Monthly Archives: February 2007

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

I started my new job this week. It seems to be going well so far. The people are nice  – really different (from me, what I’m used to working with, and each other), but good people. I hadn’t really wanted to work in a “Jewish” organization, and so of course I sit in a room the the other writer, who is an older religious woman. Naturally. She’s actually really sweet and knows a ton about project proposal writing, so it’s fine. I know I’ll learn a lot from her, professionally and as someone who lives a totally different lifestyle from me. She’s even invited me to her daughter’s wedding! She was like, Want to experience some realculture shock? and laughing as she handed me the invitation. Apparently there’s no masking my raging hippie-kibbutznik liberalism. I want to go, I think it will be like anything I’ve ever seen!

It’s a little weird, working at such a large organization – or maybe I’m just being paranoid. But it’s definitely not like working at a smaller place. The writing, however, is awesome. I’ve already written concept papers, project proposals, and even an ad/article/marketing piece that will be in a major newspaper! The projects have been really cool and interesting so far, and I’m getting positive feedback on my performance, so I don’t think they regret hiring me (yet, anyways). I know that I have a lot to learn, and I’m really excited about all of it. Plus the nature of the organization is such that even though my writing will be in English, I will be speaking and reading in Hebrew every day (writing, too, if I want). Maybe finally, literacy will be mine! I have questions and uncertainties too of course, but I guess I’ll not worry about them and deal with the less-pleasant things if/when they come up.

The brief era of having one roomie and a semi-salon (living room, I believe it is called in the US and A) is over. A new girl moved in this week, another art student replacing the one who moved out a couple weeks ago. She seems really cute and sweet, if a bit hyper-productive. In a good way. She’s a kibbutznikit, so of course that means a) she’s Good People, and b) my mom approves already. It’s always an adjustment to have changes in your home environment, especially when it means getting to know a stranger who is living in what you really want to be your living room. But I think (hope) this will be good. Plus, her English isn’t very good – another factor in the Israeli-Hebrewfication of Mika!

The other night, my roomie (the old one – the new one went to the kibbutz for the weekend) decided to have a “Swiss night.” There was fondue, Swiss pancake-crepes, wine and a coconut. The coconut was just because she thought it was cute. Not because it’s Swiss. Because it’s not. Duh. Moving along….

The food was delicious, the company was great, and a fun time was had by all. We stuffed ourselves silly with food that should only be eaten in small quantities and drank all kinds of wine before tackling the coconut. I was the resident expert, being the only one who has had coconut in the Pacific. And yes, I did crack that sucker open with a hammer, preserving the juice and covering the room with coconut hair and debris. Everyone was very impressed and I felt very tough. Then I won 2 games of TAKI (like an Israeli version of Uno, but not really all that much like Uno at all), washed a million dishes, and went to bed. All in all, a pretty successful night.

Oh and I forgot to report – now that the new roomie has moved in, the mattresses of the roomie who moved out have no place to rest. They are bigger than my bed, so I thought of buying them. “Try before you buy,” they say, so I am – they are now resting on top of my bed. Meaning my sleeping arrangement now looks something like the Princess and the Pea. Minus the pea, of course. But really, it reaches about mid-chest level. It’s pretty rad. I might keep it this way.

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A Pervasive Insecurity?

“All Jerusalemites know that sense of dread. The hesitation, as you choose your seat on the bus or your table at a restaurant, the suspicious glances at the people around you.”   -from The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Summer 2006 magazine

I don’t know how much I agree with the second part of this quote, the implication that life in Jerusalem is filled with constant companions in fear and suspicion. But I know about the sense of dread, from my own experience during the war and from conversations with people who have lived here longer than I. My life these days is mostly contained within the center of the city so I don’t deal with buses, but I do see soldiers everywhere and especially at the shuk. This week there was something going on where a police car stopped traffic on the street by the shuk, and yes, my first thought was that there might have been some suspicious bomb-related activity. On Friday, I saw a young soldier, high on power, verbally abusing some Arab-looking guy at the entrance to the shuk. I saw an older woman intervene, telling the young soldier to calm down and take it easy. I wanted to go to the Old City with a friend on Friday, but we didn’t because of the protests over the Israeli archaeological digging near the Al-Aqsa mosque. I don’t think about bombing anymore when I go into a restaurant, even though I have shown my bag to the security guard at the entrance. I don’t look at people as possible suicide bombers, and neither do most of the people I know. But the awareness is there, that we are not 100% safe. That this city is full of all kinds of tensions, that life is and will continue to be difficult. That’s just how it goes, here.

