Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Misadventures in Israel

So I haven't really been doing anything exciting over the break. I've mostly been studying, reading books on my Kindle and cooking. This post is going to focus on some more everyday life stuff.

This picture is from just before the last Ulpan session ended but it didn't really fit in with the topic of my last post. They started on some construction projects on campus specifically knocking out what appear to be perfectly good walls. The first occurrence of this I don't have a picture of but I'll explain it. Everyone that walks to school has to enter in through the same gate and most walk through the forum(student center) in the morning. Along the path that everyone has to take from the gate through the forum there were two men taking down a wall during the time of heaviest foot traffic through the area. This wall also contained a glass window. The two men were not wearing protective goggles or face masks. The area was not coned off there were no drop cloths hanging from the ceiling to stop flying debris. No signs to warn you that you were approaching a construction area. Just two guys with sledge hammers pounding on the wall with glass shards and sheet rock flying through the air. About thirty feet from this was an open cafe where people were calmly sitting enjoying their morning coffee and pastries. I thought this was odd but quickly moved passed it to avoid injury. The next day I had to take a picture of a second wall being knocked out. Same as before no protective gear or signs. The two men were wailing on the wall when it must have occurred to them 'Hey there is a vending machine on the other side of the wall maybe we should move it. ' I was surprised they hadn't moved it before starting on the wall. Another day towards the middle of the forum they were jack hammering up some of the tile. A cafe very close to the site was still open and people were sitting there enjoying their drinks. I don't think I could enjoy coffee with the sound of jack hammering so close by. I guess they must not have lawsuits for liability in Israel. I know that doing the construction during the Ulpan makes sense because there are less students on campus but I think they could have started after the morning classes began and less students were passing by.

I have another example of construction this time at the Student Village right outside my building. The hole has been doubled in size since this picture was taken the tree has been snapped in half and almost all of the vines are now gone. And the whole is full of water. Outside the door to my room there is a speaker in the ceiling. I wondered when I moved in what the speaker was for since we clearly did not have a sound system in our apartment. Several mornings over the break there has been a chiming sound followed by an announcement in Hebrew then in English. I was proud of myself for understanding the Hebrew before the English was given. Basically all they said was in twenty minutes we are going to turn off the water for a few hours. But when they made the announcement in English they still used the Hebrew word for water and minutes. So if you had just arrived here you wouldn't know what they were talking about. I do appreciate the warnings that they are about to turn off the water but having the speaker also feels a little big brotherish to me.

This next story wasn't very amusing when it occurred but now that some time has passed I'm able to laugh about it. I had to do my laundry specifically I had already washed my laundry and needed to dry it only one of the dryers was still open. So I tossed my clothes inside and turned it on. After checking the lint trap which is always a good idea in a university laundry mat people often forget to clean it out. The dryer was only on medium heat. When I came back thirty minutes later something was clearly wrong. Several of my shirts had caught fire in the dryer and had holes burned through them. Several other shirts and my bed sheets had scorch marks on them. And yet seeming to defy the laws of heat transfer (the actual scientific name escapes me at the moment) the waist band of all my jeans was still wet. I took the shirt that was in the worst shape and headed down to the dorm office. After waiting in line for a few minutes I told the woman that dryer number 16 needed to be repaired as it had caught fire and burned my clothes and I showed her my burned shirt. She glanced at it and looked me straight in the face and said "Yes this happens." I was dumbfounded what did she mean by that? Do dryers frequently catch fire in Israel? Are the dryers in the student village really that dangerous? She gave me the number of the company that runs the laundromat and sent me away. I called the number but they didn't speak English and that was the end of that. I did go back to the laundry mat and no one has placed any kind of sign on dryer 16 to warn that it has the tendency to catch fire. I haven't added a sign because I don't know how to write this information in Hebrew. I was folding up my laundry and complaining about the scorch marks and just to show you how much of a geek I truly am one of the things I said was "I'm going to look like I've been singed by mage fire!" I guess that qualifies as geek ranting. In my defense I was at the time reading C.L. Wilson's Tairen Soul series where the villains are mages and are know for the devastating fire attacks. If you like fantasy series you might want to look into the Tairen Soul series its currently four books long with the fifth one coming out at the end of October. The first book is called Lord of the Fading Lands.

