Sunday, September 28, 2008

when you're holding me, we make a pair of parentheses

last night was a total dream. a sheruit picked us all up from the house. er, most of our group anyway because some people got their own rides. we drove through tel aviv and landed in a neighborhood called florentine. the restaurant we went to was called sub kuch milega, a 3 story indian place with a restaursnt on the first floor, stage and pool tables on the second, and rooftop patio and bar on the third. decorated like you'd imagine a dreamy indian place would be with colorful draperies and couches galore complete with wandering, long-haired gypsy types that one might see sitting in a park in the late 1960's, circled around a bonfire or a guitar. anyone that knows me, knows. this. is. it.

as we walked in and up, each floor more magnetic than the last, we settled temporarily on the rooftop patio, where they were showing a sort of independent short film festival. we couldn't really talk, so we relocated to the floor with the food. i don't really know how much food i ate, but considering the fact that indian food is my all time fave and i haven't had it in what seems like years, i gorged myself on veggie casseroles and indian crackers. i think i got three plates. it was amazing and exactly what i needed. when fully satiated, our whole group went up to the floor with the stage and played pool for a minute. ofir had asked me to bring my guitar, so not really knowing how it would work, i went ahead on stage with no mic or amo and played a short-ish set of my own stuff and a few covers.

hilda's song
sprout and the bean
rocky racoon
ghosts don't wear sheets no more
mercedes benz
bobby mcgee
history of fiction
i will follow you into the dark
borderline (er, half a verse of it. i forgot the words)

buffy even told me that rocky racoon was her lullaby as a child, which was adorable. i had a few requests for songs i know i have to learn so i can play them. a few ideas:

wild world-cat stevens
landslide-fleetwood mac
so long maryann-leonard cohen
alameda-elliott smith
aeroplane over the sea-neutral milk hotel
skinny love-bon iver

i got a pretty good response considering i haven't warmed up or performed in a couple months. it was really nice. but hot. and i was nervous. we got to talk with new israelis, which was the point of the whole night. i met naama's brother and his friends, hung out with a guy that we work with at oranim, a medic from jen's birthright trip that has a dreamy british accent, and others.

near the end of the night, we sat at the downstairs bar and the playlist was the best thing i've heard in israel. almost every song made me swoon or smile:

don't look back in anger-oasis
some thom yorke song from 'the eraser'
paper tiger-beck
so long maryann-leonard cohen
more that i can't remember, but whew. nice.

i told the bartender that his playlist was great and asked him if he was going to see AIR, to which he replied "yes". maybe i'll have a new friend with good taste in music. i love that. PLUS, i found out that coincidentally, this place was where tal from mike's place runs his open stage, so i can come here and play on sunday nights. the best thing ever. we called it a night after this and caught our sheruit back to ramla to fall asleep. we still had ulpan this morning even though we didn't get to bed until around 3AM or later. it was tough to get to class today, but we did it albeit late-ish. then we worked. momo asked me over to his desk to see the photos i took for the internship program. then he proceeded to tell me his dreams for future ISC groups. he wants to create three levels (both price and volunteer) so that everyone can choose where they want to be and where they can help the most. our program has been approved to be for free (for the next session, not ours). however, momo let me know that if we are interested in helping recruit volunteers, each person we get to sign up will go towards more of our tuition being refunded, of which most has been absorbed by grants, scholarships, etc. through MASA and oranim. pretty cool. i already sing the praises of this program. i really do think it's a great one. if there's a catch, i certainly don't see it. aval ze ma she ze. (but it is what it is)

i realized another thing today. i have bad feelings about situations or people. feelings that i do not want to acknowledge because they are less than admirable. jealousy, superiority, indifference, shame, insecurity, fear, etc. i get these feelings everyday, just like anyone i'm sure. and most of them are fleeting. however, i feel that they are significant because they are normal and i almost want to write about them. but something always stops me. i think this is because if i write them down incidentally, they then become real. i then own them. they have become a part of me. and some very big part of me doesn't want to recognize that i feel things like this. even though i know that i do and that i always will most likely, i feel that if i just notice them and let them go, it's more productive than documenting them. even if they help me learn something. but i'm learning how to respond to such feelings by not writing them down, so that's better maybe. whatever.

i'm also still in a weird place with the photography. i feel like i'm taking a weird vacation from the vigorous nature with which i approached taking photos before. it's not such a dire need. that scares me. same with music. but i think i'm just going to let my feelings take me where i'm going to go. not beat myself up, but notice what i want and still push myself to keep taking photos and playing music. i just need to give myself the time. or challenge myself to take the time to do these things so that i can foster creative energies which in turn will nurture creative ideas and impulses. i'll do that.

tomorrow is a rosh hashanah activity with naama at the house, then dan (medic on al and i's birthright trip) is going to pick us up to take us to his family's house in some very religious village to spend the new year holiday. we won't be able to leave the village for a couple of days, so it will be very nice. i'm so excited to see dan and spend time with his family in a different, authentically israeli setting. very cool. plus, i can work on my hebrew! it's getting better. i can tell. laila tov culam (goodnight everyone).

l'hitraot (later)

b'ahava (with love)


Saturday, September 27, 2008

you could be from venus and i could be from mars

let's see here. right after i fell asleep after my gigantic rant, i was unpleasantly woken up by the sound of our mirror falling from our windowsill to the hard ground. after i got over being terrified and shaking, i went back to sleep. in the morning, al and i met ofir in tel aviv so that i could take some website photos of this apartment building and also scenic pictures of tel aviv for applicants to the internship program that oranim offers. the owner of the building even asked if he could have some copies of the photos for his website, so i may sell them to him for extra money. cross our fingers. we then walked through the art market in tel aviv, which is so beautiful and amazing. anyone that comes to visit me, we're going there. photos for sure. there was a guy playing spanish-style, drum accompanied classical guitar that reminded me why i love the guitar. incredible.

after the photo sesh was finished, we grabbed some food at king george restaurant (famous restaurant in tel aviv). then we hung out for a while, watching boys play shesh-besh (backgammon). we were about to leave, when we decided to go to this bar down the street. it was mostly outside with couches, lights, and grass on this beautiful patio and even a random piano (which i later played and was kicked off of). oops. we met up with this business man and his son who is now in the army here (from LA, attempting to be charming and shmoozy like his dad, but just ended up seeming cheap and sleazy). also, this other business man from south africa, who explained that he just hired people to do everything for him. i found this very interesting, that someone in life can just pay someone to do everything for him. is that fulfilling? i don't think i'll ever know, but i doubt that it is.

anyway, woke up this morning and am about to get ready to go to tel aviv for a social function with israelis at this indian restaurant/bar. apparently, i'm supposed to bring my guitar. i'm so fucking stoked for tonight. WOOOOOOOOOO.!!!!! indian food and music and israelis and some drinks. i'm in dreamland. WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

oh, and AIR is coming to tel aviv this week, so i'm super excited for that. i'm listening to them right now. i really like them so much. their music is infectious. you can't not like them. kind of like the beatles. but honestly i've met more people that don't like the beatles than have not liked AIR. which reminds me that i'm still sad that i didn't see paul mccartney. there's a girl from the oranim office that we ran into at the shook in tel aviv yesterday that told me you could hear everything perfectly from outside the venue and if positioned properly, you could even see paul. and that he was using hebrew words. i almost cried. i don't know why, but i'm just mad at myself that i didn't make more of an effort to see him. i'm afraid i won't be able to again. :( oh well. i need to get on my voting responsibilities and finish applying for my absentee ballot. i heard the debates were bullshit. i need to watch them. eff.

photos soon, promise.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

i find it kinda funny, i find it kinda sad

well, today was pretty nice because i got to sleep in. until NOON!

but really, yesterday brought in love from me because ofir handed over 4 newer model oranim cameras that i can use for the kiddies. so that's really exciting. i don't know if i mentioned that yet, but anyway... now i just have to figure out a lesson plan for monday.

tonight i went to work, interviewed folks, and killed myself that i wasn't at the paul mccartney concert. i even caught myself singing 'yesterday' and swore that he must've been singing it at the same time. i felt it. and i almost cried in the car imagining hearing him sing 'vanilla sky' live. fuck my life. anyway, this weekend will be amazing. i was supposed to see my friend yakir's band play tonight, but i'm fucking braindead and didn't realize that the show was actually tonight. this would have been fine had i realized this before i left work, which is located in the same city as the club where he was playing. WAS playing. my phone is also fucked to high hell and i tried to call israel phones to rectify this, but they assured me that i must have not tried fucking with the phone the right way, so i am incompetent and then my signal died. fuck my life. not really though. anyway, i'm home now. i needed to rant. everything's actually amazing. i just drank too much coffee. :) i love everyone.

