Sunday, August 31, 2008

tomato, to-mah-to

i feel like it's been forever since i posted photos or a blog, but it really hasn't. i'm just lagging. although before i tell you about yesterday and today i want to say something so i don't forget.

1) i was grumpy today and felt for the first time since i got here that i less than optimistic and excited about the next 5 months. this was a brief, but impactful feeling. i was grumpy, i told you.

2) i have discovered how easy it is to neglect the impulse to change my behaviour and settle into familiar, but not necessarily productive patterns (not doing dishes, not running, not doing crunches, eating badly). instead, i should take the road less traveled by myself and move on so that i can build better habits.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK, so yesterday, we woke up relatively early and took a shirut (thanks ofir) to the beach in a place called rishon. the water was beautiful blue but the sand was wicked hot. feet burnin'. colin knows what i'm talking about. we spent a long while just playing in the waves and trying to ride them. al, reina, jade, butzy, and i walked down to the undeclared section of the beach (not guarded or marked) and started to swim there. butzy and i went deeper and deeper, but didn't realize how strong the current was going. all of a sudden he told me to start swimming harder because the current was pushing us out to sea. he started to get scared and swim faster, signaling to the rest of the group that were sitting on the shore for help. i didn't know what to do, but the fact that he was scared made me swim faster in vain. luckily, we made it far enough in that we didn't need to be rescued, but apparently we were in a kind of scary situation. i was kind of shaky when we got out of the water and sat for a minute to collect myself. butzy later wrote that he had a near-death experience that made him re-evaluate some things. i didn't realize it was so serious (i don't think that it was because the lifeguards drove by on a jetski). however, it was scary nonetheless.

we spent a little more time at the beach, grabbed some food and a cold goldstar and headed back to the house to hang out. we really should have worn more sunscreen, because we all had various degrees of sunburns. once we returned, reina and i went for a quick run (less than 20 minutes, but it's so fucking hot). i'll do more tomorrow.

i showered up and al and i took the bus to jerusalem to hang out. i got in touch with a high school friend of mine, matt deutsch, who is studying in yeshiva in the old city. we planned to meet at mcdonalds on ben yehuda street, so he surprised me from behind. it was soooooo wonderful to see him, as the last time i saw him was not too long after we graduated from winston. he looks so happy and it was fucking fantastic to catch up. one of our israeli soldiers' friends picked alli and i up and we went to mike's place for a couple of beers. we had a lovely time talking and laughing and learning weird words in hebrew that i won't remember.

today, we woke up kind of early because naama and ofir set up a sort of scavenger hunt for our volunteer places. so we got a clue and a map in order to find each place that we would be volunteering. we were split up into 2 teams (rayna, eric, buffy, jade, and myself were one) and we set off for the first place: the youth center.

we visited three places over the course of the afternoon (a youth center, a vocational college, and an elementary school) all within walking distance. my favorite by far was the youth center. we walked in finally, as it was difficult to find hidden away behind a bank building, and were greeted by roee, a long haired, shoeless, very handsome israeli. he offered us water and sweetbreads before sitting us down to talk with us about what they do there. basically they take vans filled with coffee, light snacks, games, and couches out on the street at night, since that's when the at-risk youth are strong in numbers. their mission is to listen, most importantly. they offer advice sometimes, but present a connection to a place where these kids can come to be safe and feel comfortable being themselves away from the pressures of drugs, prostitution. where they can let down their hard exteriors, built up by years on the streets fighting for survival, essentially. fortunately, i've never had to experience that kind of life, but roee showed us the photography that the kids were taught during the last ISC group, and i was totally blown away. i feel that i could really open their eyes and hearts with the avenue of their own creations. i just need to figure out how. roddy is going to help me. i think i'll start off with technical stuff (which i really need to bone up on, since it's my weak point) and then allow them to explore concepts and themes as they encounter them in their social setting, so that the work is meaningful and exploratory for them. we'll see. but i feel good about the place.

ANYWAY, on the way back i kept seeing photo opportunities, but i kept chickening out. it really upset me that i wouldn't just take out my camera and ask someone. but i just couldn't. i had a serious internal struggle all day because everyone kept asking me if i was the photographer in the group, but since i've been here i haven't felt like a photographer at all. not exercising that muscle has made me very insecure about my talent. but reading messages from dylan and thinking about diane arbus really has inspired me to be courageous. also naama told me that i have to take advantage of this place as it is so colorful. i think i'm going to do a project about the children here. israeli, ethiopian, and arab. we'll see again.

after our scavenger hunt and a meeting at another youth center, i came back to the house and chilled out until later, when matt deutsch took a bus to ramla to our house. we went to a lovely shwarma dinner and had some very interesting conversation about atheism, judaism, god, non-god, and music. he's a really awesome guy and i'm so glad he's here. i ahven't had a great conversation like that in a while. he's also inexplicably happy. he says him and god are tight. so he does some very exciting things here that i hope i'll get to do too.

we came back to the house and watched superbad for a while and i IM'ed with colin who i haven't spoken to since we went to LA (which is great becuase i miss him), then my israeli soldier friend yakir drove over with his friend from tel aviv and we all hung out on our front porch, "digging in each other's brains", which yakir explained to me as basically talking everyone's ear off. he's a great guy and a very talented guitar player. he has a "grunge" band (i don't know if it's actually grunge). but i'm going to see them later this month.

ANYWAY, just woke up and had a lovely breakfast with matt, talked about radiohead, and went to the supermarket. now i'll be going to the youth center to get a feel for the place before we start volunteering there. pics soon (I SWEAR).



