June 28, 2012

The beginning of the end...or end of the beginning???

Ugh! I have so much to tell you!
So, this week has been a short break for me from school, to be exact we had ten days between the end of our second semester and the beginning of the third and final semester. I can taste that MA, I'm so close. This change in seasons as begged the questions- what will I do after school? How will I make money to support myself? Where will I live?
Not small quandaries.

 Well, this may not be a surprise to some of you, but I've decided to stay in Israel for awhile longer. When I began planning for studying abroad I applied to a two-year program, and planned on being here for at least that long. When plans changed and I ended up in a one-year MA track (financially, this was better news anyway) I decided to just do the year and see where I came out on the other end. Well, where I've come out is as follows: 

1. My Hebrew is not anywhere near where I want it to be.

2. I have not traveled outside of Tel Aviv as much as I wanted to.

3. I'm in love with someone who lives in Israel.

4. I have friends here who are (or have become) like family to me, and I want more time with them.

5. There's no winter here!

There are, of course, a thousand reasons for wanting to stay here, and wanting to go home. I've realized that no matter where I live, my heart from here on out will be split between two very different and very distant worlds. This reality was sealed the first day I got here- I am in love with Israel. The food, the climate (even though I complain about the summer heat), the weird recycling cages, the people, the politics (this one is more of a love/hate situation), the parties, the graffiti, the tension. Life is intense here, and often difficult. There have been some really scary moments this year, but somehow the lows and the highs are amplified. Everything tastes a little sweeter.

In any case, I'm not so sure I have really been living in the 'real world' here- I've been a student, and not working. So I want to spend time being an adult here. It's going to get harder, I think, before it gets easier. But its time to try making my way, supporting myself, and continuing to build the life I've begun. I have started babysitting for a few families, trying to earn as much cash as possible before school ends and I can start working full-time. 

Last week threw me a curve ball, however- I discovered I have to use my return flight (I purchased a round trip ticket when I moved in September) in August. So....to all my friends and family back home:

I'm coming back August 12th!

I'm planning to spend a few weeks in Boston trying to babysit as much as possible for some quick cash, catch up with loved ones, and spend as much time as possible at my old yoga studio that I miss so much. I'll get to visit my family and friends in Erie, and then I'll be coming back to Israel. I can't wait to see everyone! To buy sunscreen in BULK! To not sweat just from walking to the bus! It's gonna be a good month.

Things are changing. Some things are ending. Others are only beginning. All of it is emotional, and tricky. But, what Israel has really taught me is that once I know what I need to truly make me happy, I have to fight to keep it safe.

And that's just what I intend to do.

June 12, 2012

What is a (poor) ginger to do?

Israelis love their beach time.

I found an interesting article today about something that has really been on my mind since the advent of beach season- sunscreen prices in Israel.

Now, the cost of living in Tel Aviv is comparable to Boston, but the average Israeli salary is significantly lower. This creates a really difficult scenario for people who live here who are trying to make ends meet. The economics of Israeli society are very complicated, and I may go more in-depth at a later time, but I want to talk sunscreen for right now.

Many things here (coffee, produce, etc) are generally more expensive than they are in the US, although I am a firm believer that if you look hard enough you can live on the cheap almost anywhere. However, I have shopped around for sunscreen here, and the prices are insane. I never really paid attention back home to how much sunscreen costs at CVS or Walgreens or Target, but looking online I can see it hovers somewhere between $7-$10. Here in Tel Aviv? At our equivalent of Walgreens (its called AM-PM), a bottle of sunscreen costs...brace yourself...110 shekel. For those of you not familiar with conversion rates, that's $30!


I've accepted easily the idea that some things here cost more than they would in the US- specific brands might not be as readily available, import taxes, lack of market competition...etc. But sunscreen? This is a Mediterranean country! I've also noticed that a lot of Israelis I spend time with don't really notice or care because they just don't use sunscreen. They're not as fairly complected as I, that is true, but the article I referenced above should be some sort of a wake up call- the Israeli population is displaying extremely high rates of skin cancer.

So high, in fact, that the ministry of health is now demanding sunscreen manufacturers lower their prices or face government intrusion into the market to force prices down. Either way, I hope it happens. I've dealt with a few really terrible sunburn experiences in my life, and I'm not looking to repeat them. But I also don't want to go broke preventing them. Oh wait, I'm already broke. Shoot.

Read the article- it's interesting, I promise.

June 8, 2012

....when you're having fun.

Time really has flown by the last couple of months...I've been so busy living life that I've neglected writing about it for a little while.
I feel like an apology is in order, although it seems a little self-involved to assume that anyone has been really bothered by my recent blogging hiatus. However, I know there are a handful of you out there who have noticed (and not just the ten Norwegians who the stats tool in blogger tells me have been reading this month),
so- Mom, Dad, Ellen and Holly...you have my apologies.

