Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Two trips to the states and one primary election later, I am back and finally enjoying the "boring" routine of every day life again. I say "boring" because every day here always turns out to be the opposite of boring, but at least I have been able to wake up in the same city two days in a row and not live out of a suitcase. These are things many people take for granted! Not that I don't enjoy traveling for work- it is usually one of the most exciting parts of my job, being able to build relationships face to face and see people get excited about a cause. It's just that it can get exhausting!

However, I'm please to say that all of the exhausting efforts were worth it. I just finished an amazing fundraising trip with Elem, my client that works with Israeli youth who are in distress and/or homeless. This was no ordinary trip, as we brought with us Elem's president, former first lady of Israel, Nava Barak, and a young woman who lived on the streets for five years and who was helped by Elem to lead a normal life again. All together, there were 5 of us traveling for this "road show" and regardless of the logistics, weather, and other "challenges", the trip was a huge success. Such a huge success, in fact, that we are already planning our next trip for the beginning of February. No rest for the weary...

On top of this great success, the Kadima primary election was on December 17 and my client ended up getting the 11th place in the party! He was originally number 29, so this was a huge deal for him. Even better (for me), we ended up raising the third largest total amount of money for a Kadima candidate (there were over 70 candidates, and we were only beat by the Minister of Finance and the Speaker of the Knesset), and it appears that we were number one in raising money from Americans! Needless to say, I am quite pleased with myself.

Another highlight of Kadima's primary election was outcome of the campaign that Oren has been managing for the last 1.5 months. His candidate was the current Minister of Public Security, Avi Dichter, who had been appointed to his position years ago and therefore, he had never had to campaign for a place in the party before. There was a lot of pressure for Dichter to prove himself as someone who could be elected, not just appointed, so Oren and his staff ran an intense and country-wide campaign that proved to be very successful, as Dichter ended up in 9th place on the Kadima list (actually, the first two seats in Kadima were reserved for the chairman and her deputy, so technically, Oren's candidate ended up in 7th place)!

Oren's campaign ended the day before I returned from my business trip, so we decided to take the weekend and go to a luxurious spa up in the Carmel Mountains of Haifa. It was the kind of place where all of the guests (including us) walk around in white fluffy bathrobes and slippers the entire time, and spend our days rotating between soaking in the hot tub, relaxing in the turkish baths, eating, or getting some sort of massage treatment. I, personally, enjoyed a hot and cold stone massage which was, needless to say, a very unique experience. As with all vacations, this was far too short, but it helped recharge our batteries a bit before jumping back in to the work craziness.

On our way back from the spa, we stopped at a restaurant in Herzliya for dinner. It happened to also be the first night of Hanukkah, and I had one of my "this would never happen in the states" moments when the entire restaurant stopped what they were doing to light the Hanukkah candles together and say the prayers. It was a nice experience, and I hope that you all are having a Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas wherever you may be celebrating.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Times They Are A'Changin'

I'm sorry... I'm sorry! I know, it's been a really long time since I blogged and I know there are many of you are are upset about this. I'm sorry! I've been really busy!! With what, you ask? Well let's see...

I spent a very hectic two weeks in the USA on a business trip with Elem (my client that works with Israeli youth at risk). It was a successful, but exhausting trip. One of the best parts was being able to see some of my favorite people while in Boston and Chicago. I think that is one of the best parts of my job, is that it allows me to spend time with good friends- the kind of friends who you may not see for months at a time, but when you are together, it is as if time has never passed.

While I was in the states, I also spent a few days in Minneapolis with the fam. It was during this time that I helped my family pick out a new puppy!! His name is Teddy (because he looks like a teddy bear) and he is the cutest little thing you will ever see. Just to brighten your day, I am including some pictures of him. I hear from home that he is being a very good boy, and is bringing them a lot of joy, so I can't wait to see him in a few weeks when I am home for Thanksgiving.

It was also while I was in the states that an election was called in Israel. As some of you may know, an election can be called at pretty much any time here, and it just so happened to get called while I was in Chicago. This is a big deal for me, because one of my clients is a Member of Knesset whose re-election campaign began the day the election was called. Needless to say, we shifted into high gear very quickly (from the guest room at Lisa and Josh's apartment), and we are now intensely collecting the $100,000.00 that he is allowed to use towards his Primary Campaign.

