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. πŸ™‚

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 toΒ  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. πŸ™‚

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,Β  Miles

Journal 7 from Israel

Here’s the third one. Of the three, this is my favorite. It’s lite on the culture side and has more stuff for you gossip-hounds. It has more stuff about me.

I hope you enjoy it. As always, feedback is welcome.

Miles

Until this past weekend, I was planning on doing the cross Israel ride. This ride spans 3 days and goes from the northernmost point (Methula) down to the southernmost (Elat) covering about 100 miles each day. In preparation, a bunch of people from Intel have been riding twice a week after work. We ride 45min in one direction then turn around and come back. It’s an interesting change from the mountain biking that I’m used to because I can maintain a constant level of exertion for the entire time instead of cranking out a hill and then relaxing on the downhill. I guess this is why pro mountain bikers spend most of their training time on a road bike. I’m much more able to climb than I was before. I may even be able to keep up with Jamie and Dale.

Anyway, because of the time change and the shorter days, we needed to switch the rides to the early morning. We met at ~6am did our ride and then showered in the gym downstairs just in time for work at 8. So some of you out there know that I have a thing for security women. In Santa Clara there were a couple that we tried to mack on. Well things are only better here. (Though I don’t do much mackin now) There’s one of them who is quite attractive but always has her hair up in a french braid down the back. Recently, she wore it down and she looks really good this way. So here I am. Sweaty. Smelly. In my cute little biker shorts. Coming into the building at a quarter to eight. She’s checking badges as people are coming in though not really quite awake. As I walk by I tell her, “you should keep your hair down. It looks good that way.” It took her a moment to understand but then a big smile appeared on her face. I guess I made her day.

A couple days later, I was standing in someone’s cube talking about something technical when she appeared on the other side of the room. (the cubes are low enough and I’m tall enough that I can see a LONG way.) She was doing one of the regular security walk throughs that they do here. (Intel Israel unlike Intel Santa Clara takes security seriously) When she noticed me, she smiled and continued on her way. No I do NOT think she wants me now. But really, I guess a nice comment can go a long way. She must not realize just how attractive she is.

As it turns out, I can’t do the ride, because it conflicts with the trip to Italy I’ve been planning. I’m in pretty good shape now though. If it did do the ride, yes, it would hurt, but getting enough calories into my system would probably be a larger concern. If anyone out there is wondering, I sometimes have trouble eating enough and I suffer from a lack of energy.

So this past weekend was Rosh HaShannah. That’s the Jewish New Year. For the occasion, we got 2.5 days off so I had a 5 days weekend. What to do? Michal (remember the girl that patched me up when I fell) was going to the US so my biggest time sink was gone. Well, I decided to go to Sinai in Egypt. Since I didn’t want to go by myself, I put up a sign on the notice board here at Intel asking if anyone else wanted to go. I got a couple responses. An Argentinean couple asked me if I had a problem with small children but we decided that it would be too hot and the facilities where I wanted to go were not conducive to kids. A guy from South America called but didn’t really seem interested. Then I got a call from a local Intel woman. This was what I was looking for. The local part that is. I didn’t really know where to go in Sinai and needed a little bit of a guide. This was something that foreigners (like me) would not have been able to provide. We agree that we would go together and meet to talk about it the next day.

So the next afternoon, this woman comes into my cube. “Hi, I’m Zohar.” “Oh. You’re the one I’m going to Sinai with tomorrow.” Since I’ve checked out all of Intel Israel’s women (Israel is much more tolerant of this than in the US) I recognized her. She sticks out. She’s got this great fire red hair and I’d often noticed her in the cafeteria. So here I am. I know I’m taking my girlfriend to the airport that evening and I find out who I’m going to Sinai with. In the back of my head, I’m thinking, “God….. You’re kidding right?”

As it turns out. We had a good time in Sinai. We talked in the car on the way down to keep awake and alert (we drove through the night) and found that we got along pretty well. Over the next couple days we often did our own thing but also hung out together at times. I spent most of my time there either reading (I finished Alive, read all of Surely you’re joking, Feinman, and half of Airframe), working on Hebrew, or just working on my tan. There were no hotels, just bamboo huts. Very relaxing to know that I don’t really have to DO anything. I’m not sure if we would have clicked as much in a less relaxing environment, but I think my circle of friends here have increased by one.

For those wondering, nothing questionable happened though on the way home she told me that one of the guys we were talking to that day mentioned to her that he thought I had beautiful eyes.

Oh, as another sidenote. Michal and I broke up two weeks after the trip though not because of my trip to Sinai. Perhaps a friend of mine in the US was right went she commented, “you should be less concerned about cheating and more about the desire to do so.”

This past weekend, I went on another of our Intel mountain bike club trips. It was a regular ride but I mention it because I’ve noticed alot about fads in the group. when I first got here almost 6 months ago (yes, it’s been that long) I was one of the fancier riders. Only one or two others had clipless pedals. No camelbaks. The only gadgets you’ll find are the computers and not many had that either. I’ve mentioned this before.

There are about 20 people who regularly ride in the intermediate/advanced group. Today, at least half the group had shoes and pedals. Camelbaks of various brands are common. The most recent fad is heart rate monitors. It started with one of the riders, Meir, who has the superduper polar model. This thing will record your rate at various intervals and then allow you to download it onto a computer (with Intel inside, of course) He paid $300 or $400 for it, I think. He got his through a special deal through the distributor which also became available to the rest of the group. He tells me that at least 7 others bought one. In addition to this someone else got one when he was in the states and I had my brother buy me one to bring when he came here. That’s 10 people with monitors. Does it help? Not really on the dirt rides but it is quite useful on flat road rides. Through the regular rides, I know that I can maintain a heartrate of 160 for 1.5 hours. On one morning, I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated. I always ride to a specific point and turn around when I get there. On this morning I broke my slowness record for the outbound portion. All the while, I’m looking at the readout and see a rate of 135. I can do better than that. Until then, whenever I pushed a little harder, my legs would complain, “hey dude. You’re gonna get tired and you have a ways to go.” Shortly after turning around, I decided, “to hell with this. I can maintain 160 and that’s what I’m gonna do.” So I picked up the speed and again my legs complained but this time I ignored them and just watched the readout. It worked! Though my legs were tired I maintained 160 all the way back. My roundtrip went from all time slowest to a personal best (without wheelsucking that is; drafting) I wouldn’t have done that on my own; I’m too much of a weenie.

So another guy on the dirt trip decided that the next fad would be a device that measures how often you piss and what the salt contents is and your rate of sweating to tell you when you need to drink more water……. Because just obeying your thirst isn’t scientific enough.

Journal 6 from Israel

Hello,

This journal should cover the month of August when my mom, brother and sister came to visit.

