Monthly Archives: October 2006

I made a new friend today!

… at my new gym. I was wearing my Cal Poly Lacrosse shirt, and this guy was like, Do you go to Cal Poly? Which is kind of a silly question, considering we were in a gym in downtown Jerusalem – that would be one helluva commute. But it was cool and yet kind of random. We talked about the gentrification that the East Bay went/is going through. Well, I didn’t use the word gentrification. I didn’t want to betray my nerdly tendencies just yet. And he’s not old OR religious. And his friend was cute. This new gym is already more my kind of scene! Except that the machines are newer, so they adjust for the fact that you’re not exercising outside, so it’s harder. I don’t like that – it makes me feel like I’m totally out of shape, when that’s not the case. assholes. But in the end, I’ll just be more of a badass.

 In other news, I spoke with Turkey and the Netherlands today. And I called Russia, but they didn’t answer. This is why my job is rad.

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Am I allowed to laugh at this?

“We invented the zero, and then we just stayed there.”

Apparently, this is a common saying amongst Arabs. It’s not seriously funny, but it also kind of is. I know, I’m a terrible person. But it is a little funny, right? Even if I’m not Arab so I shouldn’t be allowed to laugh at things like this?

I wrote, sent off some inquiries about other writing jobs, and took a long hot shower. It’s cold and rainy, so now I’m going to watch Pirates of the Carribbean. In bed.

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perving on old men

So I totally checked out this old guy at the gym this morning by accident (I saw the body before the face – he was fit for an old guy!).

 But still, ew.

I really need to switch gyms.

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olfactory explorations

Jerusalem is a city that can be experienced by smell alone. There is a special smell that pervades the whole country, but it is stronger here and enhanced by the city’s specialness.

In the center of the city, where I spend nearly all my time, I can identify where I am according to what my nose tells me. I get on my bike first thing in the morning and as I pedal towards the shuk, I pass the back-side of a hotel and am christened with the pungent raw-sweet aroma radiating from the dumpsters. Up the hill at the start of the shuk, there is a bakery that emits the blissful sugary-cinnamony-comfort-smell of fresh pastries. The shuk itself is filled with fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, meats raw and cooked, felafel, spices, and trash. I leave that behind as I speed down the hill and out of the center of the city, where the wind from the outer areas carries the smell of the day, or the hour, or the moment. I find myself passing two guys (presumably on their way to work) every morning, and I can smell their cologne from the road.

There are bushes with wonderfully fragrant flowers along my walk to work, across from the old monastary. And there is a restaurant at the bottom of the building I work in that smells amazing, although I’m told the food is actually quite gross.

It has started to rain. The fresh-sweetness weaves in and out of all these nasal experiences, making the pollution and trash less offensive and bringing out the nuances of the sweet smells of the bakeries and bits of greenery.

Have I mentioned that I love this city?

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Hello world!

This is actually the default title for the blog when you first sign up, but I’m keeping it because I like it, even if it isn’t original. In fact, it could be classified as downright generic. Anyhow, I suppose that’s neither here nor there.  I just think it’s nice to say hello to the world every once in a while, that’s all.

 Which leads me to thinking about social interactions with random strangers. In California, I was absolutely the type of person to smile at strangers in the street, make conversation with people I didn’t know, and wish them a nice day when we parted ways. I don’t do that in Israel. I realized the other day that when I walk down the street now, I don’t make eye contact, don’t smile, don’t nod hello. I don’t talk to strangers (ok, that’s a lie. but I do it less), and I am more likely to get in an argument while standing in line – probably because someone is trying to cut – than I am likely to make new friends.

Why is this happening? Well, there’s a lot to it. Firstly (I didn’t know this was a legitimate word until about a month ago. Now I use it as much as possible.), it’s avoidance of the Middle Eastern man catcall/comment. In many ways, Israel is as modern and western as, er, any other modern, western country. But there are also ways that it really is still the Middle East, including many of the attitudes towards women and its chauvinistic tendencies.  Women are still seen as sex objects in a lot of situations. There are the looks, comments, and whistles from the men at the shuk. There is the fact that I often get called chamudi (cutie) or matoki (sweetie) by everyone from shopowners to bus drivers to… well let’s just say I’m not surprised anymore. The President of Israel is currently getting into some deep doo-doo for sexual harrassment and rape of female employees, and I have to say that I’m disgusted but not surprised. Especially with men in power, this country still has a major connection to old-world attitudes about the value of a woman.

Not that this doesn’t have a good side, in a way. Women are appreciated in a way that doesn’t exist in the US. I feel like in the US, sexuality is used and exploited even, but not truly appreciated. Even the popular definitions of beauty are not particularly femine. But here, a woman with curves is valued, and men take the time to admire a woman they find attractive. Although this can be kinda disturbing sometimes (there are a lot of pervs who just don’t have to hide it here the way they would elsewhere), there is also something about being female in a country where they like the feminine form. For once, curves are a good thing. Well, as long as you don’t work in the President’s office.

Anyhow, back to public interactions. I don’t smile at men on the street, because I think it would be an open invitation to something I’m not sure I want (ok, I’m definitely sure I don’t want). I don’t look people in the eye because even that can open unwanted interaction or dialogue. Plus, there are a lot of crazies in Jerusalem. Like, a lot. So if I ignore them, I will hopefully not be subjected to a lecture on how they are the messiah/I’m a bad person for not being covered head-to-toe/the whole world is going to hell/etc.

Of course, there’s also just the thing about becoming more Israeli. This is a population also known as “sabras” – after a native fruit that is prickly and hard on the outside, but sweet and wonderful on the inside. It’s true that Israelis can be tough and difficult and mean to people they don’t know, but are the warmest, most welcoming and accomodating people for their loved ones. Which means that when you’re out in public, there’s no accounting for what kind of atrocious behaviour you might encounter if you get in the way between them and their goal. Hence, no need, time, or point in making eye contact or saying hi – and they kind of just look at you like you might be a Jerusalem crazy, if you wish them a nice day. So I navigate the streets with my eyes forward, neutral face in place, avoiding the pervs and the crazies, until someone starts a friendly interaction and I’m as warm and sweet as can be!

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