That being said...what's happening in Tel Aviv? A lot. So much, in fact, that I'm not quite sure where to begin. I also haven't been using my camera quite as much lately (the zoom is broken) and I've felt bad assaulting you guys with prose void of any photographic/aesthetic component. I'll try to keep this post as succinct as possible.

April and May have been beautiful. It's already summer in my book (the weather lately has been about as hot as it ever really gets in PA or Boston) and it's only going to get worse. I'm actually a little anxious about summer in the Middle East- soon it will be almost impossible to be outside for very long during the day unless you're at the beach, nay... in the water.

The thing is, I'd rather suffer intense summer than this type of winter...

Can you blame me?

I spent a lot of time in at the end of April and beginning of May on schoolwork- I had two really big papers for school due, so a lot of my time was spent in seclusion writing (academic writing, less fun than blogging...for sure.) Being a student isn't my favorite thing, I'll be honest, I haven't been thrilled with my program, but I appreciate the opportunity to learn and meet new and interesting people...essentially, I am so happy to be in Israel that I am willing to put up with the frustrations of school.

When I'm not trying to keep up with my studies, I'm just trying to figure out what will happen when school is over, and to enjoy myself (I do live in paradise, after all). I've discovered recently Sunday mornings on the beach. The weather has been so beautiful that the beaches are now packed all weekend long. Its really quite amazing to see, but I'm also naturally averse to crowds. I've mentioned before that Sunday is the Israeli Monday, but I don't have classes on Sundays this semester, so I have the incredible opportunity to spend my Sunday mornings on almost empty Mediterranean beaches.

You'll hear no complaints from me.

I've also been spending a lot of time with my boyfriend (it still feels strange saying that, when does that go away?), Itzik. I am still trying to figure out how much I want to share about it here on the interwebs- its no secret or anything, but this week I had views from Brazil, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Russia, Costa Rica, and Hong Kong...so, you know. Its hard to know where to draw the line. I will tell you that I was beginning to think if I got any better at being single there wouldn't be any room for a real partner in my life. At least not at this point. But we don't get to choose where and when these things happen sometimes, do we? To move abraod I had to make a choice that I would live every day here like I was staying forever, so that I wouldn't miss out on what real life here is like. Cause that's the point right? Live your life the best way you can today, cause who knows what will happen tomorrow. And in doing that, I was given the gift of someone who makes it easy for me to be the version of myself I like the most- and who loves me even when I'm at my worst. 

And he makes me laugh. What more could a girl ask for?

One of the best parts is getting to see Israel from an Israeli's perspective. He and his friends are really cool people, I'm seeing new areas of the country (we camp on the beaches north of Tel Aviv sometimes, and I've gotten to visit his hometown a few times), and I'm getting a lot of exposure to Hebrew. Itzik's English is stellar, so we don't have trouble communicating, but I'm working hard on absorbing as much of the language as possible...slowly slowly. It will come.

Nothing is perfect however. It's strange getting into a relationship in a world that is not my own, not having my people around to share it with. I have friends here, even one or two who have known me longer than 9 months, but it's still hard sometimes. After our last camping weekend I was thinking about how much I wished I could just hang out (in English) with someone from home. Itzik's friends are great, but when I'm with a group of people who are communicating only in Hebrew for a whole weekend, eventually I just kind of tune out and retreat to that quiet place in my own thoughts- often those thoughts are of my friends and family back home. So after camping we came home and I was missing my friends and all of a sudden....Ilya was here.

I know, right? What? How? The long and short of it is that he came for a few days unexpectedly to visit an ill family member, and I got to hang out with him for a few hours on his way in and out of the country. Literally, one second I was missing my friends back home, and the next I was sitting at a bar with one. It was fantastic! A little surreal, but still so comforting to be with someone from my world, you know?

Yeah, this happened.
A little DP reunion was just what the doctor ordered! We had dinner with Libbie and got all caught up!

So, that's a little bit of an update, dear readers. Again, my apologies for the recent truancy. I'll make more of an effort to keep you guys updated more efficiently. Thanks for hanging in with me.

This weekend I am nursing a cold and looking forward to Shabbat dinner with Itzik's family. His cousins from the US are in town for a few weeks and tonight I get to hang out with their adorable kids...including a 3 month old little girl named Libby! I met her older brother, Gur (which means "puppy"), earlier this week. He's five, and we are pretty into each other. I mean, both of us have sisters named Libby- that's a bond that can't be broken. I can't wait to hold the baby, squeeze her chunky little thighs and eat her face (can you tell I miss nannying a little bit??). I'll try and get some photos to share, if I can put the baby down long enough to pick up a camera.