Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Aliza's trip, part 2 – More of the same, only elsewhere, plus Tel Aviv adventures and the worst restaurant ever

The flight to Israel was short, and would have been nice had I slept much over an hour. Instead, I watched Armageddon ("Get off the nuclear warhead!") When the plane landed, I bought an expensive SIM card (I was too tired to care what it cost….) and got in a sherut to J-lem. Woke Shawn and Yaffa up, since they figured I'd be arriving at 8 and I got there at 7. Couldn't call, cuz the cell wasn't yet working. Then I took a 3 hour nap (planned on two, thank goodness Yaffa woke me or I might be sleeping still) and called all the people I still am in touch with in Israel. Then I walked to Emek and graded papers while sipping a coffee. Quoth my father when I called him "how is that different than when you're in Cambridge?" Also wrote postcards to small children who cannot read and grandparents. Had to go to a second coffee shop in order to get online. Said coffee shop was creatively named "Coffee Shop". Then had the official dinner with Shifra and Dani and Avi in Burger Bar, where, due to communication problems with the server, ended up having steak salad with mayo, which was shockingly yummy. After Avi and I left Shif and Dani, Avi's need for a bathroom ever 6.3 seconds took us to a majorly sketchy mall which had not one, but two!, competing sex shops in the basement. Hooray for the capitalist market driving down prices for the consumer.

Then, as per usual, watched DVDs in bed.

Tuesday was a very different sort of day. Avi and I met at Holy Bagel for breakfast, where a very great tragedy ensued when Avi forgot to get his frequent bagel-eater card stamped. Then, we took a bus to Tel Aviv (to the Tachnat harakevet, not the extremely sketchy tachana merkazit) and tried to be wise Israelis and decode all the bus signs and maps. Of course, this led to us taking a bus in the wrong direction, because with my 2 university degrees and our 95th percentile SAT scores, neither of us thought to ask the driver of the 27 if we were going in the right direction. Fortunately, we were soon on our way to the Bet Hatzfutzot on the Tel Aviv U campus, which is absolutely stunning. Avi and I took pictures with lush greenery, palm trees, etc. and then found a bus to take us to Allenby, where the Nachalat Binyamin craft show was going on. Avi and I went to this really clean and nice shwarma place, where I got schnitzel with a side of the classic Israeli "couscous and random vegetable mush". Ran into a random coworker, bought presents for Rachs and G and my small cousins, showed Avi all the things I wanted him to buy for me, etc. Then we caught a bus back to the tachana (train station) and ran to J-lem to meet Yoel at 5. He, of course, showed up at 6. In the meanwhile, we went to every store in the mall and I bought NML a very inexpensive surprise.

Dinner was a comedy of errors – we walked out of the Tachana, up aggripas to a restaurant that seemed nice, but that Yoel declared overpriced (note: we got steak for less than $20 a person). Then, a large group of preteen boys overtook the upper level. Then, a large office group overtook the main seating area. Soon, it was just us along one side after some other people left. Then the management started setting up our side of the restaurant for another group. Soon, they came and asked if we were done. We weren't. Then they came back and offered us the bill. This being Israel, they told us relatively tactlessly that they needed us to leave. (Although there was a table at the other side of the restaurant we could use if we wanted tea.) We said no thanks, and left a minimal tip. Then Yoel decided it was scandalacious that I hadn't been to the Kotel (Galinda's word, not Yoel's) and we headed off. When we got there, I went to daven. When I was done, I had time to make 4 different phone calls before Avi and Yoel returned, lending credence to my theory that they were composing their own prayers, or possibly building their own chairs out of wood chips. Then we headed back out the way we came, through the deserted Muslim quarter. When Avi opined that he wouldn't want to be there without someone carrying a gun (I had decided that an M-16 goes well with my shoes) Yoel waxed eloquent about the comparative safety of the Muslim quarter, and how the old city had more security cameras per square metre than anywhere else, and how the only terrorist incidents there tended to be perpetrated by outsiders, and how the local Arabs only want to eke out a living. Then we took pretty pictures of the gate with its mezuzah, as a visual aid for my students when we study Rashi's commentary on Deut 6:9.