Friday, August 29, 2008

trippin on a hole in a paper plane

the morning after i last wrote, our group left on our first trip together to get a little taste of israel. we went on a very difficult and hot hike (i think i almost died), then kayaking in the jordan river. it was really awesome to do it again, although i almost didn't because i was so tired. al and i went together and it was a really relaxing little experience. we ate dinner at the campsite with another birthright group, and coincidentally sat down with one of their staffers, daniel, who participated in the first ever ISC group. he had some very interesting stories about the school where he volunteered (likened to school in 'lean on me'... yikes) and also gave us some words of advice about what to expect and to be self motivated as far as developing our own volunteer ideas so that our experiences will be as rewarding as possible.

after dinner, we drove to our hotel which happened to be the same hotel that al and i stayed in on our birthright trip, in which we had one of our most fun nights. since it's the summer, the pool was open this time so we went swimming and then hung out with a couple of guys from the adjoining birthright trip. then i went back to the room to relax and write in my journal. al came back and we watched american pie 2 and laughed until 2 AM. "deep and slow is the way to go"

the next day, we went to the golan heights with our tour guide, reut. and i finally understood the chronology and historical significance of the 6 day and yom kippur war. very interesting stuff. after this, we went to a viewpoint overlooking kineret lake, which is israel's main water source, and very important strategic political and cultural factor for israel and it's neighbors. ANYWAY, then we went to a mall and i bought the most amazing shorts ever so i can wear them under dresses when i go out and i won't chafe. yeah, that's right. chafing fucking sucks. and now i don't have to worry about it EVER again. lalala

so yeah, we finally go back home and al, jodi, and i decided to venture to this 60's party in tel aviv at mike's place that one of the guys from mike's place (tal) invited us to. we got all 60's up (magic pants on under dress--- pics soon), and inbal and matar met me up there. met a sweet german sound engineer named stefan who claimed to have worked at a studio that bob dylan attempted to record at. i drank a bit too much, but had fun anyway once we left the party and went to the beach. i basically just crashed out in the sand and rolled around. alli and jodi got me home safely and i took 2 showers to unsand myself. it kinda worked, but well enough to get to bed.

today, we woke up and just hung out around the house, and i uploaded photos from the last few days (i think i'm almost caught up!!!) then we got ready for shabbat dinner. naama and some of my roomates went to the shuk (market) earlier to get food. ofir and naama came over with todd (another oranim employee) and we said blessings, lit candles, and naama explained the of these rituals as well as the meaning of the parsha for this week. something about jewish law. pretty cool. the dinner was amazing and i ate too effing much. then we got a rousing game of beer pong going. luckily i won, so i didn't have to drink anything. now we've just been hanging out listening to music and dancing around. it's been a good night. i really feel our group coming together. i really need to take photos of our house and all my roomates. i'll do that. tomorrow we're going to the beach with ofir. really excited. more later.

OH, i've posted more photos:



Tuesday, August 26, 2008



it's such a weird feeling. i love israel and i know these next however many months are going to be fucking incredible. i already feel healthier, physically and mentally, that i'm here. i even consciously say to myself, "i'm in a new place, so i can do ____ even if i don't do it at home", whatever _____ productive thing may be.

but i just happened upon some photos from my birthday and new year's and i got an ache in my stomach. the kind you get when you're about to cry. i want to. cry, that is. i miss the last year that i've had. it's been incredible and every single person that i've met and connected with (you know who you are if this has happened) leaves a twinge of this ache every time i think of any of you.

so if that's what being homesick is, then i am homesick. terribly. but it keeps you with me, so i think it's ok. and i know that it's important not to dwell on the past, especially being in such a special time and place in my life. so i will not, but it IS particularly important for me to recall these events and people and times that i've had. because they were very special too, even if they weren't obviously significant.

i like sufjan stevens. he makes me feel melancholy and giddy and cheesy. and maybe very honest. and that said honesty means something. even if it doesn't.

that said, i miss you guys. some very exciting things are happening here music and life-wise that i wish you were here for. but you'll know. i won't worry.

love always,


Monday, August 25, 2008

ay ay ay

wow so today everyone finally arrived so our little perfect '10' was complete. we had a little sit down with momo (head of oranim, funniest guy ever and very inspiring speaker), naama, and ofir to welcome us and let us know that he is very proud of what we're doing here, yada yada. we had a wonderful meal with the whole group and made a toast to a wonderful, safe, and fulfilling 5 months. i stuffed myself, so after dinner, a few of us walked to the liquor store to stock up for tonight. we planned on the entire group going to karaoke night at this gay bar in tel aviv, evita, from last week. so we all got ready, a little tipsy, and walked to the shirut taxi stop across from our house to wait. i didn't think that we'd all fit in one, but lo and behold an empty shirut taxi showed up then and there all to ourselves and we PARTIED in that thing. whew. so loud and so fun. i felt bad for the driver, but he didn't mind at all. anyway, after a little walk, we were directed (by inbal) instead to mike's place, an english style pub (that all the americans and brits go to apparently) right on the beach. luckily, monday is open stage night so we got to sample some live local stuff. now, my inhibitions were considerably lowered, so i jumped onstage to sing backups and play tambourine for the duo that was up when we walked in. i don't really know what i was thinking, but they introduced me and said i could play later in the night if i wanted. DUH.

needless to say, we made friends with the people that were sitting at our table (it was one of their birthday's, we got sparklers and sang to him), the guys at the table next to us, they guys that were playing, and one of the waitresses. so when i finally got up (i did my classic, 'me and bobby mcgee', and an original of mine, 'my ghosts don't wear sheets no more'), i sang loud and played strong. everyone was siiiiiiiiiiinging and daaaaaaaancing and playing along with the taaaaaaaaaambourine. it was fucking phenomenal! the guys that were playing when i got there, ken and tal, told me that they run another open mic place and they'd love to have me there. the guy that runs the open mic at mike's place also told me to come back next week. not bad! inbal showed up right after i played, so i didn't get to hang out with her much. but i'll see her soon.

now, since we weren't driving, everyone got pretty faded. some more than others, but since it's the first night and everyone is on a different level emotionally, physically, mentally, whatever and we don't know each other very well, some conflict occurred. most of it was because people were fucking drunk. we decided to go to the beach and hang out until the shirut taxis began running again (because by this time we were leaving the bar, they weren't). so we did. some people went swimming in the ocean, some people just hung out in the sand. tensions were running a bit high for some people. words were had on the way back to a regular taxi after a few decided they couldn't wait for a shirut.

tonight was the most stressful and exhilarating night i've had in a while. i've never been so high and so annoyed in such a short span of time. maybe i have, but in the most memorable past, no. but i tried to mediate the conflict as best i could, and still will. i just want our group to make the most out of these 5 months and i think it'll be fine. i was talking to one of the guys in my group who said that his reason for being here was to start his life over, based on feeling like a shitty person at home coupled with the fact that in israel, he feels like a different person. we talked about that for a minute and how it's not like we can escape who we are, but that because we have made a significant change in our lives, interrupting our normal patterns of doing things, we can create new patterns for ourselves. hopefully healthy ones. so if i take anything away from this night, it is that there will be great times, and there will be horrible times, but if i can just keep my head and my intentions relatively clear for the most of the time, i'll be just fine. and everyone around me will be just fine because i care enough to contribute to their happiness. even if i feel selfish sometimes.

