5th journal from Israel

hello again. It’s been a long time since I sent a journal and lots of stuff has happened. I’m breaking the elapsed period between then and now into three sections.

Here and there, I have done a good bit of writing but never got a chance to put on the finish touches. In the interest of getting everything out these three I’m gonna just send them. Hopefully, readability won’t suffer too much. Also, I’ll be leaving parts out, not because I don’t want to share them but because I can’t get myself to spend the time writing about it.

I hope you have the endurance to read through them all. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Miles

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Some time back, I was stuck in traffic in Tel Aviv with a friend. We were waiting in a long line to the traffic light. In between the cars comes this guy walking. What’s he doing? He’s selling ice cream! It was a hot day so I’m sure he made a killing. Would this be legal in the US?

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So one weekend awhile ago, I went with two biking friends to check out the bike shops in Tel Aviv. The one in Haifa is hopelessly inadequate. When I first got to Haifa, I wanted to buy some padded shorts and they were out. It’s too basic of an item for them to run out of an item like that. Imagine McDonalds running out of hamburgers.

So we took a drive down to the big city and checked out three stores. The first was in Ramat HaSharon which isn’t actually in Tel Aviv but a little North of it. They seemed OK though still not all there. They had plenty of bikes, many of which were used trade-ins. That, I would have liked when I was buying mine.

One of the guys that I was there with, Alex, bought some shoes to go with the clipless pedals he already had. Prices were a little high though still reasonable. (though I guess reasonable is a relative term) They also had other stuff, though, again, not nearly the selection I’m used to. You don’t miss it til it’s gone. I was looking for a chain cleaner, which they had, but it wasn’t the one I was looking for.

One of the funny things about it was that Alex had this woman helping him who was dressed like she was ready to go for a ride. Shorts, shirt, and clipless road shoes. If you’ve ever seen someone walking around in road shoes, you’ll know it’s awkward. To make it worse, the floor was a large concrete slab. Slippery to begin with and the only contact points she was with it are plastic.

A crazy thing that happened was that two people there knew me! One of theย  sales dudes recognized me from my climbing trip in Tel Aviv. I still had my cast at the time and we talked about that for awhile but the whole time I couldn’t get over some random person on the street recognizing me. I guess I do stick out a little. The other guy was from the bike group that I ride with but he and I had never really met before.

In any case, we continued on to the next store. It was a higher end store. Nice if you wanted to buy a nice new bike or a helmet. That was about it. The things that struck me the most was that it had NO TOOLS. What kinda store it that? They might have had a wrench or two, but other than that nothing. Also, they didn’t have any components. Very odd. Ever see one of those fashion shows on TV where the clothes leave you asking, “who wears this stuff”. Then imagine going to a store where this sell the stuff. To take it even further, imagine if they don’t sell belts or socks.

It wasn’t quite THAT but bad, but still.

Finally, we went to a store that had the stuff I was looking for. This guy essentially took an old family house and turned it into a bike store. The front yard was the shop. The living room was the display for the bikes. One of the bedrooms had other bike hangin from the ceiling. The type of bikes that aren’t bought by regular (sane) people from the street. These were the full suspension, sexy bikes. People that buy them can shop in close quarters by looking at the components and that can be done with little space.

The guy had both items I was looking for and I even got some recommendations. I go to the counter to pay and try to hand him my plastic. “Sorry, no plastic.” Just when I thought I had found “the store”.ย  Being as American as I am, this sounded undemocratic but I wanted the stuff so I ask where the nearest machine is. I walk over to it and it doesn’t like my card. To think that I was having a good day. I borrowed the money from Alex and we moved on. More on my money troubles later.

At this point we were shopped out and decided to just enjoy the scenery. The last store is situated on a fairly busy street and we didn’t some window shopping. True to Israel style, half of the store sold tight, black, polyester, stretch women’s bellbottoms. Walk down any Israeli street and half the women you pass will be wearing them. Don’t get me wrong, they look good in them. That and their tight shirts makes it a pleasure to live here.

On the way back up to Haifa (it’s about a 40min drive) we passed by this rather America shopping area. It had Office Depot, Ace Hardware, Toyz Are Us, and McDonalds. We stopped there because I wanted some stuff that I hadn’t found anywhere else. Things like index cards to use for learning Hebrew. I also wanted to buy a children’s Hebrew dictionary which I thought I might find at the toy store. Talking to the sales guy such a thing doesn’t seem to exist.

Having walked around for awhile, we found ourselves thirsty and decided stop at Micky Ds. Jesse and I just got cokes. (Jesse is an American coop working here at Intel as part of some research grant deal we have with some prof at Michigan) Alex (again, an Israeli) got a milk shake. Milk shake in Israel means smoothie. When he got this thick, almost rock solid glob of vanilla, Jesse and I almost fell out of our chairs laughing. Alex’s eyes were about to pop out and his straw had long collapsed. “How can you Americans drink this stuff.” We showed him how you have to drink from the top edges where it melts first and he quickly picked up on the skill.

This reminds me of a story I heard of a pledge named Dalero the year before I started at MIT. Dalero is this BIG black guy from Barbados. Apparently, one morning he came downstairs to eat and tried to fix himself a bowl of cereal. He took a bowl and filled it with milk. He then poured some cheerios ontop of it and started eating. Now cheerios float and float they did. He was quickly left with a bowl of milk which he drank. “I don’t know how you guys can fill up on this stuff.” he remarked.

One my way home, I stopped at another bank machine to pay back Alex and again my card is rejected. What’s the deal? I’m in a foreign country. Things like this can happen. No big whup. I tell Alex I’ll try to pay him within the coming week. That evening, I tried another machine. Things that make you go “hmmm”. I go home and try calling BofA but of course, they don’t have 24hr service. I have to wait for them to open. This is starting to get annoying.