If that were all I had to work on right now, it would be hectic enough, but I am also in the process of planning a huge trip for Elem that will take place at the beginning of December which is driving me up the wall. Planning a normal trip from another continent is challenging enough, but this time I am bringing an entourage of special guests and VIPs with me (one of them being Nava Barak, the former first lady of Israel) and we are doing some major events that are of very high importance to my client. So, I've been up until the wee hours of the morning for the past week either working on Yoel's fundraising for his Primary Campaign, or going back and forth with Boston and Chicago trying to get the details of our events nailed down.

And if THAT weren't enough to drive me cuckoo, an old friend called me a few days ago and told me that he decided to run for a seat in the Knesset, and asked if I could help him with his fundraising. So, make that TWO Primary Elections I am now raising money for, PLUS a massive high-level trip at the beginning of December. And, exhale.

Enough with all that. Many of you have asked me to react to Barak Obama winning the presidential campaign, and I must say, it is truly an exciting thing. As many of you know, I have not always been a 100% Obama fan (even though I had a facebook message the morning after the election from a friend reminding me that I had told him 3 years ago that Obama would be our next President when most people had still never heard of him), but I could not be happier or more impressed with the choice of so many Americans in this election. I could not believe when I woke up at 6:30am to learn that Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Indiana... all of them went blue! And furthermore, the voter turn out was incredible! I am even more thrilled with the fact that Obama chose Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. Anyone who was worried that Obama would not surrounded himself with good people (or Pro-Israel people, for that matter) need not worry any more. I thought that was a very significant first move on Obama's part, and I can't wait to see what will happen next.

And with that, I will stop procrastinating and go back to raising money and planning VIP events for December. Never a dull moment, but I promise to start blogging regularly again.

P.S. Here are the pictures of Teddy. Enjoy :)

Friday, October 3, 2008

The problem with Israeli business culture

Thanks to Rosh Hashana, Oren had the morning off of work on Tuesday. We celebrated by having breakfast at a sea-side restaurant near Herzliya and then buying ourselves a beautiful red Kitchen Aid mixer as a Rosh Hashana gift (yes, I was and still am overcome with great joy and happiness). However, the latter part of our wonderful morning was easier said than done.

The Kitchen Aid store that we went to just opened a few weeks ago, so you would think they would be eager to do business. We got to the store around 1pm and noticed that the door was locked. The sign said that it was supposed to be open until 2pm, and all of the employees were still in the store, yet, the door was locked. We knocked on the door and asked if we could come in, and they shook their heads and yelled through the glass door that the store was closed. When we pointed out that they were closing an hour early, they shrugged and said it was because of Rosh Hashana. This did not make sense to us, so Oren told them, literally, "If you let us in, we will buy a Kitchen Aid mixer from you." While this may be of interest to sales people in other parts of the world, it did little to excite this group of people. After a few more minutes of negotiations, they finally opened the door saying that we could only look, but not buy anything. Seriously. We quickly decide that we want a red mixer (to match our other appliances, naturally) and we then had to beg them to sell it to us. Seriously. We had to beg them to let us spend money at their store on their product. This would never happen anywhere else, because in other places, people understand not only the concept of customer service, but merely the notion of good business. The exchange of money for goods and services. Finally, a clearly unhappy salesperson agreed to sell us the mixer and the rest is beautiful baking history.

The first thing I did when we got home is make up some more cupcakes and used the mixer to whip up some Swiss Meringue Marshmallow Frosting that was insanely good. I think I am going to make some more tonight to go on some carrot cake cupcakes :-)

Happy New Year!!

The new mixer making frosting

Delicious frosted cupcakes

The view from where we had breakfast

Sunday, September 28, 2008

1 Year

Last night, we had a fabulous party at our apartment to commemorate my one year anniversary in Israel. If I do say so myself, we throw really good parties. We have yummy food, great drinks, and always wonderful friends who join us. Last night was no exception. We went with an American/Israeli theme, so we had hot dogs and falafel (with all of fixins for both, of course). With all of my free time now that Oren away on the campaign trail, I have been doing a lot of baking, so for the party I made some amazing chocolate cupcakes with vanilla and chocolate cream cheese frosting and a wonderful banana cream pie. So yummy! We rounded out the evening with some Max Brenner chocolate, some American beer (Samuel Adams) and some delicious champagne. Friends started coming around 8pm and did not leave until around 2am. It was a really enjoyable evening and it made me very happy to have so many of the people who have played a meaningful role in my first year here to celebrate with me.