on the cab ride home, i found myself telling the cab driver what i was doing in israel. i told him, 'ani mit nadevet', which means 'i'm volunteering', to which he said, 'no money?', to which i said, 'lo, money isn't the important thing', to which he said, 'money is power', to which i said, 'no, love is power'. and i realize this is such a cheesy thing to say, and as i heard it come out of my mouth, i simultaneously asked myself if i was really saying such a thing, and truly meaning it. and i think that's great. anyway, we spent the rest of the way home talking about his kids and how proud he is of them and what they are doing with their lives. i liked that cab driver. man, what a night.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

a meditation

i'm laying on a mattress on the floor of the living room in my house in ramla with alli and 'as good as it gets' just ended. it's appropriate. the rest of my group is sitting at the dinner table chatting in talking, regina spektor is playing faintly from a laptop on the desk, and the evening breeze is coming through the open front door and mixing with the fan that is blowing directly on me. everything feels good. i feel relaxed and happy. excited about meeting my group and about the volunteering i'll be doing. the creative endeavours i'll undertake. although i miss my family and friends, i am at peace. and i know that if i keep expecting good things, they will happen.

the other day, swimming in the pool in jerusalem, i discovered the most meditative, relaxing thing i could ever do. floating on my back, i closed my eyes and breathed in my nose and as my lungs inflated, my chest raised above the water. and as i slowly let the air out of my lungs and my mouth, my bouancy waned and i sunk more deeply. it was perfect.

late night fever

not much new to report, but the night before last alli and i, accompanied by two of our new roomates, jodi and jade, went out to tel aviv to meet inbal and idan. we finally found them and after a bit of walking, we ended up at freeland's pub (where we went the other night). it was pretty cool. i met a cocktail waitress named cher who apparently plays music like the yeah yeah yeahs. she introduced me to the owner/manager and i gave him my number in hopes of playing there. we had a pretty fun time hanging with idan, his girlfriend, inbal, and ricky even came by! all the girls paired off until it was time to leave, as i was falling asleep in the bar. bunch of sleazy guys, i think i was just tired but they were really aggravating. i passed the eff out in the cab on the way home and slept until 5PM the next day. no joke. how ridiculous.

anyway, we woke up and all us girls made dinner. jade (from new york), jodi (from new jersey), reina (from seattle), and alli of course. considering the fact that we don't have a functioning oven we didn't do too badly. i'm really excited to cook dinner all the time. i made some mac and cheese with noodles and grated mozarella and goat cheese with tomatoes, jade made grilled chicken and sliced potatoes, and i bought chocolate pop rocks:


after we ate dinner, all us girls dragged ourselves out of the house to jerusalem to a club with a birthright group led by inon. we were running really late and there was terrible traffic on the bus, but we met some cool people (israeli grad student in poli sci and english named asaf and some british dude). i love just talking to people on the bus. you just start on your journey feeling very isolated to the people you know, but by the time you get to your destination everyone warms up to each other and it feels like home. ANYWAY, we finally got to jerusalem and RANNNNNN (alli's idea) down jaffa street so we could get to the club before inon and his group left. we ended up just getting in a taxi and after the driver talked to inon on the phone, we finally got there and DAAAAAAAANCED. we met some pretty cool guys (one in particular), so we left with them to another pub which i really liked a lot. can't remember the name, but i'd like to go back there. it got too late to take a cab back to ramla, so we all walked to this (safe) flat and slept for an hour before waking up and catching the bus back home.

after a brief stop at the market, we really dragged ourselves home and passed directly out. waking up at 4PM, one of our other roomates arrived, alon. he seems really cool, from San Fran and plays guitar and piano. also flight of the conchords. buddy, you'd love it. stephanie and michael (other 2 roomates) just arrived and now we are all just sitting around getting to know each other. michael brought a housewarming gift in the form of cognac, so we'll probably sip a bit around the house and then pass back out until tomorrow, which is when we start our program officially, as well as ulpan (hebrew school) which i'm SOOOOOO excited about.

more later. still editing photos, but i posted some:



Friday, August 22, 2008

next week in jerusalem

wooooooow the last 24 hours were interesting. alli and i woke up yesterday in our new house and decided to bus it to jerusalem to meet one of the israeli soldiers that we met on our trip, flitzy. with some helpful directions ("ffffpt, way, 30 meters, way"), we walked to the bus station and caught the bus to jerusalem, which only takes about 40 minutes so we'll probably do this trip pretty frequently. ANYWAY, on the walk from the bus we stumbled upon one of the hotels that i stayed in during my birthright trip that has a sweet pool, so luckily since we were wearing our bathing suits for some strange reason we crashed it. after we swam for a while in PERFECT water (it is sweltering in israel right now, maybe worse than dallas--- no joke) we took the elevator down to the lobby and ran smack dab into none other than inon, the israeli tour guide from our birthright trip in february (when alli and i met). i seriously yelled, "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" and died laughing on the floor with alli's mouth totally agape next to me. we all freaked out and hugged. it was insane that we ran into him. sooooo insane. can't even talk about it. we were starved so we grabbed a couple of falafels (i had a 'laffa', a GIGANTIC pita thing--- so good). then, we decided to go with inon and his group to the market and then ben yehuda street to hang out and explore before we met flitzy later that night after he got off work. after a conversation with a creepy staring russian dude, we escaped to mcdonald's so we could meet flitzy there. after a while, a couple of sketch guys and a dog sat down near us and offered us some vodka and energy drink. we ended up hanging with them as they seemed pretty harmless, but eventually their intentions proved to be less than pure so we booked it outta there really fast and ran to a safer place to meet flitz. he FINALLY came and brought his girlfriend (Gal) and friend (Avi) with. we all walked to a surprise birthday party at this pub near ben yehuda, met up with yotam (another israeli soldier from our trip) and then to another club, before finally retiring for the night. there's a few more juicy details from the night, but you gotta ask me about it. you know who you are...

