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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The Seven Stages of Insomnia as Told by Me

The past few weeks I’ve had a little bout with insomnia. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night around 4am and toss and turn until my alarm ends my suffering. I’m not sure if it’s because of the heat or our new noisy neighbors, but something is definitely affecting my sleep. While lying awake at night feeling sorry for myself, I named the seven stages of insomnia I experience each night.

  • Beginning—Something makes me slowly come out of whatever dream I was having. I throw my blanket off of myself because even though the air conditioner is blasting I am sweating. I try to resist the temptation of my phone, but I give in to sadly see that is only 4 in the morning.
  • Denial—Its’ probably the worst part of insomnia because it’s when I realize that I won’t be falling back asleep the rest of the night. No matter how many times I tell myself that I can fall back asleep, I know that it’s a lie. I press my eyelids even tighter together as if to force sleep to come.
  • Distraction—In the middle of forcing myself to count sheep or think happy thoughts, I realize that I have to pee. Even though I have only been asleep for about 5 hours, it’s an emergency. I roll over, telling myself that I don’t have to pee and I’ll fall asleep soon.
  • Defeat—I get out of bed and use the bathroom. At this point, there is no getting back to sleep.
  • Frustration—I take a few sips of water, pace back and forth and little, and climb back into bed. I know they say the light from your iPhone is bad for sleep, but I read some articles anyway, wishing my eyelids to droop.
  • Panic—I start to panic. I won’t get enough sleep and then I will be tired the whole next day. The day will be ruined and I won’t be able to focus at work. I try to calm down thinking I’ll take a nap when I get home, but then I worry that if I take a nap, it’ll affect my sleep the next night. Endless scenarios play out in my head.
  • Acceptance—I roll onto my back and stare at the ceiling. I am now wide-awake at 4:30 am and there is nothing to do but relax and wait for the alarm to go off.

This happened to me almost every night the past few weeks. I recently started making my air conditioner colder at night and that seemed to help a bit. Hopefully by next week I’ll be back to my normal self who can sleep until 11am no problem.

Besides my insomnia, these past few weeks have been pretty uneventful. Kayleigh and I went to a bonfire to celebrate Lag Baomer last Monday, I ate at an amazing restaurant called Bread Story which centers all their dishes around bread, great for the carb lover I am, and went to a used bookstore in Tel Aviv that sells a ton of English books. I also celebrated Cinco de Mayo by somehow finding good Mexican food in Israel. Yesterday we had our last educational seminar of the program, which really made it feel like things are coming to an end.

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Happy Mother’s Day Mom!!!!!

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.

Purim Vacation: Parties in School, Wine & Cheese, and an Amazing Trip up North

Purim is the Halloween of Israel except it’s ten times more fun. Everyone gets really into it here and it lasts almost an entire week instead of just one day. From Tuesday until Saturday of this week I saw little children, angsty teenagers, and working adults walking around in outrageous and creative costumes. The holiday is based on a ancient story that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with dressing up, but I know you are supposed to drink a lot during the holiday.

On Tuesday all of the kids came to school in their costumes. Amanda and I had borrowed (and washed) shirts from the lost and found and took two school hats so we could dress up as students. The kids seemed to enjoy our costume, their eyes lighting up every time they realized we were dressed as them. My two favorite costumes were mustard and a hot air balloon. The whole day was one giant party and school ended early at 1130. That was it for school for the week, we had Wednesday to Friday off.

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me and mustard

That night my roommates and I spoke about going out. I mean Purim is all about drinking until you can’t tell the difference between good and evil, so we figured we had to go out and try it. We were all going away for Purim vacation so Tuesday was the only night we would all be home and had nothing to do early Wednesday morning. As 8pm rolled around I started to get really tired and had the desire to just lay in bed and watch Netflix. I didn’t want to miss out on a roomie night out but I also did not feel like taking off my sweatpants and putting on skinny jeans and make up.

I asked my roommates if they just wanted to stay in and watch TV with me. Or better yet. I proposed a wine and cheese night. I would go to the supermarket and get all the supplies and all they would have to do was not go out and keep me company. It didn’t take too much convincing, Kayleigh, Mona, and Iris were all done with the new idea. I mean drinking wine counted as going out, right?

The cheese plate was amazing. Mona and I went a little crazy at the supermarket but it was worth it. Basically I paid my friends to stay in and hang out with me instead of going out, but it was definitely worth it.

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the final outcome.

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a random cat we saw sleeping in a stroller in our lobby

On Wednesday morning I took the bus to Tel Aviv to meet my boyfriend. We hung out in the city for a little and ate at my favorite hummus place. It’s just down the street from where my brother used to live in Florintine and it was incredible. Then we just rested as we had a big trip planned for the next day.

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THE BEST

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On Thursday we set off on our trip to the Galilee, or the Kinneret in Hebrew, which is in the North. Ran’s dad’s friend owns a bunch of tzimmers there so that’s where we were staying. A tzimmer is basically a little cabin or cottage on a kibbutz in the north. They have them all over and have them for couples or for families. It’s nicer than staying in a hotel room because it’s more private and also a lot quieter. Tzimmers are really romantic and it’s homey because you are staying on a kibbutz or in a small town where there are only 7 or 8 other tzimmers. Our tzimmer was in Arbel, right next to Tiberias and literally overlooking the Kinneret. It was so beautiful and quiet. We could hear cows a few feet away from us whenever we opened our front door. It was a cute little farm in a tiny town. Very quiet and peaceful and much different from Tel Aviv.

On the drive up we stopped in Haifa for lunch. We ate in the German Colony which is right at the bottom of the Ba’hai gardens. I made friends with a little cat who I kept throwing my leftover grilled chicken too.

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My buddy

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The bottom of the Ba’hai gardens

After Haifa we drove to Mount Tavor (or Tabor depending on where you see it). We drove on these crazy windy roads to get to the top. Some of the roads were so steep I thought the car would flip over backwards. On top of the mountain is an old church or monastery. I know it’s bad but I honestly don’t know. I more so wanted to go just for the view. It was so pretty and I couldn’t believe how high up we were. My ears were popping the whole drive down the mountain.

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Top of Mount Tabor

After Mount Tabor we headed to the Kinneret. I was awestruck when I saw how green the North was. Everywhere I looked there were were grassy fields where cows or horses were grazing. There were giant green hilltops looking over the bright blue Kinneret, it was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in Israel. We drove to Arbel and met Ran’s dad’s friend who showed us to our cabin. It was small and homey. The best part about it was that there was a jacuzzi inside the bathroom. I love taking baths. At home I usually take a bath a week, it just relaxes me whenever I am feeling anxious or stressed. I have not been able to take a bath since arriving in Israel as the bathtub in my apartment is a little scary and who knows how old it is. But the jacuzzi was clean and giant. I took two baths within the first 12 hours of being there.

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our tzimmer

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so much green!

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We hung out in the tzimmer for a few hours. We were tired from all our traveling that day. Then we went down to Tiberias for dinner. Tiberias is right on the Kinneret and there is a pretty boardwalk along the water. The Promenade (as it is called) was really crodwed because of Purim and there were a lot of kids running around, playing soccer, and spraying shaving cream. So, our visit to the boardwalk was short. We ate at this amazing Chinese restaurant for dinner, right on the water with the full moon in the background. After dinner we got crepes on the boardwalk, picked up some snacks for the room, and went back to the tzimmer to watch a movie. The best part of the night was when Ran let me drive around Arbel a little bit. It had been my first time driving in six months and I forgot how much I missed it.

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not actually French, but still good

The next day, Friday, we had a lot of fun things planned. The day started off great with a home cooked breakfast by the owners of the tzimmer. We had a bunch of fresh salads, bread, and omelets with whatever we wanted in them. After breakfast we drove a quick five minutes to the Arbel cliffs. These cliffs are historical because there are caves in them where Jews hid thousands (I think) years ago to hide from the Romans. The cliffs were just insane. I literally felt like I was both on top of the world and in a scene from The Lord of The Rings. The Cliffs had an amazing view of the Kinneret and also the small towns below.

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After the Cliffs we drove a little south to Beit Zera, a small kibbutz just below the Kinneret. We were told that they had a little zoo there and you were able to go into the monkey cages. I was immediately sold. Ran and I were the only visitors above the age of 7 but it was totally worth it. There were turtle, peacocks, and chickens just walking freely around. There was an exhibit of baby goats and I was so tempted to break in and steal one. But the best part was the monkeys. I had to take everything out of my pockets so that the monkeys wouldn’t steal anything. There wasn’t anyone who worked at the zoo monitoring the monkey cages so it was a little daunting to just walk in there. Ran didn’t want to go so he was in charge of holding my bag and taking pictures. I walked inside and immediately one little guy climbed onto my arm and then my head. There were also giant toucans just hanging out in the cage. It was amazing, they were so soft and little (the monkeys, not the toucans. I was a little afraid of the giant birds).

