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Israel

Weekend in Be'er Sheva

This weekend, I went down to Be'er Sheva to visit my newlywed cousins. Just like the other cousins, they took fabulous care of me while I was down there. We hung out a lot and spent a lot of time having meals at various people's homes, none of whom were actually blood related to me. However, everybody treated me like close family. They were all so nice to me, even if it communication was a little difficult at times. They made sure that I felt included in everything and were just so warm and friendly!

We also spent a lot of time playing with Marley, their dog. On one walk with Marley, I noticed that the park had lots of trees that were dropping some sort of fruits onto the ground. Mirit informed me that those were dates. I don't think I had ever seen fresh dates before as we really can only get the dried ones in the states. If the trees weren't so high, I might have been inclined to climb one just to try one. (The thought of picking one up of the ground in a dog park didn't really excite me.) In other foodie news, I discovered the Israeli Wegmans this weekend. There is a Russian grocery chain that carries all sorts of non-kosher meats and cheeses, as well as international foods of all kinds. They had the bulk bins containing exciting spices, and whole area of delicious-looking prepared foods. I was very excited, as I often get at grocery stores with exotic ingredients. I was also excited to go to an art fair that they were holding in a nearby town. The various artists that were participating ranged from painters to mosaic-makers, and glass-blowers to seamstresses. There was also a lot of jewelry there. I found the perfect gift for my grandmother- a hand-carved wine stopper that was big enough for less-agile hands to work easily.

I ended the weekend glad that I went to Be'er Sheva, and feeling very much like a direct member of the family.

Marley

Marley


Art Fair

Art Fair


Old town Be'er Sheva

Old town Be'er Sheva

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Week 2

The second week of working on the base was much of the same as the first week. Each morning we got up for breakfast, worked until lunch, had lunch, worked until dinner, had dinner, and then participated in an evening activity. Some days I ran in the morning, some days I didn't. A couple of the days the food was a bit nicer because there was some sort of inspection going on, the rest of the days it was exactly the same as the first week. The food was more tolerable though because many of us had bought peanut butter, hot sauce, spices, or other items while we were gone on the weekend and we were able to use those items in order to add some variety to the food.

In general, I was either labeling bags of stuff or working in the kit bag room with Anastasia. It turns out that she does have a crew of soldiers working with her, and they're pretty good too, we just hadn't met them first week. There was one day that I got to paint some of the tanks, which was cool. One afternoon, Janice and I were sent to all of the various truck warehouses to climb up on each truck, count the number of kit bags on it, and record it. For many of the trucks, this was relatively easy. However, some were quite difficult to climb up into as there weren't many good footholds. For two of the trucks, the footholds that existed were covered by something else and I basically had to throw Janice up into the truck. It was pretty hilarious.

We had a lot of interesting evening activities this week as well. One of them was designed to teach us some Hebrew. One of the mini-games during this activity involved labeling our teammates with stickers containing the Hebrew words for various body parts. Another involved having one of the group members mock-ask one of the soldiers for a date, which was absolutely hilarious. A different evening activity got us all discussing and debating the various facets of the army's policies.

All in all, I think that this week went more smoothly than the last week. I had a lot more energy because I was getting up early to run. The food was better because we were prepared. I had work to do each of the sessions, although it sometimes meant making sure I was in the right place. The group got along fabulously (not that it didn't the first week). Overall, I was pretty pleased with how the week went.

Catching sleeping bags in the kit bag room

Catching sleeping bags in the kit bag room


Labeled with body parts in Hebrew

Labeled with body parts in Hebrew

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

9-11 Memorial

Today, there was a special ceremony that was happening because it was 9-11. Instead of working, several of the Sar-El groups were going to the ceremony instead.