On a totally separate note, the other day at my pilates class, it was just me and an older man there for the lesson. After the class, we went into the back room to get our things and we started chatting. I learned that he was from Tel Aviv but has been in LA for the past few years. He then asked me where I was from. I told him Minnesota and he immediately responded with "I thought that only Rose Nyland was from Minnesota!" He then followed that statement with "Are you from St. Olaf??" I know that many of you may not understand this story at all, but for you Golden Girls fans out there, you can understand my joy in experiencing such a Goldern Girls reference at such an unexpected place and time. Gotta love it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Big, Fat, Political Wedding

Last night, Oren and I were invited to attend the wedding of Oren's former boss' daughter. We actually have three weddings to attend this week, so this one did not particularly stand out to me as anything special when we RSVPed that we would attend. Yesterday was a crazy day for both me and Oren work-wise, so around 9:00pm, I got dressed up for the wedding, hopped in a taxi, picked up Oren on the other side of town where he had just left a campaign gathering for his candidate, and we rushed off to the wedding. When we were almost there, the traffic came to a standstill as a motorcade passed us by. Jokingly, I asked Oren if was Tzipi Livni's motorcade since she was just elected to be the new Prime Minister yesterday, and he replied, in complete seriousness, that it was actually Ehud Olmert's motorcade (aka the guy almost done being Prime Minister). I then, again, jokingly asked if he was coming to the wedding too and Oren, again in all seriousness, replied that yes, he was probably heading there as well. It was then that I realized that Oren worked for this guy whose daughter is getting married when the guy was the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister's office under Ariel Sharon, and since Olmert was the Deputy Prime Minister when Sharon was PM, it made a lot of sense that Olmert would attending and it made me wonder who else might be there...

So, we followed Olmert into the wedding, where he was whisked off to his roped off table in the corner that was surrounded by security guards. He later, on his way out of the wedding, said hello to Oren and I. He pretended to remember me from when we met last January and Oren took the opportunity to let him know that he has never been happier than since he left the government. Olmert seemed to appreciate that.

About 30 minutes later, I was sitting with a friend when I saw a nice looking old man walking towards us. I starred at him trying to figure out how I knew him, when I turned to my friend and asked "Is that Shimon Peres?" She confirmed that it was, in fact, the President of Israel walking around the wedding reception, and he then proceeded to come over, take my hand, and wish me a "Shana Tova" (Happy New Year). I wished him a "Shana Tova" back, and that was that.

After I got over the shock of Israel's President wandering around at someone's wedding, Oren and I decided it was time to go home. We were just about at the door when Oren noticed Tzipi Livni had just arrived to the party. This was by far the most exciting sighting of the evening, as I am a huge fan of hers and am so excited that she just was elected to be Prime Minister. She knows Oren from when he worked for Sharon, so we went over and said hello, and Oren introduced us, explaining to her that it was my first time voting in Israel and that I voted for her. She was genuinely excited about this, and I then proceeded to gush about what an honor it was to meet her and how excited I am that she is the new Prime Minister and that I know she will do a fantastic job, etc, etc. Probably a little bit much, but I was just so excited to meet her!

So, overall, it was a big, fat, political wedding- it's going to be difficult for the other two weddings this week to measure up!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Learning Hebrew: Take 4

I have recently started trying to learn Hebrew for the fourth time. The first time was from the 3rd to 7th grade where I was educated at the fine Minneapolis institution known as Talmud Torah (aka Talmud Torture). The second time was my freshman year of college when I suffered through a painful semester with Zvi who would constantly taunt me "Fo-coos Day-bee, Fo-coos!" The third time was last November in Ulpan where the demanding 25-hours a week of classes did not mesh with my starting/running a business. So, this time, I decided try something different. Instead of going the class route, I am working one-on-one with a tutor. I realized that one of the reasons I did not learn as much as I should have in my other attempts is because the classroom format allows me to zone out and not ask the questions I may have. I figured that when it is just me and the teacher, I cannot zone out and I cannot avoid asking my questions... and boy, do I have questions! Fortunately, I am always pleasantly surprised when my tutor has thorough answers to all of them!