The next day, I’m at the gas station and I hand the girl my MasterCard and she says it doesn’t register. Well, try it again. Still doesn’t work. I just used it yesterday! So she called it in and it went through. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if someone isn’t out to get me. The card clears and I drive on. I guess the magnetic stip is wearing out.

So I call BofA again and I explain the situation again. It turns out that my ATM card expired and they sent the new one to my old address. No, they can’t reactivate the one I have. I just have to get Jose to send me the new card. I thank the lady, who was actually rather nice, and I think about my predicament. By this point, I hadn’t bothered to put money in my Israeli account and I knew it would take a week for a check to clear into that account. I go to my bank and write a check from my American account to my Israeli and hope I don’t run out of cash. In the mean time, I look at my other cards. Well, the ATM card wasn’t the only one that expired. Both of my Visas are also unusable. Now I’m stuck with a MasterCard that doesn’t really work and many places don’t take plastic.

As it turns out, it wasn’t so bad. My check cleared in only three days and my friend John R was coming to Haifa on business. After some jockeying, I got another Santa Clara coworker who I knew lives close to my old apt to get the cards from ‘the pile’ and bring them to work. A couple days later John handed them to me.

It made for a couple stressful and frugal days. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Having passed that crisis, I spent some fun time with John. One thing we used to do alot of was party. John, Gary, Porf and myself used to go chase skirts and be merry and all that pretty regularly. We agreed to wait for the weekend to do the real partying and just get a beer or two during the week. The weekday that we planned this I got a voice mail. Who’s it from? TIPPY!!!

Tippy was a senior my freshman year at PKT/MIT. The other pledges and I all hated him. Well, hate is a strong word, but we wouldn’t have noticed if he’d disappeared. He never talked much and spent most of his time swimming or studying. Well he came back the second half of the next year after spending some time a jet propulsion labs in Cali. He was totally chilled out.

My sophomore year, it seemed like all the partyers had graduated or gotten a girlfriend. When he came back, though we didn’t become best buds, I did have someone who wanted to check out the parties. We’d walk there together. He’d hang out and drink and I’d spend my time dancing (not that I didn’t drink) and then we’d walk home.

In any case, he was here with the air force checking out one of the Israeli missile systems and he joined John and me for some beers. At four beers, it was my heaviest night so far in Israel. I was good to see Tippy; it’s been about 3 or 4 years.

On Thursday, John, Ari (my party buddy), and I decide to go out. Now the weekend before, Ari and I had discovered a place that would go out of business in the states. It’s called City Hall. We walked up to the window to pay the cover and one of the bouncers, noticing that I’m American mentions that it’s all you want to drink with admission. (30 Shekels. ~$8.00) Good One!

Well, he wasn’t kidding!!! It reminded me much of going to Toons for the $0.50 beers. The beer wasn’t the best, but at $0.50 did it need to be? I’m in heaven (not that you need to drink to have a good time!) I didn’t drink much that night since I was driving but I made a mental note.

The place was rather interesting. Alot like The Edge though not quite as young. They had a non-standard playlist. One of the songs they played was Rage Against The Machine’s “killing in the name”. Great song though I’ve never heard it at a club. I dance to it and it was great. The song has so much energy! The place made me think of Schlafe and Jason. (anyone know what Schlafe’s up to?)

So John and I wanted to go out. One of the possibilities was City Hall, but Ari and I wanted to go somewhere new. We decide to go to Sound Factory just down the street from Intel. Nice place! They took an old wharehouse, removed the roof, and installed a pretty decent sound system. Not having a roof was a key feature for the place because when you have lots of bodies jumping around heat tends to collect. Living in the dessert makes you get used to heat more but it was still nice to have the vent. The nicest part of it all was that they played some pretty good music. Stuff you can really groove to. Sometime during the night the music shifted to techno type stuff. Not as cool but we managed by enjoying the view.

The next day, John and I went hiking with some friends just south of the Lebanese border. We went to the trailhead and the other driver and I went to drop off the other car and the end of the trail. The hike was nice and well marked. It was a little annoying that it was a family type trail and therefore had lots of kids. We decided that next time we would only hike trails marked as difficult to avoid this problem. The coolest part of it was when we got to this cave. We come upon this big rock with a hole in it and with our flashlights in hand, we walk in. I’d never really been in a real cave before so this was a special treat for me. After walking/crawling for a little while we see a light which was the exit.

It seems odd to me that such a cave can just happen naturally. A hole just randomly forms in the rock. What’s with that?!

The hike wasn’t that long so we went to the beach for awhile followed by a short trip to the border. It’s very difficult to enter Lebanon from Israel but there were still plenty of people around. For one, the border crossing is up on a cliff close to the beach and so affords a nice view. The other thing is that one of the walls has painted on it ‘Jerusalem 200km’ with an arrow in one direction and ‘Beirut 150km’ and an arrow in the other direction. Going to Jerusalem isn’t a big deal but Beirut is one of those places that few would think of going to.

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I’ve been learning Hebrew while here. Won’t be useful when I go back but it’s very interesting. Hebrew’s structure has lots of rules but they’re consistent. Even the exceptions have rules and make sense. Some things, if you follow the regular rules are very difficult or impossible to pronounce and hence the exceptions. Once you know the rules, and the base words, you can say anything you want.

Knowing the base words is where I have trouble, but I’m getting better at it. I’m getting more of a feel for the language and that makes it easier. Also most TV shows are American and instead of dubbing like they do in Germany, they add subtitles. When watching TV, I try to read them and it reinforces much of what I already know.

I think that I’ll be conversational in another couple months.

My favorite word so far is: BaAhL (Bet ein lamed) It has the following meanings: owner, master, and husband. That’s my kinda language!!!!

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