Gefilte Fish Out of Water

Best Day Ever?
December 31, 2009, 6:26 pm
Filed under: Feelings

So, between the emotional high of the NbN Olim Welcome Ceremony, the obsessive high of playing with my new toy, and the fabulous third interview I had, yesterday was one of those rare, truly high-point days, brought on by this special trifecta.  Maybe not the best day Ever, but definitely something special was going on, because I could feel it.


Third Interview
December 31, 2009, 6:10 pm
Filed under: Feelings, Work

I still can’t talk about the details yet, but – you know that corporate blogging position I teased in a post this week?  Well, I had been second guessing myself about my performance on the second interview.  Maybe I was too enthusiastic; too much “Scotty P” when I should have been more “F. Scott Piro.”

Anna had fabulous insights about his.  She basically just said, No, you were just you, and that’s what’s going to get you the job, not being ‘anyone else.’ (♥ her!!!)  Same day as the second interview, me and the co-owner Tweeted each other and he told me, Stay tuned…I may want you to speak to our co-owner in America. My brain was like – ‘May’?…why ‘May’ (vs. definitely)…what does that mean: he’s not sure? Again, Anna has Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions-level insights when she fires out without a beat, I’ll tell you what ‘May’ means: it means he has to talk to his colleague in America before he can say yes, and the colleague will do either one of two things: he’ll either say, ‘Yeah, I wanna talk to this guy.  Set it up,” or he’ll say, ‘You know what, I don’t really need to talk to him…if you like him, then that’s all I need to know.” Dude, that makes so much sense!  Anna is a frigging genius, and she really calmed me down about things.

But the guy said he would get back to me either that same afternoon of the second interview (which was Monday), or the next day.  Yesterday, I was like, Shit.  Today is two days later; he said he’d be back to me by now.  Uh-oh…maybe I was too enthusiastic and easy with him, as if I’d already gotten the job.  Plus, the woman he interviewed after me (who I saw), did look smart.  Maybe the more he thought about it, the more he was leaning against me.

Although…in the positive superstition department, I did have my most Terrible Hair Day of 2009 for this interview.  I’m growing it out again, and my standard ‘long-hair hair product’ isn’t working as well as it usually does; my old bottle may have gone bad, or something.  Anyway, my hair was doing these serious windblown-like Botticelli curls on meth or something.  This is actually good, b/c I also had terrible hair for the job interview that landed me my last job, and I got that.  Also, I’ve remembered I have all these great learning-Hebrew podcasts on my iPod, and I’ve been listening to them lately as I ride around town on my bicycle because I haven’t hardly picked up a book and done any other studying Hebrew since finishing Ulpan three months ago, and I’m forgetting Hebrew faster than Tiger Woods is losing sponsors.  Anyway, I finished one of them mid-bike ride over to the second interview, and when I started the next one, it “just happened” to be titled “The Coffee Shop.” (I’ve been coy, but from that clue, plus the image at the top of the post, you can glean that this is relevant.)  Definite good omen!

Hard to tell, but I am absolutely drenched in this pic.

So, I got back from my emotional high of a morning at this NbN Aliyah Welcome Ceremony thingdrenched, because it has started pouring, and I had to ride my bike home in it.  I decide to email the guy and say, Hi, any news? Well, turns out he had emailed me two days ago !!!   I’ve been using an email address to communicate with him that I don’t usually use; it’s one I dedicate just to writing projects, and I first learned about this opp through the CIWI yahoo group.  I should have caught it on my BlackBerry when it came it, but somehow I didn’t.  So, Yay! – I returned the email immediately and also replied to him on Twitter.

Later that afternoon his partner in America called.  It was quite funny, actually, b/c we kept having crappy reception over Skype and calling each other back, and then my dog Petey had to go out because he had been inside a long time, and the American partner said he would call my cell phone, but I had put the SIM card in backwards on my new BlackBerry, so he couldn’t…but then I figured it out and he did call…as I was being pulled downstairs by my dog, AND my neighbor just happened to pass by going up the stairs, which caused Petey to lunge and jump up on her…all the while, I’m trying to sound professional and serious.  It was really some screwball comedy shiz.

Long story short, I wound up having a great conversation with the guy, and there was a good connection there.  He asked for some writing samples, which I sent over last night.  If I get this, it will be part-time at first (20 hrs/week), and I’ll have to maintain my current job’s 39 hrs/week, also.  (But since I’m so broke, this is actually a good thing.)  But – if I like working with them, and they like me and the job I do, AND if this startup continues to grow and the funds are there, they stated that there is definitely the potential that it could turn into a full time position.

Which it totally is going to, BTW.  I can feel this, and I know it.