if all goes according to plan, al and i will be meeting ofir in tel aviv to take photos for the oranim website. that will be very cool. then saturday, we have an opportunity to meet israelis at this indian restaurant in tel aviv. it'll be a really sweet social function. ofir asked me to bring my guitar, so i'll play a bit and eat my favorite food. maybe have a few drinks and be in heaven. can't wait for that. then this next week will be all about rosh hashanah. dreamy.

talked to my mom tonight. she told me that she's thinking of booking a flight to come here next week for two weeks. i thought i'd be really excited for this to happen. but for some reason, i feel kind of nervous. not nervous like i don't want her to come, but nervous like stressed out. like she sort of sprung it on me. and two weeks is a long time, especially because my schedule here is so jam packed, i like everything i'm doing here and don't want to put it all on hold, AND especially since we are just now beginning to get into the swing of things. i'm in a whirlwind. and i know she just wants to see me and i really want to see her, but i think the combination of the last weird hour and realizing that i haven't even gotten my bearings in this place to be homesick yet. this makes me want to wait for anyone to come visit me even though she reassured me that i'll not have to babysit her and she will be visiting her cousin that she hasn't seen in 35 years also. plus, my dad and brother aren't coming until at least december, so i was expecting her to come around then-ish. i feel like that's kind of selfish, but i'm really confused as to why this was my default emotion. so i'm inexplicably stressed out right now. its a weird feeling. sorry i'm an asshole. whoa.

ok. i'll call her back because my phone just died again. i'm going to breathe, sleep. and i'll feel better tomorrow. love you mom. and everyone else.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

i am a full grown man

went to ulpan today. then al and i walked to the TV station. it was the coolest fucking thing. keren (our director there) showed us how to edit the segments from the video camera so that the old ones can be deleted and we can upload the new ones. we even created our own transitions. it was amazing. just on too, so we can play at home on our macbooks.

after we finished editing, we met a woman named vicky that works in the same office with keren. she definitely propositioned me for marriage to her son, who is 27, happens to be named itzik, and speaks good english. i was devastated and alli was laughing her ass off. this woman asked to take a picture of me so she could show him. i politely declined...

keren showed us how to operate the cameras in the studio, the moniters in the director's booth and the sound mixer also. i am so fucking excited about this job, i can't tell you. we even got a little peek inside the radio station upstairs, where two other ISCers work. no big deal or anything, but they just gave alli and me a hebrew shoutout on the radio :)

we stopped by kadima on the way home and played with the kids for an hour-ish before heading home. i started to feel kind of shitty, so i just stayed in and watched the better part of ission impossible 3 (if that's even POSSIBLE, hey oh). some dude named drur stopped by to hang out for a bit. apparently, he used to work for oranim, introducing ISCers to other israelis, but for some reason or another they parted ways. dunno about that.

BUT i did find out today that i am able to use the nicer oranim cameras for the kids. at least 3 or 4 of them, so that'll be much nicer for the kids. now i just have to figure out how i'm going to teach them how to take nice photos. internet here i come. i talked to caitlin and my dad tonight which was really nice. i'm almost done with my book (david sedaris: dress your family in cordouroy and denim--- fucking hilarious, and makes my family seem like the cleavers... not that they weren't :)) well, while phosphorescent lulls me to sleep, i bid thee good evening. more later...

love love,


Monday, September 22, 2008

come on mood, shift. shift back to good again.

today was interesting. i stayed up kind of late last night talking to my mom, dad, and brother. sorry i was so tired, guys. next time i call you, i'll have some more energy. still haven't talked to gammy yet though. :(

anyway, woke up a little late, walked to the falafel place. the guy there is in love with alli. i swear, now when we walked down the street there's people that we wave to in shops and stuff. like in beauty and the beast. i'll have to figure out which one is which.

after lunch i went to kadima alone, as everyone else has either had their schedule changed or worked instead. i almost didn't, but i ended up bringing 3 of the cameras that ofir had given me from oranim. they're cool looking things, and super gigantic. i mean these things are so old that they run on floppy discs. i'm not kidding. but i saw some of the photos they took and i was pretty impressed despite the 2 megapixel quality. i think i was scared to bring them, because that would mean i am to start teaching today, which is something i have no idea how to do. but fuck it, i said. i'll figure it out.

when i got to kadima, i found sivan (director) and told her i had brought the cameras. she was really excited, so she hooked me up with another volunteer, who in turn hooked me up with tal (a better english-speaking volunteer). he told me that we'd get the 12-15 older kids together later in the day to start the lessons. "ok, " i thought, "maybe i won't die". the first 30 minutes after i arrived i actually retreated to the office and then the back room trying the charged battery and floppy discs in each camera to see which ones worked. also, to figure out how to use them myself. after fiddling around with them briefly, i discovered that only 1 of the 3 actually functioned, but i gathered enough of an understanding to work that one, so i took a few photos to show the class. keep in mind, i have no fucking clue what i'm actually going to do with them.

after i figured this out, i found the 6th grade class that i'd been working with last week. there's a little boy named yossi that needed help with english, according to sitvanit, a very sweet volunteer in charge of the class i was in. this kid is really cute actually, but has a really hard time in english. not to mention, it seems that because he has a hard time, he doesn't want to learn. on the other hand, the worksheet he had was kind of hard for his level of understanding. i tried to help him do the worksheet, but the breakdown in communication today was so bad that i just tried to start a game of hang-man so he could guess english letters to form a word. basically, this didn't work either. that was pretty hard, because i was in this class and i couldn't communicate. so the rest of the day, i didn't really say anything else, just kind of sat there trying to understand what was going on and listening until class was over.

tal got all the older kids in a circle and i came in with the camera, showing them how to use it, while tal translated. i didn't know what the fuck to do, since the battery started to die right after we sat down. and one of the kids asked me why we should take pictures with my camera when his camera phone can take the same picture. i had no idea. tal then asked me to tell them what "my project was". off the top of my head, i said that our project would be three parts:

1) something you love
2) something you hate
3) something you want to change

for next week, i told them to bring in one thing they love so that we can find out different ways to take a picture of it. i have no idea what i'm going to teach them, but i'll just think really hard about it. and hopefully get more cameras that work. i asked ofir, and he said he'd have an answer for me by wednesday when i go into work.

jen picked me up from work and we had dinner at the apartment. it was nice to chill with her. afterwards, i took a mighty little nap. then we walked back to the house. i've just been hanging out, so i'm sleepy now. going to bed. ulpan and TV station tomorrow!!! laila tov (goodnight)

b'ahava (in love),


Sunday, September 21, 2008

think of me, think of me fondly

pretty normal day in ramla. went to ulpan and then to work. had a fucking blast there though. drank too much coffee, bestowed a gift of genius. on the way home, however, i got an idea. an idea i need help with:

i need you to tell me:

1) something you love

2) something you hate

3) something you wish you could change

please and thank you. it's important.



p.s. photos are now on my computer. i'll edit tomorrow. and i'll call my family tomorrow too. miss and love you guys!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a beautiful minds

since i last wrote, TWO DAYS AGO we FINALLY had dinner at momo's. he lives in a beautiful apartment in kfar saba with a terrace and view to die for on the top floor. before we ate the veritable feast that he had prepared for us, he gave a little speech about his dreams and thanked us for helping him achieve them. i got a little teary, i'm not gonna lie. the shnitzel be'd bangin' and he even made the veggie kind for al. afterwards, we had a bit of a drive to jerusalem. once we arrived, we met our lovely, charming tour-guide named esther. as a tradition of rosh hashanah (the jewish new year) the first thing we did was sit in a circle, each dipping an apple into honey and telling the group something we have accomplished over the past year that we ourselves made happen. i talked about my goal to have exhibited my work by myself (or at all) before the year was over and how i got printed, cut mats, built frames, and paid for 5 of my photographs to be shown at the cavern. and i am proud that i did that, which i didn't really even think about until i said it the other night. go me. we arrived at the valley of shadows in which moshe montefiore built neighborhoods 100 years ago to give jews another place to live besides the (at the time) disease infested old city. he, after many many many times trying to persuade them to come and live for free in these settlements that he'd built, finally got them to leave the place they were most comfortable. even though it was killing them, they were afraid to leave the walls. esther asked us what walls we'd stepped out from even though it was scary. i immediately said that coming to israel was the fear that i'd faced, leaving home (where i was most comfortable). that by doing something completely risky and unfamiliar, i am slowly realizing that it might be the best decision i've ever made. and even though it is scary and it WILL be hard sometimes, as long as i work through it and persevere, i'll do amazing things.

afterwards, we took a little tour through the old city, which was so cool. i'd never been there at night. it was pretty magical actually, with all the orthodox men and boys strolling, smoking, debating. since it was slichot, there were many people there singing, dancing, playing music. there was even a table discussion in a room that we could see through the window. it looked like something from ancient israel. i was really scared to take a photo for i didn't want to offend them, but after some encouragement from myself and others, i did it anyway. hopefully they turned out OK. since my friend deutsch lives in the old city, i kept hoping i'd run into him, but didn't. we went to the cotel and i wrote a little note, leaving it in the wall. we left the cotel, walked back to the bus and rode home to go to bed at 6AM.