My brother didn’t come on the same plane or even the day as my mom and sister. This was mostly because of ticketing issues. I picked him up on Friday evening and we went to a concert with some friends of mine here. The performer was Rami Kleinstein. He’s a popular Hebrew singer here in Israel. Ask any Israeli (and many foreigners even) about him and they’ll be able to tell you who he is.

If you were to go to the concert of someone this well known in the states, what would you expect? Lot’s of people. Expensive tix. Parking headaches. Well the tix cost 70NIS (~$20). The audience was probably 300 people. The place has probably ten rows of seating space. Of, course, parking wasn’t a problem.

The show was excellent. Rami is a very dynamic performer. You could tell he was having a great time. His band was pretty excellent, particularly the two precussists. At one point they got out big plastic 50 gallon drums and beat on them. One of them did a solo on an African drum. Very cool. I have since bought his greatest hits CD. It’s my first Hebrew CD.

The next day (Saturday), I went with my brother, Richard to downtown Haifa to get some food. It’s called “downtown” not because it’s a big center of industry, or has a bunch of shopping but because it’s DOWN from the rest of Haifa. Being predominately Arab (AKA not Jewish) the area has stores that are open on Saturday. We were met there by a buddy of mine, Alex. He lives in the area and showed us the proper places to shop.

Later in the day, we drove to Tel Aviv to pick up Jovan and mom. My apartment was suddenly converted from an empty apartment with two bedrooms that I don’t use to a full house.

On Sunday I went to work. I had decided that taking several long weekends would be more effective than taking one block of time off. Since I live 15min on foot from one of the busier parts of Haifa they had plenty to do during the day.

For the first weekend, I had wanted to show the family some of the more significant parts of Israel. On Friday, we went to Jerusalem and checked out the old city, via dolorosa, the church which supposedly contains a piece of the stone used to close Christ’s tomb, the western wall. On the way to Jerusalem we a bit of car trouble.

The city is higher in elevation than most of Israel (except the north). On the way up the car ran rather hot. I noticed this first when the AC wasn’t working so strongly. I kept an eye on the gauge and pulled into a gas station and let it cool a little. I had to put several liters of water into the radiator. This wasn’t looking good. I had just gotten this car the week before.

Intel supplies all workers here in Israel with transportation to work. It pays for taxis and busses for people below grade 7 and issues a company car to 7 and above and relocatees. Intel wanted to sell off a bunch of cars and buy new ones. My old one, being on deck to get sold, was replaced with a newer one.

Anyway, I put water in the car and prayed. Since we were just outside the city, I figure we might as well see what we came to see and worry about the car later. I kept a close eye on the temp.

We checked out the obvious tourist spots in the city and in the afternoon discovered that we were hungry. I didn’t want to eat in the old city since it seemed a bit dirty so suggested we find someplace else to eat. Big mistake.

You’d think that, having lived here for 4 months, I would have realized that places close on Saturday. Jerusalem, the most religious of all the areas, is obviously no exception. We spent two hours driving around trying to find an open restaurant. We finally found an open stand that sold not so fresh falafel. yum.

We had originally intended to go to the Dead Sea the next day, but the weather forecast for the area was 45deg C. (113F) We decided to not go there and do something local instead. As it turns out, it got to 47C (116F)

The next morning, we again went to downtown since mom and Jovan hadn’t been there. I didn’t mention it before, but it’s actually pretty nice. Lots of little shops. Vegetable stands. Sort of a mini Hay Market. Afterwards, we went to Daliyat Al Karmel which is a touristy village just North East of Haifa where you can buy hand made art stuff, knick knacks, and my personal favorite sight in Israel… BAWPs (that would be Big Ass Water Pipes) I saw one that I will definitely have to buy and bring back. The thing was a good 4ft tall and had six tubes coming out. I’m sure it would be quite a conversation piece. The thing can be had for $20-30 so what will I have to lose.

Mom and Jovan bought two nice summer dresses (not that there’s much summer in Germany) from a guy that gave them a good price “I’m only doing this because it’s you. My cousin.” yeah yeah. The guy probably still made a killing.

Afterwards, we went to Michal’s parent’s place. (remember Michal from when I got hurt?) We just kinda hung out and discussed what there is to do in Israel. It was kinda wierd (to me anyway) for them all to meet.

I took the next day off and we intended to see some of the northern parts of the country. Again the car overheated. Over the course of the day, I must have put 20 liters into that radiator. We did see the Sea of Galilee though. We wanted to see some other stuff too be we ended up going to Jordan park right along the Jordan river.

When you think or the word “river” what kind of pictures come to mind? The Mississippi. Going over Niagara falls in a barrel. Maybe some of the things in Yosemite? Well, some of the smaller streams in Yosemite are more impressive than any of the views of the Jordan that I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seem it wider that maybe 20ft across.

In spite of this, you can still go canoeing, which is what Richard and I did. It was quite relaxing, actually. Most of the time, we didn’t even need to paddle.

During the week, the people at work replaced the radiator. The plan for the coming weekend was to go to Jordan. Jordan is an Arab country which is most of Israel’s eastern border.

The other morning, Intel had a special breakfast. “start your day with a smile” They called it. Pretty amazing. Usually, the breakfast consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, bellpeppers, dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese…. On this morning, they lots more. Cereal. bureckas (sp?) which are kinda like filled croissants, blintz, eggs. Great stuff.

That wasn’t the most notable part of the breakfast, however. It was the conversation that made the morning truly memorable. We started off with a discussion of the stranger rules of Judaism. (aren’t they all?) Apparently, a married, male Jew can screw whomever he wants as long as the woman is either his wife or not someone else’s wife. If she ain’t married, you can do together whatever you like.Β  Because of this, orthodox Jews (you know the dudes in the black outfits) are an important part of the prostitution market. Who would expect it? Sounds like being Jewish is the way to go.

Did something stupid and you’re in the doghouse? Wife is pissed and won’t give you any? Just go somewhere else. It’s all acceptable. The wife, of course, has only one option…. the husband.

Once we finished that topic we moved on to war and military stuff. I think the way we got to this one was when Leor mentioned that he just finished reserve duty. I think I mentioned it before all Israelis go into the army for a couple years between high school and college. After that men are required to continue with reserve duty until about age 40. (I think) Well Leor was made for the army. He totally enjoys going.

I believe he’s in a special unit kind like the green berets and when I look at him I think of Richard Marcinko. This is a reference that only 3 people getting this journal would get but I’ll comment that Marcinko is an ex-navy seal who wrote a book about his experiences. The dude is nuts. So is Leor.

Now I remember why we got on the topic: Airport security and where is it most extreme. Leor explained to us that no matter how tight security it, he could still do some damage. He then proceeded to pull out his pen. At least I thought it was a pen, but if you pull off the top, you’ll find a knife. My friend Ari trying to bust out the Rambo knowledge commented on how the blade was triangular which for some reason (which I would call BS on) makes the wound worse. Leor rebuffed him by commenting that if you twist your wrist just right when you stab someone, all that won’t matter. Triangular wounds are irrelevant.

