not to mention my 6-hour layover in Madrid to rev up my Spanish.

Ahead of Passover, the Yahoo! frontpage ran this AP article about a bus turned into an oven for baking matzah. Notwithstanding the fact that they spelled the plural of matzah "matzos," the combination of the words "bus" and "oven" resurfaced all the Holocaust jokes in my head. It's gross to be sure, but a sign nonetheless of my new Israeli identity -- laughing at the horror of it all.

A woman the other day in the supermarket was shopping for Kosher for Passover products. As I was picking up a few things, her fingernails-on-a-chalkboard American voice announced to the entire store "I hate this country, everything's got Kitniyot in it!" Had I felt better I would have retorted with something witty in Arabic or even Yiddish, as her attitude was not only offensive to those who do eat Kitniyot during Passover, but goes to prove the anachronistic nature of a Tradition that only causes more grief during an otherwise joyous holiday.
For those who don't know what I'm talking about: "Kitniyot" are legumes/beans/rice/corn/soy/etc., that were unfamiliar to Jews living in the shtetls of Europe several hundreds of years ago. While totally unrelated to the five grains mentioned in the Bible as prohibited from being leavened ("hametz") during the holiday, Ashkenazim nonetheless decided to ban the consumption of kitniyot during the holiday, lest they be confused with the real deal.
While there is a notion that one follows the traditions and customs of one's father, there's also a Rabbinic decree that "the law of the land is the law" applying to the potential conflict between Rabbinic law and non-Rabbinic law. If the US government demands all foods to be labeled with a list of ingredients, isn't that enough to prove that the contents don't have hametz and are thus K for P?
My Rabbinic rulings have a lot of sway, so don't be surprised to see them plastered up in large black print on the walls of your local neighborhood (as is done in this country).
Whatever, bring on the hummus and soy milk this Passover!

A long post indeed -- if you made it this far, a fantastic video from Passover 2006 as a reward.
Have a Happy and Meaningful Feast of Freedom!

20 March 2007

20 March 2007

It may be that the only sound at night that wakes me up is the buzzing of mosquitoes, but there's never a dull moment in Israel:

-A nationwide civil defense drill is taking place as I write, announced to the public by the "best" sound around: an air-raid siren. They canceled the siren for the communities around Gaza & the North, thinking it would be too traumatic for them. As if students here in the library didn't clutch their bags and look outside with trepidation when it sounded.
-The threat of a nationwide strike looms in the air, as the Trade Federation gave the government until today to pay back wages. As I've said before they have every right to strike...EXCEPT if it goes over a week, in which case my flight plans to the States could be screwed up as the strike would include airport workers.
-I haven't been feeling well for the past few days -- my self-diagnosis says it's most likely strep throat, but this afternoon I'm making my first trip to the doctor. Since I rarely go to a doctor in the States, this'll provide some extra fun.

Eight days till I'm back in the States and still lots to do....

11 March 2007

11 March 2007

The last few days have been wamer than usual, allowing us to shed those coats and long sleeves and expose our pale arms. Even though it's suppsoedly going to rain this week and get colder, it's definitely a nice respite and hopefully a sign of things to come for Passover.

Purim came and went, the drunken debacle it always is. I went to a friend's for the reading of Megillat (scroll) Esther, dressed as a blonder and preppier version of myself (no hair bleach was used in this costume -- we've evolved from high school. If pictures exist, I'll begrudgingly provide a link for you).