YESTERDAY, woke up at 12PM instead of 9AM like we had planned to go to the beach. surprise guests met us and jen, jade, al, and i chilled out, played volleyball, and watched the sunset. after a wonderfully fun and relaxing day in the sand and VERY wavy surf, we grabbed a pint for happy hour and listened to a horribly hilarious performace of bad american songs. then, we went back to our friend's apartment to get ready and walked to a bar for one of our new co-worker's goodbye party. had a pretty chilled out night, then walked to the bus station to catch a sheruit. we had to squeeze in because there were only 3 seats for 4 of us. our reluctant driver hauled ass down the highway until all of a sudden, some soldiers pulled us over. the driver opened the door and the soldier started shining his flashlight into the sheruit, and checking one man's passport, asking him to get out of the taxi. at this point, i wasn't even scared, just curious as to what was happening. the soldiers checked two other men in the car. after about 10 minutes, all the men got back in the sheruit and we drove home. apparently, it was just a check that we later found out was to make sure there wasn't anyone with an expired VISA. it was pretty weird, but pretty interesting. finally home, we went to sleep.

TODAY, al and i woke up to orna (host mom) picking us up for lunch at their home in lupid (little adorable village between tel aviv and jerusalem. after an amazing breakfast of jakhnun (delicious melted, flaky bread), challah, and other tasty treats that orna makes, we left to go to jerusalem. on the way, drove through palestinian territories which are walled off. according to elan (host dad), israeli's are not, under any circumstances, to go into these settlements, because if you go in, "you don't come out. or at least, not the same way you came in". i started thinking about the type of person that would kill another person, and it reminded me of the fact (true or not i don't know) that most suicide bombers are males (and occasionally females) that are younger than 30, because they are so indoctrinated with being right about having to kill themselves while killing others that they can see nothing else in the world that may be important, whereas someone older would have a family and more invested in the externally existing, material world. so it made me wonder that being young and thinking that we are right are mutually dependent ideas. for one thing, between 20 and 30, we are beginning to form our own perceptions and belief structures about the world, so we are starting to decide things about the world on our own for the first time. therefore, to admit that one is wrong about such new perceptions might be negating one's individual identity as defined by such decisions and beliefs. so, no wonder people are so afraid to be wrong. especially these certain young people who don't have children to challenge their beliefs without feeling offended. because if we are wrong, then our world might not be the way we see it. and that can be devastating to the psyche. so maybe if these suicide bombers would just chill out for another 5-10 years, they'd decide that blowing themselves up might not be such a fabulous idea. maybe, who knows.

also i notice still feeling the same insecurities engaging in social interactions now as i did as a kid. does that ever go away?

so we arrived in jerusalem, met up for two other host families (jen, jade, alon, and buffy in tow) and spent hours strolling through the market there, which is the most fantastic fucking thing i've ever seen. so colorful and full of beautiful artifacts, fabrics, jewelry, musical instruments, bags, clothing, tapestries, and lots of other crazy cool stuff. al and bought a couple of big tapestry-like printed scarves for our beds that can also be fashioned into shirts, dresses, skirts, and a plain old scarf. our families like to feed us, so we ate these ridiculous baclava-goat cheese-honey soaked desserts that were to die for. after that, we had hummus with beans and pita at the most amazing hummus place in all of jerusalem. we said our goodbyes, and after i could no longer walk from eating so much, we got to the car and i took a little snooze on the way to drop off elan (dad), and pick up edan (brother) to take him to a skateboarding park in tel-aviv. this skate park was the coolest one i'd ever seen, with pools dug into the ground, huge ramps and half pipes, with poles to grind all over the place. luckily i brought my camera with me :) so those photos will be posted soon. along with beach, night, market, cotel, and every picture ever. al and i were dropped off and we have just been hanging out doing laundry, ulpan homework, and talking about boys. but that never changes. go figure. it's late, so i'm going to bed.

love always,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

i love you and all the dangerous ways.

yesterday was pretty awesome, but nothing too exciting. went to ulpan, learned about the days of the week and learned the infinitive versions of some verbs. walked home and by our falafel place, getting home with just enough time to shower before work. yaacov picked us up. at work, we just called people for interviews. freakishly enough, i called this kid from columbus, ohio. of course i mentioned that i made good friends on my birthright trip from columbus, later ambush-visiting them. and columbus is a small place, so he asked me their names. turns out, and this it too fucking weird, this kid went to high school with one of the guys and used to hang out with the other one. unreal!

anyway, after work, al and i bussed it to tel aviv and went to this sweet little place for a drink that we HAVE to go back to. by the time we left the place, it was 3AM. from 3AM to 5AM sheruit taxis don't run. so we basically just sat on this bench talking until 4:45AM. we talked about how amazing it is to be here, how we feel this uncanny friend connection and that our interactions are so easy that we almost don't believe it's possible to maintain, but that's only because that's what we've experienced our whole lives. we talked about the fact that anytime we get annoyed or angry with anyone, even recently, it is a reflection of some aspect that we dislike or get angry with within ourselves so, we decided to make a pact that we would both try to be less judgmental and critical of others and ourselves. that we would share and not let our insecurities ruin the good vibes we have going. we talked about traveling and living our lives the best we can and not being scared. we talked about changing and acknowledging stifling behaviors in order to change them and how israel was meant to be for both of us, even though i fought coming here so much. how it's completely right, and how crazy it is that it's not that crazy. we talked about africa and how i even feel like i'll be there eventually. and how we are actually very different people, but so kindred. being here makes me feel free in a way that i've never experienced. because nothing is for certain, and anything can happen. and it's perfect. for now. and that's all that matters. even though i miss my family. i know they want me to have this feeling. even though they miss me too.

it was a great night. if i think of more stuff that we talked about, i'll post it. fucking phenomenal. i honestly live for conversations like that. it opens my heart and my chest and my mind and its the most freeing feeling.

so we got a sheruit home by 6AM and crashed. woke up this morning and naama picked us up so that we could have a meeting with the lady that runs the volunteer TV station in ramla. i am not exaggerating when i say i was totally dumbstruck by this place. its actually really close to our ulpan so we can walk there, but it is located inside this high school. there's a studio, editing bay, sound room, and camera control room. it is the coolest fucking thing ever and they are going to let us edit and run sound for TV shows produced there! AAAAAAND they might even allow us to make our own documentary about our program, and if they like it, they will broadcast it on their station!!! it's channel 98 in ramla. i could hardly believe they are going to give us this opportunity. i would die to try something like this in the states because it can open doors to other creative things that i can do for the rest of my life. its like a dream that i get to do this stuff. i can actually tell myself that i have taught photography and edited TV shows after this is over and i know that's not all. some very exciting things are on the horizon and i can't even believe they're happening. but it's not going to stop and its only going to get better.

tonight we're going on a night trip to jerusalem, but not until we eat momo's famous schnitzel that he is cooking especially for us :) ask anyone when i say i have been waiting for this moment ever since he told me i'd be eating at his house during closing session of the birthright trip that i staffed. can't even contain myself, i'm so excited. also, one of my soldiers (matar) and my medic (zur) from this last birthright trip are meeting us tonight. i found out that we are going to the 'slichot' (from the hebrew word, 'slicha' meaning 'sorry') which is basically preparation
for the high holidays in the old city. i don't really know what this will entail, but i'm bringing my camera. i think i'm getting braver with it, by the way. it must be because i'm getting more comfortable in my surroundings. metzuyan ('excellent'!)!!!!

beseder (OK). ani ohavim atem (i love you all)



Tuesday, September 16, 2008


nothing too exciting...

went to ulpan. acted out the mating turtles... corresponding video soon to come. ray ray was sick today, so i filled in for her at work. walked home alone today. i'm learning my way around ramla which is pretty neat. it even feels comfortable now.

we had individual meetings with ofir and naama today after ulpan to clear up any problems that any one has with each other or the program, the volunteer places, etc. they asked me to go ahead and come up with a photography lesson plan because all the volunteer places are anxious for me to get started. at work tonight, ofir gave me a box full of cameras i can use to teach the kids. so i'll test all the cameras to see how many i've got to work with. i also found out that i'll be teaching a workshop at ELEM, the place for at-risk teenagers i was so interested in.

anyway, i came up with a sample curriculum:

Photography Lesson Plan for Kids (rough outline)


A) Settings (learn basic settings in class)
B) Perspective (take photos of things in and around the center from various perspectives... i.e. big, small, far, near)
C) Lighting (take photos inside showing diffused lighting, and outside for direct lighting)
D) Composition (take photos experimenting with composition, maybe show slides)


1) A DAY IN THE LIFE- take photos for one day, from beginning to end to document what it's like to be them from their eyes.