Next he told us a story about how they were playing with one of their automatic rifles that fires 1000 rounds a minute. The truly skilled operators we able to shoot one round at a time. Why go through the trouble of designing it to shoot 1000/minute when you’re just gonna shoot one at a time? Also, on one day, they had been allowed to shoot as much as they wanted. One of his buddies shot 6 boxes (you know the big metal ammo cans you see at surplus stores?) by connecting the chains end to end.

Ari again kicked the knowledge by asking, “didn’t he have to replace the barrel?” When a gun like this fires, it’s common for it to get hot enough to melt the barrel. He was right. Leor agreed that he did this several times.

Freaks!

So that weekend, I went to Jordan with my family. The border is about an hour and a half away but wouldn’t you know it, the car got hot again. I thought they fixed that. In spite of all that, we made it to the border. I can take the car out of Israel so we just needed to park it anyway. The first stop of the trip was Petra. I didn’t know at the time why we were going there other than that everyone that had been there was amazed. First we took a bus to Ahman and then a taxi to Petra. I takes about 3 hours to drive between the two cities; it was the first time I’d sat in a taxi that long. The scenery along the way was interesting though. Picture this: you’re driving along for 3 hours and whenever you lift your head to look out the window what do you see? rock and a whole lot of nothin. To the left: nothin. To the right: nothin. Makes the drive from San Jose to LA seem interesting and exciting. I wasn’t able to read the signs since they were in Arabic (how rude) but I wonder if they have a middle east equivalent of Little and Big Panoche road like they do along the 5.

So we got to Petra and relaxed a little. Took showers at the hotel and then walked down to the local village. We find a nice little cafe to have dinner and sit down. The waiter comes over and takes our order. Very nice guy. I tried ordering a beer, but he responded that in Jordan (as a Muslim country) allowed alcohol only in hotels. Hmmm. So we ate.

Now, during our meal, one of the locals came by from time to time to borrow my mom’s lighter to lite his cigarette. After we finished, he sat with us for awhile. Really nice guy. Very entertaining. Then it dropped. He offered his services as a guide. He could show us Little Petra. He’d provide a nice meal. All we had to do was show up. We asked about the main part of Petra. A number of people at home in Israel mentioned that Petra was fantastic. I had also heard that going into the main gate was expensive. Something like $20-30/person. It had to cost that much for a reason, I figured.

But we humored him. He told us all about the great places he’d show and how we’d get a nice unique experience. How much? I asked. You’ll have a great time. Yeah, but how much? At this point I’m thinking back to the people in the old city of Jerusalem. I give you very good price. For you, my friend, I give you discount.

He wanted $100. It would be cheaper than admission to the main city, but…. We agree that we would sleep on it and that he’d call the hotel in the morning. In the end, we decided to take our chances with the main city.

Now at this point, I had no idea what Petra was all about. I only knew that everyone said to go there. It’s the highlight of any tour of Jordan. We got up the next morning and went to the main center of Petra. As part of admission, we were required to get a guide for the four of us, but it was cheap. Maybe $5.

So we’re walking along this path. We see camels here and there. There are a bunch of other tourists though not too many. Slowly, I realize that the walls along the path are going up and that we’re walking into a canyon. We very quickly reached a point where the canyon was maybe two meters wide and 10 or 15 deep.

Can we say WOW! The colors along the walls were great. The rock was so smoothe. There were ancient burial tombs dug into the walls. Simply amazing. The trouble of going to Jordan definitely paid off. How could I have even considered skipping the main city.

But wait there’s more. We’re walking down the canyon when around the bend, there appeared a larger structure. When we see it clearly and as was explained by the guide the ancient Romans had dug “The Treasury” out of the stone. It looked like many other Roman building with the columns and all that. BUT IT WAS DUG OUT OF THE ROCK! The didn’t build it. They didn’t move large stones causing lots of discussions about how technologically advanced they were. It was simply a huge sculpture and it was beautiful. There was no option of starting over.

This more or less marked the end or the guided part but it didn’t end without a photo op for my brother and I. We took pictures of each of us sitting on a camel. Very exciting! Jovan, my sister, while taking the picture commented that she finally gets to see me sitting on myself. She’s commented before that I walk and look much like a camel. I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll let you decide.

Being the marathon tourists, that afternoon, it was time to move on. We were to be in Jordan for three days. This was the second with one more to go. Amman was the next destination. Yes, we passed through there on the way to Petra, but we didn’t really see anything. Another cab ride with nothing on the left and nothing on the right.

The hotel stayed at in Amman was totally clueless. It was nice. It was clean. But…. First problem was that our two rooms were on opposite sides of the hotel. Us going there was not a surprise. In fact, the rooms were already paid for. The reason they gave us was that since our last names weren’t all the same that we would want to stay together. When I mentioned that we were paid for together they didn’t get my point. Add to this that we had trouble finding the room. It was a nice enough hotel that someone should have shown us to the room. Another thing was that the breakfast hours ended at something like 8am. What’s that? We’re on vacation. I’m not gonna get up that early just because the hotel has a stupid policy.

We went to our rooms and I decided to get irate. I returned back to the desk and asked to talk to the manager. He was a little more helpful but not much. I repeated many of the same arguments I’d made to the first guy. In the end, he agreed to arrange cheap transportation around the city for the day on a site-seeing trip, breakfast at 9 delivered to our room as well as free lunch. I figured that he probably wasn’t really losing anything but it felt good to act irate.

So folks, this is where I ran out of writing energy. Like I said, I just want to get these things sent. To make a continuing story short, we saw Amman the next day. That evening, we had dinner at a place where we saw a number of women with their faces covered.

The following weekend, we went to Sharm El Sheik in Sinai. Very nice.

If anyone would like to hear about these portions of the trip, let me know.

Sorry,

Miles

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. πŸ˜‰

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 theΒ  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”.Β  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. πŸ˜‰

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!!!!

Fourth journal from Israel

this is my fourth journal from Israel. If you didn’t get any of the other three, let me know. If you think they’re too long, too bad. If however, you have some input on where to put more or less detail, I’d be happy to hear them. Also let me know if I’m too melodramatic.

The previous issues had some amount of continuity. I tried to tie things together at least a little bit. This time, I’m just gonna tell you about independent events which probably have no correlation except that they all happened in Israel.