We first met up with each other at the Ben Gurion house in Tel Aviv. Coming from Herzliya, it was a very convenient meet-up point. A couple members of the group were coming from Jerusalem though, and had to get up pretty early to be there on time. We were given a tour of the house and watched a short film on Ben Gurion. The house itself is rather simple, especially for somebody as important as the first Prime minister of a whole country. The first floor had a couple of bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, eating area, and living room. The bedrooms where his family slept were quite small, the kitchen was very quaint, and the only sign that there was anything special about the family that used to live there was the various displays in the living room. The displays contained gifts from various leaders of other countries, gifts from soldiers, and other memorabilia from his time as Prime Minister. The upstairs however, is what really set the house apart. It contained his personal library. According to the guide, it contains 20 thousand books. She told us that he had the books to read, not just to have, like some people do. Not only that, but as he was a big proponent of reading texts in their original language, in many cases he learned new languages just to read books. When he moved out of the house in Tel Aviv and into his house on the kibbutz in the Negev, he brought *only* 5 thousand of his books with him.

From the Ben Gurion home, we piled onto buses and were driven to the 9-11 Memorial Park by Jerusalem. They fed us a small lunch, and then we went to watch the ceremony at the memorial statue itself. The statue is a flame made of the American flag hat is surrounded by a wall with the names of the victims. I was told that this is the only memorial outside the US that names all of the victims. The ceremony was attended by the US ambassador, various representatives, the families of the Israeli victims of the attacks, and the news. There were various speeches, some songs, and finally a wreath laying ceremony where appropriate representatives put wreaths on the memorial for each of the groups of victims. The ceremony was nice, but it was extremely hot, so it was a bit hard to pay attention.

Afterwards, we got on the bus with a Sar-El group from a different base and we dropped them off at their base on the way to ours. Their base was soooooo different than ours. Whereas we have a fan to keep us cool at night, they have AC. Our bathrooms are at the end of the halls that we're staying in, but theirs were in a nearby building. They could do that because their whole area seemed to be permanently for Sar-El volunteers (it was painted with the Sar-El logo), whereas our base doesn't get as many volunteers and it wouldn't make sense to have a dedicated Sar-El area. They even had a whole courtyard area between the buildings just for themselves. Since their bathrooms were only for Sar-El, they were able to keep toilet paper in the bathrooms. On our base, if you accidentally left some in there, it was gone before you could go back to get it. So, we always kept some rolls in our rooms and brought it to and from the bathroom each time we went.

After dropping them off and ogling their amenities, we were on our way. Looking out the window, I was noticing that the signs said which way the towns were, but didn't have any indication of how far away they were. I was trying to figure out how long until we were there and could be fed, but the madrichot answered that question in a better way. We stopped off for food on the way as the answer was "too far away to make it to dinner." The pizza at the gas station rest stop was pretty horrible- little sauce, not great crust- but it was the best bad pizza I'd had in a while, simply because I hadn't had pizza in weeks.

Eventually, we made it to our base and got settled in again. They did feed us some food, including shoko- yum. Actually, we had enough shoko to play a "drinking game" with it and somebody had to finish off the last bag.

The base was pretty quiet and I had intentions of getting up early to go run, so I went to bed early.

Ben Gurion's kitchen and eating area

Ben Gurion's kitchen and eating area


Jerusalem 9-11 Memorial

Jerusalem 9-11 Memorial


Ben Gurion's living room

Ben Gurion's living room

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Just a regular day

I got up this morning and went running in Herzliya Park. It was a little too late in the day for the weather to actually be nice, but I felt so great after I ran. Based on how I felt after running, I'm thinking that the reason I haven't had a lot of energy recently is that I haven't been running. The park itself is very nice. There is a bike track that runs around it as well as a running track with that squishy red matting that is good for the knees. The track is 1 km long and is marked off on the ground in 100 m increments. To further help runners, there are plenty of water fountains scattered about, so you don't really have to bring your own water. Overall, the park is a very pleasant place to go for a run.

