Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Someone explain to me...

Why the Washington DC area practically shuts down when there's a threat of a little snow. I woke up this morning to about 1/2 inch of snow, and reports on television of every school in the area closed. At least the Federal Government didn't close. I think that's because Obama is from Chicago and knows that this tradition of closing when there's a little bit of the cold stuff on the ground.

Topics that come up just tonight at the house of the people I'm staying with this week:
Little people (dwarfs), House (the tv show), the virtues of cotton vs polyester socks, hacking into Apple tv, poop, Nigerians, Disney sun glasses that aren't made in adult sizes, the difference between black raspberries and blackberries and last, but definitely not least, octuplets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Erev Lost!

Heads up - the next season of Lost starts tomorrow. I'm not sure if the internet was slow during the inauguration or if cell towers were overwhelmed, but they will all be fine tomorrow night. All eyes and ears should be watching Lost. No phone calls (maybe not even during commercials), no surfing the web. No Facebook. No reheating dinner. No doodling or creating grocery lists. No speculating during the show about what's going on during the show.

This should also serve as fair warning. Do not call me tomorrow night. Do not expect e-mail from me tomorrow night. Do not expect any Facebook updates.

Fresh Mozzarella!

Sunday, I made cheese. I figured 30-minute mozzarella might actually take a first-timer a bit longer, but it didn't. In 30 minutes we had great, fresh mozzarella cheese.

Not included in the 30 minutes the time that was needed to buy a thermometer (or remember that one was needed) and find low-pasturized milk. And in case you are wondering, low-pasturized milk is expensive! Ideally, raw milk is used, but that's not exactly legal to purchase in the local grocery store.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thoughts on the Winter

It's always a bit strange to me that winter weather is news. It happens every year, right?

You may be tempted to believe that 16 degrees above zero is a veritable heat wave after days at -6. I am here to say, "do not be tempted". It's no longer dangerous to be outside, but is also not yet warm. By any stretch of the imagination.

The lid of my coffee cup which has been sitting in the car for the last three weeks was frozen onto the base. It tooks several minutes of warm running water to open it.

I no longer believe that 1 inch of snow is worth shoveling.

I saw several cars running unattended this morning. Coincidentally, I read in the newspaper that doing so is a crime. And if your car is stolen while you're warming it up, you still get the fine for leaving the key in an unattended car. But evidently the city has decided not to give tickets if the temperature is less than 10 degrees. Maybe be cause even car thiefs aren't that stupid?

My favorite headline this week came from the Chicago Tribune: City Held Frostage. Below it was a timer marking how long the city temperatures were staying below zero.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Aliases

When I called home from Israel, for some reason the caller ID always registered a different name. Among them:
John Mort, John Sbonik, Maria Caldero, Paula Collins, Veronica Garza, Mary Dowling, Jeffrey Smith, Terry Nowak, Janell Robinson, Anthony Tomasze, Jim Legault, Nichole Phillips, Kristine Blackman, Domenique Gwin, Joann Berdelman and last but not least... Subway.

Back in the US

The only saving grace on a 14 hour flight is no one sitting in the middle seat.

I learned to order an Asian Vegetarian meal on Delta - it's much better than the regular vegetarian meals, except when dinner is an okra-based meal, and the same thing is served again for breakfast.

We landed in Atlanta, picked up bags, went through Customs, then dropped our bags back off at the "re-check" counter, and then go through security again before getting to the next terminal. Asking people to take off their shoes after a 14 hour flight is just mean.

Delta no longer serves tomato juice on their domestic flights. Instead, you can opt for Bloody Mary mix. Crazy, but at least it has more flavor.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Nigerians are Here!

Well, not here, since I'm now back in Jerusalem, but they were here when I was in Tiberius.

I walked into the King Solomon Hotel and found myself in a sea of Nigerians. Fifty people (maybe more?) all wearing clothing made from the same bolt of fabric. Some with tunics and pants, some just tunics, some tops and skirts, some dresses. But all the same fabric. No different pattern, no different colors. Not knowing anything about Nigerian culture, I don't know if this is normal, or just special for traveling.

But here's the great part - what they were wearing was in perfect contrast to the carpeting in the hotel. I'm pretty sure it was not planned in advance.

In case you're wondering, I tried but was not successful at getting pictures of all the Nigerians together. Nor could I get a picture of a Nigerian walking across the carpet. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Aroma in Kiryat Shemona

I can't decide if it's a compliment or just embarrassing when the woman behind the counter at the coffeeshop (Aroma) in Kiryat Shemona greets me like a long lost friend. I didn't think I'd spent that much time here!

Last night, walking from our hotel to downtown Tiberius (an oxymoron if there ever was one), we saw a green bean tree. I'm not sure they were actually green beans, and it was definitely not a vine that looked like a tree, but it most definitely looked like a green bean tree. Only in Israel.