My tutor is an American who moved to Israel 5 years ago and is just finishing her Master's degree in Hebrew. We meet three times a week for an hour each time, and even after just four classes, I already feel like I am understanding more of what I hear around me and I have become more comfortable trying to speak. She is so incredibly enthusiastic about how wonderful Hebrew is, that it has given me a renewed interest in learning the language. At every class, she will tell me one thing that she loves about Hebrew- for example, she loves that in Hebrew, we use the same word to mean "setting up two people" as we use for "stapler", the connection being that both the action of setting up two people and stapling things is the intention to "attach" one thing (person or paper) to another thing (person or paper). Cute, yes?

In other news, there is some new excitement on the professional front. Oren was just recently asked to manage the campaign for a woman who is running to be the mayor of a nearby city. This is something that he has always been interested in and studied while he was at Harvard, so having this opportunity is just fantastic. Unlike in the states, the campaigns here do not begin insanely far in advance, so he just signed on to the campaign today, and the election is in about 8 weeks. We are anticipating a crazy 8 weeks where he will be managing this campaign and still working with Avi on their business clients, but we are prepared and excited to make it all work. On top of this, the primary elections that will decide the next Prime Minister of Israel are on Wednesday, so between that and the campaign, I am looking forward to a lot of new political experiences in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I was due...

I guess you could say I was due for a profoundly awkward moment. I am somewhat prone to these, but have not had one for quite some time. So, it really was not all that surprising yesterday when I had one.

Yesterday, Oren, Avi, and I took a field trip to Jerusalem to meet with a potential client that the three of us would be working for together. The project is helping restore the original Prime Minister's mansion that was the home to many of Israel's great PM's (Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, etc.). The plan was that Oren and Avi would manage this process, while I would raise the funds for it. The organization that we were hoping would hire us is the Levi Eshkol Foundation, which is run by Prime Minister Eshkol's wife. She has been unwilling to undertake this project herself, as she is 80 years old, and the goal of yesterday's meeting was to convince her that, although we are young, we are all very capable and competent people.

So, about half way through the meeting (which was mostly in Hebrew, meaning I understood about 15% of what was being said), I asked Mrs. Eshkol where her bathroom was. I did not find anything strange about this, but apparently I chose to ask this question at an unexpected time, because Mrs. Eshkol found it to be funny. I made my way to the bathroom trying to figure out why she found it so funny, and as I washed my hands I decided to ignore it, and reminded myself that the whole point of this meeting was to come across as capable and competent so that she concludes that we can be trusted with this important project. And that is when I realized that I had locked myself in the bathroom.

It was an old-fashioned lock that is not at all uncommon in Israel- the kind that has the big key hole and the huge key that you turn to lock or unlock. I am familiar with these locks from living here for a year, so this should not have been a problem. However, as I turned and turned, and pulled the key out and put the key back in, and turned some more, I realized that the door was not unlocking. I immediately began to feel claustrophobic, as this bathroom was barely big enough for the toilet and sink that were in it, and as the room started to close in, I kept turning the key and trying to wiggle it in the "magic" way that would unlock the door.

It was at that point that I heard Avi's voice on the other side of the door asking tentatively "Debbie? Are you okay in there?" Apparently my frantic key turning had been so noisy that it drew attention away from the meeting of 6 people that was occurring in the other room. I responded by telling him that I can't seem to unlock the door, which is when I hear Mrs. Eshkol from the other side of the door asking urgently "Did you lock the door?? We never lock the door here because it gets stuck!" I silently thought to myself that knowing that before I went to the bathroom would have been useful, but was interrupted by Avi who told me that he grew up with a lock like this and if I took the key out of the lock, he thought he could open it from the outside. Over the next few minutes, I started wondering how much of a dent this scenario would put in my efforts to appear capable and competent, when finally the door swung open and I was free! I then had the distinct pleasure of walking back into the meeting room where the other 4 people were sitting at the meeting table waiting for me to get released from the bathroom and, as professionally as possible, sat down and continued the meeting.

Fortunately, even with my awkwardness, she still decided to let us manage this project, which means much more quality time at Mrs. Eshkol's apartment where there will be no more locking of any doors. Ever.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The definition of insanity?

