Monday, July 31, 2006

Home and knitting on planes

I am home, safe and sound. Spending about 20 hours in planes wasn't fun, but I survived. The second leg of my trip was delayed a couple hours because when they loaded the plane the cabin was as hot as a sauna. The captain announced that it didn't seem smart to fly across the country (from NY to CA) with the cabin at 95 degrees, but they left us sitting in the hot plane for 90 minutes while they tried to fix it. My body didn't like it. I had already sat in a plane for over 12 hours! And, by the time we got in the air (luckily, with a working air conditioning system) the flight held over 6 more hours of constrained movement and mediocre movies.

I had one consolation: I was knitting. That's right! I knit on an overseas, transcontinental flight. Not only that, but I was on El Al, the Israeli airline with a reputation extreme strictness. I was restrained and didn't try to knit during the strange sleepy time-warp that was my trip to Tel Aviv. But, by my trip back, restraint was gone. Of course, I am using rather unthreatening needles for my current project--US size 8 wooden double pointed--so I didn't really expect any logical person to be threatened by my knitting. And I was right! I was randomly selected for my carry on baggage to be searched twice in the Tel Aviv airport, and no one cared about the needles, or anything else in my bag really.

Now I am home. My husband and my cat are both happy to see me, and life is returning to its normal frantic pace. But, you know what else is special about being back:

Home = Iced Mocha!!!

That's right, there are no iced mochas in Israel, or at least I couldn't find any. There is a drink Israelis call an iced mocha, but it is not the same. An Israeli iced mocha is a very sweet blended drink that circulates in a kind of slurpee machine--a sort of prefrozen frappuccino concoction. I spent one day on a mission for an iced mocha: I looked at multiple coffee shops, I tried asking for a "mocha with ice," and I explained exactly how to make one. Yet, everywhere I went they looked at me like was crazy.

I had a really wonderful time, but it's good to be back.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Coming home, soon

Tomorrow evening I will begin the long trek home. It will not be fun, but I am looking forward to the end destination: my home with my sweet husband, my cat, and my bed. Normal life will resume again, with all of the reading, writing, and researching. It's amazing to think that on Saturday I will be at knitting group. I think my friends and fellow knitters won't be impressed with how much knitting I have done in Tel Aviv, but they might be interested in all of the Yiddish I have learned. We'll see...

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's in the bomb shelter?

Well, that's what I wanted to know. So, after all of the warnings about what we should do if we hear a siren, I took a little trip to the bomb shelter in my dorm building. And, you ask, what did I find? Well, not much:

I found a big empty cement room with dust, some fans, and a bunch of mediocre murals. Including one with an important message to remember when you are hiding from missiles:

Don't forget.

Have I been knitting?

Long ago, before I left on my trip to Israel, I ended a blog entry with a picture of my current project and the tease, "For next time: 'What's that on the fence?'" Well, my next entry didn't talk at all about what was on the fence, but a couple astute blog readers correctly noted that the picture showed a bunch of little knit fish. I am making the lovely tessellating fish blanket (of which you can see very nice examples here), but I haven't gotten too much done while "ich bin lernen zich yiddish" here in Tel Aviv. Yet, someone did take this picture of me on the bus, so I must me knitting at least a little.

Friday, July 21, 2006

More holy places

Well, as I am in the "holy land," I am visiting holy places. I already posted a picture of the Western Wall, so now I want to show you some of the Muslim and Christian sites.

This is a beautiful mosque across from one of the beaches near downtown Tel Aviv:

When I was in the Old City of Jerusalem last Sunday, Esther and I were walking in the Muslim Quarter, and we just happened upon the entrance to the courtyard around the Dome of the Rock. We couldn't enter, but we were able to take pictures through the entry. We felt very luck to be there.

The most holy place in the Old City for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is rather unassuming from the outside, but inside is a dark, incense filled maze of elaborately decorated areas for different Christian groups to prey:

The building is supposed to be built on the spot where Jesus died, as depicted in this fresco which greets visitors as they arrive.

And, for fun, a picture of Bartek and me waiting for the bus:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Looking around

Last weekend I couldn't go on the tour to the northern part of Israel, so I spent more time exploring Tel Aviv. I saw lovely vistas:

and interesting architecture:

I ate breakfast with two of my new friends from Poland (Adam is in this picture with me while Bartek to the photo):

And, as always, I saw plenty of cats:

Now, in my fourth week in Israel, I'm having an amazing time, but I'm also having recurring dreams in which people talk to me in foreign languages and then refuse to translate.

Monday, July 17, 2006

For those who worry

You should know that I am alright. I am not able to email everyone I would like to tell them: "Don't worry. I am well." So, I am posting this message.

Some parts of my program have been canceled because of danger in the Northern part of Israel, but there is little risk in Tel Aviv. I have been briefed about what to do if there is a siren warning of a possible rocket, but it is unlikely I will need to use this information.

My life and studies continue. Yesterday I traveled to Jerusalem again and visited the holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Today I had class, went on a tour of the Jewish Diaspora Museum, and in the evening I saw an elderly holocaust survivor perform a one man play entirely in Yiddish. After I post this, I will work on my homework.

I send my love to my friends and family, and I want you to know that I am happy and healthy and people are looking out for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Israeli cats and some art

Cats are everywhere in Tel Aviv. I see them lying in the grass when I walk to class in the morning. They beg at the tables where people sit outside caf├ęs. I even saw three sitting on a parked motorcycle when I was in the center of town. It’s not what I expected when coming to Israel.

