1. Bread is an excellent napkin.
2. Toilet paper is not nearly as optional as the army would have you believe.
3. Gun oil never comes off your hands.
4. Gun oil on your hands helps you remember your gun.
5. You actually can take all joy out of food.
6. Exactly how much spit the average soldier produces.
7. I can’t sing Middle-Eastern music well.
8. No one can really sing Middle-Eastern music will.
9. The kind of car you own is important to assholes everywhere, not just in Jersey.
10. There are no curses that are entirely out of bounds in Hebrew.
So after giving you guys my impressions, I figured I’d hit you with a little day to day to fill you in on what it’s like out here.
The first day (after a weird night of sleeping in a freezing tent with people I didn’t know) was bizarre. We started learning the ropes. We had a lot of what they call opening conversations, where the different commanders of the unit introduced themselves all the way up, giving you their army background, their expectations, and their pet peeves.
We also had interviews with all the different commanders. Most of the company had interviews up to platoon commander (the first officer), but for some reason me and the other American kept moving up the chain up to the company commander. It might have been because we were lonely soldiers or because we had high Kabah scores (Kabah is your mental and psychological quality assessment, it’s based on testing and interviews in your army process and takes into account upbringing and background, it’s a strong factor for acceptance into a lot of the selective army units). The thing was meeting all the commanders was interesting, although it was the same questions over and over again. They are all surprised that I am here, that I came alone or even came at all. I can’t tell whether it’s because of their low expectations of Americans, the fact that all they do all day is deal with 18 year olds who don’t want to be there, or because what I’m doing is harder than I realize. Either way, it’s nice to be appreciated off the bat.
The view from the apartment
So now that my dad’s been here we’ve been staying at the apartment in Tel Aviv, which I moved into a couple days earlier to set up and clean. The place is huge and very well kept, except for the fact that it’s been lacking phone, cooking gas, and internet service (yay neighbors). It’s been very nice, and the apartment is gorgeous, plus I’m also really enjoying being in Tel Aviv. It’s a very cool city with lots of life.
Late night culture here is king, everyone goes out most of the night and restaurants stay open till 5 or 6 to take the huge influx of late night eaters they tend to get. In fact most places have a late-nite special menu. It’s strange, although I’ve definitely been accustomed to eating late in New York, it’s kind of funny how big it is here. It’s almost not a question of whether to eat or not but more where to eat and what. Mostly burgers and pizza. The best is seeing all these dolled up Russian model-y types stuffing their faces with burgers drunk as shit at 4am. Continue reading
So I know it’s definitely been a long time since my last update. I’ve just kind of felt like I’ve had nothing to write about. Well I suppose that’s never really true, but I definitely convinced myself it was for the last month.
Things have actually been pretty good, with exception of navigating the bureaucratic minefield that is the army (more on the in a later post) I’ve really been growing into the life here. Been making some friends, definitely getting the hang of Hebrew (finally), and really starting to get to know some of my family. It’s amazing, sometimes you can go your whole life knowing somebody without really appreciating how cool of a person they are. In the little wins department, I’ve started being able to do daily tasks on my own in Hebrew, like ordering sushi on the phone or convincing a skeptical train conductor that my ticket actually fell out of my pocket. Also, don’t know why but people always stop and ask me for directions. Usually, my go to response has been to just say “sorry I don’t know,” out of a mix of actually not knowing and now knowing exactly how to convey what I do know. But I’ve been around long enough that not only do I know the directions, but I can give them now. Feels good.
I’ve kind of slid into a routine here, work during the week with nearly no time to relax, then nothing much on the weekend with all too much time to relax. Like anything, it has its ups and it’s downs. It’s nice to finally feel like I have a life here though- it’s not perfect yet, there are a lot of things I still would like to change or fix. However, seeing as this is all a transitional period before I start Army anyway, I feel like I’ve reached a good stable spot to start from.
It’s the start of the high holy days out here in Israel. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family which is really nice. My hebrew has improved to the point where I can interact with people better. Especially all the kids, they all used to kind of be afraid of me (with good reason, what little child likes the solemn giant booming crazy gibberish) but now they’ve all kind of taken to me. I can’t say I really understand it, but every cousin I have under 7 or so has decided I’m their new personal play thing. I’ve never considered myself good with kids, but I guess when you have the linguistic capacity of a small child, you reach a certain level of understanding. So lots of kids, kids and dogs actually- All the dogs here really like me too. I won’t venture to speculate the reasons.