Monday, January 05, 2009


For reasons unknown, I really love Tiberius. It's a lot like Milwaukee maybe - a little town on a lake. Ok, the lake here is more like a pond, and it's very hilly, but otherwise, maybe they are similar. What I don't love (which my faithful readers have read before), is that there is no internet access here. I have to drive out to the southern end of the Kinneret to the Aroma cafe in order to get any work done. I could also be working at the gas station next door (the Yellow), but the cafe is a bit nicer and the music isn't quite as loud.

Plus, if I stay long enough, I might order a haloumi sandwich for lunch, which would make me very happy.

On a different note, I am NOT on my fourth rental car, but I am on my third and while I thought I was going to get another one this morning, they just cleaned out the third. Somewhere along the Bika road yesterday, a light went on. Now, I basically grew up with the idea of just putting a piece of tape over the light and assuming it was no longer a problem. But... I was on a desert road with very few places to stop and while it wasn't the engine light, I also didn't want to get stuck with no where to go, no cell phone reception, a barbed wire fence on once side and a really, really big hill that tops out who knows where on the other.

So I stopped at a gas station where thankfully someone spoke English (I do not know car-related words in Hebrew). We checked the oil (fine), brake fluid (fine), wiper fluid (low, but I didn't care), radiator fluid (fine, I think), and finally they said I needed more distilled water in the battery. I asked if it was dangerous and was told that it wasn't. So I kept driving. I had about another hour before I could get to Tiberius and change the car.

When I walked into Hertz, the woman started laughing, since I had been there a week ago to change the first car to the second. The car guy there confirmed for me that while the light didn't indicate anything dangerous, it was very, very good that I'd brought it back. So I got another car, but it was filthy. I couldn't exactly understand when they told me to come back this morning if I was getting a new, clean car, or if they were just going to clean the third car. It turns out they cleaned it, sort of. Whatever....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Other Random Things

Some of the hotels I've stayed at this trip have a German language station as part of the cable package. I was flipping through the channels late one nights and noticed an episode of Law and Order. Since there are probably thousands of different episodes at this point, the chances of seeing one I haven't seen is generally pretty good. Except that this episode was dubbed into German. And there were no subtitles - in Hebrew or English. And I'm sure the voices sound different to people who actually speak or understand German, but to me, they all sounded the same. Needless to say, I did not watch the show.

Last night was crowded on Ben Yehuda street. And right in the middle of the road (it's a pedestrian place, so not exactly a road) there was a Korean choir singing. I think they were Korean - I'm not actually positive. And I couldn't tell what language they were singing in. It may have been Hebrew. They had song books, and a choir director and seemed very earnest, whatever they were singing. And they had quite a crowd around them who I think were also wondering who they were and what they were singing. I learned this morning that they are there every night.

We talk in our staff training about remembering that the things we have always loved about Israel may not be the same for our participants. And we always use the example of someones favorite falafel place - that just because you've always gone there and had great falafel, doesn't mean that other people have to make it "their" places as well.

So last night, I was walking by the falafel stand that we went to several times a week on our first trip to Israel. I don't know - maybe I went there once a week, but in my memory, it was every night, which I know it wasn't. They have a new sign out front that says "established 1985". Well, that's a huge problem, because my first trip to Israel was in 1982! Is my favorite falafel stand not really my favorite falafel stand? Did they get the sign wrong? Was it a different falafel stand but in the same location? I haven't actually eaten a falafel there in years - but it's got the reputation of being the best place on the block. So even if it's not my falafel stand, it's someones....

Dakar 2009

It so happens that I'm usually in Israel for two of my favorite sporting events - the Tour de France in late June/July and the Dakar rally in January. Over Shabbat I was thinking that the rally should be starting sometime soon and sure enough, when I turned the tv on last night (obviously NOT charging my phone) I found coverage of the first day of the rally.

This year, they are racing round trip from Buenos Aires through Valparaiso, Chile. Now I realize you might be wondering why the traditioanlly Paris-Dakar rally is running on a completely different continent, and the answer is: I'm not sure yet. The coverage I've seen has all been in Hebrew and mainly dealt with the first day crowds in Buenos Aires and the length of the first day (longer than the route for previous first days of the rally).

The Hotel will Speak for Itself

I had a strange hotel room the last three nights. Not one outlet save the one that the television was plugged into. In fact, the cord on the desk lamp had been left hanging since there was no where to plug it in. I'm not sure why there even was a lamp in that case. The bed side lamps were attached to the wall (as opposed to sitting on the nightstand), which was fine, except that the switch to turn them on and off was on the wall in a place where even a person with very long arms would have to get up out of bed to turn them off. Having only one outlet meant I had to decide whether to charge my phone or watch tv. I don't like decisions like that.

Many of the rooms I've stayed in have a hot water kettle and tea bags, sugar etc. This room obviously couldn't because there would have been no where to plug in the kettle. Never the less, there was a card on the desk that read,

"Dear Guests,
Your room is equiped with a coffee/tea making set
For your conviniance we are happy to oper you a coffee packege which includes:
Black coffee, instant coffee, decafenated coffee, tea, non diary cream milk, sugare, artaficial sweather
For the price of 10 NIS
You mey purchuse the coffee/tea package at the lobby or dail the room service"

Seriously - all those spelling errors were theirs - not my poor typing!