Yayee, McYay !!!

Going places.

A BOLD New World
December 31, 2009, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags:

I saw an email from the Nefesh b’Nefesh Yahoo group that another Oleh was selling his BlackBerry BOLD 9000.  I’ve been using an unlocked (and I suspect, refurbished) Curve 8310 that I bought off of ebay and had someone transport over here.  After some initial dramz and having someone schlep it back to America to return it for me, then schlep the replacement back over here, I got it to work last summer, and I’ve been quite happy with it.  Until lately.  It’s been giving me the “hourglass of death” at random times, and really stopping me cold sometimes when I need to make a call, send a Tweet, or look up some info.

The BOLD sells for 4000 shekels in Israel ($1081 – yeah, they are crazy expensive here, which is why I had an unlocked one from the U.S. sent over here in the first place), and he was offering it for half that.  Since I’m otes-tay (Pig Latin for totes) poor of late, I couldn’t justify spending that amount.  I figured I’d let some time go by and then shoot him a lowball offer.  If it hadn’t been sold yet, it was meant to be mine.  Turns out, he had sold it the day before I emailed him.

But then, he emailed a day later.  The woman who had bought it from him returned it.  There was nothing wrong with it, he insisted, she was just an idiot.  So, I met up with him, and once I saw it, I knew I wanted it deep in my bones.

Screen so pretty!

I needed to transfer some funds, and so I had to wait a day or two to buy it from him.  Yesterday I picked it up.  And, I literally spent the next 9.75 hours tricking it out and apping it up with all the apps from my old Curve.  Except for the trackball being a little hard to roll left, a stupid BOLD phone feature that automatically creates unchangeable shortcuts on the speed dial list for “a,” “q,” and “w,” and the fact that it’s a little harder to type fast on it that it was the Curve, I’m totes in love with my new toy.

I’ve been to Aliyah, but…..I’ve never been to me.
December 31, 2009, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Cool Things, Identity | Tags: ,

I didn’t have one.  I’m talking about a Nefesh b’Nefesh Olim Welcome Ceremony.  NbN is the nonprofit that helped me “make Aliyah,” and they arrange for charter flights where the whole plane is full of Olim (immigrants) doing this.  But I needed to be in Israel for work before the next scheduled charter flight.  (They also book up blocks of seats reserved for Olim on regular EL AL flights, but again – I couldn’t wait for one of these.)  So, I made the 12-13 hour flight solo.  And although the AACI (Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel) arranged for someone to greet me after I landed to help process my paperwork, basically there was no fanfare, and I just took my complimentary taxi to my friend’s house and crashed quietly started my new life.

But yesterday (at 4am!) I got up to go to Ben Gurion International Airport to welcome my blogging buddy Lauren Gelnick, an Olah Chadasha from New York City who was on the final Nefesh b’Nefesh Olim Charter flight of 2009.  Lauren’s been supporting me by commenting on G-Fish all year, and she invited me to come welcome her to Israel, so how could I say no?  Plus, since I never got one of these Official Welcome Ceremony deals, I was also going for me.

How awesome was it that I got a ride to the airport with my Besties the Becker-Barkins, who were coincidentally leaving for the US on an early morning flight?  I’ll save you the trouble of racking your brains – it was pretty effing awesome.   Our friend Moosh was in the car, too, so he could borrow it while Anna & Eric were away.  Even though most of the flights depart and arrive at Terminal 1, my instructions were to go to Terminal 3, so Moosh dropped me off there.

There were a lot of people already there when I arrived at 6:15 a.m.  Everyone had to be on a pre-approved registration list for security purposes, so I showed I.D. and got an official “Guest” sticker to wear, then waited in a line mob to clear security and go into the main terminal, where the ceremony was to be held.

Like I really needed it, but I had a few complimentary pastries and some coffee.  The place kept filling up.  There seemed to be a lot of youth groups.  The energy kept rising.  It was like a bunch of ‘Heads as the start of a Dead show approached –  if no one was on drugs, had just showered and dressed preppy, didn’t know any Grateful Dead songs, and was incredibly Zionist.

I learned some cool stats that an official NbN guy announced from a stage:  the 210 Olim on this flight were part of a record year for North American Aliyahs – 3800 people, of which I am one! The youngest Oleh on the flight was just two months old, and the oldest person was 86!  Here’s a couple of shots as the anticipation built…

Who's this handsome guy?

Then, they announced the plane had landed and the Olim would be bussed over shortly.  Peeps got even more riled up, and when they removed a barrier, everyone bum-rushed the tarmac like it was some Black Friday shiz.

What happened next was very special.  I tweeted that it was basically like Zionist Orgasmo.  Throngs of tweens sang along to the instrumental muzak-ized adult contemporary songs (Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart,” “A Whole New World) interspersed with more traditionally Jewish hora-style music.  People were waving Israeli flags with a rapturous fervor.  It was an explosion of happiness!

Then, I was lucky enough to see my personal Guest of Honor, Olah Chadasha Lauren Gelnick and get what will hopefully become memorable shots for her.

The Money Shot

I know I’m going a  little picture happy with this post, but I can’t resist.  Here’s a great shot of who I presume is the 86-year-old Olah they were talking about.  It’s hard to tell in this pic, but the younger man (son?) hugging her had tears streaming down his face.  It’s was such a powerful and beautiful emotional force.

Then, I made my way back inside.  I stayed for the ceremony.  They had some very big VIPs there.  Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said, “Ahmadinejad may have his own plans for Israel, but you [Olim] make Israel possible, by continuing to come here.”  Nefesh b’Nefesh founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass quoted a remark Mark Twain made when he visited Israel, “You can’t depend on your eyes, when your imagination is out of focus.” (I didn’t exactly understand the point of the quote, but I was impressed by the fact that Mark Twain had visited Israel.)  Then, he spouted a statistic that 81 singles were on this flight and there was some sort of promotion on J-Date about them, and that 1,100 single Israelis had signed up to meet them.  Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel had a nice quote about the Olim on today’s flight, “finishing up a thousands-of-years march through the desert.”  He also told us that a record 16,000 Olim made Aliyah in 2009 – double the amount that came last year (thank you, world economic crisis) – with 20% increases from the USA (the highest amount in 23 years), Latin America, South America, the UK, Russia this year over last year.  He had another great line (you could tell this guy’s a really good speaker) about modern-day Zionism being criticized lately for being, “a bunch of wealthy American Jews paying to break Russian Jews out of the Iron Curtain to make Aliyah,” but today’s North American Olim deserve props for, “breaking the Golden Curtain around New York, breaking the Silicon Curtain [nice touch, Nate] around San Francisco….we need your knowledge, your experience with democracy, your commitment to civil rights.”  Senior Deputy Head of the Division for Promotion of Aliyah at the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption Shifra Kirshenbaum also spoke, and I had to resist the urge to go up to her after and ask for a personal extension of my Sal Klita.

I really needed this infusion of Zionism.  With fatigue from my current job, having to dip into savings to make ends meet now that my own Olim financial benefits have dried up, anxiety over an exciting job prospect I was waiting to hear back from, a potential search for new housing on the horizon…all of this felt like it had been piling up on me lately, and I used the ceremony as a personal pep rally to remind me what I was doing here, at least in part.  Thanks, VIPs and fervent Olim energy.

I’m also kinda glad I didn’t have a ceremony like this when I arrived.  I may not have had anyone there to receive me personally, and to be welcomed by such over-the-top enthusiasm in the aggregate, but have no one there for you personally, could have left me feeling very lonesome.  I’m glad it worked out this way, that I got to have my ceremony ten months after-the-fact, by way of showing up to support someone else.  Thanks, Lauren!

Blogging Buddies


December 29, 2009, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags: , ,

That’s not a close up of Adam Lambert’s skin you’re lookin at, it’s a shot from my bedroom ceiling.  About a month ago, seemingly overnight, I looked up and saw the enchanted forest growing there.

Mold.  (Ew.)

My friend Jeremy took one look and acted like an extra from The Amityville Horror.  Get outta the house! he practically screamed.  We stopped by ACE Hardware as we took our dogs out for a walk to Tel Aviv’s Old Port.  I bought a big roll of plastic tarp to lay across my bed, because I was planning to use my magav (giant Israeli squeegee) to wipe off the mold with bleach, which kills it.

Totes butch of me (though, I’m pretty sure real butch guys don’t use the word totes).  It was easy and it worked.  No more mold on ceiling.

Doesn’t mean the problem is gone.  There’s still probably enough green on the other side of the ceiling to slow climate change, but at least it’s not visible.  I was a little afraid that sleeping under it for three weeks was gonna – God forbid – give me cancer or something.  You know, doesn’t mold have, like, spores that can get into your lungs and shiz?  I saw an episode of CSI once where toxic mold killed killed a guy!

Relax, said my bestie Anna.  I’m from the Mold Capital of the World (Tampa, I think), and you are fine.  We lived with that shiz for years and would just wipe it off after a big rainstorm.  Eric lived with mold in his TLV apartment for two years, and he’s fine. Phew!  Thanks, Anna (and take that, Yoda)!