My next adventure is the Post Office. I have a mailbox in the student village but its very small. So if I get a package it can end up one of three places. Sometimes it will end up at the housing office desk you will have no way of knowing its there except going to check every few days. It could be sent to the Post office on campus but that would be too convenient and make too much sense so they usually sent it to the Post Office that's about half a mile away from the Student Village. They are supposed to put a slip of paper in your mailbox to tell you that you have a package but sometimes they don't and you just have to go check to see if they have a package for you. So if you are going to send a package you have to let me know so I can look for it. In writing the address its best to write in print and do not abbreviate things like street or building. A lot of people can read English but not everyone here can read cursive. And don't bother to sending anything by priority mail the only person its priority to is you. Its also not a good idea to send things during the High Holy Days (Days of Awe) which consist of all the holidays of my last few posts. Because of all the holidays the Post Office is shut down so many days it takes forever for things to get here. I got a package slip in my mailbox so I set off for the post office. There are some great views along the way so I brought my camera along.

Here I've gone out the South gate of the Student Village up the street to the grocery store and turned the corner and walked about ten minutes to get this view. I'm walking along one of the ridges on the mountain and its hard to gauge distance. You can see homes towards the right of the picture. In the upper left corner you can see the buildings of the Student Village.

In the center of this picture is the famous tower of Hebrew University.

Here is a closer view of what the houses in this neighborhood look like. Notice the solar panels and hot water heaters on the roof.

Along the way there is some interesting graffiti. This one kind of reminds me of Pablo Picasso.

This one looks rather familiar like I might have seen graffiti similar to it in the States. I don't remember where though.

This last one was rather large. I couldn't take a picture of it from across the street because cars were parked in front of it and would have blocked most of it.

So I reached the post office. In Israel the color of the post office is red and there mascot looks like Hermes shoe ( a sneaker with wings sprouting from around the ankle) which would make sense since Hermes was the messenger of the Greek/Roman pantheon of gods. However I'm not sure that is what the symbol is supposed to be given that this is a Jewish state. There is an armed guard outside who checks your bag before letting you in. You take a number and sit down and must like the drivers license office you sit down and wait for your number to come up. They open around 8:30am and I got there around 11am. The number I pulled was 917 luckily they were on 890 something. To work in the post office in Israel is difficult because I think you have to know three languages. Everything in the post office was written in Hebrew, Arabic and lucky for me English. I took a seat in the corner by the door since they were saving money and the air conditioner was not on the seat by the door was much cooler. As I sat waiting I began to notice something interesting...where certain people would and would not sit or specifically who they wouldn't sit by. Women sat by other women and sometimes would remain standing if they had to cross in front of a man to get to open seats. At one point all of the chairs were taken except for the one next to me. Several men came in but none of them would take the seat next to me. When my number came up I handed the lady my package slip and she went and brought me my package. If I didn't have the package slip I would have to show my passport in order to pick it up. So I had my package and began my walk back to the student village. It took me a few minutes to notice but people were giving me a pretty wide berth walking down the sidewalk. I had a couple people cross the street rather than walk past me. I guess it was because I was carrying a box and you never know what I might be carrying. I was just thinking of the contrast between Israel and America. Back home no one would think anything of me walking down the street with a box in my hands here it is noted.

Yesterday I walked up to school to show a new student around and to buy a few school supplies. The street leading up to the University is lined with parking meters. On the way back to the student village there was a parking meter guy going down the street and checking to make sure everyone had paid. I normally wouldn't have noticed him but I did because he had a gun on his belt and several extra clips of ammunition. It just struck me as odd that a parking meter man would need to be armed? I'm still not used to the presence of so many guns everywhere.

As I mentioned above I've done a little cooking over the break. Since I'm still learning I've very proud of everything I make that turns out well. This is German potato salad. Skin and boil the potatoes. Chopped up one white onion and saute it in a half cup of white wine vinegar add mustard,salt, pepper and a little sugar. Saute until onions become clear then mix into potatoes and let it sit for a while to absorb the flavor and top with parsley. I will take this time to mention that I've had to learn to think about the altitude difference between Texas and Israel. I had to boil the potatoes for about an hour before they were soft enough.

I also made apple crumble cake. I think the least healthy thing I've made so far. The topping is flour,butter and brown sugar. Chopped up the apples into wedges put them in a mixing bowl pour lemon juice over them, this is so the cinnamon will stick. It's supposed to have a whipped topping but we don't have a mixer so I couldn't make it. Put it in the oven to bake for 35 minutes at 176 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I used a temperature converter on the Internet to figure it out.