I believe that it was Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results. It was with this thought in mind that I entered into my second Bikram Yoga class last night. If you recall from my post awhile back, I tried Bikram Yoga a few months ago and absolutely hated it. I was miserable. And, as Oren recalls, I have never given him such angry looks as during those hot and painful 90 minutes in that steamy room. However, for some unknown reason, perhaps because I've started to like the pilates so much, I decided I wanted to try the hot yoga again and see if I would have a different result. Surprisingly, the result did change! By no stretch of the imagination did I enjoy it, but I did not hate it. And, afterwards, I felt so good and relaxed and I slept better than I have in a long time. I don't see myself becoming a regular, but I definitely would not rule out trying it again. You never know- maybe next time I will actually like it!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I am the first to admit that I have not missed being part of this year's presidential election. I feel, like many do, that it started waaaay to early and has, therefore, gone on for far too long. I have not missed the TV ads, the constant analysis on the 24-hour news channels, or the annoying phone calls (even though we actually do get a few since we have a 202 area code on our landline here). However, since the Democratic National Convention has started I have been obsessed. Waking up every morning and, for at least an hour, watching as many video clips as I can find of the previous day's speeches and analysis by a variety opinionated people. Once I look through all of the video clips, then I start looking for news articles about the previous day. And then, last but definitely not least, I go on facebook and look at pictures people have uploaded from the convention. Those are usually the best part, because they tend to include random celebrities who are attending the convention posing awkwardly with people who I maybe/kinda/sorta know from my time in DC but who I am, of course, friends with on facebook. It is my way of attending the convention vicariously through them. I have the most wonderful memories of the 2004 DNC in Boston, that I am truly sad to miss this one, however, I have decided that there is nothing that will keep me away from the 2012 DNC, wherever it may be.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Blog is Back

That's right, I'm back on the blog! After a long break from blogging, I have decided that it is time to start up again for two reasons. First, I enjoy having records of my "memorable" experiences here in Israel. Second, my friends and family apparently enjoyed the blog quite a lot, and after my cousin recently told me that for her, it was like her weekly dose of "Sex and the City" (minus the fact that it is her cousin writing, minus the fact that it is Tel Aviv and not New York, etc.), I decided, that since she is at home with three little boys (two of which are twins!) I could, at the very least, do this for her and give her something to read during nap time :-)

So, I am currently sitting in a cafe sipping my cafe kar (iced coffee) and munching on my muesli, and feeling a constant throbbing of pain in my legs. This constant throbbing is thanks to a new hobby I have acquired in recent weeks known as Reformer Pilates. A new studio opened a few blocks from us and I figured "why not try something new?" Reformer Pilates is similar to the Pilates that you are probably familiar with, except the entire class takes places on these big wooden machines that look like Midieval torture devices (for a photo- There are springs, and boards, and chains, and loops for arms and legs. It looks quite intimidating, but it provides a really great and productive work out that I usually enjoy very much. However, on this last occasion (on Monday), I got a little lazy in class and did not "maintain my core" in the way that I was apparently supposed to, and over-extended what I believe to be my long adductor (one of the muscles on the inner thigh). I admit, it does make me feel quite athletic to have strained a muscle from such enthusiastic (or, in this case, lazy) exercising, but I would prefer feeling less athletic to having a strained muscle. I guess this will teach me to maintain my core from now on...

Besides my new-found athletic side, all is well here in the Holy Land. I just returned from 2.5 weeks in the states, part for business, part to visit family and friends. Oren just spent 10 days in Japan on a government trip, from which he brought us back many beautiful things that are now on display around our apartment, including a red silky "summer kimono" for me. I look very Asian when I wear it. My business continues to grow and evolve, and I think that now that I am almost a year into this whole "running a business" thing, I am actually feeling like I am getting the hang of it. I have crossed the income threshold that requires me to upgrade my status from "tiny business" to "small business" and I am looking to possibly hire my first employee in coming months, so that will be very exciting. Oren is in the process of starting his own consulting business with his friend Avi, so our apartment has become a busy office space, housing two new businesses. The fun part is that some of our clients overlap, so the three of us have the opportunity to work together which is always a good time.

Israeli politics have become increasingly interesting lately with Prime Minister Olmert deciding to step down and calling a Primary Election. Coincidentally, I am friends with people who work with 3 of the 4 candidates who may become Prime Minister, so I am enjoying seeing this election from both an insiders and outsiders point of view. I am constantly comparing election styles here to what I know and studied in the states (it is what my Masters Degree from GWU is in), and I am constantly surprised by how much more sophisticated campaigning is in the United States. This makes sense, as we have been doing and studying campaign strategy much longer in the states than they have in Israel (I'm not even sure that they have someone here who actually studies it...), but it still surprises me how much room there is for professional campaign management and strategy here.