So I was at the beach with my friend Michal (the ‘ch’ sounds should be pronounced kinda like a cobra hissing at you except that there’s more spit involved. “Hey man. I don’t want no hachen on ma bread”-name that reference.) The beach in Haifa is similar to what you might find in Santa Cruz but not as fancy was many of the beaches in the LA area. There are a number of cafes along a concrete walkway. “under the ‘cretewalk. People walkin along….” Nice place to hang out and have a drink or some food. “what, you can drink in public. Get out!” “this ain’t Amurika, son.” Anyway, there we were hangin out one evening. The sun had gone down and the air was just the perfect temperature after a warm day. Not quite “Africa hot” but getting there. Woh! What’s that? Straight out of “GI Jane” comes this infantry type unit running along the beach. Machine guns abound. One dude has a radio strapped to his back. A radio which would have made any hick proud. Noone besides me seemed to notice.

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After going to see “Deep Impact” I was hangin out at a coffee shop in the Kenion (mall). (the movie’s not too great. Wait for the rental. Most of the people receiving this shouldn’t even bother with that) Anyway, there I am. The Kenion’s a pretty nice mall. Cell phone stands everywhere. Lots of shoe stores and shops with overpriced, small amount of fabric clothing items that make high school students look so much different than I remember them in MY high school.

I looked up to the next floor from my seat and what do I see? Dunkin Donuts. Sbarro…… kosher. McDonalds. It brought back memories of Jimmy Z and Brownhead going on their dollar and something box of a dozen stale donuts. Rather pavlovian. Sbarro from Tech Center. Don’t know why anyone would go through the trouble of preparing it kosher. I wonder if teenagers have the same delemna of their parents coming to eat the Arch Delux? I mentioned this to the other people at the table and they informed me that Burger King is also kosher. Their shakes are non-dairy. Good news for those lactose intolerants out there. To top it off, a whopper (without cheese, of course) costs ~$4.00. It wouldn’t be very popular with Gary Meeker and me. We used to go out for the $0.99 whopper lunch all the time. ($2.14 for two whoppers is quite a meal. Let me tell ya.)

I was talking to a guy from work who told me that he went there with his wife and kids. The kids got Big Macs (yum) and he and the wife got Sbarro. When they sat down at the tables by Sbarro, they were asked not to because the nutritious Big Macs were not Kosher.

I almost forget. During the movie, there was a line that went something like, “If you hire Johnny Cochran, I’ll kill you.” This was followed by a line that floating to me from the audience, “who’s Johnny Cochran?” I guess I should have moved here earlier.

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One night I walked up to Carmel Center from my apartment to grad a bite to eat at one of the cafes. I looked at the menu and the thing that caught my eyes was the hamburger with lots of stuff on it. Mushrooms, onions,….. Plus a baked potato. That’s what I ordered. What did I get when it arrived? Two halves of a potato. Peeled. Nothing on it. A hamburger pattie. “It’s got meat. That’s good. It’s got cheese. I like cheese. But I’m confused… This bread. What’s with the bread. It’s not meat. It’s not cheese. I don’t get it.” “But you have to have a bun so it won’t drip down your arm!!!!” The pattie was pretty good, however and actually made it all worthwhile. Plus, to be fair, it did some with some bread in a basket, so if I absolutely wanted a HAMBURGER, I could have made one.

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Now a little excitement. I’m writing this from memory from two weeks ago, but I can hardly forget it. Why I couldn’t forget as well as why it’s taken this long to write about it will become clear shortly.

It was Shavuot and we got a three day weekend. On Friday, I went to another mountain bike race with the Intel bike club. We actually got a bus since about 30 of us were going both for the two races as well as the family ride. I rode in one of the team races. Three riders on each team and Intel had four teams. The course was a good one. Rocky but still rideable. It had some climbing but also a longer gradual downhill. Very enjoyable. Of Intel’s four teams, only one had all three riders finish. Unfortunately, mine was not it. The team race was not as popular as the singles course; most of the fast riders opted to solo it. Because of this, my team could have finished third. I was ahead of all three third place riders by about 5 minutes, my teammate that finished came in a couple minutes behind me, ahead of two riders of the other team. T he teammate that didn’t finish because of a flat probably would have come in between the two of us.

Or course, another Intel team that didn’t finish (also because of a flat) might have made second.

Oh well, it was fun anyway.

But that’s not the excitement that I wanted to write about.

I forget what I did on Saturday but on Sunday I went on a hike in the Galilee region. Did you know that the sea is 600 ft below sea level? Not quite the Dead Sea, but then it wouldn’t be able to feed into it if it were lower. The Jordan river connects the two seas. It was a good hike.

We started at one of the higher areas just north and hiked down into a canyon. It reminded me a bit of the Grand Canyon though it’s not as large or deep. Once we got to the bottom, we walked along the river. The water was flowing but not so much that you couldn’t take a dip here and there in the pools. One of the more interesting parts was that we had a dog along; a pit bull that was afraid of everything that moved. Afraid even of the water which meant that getting her past some of the scrambling parts required a bit of force. Some of the other groups there got a kick out of watching it all. In one part there was no path and we had to hold onto there metal loops bolted to the rock wall. With alot of coaxing we got her to swim through the water.

but that wasn’t the excitement either.

So we continue on. At one point, we spread out a bit and I stopped to let everyone catch up. Along the path there was this cool rock wall. Again, we’re in a canyon, so the walls go up pretty steeply in places. I just couldn’t resist. There were plenty of handholds, it was overhanging just a little, and I didn’t want to just sit there. I didn’t bother to take off my fanny pack since everyone would catch up within a minute or two. (There were six of us) Well I got up about a meter when the rock that my left hand was holding onto broke off.

“UhOh….” I fall straight back. My first thought was, “oh man, my camera. I’m gonna fall onto it. It’ll break.” Well, doing all this, I forget to let go of what WAS part of the wall and is NOW a rock about 8 or 10 inches in diameter. It smashes my hand and I’m like, “dude! that hurt.” I see that I cut myself but at the same time, my first impulse is cover the incident up. I’m feeling really stupid now and being the guy that I am, I’d rather not give my friends something to heckle me about. Only one person in my group, Arnon, witnessed it so maybe I still have chance. I walk down the path a little, pull out my water bottle and clean off my cut when I notice, “That’s alot of blood to be coming out of a cut on my finger”. It’s not like the flesh wound in The Holy Grail but still.

I look at the cut and at this point I know that I’m gonna need some help from my friend Michal patching me up. She’s a physical therapist so has a clue about this kind of stuff. She had heard the fall as well as Arnon asking if I’m ok so she was next to me quickly. I show her my finger and she remarks, “that’s quite a cut you’ve got there.” I mutter, “yeah”, as the embarrassment is starting to set in. She’s going through her bag to get out a role of TP to apply pressure and stop the bleeding when my own Boy Scouts First Aid training kicks in. “Hey my head is spinning and I’m about to pass out. SHOCK! Lay your ass down, Miles!”

The human body has an interesting way of dealing with injuries. Even if the injury is not life threatening one (which mine obviously wasn’t) your body often assumes the worst. It knows by pain impulses, loss of blood (however little), increased heart beat caused by my excitement that something is not right. Your blood pressure drops and less O2 gets to your head.