But today I found a haven, where Jerusalem seemed to drift away. I went to what turned out to be a Catholic seminary with my roommate, right near my house. I had thought it was a monastery. There is an open garden there, wild and facing the beautiful building. I don’t know if I can describe it really, but there is something special about that place. It felt a little bit like the Secret Garden, even though the garden itself wasn’t enclosed or anything. There is an open area with a statue of Mary and baby Jesus, wild flowers, old olive trees, green weeds shooting up everywhere, and rose plants in hibernation for the winter, save one that was blooming gently already. The building is the seminary and church, made in pinkish Jerusalem stone with the windows trimmed in blue. A young man came out to talk to us, a seminary student in his third year of study, originally from Congo. When he finishes here, he is going back to be a priest and teacher for his community. There were kids playing with another student and a priest, but on the veranda of the building, not in the garden with us.

It was beautiful, and touchingly peaceful. It felt like we had stepped out of Jerusalem into somewhere in Europe, in some other time. Usually I don’t think about the dread that I have come to live with – I call it tension, difficult living conditions because I am secular and liberal, missing the free California culture. But escaping like that, even for just an hour or so, reminded me that it is here. The garden, though, gave me a sense of calm and renewal. As Rasta Bob says, “Everything’s gonna be all right.”

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I see trees of greeeeeeeeeeeeeeen…

My ipod has died. I am forced to sing to myself, and surrounding onlookers by proxy. At the gym, I have no music besides the sometimes good, sometimes weird crap they play, or VH1-Europe. This is not a good situation. Especially for the innocent, unsuspecting victims subjected to the melodious strains of noise that emerge from my mouth when I try that ages-old discipline of singing.

Anyone want to contribute to the buy-Mika-an-ipod-even-though-she-should-be-a-leeeetle-more-concerned-about-how-she’s-going-to-pay-rent-because-she-hasn’t-been-paid-for-2.5-months fund? Anyone? hm.

 Finished at the old job yesterday, starting the new one on Sunday. I’m really excited, nervous, and unsure of what to expect. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, I found my new favorite pub, where I have decided to become a local. Of course, in a not-that-big and not-that-flat town like Jerusalem, I have to pick the FARTHEST one from my house, one that has a nice downhill walk on the way there but the longest uphill in the world on the way home. It is impossible to complete without stopping for a rest and the best chips (french fries for you foreigners) ever. It will be interesting to see how this works out for me.

 And to mommy dearest and everyone else worried about my safety out here in the wild wild Middle East, fear not. The mail is being carefully monitored, as evidenced by my need to call the main mail center of Israel and verify that in fact, the person sending me a package (my mom) was indeed who they said they were. Since this is the fourth? third? fifth? package I’ve received from her (yay Mom you’re the best!). A tad Big Brother-ish, especially since when I called they just asked me for the ID number of the letter and my name, and if I know the person sending me the package. I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit more nosy aunt than national security enforcement. I’m surprised they didn’t ask me what was in the package and if there was anything sweet, if they could have just a little.

Hey Dad, have I mentioned that I love drinking your coffee every morning? The best coffee ever, with the added flavors of love and home. It’s a link to family and my roots that bring it much more meaning than other good coffees that I have found around here.

Now, if only I could get paid…

what a wonderful woooooooooooooorld

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Ramblings

Part of this whole journey in Israel has been exploring the questions “Who am I,” “What are the values/ideals that I need/want to prioritize in my adult life?” And while these are explorations that can be conducted anywhere, I don’t think they’re as forced or raw as they are here in Israel, and especially here in Jerusalem. There is no escaping these questions.

Sitting in my friend’s house the other night, 4 bottles of wine amongst 4 people: an American anti-Zionist, a Palestinian, a Lithuanian-Russian, and me – talking about everything from nudism to the hypocricy of left-wingers to why wasn’t I born in Uzbekistan?? – There is nothing more life-affirming and self-developing. Even walking home with a scarf wrapped around my head like a babushka, an old soccer ball under one arm and an umbrella under the other: rediculous? Yes. But so is everything. In Israel, there just aren’t pretenses to the contrary.

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bits and pieces

On Saturday evening, after approximately 2.77 uses, the 10 shekel umbrella was retired to the dumpster. It looked like someone had taken a (really ugly-patterned) plastic bag and tried to stretch it over the metal framework of an old and broken umbrella frame – complete with loose flaps flying in the wind and random holes in the middle, thus defeating the purpose of holding one of these contraptions over your head. I thought briefly of keeping it, just for the memories, but…….no. Rest in piece, my ugly but beloved 10-shek umbrella.

I have a major problem with the car-drivers of Jerusalem. Well actually I have a number of problems with them, but I’ll only address one right now. And that is, when the weekend comes, they seem to feel that sidewalks are no longer needed and they can feel free to drive right on up there, park the car, and leave it that way for the WHOLE WEEKEND. Now I don’t know about you, but my need for a sidewalk does not diminish over Shabbat. Especially when it is raining and cars are splashing up nasty street water all over the place and THE SIDEWALK IS MADE FOR PEOPLE. To WALK. On the SIDE of the road. It is not a place for cars with owners too lazy to find proper parking. Maybe I should put up notices.