-at home
-at kadima

2) MYSTERY PHOTOS- take photos of an object from regular perspective, then very close up so one might not be able to tell automatically what it is. Let the others in the class guess until they figure it out, then show the real object.

3) PORTRAITS- tell a story with the photo of the person you're taking the portrait of. Ask them any three questions you like to find out who they are. Then, set up objects and place to support the life reflected in the answers to these questions.

let me know what you think!

lahitraut (LATER),

b'ahava (WITH LOVE),


Monday, September 15, 2008

all the children are insane

pretty uneventful day for me. woke up, did sit-ups. picked jen up at the apartment on the way to kadima. saw naama there because they are moving to a different apartment so she was helping them pack up their stuff. went to kadima and had some lunch. talked to sivan (director) about what we'd be doing there. she wants to set up a sort of mentorship for each of us. so she asked us to see which we felt more comfortable with, the sixth or seventh graders and connect with one of the kids. i spent a lot of time with a little girl named rudin. we talk. i've found that i get to practice my hebrew much better when i go to kadima because most of the kids say the words that we are learning, since it's a lesser level of vocabulary. it's really great practice. i can even have conversations with most of them, albeit rudimentary or broken ones. the food that they feed the kids gets thrown away at the end of the day, so i asked if i could take it home. they were happy to let me, so i think i may ask every once in a while if we're out of food at the house. how resourceful we are! :)

after kadima, jen, jodi, and i walked to the new apartment. ofir and the movers met us there. we hung out there for a bit, then walked back to the house to do our ulpan homework. finished that and ended up talking with ofir for a while outside about the group and our experience here, plus fun upcoming stuff. we have a cool trip to jerusalem this weekend. so excited for that.

as far as the bob* situation goes, ofir and naama talked to momo about it and when bob* got to work tonight, momo had a conversation with him about his behaviour. basically, he can't touch a stitch of alcohol until the program is over, or else he goes home. so hopefully he can keep it up. he's got a problem for sure. and it runs way deeper than a simple desire to drink and have fun. it's scary and i hope he can turn it around with this opportunity. we'll see.

anyway, ulpan tomorrow. then laundry and i need to type up the contact list for my birthright trip group. sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeit.



Sunday, September 14, 2008

fuck the pain away

today was ulpan. i think i'm getting the hang of it even more, although it keeps getting harder. got home with enough time to read a very disturbing email from a very good friend of mine. one that got me upset. one that i was upset enough to write a very upsetting email in reply. some shit is going on with said friend, and i don't know what to do about it. but i digress.

went to work and called applicants to remind them to pay their deposit for birthright. my brother just finished his application so al and i called him for his interview. al put on this devastatingly hilarious lisp and asked eddie all the pertinent questions, which he answered in earnest, until he heard me dying laughing in the background. my favorite was when al asked him, deadly serious, if he had any siblings with any beautiful qualities. he said, "only my sister and she has a beautiful smile". i melted! what a doll. i miss that buddy. but i'm so fucking excited that he's coming here. and i'm glad everyone is OK in texas that i know, although IKE is causing some damage. i'm keeping them in my thoughts.

i was super gassy at work tonight, and couldn't stop laughing about it to save my life. i'm 8 years old, BTW. so on the way home in the cab, we asked yaacov how to say 'fart' in hebrew. it's NOD (that's the dirty version). i can't pronounce the clean one anymore. then i tried to explain 'furries' to al and i almost peed my pants laughing. i swear, i laugh so much every day that it must be good for my body. i'm convinced. and all the walking i do. it's perfect ('mushlam')!

however, once we got home eric and rayna met us outside to tell us that one of our other roomates, bob*, was drunk and throwing up in his bed. we've suspected since the program started that this kid has a drinking problem and it has been causing issues since the very beginning. tonight, though, was the straw that broke the camel's back. al brought him a bowl and tried to get him to drink water, but he was spouting nonsense and had a huge cut on his head. so we called naama, to take him to the hospital. as soon as she got there, he knew he was being taken to the hospital, but would have none of it. he got up and dressed, but refused to go, getting very angry and sarcastic. he was really being a shithead to naama, and the rest of us for trying to make him go to the hospital. he insisted that he was fine. he was saying some very toxic things to everyone, but acting as he was being persecuted for simply being drunk, not realizing the severity of his words and actions, which fluctuated between levels of offensiveness, rarely bordering on abusive. but that was serious enough. he didn't end up going to the hospital, but there are several people in this house to whom alcoholism is a familiar and very sensitive and personal topic. so tonight was very emotional for many people. i tried to calm the vibes, but something is going to change after tonight. i don't know how or what, but something. mike needs help. and this is not the time, place, nor program for him. that's my opinion anyway. he's not ready.

after things had died down a bit, i called my dad and talked to him. i felt bad because i was distracted but i needed to check about my aunt who lives in houston. everything seems to be fine and i was really nice to hear his voice. also, my best friend marissa video chatted with me for the first time since i got here. so i was able to show her the house and try to convince her to come on birthright while i'm here. i really hope she does it. shiiiiit. also, al and my birthright friend andy is coming from columbus to visit egypt and petra with us this november. its gonna be sooooo tight.

going to kadima tomorrow. need to figure out how to work the cameras so i can teach the kids. and i need to email joan about doing the art-think program here that she runs in public schools in dallas. it's so cool. got my absentee ballot application so i can vote in november. also found out we are eating dinner at momo's house this thursday night, then going to jerusalem from 12AM-4AM. son't know why, but i'm excited to find out! more later.



Saturday, September 13, 2008

and it's not going to stop till you wise up

woke up this morning, got ready, and one of the host moms (alon and jade's, not ours) picked al, alon, and me up to have lunch at our host family's house. i know all their names now (elan is the dad, eran is the 12 year old brother, and yarden is the 15 year old sister, oh and orna is the mom). orna made an amazing meal of tomato creme soup for starters, broccoli quiche, chicken legs, sweet/regular potatos, and a bomb salad with hearts of palm and pine nuts, not to mention a frozen chocolate mousse cake. wow it was great.

after lunch, the kids showed us their rooms. yarden is remarkably organized and had a really funny picture frame that said, "we love you BEACH". when we asked her what it meant, she simply replied that her friends don't know very good english. we died laughing. next was eran's room. we didn't meet eran before today, but he is being bar mitzvah'd in 2 months... he says we're invited. he is a huge skateboarder/WWE enthusiast. he even has all the action figures.

we got ready for the beach and headed over to the other host family's house to meet with alon. this place was sooooo cooooool. since the mom's family is from morroccan, the decor of the house was very morroccan, with bedouin mats covering the grass in the backyard, a huge, walk-in cage full of birds. they even have chinchillas. not to mention, a full wood workshop downstairs. we drank rose tea and finally headed off to tel aviv and the beach.

orna's office is literally a 2 minute walk from the beach that we usually go to, so it was perfect to park there. i told her that we would definitely stop by and kidnap her one day for lunch because she said she never actually went even though she is so close. we brought the volleyball, so al, alon, me, and all the kids played for a while in the water. then we broke out the matcot paddles and a ball. now, matcot (for all you laymen) is a pretty intense beach game involving wide paddles, a small, black rubber ball, and very serious looking israelis. the skilled matcot players can hit this ball going 50 thousand miles per hour back and forth to each other. it's very ridiculous. i am not one of said skilled players, but i took some photos. posted soon.

after a good day on the beach and a beautiful sunset, we grabbed some delicious pastries at the bureka stand (turkish cheese pastries). fucking yum. then i passed out in the car on the way home.

back at home, i showered and decided to watch some TV, which i haven't done since i got here. magnolia happened to be on and i told al we had to watch it since she'd never seen it and i hadn't in a while. it made me think of josh and how we haven't seen each other in a while. and my dad. and ernie. and jeremy. and marissa and my mom and brother. i hope they are doing well. anyway, that movie always makes me cry. i think it's the aimee mann lyrics. but i'm ok. actually, i have some ulpan homework to do. then i'm going to bed since we have ulpan, then work. but i'm excited about work, so it's cool.