the next morning we all met up again for food and walked to this sick little street music festival. i wish we could have stayed, but alli and i had to get on the bus back to ramla before shabbat (buses stop running at 5 in jerusalem friday evening). so, we left our friends at the festival and dropped by our favorite free pool before running to the bus station and barely getting on the 3rd to last bus out of jerusalem so that we could have time to chill before going to tel aviv tonight. we sat at the back of the bus with this HUGE family of ethiopians with the most beautiful children ever. really cute, there were about 10 of them, trying to speak to us in hebrew, telling us their ages (which i now understand because i JUST learned numbers. holler). ANYWAY, we just got back to our house and met the other girls in our group. they all seem really cool, so we've just been hanging out and talking so we can all get to know each other. apparently, also, there's a little furry friend in our neighborhood that knows how to open doors, turn on lights, hump pillows, and eat toilet paper. the girls have named him mitah (hebrew for bed, it was the first word they learned). he has huge balls. i hope he gets along with norman, the cat alli and i found in the backyard.

so, the plan is to get to tel aviv tonight to meet idan, ricky, and inbal (israeli soldiers from the trip i staffed). talk soon. lots more pictures.



Thursday, August 21, 2008

don't cry for me tel aviv

ok, so after stopping by the house where i will be living for the next half a year (it's so tight, pics ASAP), i was driven to the train station to catch 2 trains to the airport to pick up alli. well, i took one train, got off in tel aviv, caught another train, got off at the wrong stop, realized it would take me 40 minutes of waiting for the next train which would take 20 minutes to get to the airport. i just said fuck it, and paid 100 sheckels for a cab, which allowed me to meet (in my very broken, but quickly developing hebrew vocabulary) avi, the coolest cab driver ever. at one point we established that we both love music and i sing, and he turned down the radio so i could dazzle him. i didn't. but after a very anticipatory walk through ben gurion airport i found alli and we very excitedly hugged one another for about 3 hours. not really. but we got to catch up in the taxi on the way back to the house. we dropped off our stuff, claimed our room, and met naama, waiting for a while and finally catching a sherut taxi to tel aviv to meet naama's friend from boston. once in tel aviv, we walked to a pub called 'evita', which was pretty convincingly a gay bar (LOVED), to see her friend's band play. we walk in and it's two israeli guys singing simon and garfunkel. i died and went to heaven. i found the manager, arnon, to find out how i could play there, but i have to 1) have good songs and 2) be able to pull a crowd. he told me that i could come on monday for their... wait for it... KARAOKE night to compete once every 2 months for their first prize ticket to europe. i'm so down you don't even know. we also met these two crazy dudes, one from switzerland and the other from LA (i think they met by hooking up in a hostile that night, but that's just a hasty assumption). ANYWAY, we grabbed some pizza from 'evita', groceries for the house, and some coffee at a cute little place down the street before catching a taxi (and a nap) home where we promptly passed the fuck out.

alli and i woke up about 2 hours ago and are about to head into jerusalem to meet up with an israeli solider from our birthright trip (itzi) and possibly another girl from our ISC group that i met staffing another birthright group at the same time as mine.

i like run-on sentences.

the end.

love sally

pictures tomorrow. promise. lots of them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

back in the saddle again

not much to report. got lost briefly on the way to the market. took some photos (will edit and post soon). bought some fresh food for cooking eggplant parmesean and pasta for alli tonight or tomorrow. it is soooooo fucking hot. i got tired so i jumped in a sherut taxi, only to have the driver stop 1 minute later after i realized that i passed my stop. shit. i pick up alli from the airport in an hour and a half, from which we will come to the house where we'll be living since it's ready. my guitar and the rest of my clothes are there. so sweet. i can cook dinner there. also, i finished editing some photos from LA, the rest of which are on my flickr:



good day sunshine

my frist morning in ramla, and i feel hot. like super hot. sweaty. 'cham' means hot. i use that word a lot. anyway, last night naama told me of her travels and i got me the itch. she spent 4 months traveling around china, laos, burma, and thailand. and i think i may do something similar once i finish my program. who knows? i'm just going to envision myself with a lot of money and see what happens. in the meantime, i'm going to the wednesday market, which apparently is HUGE here. and very colorful. and the owners will try to cheat me. but i will be too clever for them. "i'm a volunteer', i'll say, "and if you give me a good price, i'll bring allllllllllllllll my chaverim to you". i'm in like flint baby.

ok, off now. more later.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

don't stop believin'

after our last meeting, i slept at inbal's until 2pm the next day. i was so beat. it was amazing though. after we woke up, we drank coffee and took the bus to the mall in downtown hadera (inbal's town) and walked to inbal's parent's lottery shop. it was really cute. i like her town. her neighborhood reminds me of los angeles, pacific palisades a little. it's very cute and quaint. i like her family very much also, so i hope i will spend time while i'm here. after we got back from the mall, we hung out and ate freshly homemade hummus (i watched inbal's mother make it, so that i can also --- dad, tell gammy for me). then, inbal drove us in her car to tel aviv university to pick up alysse (one of the girls from my trip). after some frustrating navigational delays, we finally found alysse and went on our way to a pub near downtown tel aviv called freeland's until the boys (max, cameron, and adam) called us to meet up at 1AM. we had a couple of beers and some fabulous conversations about religion, philosophy, atheism. mostly about being jewish. inbal told us about her brief stints in kaballah and as a messianic jew, and her current obsession with 'the secret', which i'm vaguely familiar with. alysse, like me, leans more towards atheism and has a hard time understanding how people can believe most of the things involved in religion (esp. christianty, etc.) but that after this trip, she identifies with being jewish in a way she didn't before. this is exactly what happened to me. this conversation just reinforced my pride in being a jew, as my culture and upbringing and heritage as well as my non-belief in a supernatural force. it was cool.

anyway, we left the pub and about 2 hours later (ridiculously frustrating trying to find this club on the beach, it was just silly), we found the boys at this stupidly douche-y club on 'cheech beach', that inbal describes as full of 'arsim'. arsim are basically a kind of guy that we in dallas would refer to as 'uptown/ghostbar' people. we convinced the boys to leave the club as we couldn't get in, and we walked to a really cool bar that was on the beach, bought some beers, and sat outside in the soft sand. i walked to the water, where people were still swimming at 3 AM, and just watched the tide come and go. it was really nice.