As my friend John Ramirez observed halfway up Shasta probably soon after we saw a guy (involuntarily) slide down the snow and ice for awhile, “This shit is for real, dude!” Shock is not something to be ignored. You don’t even have to be hurt bad, or at all and it can hit you. If you see someone experience an intense incident, be on the lookout for it.

Well, I didn’t pass out, but my head continued to spin for a couple more minutes while Michal is working on me. At about this time, I notice the pain in my other hand. I guess I’d tried to break my fall but the surprising thing was that it was still hurting! Having broken my arm as a kid, I knew that if it were broken, I wouldn’t be able to move it. I wiggle my fingers and feel relieved that the day is not as bad as it could have been. Give it some time. There might be swelling a but it’ll go away.

So I’m not in particularly good shape. Physically or mentally. I’m hurt, bleeding, can’t stand up. In my head I’m feeling shaken up, embarrassed, and not in one piece. I prepare myself for the next problem. Dealing with the inevitable questions from Michal, “what were you doing up there? I can’t believe you would do something like this.” Or perhaps she would just make fun of me. Her thoughts and opinions matter to me and the anticipation filled me with more dread than any physical pain I felt. I thought about other friends I’ve had and the pes of comments or even expression that I would have gotten. They would not have made me feel any better. Quite the contrary, it would have put them on my shit list. (to be fair, I sometimes have a tendency to be teasing and inappropriately joking myself.)

But this was not her reaction. Her behavior reflected an attitude of, “well, shit happens. Let’s just deal with it.” This, as well as the fact that she was even able to deal with the situation earned her MAJOR BONUS POINTS. She provided me with exactly the medicine I needed: SUPPORT. Something to think about next time a friend does something stupid.

At this point, other groups are starting to pass and my status as a guy still hasn’t changed. I’m ready to continue on. Michal had made a makeshift bandage and there wasn’t much else to do. Since being the oh so prepared ones, we hadn’t even brought a bandaid. Not that it would have fit; the cut was about a cm long and very deep. I get up to brush myself and again, my head tells me, “where do you think you’re going. You’re not done resting.” I resist by sitting down but this was an argument I’d lose. I laid back down.

So we decided to eat lunch; it was a nice shady spot. I’m just hoping my head clears up because I know I still have to walk to the car. Inevitably it does and we hike back. At the trailhead, I got some ice for my hands and we’re on our way home. I’ve calmed down by this point and just looking at it all with a laugh. My new worry is whether Michal and I will make it to the Shavuot party at work that evening. We eventually made it back to Haifa and after dropping off the third person in my car, we headed to her parents to ask where they would suggest going to get stitches which I would surely need.

In the end, her father took me to Carmel Hospital. Beauracracy here slows things down just like it can in the states but eventually, I saw a doctor who sent me off the get xrays. When I see him again after, he takes a very short look at the films and comments, very matter of factly, “looks like you have a fracture in you right hand. You get a cast.” I’ll remind you that it was the LEFT hand that got the cut.

Only now does he remove that bandage that we put on the cut at the trailhead. He pokes around a little, I guess to see if it’d damaged anything important and when he was satisfied he announced that I get two stitches. He pulls out this gadget which is a cross between a stapler and a staple gun. He pushes the cut closed. click. click. and I’m back in one piece.

I showed up to work the next day with a cast on the right hand and a large bandage on the other. This is a story I’ve had lots of practice telling.

The epilogue. How much would you guess all this cost? My insurance here is such that I pay whatever the cost is and I get reimbursed. Treatment included: seeing a doctor in the ER, xrays on my hands, a cast and two stitches. When all was done and I was waiting at the reception desk, I was expecting a bill of at least $1000. Total bill: 860 shekels otherwise known as $232.

Things that I learned from this: 1) be prepared. at least bring some bandaids

2) not alot has to happen for you to need assistance. This will make me think twice about mountain biking by myself with just water, wearing only my cute biker shorts. If/when I fall from my bike it’ll probably be because I was going too fast and/or did something stupid.

3) It’s hard to shower without the use of your hands. The first day or two, I still felt some pain in them.

4) It’s even harder to take a leak. I mean, it’s hard enough whipping it out without both hands, but when you’re reduced to just one pinky…. I’m not even talking about aiming. That’s a whole other matter.

5) A guy at work suggested that at least I won’t go blind but I won’t comment on that.

The stitches are gone now and I’ve learned to type with a hand and two fingers. Hopefully, I’ll get this stupid cast off in another week and will be back to climbing, only this time I’ll have either a rope or a spotter. I want to get back on my bike even more.