After Yoel left, some singing and dancing messianic Chabadnik lunatics started promising miracles, eternal salvation, etc. At the bus stop. At 11pm. Just like evangelist Christians, but with longer sidecurls.

Fun people count – Shawn, Yaffa, Chana K., in Café Hillel, Shif, Dani, Avi, Galit from work

Sleep count: 6 hours a night – my college schedule. I need a nap.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Aliza’s trip part 1: London, baby

It's only someone who annually flies directly to Israel who could call a 6.5 hour flight "short" but such was my experience. On the plane, one appalling airline meal, one mediocre Robin Williams movie and two hours of sleep later, we were almost in London. I was amazed at how quickly it went, and then we landed on schedule. And sat on the runway for 45 minutes. Eventually, though, they let the plane taxi to the terminal, and I arrived to an extraordinarily short customs line. As late as I was, though, NML was later.

Since I didn't know if I could find her, I sat near the mothership (Starbucks in airport terminal), and knew she'd be able to find me. (That's not exactly how it happenened, but a funnier recounting of events.) When Hami arrived, I scared her to death by jumping out from behind her. We sat, had coffee, tried to figure out how to best the evil foreign exchange people who take a too-large commission for their surly attitudes, and ate yummy tuna sandwiches. (Being women on Rosh Chodesh, and all, benching was in order.)

Then NML introduced me to the vagaries of the tube. I was fine; she was not. We discovered this with me inside the nice gates and her on the outside of the nice gates. Fortunately this was resolved quite quickly, and I discovered how lovely the tube really is, and how stereotypically British some British people look. We took the Picadilly line to Knightsbridge, and walked briskly and efficiently around Hyde Park long enough to comment upon the length of the line for the men's room, the man-made-ness of the little lake called Serpentine, and to discover that my camera's battery had died a short and hopefully painless death overnight. Baruch dayan haemet. Thank goodness NML brought her camera. After Hyde Park, we walked towards Buckingham palace, and took more pictures. We also tried to figure out who the various women represented on the huge statue in front, and decided that if it were Florence or Cracow, they'd be the virgin Mary, but here in England, at least one was Queen Victoria. The other three remain a mystery. We then walked via St. James Park to Big Ben and Parliament, and I had NML take pictures from afar. Then, when we got to the tube station there, I pronounced us "done". N inquired "Don't you want to go closer?" I asked why and she replied "to see it from closer." I really don't get the tourist thing some times.

Then we headed off, from Westminster to my favorite (right near Nehama!) King's Cross station, whose wise officials have lately taken to putting up a fake platform 9 ¾, complete with a trolley that's supposed to be half through the wall. Now I can die happy, as I have been to where Harry Potter was. Just kidding, poo poo poo, ad meah ve'esrim and punch the evil eye in the nose, etc.

Of course, though it was only about 1:15, we were hungry and headed off for lunch to Golders Green. Then, after an unexceptional meal, we went back to NML's place so I could take a much needed nap. While NML wrote a paper, I slept and got ready to head out, then we caught a double decker bus to the subway and took shameless tourist photos en route, stopping at Covent gardens to see the open-air market, some semi-talented buskers and the royal opera house. I saw there was a theatre museum, and was sad we didn't go, until we saw that it had been closed for renovations since January. Then we got to the airport at long last (an outdated New Yorker and crossword puzzle later for myself and Hami respectively) and we parted ways. Oh, and Nehama solved my battery problem. Now I am no longer carrying a lens-laden paperweight. Tourism is fun.

Biggest challenge today: Getting my purse and all its contents into my backpack. Now, a la Gordon Korman, my next challenge is to cram a Jeep into a teapot.

Sleep count: 4 hours today

Fun people count: 1 – Hami!