But there’s actually another apartment-related hurdle now, and I really might have to get the fuck out by April – unless I don’t mind having my kitchen removed and having to share Ilana’s.  (No, thanks.)  So, it looks like it’s Yad2 (the Israeli Craigslist; in Hebrew, greaaaaat), Homeless (more Hebrew, greaaaaat), Win-Win (say with me, Peeps: more Hebrew – greaaaaaaaaaaat), and Madas (rounding out my fuckedness: in Hebrew!) for me.  No prob, I’ll just use The Secret and envision myself getting another cheap, renovated, great place in my favorite neighborhood.  For real, I will do this.  I haven’t started looking yet, but I have started mentioning it in conversations with people at the dog park.


2nd Year Oleh Economic Crash
December 29, 2009, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Infrastructure, Struggles | Tags: ,

I got an email from my accountant this week, who told me I owe three Bituach Leumi payments, each around 500 NIS (approx $135).  As I understand it, Bituach Leumi is more than just the Israeli equivalent of Social Security.  Instead of just an entitlement benefit you receive upon retirement, it’s also like a national health insurance premium for our socialized healthcare.  I was exempt the first six months as an Oleh Chadash, but now it’s time to pay up.

Dang!  But double-dang is when I realized that November was my final Sal Klita payment, and I could kiss those free direct deposit shekels goodbye from now on.  Add in my NIS 300 monthly retainer to my accountant, and I was feeling fairly fucked.  There is a rent subsidy I was hoping would automatically kick in after the Sal Klita stopped, but it turns out I’m not eligible until my 13th month, which is April.

I need to make some more money fast!  I already live very modestly, but with these new expenses and expiring benefits, my salary is not going to be enough.  Crap.  On the plus side, the board of the nonprofit I work for is meeting this week, and a raise for me is on the agenda.  So, that’s good.  And, I had a 2nd job interview with [not telling yet] yesterday.  I thought it went very well, and the employer and I Tweeted each other after, so the signs are positive.  But I’ve been second guessing myself that I was maybe a  little too enthusiastic; too much Scotty P when i could have used a little more F. Scott Piro.

I have some savings I can draw on, so it’s not panic time.  But, let’s hope I was right about this.

Israeli Blogger’s Evening
December 29, 2009, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Cool Things, Identity, Outside TLV | Tags: ,

Saturday evening I went to an Israeli Blogger’s Evening outside of Tel Aviv in a town called Nes Tziona.  To me, it looked like a suburb.  Yeah, I think this was my first trip to the Israeli suburbs.  The homes were nice looking, but still made out of concrete with tile floors inside.  It appears these construction materials are not limited to apartments.  I think it’s because combined, they have a very cooling effect, which is appreciated in the summers.

I was late, but at least it’s because I was blogging.  I wanted to have a lot of new content up before the event, in case any of the other bloggers went to visit G-Fish.  I ended up stupidly fLYinG on my bicycle, in the street against traffic with no helmet, rushing to meet the bloggers of Cafe Liz and Apples & Honey at the central bus station , and kinda almost died once or twice.  Thankfully I didn’t, but I did miss my bus.  

When I walked in, the event’s speaker Jacob Share, who publishes two blogs including the popular job search blog Job Mob was already well into his presentation.  While I was stumbling around the neighborhood searching for the right home, I was pretty OK with how late I was and that I was missing the start of the presentation.  I didn’t have any particular expectations for what I might get out of the evening, and I was primarily going just to check it out – meet some nice writers and also to get out of Tel Aviv.

But my mood sort of fell a little when I got inside.  The conversation was about monetization and growing your personal brand.  These are interesting topics, but only marginally to me right now.  I wanted to be mixing it up and having conversations with new people.

But then there was a break, and the networking portion started.  Yay!  This was more of what I was hoping for.  I asked Jacob a question about self-hosting my own blog on WordPress, and talked with The Baroness Tapuzina, who had just gone through the same experience.  I talked with a few more bloggers including:

TchochkesTerror Finance (about how terrorism is financed – interesting!), Israel Restaurant ReviewI’ll Call BailaBlanche and Guy DesignsIsraeli KitchenA Mother in Israel and NRK le-israelim baolam ha-asakim (in Hebrew; about Israeli business culture).  There were a lot of food bloggers there!

Some of the bloggers I missed were: FoodbridgeThe View From HereOne Tired Ema, and Around the Island.

After the networking, we did a round robin, giving everyone a chance to talk a little about their blog.  I began to enjoy the evening more and more as it went on.  This continued into my sherut ride back to TLV with Jacob, Liz and Yael, and even my bike ride through TLV with Liz.

I’ve since given and received some link love, which has been very nice.  I would definitely participate in an evening like this again.  Thanks, Hannah, Miriam and Sarah!