Last Friday morning I went of a tour of an area that claims to be the earliest settlement of Tel Aviv. There was a museum there in one of the original buildings, but it is owned by an artist who renovated the house with her own money, and her art decorates the building.

Here is a picture of Tel Aviv.

As the situation in Israel escalates, life here seems to stay the same. People go about as normal, but they watch the news more and talk more about family in the north.

Touring, 2.5

Well, I wasn't able to post pictures of some of the places I went during the second day of touring. But, thanks to a helpful classmate, I now have more pictures to share. Bartec, who's name I am sure I am spelling terribly wrong, is from Poland, and very kindly took pictures of things for me when my camera wasn't working consistently. Here you can see him standing in front of the canyon we climbed out of on the second day of touring:

We also went to a wonderful alpaca farm on that day, and I LOVE alpacas. Alpaca is my favorite fiber to knit with, and they are really funny and sweet to see in person. The farm we were at had over 400 alpacas, and I got to hand feed some. Unfortunately, they were out of yarn, so I couldn't buy anything from the farm to knit with.

This tiny baby walked by me on wobbly legs and let me pet it a bit.

It was amazing to spend the day in the desert.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Touring, pt. 3

The Dead Sea was really fun. Here we are frolicking in the water:

Here we are covering ourselves with medicinal mud:

And here is a lovely group shot of muddy, muddy ladies (including me). But who is who?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Touring, pt. 2

Touring on Saturday and Sunday was lovely.

Above is a picture of the canyon we hiked into on Saturday, and then we climbed out of it. The views were amazing, but the climb up, up, up was rather hot and difficult. Afterwards we visited the place where Ben Gurion is buried and drove past a sculpture garden in the middle of the desert perched on the edge of a cliff. We also went to a really neat Alpaca farm, but my pictures from that part of the day didn't turn out well. Hopefully, I will get some from one of my classmates and post them later.

"Water in the desert" was the theme of most of the places we went on Sunday.

Near the Dead Sea we saw the above waterfall. It was quite breathtaking to look one way up at the water and the green plants flourishing around it, and then to look the other way, down and out of the canyon where the water runs, toward the Dead Sea on the horizon with the dry, rocky cliffs above. Below is a picture of the guard which came with my group for most of the trip as she admired the view.

And here is a picture of Esther, a very nice girl from Australia who currently studies in London, that I took in front of the waterfall:

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Touring, pt. 1

Last weekend my group went on a tour of Jerusalem and the desserts in Northern Israel. When we arrived at the old city of Jerusalem on Friday morning, the gate our guide intended us to enter through was closed. Instead we traversed the wall around the old city, up and down many stairs, to next point of entry.

It was an amazing experience because we had a wonderful view of the area around the wall and a birds eye view of life in the Armenian quarter of the old city.

Although it's not the most attractive picture, the scene above really struck me. It show so clearly the convergence of old and new, of serious religious observance and living people's need to play. (Note the golden dome in the top right corner.) In a spot a bit further on, we saw a group of Jewish boys playing soccer in full traditional dress. We saw them again a few minutes later crawling through a gap in a fence on their way back from their game.

among the pious at prayer, old stones, tourists, guards with guns, and the other students in my group, I was constantly amazed by how small the old city of Jerusalem really is.

Many new things

It is still hot here, but I am coping better now than in the first few days. I hope this entry will give you a picture of my earliest adventures in Tel Aviv, and, as in the past week, knitting doesn't take center stage.

When I arrived over a week ago, after spending two nights on planes, I was extremely disoriented. The program I am in had arranged for many people from my group to be picked-up and brought to the dorm where I would be staying. I was the first to receive a room key, and the guard pointed me the direction of an elevator. Upon arriving on the correct floor, I was desperate for a shower and began searching for my room, but to no avail. A kind girl, a student at the university where I am taking classes, saw me and helped me find the room, but it was still being cleaned and painted. I had no idea what to do. The kind girl led me to her room where she let me put down my things and rest until my room was ready in a couple hours. Later I would be thankful that the room was cleaned, but at the time I was extremely disoriented and simply wanted to find some stable footing.

Here is a picture of my favorite part of the room:

The view is really quite nice. In the picture you can see part of my little bed and that I have a small balcony with a fridge that over looks a park. The room gets quite hot, but I keep the windows wide open and it cools at night.

After I recovered from jet lag, I started having more interesting adventures. Agnes, a very smart and interesting student from Hungary, is fearless, and she invited me to go to the beach with her. After lots of confusion and walking we made it to a very pretty beach in the northern part of Tel Aviv, and I took my first swim in the Mediterranean sea. Agnes was extremely impressed with the size of the waves, but to me, a girl who has lived all my life on the Pacific coast, they seemed very gentle and small.

Here is my friend Agnes by the beach:
The following day we went to the market which I mentioned in my last post. Here is a picture of one little piece of the scene:
As you can see, there were many fruit and vegetable stands, but there were also street merchants selling everything else: jewelry, clothes, religious items, kitchen wares, underwear, shoes, cheeses, dried goods, wallets and bags, random household appliances, many other things, and, of course, hats and sunglasses. The booths that you can see here stretched on in narrow allies for block after block.

I will fill you in later about the tour I took over the weekend, but now I am deep into Yiddish classes, and I am struggling to keep up with everything. Today is also my wedding anniversary. I love you sweetie!! I am sad that I am on the other side of the earth from you. It is strange that for me the day is already half past, but where you are is still night. You are constantly in my thoughts.

One last picture for you: