Pride and more from this week!

I had heard a lot about the pride parade in Tel Aviv, so I was really excited to get the opportunity to go.

During the weeks leading up to Pride, the streets of Tel Aviv were lined with rainbow flags. Restaurants and other stores also showed support in their windows.

Last Friday I met my friend Amanda in Rabin Square and we walked over to Gan Meir where the parade was set to begin. It was packed and hot. We made our way to the stage where we watched performances. The park was lined with various stands: companies selling products supporting the pride community, food and drink vendors, and free giveaways.

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One of our friends from Petach Tikva was actually performing at the parade so we stayed long enough to see her dance. The dance was amazing, but the costumes were better.

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After the performances and celebrations in this park ended, the actual parade began, leaving the park and going down Bograshov Street, eventually winding its way down to Charles Clore Garden, near the Shuk, where a huge party awaits. There are floats down the street filled with dancing people. It’s just insane.

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We actually walked in the parade for a while and it was just so cool. There were thousands and thousands of people just walking in the street together. Anyone could join in and there was great music and good vibes.

My favorite part of the day was definitely the outfits. There were outraged costumes as well as scantily clothed men and women. It was definitely a site to see, and I was enjoying the people watching as much as the performances.

Besides the pride parade I’ve been spending most of my free time in Tel Aviv this week, because my brother and his fiancé are here to visit. We had dinner at Vicky Cristina last night, a great tapas restaurant in the Old Train Station in Tel Aviv.

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On Wednesday we are going on our final program trip to the north filled with kayaking and water hikes. And tomorrow is my last  day of school! I can’t believe the year is already over.

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A Weekend Getaway in Rome

Through a partnership between Pink Pangea and Homestay, I was able to travel to Rome for a long weekend. Homestay offered Pink Pangea writers a free stay with one of their hosts anywhere in the world. Although I could have chosen a destination as exotic as Japan or New Zealand, I decided on Rome so I didn’t have to pay too hefty a price in airfare: roundtrip from Tel Aviv was only $250. Plus, I had never been to Italy, and I figured the capital was the best place to start. During my three full days in Rome, I hit all the major sites and ate at some amazing restaurants.

Day 1: Friday, May 22

I was a little nervous before starting my trip. I am used to traveling alone, but not staying with a stranger. Homestay is a company that provides accommodations in cities all over the world with locals, rather than spending a fortune on a hotel room. All of the hosts go through a verification process, so I knew that nothing horrible would happen, but I couldn’t help thinking the whole thing would be a little awkward, at least at the beginning. It did make me feel better that I had a friend tagging along with me. I was excited for a real Roman experience.

After searching through hosts on Homestay, taking location and room quality into account, Diana and I finally decided on Rochelle, who lived in an apartment in the center of Rome. To be honest, we couldn’t really tell what the apartment looked like from the pictures, but the location was too perfect.

Rochelle contacted me about a week before our trip to tell me which shuttle to take to get from the airport to her apartment: SitBus, the only shuttle that stops near the Vatican as opposed to going all the way to Termini Station. Once we landed we easily found the correct bus to take. As promised Rochelle met us at the bus stop in order to walk us to her home.

The apartment was a one minute walk away from Piazza Navona, on a narrow cobble stone street. The area was gorgeous and very typically Roman. The three floor walk up was a bit tedious with our suitcases, but we managed.

I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the apartment. The pictures definitely did not do it justice. It was small, but so old and pretty. The ceilings were latched and the view from our bedroom was an amazing lookout onto the narrow streets below. Rochelle was so welcoming and told us immediately to help ourselves to whatever we needed.

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our view!

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She offered to cook us dinner, but Diana and I wanted to explore our new neighborhood. Between Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori, we found a small hole in the wall restaurant, called Ditirambo. The food was amazing. We started off with a caprese salad and each had pasta for dinner. Diana had a rabbit ragu and I had the popular cacio e pepe, cheese and pepper. It was definitely a great introduction to real Italian food and made me excited for the carbs ahead.