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After the monkeys we walked around a little more and saw some giant turtles trying to mate and two chickens having a fight. I then opted to go back into the monkey cage one more time. I ended up having to help a monkey get back inside as he was stuck in the little hallway entrance separating the outside from the inside of the cage. He grabbed onto my arm and held on tightly unit we were back in the cage. He tried to steal one of my bracelets right off my wrist but I caught him.

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After the zoo we stopped for lunch at a rest stop and drove north to Agamay Achula. It’s a big reserve right near the base of Mount Hermon. There are supposed to be thousands of birds there they fly in giant flocks but I guess it wasn’t the season because we only saw about 10 birds the whole time. We rented a golf cart to drive around the giant reserve. I think the golf cart may have been one of the best parts of the trip. We took turns driving, stopping every so often to take some scenic pictures.

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Although there weren’t that many birds there the area was unbelievable. There were so many flowers and ponds, it was just really pretty. And it had a great view of Hermon which still had some snow dotted around its peak. Halfway through the reserve we were stopped by a family. They told us that their four year old daughter was too tired to keep riding her bike and asked if she could join us on the golf cart. I was surprised she had made it that far on a tricycle to begin with because if I had been riding a regular bike I would have stopped long before. It was really hot at that point and she was wearing what looked like a ninja turtle costume for Purim so she must have been really hot. We said of course, and our new passenger, Danielle joined us on our ride.

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Her family road their bikes close behind us so that she didn’t get scared but she didn’t seem to mind riding in a golf cart with complete strangers at all. She was so cute, I kept on trying to sneak and take pictures of her.

After we finished the golf cart ride we said goodbye to Danielle and her family. We ate some Pita Druzen (Druz pita, which is basically pita filled with labane, tzatar, and oil). It’s Ran’s favorite and I had never had it before. So when we saw a stand right outside of the reserve we knew we had to get some. It was pretty late at that point so we drove back to the tzimmer to of course take another bath and rest before dinner.

For dinner that night we went to another farm area just around the corner from where we were staying. This family also owned tzimmers and a restaurant. It wasn’t like a normal restaurant though because they only served dinner between 7-730pm as it is just a dad, mom, and son running the place. The restautany was so tiny and cute. I didn’t feel like I was in Israel but rather on a winery in the Napa Valley. The food was amazing. We started with some pate as an appetizer. Ran had steak for dinner and I had a veal stew. It was amazing.

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pate

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veal stew

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complimentary mango/orange juice

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On Saturday we woke up late, ate another great home cooked breakfast, and then headed home. On the way we stopped near Beit Shein to go to a kangaroo zoo suitably named Gan Garu. Not only did I get to feed and pet kangaroos, but I also fed baby goats and saw some koalas snoozing away. Ran and I tried the maze they had there but ended up cheating at the end and slipping out between two bushes.

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Then we began the drive back to Tel Aviv. On the way we stopped on the side of the road to pick up more Druzen pita which was more authentic than the stand outside of the bird reserve. There was an old lady making the pita from scratch and then cooking it on a round hot ball as you ordered. YUM!

My vacation up North was so much fun and definitely one of the best vacations I have ever been on! I can’t wait to go back and stay at another tzimmer hopefully one day soon!

Things I Thought I Knew About Living Abroad

A few weeks ago I became a Foreign Correspondent for Pink Pangea, a travel blog for women. My role is to write various articles about my time in Israel and whatever I think women traveling to Israel should know. My first post just went up to day, so I’m copying it here for you all to read. Enjoy!

When I graduated from college last year, I knew I wasn’t ready for the typical 9-5 work grind. So when I was accepted into Israel Teaching Fellows, a year long fellowship teaching English in Israel, I knew I had to take it. I would be working the rest of my life, and there was no need to start when I was only 21. I did not view it as taking a year off, but rather taking a year for myself to travel and explore. I didn’t study abroad as an undergrad, but I was finally ready to move away from home and experience another culture while I still had the opportunity to do so. When I boarded the plan from Newark, NJ with three oversized bags and butterflies in my stomach, I also carried with me a set list of expectations about moving across the world for a year. Now, after passing the half way-point on my program, I’ve realized none of those expectations became reality.

I’ll grow apart from family and friends at home.

  • A friend recently asked me if I’ve gotten homesick since moving here, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. Yes, I miss my family and friends. I cringe whenever I see family photos or watch snapchat stories of my friends from the night before. But I almost feel closer to loved ones at home since I’ve moved here, especially my parents. When I away at school (a mere three hour drive from my hometown), I spoke to my parents maybe once a week, a short “hi, yes I’m alive, goodbye”, type of phone call. But now, I spend 30-40 minutes at least twice a week catching up with my parents. We talk more about what I’m actually doing, really communicating with one another. It’s hard not being able to call mom or dad whenever I want because of the time difference, but when we do talk it’s always a memorable conversation. I feel closer to them even though we are thousands of miles apart.

I wouldn’t make close friendships.

  • We’ve all heard that once we graduate from college making new friends is hard. So when I moved here, I was scared I wouldn’t make close friends or even an acquaintance to grab a coffee with in the morning. I should have known that living with three other girls from my program and having 15 more just minutes away meant I would never be lonely. But it’s more than just physically being around them. My roommates have grown to be some of my closest friends here who I will definitely keep in touch with. We’re all so different but have so much in common: Iris from Minnesota (still in the US but different time zones so it counts, right?), Kayleigh from South Africa, and Mona from Australia. Not only have I made good friends while living abroad, I am learning so much about different people and customs all over the world.

I could plan everything.

  • If my best friend could describe me in three words, but one of them had to be bad, what would they be? My answer: talkative, bubbly, and anxious. Everyone knows that I like to plan out every little detail of my day, from when I will go for a run, cook dinner, and take a shower. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spontaneity; I just don’t embrace it as much as I should. So when I moved to Israel I thought it would be exactly the same. Wrong. Israelis are laid back, leaving many things to the last minute. They are adaptable and flexible to change. Living here has helped me develop these qualities. If I get to school and find out my first three classes are cancelled because of a field trip, oh well, I just have to change my schedule. I no longer sweat the small stuff.

I’d never eat a good meal again.

  • “I can’t cook.” A phrase I used all throughout college and my first few months in Israel. An explanation for why I ate frozen foods or cereal for dinner. But I soon realized that “can’t” was just a substitution for I’m too lazy to take the time to cook. Turns out following a recipe isn’t that hard. A few weeks ago I made homemade mac and cheese. I had to send pictures to friends to convince them that it was actually made from scratch. Since then I’ve made a few other homemade dishes, proving that with just a little bit of motivation, dinner doesn’t have to come from cardboard box.

It’s a problem that I’m not saving any money.

  • One of my biggest concerns about moving to Israel and living off of a small monthly stipend was that I wouldn’t be saving any money. Not only that, but I also would be dipping into my insignificant savings fund. But, I soon realized, who cares? I am having the time of my life. When else am I going to have the opportunity to take a day trip to a kibbutz down south or spend the weekend traveling in the North? Yeah I’ll never see that extra 300 dollars I withdrew from my savings before Sukkot vacation. But it bought me a visit to Akko, some amazing hummus from the famous Hummus Sayid, three nights’ stay in a hostel, and some pretty awesome memories. I’ve learned there’s no better way to spend my money than travelling and exploring the amazing country I get to live in right now.

Party, party, party every night.

  • In reality I go to bed by 10 on the weekdays, and usually around midnight on the weekends. And that’s ok. Yes I am living in a foreign country and it’s tempting to go to Tel Aviv every night of the week to eat at cool restaurants or dance at clubs. But after a day on my feet, chasing children, my bed and Netflix are always a much more appealing option. In college I seriously worried about the status of my social life if I didn’t go out every Thursday-Saturday. But I just don’t care here. I’m not here to go out and get wasted all the time. Not saying it isn’t fun occasionally, but it is just as acceptable to curl up in bed after a long day with a cup of tea and my most recent Netflix binge.

Learning the language would be easy.

  • Ha, I laugh at myself for ever thinking this. I had practiced some Hebrew the summer before I moved here, so I thought I was halfway to fluent upon my arrival. More like I had the abilities of a first grader. Learning a language is hard, especially a language with a totally different alphabet. I slowly started to make some progress, but it’s definitely frustrating. Even if I go into a store and speak some muffled words in Hebrew the clerk will detect my accent and answer me in English. I’ve made it a goal by the end of the year to go into a store and have an entire conversation in Hebrew. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Overall my experiences teaching English in Israel have been amazing. Yes, most of my expectations were false, but I am pleasantly surprised with the reality. I’ve gained a sense of independence for the first time in my life and I can’t wait to see what the next five months have in store for me!

fasting, shopping, vacationing…another week or so in Israel.