Last week the Israeli Grammy award ceremony took place, and despite not having a TV they were broadcast on the all-Israeli music radio station. As if the American version isn't disappointing enough, the Israeli one was down right embarrassing. Like many forms of art in contemporary Western society, music is by and large turned into a side dish for commercials, and so what gets played to a larger audience is appropriately called "Middle of the Road" or MOR, so as to appeal to the (lowest) common denominator. As a result, four of the six nominees for Song of the Year sounded so similar in their dulling balladry that I just about fell asleep at 9:30pm. Granted, this is a larger debate about whether music and all forms of art should be inherently accesible to all sectors of society, or if there are 'levels' of culture; but we're talking content and substence here, not how much it costs to experience art (a different yet connected subject).
What was most striking about the ceremony, and what ultimately brought some excitement to it, was a protest by a singer named Eyal Golan, one of the most popular singers of Mizrahi music. Mizrahi, literally meaning "Eastern," is a hodgepodge of Greek/Turkish/Arab/Western pop music defined by its sound, the accents of its singers and the topics sung (normally God, love and/or one's mother -- very similar to Country music). Golan wore a shirt that protested the fact that the nominees did not represent this sector of this industry.
The mid-1990's were seen as a breakthough for this genre, with the mainstream success of Mizrahi music and what was seen as the emergence of an Israeli melting pot. Perhaps the introduction of Mizrahi music into radio stations would mean better socioeconomic conditions for the "Mizrahi" community, composed of immigrants and children of immigrants from an area stretching from Morocco to Iran (read: non-European).
On the one hand, Golan had every right to protest. A substantial percentage of the population listens and supports this type of music, itself very diverse; press promotion of concerts are small and confined to one page, while MOR take up at least two pages of the weekend paper; and the most popular radio stations play a handful of Mizrahi songs (and usually the most watered-down sounding ones) in their daily rotations, lending itself to looking like the American phenomenon of the token minority on TV channels.
On the other hand, Mizrahi music suffers from the same blandness that exemplifies MOR: Over-production, more often than not sounding like it's performed on the same child's electronic keyboard I had in the 80's; covers of very recent songs that don't bring any innovations; and lyrics that are increasingly predictable. Mizrahi music is said to have reached a milestone with the popularity of Zohar Argov, known as "The King" here. The song "Eizo Medina" (What a Country!) by Eli Luzon, however, encapsulates the social frustrations that the community faces, in their own sound, in a way Americans take for granted with the protest songs of the 1960's. If there were more songs like Luzon's in any Israeli genre (there are, but in very small numbers), then perhaps we'd be cookin'.

Anyways, enough of my ranting for now -- I have to finish the reading material for a class.

28 February 2007

28 January 2007

Not having a television and a properly working computer at home, I've been engaging in a rather surprising activity: reading. I know, it scares me too, but I'm engrossed in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," given to me as a high school graduation present by one of my English teachers (as I never got into English Honors in high school, wherein they read this book, it was an interesting gift at the time which I'm only now appreciating.) As a I'm a huge fan of Self/Other discussions and wit-filled writing, this book is hitting the spot and getting me to think out loud about a lot of different issues, such as the following:

One of the great materialistic things about Israel for me is that clothing fits me, between the size and style norms. Granted, the propensity for what Americans would call "Eurotrash" here is very high -- to the point of it becoming ridiculous. Perhaps it's a product of getting older, but some of the stuff they sell here is too much even for me.
That being said, there's a handful of Israeli clothing stores, and that's it. If we take my belief that clothing should be both practical and some outward reflection of oneself, then this country tends to eventually look the same and become lazy -- lazy, in terms of outward appearances. Perhaps I'm missing the point and it means that somehow Israeli society as a whole has evolved to the point of looking inwards....Then again, with hairdressers on every block in every town here, not to mention the general Americanization of consumer culture here, that last comment is pretty much a joke.

(No kidding about the hair -- there are four different salons on two adjoining blocks in my neighborhood. And I haven't even mentioned the styles: mohawk with a mullet among teenage Jews, shaved on the sides with a Jheri curl on top among Arab teenagers.)

