Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bikram Yoga Hell

Well, another week has gone by and it is time for a brief update. First and foremost, I am officially and legally the president of a small business now, so that is exciting.

Also, yesterday, I experienced my first Bikram Yoga class. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Bikram yoga is when you do yoga in a room that is 105 degree with 40% humidity. I know, it sounds awful, but Oren has raved about it since he started going it in Cambridge so I agreed to give it a try. Well, needless to say, it was literally like Hell. It was hot and painful. I don't particularly like heat, and I don't like pain.... so the combination of the two made me quite angry (which I'm assuming is the opposite response you are supposed to achieve from yoga...) About half way through the class (which was all in Hebrew, by the way, and when Oren would try to interpret something into English for me the teacher yelled at him for talking during class) I vowed I would never step foot in a Bikram Yoga studio ever again, and started getting extremely angry at Oren for convincing me that this was something that was actually enjoyable as opposed to a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Thanks to the heat and the bending over and having the blood rush to my head to try and achieve particular poses, I got pretty dizzy and nauseous about 3/4 in to it which I used as a good excuse to lie on my mat and silently curse my situation while rudely looking at my watch to see how much longer I had in Hell. However, I did stay in the room for the entire 90 minutes (you'd be surprised (or maybe not) by how many people walked out half way or 3/4 of the way through because they couldn't handle it anymore) and once I finally got out of the boiler room and cooled down a bit, I somehow came to the conclusion that I wanted to try it again. I'm not sure what it is.... maybe the challenge, maybe the curiosity of wanting to know if it is always this awful, or if it gets better... and after all of that sweating, I did feel quite cleansed... We'll see.

Alright, I'm about to call it a night. Happy Halloween to all!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Since I wrote that last post this morning, I was invited to attend the private ceremony for the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in the Prime Minister's office by Oren's boss and sat two rows behind Prime Minister Olmert. Cool stuff.

Live from the Knesset

Boker tov (good morning)!

I am writing to you live from the Knesset (aka the Israeli Parliment- in DC, this would be the Capitol building). I am here at the Knesset in Jerusalem for the second time this week to start working on Yoel's fundraising. Monday was my first day here and, needless to say, it was quite interesting.

It started out with me going with Oren to his office in the building where the Prime Minister works (in DC, this would be the White House) and got a great tour from Oren. However, unlike a White House tour, I was able to actually walk into the PM's office and take a picture behind his desk, etc. It was pretty cool. I then made my way over to the Knesset where I went through some of the most intense security for the 2nd time in an hour (the first time was in the PM's office)... The security here to get into one of these buildings is like trying to get into the Captiol, White House, and Regan National Airport all put together. Ridiculous. But I do understand and appreciate it.

After finding my way to Yoel's office, I quickly bonded with his other staff members who are great and then got down to business. Yoel is going to be in the states for the GA in November and has asked me to plan a 4-state fundraising trip for him while he is there. This gives me roughly 3 weeks to make this happen, but I think we will make it work... anyway.

Right after I got to the Knesset, I had a meeting with another Member of Knesset who had heard about me and wanted to talk with me about doing some fundraising for her. It was a very interesting meeting and I am going to do a bit of research on her potential donor base and get back to her in a few weeks...

After spending some time with Yoel's intern, Nicole, who is assisting me, Oren and Avi came over to go to lunch with us in the Knesset dining room. Of course, during lunch, Yoel had to point out to me that I have been in Israel less than 4 weeks and I am sitting in the Knesset dining room which few people ever get to be in, but not only am I there, but I am there with a "Member of the Jewish Parliament" (I was able to quote that last part along with him- it is one of his favorite statements) and that I should appreciate how special that is. It was quite funny. One minute I am in Joe Lieberman's kitchen, the next I am in the Knesset cafeteria... crazy.