max decided to come with inbal and i back to hadera, so we drove back at 5 AM, got there at 6AM, slept for 2 hours, and then woke up. we figured out that i should go ahead to ramla, the place i'll be living for the day/night, so i packed up my things, we all got on a bus into tel aviv, and i said goodbye to max and inbal as i took my bus to the central station, where after some confusion and lots of bad hebrew questions from my direction, i caught a 'sherut taxi', or shared taxi, to ramla. 30 minutes later i arrived in ramla, where naama (one of the directors of my volunteer program) met me.

now, i've heard some sketchy things about ramla from israelis. mainly because ramla is a mixed city, meaning that jews and arabs both live here. also, it is an area of considerably low socio-economic status in some places. of course, this is why we are volunteering here. so i'm driving in the taxi and looking out the windows trying to judge for myself whether this place looks dangerous, and at first it kind of does, but the closer i get to the center of the city, the less nervous i become. it's just like any other city, and it's quite pretty actually.

so i arrive at the entrance to ramla (called tromet akerach) and waited to meet naama. she found me and we walked about 5 minutes to her parent's house where she lives, for lunch. i just want to take this opportunity to say that i've never experienced such hospitality like i have in israel in the last few days. it is overwhelming. i have been treated like family anywhere i meet someone. they've invited me to stay, given me food, showed me the kittens that they rescue (apparently, naama's mom is the dr. doolittle of the neighborhood, taking in a fixing stray animals), tell me about their lives. it is wonderful to be here. and i got to speak to naama about the program on the walk to her house and i am so excited to be here i can't even express it. she just talks about all the exciting, creative ways we can contribute to the kids' lives here. i can teach them photography, show them how to see in a new way, give them a passion. i can even teach a mixed class with arab and israeli children together at the youth center. they can see each other finally. there are subsidized classes that i can take for 150 sheckles a month (bellydancing, pliates). i can buy a bike to ride from one end of the city to another. i get to live in a sweet apartment or a house. i can cook every night fresh fruits and vegetables from the market that i can walk to. and it's CHEAP. and i may not want to leave.

i am excited. and i am starting to learn hebrew. i have a little notebook that i'm writing all the new words i hear. i'll start an intensive ulpan (hebrew lessons) so i can catch up really quickly for conversational purposes. fuck, i am bursting. i can't wait for each day. i just get to be brave with my photography, because the opportunities here are amazing. everything is so interesting and the visual textures are fascinating. i might even start a band with inbal and some of the other people in my group (inbal is a drummer, so she can possibly leave her drums in the house and we can practice there and gig on the weekends). i found out that our weekends are free, so i can travel to other countries. FUCK, i'm so excited.

i miss everyone. pictures soon soon. i need to get a converter for my laptop charger. i just wrote a novel. enjoy. i love you.


Monday, August 18, 2008

feelings, man

well, i am officially a resident of israel. no more touristy bullshit. and i am endlessly excited, but spending the day walking around chadera (inbal's town) with inbal makes me realize i have a long way to go linguistically and culturally before i'll feel totally comfortable here. but maybe that's a good thing. it'll keep me on my toes and present to my situation. also, i'll pay very close attention to the language and words so i can learn them. luckily, all the israeli's i've met (mostly soldiers from both my trips) are happy to teach me. i really need to post photos that i've taken so far. i feel like i haven't taken very many at all, since i was staffing. 1. i was working and paying attention to the group and 2. i had already taken photos of most of the things we saw the first time i was here. but i think i'll probably be taking lots from now on so i can remember the places i am and how i feel each step of the way during my transitional process. i'll keep you posted.



the final countdown

my birthright trip is finally over after a crazy last night in eilat at a beach bar and then back at the hotel (won't forget that), as well as an emotional final session with momo (owner of brithright). ofir (the director of ISC) was at the final session so i got to talk to him about what i should do with my stuff/where i should stay before my volunteer program starts. he took my big suitcase and guitar to the oranim office, while i took the rest to the airport and said goodbye to all my group. for some reason i wasn't as emotional saying goodbye to them even though i know i'll probably never see some of them again. but you never know. it was an amazing, frustrating, stimulating, exhilarating, educational, lovely, debaucherous, hilarious, bonding, special 10 days. thanks guys.

anyway, inbal (one of our israeli soldiers) invited to stay with her 40 minutes from tel aviv. so we took the train with yakir, one of the other soldiers. her house is absolutely lovely and it was so nice to sleep and shower in a place that was not a hotel or a campsite. we made a sweet little dinner of eggs with sundried tomatoes and sweet onions with mango and apple almond salad. it was "gizi", which means "groovy". i video chatted with josh and his family and went to bed. i seriously didn't wake up until 2 in the afternoon. but i guess i needed it. inbal and i are supposed to meet up with some people in my group at the beach today, so more later.



Saturday, August 16, 2008

lots o shit

i'm in eilot right now. i have done a lot of shit. here's some lists and some writings. all together now. i'm tired. my birthright trip ends tomorrow and i'll get picked up from the airport and go SOMEWHERE?. then i'll have about a week to hang out before my program starts. i have met some really great people that i hope to hang with while i'm in israel including our medic/security guards zur and gitit, israeli soliders galore, and another girl in my program that is staffing a birthright trip from chicago. so here's lots of random shit that i've done for the past week. sorry it's not all written down and some is purely associative but i haven't had internet/time to write shit. photos soon, i totally promise.