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Day 2: Saturday, May 23

We set our alarm for 7:30am so that we could get an early start on the day and try to beat some of the lines at the popular sites. Rochelle had provided us towels, so we each showered. Although we had brought our own, she also had shampoo, conditioner, and soap that we could have borrowed if necessary. After showering, we ate the amazing breakfast Rochelle had prepared: Italian coffee, yogurt, and various different pastries.

After breakfast, we set off for St. Peter’s Basilica. Along the way we passed the Castel Sant’Angelo and took some pictures, opting not to go inside. We arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica around 9am and already the line was circled around the square. But it moved quickly, and we were at the security check in about 25 minutes. It was amazing to see just how many people tried to cut the line. In fact, when a couple cut right in front of Diana and me I informed them that “the line starts all the way back there.” They looked defeated and moved towards the back.

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Once inside, we went to the cupola first. It wasn’t that crowded yet and we wanted to go to the top before the line got too long. It was 5 euros to walk up, and 7 to ride the elevator. We opted to splurge on the extra two euros and it was definitely worth it. The views were incredible, I definitely recommend going to the top if you ever go.

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After walking around the cupola and inside the basilica itself, it was 11am and we were hungry. We stopped at Mama Frites, and got some French Fries with “snack sauce” on top. It was basically like a spicy, smoky ketchup flavor. We walked along a cute street called Borgo Pio in Vatican City, browsing at leather stores.

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On our way to the Vatican Museum, we stopped at Old Bridge, one of the most famous gelato places in Rome. I had the pistachio ricotta flavor based on the worker’s recommendation, and it was delicious. The best gelato I’ve ever had. Definitely go here if you are planning on visiting the Vatican.

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Our next stop was the Vatican Museum. We bought our tickets online. If you only take one piece of advice from this article: buy your tickets for the Vatican online. The line was around the block, but we got to skip the whole thing and immediately enter because of our pre-purchased tickets. The only catch with the pre-purchased tickets is that you have to choose a specific time to enter the museum. We had planned on going at 2pm. But we arrived at 1:30pm and there was no problem. So you have to plan your day accordingly.

The museum was beautiful, filled with old statues, maps, and paintings. We sort of breezed through some of the sections of the museum, making a beeline to the Sistine Chapel. It was breathtaking to see the Creation of Man in person. After seeing so many copies and parodies of it on TV and the internet, it was a surreal experience to see the real thing in person.

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After the Vatican Museum our feet were so sore we sat on the steps at the exit for about twenty minutes before we started the walk home. Luckily for us, it was only a 15 minute walk back to the apartment. We napped for about two hours. Rochelle prepared us coffee and some pastries after we got home to help wake us up.

We walked to the Trastevere area for dinner, an old medieval part of the city. Again it was only a 15 minute walk from the apartment. We walked along the main street until we found a restaurant that had fresh pasta and vegetables in the window, called Il Duca. We split buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto to start. For dinner Diana had truffle ravioli and I had bucatini all’Amatricina, a typical Roman dish consisting of pasta with tomato sauce and pancetta. Everything was delicious.

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After dinner we decided to experience Roman nightlife. We went to a bar in Trastevere called Mr. Brown where they make their own special type of vodka that is infused with peppers. We stayed out until 2am, which Rochelle told us was very early for Rome!

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Day 3: Sunday, May 24

Because of the previous nights activities, we got a late start on Sunday. Rochelle had prepared another amazing breakfast: eggs, prosciutto, toast, and coffee. Our plan for this day was the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

The walk to the Colosseum was the longest one we would have to do from the apartment, and it was only 20 minutes. I loved the walk, because no matter where I walked in Rome I passed some beautiful building or an ancient artifact. Along the way to the Colosseum we walked by these old columns and remains of a building just in the middle of a busy street.

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The Colosseum was incredible and quickly became my favorite part of the trip. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that people had made it nearly 2,000 years ago and it was still standing. The architecture was incredible and so was the history behind the building.

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After the Colosseum we saw the Roman Forum. The line to get into the actual grounds was even longer than the line to get into the Colosseum so we decided to skip it, but not completely. We found a viewpoint overlooking the Roman Forum so we were able to see all the ruins from above, getting an even better picture of what used to be there in my opinion that walking around on the grounds.

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We found a trattoria down a little side street after leaving the Colosseum called La Paca del Cervello. The restaurant had phones on the wall behind the tables, allowing you to call other tables using a list of numbers. Although we didn’t make any phone calls, the little girls at the table next to us were definitely enjoying themselves. had pizza all’Amatricina, the pizza version of the famous Roman pasta. We were full and exhausted after lunch, so we decided to go home and rest before dinner.

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We made reservations for dinner at a restaurant right by the Trevi Fountain. We left a few minutes early to see the fountain before our meal. Sadly the Trevi Fountain was under construction so there wasn’t even water. Rochelle had warned us the fountain was under maintenance, but we didn’t expect it to this extent. We couldn’t get close to the fountain; we had to walk along a makeshift bridge to see it. The statues were still really beautiful, but I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to throw a coin in the magical water.

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Dinner was at Arancia, a restaurant hidden down a little side street. To start I had an artichoke “Jewish style,” which is a deep fried artichoke. For dinner I had pasta with truffles. Diana had artichoke cream lasagna, and our friend Danielle had lamb ragu. We all agreed it was the best meal we had so far.

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Day 4: Monday, May 25

Diana and I woke up early on Monday because we had such a lazy day the day before. There were still some key spots we wanted to see before we left. We had another amazing breakfast thanks to Rochelle: more prosciutto, toast, and pastries. And of course Italian coffee.

After breakfast, Rochelle kindly walked us to the Pantheon as she was on her way to work. We got there at 8:30am, and it was empty. We went inside, no lines, no admission fee. It was beautiful. The dome on the ceiling was breathtaking. Like the Colosseum I couldn’t fathom how that dome was built so many years ago. I also learned that because of the open spot in the dome, there are tiny holes on the floor to drain water.

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From the Pantheon we walked around the corner to Sant Eustacio, a famous espresso place in Rome. Heads up if you go, even though you order at the counter, you have to pay an extra 5 euros to sit outside at the tables. After coffee, we made our way to the Jewish Ghetto. We just walked around and explored the area. We tried to enter the Synagogue, but we couldn’t because it was the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

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We ate lunch near Piazza Navona at Osraria da Fortunata, known for the old Italian woman who sits in the window and actually makes the pasta right there from scratch. I had carbonara, which I had been waiting to specifically try at this place after reading the Trip Advisors reviews. It was the best pasta I’ve ever tasted. The pasta was al dente, but that’s what the place is known for.

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From there we walked to the Spanish Steps, which I found pretty underwhelming. But the fountain at the bottom, Barcaccia Fountain, was beautiful. The area around the Spanish Steps is the place to shop in Rome. The street was lined with high end boutiques, like Prada and Gucci, so we did a lot of window shopping. We hung out and rested in Piazza del Popolo before we went back to the apartment to rest and shower before dinner.

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We had made reservations at Sera Margerita based off of a friend’s recommendation. It’s a Roman Jewish restaurant in the Jewish quarter that’s been around since the 1930s. All the food is homemade and the menu changes daily based on what is fresh. There are two seatings, either at 8 or 9:30pm, so we made a reservation for 8pm. Again I had an artichoke Jewish style to start, and for dinner I had the cacio e pepe, but this time is also had a giant glob of ricotta cheese on top. It was totally cheesy and decadent, but also fresh and delicious.

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From dinner we walked to Piazza Navona and sat by the fountain there. It was a beautiful night so we people watched for an hour or so, just chilling out in a great atmosphere. There were artists and street performs all around us. It was the perfect ending to the trip.

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Day 5: Tuesday, May 26I

We woke up really early, at 5am, in order to catch the SitBus back to the airport. Rochelle woke up also and again made us breakfast, which was extremely nice considering how early it was. We said our goodbyes and thanked Rochelle for everything.

Overall the trip was so much better than I had imagined. Even though I was a little nervous to be staying with a stranger, Rochelle was so welcoming and amazing. From the first minute we met her, she treated us like family. From providing us with a delicious breakfast every morning and snacks in the afternoon, to giving us directions and tips for the city, she provided us with everything we needed and more. The apartment was clean and beautiful, in an amazing location. Words cannot explain just how happy I was with my homestay experience. I don’t think my trip to Rome would have been as memorable as it was without this experience.

Newest article I wrote for Pink Pangea!

Last night I went to sleep at 4am and today I woke up at noon. Why? Because I am suffering from severe jet lag after my 24-hour trip from Newark to Israel. Since I teach at an Israeli elementary school, I had a long break for Passover. Those few weeks off, coupled with some personal days I saved for this purpose, allowed me to visit home for the first time in seven months. I spent 18 days at home, playing with my little brothers, venturing into New York City, and lounging around with my bulldog.

Returning home for a few weeks was the best decision I could have made. A few months earlier I was debating between going home or taking a trip around Europe. Ask any of my roommates—I debated these two scenarios tirelessly. I am so thankful that ultimately I chose to go home. If you find yourself facing a similar situation, here is my advice:

If you are given the chance to go home for a few days or a few weeks, take it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and am currently in the process of booking a weekend getaway to Rome, but trust me when I say that a few weeks in your childhood bedroom, eating home cooked food, and catching up with friends and family will only give you the drive to travel more. It’s sort of like a pit stop during a car race; you’ll rest, recharge, and be ready to go. Living alone abroad is hard and you may not realize how much you miss home until you are actually there. The fresh home cooked meals I received every night were like five-star meals compared to the dinners I make for myself in Israel.

Travel while you can.

The most common question I was asked by friends during my visit was why I chose to live abroad and teach English for a year. The best answer I could think of was, why not? I have the rest of my life to work, sit in a cubicle, and wear business casual clothes and uncomfortable high-heeled shoes.

After telling them about my everyday life in Israel, someone remarked, “What are we doing with our lives? Why aren’t we doing something like that?” Yes, this friend works for a renowned company and makes much more money than my measly monthly stipend, but her mood seemed to dampen slightly with the realization that she is 22 and knows exactly what the rest of her life will look like—unless she does something drastic like quit her job and move abroad (which is actually what one of my roommates, who was a lawyer in Australia, did when she moved to Israel to teach English). But not many people have the courage or drive to do this.

After telling my friends about my everyday life in Israel, someone remarked, “What are we doing with our lives? Why aren’t we doing something like that?”

If you are looking for a year off to travel, some Google searches will quickly turn up numerous opportunities for you to work or volunteer abroad. For Israel specifically, Masa Israel Journey offers some fantastic options.

I am not criticizing any of my friends. I am in awe of their amazing lives in the city that seem straight out of an episode of Girls. But talking to them made me realize that I don’t need that life right away. A steady 9-5 job will be waiting for me once I return from my travels. There’s no need to rush into this right after college.

Don’t stress about the future.

I know it sounds cliché, but it’s completely relevant to people my age who are constantly told that they need to have a perfect resume to land a lucrative job in order to live a successful life.

Unlike my friends, I don’t know what my future holds. But my visit home taught me that living with unknowns is okay. Speaking to friends who both hate and love their current jobs showed me not only how lucky I am, but also how brave I was to move to Israel after college. Although I don’t live in my own apartment, take the subway to work every morning, or earn a steady and large paycheck, I realized that I am much happier traveling abroad at this point in my life. I am not worried about the future because I currently have nothing major to worry about—no mortgage, no big deadlines, no public transportation strikes. It takes courage to leave all things familiar at home and embark on an adventure in an unknown country. But given such an opportunity, I’d have been crazy not to take it.

The Most Israeli Week in Israel!

This past week is usually described as the most Israeli week of the year here in the Holy Land. That’s because three major holidays that pretty much sum up the meaning of being Israeli and living in Israel all fall within one week of one another.

The holiday that came first was Yom Hashoa, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The six graders in my school performed a beautiful ceremony, focusing on the importance of remembering the Holocaust. It was also the first time I heard a siren while being in Israel. At 10am on Yom Hashoa, a siren sounds throughout the country for about two minutes. I was in school when in happened and all the students and teachers lowered their heads in complete silence as we thought about those who lost their lives. It doesn’t matter what you are doing when the siren goes off, riding a bike, walking in the street, driving a car: you stop, pull over and stand up and remain silent. The siren was a little eerie, as I remembered what happened this past summer and all the sirens that went off then. But it was an amazingly cool experience.

Later that night, my program had a meeting with Israeli students at Tel Aviv University (my future school!!), where we discussed the meaning behind the day and its importance. There was a little debate in my group as to whether the Holocaust should be remembered as one of the leading factors that led to the creation of Israel, but it was interesting to hear the Israeli’s opinion on the day, which was almost a bit more critical than the Americans in the group. I think it’s because of the way we learn about it. In Israel Yom Hashoa is so personal to  everyone, there’s no way to not think about it as a siren rings forcing you to stop your day for two minutes. Whereas in America we learn it out of a history textbook. It’s more tangible here.

The second major holiday that fell during this week was another somber one: Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, which was last Tuesday night into Wednesday. We didn’t have school on Tuesday as we had a programming event all day to introduce us to the holiday and tell us a little about it. We spent the morning discussing the importance of remembering those who lost their lives in battle or to terrorist attacks. Then we met with the sister of a fallen solider. It was very interesting to hear her opinion about the day and the remembrance of her brother. I think the most powerful thing she mentioned was that she had just turned 23, her brother was 22 when he died. She remarked that she was now older than her older brother, something that made me think a lot.

Later that night we drove to Latrun, which usually serves as a display area for old army memorabilia, especially tanks. There was a huge Masa ceremony there commemorating the fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Again at 8pm everyone rose for another two minute long siren. The siren meant it was the start of Yom HaZikaron. After the siren the ceremony started. We saw 6 videos detailing the lives and eventual deaths of people who had died. Because the ceremony was for Masa participants, most of the victims had made Aliyah, making it personal for any non Israeli currently living here. There were also musical performances and speeches throughout.

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Wednesday was the actual day of Yom HaZikaron and is probably one of the most somber days in Israel. Because the country is so small an there is mandatory military service, everyone knows someone that has been affected by the war, someone who has lost a spouse, parent, or child. There was another ceremony in my school. It was really interesting because parents of fallen soldiers who attended Haviv School actually came to the ceremony. At 11am there was another siren. I was already home at that point. I was putting clothes away in my room when the siren went off. I stopped what I was doing and moved to the window. As I stood still I could see everyone else on the street doing the same thing. Specifically I watched this one couple a few buildings over that looked out over their balcony holding hands. I wondered if they were thinking of anyone in particular. Once the two minutes was over, the cars starting moving again and the couple went back in side.

Wednesday started marked the end of Yom HaZikaron and the start of Yom Haatsmaut, Independence Day. This is cause for a lot of debate in Israel, as the saddest day of the year ends with the start of the happiest. Some people believe it doesn’t give the families of the dead proper time to grieve, as they are forced to be happy as soon as Independence Day begins at sundown. Others feels it is part of the Jewish way of life to feel so many emotions at once, to so drastically go from sad to happy. I personally think it is a little bizarre. I understand the connection between the wars and the fallen soldiers and the eventual formation and protection of Israel as the Jewish state, but I think maybe if there was one more day in between there wouldn’t be such a big issue. It’s not like people wouldn’t make the connection between Memorial Day and Indepenednce day if they were just a few more hours apart.