Friday, September 12, 2008

mr. ambulance driver, i'm not the real survivor

yesterday, al and i woke up and took a shruit with jen to the beach in tel aviv to meet abram. we're definitely getting better at navigating around that city. now we know exactly which bus to get on and where to tell the sheruit to drop us. we hooked up with abram near the end of the beach near allenby and chilled out in the water for a bit, then taking a snooze in the sand. i played a little guitar, then abram played some amazing classical pieces while we slept. jade and izy met up with us as we packed up to grab some grub. izy showed us where to get the best breca (turkish cheese pastry i would kill someone for right now) in tel aviv. after fully satiated, we walked a bit for a pint of murphy's and some photos at sundown. abram had to go to a concert with his family so he split and those of us remaining went back down to the beach to watch the sunset.

it was really beautiful and (for all you hopeless romantics) some guy even proposed to his girlfriend near where we were sitting in the sand! jade started to feel really sick so jen and izy took her back to ramla. al and i just hung on the beach and drank a beer before deicing to get all spiffied up in the back-up clothes we brought. some guy handed us a card for this pub on allenby, so we stopped there first. the place itself was pretty terrible, actually. think: TGIFridays as a dive bar, except with middle-aged, lecherous, creepy men. anyway, it was pretty lame except we ended up meeting an american guy who knows our birthright friend harper from staying in a hostile in tel aviv with her, so that was completely nuts. danced a little and then met back up with abram, who took al and i to this little place called cosa nostra which i absolutely loved. it was this small, quaint place off allenby with a nice patio. there were no tables available when we got there, but abram had made friends with the owner the night before so they let us in anyway. we stayed there for a while, and one of the israeli soldiers from our birthright trip, omri, met us.

after a while, we started talking to these really cool guys, who happened to be going to this nature party that izy told us about. basically it's a party deep in the woods with trance music and lots of people. sounds fun to me, so al took one of their numbers. we parted with abram and omri, and we walked to the bus station to catch the sheruit back to ramla.

now, i had been exhausted several times all day. i think i'm PMS'ing, which is a rare occurrance for me. i don't know if coupled with me being sensitive or homesick or something made me irritable or tense. but i definitely haven't felt like myself the last couple of days. i realized how different i actually felt on the way home at 6AM in the sheruit. all i could think about was how tired i was, how much i wanted to sleep in my own bed at the house, and how annoyed drunk boys made me. but then i stopped myself for a second. i was sitting in a 11 sheckel cab watching the sun rise in israel. normally, i would relish in this moment, appreciating every beauty in it. but i hadn't been. so i stopped myself in my thoughts, took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and relaxed. i took it all in, feeling very much cleansed just we pulled up to our stop. we opened the door, handled our business, and crashed.

this morning, al and i walked to our favorite falafel place for lunch. apparently on shabbat (today is friday), they throw out all the unused fixings for pita. friendly and resourceful as we are, al and i asked the owner if he would let us take the stuff he was going to throw away anyway. since we go there so often, he told us to come net friday at 2:30pm and take whatever is left before they close for shabbat. SWEET.

after lunch, al and i went grocery shopping because we desperately needed it. the plan was to get ready and head to jerusalem to have shabbat dinner with abram, itzy, tali (just back from chicago), and avi. so al and i got ready and booked it to the bus station in ramla. we got there just in time to realize that the buses had stopped running an hour before. so we just walked back to the house and made couscous with vegetables while the rest of our roommates prepared steak to be broiled in the newly functional oven. it was delicious until the power decided to fuck off. everyone grabbed flashlights and tried to get the breaker box to knock the power back on (especially since we have a fridge full of new groceries) and turned up the jams so we could have a little disco party (al and i have an amazing disco ball hanging from our ceiling---see? resourceful...). the power finally came back on, so al, alon, and i watched superbad for the 50 bagillionth time since we've been here.

now i'm going to bed. tomorrow, orna (host mom) is going to pick al and i up to go to the beach in tel aviv and then we'll stay out there to hang with jen at her friend's brithday party or something. i'm sure it'll be fun. and fun to write about. photos for sure. oh, and i should write a song too.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

put me in coach!

today was special. went to ulpan as usual. doing well there. i really think that if i try hard enough, i'll be fluent by the time i leave. or at least close. i just need to get good enough speaking to israelis and not just cop out with english. after ulpan, al and i met jade and jen for lunch at this amazing falafel place near our house. basically, the guys in there give you a pita with hummus and you put the rest in yourself. as many falafel, chips, and fixin's that you desire. the guy that runs the place is hilarious too. while most places don't really speak english, this guy wouldn't let us speak any hebrew to him because he is learning english.

after lunch, al and i booked it home to get ready for our FIRST DAY OF WORK AT ORANIM! our cab driver, yaacov, picked us up around 3PM and drove us to the office about 45 mintues away (w/ traffic). we finally met our boss, coach. he has a real name, but i'll never use it. he is now and forever will be 'coach', so henceforth he will be referred to as such.

basically, we called birthright applicants and conducted phone interviews. it was actually really amazing. the office and the workers are so laid back and friendly. i got to talk to some pretty cool people on the phone and at the office, like mayaan (who actually handled my staff postion on birthright when i signed up for ISC). it reminded me of my interview and what i was thinking about in the months before my birthright. and i thought about the person that conducted my interview and what they must have been going through. it must have been similar to what i'm going through now. i wonder...

the coolest part is that oranim pays for our transportation, fed us pizza, and pays us 28 sheckles an hour (which apparently isn't bad). whatever, a job is a job and i LOVED it. plus, coach is fucking hilarious. coolest boss.

yaacov picked us up at 11PM to take us back (late night shift since we're calling the states in the afternoon there). the entire way home, yaacov had us peeing in our pants laughing. he kept calling ramla 'big shit'. i almost died. i really am looking forward to continuing work there.

so al and i are volunteering at ramla TV tomorrow. i have no idea what to expect since we didn't visit there, but i'm sure it's a dream. then we'll meet abram at the beach in tel aviv because he leaves to go back to the states soon. more tomorrow. laila tov.



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

cold hands warm heart

today was interesting. it actually started off as one of those days. you know, THOSE days. i went to bed too fucking late and woke up grumpy. and i felt as if i had a gray cloud over my head and my thoughts and my consciousness that i just couldn't shake. i kept doubting myself and overanalyzing simple, innocuous situations. schedule-wise, it was a pretty standard day. i went to ulpan at 8:30AM, walked to the apartment and hung out with jen and jade for a bit, then came home to chill and take a nap. actually, i was supposed to walk to kadima with alon to meet with the capoeira master who was teaching a class for 4 year olds so we can find out about taking a class from him. i ended up flaking and staying at home. i chalked it up to being too tired, or that it wasn't actually a class. or whatever. it was just an excuse. and i'm surely being hard on myself, but my enthusiasm was lacking. for the day, for this place, for my activities. for my new life here. so i bummed out. and sent messages to all my friends back at home. went for a walk with al before she left with assi to hang in tel aviv. i had some alone time. with alon. and we played a little guitar while mike played the drum he bought in the druish village. i remembered how much i enjoyed just sitting and learning songs. so i think i'll do that again. and even start writing some stuff, because ideas have been coming to me, but i don't allow them to materialize. that will change. i like writing, even though it is a very challenging process due to the amount of concentration it takes for me to sit down and hammer out guitar parts and lyrics. it feels like writing a ten page philosophy paper. that's honestly the closest thing i can think of to compare it to.

