Leaving Israel

Hello all,

I’m writing this from my mom’s desk at work. I came here since it may be my last opportunity to do some internetting for awhile. I leave for Africa tomorrow.

This mail is going out to my Miles in Africa list. If you would rather not get this, just let me know. That way if everyone jumps ship, I’ll know not to bother.

But I know you’ll all be waiting anxiously for my mails. 🙂

So what have I been up to?

Well, I’m done with Israel. I lived there for 2 years, 8 months. Of Intel relocation people, that’s one of the longer stays. I know of 4 or 5 people that were here longer.

I really enjoyed my time there, but it was time for me to come home. Though I miss many of the people there, I can’t say I miss the country itself.

I suppose that could use some explanation. Intel Israel is great. As a work group, I like the people there better than groups in the US. This was particularly true for the Timna people (sorry DT people). About a year and a half ago, there was a period of about 6 months were it felt like the college days. I was always at work. There was one four day weekend (yom kippur) where I was at work 2.5 of those days. The .5 day was the all nighter. (There’s a term I haven’t used in awhile.)

But because of the people, it wasn’t so bad. Even in the midst of the stress and pressure from managment they were able to be people. During the coffee/cigarette breaks, work was not on our minds. We talked about going skiing, the kids, politics (more on that later), anything but work. This is something the WMT or MCD people (ie many of the Intel folks in USA) would never be capable of.

I especially liked the layout people. They are fun and good to work with. I learned alot from them about how chips are layed out. (layout refers to the physical drafting of a chip. No circuits or logic, just the placement of wires, transistors and other stuff)

I also got to interact with the DT people in Israel (DT’s the second dept in Israel that I worked for) The main difference here is twofold. One, I wasn’t working in a support role and spent more time in my cube working that in other people’s gossiping. The second thing is that DT doesn’t work together as well, so the comraderie is not as strong.

But I still enjoyed it. I certainly learned alot. More important, they’re more likely to provide a reason to go back for a visit (business trip). The people in my group added alot of spice to life. Since 50% of my group was Russian, I learned some basic phrases in Russian.

I definitely won’t forget making fun of Uri and the mousepad that his girlfriend gave him. It’s got a picture from their trip to Turkey (not Jive) on it. He also has a calendar. The drug/techno/India conversations with the other Uri were also something. Very memorable are my DVD conversations with Vladi (DVD conversations is the term we had for talking about topics not even remotely related to work) Vladi’s one of those guys that you could imagine in a Revenge of the Nerds movie. He’s a tall, skinny, engineer with a funny nerd laugh. He had this habit of being a smart-a$%. I asked him one day, “I bet you got beat up alot in school, huh?”. Since then, whenever he got annoying, instead of getting annoyed, I’d just say, “momma, momma, momma…. I got beat up again!” Vladi’s a good guy though and a very good engineer.

Another good thing about Intel in Isreal is that 1)there are lots of good looking women 2)you’re allowed to look and not just sneak a peak. In Israel, the women’s rights thing hasn’t go to the extreme yet. Isreali women are confident, professional, and capable, but they continue to be women. Most of them like to look good and dress accordingly. The standard dress of female American college students is the standard dress of all age groups in Israel. Tight shirts are usual and a little tummy showing is common. Though my concentration suffered, it made Intel a great place to work.

That reminds me of a story. There’s a particularly well endowed woman (like Dolly Parton) on my floor. A friend at work tried to pick up on her. It turns out she’s married, but she set him up with a friend of hers. Her friend later told him that this is one of the ways he was described to her: “he kept staring at my chest. He’s a good guy”. I’m sure I got it wrong, but it was a fun story to hear from him.

Another story from a long time ago. My friend Ari and I used to have heated lunchroom debates on who the should have the title, “Top Intel Babe”. Whether there was a woman at the table didn’t prevent us from continuing. (though, unfortuneately it was never one of the finalists) If there was, their attitude was usually more “boys will be boys” than “how disgusting. Can’t you talk about something else?”

Israel has some beautiful women. Not just because they dress like that. They have a confidence and strength that is missing in many Americans.

Then there’s politics. This is where some of the bad traits start to show through. Considering how oppressed Jewish people have been in other places, Israel is one of the most racist places I’ve been. Not racist in the ways that I was used to in the US, but racist nonetheless. More than that, they (Israeli Jews) are also racist against each other.

The way I would compare relations between Jews and Arabs is this: Imagine the 1960s American civil rights movement but instead of King holding the top spot, Malcolm X or Farrakahn as the main guy. There are certainly some differences in that Arabs have a more ingrained dislike/hatred of Jews, but Israelis have certainly continued to give them reasons. The most recent example is that Sharon is the front runner for prime minister in the middle of some of the most difficult times of the peace talks. This would be like electing David Duke or Jesse Helms president back during the civil rights movement.