Anyway, that night Ran and I went into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv where literally thousands of people go to celebrate Israel’s 67th birthday. There were shaving cream fights in the middle of the road (including on a police car), free concerts, fireworks, and just a great atmosphere. After walking around in the area for a little we decided to walk the hour long walk home through the park so we could watch everyone celebrating.

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The day of Yom Haatsmaut is a day of barbecuing, street partying, or going to the beach. There is an air show that started at 12pm, however it is best seen from the beaches in Tel Aviv. Ran and I heard the planes but couldnt actually see them. We decided to take a bike ride to the port area because it was a really nice day out. After I had planned to meet friends at a day party on Dizengoff. Let’s just say the bike riding didn’t go as planned. First one of the rented Tel Aviv bikes broke, so Ran had to carry it until we could find somewhere to switch it. Then it started to downpour, like torrential rain while we were in the middle of the park with no where to go. In a matter of seconds it looked like I had just jumped into a pool. Then, I crashed my bike into a pole, causing me to fall off the bike and become covered in mud. Needless to say I was not happy. We finally made it back to the house a few hours later after cleaning up in a random building in the park and exchanging the city bike for a new one. I didn’t end up making it to the day party.

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All in all I had an amazing time during the most Israeli week of the year. I had heard about these holidays before but never actually got to celebrate them. It was amazing to be in Israel and just see how important these days are to everyone here.

That’s all for now!

My trip home.

It’s been a good three weeks since I’ve last written and that’s because I was on vacation. Where was I you may ask? Well I was home!!

I had about two weeks off from school for Passover break. That coupled with some personal days I saved specifically for this occasion allowed me to go home for 18 days. I had been debating between taking a euro-trip or going home but in the end America won. I do like to travel but the appeal of my bed and home cooked meals after so much travel abroad was too strong.

I arrived home on March 27. There aren’t that many exciting things that can be said about my trip home. Most of my days were spent eating, shopping, or lounging around with my bulldog Bubba. But the trip was amazing and just what I needed. It may not sound exciting to a third party, but for me just being able to drive around in my car or sleep in my own bed was completely satisfying. Some of the more exciting highlights of my trip are as follows:

1. Went to dim sum in china town 3 times. My family and I have this one spot that we love called Pings. I think my three trips there actually happened within a week and a half of me being home. After dim sum we always end the afternoon with some bubble tea.

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2. Got a massage with my mom. My mom had offered to take me to see a show on Broadway, but I suggested some mommy-daughter massage time instead. It was relaxing and just what I needed.

3. Spent 2 nights in the city with my best friend. She recently moved into Murray Hill and I couldn’t wait to see her apartment. On one night we enjoyed a relaxing sushi evening, the other an adventurous one that ended with a 4am bed time.

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4. Fixed the radio on my car with my dad. The battery died on my car over the winter so my dad had to get it replaced. However, after this happened the radio was on lock mode. We had to watch about 15 youtube videos until we figured out how to unlock it.

5. Celebrated my dad’s birthday. Happy anniversary of your 39th birthday dad!!

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6. Had 2 amazing Passover Seders at my mom’s house. No bread, no problem.

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7. Watched bravo tv with my mom. The Real Housewives of New York City started so I was thrilled.

8. Spent a weekend with my brother. We’re usually not in the same city, let alone the same country so it was nice to get to spend some brother-sister time with him.

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9. Went to doctors appointments in English. It was so nice to make an appointment in English and walk into the office and know that all my symptoms and complaints would be completely understood.

10. Ate a lot of bacon. And by a lot I mean a lot. I went to a diner one morning and ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, with a side of bacon. I take my bacon game seriously.

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11. Ate Mexican food twice. The one thing Israeli is lacking is good Mexican food so these meals were a necessity.

12. Met my grandma and cousin, uncle, and cousin for lunch. There’s this one deli that my family always meets at when we are having lunch meetups. I also got to eat a pastrami sandwich so that made my day.

 13. Got a new iPhone! I am now the proud owner of a pretty iPhone 6.

14. Played soccer with my little brothers. They love to play outside in our backyard. I made the game even more fun by bringing Bubba along to chase after the soccer balls.