After getting cleaned up, we mostly just hung out until almost dinner. There was another trip to Herzliya beach in there. When we got to the beach, there were two ladies with a flat tire who were trying to change it, but didn't really know how. We started helping them and then another guy joined. Even his butt-naked 2 year old son tried to help us. In all, having 6 people change a tire was a bit of overkill, but it was a perfect example of how friendly everybody seems to be here. As for the naked kid- I'm not so sure that would have been acceptable back in the US. By the time kids are 2, their parents don't really have them run in the streets without even so much as a diaper on. Apparently, that is completely acceptable in Israel. It's definitely something I'm not used to, but cultural differences are part of the experience.

For dinner, we grabbed some take out from a burger place and brought it over to Clara's house, where Michal broke out the plates. Even though each meal was in its own wrapper, we ate fast food from nice dishes. Again, not something you would likely see in the states. It amused me though.

At the end of the day, I had to get packed. While I had a very nice and relaxing weekend, tomorrow was back to "work."

House on the Cliffs of Herzliya Beach

House on the Cliffs of Herzliya Beach


Herzliya Beach

Herzliya Beach


Changing the tire

Changing the tire

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Pants!

I was more tired than I thought I would be, so I didn't get up to run. Instead, when I did get up, my cousin took me shopping. In my rush to get packed in the dark without access to the weather information, I only packed 1 pair of capris, and everything else was shorts. It occurred to me that Vienna in October might be a bit colder than shorts weather. Also, in an effort to respect the religious, we were asked to wear pants past the knee on base when we weren't wearing our uniforms. My plan was to get another pair of capris and maybe a pair of regular pants, if I could even find a pair. Based on my luck in the states, I was doubtful about that. Additionally, I wanted some crap t-shirts that could get painted on, if needed.

First, we went to the small shops across the street from their home. These shops were each as small or smaller than a hotel room in the US. One was about the size of a public restroom, and I was sure that there was no chance that they had tall sizes in such a small shop. However, the lady at the desk was super-helpful and kept running upstairs to the store room to find pants in the longer sizes. Ultimately, I was able to find 1 pair that was actually long enough! My mom would be so proud of me.

Next, we headed to the mall. I'm still not quite used to all of the bag-checking and metal-detecting on the way in. I got my t-shirts at one store where my cousin knew the girl at the register. The third store we tried, Hoodies, I was also successful at. Woo hoo! TWO pairs of pants in 1 day. I haven't been this lucky since Tall Girl shut down. I would have bought the pants in every color, but they really only had one. However, they were having the most bizarre sale. The pants were 130 shekels, or 3 pairs for 100 shekels (total, not each). I would have bought the 2 extra pairs and just donated them, but apparently scarves, t-shirts, and tank tops could all be counted for the deal, so I got 2 tank tops that basically cost me negative 15 shekels each. While I didn't understand why they wanted to do it that way, I was happy to save the money.

Also in the mall, they had a grocery store where I was successful. We went in to buy food for my time on the base, as well as a few ingredients for dinner, but also found... KREMBO! For those who don't know, Krembo is known as the Israeli winter ice cream. It is basically a thin cookie with a marshmallow fluff-textured merengue on top, all covered in chocolate. Some European countries have their own version, but I've never seen them in the states. Even in Israel, you can only get it during winter time as it melts in the summer, so they can be hard to find. It is still a little early in the year, so I didn't expect to find it, but as they had it, I bought a pack and started in on it before we even got to the car.

After getting home from shopping, I just chilled until it was time to make dinner. I love to cook, and was very excited to be able to make Mexican food for my cousins. Apparently, there is not a lot of Mexican food in Israel (which makes sense as there are probably fewer Mexican immigrants than there are in the states), and one of my cousins loves Mexican food. For my part, I was just glad to be eating something with some spice.

After dinner, we joined my cousin's friends at Shankin Bar in Ranana. It was nice, but there were too many people smoking inside for my taste. Also we had a table right under the speakers, so it was a little difficult to carry a conversation with people more than a foot away from yourself. One of my cousins and I left early to go over to a pool hall, and the other cousin joined shortly after. Pool was fun and we met some nice boys who talked with us for a while. Overall, it was a very nice, relaxing Saturday.

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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