Now this is how I picture Rosh Hashana, very misleading
Holidays are also kind of weird here. See, the work week is very different here. People work Sunday to Thursday, and sometimes a half day on friday. Basically the work week revolves around Shabbat (Saturday, jewish holy day). But on Shabbat, everything closes down: public transportation, most stores, supermarkets – basically everything but bars and restaurants. The Holidays are exactly the same way. While half the country stays in entirely, spending time with family, the other half goes out and parties like crazy. I guess it makes sense, if the whole world has the day off why not get crazy drunk. But it’s not quite the classic portrait of Jewish Holidays. As my friend Mike Molina put it, you generally picture bearded fellows staring stoically at each other over Gefiltte fish. Continue reading
So today I finally started working with my Uncle. He runs a small startup that is mostly a consulting firm for companies with a web presence. Today was actually really great because having something to do is really pulling me out of my transitional funk and is helping me sink into a rhythm here. It’s 4 days a week (and starts off really fucking early in the morning) but I think this is going to be really good for me and keep me busy in the two months I have until I enlist. The work is very interesting and for for the first time since getting here I actually feel useful. It’s working with wordpress a lot, so maybe I’ll find some ways to make this blog pretty.
It’s providing me a really good opportunity to practice hebrew with the people in the office. One named Itamar is driving me back and forth from my Aunt’s house, so I’m getting some good practice in during the car rides.
So my Mom went home today. It’s kind of a big step, she’s been a blessing to have around during this adjustment process (check the word of the day). A lot of the time it felt like I was still on vacation, a lot of stuff didn’t seem permanent. That’s changing.
I’m acquiring a lot of the elements of a permanent life. I got an Israeli bank account, which has shekels in it (which is for the best as they will probably fair better than the dollar). I have an Israeli phone number, which will replace my now defunct American number for the time being. For anyone with a smartphone who uses Viber or What’s App feel free to add my Israeli number (country code 972 – 052-854-7248). For those with a smartphone who don’t use those apps, they are free (or like $1) apps that allow you to call or text using the internet, meaning free international. What separates them from gchat or skype is that they actually work like phone calls and texts, meaning I don’t have to enter a program to use them and they notify me the same way normals calls and texts do. The only way I can tell the difference is that the call quality is head and shoulders above regular cell quality.
So I’ve been taking some minor trips here and there.
I’ve gone to the beach a few times and I got to say, I really like the way they do things here. The water is warm and gorgeous, the sand is soft, everything is impeccably well kept. The thing is beaches are a little more official and organized here. Every beach has a full-fledged lifegaurd tower with a loudspeaker; I think it’s a law that every Israeli lifegaurd has a deep, gravel-y, and slightly angry voice to yell at children with. The beaches also all have a bevy of reclining chairs, tables, and umbrellas that are available for rent (nearly everyone does). There is also usually a restaurant on the beach with lots of comfortable couch seating, and roaming waiters who will bring your food directly onto the beach, wandering around offering drinks and ice cream. It’s like every beach is a damn hotel. Plus it’s 85-90 and dry almost without exception.
Here’s some pics for reference! Some taken with that hipstery camera app
I’ve actually been here two weeks. Kinda weird to think about, but it’s also taken me this long to finally set this stupid blog up.
My first week here was a little rough. The biggest issue has been my Hebrew. It just wasn’t where I needed it to be when I got here. Studying in the vacuum of your room, or within the safe safe walls of rosetta stone is really nothing compared to the whirlwind crash course of saturday afternoon at my Grandma’s house. 15+ cousins running around, mostly under 12, all with boomingly articulate voices. All washed against the background of light-speed political discussions broken up by intermittent scolding. Not having the language down-pat was a little alienating. But the food was excellent.
I’ve been taking more structured approach to trying to cram 6 grade levels worth of hebrew into my skull before my first serious interview with the army (somewhere in the nebulous range of sometime next month). Running lists of words, which make their way onto flash cards… which mostly make their way to the bottom of my back pack- But! I’ve been making efforts to dig them out and flip through them, really. I’ve also been doing my best to slog through the upper level hebrew newspapers, but that’s really just verified that written hebrew probably has quadruple the vocabulary of everyday spoken hebrew.