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15. Bought 5 new books at Barnes and Noble. This added a lot of weight to my suitcase but I just couldn’t help myself.

16. Went to The Museum of Modern Art. It was nice to do something cultural on my trip home. I also got to eat my favorite snack, a New York City pretzel.

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17. Spent a day in the mall with my brothers. Our day was filled with shopping for legos and vans for them, and a little bit of Urban Outfitters and Starbucks for me.

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18. Went to my favorite restaurant in New York City. Delicatessen is my all time favorite restaurant because of their spinach and artichoke dip and variety of mac and cheese dishes.

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19. Bought macaroons from Laduree. Since my connection in Paris was really short (I actually had to run to make my flight home because the flight from Israel was delayed), I needed macaroons. As I sadly ran by the Laduree stand in CDG airport, I knew I had to redeem myself and buy some from the store in SoHo.

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20. Movie and sundae night my final night. Enough said.

Overall my trip home was a perfect combination of excitement and relaxation. There wasn’t one person I didn’t get to see or one restaurant I didn’t get to eat at. Now that I’m back in Israel I am going to enjoy my time here as much as I can before it’s back to New Jersey for the summer.

Also, these past two weeks in Israel are really special. Last week on Thursday was Holocaust Memorial Day. Today is Memorial Day to remember all of the fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Starting tonight and carrying into tomorrow is Independence Day. So there have been a lot of ceremonies in my school and throughout the country. My next post will focus more on that.

That’s all for now!

Protests and Language Barriers

On Thursday night my teacher took Amanda and I out to dinner. One other teacher came with us. It happened to be her birthday so it was a reason to celebrate. We went to Giraffe one of my favorite, if not the favorite, restaurants in Israel. It’s a Chinese place that specializes in various noodle dishes. It’s a chain so they have them all over Israel.

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The amazing dessert I did manage to photograph.

We decided to split three different dishes. I was so hungry and excited that I forgot to take pictures of the meal. However, something very interested happened as we started to eat.  A  protested formed outside the restaurant. It was a silent protest and didn’t target Giraffe specifically. Rather, it was a protest against anyone who ate meat.

It was really awkward because the protesters were holding all these signs in Hebrew. I couldn’t read them but my teacher told me they said various things about animals being our friends and we shouldn’t eat them, or that if all slaughter houses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian. It got really weird when the protestors came right up to the window and placed the signs right on the glass. I was sitting right next to the window so I felt really awkward as I placed my fork full of chicken pad thai to my mouth.

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They even held their signs through the window of the restaurant, coming inside. The waiters started to pull down the shades, covering the windows. But of course I sat next to the one set of windows that wasn’t equipped with blinds. Soon enough my window was full even more signs as the protestors flocked to the one open space. Eventually the had enough of Giraffe and moved onto another restaurant right next door.

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Besides my interesting encounter at dinner of Thursday night, I experienced two instances this weekend that involved the language barrier and were really frustrating.

I had to buy some allergy medicine Thursday afternoon, I’ve had the sniffles the past few days most likely due to all the dust in my room. I went to SuperPharm, the CVS of Israel and walked to the Pharmacy. The ticket dispenser was broken (sort of like how you form a line at the deli counter in the supermarket, but for the pharmacy). But, I saw multiple people with tickets. I was so confused and was not sure what to do. After aimlessly walking around the store for 10 minutes, I saw an employee handing out tickets near another entrance. I had a picture of the medicine I needed on my phone, so I went up to her and asked in Hebrew where it was. She responded that it was in the pharmacy. I asked her if I could have a ticket, but she said I didn’t need one. But it’s in the pharmacy I reminded her. She knew, but I still didn’t need a ticket. This went back and forth in my broken Hebrew for a while, until I pleaded with her just to come and show me. She said no, and just gave me a ticket. I waited in line for about 20 minutes until I was helped and successfully given a ticket.

If I had been able to speak Hebrew better I am sure that the whole confusion and frustration would have been avoided.

