January 27, 2012

Nicole and I had a party.

So this week Nicole and I came to a conclusion- "we have no furniture, we have a lot of space, and nothing valuable to break or steal, so we should have a party." Decision made. We decided to invite a few friends from TAU and elsewhere to join us for a Bring Your Own EVERYTHING party. 

Seriously. Bring your own...drinks, seating, cups, ice...you get the picture.

We've been to a handful of parties thrown by TAU friends who live off campus, and so far they've all been outrageous. I was NOT looking to have the cops called on me in Tel Aviv, I'm fragile and could not handle that in a foreign language (the ER was bad enough)- so we had a modest group of classmates and some Israelis over to help us warm up our otherwise cold and empty apartment.
It was a wild success.

I'm not going to waste your time by writing about it cause pictures tell a better story.
But you should be aware that Nik and I refer to our apartment as "the safehouse" cause it seriously looks like the temporary dwelling of spies or squatters. 

We took that theme and ran with it.

January 20, 2012

The White City

Chronologically, this post is out of order. I went on a walking tour of Tel Aviv offered by my school several weeks ago, and just haven't gotten around to blogging about it. But, I really want my friends and family back home to see what this city looks like. Cause I love it, and now I live here.

Tel Aviv and Miami are the only two major cities in the world built in the 1930's (Tel Aviv sprang up in the wake of WWII and Miami was rebuilt after a hurricane that destroyed the city during that decade) so they happen to look pretty similar architecturally.

The architecture which dominates TA is called Bauhaus- a style that is characterized by simple lines and materials (specifically white plaster, hence the name...The White City). Bauhaus buildings tend to have smooth, round lines, balconies on each floor, and common roof space shared by the residents.

Something which our tour guide pointed out to us along the way was all of the really interesting graffiti around the city. Graffiti is technically illegal here, but a lot of it is done by famous and incredibly talented Israeli artists. The graffiti is always changing, and some of it is really interesting.

We even came across some braille graffiti (top right above). We asked our guide what it meant, but he hadn't had any blind people join him on a walking tour about architecture yet so he had no idea. I especially appreciated the graffiti of a Jack Daniels bottle made to look like a bauhaus building.

Something else I've noticed around here are the ficus trees- they grow to be enormous and they have these beautiful braided trunks. Well, as it turns out the trunks aren't braided, but the tree grows "air roots" which hang from the branches and once they reach the ground they become part of the tree's root system. They're spectacular.

During the tour we went into a hotel on Dizengoff Square in the center of Tel Aviv. This hotel used to be an old cinema, in fact it's called the Hotel Cinema (clever, right?). This is a restored bauhaus building, and the only one we actually got to go inside of during the afternoon.

They even have one of the old projectors in the lobby:

So, that's pretty much it- just a quick glimpse of the city I call home for the time being.

January 18, 2012

Merkaz Ba'alei Melaha

I began 2012 by moving into an apartment in Tel Aviv.

I was paying an outrageous sum to live in the dorms at Tel Aviv University, and the campus is north of the city- not far by any means, but the location presented certain problems in the way of accessing and truly experiencing the city. Also, it may go without saying, but after having lived on my own in Boston for six years, moving into a dorm-situation was not ideal. I was happy to have a soft place to land upon moving overseas, but it was time to grow up and move out.

My semi-adult life has included several moves. This was by far the easiest. I think it may be because I got to Israel with all of my worldly possessions in two (skillfully packed) suitcases. Granted, I did not get everything back into those two suitcases- but it really only took a couple of trips on the bus... 
(I spent a few days as that girl on a crowded bus shlepping cumbersome luggage, and I think my fellow bus patrons really appreciated it).

I moved into an apartment right in the center of Tel Aviv with my friend from school, Nicole. It took a couple weeks of stressful searching to find, but we finally went through a broker recommended by a couple of friends, and found a place in a great location that suits us just fine. Our street, Merkaz Ba'alei Melahais quiet and pleasant, but steps from everything we could possibly need. We've already made friends with the owner of our favorite cafe- his name is Roni, and he offered me a job the other day.  We'll see.

The broker, Shay, was very cool, and happens to also be our new neighbor! He's the guy we call when we need help figuring out how to turn on the dud shemesh (yes, the hot water tank is called the "dood") or when our shower door shatters into a thousand little glass shards all over Nicole (yes, that happened). 

Nicole was standing IN the shower when this went down. 
"Shay! Help!"

There are a couple of distinct differences between American and Israeli life that I observed during my apartment search, and I'd like to share them with you here:

1. People take appliances with them. 
When an apartment here is listed as "unfurnished" it literally comes with nothing in it. Shay gave us a fridge, thank heavens. The guy who moved out left us a microwave. But if we want to cook anything that can't be nuked, we're gonna have to buy a hot-plate. Can you imagine moving into an apartment in a major Americcan city without it at least having basic appliances?? 