anyway, i started reading david sedaris 'dress your family in denim an courdoroy' as a more constructive outlet than playing on the computer. i didn't get very far, but i did surprisingly laugh out loud a few times. i was glad, because i had expectations that he was a funny writer, but it's rare that i laugh out loud when i read, chuck klosterman being an exception to that rule. i also realized the other day that my favorite people in the world are the ones that make me laugh. that's a good thing to know i think. so i'll finish that book too.

another thing that i do when i get nostalgic is listen to music, so i checked the weshotjr page for playlists and ended up streaming two of my friends' libraries. it made me feel good listening to the music they love and discovering new artists and songs that i genuinely enjoyed that i can now channel in my time.

al finally got home and we talked about how i felt kind of crummy today and the fact that i've been spending too much time zoning out on my computer as thinly veiled escapism. i have been contacting my friends and family at home as a seemingly desperate grasp for familiarity. i'm finally realizing on some level that i will be here for a while, and after the mood i was in today that might have started creeping into my conscious awareness before today, my body reacted my reaching out to the old. but i'm here, in israel. not at home. and that's the whole point. so i'm going to embrace every lesson and experience and opportunity this place has to offer, or else my coming here is in vain. and the next time i feel sad or lathargic, i can read, or play guitar, or just sit and meditate or relax. i don't want to be scared anymore, and i don't want to escape from the present moment. because life is good here. and i can change and grow if i allow myself to.

al and i decided that we need to start making friends. israeli friends. and instead of just going out at night, we can go out during the day to the beach and through work. overstimulating environments, like bars, are not so conducive to initiating new friendships, maybe.

ok, so tomorrow will be better. i've decided. i will be well rested. i will start fiddling around with the cameras that oranim has provided me to teach with. and i will figure those fuckers out so that i can enrich those kids with a creative outlet that they would not have been exposed to otherwise. goddamnit. ok.

OH YEAH! my dad and joan will be here hannukah/christmas, my brother is coming on birthright in december, and my mom is coming somtime. plus, andy from al and i's birthright is coming in november. lots to look forward to. i can't fucking wait!

goodnight everyone. love always.


circle circle dot dot matrix

this is fucking amazing: watch:

radiohead 'nude' played by printers

cell phones to old motherboards, outdated technology holds great value for collectors like Jason Savitt.

"The older it is, the harder it is to get it to work," Savitt says. In many cases, hobbyists aim only to preserve a look at how the technology once functioned. Savitt, who blogs about his finds on Vintage Technology Collector, says his Altair 8800, from 1975, is his prized possession. One of the first personal computers, it used switches instead of a keyboard. If that seems hopelessly antiquated, consider the keyboardless wonder of the iPod.

Video artist James Houston used hard drives and dot matrix printers to play a song by Radiohead. Houston, of Glasgow, Scotland, found that old personal computers could provide a wonderful range of bleeps. He added the sliding whirs of image scanners to the mix of clicks and tones. The less musical the old technology sounded, the more sympathetic the effect — as though the machines were straining for a beauty beyond their humble states.

Houston says the sounds were there for the harvesting. He just had to keep tinkering with the machinery. "It was a matter of prodding and poking to try to get good music out of it," he says.

The members of Radiohead liked Houston's work so much that they posted the video on the band's official Web site.

Monday, September 8, 2008

burnin' through the sky

went to ulpan today. it was a really good class. i'm very much enjoying it and i think i am catching on. hopefully i'll be fluent by the time these 5 months are over. i can already have short conversations. woohaw! after ulpan, al and i walked to get some groceries to make lunch because we are running a little tight on money right now. just budgeting. on the walk back home, we found some long scraps of astroturf so we grabbed them for room decorations. very resourceful, i know.

we hung out at home for a little while, and talked to our friend abram (from our birthright trip) who is in tel aviv with his whole family (30 people) doing a 3 week tour of israel. we got all spiffied up and waited for a sheruit for seriously 40 minutes outside our house on herzl street. while we were waiting, i saw this dreamy old man sitting on the bench with some plant in his front shirt pocket. somehow i summoned the strength to ask him to take a photo. it was good practice and i think the picture turned out really well. i asked him what he had in his shirt, and he practically stuck the thing up my nose before handing it to me, but it smelled like a nice herb. he let me have a stalk of whatever it was, so i'm going to save it and keep it with the photo of him. i didn't catch his name, but he tried to speak french with me since i couldn't speak hebrew. it was cute.

we finally caught a sheruit and once in tel aviv, we walked an ass long time (but not as long as we were informed) to abram's hotel. his parents and brother took us to a lovely dinner on the beach at a place called 'gordo', which in spanish means 'fat'. it was a dream, since al and i haven't had a nice dinner at a restaurant in a while. the best part of the dinner though, besides the food, was the story that abram's mom, vera, told us about the time she met woody allen. he had been filming 'manhattan' in the two apartments next door to theirs, so one day a producer asked to use her phone while woody waited and played with vera's 3-year old daughter. he apparently wasn't very socially competent with adults, not even making eye contact with them, but was very communicative with her daughter. he was sitting on the floor playing lego's, and telling the 3 year old that she was adopted, in typical woody allen fashion. he also told the little girl that he liked to put food on his head. i don't really remember the rest, but right before he left, he said that he would keep his promise and put food on his head, but it had to be meat and it had to be cold. so vera rummaged through the fridge and luckily found a nice cold slab of steak. woody, true to his word, slapped the meat on his head. about a minute passed, and he said, "when can i take this off?"

one of the best stories i've ever heard. we finished dinner and walked back to abram's hotel, where he played some beautiful classical guitar pieces; one by a paraguayan composer and one by a more famous guy that i can't remember. but he had better send them to me, because they were gorgeous. if i ever make a movie, i'm scoring it with classical guitar. so amazing.

we said goodbye to abram and his brother and walked all the way back to the bus station to catch the sheruit. after bargaining with the driver to let us go for the regular amount (15 NIS) rather than 30 NIS, he finally agreed and i'm going to bed now. ulpan tomorrow. then nap. and maybe laundry.

lila tov (good night)



Sunday, September 7, 2008

these boots were made

for ramla. i'm really tired, so i'll make this brief. but today was a very cool day. we spent the day on a walking tour of ramla, discovering and seeing very cool historical places related to the time during the crusades, when christianity was recognized, and when islam was founded. we went to a church-turned-mosque, a cememtary, ramla tower, and a museum that explains the historical siginificance of ramla for israel and the middle east. very interesting stuff today. after most of our walk was finished, our tour guide and ofir took al and i to the best hummus place in ramla (or israel, according to him) where they give you a bowl of amazing hummus with these beans and falafel balls, then all the pita you can eat. effing amazing. i'm eating there all the time. although, i need some indian food in my life stat.

anyway, our tour guide left us and we walked to the world famous shuk (ramla market) and were sent on a mission to interview four people and ask them about themselves. i thought this was a really cool idea, because in the words of our tour guide today, "there are remarkable things in ramla, the mosque for example. but now we get to notice the man that sits next to the mosque. these people are people. their hearts are beating". so we went to the market to find out more about the diverse population of cardiovascular-ly sound human beings. no, but really this was exactly what i needed to hear, so that i can get to know the people and their lives here. and then, i can take photos of them. al and i interviewed a few people and then bought dresses before we presented our interviewees' answers to the group, then we walked home.

took some photos today that i'm pretty proud of, thanks to the supportive nudges of alli and naama. i've been posting more and more, so i'll be completely caught up tomorrow after ulpan. so i get to power walk, sit ups, lunges, and finish photos. woooooo, big day. bed time. photos here and here. talk soon.



Friday, September 5, 2008



well, i didn't do my laundry yesterday. i figured al and i would just fill the bathtub and then wash all our clothes in a big laundry party, and have a grand ole time hanging them on our VERY OWN CLOTHESLINE!

not quite, while i was typing blogs and calling people, al was slaving away in the hot bathroom scrubbing the shit out of her clothes since we don't have a washboard (to do list). and i have a lot of laundry so hopefully i can just do it in the bathtub tonight. shit. oh well.

i just want to take a minute and wish my gammy a very happy 90th BIRTHDAY!!!!