sunday aug 9

be a history maker vs bystander (neil lazarus)
yell at family (why we yell at israel for doing dumb shit, because we're family)
tsha be av (the day all the bad stuff happened to the jews)
scared spiral (one person got scared, then half the group)
debate split (we debated for fucking ever)
wall (finally got to the kotel for Tsha Be Av)
david talk (talked politics and middle east with one of my group, smart kid)

monday august 10

when i left you i was in jerusalem after tsh be av (ninth of av). the next day, we got our second security guard and drove to the golan heights and the military outpost on the border of lebanon. it is always so interesting to hear about the israeli rules of engagement as told by phillip, a crass, good ole atlanta boy turned israeli soldier. after the military outpost, we drove to the campsite where we would raft the next day and eat smores. it was too late to raft that night. we played an enlightening little game called kill-fuck-marry, in which one person picks a male or female from a circle of participants, then picks three other people that the victim has to choose whether to kill, fuck, or marry. hypothetically of course. very cute as you can imagine, but it was pretty funny. i played some songs and one of the guys in our group wrote a rap about BR 1044 (our birthright group), which was brilliant. we went to bed super late after hanging out with each other all night. woke up the next morning after not much sleep and went rafting finally in the jordan river which was pretty low, even though the water is the highest in the morning. i guess since it's summer, all the water levels are generally low. i had a lot of fun and didn't do too badly, leaving last and arriving at the end point about halfway through the group. yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah holler. after we finished "kayaking" (really "rafting" translated from hebrew much to the dismay of my group) we drove to the mystical "cradle of kabballah", tsfat which is a beautiful old city in the mountains which houses many artists. we visited one, avram, who had amazing pieces that i absolutely loved. i really want to go back there to buy some art for my family. i actually wasn't expecting to be so impressed since the last artist i saw on my birthright trip was very intelligent and fabulous to listen to, but i wasn't really a huge fan of his work. avram, on the other hand, made beautiful art, but i thought his talk on kabballah was a little bit contrived, with lots of talk about god and souls and blah blah blah. but what really got me was when he said something about how there are no coincidences in life (which i don't believe) but that we all ended up in israel together and we're like family. at that moment it hit me. i really missed my family of course, but i realized that when i first met my group in LA, i had no idea who any of these people were, but being here together on this trip, i am slowly getting to know them and really finding things about each of them that remind me of traits i would identify with my own family. i am getting annoyed with them, and they drive me fucking crazy at times, but i love them and will very much miss being their group laeder when this whole experience is over. they even call me 'mama bear'. i am glad that i came on this trip, even though i was so resistant to it. i find that i am most resistant to what ends up being the most rewarding. anyway, we left tsfat and we drove to a hotel located on a kibbutz near jerusalem so that we can go to yad vashem, the israeli holocaust museum, in the morning. we ate dinner, and afterwards i went exploring outside and found an absolutely wonderful vast grassy outdoor area on a hill inside the hotel grounds that has an amazing view of the city. i just sat in the grass, worrying about the little things, like i always do. but then i told myself, out loud, to "just be". to just enjoy this lovely place. and i closed my eyes. i am going to have to remind myself to do that often while i'm here. actually, as i type these words, i'm sitting in the grass on the hill overlooking the twinkling lights of the city. alone. there's sounds of children playing nearby and i just breathe. i found out earlier in our group meeting that the elderly people that we've been seeing since we checked in are all holocaust survivors that are here for a month-long vacation. it hit me really hard when i heard this, and i immediately thought of my gammy ,who i haven't spoken to since i arrived in israel. after the meeting, one of the guys in my group sat down with a gaggle of the holocaust ladies playing cards who had taken a liking to him. it was such a sweet encounter that i teared up a little and went to my room to call gammy. she was so happy to hear from me that she excitedly told me everything that's been going on at home and that she misses me very much. now, my gammy is a sharp cookie. she is very smart and funny, but she has a hard time expressing love and affection in traditional ways, as many that grew up in her generation do. i always tell her i love her in an almost goading way to force her, jokingly but not, to say it back. she has a hard time. but as we were about to say goodbye, she said, "i love you to pieces". she'll be 90 in about 3 weeks. and in typical gammy fashion, right before we hung up, she interjected, "meet a nice jewish boy. and leave him there."

wednesday august 12

yad vashem (holocaust memorial)
mount herzl
soldiers (israeli soldiers joined our group-soooo hot and hilarious)
mason (saw a guy i was in BBYO with in high school/big hugs!/hung out with him) partying/guitar/singing outside with yakir - israeli solider)
learning hebrew
hanging out
intelligent conversation (new york group/ miss good conversation not about drinking) hooking up (everyone did, not me of course)

tevi shachta = let me hit that
tevi esh = give me a lighter
ben cama atcha = what is your name (male)
bat cama atach = what is your name (female)
labriut = bless you
ken = yes
lo = no
ani oevet otcha = i love you (to a male from a female)
ani oevet atcha = i love you (to a female from a male)
efo = where
ma = what
culam po = everybody here
ma achuva lemashmaut shelachaim = what is the meaning of life
yalla = come
ani = me
ata/at = you

thursday august 13

tel aviv independence hall (booooooring, but where israel was declared a jewish state)
jaffa (hot as fuckkkkkk, but pretty cool)
camels (drove to bedouin camp to ride them)
beduin tent (slept in, kind of)
guitar (played and sang by the bonfire)
made smores and played 'chubby bunny'
germans (sang along to my songs)
yellow subamrine

friday august 14

hiked masada at sunrise (woke up at 3:30 AM)
lots and lots and lots of orthodox men praying very enthusiastically (really amazing)
hike down (ouch knees)
horrible giftshop (too expensive, very cheesy)
jealousy and bad things that i try to talk myself out of (mmmm feelings)
chill down
traveling boys (cute)
jennifer (dancing on the bar)
lost roee

and that brings us up to thew present. tonight will be our last night together. i love everyone and will miss them very much. i can't explain how much i love this video:



Friday, August 8, 2008

shabbat sha-home

man, what a day. after dinner, our group bussed it to the cotel for shabbat. there were SOOOOOO many people there. it was insane. not only that, but the men's side of the wall was COMPLETELY filled with singing, dancing, percussing gentlemen. it was raucus! anyway, we started the night with a little circle service for our group, then went our own ways until it was time to go. i of course, went to the women's side, which was much quieter and sort of took in the scene. one thing that wort of bothered me was the fact that the wall is separated by sex, and not only that, the men are so rowdy and having a great loud time, while little girls stand on chairs on the women's side watching the spectacle, wishing they could be there with their fathers and brothers. at least that's what it seems like. i mean, i think the cultural phenomenon of the separation is very interesting and symbolism intriguing. but as a women who consiers gender equality very very very important in this modern world, it's a little disconcerting to say the least. i want these jewish women to be empowered, not discouraged from anything they want to be. but i digress... anyway, it was much more impactful being there at night with so many other jewish women of all ages, just totally enthralled with this moment of spirituality. now, i'm not religious, but for some reason i got a little choked up seeing all these women standing in the same place praying. i didn't even know why. i think it also reminded me that i was so far away from home and my family, but all these jews were still sort of like family to me. i don't feel like israel is home necessarily, but there is a definite bond with the people here even if there are cultural and emotional walls up just like everwhere else. after i savored that moment and feeling, i walked backwards away from the cotel (you're not supposed to turn your back to it) and went and sat alone on the ground to reflect in front of both sides of the wall from above. i spotted a group of girls dancing and singing with their arms around each other. i got very emotional seeing this because they were just as rowdy as the men and just having the time of their lives with each other singing in unison. it was beautiful.