Third journal from Israel

Hello all here I am again. This is my third journal. If you didn’t get either of the others, let me know.
When I left off last time, it was the day after my first mountain biking adventure and started my third week here at mother Intel. The week turned out to be pretty good. I got good reviews in two well distributed weeklies. (Intel requires everyone in the company to summaries their or their group’s activities once a week and distibute it to an appropriate audience) Then on Thusday night I went to a pub with a friend and a friend of his. Thursday is the last day of the work week.
The pub (aka bar) turned out to be cool. The crowd was everyday young people, not yuppies, but also not the constuction types. Here, again, I noticed the service in Israel sucks. Waitresses and waiters take forever to take your order. It takes forever for them to bring it. When you need a refill, they don’t notice that either. Other people here that I’ve asked about it concur. At this particular bar, like many bars, the wait staff provide a good view though. I felt like a deer stuck in the middle of the road, if you get my drift. πŸ˜‰
It was fun. The girl that my friend Ari brought along (Daphna) was interesting. She’s the daughter of one of the division managers here and you could classify her as spoiled. One of the topics of conversation was that Ari and I both thought she needed to put on some weight. At one point, I even wrapped my fingers around her bicep and only needed another half inch to touch my fingertips. Baby had no back either but she was satisfied with her lack of weight. That’s what really matters though.
Another topic that recurred was the Uzi. You’ll recall that the Uzi is heavier and less accurate, albeit more feminine. Well, it also kicks back more. This makes things difficult if your a member of the weaker sex (that would be female ;-)) Ari’s desciption of some women practicing was pretty funny. I must admit, however, that the account of guys’ shooting wasn’t a whole lot better.
Anyway, the weekend came and on Friday I went climbing with two Russian guys from work. The way I found them was as follows: I emailed a climbing shop in Tel Aviv that was listed in Climbing magazine. They mailed me back with the number of the president of the alpine club of Israel who gave me three local numbers. One of those contacts climbs with one of the guys here. It took some effort, but I found a contact.
The rock that we went to was a little over an hours drive away just SE of Tel Aviv. There’s closer climbing, but they go there during the week. When I first looked at it, I thought, don’t you have something a little less challenging? The easiest one looks to be about a 5.10. (They use the american scale here. If you don’t know what 5.10 means, you can’t climb it) This is gonna be a long day.
The day of climbing was pretty communal. It seems that a couple people brought static ropes for toproping and each one setup their rope at one site and then people just rotated climbs. Takes out the pain of setting up the rope. You just hang out til a rope is free and flail away.
The climbers there were pretty good. I guess you need to be to even show up there. One guy led a bunch of 11s. At one point I heard mention of a guy on-site soloing an 11. I did ok though. I made it up a good portion of a bunch of the climbs and the level of difficulty taught me alot. If I climb this stuff on a regular basis, I’ll get better quickly.
For the most part, however, it was a pretty isolating day. A couple of the people were recent Russian immigrants and didn’t speak alot of English. The locals were doing their own thing and kept more or less to themselves. I guess I need to learn Hebrew.
The next day was much more social. Joining an athletic club (not a gym) is a great way to meet people. On Saturday, I went to a race by Galilee with the Intel mountain biking group which actually consists of half randoms. The race was fun and the weather was great for it. I can’t say that I was at the front, but I certainly didn’t come in last place. I even beat a bunch of full suspension bikes. One of the funnier sights that I saw was a full suspension Klein and regular pedals without toe clips. Everyone, of course has that cool biking fashions with lots of team logos.
Afterward, I hung out with a couple coworkers and randoms. One of the randoms Livnat (leave-not) always makes me think of Ralph Macio from the karate kid. She probably wouldn’t appreciate that but I can’t help it. She’s a physical therapist.
That reminds me of a funny incident. The week before, I had given her a ride since she doesn’t own a car. (import tax on car is very high here) One of the first things she said to me was that I have bad posture. She’s laughed at me alot for the rest of the day for being self-conscious about it. She’s right but it’s crazy that I’d respond that way.
One of the Intel guys brought his little son along and he (the son) and I bonded pretty well. They had lived in Virginia for a couple years so he knew English. Later, during dinner, it was obvious that he liked me much more than Livnat who was making an effort to befriend him. She got her payback, however, when the boy, Daniel, announced to the table that I remind him of his uncle. We’re both tall and have similar personalities. But the uncle at least knows SOME hebrew. Everyone found that pretty humourous, especially since it had to be translated for me.
Last weekend was a long one for Israel’s 50 independence day. It was rather interesting to be here for it. Memorial day and independence day come together. On the first night of it all, Tuesday, they sounded the sirens and everything stops and stands at attention for a full 2 minutes in remembrance of those that died defending Israel. The next morning, they sounded them again for independence. At the time that it went off, I was in my Hebrew lesson and my tutor and I spent the next couple of minutes comparing the attitudes of Israel and America.
I guess this would be a good time to go into the topics of race, religion, and partiotism. To summarize, I’ve never before been in an environment where people really don’t notice race (“I’m not racist. Lots of my friends are black” doesn’t count) When I walk down the street late at night and I pass some old person or a female I’m never avoided. If anything, it seems like people make a special effort to get in the way. 80%+ of the people consider themselves Jewish but very few of them are religious. Comparing Southern Baptists and other Christians might be similar. There is a minority of the Jewish community that wears all black, with the crazy curly sideburns and stuff like that and there’s the majority for whom it’s simply a shared history, struggle, and traditions. There’s a very real difference between Jewish religion and Jewish culture. As far as military service goes, everyone does it. Growing up, you know that when you finish high school and before anything else, you go into the military for a couple years and then when you get out, there’s reserve duty once a year until you’re 40 or so. People here are proud of being Israeli because it’s where they belong and where they’re from.
Israel has lots of different origins. Most recently there has been a large influx of Russians and Ethiopians. It’s wierd to see Africans wearing yamakas. (sp?) Before then, there were obviously lots from Germany. America is well represented as well. In any case, people are so used to being mixed with other origins that race becomes a nonissue. But America is the melting pot! I’m not exactly sure why it turned out so different but one guess is that a higher percentage immigrated in recent history.
One very large exception to this is with Arabs. Going back to my pub night with Ari and Daphna, we got onto the topic of what was the worst thing she could need to tell her father. (she’s spoiled remember) It was decide that the following would be it, “Dad… I’m pregnant…. He’s a drug dealer…. He’s Arab” It strikes me as a little funny that the Arabs would be the focus since as my friend Mark told be before I came here, “Israel is the most non-secular country I know”. People don’t feel so good about Orthodox Jews either so you can probably just liken it to the bad feeling against the Jesse Helms conservatives. Let me do what I do and I’ll be happy and as the media loves to point out, Arab don’t do that.
When I first got here, I found religion to be noticeable in a couple ways that I’ve talked about before. Kosher food in the cafeteria. No wheat during Passover. Stores close on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. These are the types of things that most people here cling to. Everyone has their bar/bat mitzvah. Everyone celebrates Hannuka, Yom Kippor, and Rash Hashona (sp?) Most people, if you ask them, will tell you they’re Jewish. Few go to synagogue. Not really that different from things in the states.

I was talking to one of the other two Americans here during lunch today when he mentioned the Scud Mall. I didn’t notice it at first and just asked him to clarify where it is; I wasn’t familiar with it. When he did, I realized that, yes, I do know the mall. It’s the one with the metal detector wand. He told me he and his family call it the Scud Mall because it was hit by a scud during the war. The mall is a 20min drive from my apartment. It takes that long only because there isn’t a direct route.
I’ll leave you with a political joke. Every year, close to independence day, people attach Israeli flags to their cars. Here’s and there you’ll also see an American flag, presumably because America has done alot to protect the country. Some of the flags have 51 stars.

On my way to Israel (written May 1998)

This is a journal I sent to friends back in 1998 as I was making my way to Isreal. There are a bunch more which I will also post.
Hello all.

Here is the first issue of what I’m attempting to make an interesting account of my experience here in Israel. I’m sending it everyone who could possibly care, but to save you the embarassment of asking to be deleted,

THIS IS THE ONLY JOURNAL YOU WILL RECIEVE UNLESS YOU ASK TO CONTINUE GETTING THEM.
Here is ther first issue of my adventure in Israel. This will cover the events up to my first day. Don’t expect any juice. Anything juicy that may or may not have happened is deliberately left out. Sorry.

Miles

In 1994 and 1995, I took two trips to Israel for a total of 4 weeks. I had a very good time. The people are very nice. (though a bit abrupt) The country is very pretty. (as are the women). Ever since then, I’ve told everyone from Intel Israel that if a cool opportunity came up for me to go there for an extended period they should keep me in mind.

Well in November of 1997 one of the big managers approached me about a possible assignment in his group. I accepted and here I am. Ironicly, in the weeks that I was travelling here, he has taken another position to be replaced by the guy that recommended me to him. This is the same guy that hired me into Intel in the first place. I guess he must have liked me working in his group.