So, this next part can be appreciated by my fundraising colleagues... I am trying to see how the "American style" of fundraising works here, meaning very structured, very detailed, very "American". So, I spent my afternoon making a few call sheets for Yoel (we make these for American politicians to give whoever is making the calls a feel for who they are speaking with, the background of their relationship to the person, and specifically what to ask them- they are a pain to make, but expected by US politicians). Also, I only made about 4, because the chance of getting an American politician to make more than 10 calls in one sitting is a rarity, and I wanted to start slow with Yoel since this was new for him. So, around 5:30 I finally sit down with him to start making calls. He picks up his master list of contacts and points to one and says "I am going to call him." I say "Ok... but you know, I have these call sheets with our priority calls..." And he says "Ok... we will call them later, but I'm going to call him now." I say, "Ok... well, do you want to take a look at the purpose of these other calls so that you know what we are asking these people?" He looks, says "Very professional..." I say "Thanks..." and he says "Ok, I am going to call this person now" and just picks up the phone and starts making calls. At first, this worried me, because it was so much less formal than our "American" system. However, Yoel turned out to be a natural, and as we made calls, he would ask me if he was saying things appropriately, I would coach him on how better to say this or that, etc. So, he makes a few calls and I figure we're good for the night, as I didn't want to overwhelm him on his first time... but then he kept going. And going. And going. Yoel must have made about 40 phone calls which, at least from my experience with American politicians, is unheard of. It was ridiculous. And amazing. We were here until 9:30pm, picked up Oren, and then went to dinner until 12:30am. Needless to say, I was completely exhausted (it was my first full day of work in a month!) but really pumped about how productive it had been.

That was Monday. Yesterday, I worked like mad from home all day until I had my meeting with the accountant, during which, I filled out the necessary paperwork to officially establish my own business. So crazy. Yossi, my accountant (I've never had an accountant before!) is fantastic and I could not feel more comfortable knowing that he is handing all of my "stuff."

So, I am back at the Knesset today, having lunch with Oren and his boss, and getting ready to go over the status of our trip with Yoel later this afternoon. I'm going to get back to work, but wanted to give a quick update because it has been awhile and a lot has happened!

Hope all is well with you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New pics posted!

Monday, October 15, 2007

New bike (again)

Well, I finally got over my bitterness from getting my new bike stolen after having it for less than 24 hours and bought another new bike yesterday! This one is hot pink, cruiser style, with a basket. It is very pretty, but more importantly, it has a heavy duty lock (for the daytime, at night, it will be sleeping on our deck of our apartment- taking NO chances with this one). Pictures coming soon!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More interesting dinner guests

Last night, we went to another dinner. This one was at the home of a guy who Oren knew through the Prime Minister's office and he had been a Wexner Fellow a few years before Oren. As I had noted yesterday, there always seem to be really interesting people at these dinners, and last night was no exception. Not only was it an international dinner with guests from India, Brazil, New York, and LA, but the one guest that I think you, as my American friends, could appreciate most was Ryan Seacrest's agent. Yeah, the guy from American Idol, and E!, and the Academy Awards host... This guy's actual job was not only representing Ryan, but he was also responsible for shows like Project Runway and Next Top Chef. He turned out to be a really nice guy, so we now have a friend in "Show biz" ;-)

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Last night, Oren and I went to dinner at his friend Ami's house. Ami is Oren's dear friend and attorney, and he is going to be my legal counsel as I start my business. Ami and his wife live in a beautiful apartment that opens up to a rooftop where we had our dinner by candlelight overlooking the city. It was really quite impressive. Not only was the dinner impressive, but the guests were as well. Probably the most unique dinner guest was someone named Kobi, who I quickly learned was the top hip hop/rap artist in Israel and goes by the stage name Subliminal. He is becoming a world-wide phenomenon so you may know who he is if you are a hip hop/rap fan. I also learned that he has his own record label that is hugely successful and has been collaborating with a bunch of American rappers recently... Needless to say, it was a very interesting dinner, and everyone had good stories that we were there until 2am. Another dinner tonight... more stories to come.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I've finally learned how to use Picasa and will now periodically be posting random pictures from my time here at the following link for your viewing pleasure...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hit the ground running

Well, it's been awhile! Since the wall and bike "incident", we spent our last few days of vacation doing a lot of walking and a lot of relaxing- it was fantastic. However, yesterday marked the end of the 10 days of vacation, and so it meant Oren went back to work and I was on my own for the first significant period of time since moving here. I was ready!