On a totally separate note, I have to express my enthusiasm over all of the "Pink Berry" copycats that have been popping up all over Tel Aviv. I'm sure most of you are familiar with this concept by now, as I know they are all over the East and West Coasts (and Chicago... and one in Minneapolis that I found while I was home). It is one of my new favorite things and I am highly obsessed with it. Our favorite shop is just a 5 minute walk from our apartment called Kafoo (which means "frozen" in Hebrew). It truly thrills me that, for all of the things that Israel may be lagging behind in (ex. customer service, having quality ziplock bags, campaign strategy, etc.), that a few brilliant people recognized the value in opening Pink Berry style yogurt shops here. After all of this writing about it, I think I have to sign off now and go get some Kafoo (with mango, granola, and bittersweet chocolate- YUM!) I hope to update the blog at least once a week from now on, and hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

Off to Kafoo!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Customer Service

Well, once again it seems I have been slacking on the blog writing. I do apologize. I think it is because I have been doing so much over-communicating for work, that my personal communicating has started to slack, which is lo tov (not good). I am going to try very hard to stay on track with the blog now... maybe even schedule some "blogging time" in to my handy little blackberry calendar. I must admit, I tried going without a blackberry for my first two months here, and since I got it in November, it has so hugely simplified my life that I can voluntarily say that I am dependent on it and dread the thought of losing it or breaking it. I will never forget when my former boss called us (us being my office) to tell us that she had dropped (or thrown) her blackberry in the toilet and my former co-worker/one of my favorite people Heather had to fake power of attorney (you can actually print off these documents online) in order to get my boss another blackberry. However, I digress...

Things here in the holy land have been rocking and rolling- literally. On Friday, I experienced my first earthquake! It was pretty minor- a 5.3 on the scale, but it was the strangest sensation and I didn't even know what it was until later that day when I saw it in the news. I was just sitting in a cafe (Max Brenner, for those of you who can appreciate how wonderful the cafe was that I was sitting in) reading the newspaper and all of a sudden, I felt like I was sitting on a floating dock, like the floor below me was kind of bobbing up and down in a gentle rolling motion. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, and no one seemed to, though I saw that my coffee and orange juice were oddly swishing around in their glasses. As quickly as I noticed it, it stopped, and I wondered briefly if I had some sort of equilibrium imbalance, and then shrugged and went back to my newspaper.

On the work front, things continue to be busy. I spent the past 3.5 weeks trying to figure out how to get paid by 5 separate clients who want to be invoiced in 5 different ways and at 5 different times and in 5 different formats. It doesn't help that two of the groups are two of the most bureaucratic organizations in, probably, the entire world- the Knesset and the United Nations. And, of course, the Israeli mentality doesn't help the situation, as they seem to have no sense of urgency when it comes to paying someone.

It was due to this situation that I had my biggest "battle" since the Mango "incident." The United Nations, being incredibly bureaucratic, required not only a formed filled out with all sorts of random bank information, but also required a letter from the bank verifying the different information... in English. As you may know, the banks in Israel are one of the biggest pains to deal with and something I dread. Part of it is the fact that very few people at my bank speak any English, but even more so, the bank system here is about 20 years behind the US bank system. For example, because I opened my account at the Sheinken branch, that means the only branch I can do anything at is the Sheinken branch. Although Discount Bank has many many branches around Tel Aviv, if I wanted to deposit a check at the Ben Yehuda branch of Discount Bank, they look at you like you are an alien and the conversation goes something like this: "we can't do this, we are not your branch" and then I say, "but, you are still Discount Bank, so you should be able to deposit this check into my account" and then they say "but we don't know you" and then I say "but you have my ID to verify that I am Deborah Stein" and then they say "but, we don't KNOW you." Silly, right? But as silly as that sounds, they are actually serious when they say it.

So, I knew that getting a letter in English from my bank verifying my account information was going to be a miserable task. Oren came with me, and we explained my situation to a man at the bank, and his reply is "We don't write letters here." Oren explained to him that I need this letter in order to get paid, and he stares back at us again and says "We don't write letters here. Bank policy." So, conveniently (or sometimes inconveniently), my bank branch is split in half by a street, so it is one branch, but is two buildings on either side of the street. So, we walk across the street, and approach someone in that building, and ask them for a letter, and they say "sure" (so much for bank policy). After handwriting for them what the letter should say, they give me a copy (with still a few typos, but I was ready to take what I could get), and I fax it to the UN people. A week later, thinking I am all set and done with the letters and crap, I get a call from the UN saying that my bank information does not match because I have two account numbers and they cannot accept this. Now, this is true, I do have two account numbers... for no good reason except that when my bank merged with another bank, they neglected to coordinate their computer systems, so I literally have two account numbers for the same account at their bank, and because it is completely irrational, the UN is having none of it.