Later that day the language barrier got the best of me again. It was actually the same night as my dinner with my teacher. I made the reservation for 8 and got there on time. Amanda was waiting for my teacher to pick her up, but had not heard from her yet. Since the restaurant was in a mall I decided I would tell the hostess that I was there (the reservation was under my name), but that I was going to wait outside or walk around until the rest of my party arrived. She didn’t speak any English, and my attempts to use basic sentences and even Google Translate did not work. She had no idea what I was trying to say. So I just accepted my defeat and sat down at the table alone to wait for everyone else. It didn’t help that my phone had died and it took everyone else thirty minutes to get there because of an accident. I was not pleased.

The rest of the weekend was very relaxing. I spend the weekend at my boyfriend’s house, watching movies and baking cookies. Can’t get much better than that, right?

I go home on Friday for about two and a half weeks and I cannot wait!! Counting down the days.

Red Flowers, A Botanical Garden, and a Fancy Business Lunch

Yesterday, four of my friends and I decided to take an adventure. We had heard a lot about these red poppies that bloom throughout Southern Israel. Apparently there are just fields of these red poppies, like endless rows of them.

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What the poppies look like in full bloom.

I knew I wanted to go as soon as I heard about them. It was just getting there that was the problem. On my last adventure to the South African restaurant, our sort of simple three bus journey turned into a 2 bus, 2 taxi, and 1 car ride ordeal.

My friends and I decided to rent a car to ease the pain of actually getting to the place. Turns out that renting a car in Israel is really easy and cheap. Both of these things surprised me because they contradict most processes in this country. Between 5 people the car was only 50 shekels each (including a young driver fee and insurance) but an extra 20 when we had to fill up the gas tank.We left bright and early on Sunday, 5 of us squeezed into what felt like a clown car. We set off on the 45 minute drive south.

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Clown car

When we pulled into the Pura Nature Reserve, we had expected to see endless rows of bright red. But instead all we saw was green. I optimistically urged that we probably just had to walk a little into the reserve before we would see the flowers.

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What was left of the flowers.

Well, I was wrong. There were small patches of red flowers throughout the fields of green. Because the season is only the month of February we figured we must have been late. It was as if as soon as the clock struck March 1 (the day we went) all the flowers died. I mean realistically it was probably just a short blooming season, but it felt ironic, almost like we were a day late and a penny short, as the expression goes.

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Sitting in a patch I found.

We still really enjoyed ourselves. The reserve was really pretty and was filled with other flowers besides the red poppies. My favorite part was the lush green grass everywhere. There isn’t that much grass in Israel, or at least not the really nice thick grass I’m used to from New Jersey. I just wanted to roll around in it. Which I attempted until I learned the grass was filled with prickly things that hurt really badly when pierced through my jeans.

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I found grass!

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A nice lake in the reserve.

After we walked around the reserve we decided it was time to eat somewhere. We googled places in the area and found some restaurant on a Moshav about 20 minutes north, so 20 minutes in the direction of home.

Turns out the restaurant was pretty fancy and you could only order a business lunch. And let me tell you the business lunch was not cheap as it consisted of a starter, main course, and drink. We tried to only order one item but were told we had to order the whole meal. So we decided just to split them, thankfully the restaurant allowed us. We kept on pretending every time the waitress came by that we were discussing “important business” matters, laughing under our breath. The meal ended with Blake taking a shot of tabasco sauce off of a dare, so we clearly weren’t playing the part too well.

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Part of our fancy lunch, artichoke salad.

After the restaurant we drove to Holon and visited the Japanese Botanical Gardens there. The gardens weren’t that big but they were really peaceful and definitely had a zen like feel.

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At the Botanical Gardens

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So zen.

We were pretty exhausted at this point. We tried to see the Cacti Garden right next door to the Botanical Gardens but they were closed.

Overall it was a really fun day. I can now check seeing the red poppies off of my Israel bucket list. Even though they were almost completely gone, the few patches we saw definitely count.