It’s been about two weeks since my last post, throwing my hopes for a weekly post out the window. Hopefully I fell off the wagon just this once. But, I do have a bit of an excuse for the long delay in writing. I’ve been very busy which means I have a lot to write about now, and luckily for you, you have a lot to read. My last post ended (if I recall correctly), at the start of the Rosh Hashana vacation, and now we’re a day away from the Sukkot vacation. Gotta love the first month of the Jewish calendar! But here it goes, my attempt to recall the busiest two weeks of my Israel experience so far.

Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana translates literally into “head of the year,” which makes sense since it is the start of the new Jewish year. I got three extra days off from school because of the holiday so I was already pretty excited for the New Year. Unlike New Year’s Eve in America, the Jewish New Year does not revolve around getting wasted and counting down as a ball drops from the sky. Instead, it focuses on gefilte fish, the shofar, and most importantly apples and honey. The apples and honey are meant to signify the start of a sweet new year. The day before the vacation, Amanda and I had our students make Rosh Hashana cards for their parents, siblings, teachers, or friends. We wrote down English phrases on the board for them to copy into their cards, including “Happy New Year, I love you, I hope you have a sweet new year, etc.” I was pleasantly surprised when I received cards from the students, who chose to make them for Amanda and me instead of their families. The last class of the day was total mayhem as the students were excited for vacation to begin. It was hard to get anything done, so the day ended with a few games of hang man (in English of course) and dancing to some American songs (“Happy” the most popular choice.)

After vacation officially began I headed into Tel Aviv for a Rosh Hashana ceremony with my program. I ended up staying the night at my boyfriend’s house and going to spend the holiday with his family the next day. The food was incredible and everyone was extremely welcoming, even giving me a special shoutout at dinner thanking me for joining them. The rest of the weekend was very relaxing, I spent my days in the Shuk, at the beach, and seeing friends at night. Couldn’t ask for more right? After Rosh Hashana it was back to school for another short week, as Yom Kippur was the following weekend.

Yom Kippur

The week before Yom Kippur was just a typical week at school. Amanda and I started to pull out some more of the weaker students so they have a chance to work with us before we get our set groups. We’ve been told that we are primarily going to be working with the stronger students to prepare them for the standardized test they take in the middle of the year. So we want to give all the students a chance to meet with us. Fun quick story about the week. It seems as if I have gotten myself a, well not-so-secret admirer at school. It’s a little boy in a 5th grade class who just kept on shouting out the whole class saying hi to me and telling me I was beautiful. Towards the end of class I was passed a note, pictured below, which said “mali you butifal — Noor” signed with a bunch of hearts. It was probably the cutest thing that has happened so far.

About a week after Rosh Hashana happens, the holiday of Yom Kippur comes. Unlike Rosh Hashana which celebrates the start of a sweet new year, Yom Kippur is all about repentance and atoning for sins. Although this sounds like a little bit of a downer, Yom Kippur is so cool in Israel and was probably the best experience I have had here thus far. I’m not sure if you have heard, but the whole country literally shuts down for the holiday. So from Friday night until Saturday evening nothing opens. It’s like Shabbat on steroids. By that I mean that nothing is open, literally nothing. On Shabbat there are a few stores and restaurants that stay open, but on Yom Kippur I’m pretty sure it is illegal for any businesses to operate. Even better, there are no cars allowed on the road. The entire country just shuts down and the only people driving are the police or ambulances. Because of the empty roads, Israelis take to the streets on foot or bike, walking around everywhere and biking on the highway. It is really a surreal experience, one that you just have to experience yourself to really get the feeling. I took my boyfriend’s motorized bike, which meant that I didn’t have to pedal, and coasted around Tel Aviv at a comfortable 25mph. I road all around Tel Aviv on the main roads and highways, from the beach, to Dizengoff Center and Rabin Square. It was so cool. I was on roads that are usually so crowded you can barely drive at 15mph and here I was riding a bike in the middle of the road at practically double that speed. Definitely my favorite experience in Israel so far.