(photo by andrew shepherd)

she's such a funny, silly, intelligent, spunky lady and i am proud that she is my gammy. and that i get to hang out with her all the time. and i love and miss her very much. so someone read this to her please. and my mom's birthday i tomorrow!! so many birthdays!

so after i last wrote, al and i decided to make a delicious dinner. we went to the market down the street and became friendly with the owner there, Rami and he gave us fruit and veggies for pretty cheap. so hopefully he'll give us more deals in the future. we came home and made pasta with parmesean and garlic with olive oil, parmesean garlic toast, and fruit salad with peaches, grapes, and mango. it was fucking phenomenal and healthy and just what i needed. i need to cook more. i think i will. our oven is at least fixed now so we can figure something out until the stove is back to normal.

after dinner, al and i walked to the apartment to meet jade and alon before they went over to some of the hebrew Kadima volunteers' apartment to eat some sweet free grub and hang out with them. on the way downstairs, alon slipped and busted his tailbone on the concrete stairs. he wasn't going to turn down free food, so we walked there anyway. it was a lovely little place, and from what i gather, it's sort of a similar situation to what we have here: they get placed at a volunteer location, meet, and all live together. it was really cute though. i have photos that i'll post this week. unfortunately, most of them are leaving Kadima because it is time for them to join the army. i know the kids will miss them as they have been at the center for almost a year. i have photos that i'll post this week. naama ended up retrieving alon from the apartment and taking him to the hospital for an x-ray to be sure he didn't break anything so al and i walked back to the house. luckily, alli made me do crazy sit-ups that i will do every other night. because NO PAIN, NO GAIN. this is my new mantra and i'm already starting to enjoy pushing myself past my point of comfort to get the results i want. i'm gonna do it. then we went to bed.

the next day, we woke up and i went to cheech beach in tel aviv with jade, alon, naama, and al. it is a really sweet beach and i've been there a few times already since it is near mike's place. we ended up playing volleyball near the water with this group of guys for about 3 hours. it was so nice to hit the ball around. i remember how into volleyball i was, and its been so long since i've played. everything seems to come back though, as i practice. jodi and shlomi (naama's friend) met us there because they were in tel aviv getting PAUL FUCKING MCCARTNEY TICKETS, which i didn't get and i don't want to talk about it. fuck. (what? they're 500 sheckles) SO, when it was time to go, alon and jade wanted to go back to shower, etc. before coming back to tel aviv to chill, but shlomi only had 4 seats in his car. al and i decided to stay on the beach until jade and alon came back. we walked along the boardwalk as the sun started to set and started talking about how nice it would be to have a cold beer and a slice of pizza on the beach at sunset. then, we realized that we could absolutely do that. so we did. and that is exactly the moment that we knew and agreed that this is our life. beautiful, and real. and there's nothing better at this moment than beer, pizza, friends, and a beach sunset. and that we can have these things whenever we want. we finished our beer and pizza and settled on mike's place since it is a safe bet for a good time. p.s. they have burritos and fajitas and i've never missed mexican food in my LIFE until i discovered that there is NONE here. shit. so we had a couple beers and a lovely conversation with barry, an english guy that plays rock n roll for a living here. he had some amazing stories. al got into it with him about david beckham, he told us that the events in the movie, 'kingdom of heaven' (about the crusades) took place about a kilometer from where we live, and told us stories about his times recording music in LA. then as barry was leaving, a random russian guy sat down with us, detailing his recent and brief exploits as a card counter trying to con money from moscow casinoes. he turned out to be a bit of a sleaze though, asking al after we'd ditched him for alon and jade whether he thought he could, 'make it with me' since he'd never been with an american girl before. ech. we all hung out at mike's place for a while, watching barry play in his band, finally retiring to the sheruits at around 2AM. after some confusion and a really drunk dude in our cab home, we finally got back. long night, but fun.

THIS morning, our host families picked us up in a van and drove us to this little wooded forest area about 15 minutes away from our house. i think it was a camp ground. IT IS MY MOM'S 61st BIRTHDAY TODAY! so i got to talk to her on the phone for a while. it was really amazing because she got to tell me all the cool shit she's doing right now, like the spectacular senior follies, where she does the betty boop impression that is infamous for making me die inside every time she does it. but since it's her birthday, i'll just get the fuck over it and post this:

my mommy, everyone. damn proud of her.

so al and i met our host mom and dad and sister (brother was at a friend's house). they fed us amazing food and the kids in all the families are just the sweetest, most energetic, playful, friendly kids ever. we spent most of the day shooting a slingshot at a can with rocks (way more fun that i ever knew), playing this hide and seek game that i can't pronounce (but i was only 'IT' once, so i think i did alright), and climbing to the top of this abandoned watchtower to peep this incredible view of the country-city-landscape. really incredible. i got photos of the whole day. i even brought my guitar, and alon played it mostly. the day was really incredible. i felt like a kid again, just playing outside with other kids and didn't give two shits about talking to the adults. they were perfectly nice people, but i was so happy just to run around and play games and shoot rocks at cans. it was amazing. also, on the way home i heard buffy telling the story about how she ended up here and about the timing, etc. and i was so grateful to my parents for being so supportive of me always, al for pushing me to get all my paperwork in and not giving up, and above all to myself for not just settling for what was comfortable. because this experience just keeps getting better and better and i will grow so much. i want to say i might even change, but i KNOW that i will change. i just have to let it happen. and i will. i already am.

we left the campsite and came home. had a talk with al about how i'm familiar in my surroundings at home which is why i feel comfortable just taking pictures of whatever there, but not here yet. maybe that's my dilemma. we'll see. i don't want to be afraid anymore. i finally did half of my laundry. washer and dryer style. (fuck it, it would have taken way too long by hand, let's get real.) OH, i also shaved one of my roomates' heads. what? he asked me to. i even get to give him a mohawk. photos of that too, duh. i was looking on al's computer trying to figure out how to make a video blog, and i ran across this website that runs safari's through africa. after piddling around on their site, i found that the are looking for an amateur photographer to send around africa capturing images for their website. if you know me at all, you would know that i immediately emailed the person in charge with my informatioin and expressed my interest in this position. so we'll see about that. also about the video blogs. because that's fun.

ok, then basically just hung out at the house until about 8, eating leftovers from the picnic, and al and i power walked over to the apartment to shill with alon, jade, and jennifer. i really need to come up with nicknames for them. i'll just call them, "the apartment". much easier. i get carpal tunnel from naming them all the time. really. SOOOOO, we hung out and did sit ups there. more reps this time because, all together now, NO PAIN, NO GAIN! al is my trainer and she's pushing me. thank you al. i'll have abs in no time. then, the girls and i proceeded to watch animal mating videos for the next hour. the giant turtle one makes me die laughing. i almost peed my pants. no joke. the noise. i can't handle it.

al and i walked home past this really sweet wedding reception or block party or something, but we were exhausted. it looked fun though. i'm going next time. i'll stick out like a sore thumb as i dance like an idiot and eat free barbeque. hey, at least it's kosher. i'm classy. once we got home, we video chatted with our dear friend harper from our birthright trip, trying to get her to come back. we'll get her yet :)

going to sleep now. goodness it's late. we're going on a walking tour of ramla tomorrow. whoopie. no, really it's going to be cool. but it's also going to be fucking hot. and i got my volunteer schedule for the forseeable future, although i think it may be temporary. so far, i'll be attending ulpan three days a week, working at the oranim office two days a week, kadima one day a week, and working at the ramla TV station one day a week. and i have a day off!

and that's all she wrote. er, i wrote. whatever, i'm going to bed.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

friday night we'll be drinkin' manichewitz...

not too much to report, went to ulpan yesterday and we picked up the pace. i think i'm catching on rather quickly and i can now have peices of conversation in hebrew. i have pretty much replaced "yes", "no", and "what" with "ken", "lo", and "ma". SABABA (SWEET). afterwards, we went to Kadima to work with the kids there. it's really nice because they give us a meal. after we ate, the kids go into their respective rooms to study. it can be a little awkward for me because unless they are working on english homework, it's really difficult to help them. however, alli gave me the idea to have them help me with my ulpan hebrew homework. one of the israeli volunteers agreed that this gives them a feeling of confidence. so i started working with this little boy named michael, helping with his math homework. he's so adorable, but i can totally tell that he has concentration issues. reminds me of myself, except more hyperactive. but we definitely bonded. i promised him i'd come back today, which i found out is his birthday!