 Have I mentioned that I am struggling with my first real winter ever? Last night, coming home from the gym, I was wearing:

  • running tights
  • warmup pants
  • Under Armor cold gear long sleeve shirt
  • thick long sleeve Cal Poly Lacrosse shirt
  • puffy vest
  • Cal Poly lacrosse jacket
  • scarf
  • beanie

It’s COLD, people! And it’s not even snowing! I was thinking about it yesterday, and I think I can say with some confidence that I will never live in a place that snows every winter. I love the sunshine and outdoors, but not when it’s so cold all I can think about is how soon I can be inside and warm again and never go outside until warm weather has returned.

And finally, master of disaster act XLIVCD-28,34587: I decided it would be nice to put on warm pajama pants last night (I had been outside and was still recovering from the above-mentioned problem with the cold), so I rested them on top of the little space heater I’ve -ahem- borrowed from my roommate. I turned around to do something, and when I turned back, there was smoke. I quickly pulled the pjs off the heater. There was a little fire. No worries, I am excellent in situations like this. I held the smoldering pjs in one hand, and smothered out the embers with the other. I could be a firefighter……

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It’s Official

I GOT A NEW JOB I GOT A NEW JOB I GOT A NEW JOB!!!!!!!!!!

AND I’M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT!!!

(the caps indicate the magnitude of emotion and you can’t see it, but I’m doing a happy dance)

I’m going to be writing for a living (!!!), putting together project proposals to get funding for a major nonprofit. I’m really, really looking forward to developing this skill, using my abilities to help worthy programs get the money they need, writing, and having more stability in my workplace. The people seem really nice, and the office is even closer to my house than my current one (which I didn’t really know was possible, I already work rediculously close to home), and I’m actually looking forward to the work itself.

I’ll be staying in Jerusalem. I just couldn’t get excited about moving to Tel Aviv, even though I know that’s where I “should” want to live. But I love my friends and my life here. And they promise that it will get warm again, some day.

I am a bit sad to be leaving where I work now, since I love the people and it has been a great experience, for the most part. But such as life is, it’s time to move on. And I’m movin’ on up! Hm I guess I should work on cleaning up my language and act………..

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The World, today

I was reading the Melbourne daily paper The Age, as I do, and I was struck by some of the events going on around the world. A few of the highlights:

Australian Prime Minister John Howard and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark have been banned from Fiji. Am I the only one who finds this rediculous? They’ll just vacation in Tahiti or something! hahahaha

 A crack “kingpin” was found guilty in New York of paying some gangsters to kill some other gangsters. Now, this guy sounds like one scary mofo. But I don’t know what a kingpin is – it sounds like a bowling term. Note to self: stay away from the bowling alleys in the crack-infested areas of Queens. And the gangsters.

An Australian guy who has been jailed all over the world for fraud has been sentenced to 6 weeks in jail and fined 120,000 vatu (AUS$1,400) for entering the south Pacific island nation on Vanuatu illegally. He’s wanted in other countries for fraud charges, but it is still unclear whether he will be deported and/or extradited upon release. I don’t know why.

Los Angeles: “Burglers Stuff Chihuahua into Freezer.” in addition to the burglery charges, the criminals are going to be charged with animal creulty and etc. hm. Under California law, animal cruelty can be punishable by a 1-year jail term and a fine of up to US$20,000 (AUS$25,800).

Yellow and orange snow with a “musty odor” has fallen in Siberia. Officials are investigating. In the meantime, “Residents are advised not to use snow for their household or technical needs…”

 Local reports say that China has been secretly “harboring” the oldest son of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il in Macau, a special-status part of China (like Hong Kong). “In contrast to the deprived conditions, and in some cases starvation, suffered by most North Korean citizens, Mr Kim spends much of his time wining, dining and gambling in Macau’s growing number of casinos and slot machine parlours, and travels frequently to the mainland and abroad using passports from the Dominican Republic and Portugal, the paper said.” Apparently this may break talks between China and North Korea – and China is widely viewed as the country with the most ability to influence North Korean policy and activity.

A woman in Brazil has been accused of murdering her husband, who won a multimillion dollar lottery before they had gotten married. She says she’s innocent. All his assets go to her and a daughter.

So, to recap: two world leaders have been banned by a country nobody pays attention to unless they want to go on a beautiful, cheap vacation in the South Pacific, a druglord gangster was found guilty of conspiracy for murder and called bowling names, a terminal fraudster was jailed for 6 weeks and fined almost nothing and may not be deported from that country – while burglers in California might be jailed for a year and fined $20,000 for just doing what we all would like to do to the most annoying dog on the planet, it’s snowing yellow and orange in Siberia and officials think people use snow for domestic and technical activities, North Korea might continue their plans to take over the world because talks might break down between them and the Chinese because of the embarrassment of the North Korean dictator’s loser son, and a beautiful young widow in Brazil has been accused of having her old druggie lottery-winning husband murdered.

And people say things are messed up in the Middle East!

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