Another major part of Yom Kippur is fasting. Although I have come to realize that more people probably fast in America than they do in Israel, I decided I was going to try and fast, just to see if I could do it. My boyfriend, who had never fasted ever even though he has lived in Israel his whole life, decided to take up the challenge also. Well, I made it until 2pm until I just couldn’t take it anymore and I ate an entire can of Pringles. My boyfriend was probably happy I broke the fast because being around me when I am very hungry could not have been a pleasant situation for him. He on the other hand made it until 7pm without food or water. The funny thing is the only reason I think I didn’t make it was because I was just thinking about the fact that I couldn’t eat all day until it literally drove me insane. Whatever, I still road around on a bike on Yom Kippur so I still had quite the experience.

Sukkot

Today was the first day back at school after Yom Kippur vacation and I only have tomorrow left before a ten day vacation for Sukkot. To be honest, I’m not really sure of what the meaning behind Sukkot is, but I know that people build sukkahs, small temporary huts next to their houses which they decorate and I think eat meals in.

It was an interesting day at school to say the least. By that I mean Amanda and I didn’t have a class to teach until the last period of the day, which starts at 12:45. So we spent about four hours of the day chatting with teachers, thinking about lessons plans, and just sitting around. It wasn’t anyone’s fault the day was just hectic and filled with different activities that caused classes to be cancelled. Everyone keeps saying that the first month or so in school will be a little chaotic and then “after the holidays” meaning after Sukkot, things will get normal. I hope this will actually happen but I have a feeling things will still be pretty chaotic and everyone will just start saying “oh wait until after Hanukkah.” But we did get to see a ceremony performed by the 4th graders about all the holidays in the first month of the Jewish calendar (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) and it was totally cute and filled with adorable dance moves.

Upcoming Trips!

I have a few trips coming up during this two week break for Sukkot. On Sunday I am going up North with my program (including Fellows from both Rishon and Petach Tikvah) for a two day trip. I’m not sure exactly what we are going to be doing, but the itinerary looks like it includes a lot of hiking and potentially an outdoor cooking challenge, which scares the shit out of me. Ask anyone in my apartment and cooking is definitely not one of my skills. I think the most impressive thing I’ve made so far is spaghetti with meat sauce and that was pre packaged and frozen.

After the program trips ends, I’m staying up north with my two gal pals from PTK that I’ve written about before. Diana, Rachel, and I are going to spend two nights in Haifa and then two in Jerusalem to close out the Sukkot vacation. I’ve never been to Haifa before so I am really excited for that. I think we are going to some other places nearby in the two days we are spending there. And even though I just went to Jerusalem with my dad and brother, I was pretty jet lagged so I am excited to go back and see some of the sites again.

Some random things I’ve noticed these past two weeks

1. Do not take the bus during rush hour. I know sometimes we have no choice, and that’s what happened to me last Sunday. I was leaving Tel Aviv to head back to Rishon and I had to take the bus because my boyfriend could not drive me. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love taking the bus. I just put in my headphones and zone out. But at 430pm on a Sunday (the Monday of Israel), the ride could not have been more miserable. Besides having to shove my way through a crowd of people to get on the bus, I then had to spend the next hour standing (or really falling) all over the place as my driver slammed on the brakes whenever he pleased. I either couldn’t move or was smushed next to someone with horrible body odor. Definitely going to wait to just take the later bus next time.

2. Shopping makes me really happy. Yes, I know this is cliche for me to say as I am a 22 year old woman. But its so true! (am I right ladies??). I was having a little bit of a down day this past weekend, probably a combination of being a little homesick and getting over my attempt to fast. My boyfriend suggested we walk to the mall thats 15 minutes from his house. And wow was that the best decision I ever made. My mom and I usually call it retail therapy and boy did it work. I didn’t go too crazy as I am learning the meaning of poverty as I pay for my own food, transportation, and just random things every week. But I did find a Top Shop and I did find things to buy. Just a pair of jeans and the most comfortable sweater that ever existed, and instantly I was in a better mood.

3. No matter what holiday, the students and teachers will wear white the day before a vacation. Luckily Amanda and I were warned about this tradition, or else we would have felt very out of place today walking into a sea of white.

Well that’s all for now. I will hopefully write within a week or so all about my upcoming trips! Keep following!

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Rabin Square on Yom Kippur

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Lying in the middle of a busy road, because I could!

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Bikers on a highway.

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The note I got passed in a 5th grade class!

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Look! I’m on a bike!!!