(wonderful picture of me, i know. but you get the point. i'm there, jen, alon, buffy, jade, al, and rayna, plus all the kids. the names that i know are yaacov, michael, shlomo, shai, yael)

we went home after Kadima and chilled out for a bit before alli's new friends, assi picked jade, al, and i to go to tel aviv and meet up with jade's israeli friend izzy and his friends. OH! another cool thing about this program is that we get host families to hang out with on weekends or whenever while we're here as a sort of lifeline. al and i have been put with the same family, and the mom, orna, called us yesterday. most of our group has been paired up with families and about four of them live around the same area between jerusalem and tel aviv. they will pick us up on saturday morning and take us to a park where we'll all have a picnic! so cute! i'm really excited about that. whew.

anyway, in tel aviv we went to a club called 'cara calla', which had a pool in the middle where the bartenders swam around serving people drinks surrounding the pool. so crazy. we danced up a storm until it was time to go. unfortunately, al's purse broke off and disappeared. she cancelled everything so it should be fine. otherwise, it was a nice night.

today, we went to Kadima to wish michael and zamir happy birthday. al and i made michael cards and alon origami-ed them both some pretty cool characters. now i'm sitting here watching sarah palin's speech from the republican national convetion. i think she's full of shit personally, but that's just my opinion. i look forward to doing more research about her, mccain, obama, and biden so that i can vote wisely with my absentee ballot in november. however, fullness-of-shit is not a desirable quality in a candidate, just sayin'. however, it is interesting that i think i'm right, but there was a whole fucking stadium in st. paul last week that see the world's ethics and issues in a completely opposite way, yet think they're right too. hmmmm. something to think about. but the ignorant bravado typified by this kind of republican bothers the shit out of me. more later. photos tonight. i'm going to do all my laundry in the bathtub.



Tuesday, September 2, 2008

used to be one of the rotten ones


it's really cool. i had a great time in class today. i feel like i already some things about hebrew from hebrew school (thanks mom and dad for making me go) and that it will get easier as i build on the foundation of words and grammar that i already know. fuck yeah! just another example of how these challenges will get easier as i acknowledge and confront them. which reminds me, i was thinking today how in the past, when i've adopted a productive behaviour (i.e., running, eating well, reading books a lot, blah blah blah) i always know in the back of my mind that it's temporary. i don't know if that's because i know it will be hard and i don't know if i will stick to it if it's hard or that i've never seen anyone actually change (myself included), so i automatically assume that people can't change permanently. i really want to change in certain ways. permanently. this is the perfect place to do it, but even writing these words, i feel doubt. the motivation must come from inside. so the only thing i can do is write a to do list and accomplish each thing that i set out to do, squashing the voices in my head each day that tell me i can't. fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkk why do i do this?

ok... anyway, today was cool. we went to the youth center today. kids make me nervous kind of. i feel like they can smell my uncertainty. that's one reason i admire alli, she just jumps in there. no fear. it's really cool to watch. i think i'm doing better though. they're really sweet kids. i tried to help this one really quiet girl with her english homework. it must be as difficult as my hebrew homework in about 2 years, if i was 11 years old. wow. also, i brought my camera out to take photos of them, and they all swarmed and ravenously tried to take photos with it. i let a few and then it got to be too crazy, they were all grabbing it from each other, so i out it away. but i really want to figure out a way to get them their own cameras (even disposable), so they can start paying attention to their surroundings and being able to own something that they create. naama said she will talk to the director to see if we can make this happen. also, i'm totally bringing good shoes to play ball with the kids tomorrow.

we left the center about 3PM, as the kids bid us excited goodbyes because they know we are coming back. alli's got some serious fans there. this one kid, shai, blew her a kiss as we walked away. some of them gave us hugs too :) we went to meet naama at the house to meet with her about our preferences and options for volunteer placement. once we tell her which places and programs we're interested in, she can put together a schedule that will fit in 3 or 4 days of volunteering, ulpan, working at the oranim office to make extra money, etc. i told naama that i wanted to work 1) at the teen youth center (called El-em) teaching photography or working on their 'greenhouse' agriculture project (teaching kids to grow their own food and how to sell it), 2) at a TV and radio station (where we may be able to make our own documentary about the program, which is something alli and i wanted to collaborate on anyway), and 3) and the youth center we've been going to (called Kadima). since i do photography, naama says a lot of places want me to volunteer there, so i might also go to a high school, vocational school, or the senior center. it all sounds cool. especially because all the directors really care about what they are doing.

OHHHHHH, and since ramla is a lower income area, the government subsidizes classes like bellydancing, pilates, capoeira, and martial arts that we can take for 150 sheckles a month!!! i'm totally excited about it. unfortunately however, i decided not to get paul mccartney tickets tonight because they are 500 sheckels (120 US dollars). and i just think that's not a wise us of my money at all. i'm trying to conserve. plus, i'm keeping in my mind that something incredible might happen so i can go for free. who knows? weirder things have happened. maybe i'll try to get in with my camera. or meet some famous person that really HAS to take me to see paul FUCKING mccartney. shit.

ok nighty night. more pics on the way. then i'll FINALLY be caught up. now i just need to do my fucking laundry. but at least (DAD) my room is clean. and my bed is made. :)



Monday, September 1, 2008

oh give me a home

and something about buffalos... WOW. ok, so this morning, alli, butzy, jodi, and i walked to one of the youth centers where we can volunteer. it was the first day of the school year for them, so there was an opening talk by the director (nice lady, can't remember her name) and everyone was getting to know each other. they also have in-house volunteers that are younger and speak hebrew, but the director introduced us to the kids who range in age (i'm guessing) from about 11-16. they are all from low income, single parent, or at-risk situations. but the weird thing is that they are just normal, rambunctious kids. yeah, sure some of them act out. mostly the boys. but we played games with them, tried to talk with them, and i had a really nice time today. each of us circulated throughout the rooms as each age group was playing an icebreaker type of game to get to know each other. the room that i went into was literally playing an icebreaker game, where each person had to hold a block of ice with candy frozen inside as they told about themselves and tried to get the candy out, until your hands got too cold. i didn't really understand and thought it was a riddle or a brainteaser, and immediately started formulating a plan to get the candy out and impress the kids. so as soon as i got the ice block, i started sucking on the side that i could see the candy through since your mouth melts ice. unfortunately, i quickly found out that the point of the game was to talk about myself, in a language that i can't speak out of a mouth that was so numb i couldn't form words. great.

but luckily, the kids thought it was funny, so i told about myself briefly as translated by one of the hebrew volunteers and side-stepped (somewhat) a potentially embarrassing situation. the kids get a hot meal at this center, so the director told us to go eat with them (food was schnitzel and this amazing rice, soooo yummy). we hung out for a little while longer, playing and meeting with more kids, and then left to walk back to the house where we met with MASA representatives.

MASA is the organization that gave me grant money to be here. it gives grant money for people to be here from all over the world in 150 other programs throughout israel. from 1500 participants last year, there's 8000 this year. they are cool. the reason they came was to inform us about what they do and about seminars that they will be conducting while we're here. rally interesting sounding ones actually, political, social, cultural, etc. i'm definitely going to as many as i can. they also offer a seminar that takes place over three weekends, called something Future Leadership, which i interviewed for. they only can take 50 people, so i'll hear back in a couple of weeks if i was accepted. i think it'd be good for me to stretch myself and learn more about the leadership opportunities that i can take so that i can actually do something for the community and the world someday that makes a lasting impact.

the other part of their visit was an exercise that had us explore different journey's taken by people throughout history and how we defined each of their journeys in relation to our own. MASA means journey in hebrew by the way, just so you know. then they asked us what we thought our own journeys meant to us, etc. etc.

i had to think for a minute because what i agreed to be true about journeys are the following:

A) a journey can be accidental

B) the journey maker is somehow changed

C) the journey is usually filled with challenges

now this last one is important for me, because i realized that yesterday i was having a pretty hard time feeling OK. it was kinda shitty actually. and i have felt shitty a couple of times. but what i have felt today, especially after being at the youth center, is that i am going to run into shitty, hard times. and really uncomfortable situations. but if i can learn to embrace them and know that i will emerge from them a better, happier person, then i won't be scared anymore. so i'll work on that. and have my own MASA hopefully able to help other people while growing myself.

ANYWAY, after the meeting, i did my interview with the representatives (cross my fingers) and most of us walked to this supermarket at which naama got us a discount. it's so nice having butz around since he is israeli and can help us figure out what to buy and what labels say. alli and i bought a bunch of shit. soon, maybe i'll even be able to clip coupons (that's for you mom and gammy). TOMORROW we start ulpan!!! 3 hours of hebrew lessons. i'm gonna be fluent. i've been catching on pretty quickly. i really like hebrew. tis a beautiful language mates. so i'm really tired. goodnight!

OH, new photos posted and more on the way (ALMOST CAUGHT UP!!!):