Archive for October, 2010

Picking olives

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

John picking olives

I’m a little late posting today because we left early this morning to go pick olives. I drove my “new” Corolla; two ladies from the Embassy went with us. We drove about two hours north of Tel Aviv to the Galilee, where we met some other folks from the Embassy who were also on the tour. We caravaned up the mountain on a dirt road and parked among the olive trees.

We picked, then cracked a jar of green olives to bring home to brine. The Arab family who owns the grove brought out a wonderful vegetarian lunch and we ate in the shade of the olive trees. It was a beautiful view down to the valley, and the air was crisp and cool (although the sun was hot). Click to see more olive photos.

Our big news of the week is that our household effects from Mexico were delivered on Wednesday. John and I took the day off to work with the movers and start putting things away. It’s so fun to see our art, and get our own linens and dishes. We spent most of Saturday working on the house, and it’s starting to take shape.

Saturday night, we walked up the beach to a co-worker’s apartment for a small Halloween party – it was fun. Several of the people there work at USAID, and it was good to get to meet people outside the consular section. Click  to see photos from the party.

Last Sunday night, we met a group of co-workers (from consular and from other departments) down on the beach. It was advertised as a bonfire, until we realized that you can’t set fires on the beach. It was still a beautiful night to sit out on blankets and listen to the ocean. We walked home along the shoreline so we could dip our toes in the warm ocean.

Last Friday, the consular section went to Jerusalem to meet with our counterparts there. The Consulate in Jerusalem sits up on a hill – most of our meetings were outside, and it was sunny and cool. It was neat to be able to look out over the city (although you can’t see the Old City from there). We got to visit with our A-100 classmate Mary, who is posted there. John took her a kilo of bacon, which is very difficult to find over there (thank goodness for our Russian market up the street here in Tel Aviv!). You would  have thought we had brought her a cooler of gold!

So…it was a busy week! Flavie is still doing great, and we’re so glad she is happy!

Cracking olives to brine

Night at the beach

Settling in

Sunday, October 24th, 2010
Full moon over Tel Aviv

We’re feeling more at home here each day. We got our air freight this week, so we have a few more things to make us comfortable  (Flavie was glad to get her scratching post).  We got our DVD player, so were able to watch some episodes of “Fringe” this week. We took the car out for a spin last Sunday – thank goodness for GPS! We didn’t find the grocery stores we were looking for, but it was a fun adventure.

Last Friday night, we went for a walk on the beach promenade in the early evening. It was a beautiful night for a walk. We ended up stopping for dinner at LaLa-land on the beach. The restaurant’s cat was curled up in the chair next to me the whole time we ate. She didn’t pay any attention to us, until the end of our meal when I started feeding her shrimp.

We’re getting more in the swing of things at work, too. Interviews are getting more routine, and we’re getting involved in several extra projects. We stayed late on Wednesday evening for a “Women in Diplomacy” presentation – it was interesting to hear about the careers of three women in the Foreign Service.

Friday night, we walked up to an Italian restaurant called “Cantina” for a nice dinner with Emily and Dave. Emily works with us in the Consular section, and Dave is a fun and interesting editor/writer.


Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Olives at the Carmel Market

Last Sunday morning, we walked up to the outdoor Carmel Market, full of fruits, vegetables, olives, cheese, spices, clothes, etc.  It was colorful and a lot of fun. Click for more photos from the market.

At noon, Jen picked us up, along with another new officer, Jessica, and took us up the coast to the north to Caesarea, an old Roman port, now a national park. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water, and wandered around the old ruins. Click for photos from Caesarea.

Monday, we joined an Embassy outing to the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.We were allowed to go inside their ornate church, library and school. John and I skipped the church service and walked through a small part of the Old City, including the market.

Getting in and out of Jerusalem was a tangle of winding roads, hills and traffic. From the hilltop, we could see the snaking separation wall, the Mount of Olives, and the controversial settlement neighborhood of Silwan. Click for photos from Jerusalem.

Yesterday, John and I explored our neighborhood east of us for a few hours. We found some neat parts of town, and stopped at Wolf Nights for a great hamburger. Because it was Shabbat, pretty much everything was closed except for some cafes and restaurants; there wasn’t a lot of traffic because many folks don’t drive on Shabbat. Lots of people out walking down the promenade with family.  Some stores look really old and out of date (with creepy mannequins), while others would look at home in NYC.

We continued to get settled in at work this week. We finished up our check-in, which included courtesy calls to the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission. We’re interviewing visa applicants on our own, albeit with lots of questions for our co-workers.

John got us set up with cable this week, so we are able to watch some American movies, which I took full advantage of yesterday afternoon after our walk.

And this week, I finished a great book called “Nudge,” a book John recommended. It’s about how public or private policy can “nudge” people to make better choices about “health, wealth, and happiness.” Very interesting and a fun read.

For years, I have been carrying around a small 8mm tape that I found at Mom’s house. I finally sent it to a guy to put on DVD. There was only two minutes of footage on it: about a minute taken at Marineland, glimpses of Sandi, Annette, Jimmy Ray and Granny Morris, and two small children I didn’t recognize (let me know if you do!). Here is a link to the footage: Enjoy!

Israeli Cat

So far, so good

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Our first week was filled with check-in and training. It’s like a scavenger hunt – you have a list of names of people you have to meet, so you try to get in touch with them to set up an appointment, or just stalk them in their office until they are free. Once you meet with them, they sign your list to indicate you actually met them, and you can move on to the next person. They range from the folks in the health unit for a check-up, to the people who help you set up cable and internet in your home, help you get your household goods delivered, etc.

We also observed quite a bit and did our first visa interviews on Friday. Once we get in the groove with our Hebrew and figuring out the cultural norms here, I think we’ll be fine. Basically officers interview about four hours a day (as opposed to eight in Juarez), so theoretically we should have time to work on other projects.

During our visit out to the warehouse for meetings, we picked up our car that we bought from another diplomatic family in Jerusalem. It’s a ’97 Corolla, and I think it will do fine for running around town. Everyone here talks about what aggressive drivers the Israelis are; I did OK driving home, but the traffic is a little crazy.

Jen took me to a bigger supermarket a little north of us last Sunday so I could stock up on a few more things. My biggest quandary is meat; there are no pre-packaged meats in the store. I can find chicken, sometimes hamburger (at the big market), sausages, and something that I think is beef but I’m too timid to figure out what it is. And it’s all very expensive. I haven’t seen fish or lamb in the little market by our house, or at the bigger market. Some of the LES at work have promised to take me to some other meat markets.

Thursday night there was a happy hour at a nearby Irish pub that was a lot of fun. We met folks from other parts of the Embassy, plus many of the visa officers and LES (local staff) came.

Last night, we went to the Marine’s Octoberfest at the Embassy rec center north of town – also a lot of fun because of the big variety of people there.

I finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest yesterday – what a fun read!

Shalom from Tel Aviv

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Balcony view

We made it to Tel Aviv! We left DC on Tuesday, but our flight was delayed and we missed our connection in NYC. We spent a lovely night in Queens and went back to JFK the next afternoon. Delta was nice enough to upgrade us to business class, which made the trip much, much better.
Flavia made the trip just fine with the help of a little sedative. I had to take her out of her carrier twice to go through security, but she was no problem at all. She seems to love the new apartment and immediately started exploring.

We love the apartment. It’s on the sixth floor with a great ocean view from one side and a city view from the other. We can see the flag from the Embassy and it’s a quick walk to work. It’s also a little bigger than what we anticipated, so I think that all of the thousands of pounds that we shipped will fit in.

We were met at the airport by someone from the Embassy who whisked us through customs (um…after all the hoops I went through to get Flavia’s travel papers, wouldn’t someone like to look at them? Apparently not.) We have a great sponsor, Jen, another officer, who had groceries waiting for us in the apartment.

Our co-workers seem really nice – we went to the office on Friday to begin the orientation process. When we’re not at the visa window, the NIV officers work in an area that directly overlooks the ocean right behind the Embassy. Jen also arranged a get-together last night at a neat restaurant down on the beach – nice to start getting to know folks.

First foray to the water