Honestly, this stuff didn’t affect me all that much but it was depressing to see it happen. Racism is one of those things that you don’t really understand until it happens to you. I think this is a big element of what Israelis miss.

Arabs do lots of things to aggravate the situation, but Israelis, as far as their attitude goes, don’t do anything to improve things.

I’ve also met people from outside of Israel. I’ve gotten to know just about all of the people that were on relocation in Haifa for Intel during the time that I was there. (it’s funny to use the word ‘was’) One of the people I met, Lory, is from Intel Phillipines. She was in Haifa til a year ago for about a year. We travelled around together alot as well as just hanging out. We’re a funny combination as far as friends go. Most of the other Filipinos that came to Israel kept to themselves. I suppose alot of this is the language thing. Lory is a bit more adventuresome. On the other hand, a language barrier is something that can be difficult to deal with. Not understanding can be frustrating and some people often pretend they understand when they really don’t. My contribution to the friendship is that I could recognize when ‘uh huh’ meant ‘yes, I understand’ and when it meant ‘I have not I idea what you just said’. So I repeated myself until I heard the first meaning.

In any case, she got married last month and I attended the wedding. When she invited me a long time ago, I thought to myself, “Filipinos are very hospitable, the Phillipines is in an area of the world I’ve never been, also, my dad was in the Air Force there and told lots of stories. I gotta go”

So I went to the Philipines and had a great time. Manilla, I didn’t like at all. It’s just another big, dirty, crowed city. If I wanted that, I could just go home to LA. Luckily, I was there for only part of a day. (I was in the country for about 10 days)

The rest of the trip was heaven. The coutryside is really pretty with coconut trees everywhere. Rice fields being plowed with water buffalo. Lots of green. The people are very nice, especially when they’ve had a little to drink. There were times when I thought, “If I spoke the language, I’d have no trouble living here”.

Lots of things are different there from the transportation system, to the weather, to the construction of the homes. I was a bit of a novelty to them because I’m so different. Filipinos are not the largest people in the world and you won’t find many people anywhere that are taller than I am. So I towered over them. Another difference is that Filipinos (male and female) have almost no body hair. I, on the other hand, fit more of the middle eastern, hairy legs, chest, back model. “Carpet” is a word that was often used to describe me.

One thing that Filipinos love to do is drink. I think that during the ten days that I was there I drank more than the entire almost 3 years that I was in Israel. The drink of choice there is either “Lambanog” which is coconut rum, or San Miguel beer (that’s the Filipino brand)

Their way of drinking is as follows: There’s one guy who’s in charge of the bottle. “The Gunner”. I forget the Tagalog word for it, but that’s what it translates into. Gunner as in the guy on a destroyer who’s in charge of killing the enemy.

So he’s in charge of the bottle. He takes it and pours a shot into a glass (they eyeball it, don’t need no shot glasses) and puts the glass in front of whoever’s turn it is to drink. That person drinks it and gives the glass back. There’s a chaser somewhere on the table. The gunner then pours another shot and puts the glass in front of whoever’s next. Usually, you rotate around the table like a card game but not always. One exception to this that I saw was when there were a bunch of people over cooking for the wedding (more on that later). In this case, the gunner just walked around giving out drinks.

This process continues until you either run out of Lambanog or until everyone’s fallen over. This is one regard in which being bigger really helps. This, along with drinking lots of water, allowed me to keep up with everyone except Death Row.

Death Row is the name I gave to the five guys that were in charge of slaughtering the four pigs. It’s a Filipino tradition that whenever there’s a big occasion (like a wedding) family and friends come by to help cook for the reception. In this case, there must have been 20 or 30 people doing various tasks ranging from slaughter to  butchery to chopping vegetables, stirring massive woks 3 or 4 feet in diameter, and so on.

So I got to see some pigs be slaughtered. First someone takes a big baseball bat sized stick and clocks it on the head. This knocks it out. Someone then slashes the throat and they drain the blood into a bucket. There must have been a good gallon or two from each pig. Then they dehair the skin with hot water, sharp knives, and then razors. Next, they cut from the anus to the chest, they chop open the chest cavity, and cut out the innards which go into another large bucket. They cut the body into sections and chop off the head.

It’s alot like cleaning fish only larger, for those of you that have done that. Remove the scales, clean out the insides and fillet.

