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!