2. Everything is negotiable. 
Leah, my landlord, gave us 100 shekel off of the advertised price after she met me- because she liked me. I was fine with this, but a little confused because other than complimenting her boots and asking about her family we could hardly communicate (her English is about on par with my Hebrew). Maybe it was because my hair looked so nice that day. 

3. Apartments here are owned by individuals rather than management companies.
Now, I'm sure that not ALL apartment buildings in the US are managed by companies, but that has been my experience, or at the very least one person owns a whole building and is in the real-estate business. My landlord here owns only the apartment I live in. Each apartment in the building is owned by different people, and they pass the property down through generations. Leah doesn't live in Tel Aviv, and does not want to be bothered with problems. When I called her about the shower she simply said "replace it and I'll pay you back." Ugh. 

So, Nicole and I have been here for a little over a week. We still have no furniture except our beds and a few chairs that Shay also donated (I think he feels bad for us). We'll get furniture in February, when the rest of our loans come in. We spent our first Shabbat in our new home assembling Nicole's Ikea furniture, and breaking bread with one of our first friends- Jared. Perfect. 

I'm certain that we will make many more memories together here, and it will be the perfect base of operations for us as we continue to stretch our wings and explore what Tel Aviv has to offer us. 
Living in an apartment here makes me feel like I'm really doing this. I have a lease. I have a neighborhood. And slowly, slowly...a little piece of Tel Aviv will become mine- and inevitably become a part of who I am.

If you're ever in town, come on over for a visit! 
We only have one extra chair, but it's yours.

January 9, 2012

The Objective: to excite people.

Happy New Year!!

It has been awhile since I've made an update, and for that you have my apologies.
The last couple of weeks have been hectic- which is a minor understatement, so let's flesh it out a bit.

This Christmas Santa brought be my very own Bethany Holmes. Mmmm. Just what I wanted.

The big guy in red sent with Beth some excellent Christmas gifts- deodorant, CD's from Holly, shaving cream, and clothes from my parents. Feliz navidad!

I came down with a cold just before Beth's arrival, which I promptly passed to her as a little Christmas/thanks-for-visiting-me gift. I showed her around Tel Aviv and then we flew off to Eilat for a mini-vacation. 

For those of you not familiar, Eilat is the southern-most city in Israel- a resort town on the banks of The Red Sea nestled in the wilderness- it is literally surrounded by mountainous desert. It was not VERY warm there this time of year, but definitely warmer than TA, and we were able to lay in the sun during the afternoons. We also took in some of the tourist attractions- most importantly the Biblical-themed amusement park known as "Kings City."

I know, I know. This sounds awesome. 

Allow me to present actual text from the promotional brochure:

"The Objective: to excite people.
How? Through action, adrenaline and imagination."

We "traveled back in time, down into the earth of 2000 years ago" through "The Genesis Caves"- which basically was a maze that housed dioramas of Biblical stories interspersed with strange "wildlife exhibits" aka terrariums with rats and hamsters and snakes and even hissing cockroaches. Objective- achieved.  

We also entered the "Cave of Illusions" which they describe as "tons of activities from another world to stimulate your senses" but in reality was pretty much like a small science museum for children. The magnetic room was really freaky though- and coupled with my pre-existing inner-ear issues was a real trip.

Finally we went on "The Water Voyage" which promised "mildly extreme sensation" as you are taken down a lazy river "voyage through life size replicas of figures and building from the King Solomon era" which "ends in surprise turbo water gliding" (just like real life in ancient times).

We also visited the Oceanarium, which was truly beautiful. The gulf of Aqaba, where Eilat is located, is home to coral reefs, and although it was a bit cold to go snorkeling, we were able to view the aquarium and even ride in a glass-bottom boat to view the reefs.

Beth and I returned to Tel Aviv just in time to celebrate New Years. We spent the evening partying with TAU students and had an excellent time. We partied to hard, in fact, that my cold (which had been making a graceful exit) came back with vengeance. In fact, it came back with a fever and a stomach virus.  I did not let this get me down, but all of this excitement and tourism and partying and hanging out did not allow me to really rest and sleep off the illness. Oh, and did I mention that throughout the holiday season I was also aggressively searching for an apartment in Tel Aviv? Yeah. That too. I was stressed out.

Through all of this I learned the lesson- don't burn the candle at both ends, but if you have no other choice...enjoy the ride. Especially if it culminates in "surprise turbo water gliding."

I feel like I would need at least six more blog posts to really convey everything that's happened in the last week and a half. This has been a pretty good overview of the shitshow that was Beth's visit. It was so wonderful to have someone from "real life" spend time around the new friends I'm making here, and to view Israel through fresh eyes all over again. 

Beth- Thank you for making this place feel a little more like home. I hope you enjoyed your time as much as I did. I will send you updates in real time, and I can't wait to see you again ASAP.

I'll leave you guys with a few more of the photos from Eilat, because it really was breathtakingly beautiful 
(and a little strange, but that's how we roll...)