More important than aesthetics, however, is one of many criticisms leveled at the aforementioned "Americanization of consumer culture" here (or perhaps more appropriately, the development of consumer culture in Israel as part of a general Americanization); namely, the abundance of "Made in China" products. I have a lot to say on this matter, especially from my involvement in high school with the Free Tibet Movement, to the extent that I try as much as possible not to buy products with the above label. As a sad result, there's a lot of places in this country where I cannot shop, or if I do most products -- be they clothes or otherwise -- are out of reach. It's actually not so sad for my wallet.
Just as in America, or perhaps here more, the abundance of "Made in China" as a brand is staggering and gets me (at least) thinking about the need for material goods over values. I liken this phenomenon to Israel selling weapons to CapitalistCommunist China and prizing normalization of itself over values inspired by its prophetic heritage. For those who are engaged in the Jewish community and current politics, "Prophetic heritage" has become such a cliche that I have a hard time using it here; yet one of the main reasons I moved here -- like many other Anglos -- was to fulfill philosophy through action and make a difference.

Sorry if you were expecting something different here, but one can only write about the weather and frightening middle-age women in Israel for so long.
Don't worry, plenty more to be said soon about getting my laissez-passer and finalizing my resignation.

27 February 2007

27 February 2007

My computer is still possessed by some reincarnation of a Luddite, whom I'm convinced was blind in his/her life in the early 19th century, as my computer continues to function and play music off the internet but refuses to display anything after 10-15 minutes. As such, I've become a major fan/addict of WOXY.com, a former independent radio station outside of Cincinnati that has since begun broadcasting online. The WOXY Vintage station in particular is fantastic, with playlists that rival my iPod in diversity and weirdness.
The other saving grace is the computer lab on campus, with a very fast internet connection and very noisy student. Despite a colored laminated sign by each individual computer with a picture of a cellphone crossed out with a thick red line, everyone talks on their phone or at least lets it ring at the highest volume possible.

The strike proposed by the National Student Union on Sunday -- the first day of school -- was cancelled, yet there's still the strike planned for Wednesday by the Labor Federation. While one report claims it's not going to be a comprehensive strike, which would include the airport and banks, who knows? If there is one, it's supposed to begin tomorrow at 6AM....As long as it doesn't affect the buses, workers of the State unite!

(I'm really not that selfish, they're striking over a very legitimate cause -- not being paid after being promised)

Lots more to say, especially with the fact that I've been living here for 6 months now and tomorrow marks the Septennial of my first tiem in Israel. For now, gotta register for some new classes, finish up with my former job, and go to class.

11 February 2007

11 January 2007

At NYU we were warned about drug-dealers in Washington Square Park, and for women to be careful of their surroundings. What do we have to be careful of at Hebrew U? Packs of wild dogs.

Getting ready for a meeting in the evening, I heard the odd sound of dogs barking on campus. As the campus, like all of Israel, is overrun with feral cats (cats are to here what squirrels are to the States), the sound of barking dogs was very strange. I looked out the window, and sure enough dog after dog was pouring into a walkway between buildings, to the extent it looked like a remake of the scene from "A Christmas Story" where the next-door beighbors have a horde of bloodhounds that terrorize the protagonist's family. Ten dogs were now swarming the campus -- I called campus security, who promptly said "we already know the situation" and "we're taking care of it, someone from the Municipality is coming." The thought of running to my meeting for fear of running into this pack of wild dogs had me laughing to myself, something I definitely needed.
From the last post, not much as changed with work, I'm progressively unhappier there. I didn't get a job offer I was hoping for, but they promised to find work for me in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the lack of recent posts has to do with the fact that my computer is once again going blank on a regular basis. I've diagnosed it as either a faulty screen, an overheating battery or the fan is not working well enough -- because of the last two, I end up putting the laptop in the fridge to chill, on the top shelf just under the freezer with its beard of ice. It really does work, and back in the States I've seen a "cooling" mat for laptops that I'm intending to buy (I was actually thinking of buying it before moving here, but for some reason I didn't).

Two more finals to go, both in prerequisite classes, so I can hopefully be done with htem and start the process of writing a thesis.