My first task of the day was to go to the Ministry of the Interior to get some paperwork taken care of. It was a good 30 minute walk to get there (would have been a much shorter bike ride...) and once I got there, the only experience I can compare it to is going to the DMV. That is how slow, disorganized, and annoying it was. However, here you had the added ingredient of pretty much everyone there not speaking English or Hebrew, and an unfortunate lack of deodorant. I had to stand in line in front of an older "foreign" woman who had no sense of personal space, and kept standing against me in line. And then, when she thought I should be moving forward, she would put her hands on my hips and guide me forward, or tap my butt. I kept giving her looks because I was pretty sure she didn't speak any English, but finally I turned around to her and said "Ma'am, there really isn't anywhere else for me to go so please stop pushing me." Then she stopped and ran away. It was weird.

Anyway, once I put in my 2.5 hours there, I made my way back towards home with the intention of doing some cooking. I love cooking, but between graduate school, work, and being out of town every other weekend, I have not had much time for this hobby over the past few years. However, until my business gets totally up and running, I need to take advantage of this free time. So, I decided I wanted to make some pasta with bolognese sauce (a favorite from living in Florence) and apple turnovers. Long story short, I had to make three separate trips to the grocery store because I kept buying the wrong things, as I was basing my purchases mostly on the pictures on the boxes because everything else describing the product I was buying was written in Hebrew. Mind you, I've shopped in foreign grocery stores before, but at least in Italy, words are written using the same alphabet that we use and you can somewhat figure out what things say... in Hebrew, not so much. The bolognese turned out great, but I was unable to make the apple turnovers because no one here seemed to know what puff pastry was...

After dinner last night, we went out for a second dinner with Oren's friend Gil. Gil had been invited to join us for our first dinner, but he does not eat glutton and, therefore, could not eat my pasta, so we compromised and decided to meet him for a 2nd lite dinner. I met Gil on my last visit here and we became instant friends. He recently became an adviser to one of the Ministers, and was telling us amazing stories from the past 10 days he spent with her in New York. Half way through our second dinner, Yoel joined us. It is hard to describe in writing how completely amusing Oren, Yoel, and Gil can be when they are all together. I'm not sure how one would expect the head of an agency for the Prime Minister's office, a member of Knesset, and an adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to act, but if you did not know this about them, you would probably never guess it. Especially when we are in the car and Oren is tickling Yoel from the back seat and Yoel is screaming "STOOOP! I AM A MEMBER OF THE JEWISH PARLIAMENT!" Yup. Needless to say, it was a fun way to end the day.

Oren just got home from a few meetings in Tel Aviv and we're going to go grab lunch before he has to go back to more meetings. More later!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cement pics

As promised...

And, for the record, today was much better than yesterday!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It was all going so smoothly until now...

So, something I have yet to mention in the blog is that, as Tel Aviv is an always expanding city, they are always building and renovating apartment buildings. One of the apartment buildings that they are currently building is, unfortunately, right next door to us (literally) and every morning we are woken up at 6:45am when they start hammering outside of our window. So, we have started a daily tradition of moving from the bed to the couch around 6:45am, and then sleeping a few more hours on the couch. This is annoying, but not a big deal- especially when we actually have to start getting up for work in the morning anyway.