but i'm back at the hotel now. we walked all the way back from the cotel since we can't drive: "i don't fucking roll on shomer fucking shabbas!!!" (took about an hour and a quarter). so i'm super tired. great day, and we get to sleep in tomorrow. i'm going to wake up late and swim in the gorgeous pool on the roof. goodnight.



cotel, motel, holiday inn


so today we woke up and went to the old city in jersusalem today as well as the western wall, or 'cotel'. since tonight is shabbat, we are going back to the cotel after dinner. apparently this is very special. i won't be able to take photos, but i'll write a post about it later on. we get to walk back to the hotel after the kaballah shabbat service at the wall since we'll no longer be able to drive. then i'm going swimmin!

oh! and this is my israeli number just in case you want to call me:




Thursday, August 7, 2008

israel really real

so, i'll be brief since my computer is about to die and i haven't gotten a charger adapter yet. after leaving LA at 12:45 PM yesterday, i traveled to atlanta with the brithright group i'm staffing (fucking 40 18-24 year olds) and then finally a 13 hour flight to tel aviv. we landed, met the owner of our birthright program and are now in our hotel in jerusalem. tomorrow we will go to the kotel (wailing wall) for shabbat, which will apparently be very special since people are literally just sitting on the ground reading prayer books.

i think it finally hit me as i was in the plane on the way over here how much i'm going to miss my family and friends and the weight of the fact that i will be here for a long time started to feel heavy. i also realized that when one is in the air, time is irrelevant and can't be stationary. but that's just me being weird. more on that later.



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

hurculean love affair


just got back from my last night on the town in LA. after naptime (well, colin's naptime), we FINALLY got our shit together and booked it to amoeba records on sunset near hollywood. i suppose 'booked it' isn't really accurate, as it took us fucking forever to get there due to horrendous traffic. anyway, eventually we got there and this place is HUGE. it's basically a very well categorized warehouse with every CD/record in existence.

well, that's obviously not true. but it's close. so cols and tony got some shtuff and then we headed over to my good high school friend jeff's place in silverlake, where he lives with his girlfriend. they very kindly invited us for a barbeque. it was wonderful to see him and talk to him about what he's been up to for the past little while. i haven't seen him in a few years, although i keep up with him online, etc. it was genuinely refreshing to see how well he's doing and how absolutely happy he is with his life. i felt a tinge of envy at his beautifully simple basement apartment. he and his girlfriend are involved in an art collective, planning on guerrilla art shows and exciting things like that. i feel like a fraud around amazing photographers like jeff and his girlfriend. photographers that were passionate enough to educate themselves for four years and pursue the art and technique and mechanics and history of this craft that i basically just bought and have been teaching myself haphazardly for the past year and a half. it was a very sweet and inspiring experience and lovely to see what a wonderful person he has become.

after the barbeque cols and i went to the smell, a legendary little DIY place made known by residents such as health. the show was so-so, mostly just noise. i didn't really expect much else, but i'm glad we saw it at least. afterwards, we spoke to clayton who had just left a taping of 'inside the actor's studio' with christian slater. he said it was ridiculously long and boring but james lipton was "heavenly". we went to meet him for a drink at short stop right under his apartment in echo park and ended up playing improv games about genitalia with total strangers. pretty funny actually. now i'm back at home and i can't believe i'm leaving tomorrow for israel. it seems like a story i'm just telling people. they are very impressed, but for some reason it hasn't actually impressed me yet. maybe it will eventually after it's all over with. i'll just dive right in.

i need to stop being so scared of things. taking photos, adventures, other people. fuck em. that's the motto i taught my gammy when she complained that she can't see. i said, "gammy, whenever you start to think that they can do something you can't, just say 'fuck em'". so that's what i'll do. maybe in the process of teaching these kids about seeing the world and the ability to express that view creatively, i'll open my own eyes to a different way to create my own world and art. who knows.



p.s. don is also tom waits and REM's lawyer. oh mannnnnnnnnn that is cool.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

and when we meet on a cloud...

my schedule thus far as projected by ISC (israel service corps) directors:


Orientation will take place for the first two weeks of the program. Refer to table for the list of events. Activities are focused around exploring your host community (Ramla), team building, and adjusting to the Israeli lifestyle.

August 25
Group Meeting in Ramla
Opening Session w/ Momo (President of Oranim Educational Initiatives)
August 26 Program Meeting (Talk with Directors)
August 27/28 Trip to the North
August 29 Shabbat Dinner
August 30 Beach Day (Optional)
August 31 Ramla Orientation Day
September 1 Ulpan Meeting, Personal Meetings with Naama
September 2 Meeting with MASA representatives
September 3 Volunteering Commences (Day 1)
September 5 Host Families (First visit)
September 7 Tour of Ramla

Schedule of Events & Activities

Please refer to table for list of trip dates, activities, and important dates (including holidays). In addition, Community Involvement participants will have bi-weekly social activities which will be coordinated throughout the session. More detailed descriptions of all activities will follow during the program.

September 18/19 Trip: Overnight Schlichot
September 28 Activity
September 29 Eve of Rosh Hashannah
September 30 Rosh Hashannah
October 1 Rosh Hashannah
October 2 Gedalia Fast
October 8 Eve of Yom Kippur
October 9 Yom Kippur
October 13 Eve of Sukkot
October 15/16 Trip
October 20 Sukkot - Hosha’ana Raba
October 21 Simchat Ha’Torah
October 30 Trip
October 31- November 1 Building Future Leaders (BFL week-1)
November 2 Israel Democracy Seminar (Rabin Memorial)
November 14/15 Security Issues in Israel Shabbaton
November 20 Idan Reichel Concert
November 20-22 Building Future Leaders (BFL week-2)
November 27 Trip
December 5-6 Israeli Political System Shabbaton
December 18 Israeli Literature with Israeli Authors
December 18-20 Building Future Leaders (BFL week-3)
December 22-29 Channukah
December 23-24 Trip
January 6 Israeli Press Dilemmas and Responsibilities
January 14-15 ISC Closure Trip
January 18 Closing Ceremony
January 19 Program Ends

if all goes according to schedule, i'll be back on my 24th birthday, jan. 20.