This is a popular kids treat this is what the kids ask/whine for at the grocery store. I'm not sure how to transliterate the name into English so I'm not going to try. They are creme filled little nuggets they come in chocolate and vanilla.

Claire is the one who pointed out this line of brownies to me. Each one has a rather offensive cartoon drawing of an African woman whose hair color matches the brownies on the package. The blondies packages have offensive looking white women on them but I haven't tried them yet. When I do I'll post pictures. You know I have to try them all just to get pictures of the packages, for my followers of course! You see what I'm willing to do in the name of an interesting blog post. The brownies were really good though so I it won't be much of a sacrifice.

As far as my reading goes I've been on a classics run this week. I've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I'm now working on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. These two novels are on my bucket list of reading. Which is a list of mostly classics that I want to read in my lifetime. Of course once school starts back up I probably won't have as much time for reading as I would like. The fall semester starts this coming Sunday October 10th. I am planning on doing a post listing what classes I'm taking this semester. However I'm going to wait until after the add/drop period just in case my schedule changes. Wow! This was a very long post if you've made it this far thanks for reading!


  1. Anna,

    Great post! So much great information and great pictures. It's very interesting to see the difference between liability concerns here verses there when doing construction. It's a wonder that no one was worried about getting glass in their food or drinks.
    I love the pictures of the graffiti. Rather artistic and fun!
    You're becoming quite the cook. Your dishes always look extremely good and tasty! And, thank you for biting the bullet and trying the cookies for us - very generous of you!
    Keep the posts coming and for gosh sakes, don't hack off the meter police!

  2. Yay! Fun post!

    That's crazy about all the construction. In Japan they are really courtious about that sort of thing and they normally wait till night time to do work in high pedestrian traffic areas. They even put Christmas lights on the scaffoldings to make them a little less ugly during the holidays.

    The speakers in your dorm remind me of the speakers that are set up all over my island. They announce things throughout the day and play music at noon and 5 pm. My apartment is about halfway between two of these speakers, so I get a really bad echo effect and normally can't understand hardly anything they say. I'm always hoping that if it is something super important, like a tidal way coming or something, that my neighbors will come and get me because I will probably be oblivious.

    That's crazy about the dryer, but at least you have them! Everything is hung up to dry here. When I was lamenting not having a dryer one day my teacher looked at me as though I were speaking very strangely and said, "But only rich people have dryers." But I suppose I'd rather hang things up than have them burst into flames...

    Also, I love your geek ranting. That's the best kind!

    Great job on the cooking! I'm still being lazy and hardly know how to cook anything. It's frustrating not being able to find ingridients I want though. But your pictures look amazing and delicious and maybe they will inspire me to give something a try.

    I really didn't like Pride and Prejudice when I read it in high school, but I loved the Count of Monte Cristo. You'll have to give us a report of what you thought of them!

    Long post = long comment!

    By the way, I was showing some friends the video of the para para we did at Aggiecon and thought of you. They were really impressed Miss you!

  3. I always enjoy your descriptions of daily life while living in Jerusalem. You are one very observant person and we get the benefits of seeing things through your eyes. Your recipes and cooking pictures look delicious. I know you started your graduate courses this week. Take care of yourself.


  4. Weird country. Maybe smashing glass with a sledge and no goggles doesn't seem all that hazardous to them.

    Did you figure out why they wouldn't sit next to you before you got your package?

    You might use Google Translate to convert an English phrase to Hebrew glyphs. Don't know if Google's tool will get the syntax right. You might end up writing something as weird as some of the word-for-word translations into English I've seen. But you ought to be able to get "This burned my clothes" on the dryer.

    מייבש זה שרף את הבגדים שלי

    I've been watching a bunch of anime on netflix. An interesting art form. Don't know how good Israel might be with animation of any sort. Except for dancing cows, I guess. Do they even do cartoons?

    Gorgeous view on the trip to the post office.

  5. Uncle Sam and Aunt LyndaOctober 18, 2010 at 2:56 AM

    Anna, great blog. Good luck with the fall semester. We could envision where you were walking from the photos and having been there. Impressed with your cooking, the photos make us hungry! Thanks for sharing your wonderful, educational venture with us; looking forward to your next entry.