Before I left work in Santa Clara, I had a number of opportunities to say goodbye to those around me. The bible study that I attend at work had a potluck for me. I set aside two evenings to say goodbye to my non-work friends. On the first night, even though I exected only 4 or 5, I drew a crowd or a little more than 10. The second day, work took me to a going away lunch. About 30 or 40 people attended that. At the lunch, I quickly finished eating and made my rounds spending some time with each table. My dinner the second night with my friends drew about 14. At this point I came to the realization, “Wow! people really do like me.” I feel blessed to have such a special group of friends.

Hopefuly, it wasn’t a fluke and I’ll be able to find more friends here. πŸ˜‰

Making an international move is actually quite complicated and it gives me heightened appreciation of companies that manage to open foreign offices. Some of the issues include: 1 work permit. 2 getting all the approvals within the company 3 coordinating with the movers- first I had to decide what to store, what to ship by air and what to ship by boat. 4 buying my tickets- a ticket to TLV that has a stay of <30 days costs ~$1500 but if the stay is >30 then the tix cost $3500. Go figure. I paid $1700 for a short term ticket and will just buy another round trip when I come back for a visit. 5 My taxes will be done by Intel while I’m here. They will probably look pretty impressive. The coolest reason is because of Israeli tax. Since I’m working here, I have to pay some amount of tax here. Because Intel’s policy is that I shuouldn’t pay any more of less tax than before they may have to pay some of tax here for me. But the IRS considers that INCOME so will of course tax that as well. Relocation expenses are also income.

Anyway, the fun stuff.

On Sunday, 15 april, I drove to Los Angeles to visit my father and the rest of that side of the family. My family is quite religious (the african american Baptist variety) and was excited for two reasons: 1. I’m going to Israel. 2. “maybe you’ll find a nice Jewish girl to marry.”

Go figure on that one but I guess I’m getting to the age where any wife at all would make them happy. I’m 26. My younger sister has informed me that if I’m not married by the time I’m 28, I might as well forget it so Israeli women must be my last chance. Even my uncle the pastor thought finding a jewish girl would be good.

On Monday evening, my gradmother arranged for our immediate family to come have dinner. They didn’t all come at the same time but this allowed me to interact with everyone.

On Tuesday, I had dinner with my friend Dorothy from (s)Wellesly; we had sushi. Coincidentally, I ran into a fraternity brother, Jacob Rael, there. After dinner we did some partying since it was St. Patrick’s day.

Wednesday night, I had dinner with some high school friends, Monique and Isabel. Monique’s sister K.K. was also there. K.K. is supposed to be my future fiancee. Part of the discussion centered on whether K.K and I would really be compatible. We had a short crisis when we thought we both slept on the same side of the bed. Luckily it turned out to be a conflict in terminology. We ate at the Cheese Cake Factory and the food was rather “tasty”. I should also mention that the food my grandmother cooked two days before was even “tastier”.

On Thursday, Emily drove my Corvette down (I had driven my Corolla). I needed to do something with my two cars. (sounds impressive huh?) I decided to give the Vette to my dad. The Corolla, would be put to best use by my brother who turned 16 last July. Besides, I’ve always wanted to drive through some portion of the US. So Emily, in addition to helping me by bringing down my second car kept me company on the trip to Colorado. More on that later.

So during the day on Thursday, my grandmother asks me what my plans for the next couple days are. Well, tonight Emily will get here and then we start driving for a couple days. Where will she be sleeping tonight? I figured she could just sleep this couch and I’l sleep on the other one. I can’t have you two sleeping in the same room!….

In the end I slept in my dad’s room who never sleeps there anyway.

On Thursday night, I went out with K.K., Emily, and my cousin James. Before we left, James runs out to my aunt and uncle as they were dropping off my grandmother from church to report, “Miles has a black girl AND a white girl in there!!!!” Gotta love James. He’s become quite the hound lately.

So Friday morning comes along and I’m ready to begin the next phase of my travels. At 11am, after explaining all the nuances of the vette to my dad Emily and I drive away. After driving ~15min I realize I forgot my glasses so we had to go back. Luckily that was the only hitch.

We’re off again. It took about 2 hours of speed limit driving to finally get away from the LA area. LA’s a BIG place, you know. During this time, Emily and I agreed that neither one of us would dump the other at the end of the trip. Should be pretty easy since we’re not dating.

One of the fun things about the coming trip is keeping track of elevation with my handy altitude watch (I knew there was a reason why I bought it) Once you leave LA, the highway to Colorado never goes below 3 or 4 thousand feet.

One the first day we drove to Williams which is about an hour outside of the Grand Canyon. On the way, we stopped in Barstow for lunch and I had the most not “tasty” milkshake I ever had. Thankfully, it had no alcohol in it so I could not drink it without remorse.

In Williams we had a late dinner. When we got to the restaurant, something happened that I hadn’t experienced in quite some time. Living in California really numbs your senses to things like this. The host asked me “smoking or non?” How wierd. We stayed at the Route 66 Motel. Very exciting. In the lobby, I saw a plauque for 1st place in the local rodeo won by a guy with last name of Patel. I presume he was one of the owners. Gotta watch out for those Indians. The thought of an Indian speaking hick with an Indian accent is quite scary. Even worse than the Chinese girl from Nashville that I met at MIT. (man she could talk alot)

The next morning we got up and drove to “The Canyon”. Can we say, “wow!” Seeing pictures does not compare in the least to the really thing. (kinda like sex) We spent about 2 hours there taking pictures and being tourists. I decided that one day I’d like to backpack across it. Not sure how feasible that is. There were also lots of walls begging to be climbed.

So we drove on heading to Albaquerque. Along to road from the canyon to flagstaff we passed by something I wasn’t expecting in that part of the county at the end of March…. A big white snowy meadow. very pretty. Again we stopped and took pictures.

We had a late lunch just past flagstaff and I gave Emily a quick lesson on driving stick. (shift that is) As we were position in the middle or a parking lot, a man in a van with lots of “Jesus loves you” stickers. Says to me out of his window, “you’re a brave man”, smiled and continued on. Emily actually did quite well though you couldn’t her that.

We continued on to Albaquerque. As I was going along, I discovered something about truckers,… Their job isn’t that easy. Even though we were only going along rolling hills the elevation made them steep enough that I couldn’t maintain full speed in my Corolla. I found myself following the examples of the truckers by blazing down the incline before each hill so I could maintain the speed I wanted.. Think about that next time you cut off a truck just before a long hill.

So we got to albaquerque decide to catch a movie. While in a gas station asking for directions to a good theater, I mention, “hey, I work for Intel. Don’t have a monster factory here?” “Yes” was the reply followed by, “I heard you’re laying people off”.