So, this morning, like every other morning, we are woken up at 6:45am, bring the pillows and blanket to the couch, and fall back asleep. As I am drifting in and out of slumber, I am hearing banging and sawing and thinking "wow, that is getting so loud.. it sounds like they are in our apartment..." and then would fall back asleep. After doing this a few times, I was woken up by a buzzing noise which meant someone was outside of the apartment. We both somewhat ignored it, because we didn't know of anyone who was coming over. A few minutes later, we had an actual knock on our door but by the time we got up and got to check who it was, there was no one there. As I turned around to walk past the kitchen and back to the couch, I looked through the kitchen into our back storage room, and I saw two men standing in there. Needless, to say, I freaked out and started yelling for Oren that there were two men in the storage room. Oren ran in and started asking them (in Hebrew) what they were doing, and we realized they did not speak Hebrew, rather, they spoke Arabic. Upon closer inspection, we realized that they were in our storage room for a good reason- they were removing the 3 feet of cement that had broken through the wall of our storage room and flooded it. Apparently, someone miscalculated something, and whatever was supposed to be in place to prevent the cement from breaking through the wall was not in place. So, as the two Arab men stood in 3 feet of cement and shoveled it into buckets, their supervisor who spoke Hebrew explained to a stunned Oren and me what had happened and told us that they would rebuild the way by Sunday and reimburse us for any property that was damaged (luckily we didn't have a ton of stuff in the room...) So, we spent the rest of the day sitting in the apartment to keep an eye on the "progress" they were making in removing the cement. Photographic proof of this memorable experience coming soon...

At a point later this evening, we finally left the apartment only to be faced with the incredibly sad reality that our bikes had been stolen overnight. Yes, both Oren's bike and the pretty green retro bike with a basket that I got yesterday. Stolen. Oren had been locking his bike up there for months now and never had any trouble... Ridiculous, right?

So, we have concluded that it is time to take matters into our own hands, and first thing tomorrow morning we are going out and purchasing an evil eye to ward off whatever yuckiness has fallen upon us and finally get the parchment for our Mezuzah (non-Jews inquire within and I will explain) and get it hung up ASAP. Call it superstitious or whatever you like, but we are willing to try it.

Alright, time for bed. Here's hoping that tomorrow goes more smoothly than today!

Monday, October 1, 2007

My new wheels

I have learned quickly that one of the best ways to get our Tel Aviv is by bike. A few days ago, me and Oren went for a 4 hour bike ride along the sea and then the river using his bike and a bike left behind by the lady who used to live in our apartment. Neither bike was really the right size or style for me, but I did my best, and even though it was too tall (and I fell a few times- don't worry, nothing serious) and the seat was quite painful, I still really enjoyed seeing the city by bike and wanted to get one of my own.

So, today, still sore from my ride 2 days ago, I bought a pretty green bike. But not just a green bike- it is lime green and retro style, so it's all curvy with high handlebars and such. And, it has a basket. It's really quite wonderful and I love riding it. And, I'm pretty sure that I look really cool riding my green bike with my white helmet, stuff in my basket, and ringing my bell. Don't worry, there will be photos soon so that you don't have to use your imagination.

A random note- I have never watched more Star Wars than I have since I got to Israel. By the time me and Oren get home every night around 11pm, it seems that one of the only shows on TV in English is one of the Star Wars movies. I still am not sure why this is so popular in Israel (though I did hear one of the characters say "shalom" in the first movie). So far, I have now seen the first movie (the new one) and the fourth one (the first of the "old" ones). They are pretty good...I like the old ones better than the new ones... kinda random though. Maybe before I start having to go to bed at reasonable times I will have seen the entire series of Star Wars movies... one can only hope.

Anyway, I'm off for now. Force be with you.

P.S. Megster- Chutzpah is a Hebrew word, not Yiddish, and I am happy to help you continue your Hebrew education ;-) Today I learned Nak-ni-ki-ya- it means "Hot dog." I have found that Israeli's tend to like to re-create the "American fair" atmosphere on various occasions- last time I was here I experienced it in Jerusalem, and tonight in Tel Aviv. They put up all sorts of food stands in an area that sell all "American" style fair food... like hot dogs, pizza, burgers, fries... and even sell frozen yogurt called "American Ice Cream" which basically really thick frozen yogurt. It's very funny and after I had some "American Ice Cream", I started craving a hot dog, hence, the new vocab word. Enjoy!