The innards and head are a process of their own. The innards of half intestine and half other stuff. The other stuff, doesn’t require much special preparation. The intestines were fun to watch. When you kill a pig the intestines are still full of feed. To clean out the feed, you hold about a three foot section and pour water into one end. The water will trickle down until it loosens some of the stuff on the other end and start to fall out. The rest comes out like an avalanch. The word what came to mind is the “aaaahhhhhh” that you feel after straining a little. The result was the Filipino version of chitterlings AKA chittlins. (For you white folk out ther, that’s pronounced chit’-luns)

The head is interesting too. They took the and split it down the center. Imagine a cut between the eyes, down the nose, and so on. Each half is then roasted.

I later saw one of the uncles picking bits out of it. Kinda like eating lobster. Sometimes you just gotta pick at it to get to the good stuff.

I’ll eat anything, but this was the first exception I can remember ever really having.

Sorry if you just had lunch/dinner. 🙂

So that was Death Row. Most of them were younger guys and these guys could drink alot. One of them didn’t even bother with the chaser. They were the only ones I couldn’t keep up with.

One of the things I enjoyed about the Phillipines, was “bein a man”. Sitting around drinkin with the guys, talking guy talk, while the women were in the other room doing their thing. I didn’t meet many women while I was there, but drank with alot of guys. I would have preferred to have more women around but for the short time I was there, it was an interesting experience.

There were some women around though and they were alot of fun. There was the groom’s mom and her sister (I think she was a sister). They’re crazy and always made me smile. There’s the groom sister-in-law. She’s small, even for a Filipino. She was really cute when she complained about me standing next to her towering. The groom’s (Vincent is his name BTW) sister was also very nice though I didn’t interact with her as much.

Another really fun day was when we visited one of Lory’s uncles up in the hills. He works as a coconut farmer. I went up there with Lory’s brother and Vincent. Getting up there was a little difficult because it was REALLY muddy. That’s what happens when you get rain every day. At one point, I just walked without my snaldes as Lory’s brother did. I was a bit worried about stepping on something, though.

Checking out the various steps in coconut harvesting was cool. First they cut them down. They do this with a long pole with a knife on the end. When the guy cuts them down, he’d got a bunch of cocnuts barrelling down at him. When I say cocunut, I don’t just mean the little brown things you see in the store. These still have the husk on them. With the husk, each coconut has twice the diameter. They’re also heavier. Now imagine several of these falling down towards you.

The guy just moved aside a little but otherwise wasn’t worried. It was alot like in looney tunes cartoons.

Once the coconuts are not on the tree, the husk needs to be removed. Another guy did this with a big monster floor mounted blade. He would ram a coconut onto it and then twist. They offerred to let me try but in the interest of my health (knowing I can be clumsy) I declined.

Those are the interesting parts of coconut harvest, but they are then taken and cut in half, roasted and the white stuff is removed. It looked like hard work, but it’s a great work environment.

We later had lunch consisting of jackfruit cooked in coconut milk. We ate it off of a banana leaf with rice. Very good food. Probably the best food I had there. (This is saying something as all the food I ate in the Phillipines was quite good.)

Then there was the wedding itself. Lory was looking pretty stunning. Made me want to go and shake Vincent’s hand. I suppose the wedding was a standard Catholic wedding, but since I haven’t been to one before it’s hard to tell the distinctly Filipino aspects.

One special thing was the shirts that the men wore. Barong Tagalog they’re called. I wore one too. It’s a shirt made out of banana fibers, very lite, and very cool. (in both meanings of the word) I’ll need to find a Filipino dry cleaner in the US to clean it for me. I’m afraid to give it to anyone else.

The way most people get around is in Jeepneys. Imagine a Jeep wrangler stretched so you can fit about 20 people in the back. Sometimes, if they’re full, there are a couple guys hanging off the back as well. The the Filipono equivilent of the local bus. Another option is a small motorcycle (can’t be more than a 125) with a side car. I’ve see as many a five passengers on these things (two behind the driver and three in the side car, normally tight for two). For those that own their own cars, a regular Jeep type car it the vehicle of choice.

I guess that’s most of the stories from the Philipines that can be told in an email. There are lots of others. Either they’re not coming to me at the moment or they need to be told in person to make any sense at all.

Another big chunk that’s missing is things I did in Israel not at work. This includes my bible group and the people in it, Shlomit her son and family, the Arab portion of my friends, and a bunch of other stuff.

But I need to go and this mail has gotten long. Let me know if there are specific things you want to hear about.

Tomorrow I fly to Nairobi, Kenya. My plane leaves at 6:30am. It’s gonna be a tough trip.

I should be in occasional email land, so don’t be afraid to write. I’ll have more time to write back since I’ll be on vacation. Spending a couple hours in an internet cafe somewhere in the savana is something I’m planning on doing at least a couple times.

Take care,  Miles

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