So we went to the theater as directed. We weren’t sure what we wanted see but agreed we could figure it out. There were no movie discriptions anywhere! Century could use come marketing advice. When we called out into a small crowd what the movie Wild Things was about, we got silence. Finally a woman aged about 40 responded, “It’s the one with Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon and some other people…. Sounds like the type of movie you’d likes.” Kids these days.

In any case, this is the movie that we decided to see based on our opinions that Dillon and Neve Campbell are babes. It was very good. I very much recommend it. As an added bonus, and this should appeal to you feminists out there, you get to see Bacon’s unit. That got quite a response. I wonder if they used a double. I myself, if I had a double, would have chosen one that reached to the knees, but he didn’t follow this route. But don’t dispair guys, even though you don’t get to see Neve Campell’s chest you do get to check out the other girl’s. Very nice. Also lots of bikini action.

After the movie, we wanted to get in somemore miles so continued on intending to stay someplace just outside of Santa Fe. Unfortunately, they neglected to put put any motels past Santa Fe so we ended up driving all the way to Las Vegas. Las Vegas, New Mexico that is where we stayed at the Thunderbird motel. (we couldn’t find anyplace with hourly rates)

The next day, we decided that we were far enough that we didn’t have to take the main highway and took a route through the mountains instead. Definitely a good move. Added alot to the scenery that way.

So we’re driving along and we come upon a massing bridge over the Rio Grande. Again… “wow!” We asked this psycho photagrapher if he could take our picture. He goes into this spiel about what kind of film do we have print of slide. (it’s 1pm on a clear day in the dessert) And oh, do we have enough light for the polarizer on my lense (it’s 1pm on a clear day in the dessert)….. Just press the button please. This is shortly after I watch him taking pictures from the middle of the bridge with a tripod self timer and everything (the purpose of all this is to prevent camera shake which results in noticeably sharper pictures) just as 6 cars are about to come across. “errr, there are a bunch of cars coming… you might want to wait a moment till they pass.” “oh yeah… thanks”

We continue on. The drive into and thoughout Colorado is quite amazing. Lots of snowcapped mountains piercing out of rolling wheat meadows kissed by the sunlight oh so gently. Yuck. I hate flowery writing but the view was pretty cool. We stopped to have lunch at a mexican restaurant. I figured that in the southwest, the mexican food should be pretty good. I ordered the tacos. They definitely weren’t “tasty”. They didn’t taste bad either. Imagine this: take some skinned, boneless chicken and put it into straight boiling water until it’s cooked. The wrap it with a bunch of regular lettuce and a piece or two of tomato and wrap it all in regular old steamed soft taco shells. Makes your mouth water doesn’t it? At least the shake was good.

The rest of the drive was less eventful. We approached Denver just as all the locals were coming home from skiing. I didn’t realize that people skied in this part of the country.

So there I was in Denver. (Boulder, actualy) I finally get to see the place where my bro and his mom live (along with two sisters, a dog, a nine (9) cats. It’s a very nice place that they’re fixing up these day. The area reminded me of the veggy haus in La Honda. I must say that Boulderites have it pretty good. As I was driving to and from my brother’s house, I couldn’t keep my eyes on the road. All that rock to be climbed! It was quite exciting.

Tuesday rolls around and I hooked up with Nate Getrich from MIT who lives in the area. I had called him up at IBM the day before and got his voice mail. In keeping with the PKT tradition, we got together and told all the same stories about all the same people. Hopefully, Richard (he would be my brother) didn’t get an incorrect impression of college life. Him being in high school and all.

Wednesday is when the real excitement hits. We go skiing. Unlike my previous experiences, I was actually pretty decent. I was able to parallel turn. I could stop. We even slid down a black diamond. At the end of the day I was pretty exhausted. That didn’t stop me from visiting with Curtis Barnes my big brother at PKT. I hadn’t seen him since he graduated from MIT my freshman year. Again, we told more of the same stories only this time about the older people from the house.

Thursday comes and it’s time to continue on my journey. My friend Nurith in Dallas is the next stop. Hicks, cadillacs with steer horns, and country music is what I was expecting. Instead, a beautiful Crate&Barrel is what I found. A ‘cute’ shopping area that gives University avenue a run for its money is what Dallas really is. At least thats the part that I saw. I stayed there till Sunday afternoon. On saturday night, I had the pleasure of going to a country bar. Let me tell ya, Texas has alot to learn when it comes to country dancing. The place we went to was about the same area as the Saddle Rack in San Jose. Instead of two dance floors, they had only one. Because the total floor space was about the, this wouldn’t have been a problem is not for the fact that there are two types of dancing: “country”, and “western”. Well, actually, that should be couple and line. My line dancing is a bit better than with a partner and I wasn’t able to strut my stuff! what a shame. The place really hits it’s low when they busted out with the “pop set”. You know, the music for the younger generation. This also wouldn’t have been a problem if not for their selection. Would you believe they played a song by the “Back Street Boyz”. They might as well play Vanilla Ice at a hip hop club.

The day before, on Friday, I went to one of Nurith’s classes. She’s in law school and contracts was the topic of this particular class. I think I could be a pretty good business lawyer; I’m pretty good at weasling out of stuff. anyway, she pointed out a girl who had tried on a $73K engagement ring. The one she ended up getting was pretty impressive as well. I could see it across the room. Ever since she’d told me about this price tag, I’ve been wondering just what you get for $74k. Well, during the day on Saturday we found out. We were walking around a cute mall that would give University shopping center and Copley Center a run for its money in the shishi dept. We asked two jewelry stores what such a ring would look like. One only had a $60K ring and the other went only as high a $20K. Even so, both places showed us some nice stuff. It was pretty clear that they thought we were shopping for our engagement but I was still rather surprise that they took us so seriously. They definitely won points over the people in Palo Alto stores. πŸ˜‰ Made for some very interesting shopping. When Nurith and I told her sister about our shopping later on, Nurith commented that she could tell the different between the quality of the stuff in the expensive store over that from the other store. I don’t know about that but then I guess I would get more excited in the craftsman dept.

Germany is the last part of my vacation before I have to work again. It wasn’t until I got there and was hit by a foreign language that I really realized. WOW!, I’m moving to Israel! A country with a foreign language that I don’t speak. Street signs that I can’t read. (Hebrew is the language used here) It was almost intimidating. I enjoyed my stay in good ole Deutschland, however. I always do. I like visiting my sister, even when we’re at each others throats.

Would you believe the Jovan (my sister) the teeniest teenager I know. The biggest, most disgusting Leo DeCapucino fan I know, HAS NOT SEEN TITANIC!! Quite remarkable, eh?

Alas, my vacation has ended, I’m in Israel now. I was in Germany for only couple days and part of that was spent jet-lagging. Security in Germany isn’t nearly what it used to be. No tanks. I didn’t get frisked. Only a couple guards with automatic weapons.