So, at this point, I am ready to cry, because I cannot bear the idea of having to go back to the bank and try to get another letter from them in English, so Oren suggests I try using my bank in DC, PNC Bank. I figure, I have nothing to lose, so I give them a call. I am not exaggerating when I say that, within 5 minutes, the friendly woman at PNC was able to give me all of the information I needed, and then offered to fax, email, and mail a copy of a letter verifying my bank info to both the UN and me. I was so overwhelmed with appreciation that I almost sent this woman flowers, but instead opted for a glowing email to her manager going on and on (literally) about how amazing she was and how helpful their bank was, etc. It still makes me smile as I write this because it was such an amazingly positive experience. Sigh.

In other news, we hope to be moving on March 1 into our new apartment. It is finally starting to look like a real apartment, with windows and walls, and such. It is getting very exciting and I can hardly wait!

Alright, I am now going to go start figuring out my flights for my March trips. As I mentioned awhile back, I will be in the states for some work and fun on the following dates:

March 15-16- DC
March 16-17- NYC
March 18- DC
March 19- Chicago
March 20-23- MN
March 24- Chicago
March 25- Boston
March 26- DC
March 27- Back to Tel Aviv

It's going to be a crazy 12 days, but I hope to see many of you while I am the respective cities.

Hope all is well, and I promise to be a better blogger in the future!


Saturday, January 12, 2008

It's been awhile

I have now received a few notes from people asking why the blog hasn't been updated lately, so now that I have slowed down for a moment, here we go with some categorized updates with apologies to those who have not had the blog as a means of procrastination at work lately:

Family Visit
The Stein family has come and gone from Israel on their first ever visit to the Holy Land and I am pleased to report that we had a fantastic time. They got here at the end of December and stayed for 10 days that were jam-packed of sites, history, quality time, and, of course, lots of food. We basically ate our way through Israel and loved every moment of it. We had a fantastic tour guide named Hannan who provided on-going entertainment while driving us through the winding mountain roads in his Volkswagon stick-shift 10-seater van, and by the end of the 10 days, he was like another family member. The family had such a great time that they are already planning their next trip for June!

The business has really taken off in the past month. As things have evolved, the business has now split into two branches- political and non-profit. The political side is still called DLS Consulting and I am now managing two members of Knesset and am in discussions to work for a few mayors and one more member. The non-profit side evolved through a meeting with a group here that represents some Dutch foundations that give to Israeli philanthropies. They decided that they want to open a fundraising branch of their company called Quantam and have asked me to be a partner in their efforts and act as the Vice President of Resource Development. In this position, I will manage their 10 current clients and will likely merge my non-profit clients that I originally agreed to work with under the umbrella of Quantam. So, needless to say, things have gotten a bit busy over here, but I love the challenge and all of the new people I am having the opportunity to work with. Also, thanks to work, it looks like I will be in the states in mid-March in DC, NYC, and Chicago (and then, of course, a few days in MN) which will be a lot of fun.

The apartment renovations are going strong. The walls are going up and after Monday, all decisions and choices will be complete. We are hoping to be moving mid-February... fingers crossed!

Random story
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from our interior designer, Shimirt, around 9pm. Assuming it was about the apartment, I answered. She told me that she had a strange request- her fiance was helping one of his clients create an advertisement for a new product that was made in the style of a cartoon that was to be shown to prospective investors in the USA. They had given it to professionals to do the voiceovers, but the woman who had done the voice for the "Mother" in the cartoon was apparently a heavy smoker and her voice sounded more like an old man than a sweet mother. The realized this that evening and had to submit the advertisement the next day, and they needed someone with an American accent to do the voice of the "Mother" and asked if I could do it. I said, sure, why not, and they told me they could be here to pick me up and take me to the recording studio in 15 minutes. So, 30 minutes later, I was in the recording room with the headset on and microphone in hand doing the voice of "Mother." Apparently, they were thrilled with the final product, so if all else fails, I guess I can always try a career in voiceovers...?

Yesterday was reported to be the coldest day of the winter here... it was 50 degrees and sunny! Not too shabby, eh?

Hope all is well!