HOLY SHIT... i'm going to be a busy girl. i spoke to naama (one of the ISC directors) the other night and she was asking me what age group i liked to work with, if i minded 'at risk' youth, the elderly, etc. she knew that i played music and worked in photography, so those will be useful skills that i can develop and teach. we'll see, but i got really excited after that conversation. i think it's going to be a very interesting next few months.



I am so fucking sore

and that means i've done a lot. great job.

let's see, this morning i snoozed too long, then woke up and had a cup of cold coffee with honey and some leftover dried edamame/goji berries from the hike yesterday. got showered and colin and i drove over to don passman's office in beverly hills. don is my dad's best friend from college and a very successful entertainment lawyer (represents/ed janet jackson, tina turner, heart, pink, etc.). they were in a band called eudipus and the mothers in austin while they were at UT austin for law school. apparently, they were on a compilation called 'texas punk bands of the 60's'. pretty crazy. he still has recordings of them on acetate. i really hope he'll convert them eventually, because i told him i'd die to hear it. so we went to his office and chatted for a while before we said goodbye and left. he's a really sweet guy so i'm glad i got to see him even though i was mildly nervous the whole time. i guess i wanted to impress him. ANYWAY, we left and had indian buffet which was really good, but kind of spicy. then instead of going to ameoba records and guitar center, cols took us to venice beach because he's never been. it's pretty much a stretch of crap, but we went anyway and ran across the scalding sand to see the water one last time before our trip ends. on the way home, we grabbed a star map, only to find out that the only star living on the street that we're staying on is totally unfamiliar to me. and i know my stars, sadly. or not. so, we're back home now. just resting/doing laundry before we go out, hopefully to do amoeba/guitar center. oh, and my good friend jeff from high school is having a barbeque at his place in silverlake. so i'm really excited about that. then upright citizens brigade or the smell. or both if i can fit them. i'm usually pretty good at that. maybe that's why i'm a nutcase.



The past is bigger than you.

So where we left off, I was getting ready to go out for the evening my first night in LA:

met clayton at akbar (gay bar in echo park)
chicken and waffles (fucking amazing. first time ever for me)
went up to clayton's place, then roof (beautiful view of city)
went to shithole bar (no bathroom?)
hiked up the steepest fucking hill ever
home sleep

noahs bagels in pacific palisades
went to malibu and chilled with the waves
clayton stopped by randomly (didn't even know he was there)
italian restaurant in los felices (too full to move)
drawing room to meet c.j. and skip (karaoke night)
i sang bonnie raitt (surprise, surprise)
RSVP party at LAX in hollywood where i spent 33 dollars on 3 drinks and danced alone
home sleep

woke up too late
drove to market in bel air for water/granola bars/edamame/goji berries
runyon canyon to hike (really amazing views of LA, got photos, will post)
i died on the way back to the car because i am out of shape
found the car and i came back to life
in and out burger (holler.)
home/hot tub in clothes
chill time (post photos of goombye party)
dinner at the dresden (amazing place, photos too)
drove to cha cha cha to meet skip, only to find out he was at cha cha
cha cha with skip in silverlake (seriously considering moving here)
fucking love the cha cha (photos later)
clayton, ayana, dana meet us
goodnight sweetheart and jumping skeleton poses
drive home

goodnight. whew. more tomorrow:

the plan:

meet don passman at his office at 11AM
drinks at beverly hills hotel
drop one hour photos off
guitar center to change my strings
venice beach
upright citizens brigade
the smell

yikes. we'll see.



p.s. thanks to skip for reminding me that i need to blog everyday to remember what i do. because no matter how well i convince myself i'll remember, i never do. and i need to remember these next few months. well.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Viva Los Angeles

Well, this is where I begin my travels. My goodbye party went amazingly well and I got to say goodbye to many wonderful people who were kind enough to hang out or DJ or plan the thing. I'm ever grateful and flattered. Said goodbye to most family the night before at dinner, where my mom thought it would be a great idea to give me a box of condoms. Wrapped in a black plastic bag like a surprise, mind you, but I had figured it out by the end of the night anyway. Precious.

So I finally packed up my shit after spending the entire last week editing photos for work and hanging out with everyone. I'm pretty impressed with how much shit I was able to cram into not very much luggage:

1 big roll-y bag
1 big backpack
1 small backpack that attaches to big backpack
1 guitar case
1 camera bag

Somehow I got all of this on the plane this morning after being so stressed out I thought my head was going to explode. My mom and brother dropped me off with not much time to spare and the bag checker man was about 80 years old and kept insisting that my big suitcase was overweight, which it absolutely was. 75 pounds to be exact. So he, my brother, and I took everything upstairs to the counter, where the woman there was practically stoned. I admit, I was pretty anxious as it was, so the combination of me not having very much time, and her not being very... efficient, resulted in smoke coming out of my ears. And that doesn't happen very often. Not to mention, this was the last time I'd be home in almost 6 months. But luckily, VERY luckily, we got our shit together after an emotional goodbye with my bro and I boarded the plane to LA, via Austin.

So, after arriving at LAX and meeting Colin, we grabbed our rental CONVERTIBLE (!!!) and drove to his friend's house in Bellaire where we are staying. It's a beautiful neighborhood in the hills and his friend Tony is very nice. We just drove around a bit and walked to eat, then walked down the Promenade and down to the beach. That was pretty cool. The weather here is gorgeous.

Now we're back at Tony's and we took a dip in the hot tub. I feel much more at ease than I did this morning, but it's still very unreal. I think each day, I'll encounter new challenges and apprehensions coupled with excitement that I'm doing something new and exotic and fun. And each day, I'll cope with those feelings so that I can make this experience meaningful and significant for my life. As my Gammy's boyfriend Ira says, "If you don't adjust, you don't exist". Plus, he gave me these sweet binoculars that have been around the world.

I'm gonna go take a quick nap before we go out tonight. I'll write more later.