Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taking a stand

Well, I am back in Tel Aviv after almost three weeks in the states where I got to go to Nashville (ew), Chicago (thanks Sally!), Minneapolis, New Jersey, and NYC. It was a great trip, had a great time with friends and family, showed Oren a real American Thanksgiving, and even got to navigate while Oren drove from New Jersey to New York City and back a few times for his friend Charles' wedding.

Now, back in Tel Aviv, I have started Ulpan which is the school that teaches me Hebrew. I go to class 5 days a week from 8:15am-12:50pm. They are long classes, but after just attending 3 of them, I am confident that it will be extremely worthwhile. Plus, the class has a real international flair, having students ranging from 16 years old to 65 years old, and coming from the USA, France, Russia, Italy, Singapore, Peru, and Taiwan.

The title for this blog entry comes from what occurred after I left Ulpan today. I walked past a fruit stand (these are quite common here in Tel Aviv) and saw a great looking mango. When I went to purchase it, the man told me that it would cost me 31 shekels. This sounded very high to me, but as I always like to give people the benefit-of-the-doubt, I rationalized that maybe they are currently out of season (as I haven't seen them at any other stores lately) and that is why it was so expensive. So, I paid for my fruit and started walking home. On my walk home, I was talking to Oren and decided to ask him if the price sounded appropriate. He angrily confirmed that the price I paid was, indeed, outrageous and that I had been taken advantage of. After his initial anger at his Israeli people for being so mean to his girlfriend, he suggested that I go into a nearby store and see what their cost for a mango would be. So, I approach a cash register, explain that I bought the mango elsewhere and that I expected I had been cheated, and asked them if they could tell me how much it weighs and therefore, how much it would cost in their store. So, it weighed .85 kilos and would have cost me 10 shekels at their store. With this new information, Oren got increasingly angry and suggested I take the mango back. At first, being the non-confrontational American that I am, I considered just letting it be and learning my lesson to be more careful next time. However, that notion passed quickly and I agreed with Oren that if I wasn't going to stand up for myself, than who would? So, I marched back 7 block to the fruit stand, getting more aggravated with every step thinking "Who does this fruit vendor think he is trying to mess with a nice Jewish girl from Minnesota who moved to HIS country and is learning HIS language, and working with HIS members of government and non-profit organizations to make HIS country a better place to LIVE????" By the time I got back to the fruit stand, I was no longer the nice, non-confrontational girl from Minnesota, but rather an angry member of Israeli society with a whole lot of Chutzpah!

I stormed up to the man who sold me the mango and the conversation went as follows:

Schmuck: There is a problem with the mango?
Me: No, there is not a problem with the mango. However, I realized that I can buy this same mango down the street for 10 shekels instead of 31 shekels and I refuse to pay for something that I was so over-charged for.
Schmuck: What do you mean? This is a good mango!
Me: I'm sure it is, but it is not worth 31 shekels and I think it is awful that you charged me that much.
Schmuck: But it is over 1 kilo!
Me: Actually sir, it is .85 kilos.
Schmuck: So you don't want the mango?
Me: I do want the mango, but I am not going to pay 31 shekels for it, so I would like to return it and get my money back.
Schmuck: (Begins to argue) But...
Me: Sir, you should really be ashamed of yourself for trying to take advantage of a person living in your country just because I am not from here and don't speak Hebrew yet. It is really unfortunate for me, as someone who is a contributing member of society, to have to experience something like this, and I think that next time you are in this situation, you should choose to act differently.

So, the Schmuck apologized and gave me my money back, and I walked away victorious and very proud of myself.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

In the words of Neil Diamond: We're comin to America

Well, it's been a crazy week. It has been crunch time with Yoel's upcoming fund-raising trip to the states, I had a donor in town, there was a private film screening of a movie about Ariel Sharon for his staff... I don't think we have been home one night this week!

Furthermore, this past week we decided it was a good idea for me to be at the United Jewish Community's General Assembly which is in Nashville this coming weekend. Unfortunately, this means I have to go back to Opryland again which I had vowed I would never do. Yuck. Furthermore, this completely altered my schedule as I was planning to be in MN for Thanksgiving, and me and Oren were heading home on November 16. Well, the GA starts the 11th and ends on the 13th, so it would be silly for me to come back to Israel for 2 days to turn around and fly back to the states. So, when I was originally only going to be in the states for 10 days, I am now going to be there almost three weeks. This isn't a bad thing, but of course, it was this week that various potential clients that I have been trying to get meetings with all decided that next week would be a good time to meet... and now I have to tell them I will not be available for 3 weeks... Not the ideal situation, but I am confident that my time at the GA will be well spent in regards to doing some major networking with donors and Israeli organizations which is exactly what I need to be doing right now. In honor of the GA, me and Oren constructed a lovely business card for me to hand out and we just got them back from the printer today. They are very pretty. Now I feel like a real business (Don't worry Jodi, I have 9 saved for you)!

So, Yoel has officially been in the states for about 12 hours now. It is extremely difficult for me that I am not there traveling with him from meeting to meeting. Never have I sent a client off to do meetings alone, let alone on their first official fund-raising trip. The original decision was made for him to go alone because a) We didn't want to spend the money on another ticket at this point- we need to raise the money first! b) I did not want to be gone for 3 weeks (guess that didn't end up working out anyway.) So, considering I cannot be there with him to make sure he is on schedule and such, I have been obsessively calling him all day. I know, it's obnoxious, but I can't help myself, and luckily, Yoel is very good and understanding about it (except for that I just called him twice to find out how his 4pm meeting went and he hasn't answered... it's making me nervous... so I texted him. Ridiculous, I know, but would it kill Israelis to start using Blackberries?? There is something about being able to email someone at any time that gives me a strange sense of comfort... This is what living in Washington, DC does to people.) I'm finding that, while these fund-raising trips can be stressful when in the states, it's even worse when I have to calculate the time difference so that I know when he should be done with a meeting or in a taxi to his next meeting, etc. so that I can call him. My brain is going into overdrive.

So, I have one more day of stressing out about Yoel's trip from a distance and then on Saturday I get on a plane and fly to Nashville via Newark and Cleveland. I will meet Yoel in Nashville for some good old Opryland fun, and then I am busting out of there Monday night, flying to Chicago, staying overnight (Thanks Sally!) and then home to Minneapolis on Tuesday morning where I will have quality time with the family, and then Oren will join us on Friday. I cannot wait for a vacation- this whole starting a business thing is exhausting!