Hello! I'm finally here in Tel Aviv, and I've only been here for a day and a half but already have so much to update you guys on. So, here goes!
My flight to Israel left from NYC on Wednesday night, and went smoothly. I was picked out for a luggage search by airline security, which meant that I couldn't proceed to the gate until after the search was done. Instead I was allowed to take my phone and iPod and instructed to wait in the terminal for an hour, then come back to be escorted past all of the airport security lines and directly to the gate. It also meant that I was able to board the plane ahead of the other 499 passengers, both perks I accepted happily. And the luggage search seemed like a totally fine, minor inconvenience...until I started unpacking everything when I got to my dorm and realized that my carefully-packed items had been tossed around, crumpled, and one or two things had actually gone missing. C'est la vie, I suppose.
Aaaaanyway. I arrived in Israel on Thursday afternoon, and was greeted at Ben Gurion airport by a former co-worker and truly gracious friend, Ze'ev. He drove me to my school, and helped me (by speaking Hebrew and flashing his killer smile around) find the program counselor to procure my dorm keys. Once we got my bags moved in, Ze'ev walked around with me and showed me where to find the closest banks, cafes, and grocery stores- where I picked up a few essentials/comfort items:
Zevik- a shout out on my blog hardly seems a sufficient thank you. I would've been lost without you yesterday. Todah rabbah, chaver.
After Ze'ev left, I unpacked my things- which, it turns out, doesn't take very long when all your worldly possessions fit into two suitcases. I have cable TV in my room, so I watched Real Housewives while I worked. Honestly, it didn't feel like I'd just moved overseas. It felt totally normal, except for the view from my window...
After a quick shower and change of clothes I headed out to Libbie's bachelorette party (yeah, clubbing in Tel Aviv was my solution to jet lag). This seemed simple enough to me- get in a cab and go. Jen assured me that a non-English speaking cabbie was rare, but I managed to find the only one. And, even though I'd written down the address (just in case) this cab driver had no idea where he was going. But, he started driving, so I figured I'd let it ride. I kid you not, he stopped at least three times to ask random people for directions to Ranak Street. Once he actually got out of the cab at a stoplight to ask someone in the car behind us. I don't have a cell phone yet and had no clue where I was going, so basically I had to just sit back and pray that a kind stranger would direct my driver to the right place. Plan B was refusing to pay the fare, getting out, and taking a (different) cab back to my dorm.
Eventually, though, we made it to the right place. I found the apartment, and was early even though I thought for sure I'd be the last one there. The evening was surreal. We had drinks, food, and games at Libbie's mom's apartment, and then headed out to The Clara, a club that is literally on the Mediterranean Sea. It was incredible. We drank (more). We danced. I was so grateful to be able to make new friends, see old friends, and celebrate Libbie- the little voice in my head who would not let me give up until I made this dream of living in Israel become a reality. Oh, also, I fell down. A lot. Having multiple people approach me and say "are you okay?" seemed like a totally appropriate way to introduce myself to Tel Aviv.
Needless to say, I had NO trouble sleeping last night. I didn't drink too much, but the combination of the alcohol, the flight, and dehydration was enough to give me a raging headache this morning when I woke up. Errr, this afternoon. I slept so long, in fact, that I missed my opportunity to go to the beach with Jen. So, instead I decided to go to the grocery store and get some toiletries and snacks. Trying to buy shampoo was the first moment I truly felt like I was in a foreign country (I guess second, but after this blog post I'm choosing to forget about the cab ride from the night before). Obviously the labels on EVERYTHING are in Hebrew. But I can't read Hebrew. Ahhhh. It's entirely possible that what I'm using as body wash is actually sunscreen. My Hebrew knowledge was enough to help me figure out that the Pantene bottles were probably for my hair. And it's only by trial and error that I now know which bottle is shampoo and which is conditioner. Does anyone know what type of Pantene comes with green labels? I just chose the color that looked prettiest.
Oh! Did I not mention that in Tel Aviv there are giant cages on the street where people throw recycling? Yeah, one more thing that struck me as "foreign" on my first walk around. Ze'ev told me that you can also throw cats in there. Cause there are cats littering the street. They're everywhere. I'm told they're friendly, but I'm not looking to make friends with street cats.
Libbie's parents were kind enough to invite me to shabbat dinner with the family and some friends who are also in town for the wedding (which is on Sunday), so I didn't have to spend the entirety of day two all on my own. I am so grateful to already have a community of people here. Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful, I have never felt more certain that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. After dinner I walked through the city (in the general direction of my school) and eventually grabbed a taxi home.
Tonight I am feeling the loneliness that comes from being completely removed from everyone and everything familiar. I wish more than anything that I could just pick up a phone and call my parents or a friend. But, I'm doing well. I'm learning, and (as Libbie reminded me tonight) I'll get the hang of things. When I get anxious about shampoo labels or ATM fees or bank accounts I just take a deep breath and remember that this is my dream. Its coming true. And it's only gonna get better tomorrow.
Layla tov, chaverim (goodnight, friends).