Archive for November, 2010

Israel in Israel!

Monday, November 29th, 2010

With Israel on the beach

We were so excited to have our first house guest this week, our friend Israel from Ciudad Juarez. He and I worked together in American Citizens Services, and he’s one of my favorite local staff there.  He did a nine-month TDY working in the U.S Embassy in Iraq, and was on his way back to Mexico. He spent several days touring in Jerusalem, then came to spend the weekend with us.

Saturday, we walked up to the Tel Aviv Port, which is a revitalized area in town. We stopped for a drink and a snack, and enjoyed the beach walk. That night, we went back to Lalaland for dinner, and ate barefoot with our feet in sand.

Sunday, we drove about two and a half hours north of Tel Aviv to visit a couple of historical sites. It was an Embassy-organized trip. We saw the ruins of a synagogue from around 100 BC, then drove up a very rutted road to a mountaintop.  (I was very glad to be in the 4Runner, which just arrived this week!) From there, we could see Lebanon on one side, and the Golan Heights on the other.  Down far below, was the Hula Valley.

We made our way precariously back down the mountain to the valley. We went to a farm in the middle of an orchard (peaches?) and eucalyptus trees for a yummy family-style meal.  Afterwards, we went to a lake where we saw thousands of common cranes, who were on their way from Siberia to Africa.

The bird watching was so fun! The valley is very agricultural, and the birds are used to tractors…so tourists are put in camouflaged blinds that are pulled behind the tractors and into the fields. We went just before sunset, and watched the cranes fight with the migrating pelicans, then saw them darken the sky as the cranes made their way to the water to roost for the night. In the lake, we also saw spoonbills, which reminded us of the roseate spoonbills we saw in Costa Rica.

Click for more photos.

Israel came to work with us this morning, so he could meet his counterparts in the NIV and ACS sections. I was proud to “show him off”!

Last Sunday, John and I volunteered at the annual holiday bizaar. It was fun to see some of the local handicrafts. John played master of ceremonies to announce the raffle winners.

Our apartment is really coming together. The maintenance guys from the Embassy hung our artwork this week, and our last shipment of “stuff” arrived. We’ve managed to pretty much find places to store everything – we’re waiting on two more pieces of furniture (a buffet and a chest), then that should be it. We’re quite happy with the apartment.

John got to go with our manager and the manager of the political section to Jerusalem this week. He toured several parts of the city, and met diplomats from other missions – it was a great opportunity for him.

Oh, and Thanksgiving! We worked at home all day to get our newly arrived goods put away, then cleaned up and went to dinner at a friend’s house. They are a great couple, and really fun – there were a dozen or so folks there. Great turkey, and just a lot of fun. The nice thing was that it was with people who work in other sections of the Embassy (plus two Israeli nationals), so we got to visit with different folks.

So…it was a busy and fun week!

Cranes in flight

Overcoming bureaucracy – success!

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

The "new" car

I had my first taste of Israeli bureaucracy this morning, and succeeded, so I am quite happy. I had bought a car from another diplomat in Jerusalem, and had to transfer the title to my name. One great thing is that Israelis work Sunday through Friday (usually just a half day on Friday), so I set off at 7:30 this morning to go to the DMV.

I had the usual bumps you’d expect at a DMV – the first clerk said “You can’t buy this car!” – but after going to a couple of different offices and talking to several different people, I finally walked out with my new registration papers – yeah, me!

I also felt very successful for driving myself there and back. We have a GPS, but I don’t seem to get along too well with it. I kept encountering construction/detours, etc., but somehow made it there and back. Coming home, I got pretty turned around – it took me a hour to go about 4 miles, between rush hour traffic and my general lack of direction. But in the end, success!

This week we had two social events. Tuesday night we had happy hour at a beach front bar, which was really pleasant. We had a small turn out, but it was nice to sit and have a glass of wine and see the ocean.

Thursday night, we had a party at the home of our Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) for diplomats who are on their first or second tours. We invited diplomats from other embassies, and it was fun to meet our counterparts. The DCM’s house is lovely, and he and his wife are very nice.

Friday night, John and I found a nice place not far from here for a steak and bottle of wine, which was a great way to end the week. We are super-busy at work and the days fly by. We both had some work to do over the weekend – I brought mine home, and John went to the office for a while this morning.

I volunteered to teach a group of locally employed staff (LES) who are taking a long-distance course about immigrant and non-immigrant visas. We’ll meet every Friday afternoon for the next several months. It’s a lot of work, because I have a lot of prep work to do each week for the class, but it’s a lot of fun, too. And a good way to get to know the local staff better. I did a similar class in Juarez.

That’s about it for the week!

Marine Ball

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

At the Marine Ball

Last night was our first Marine Ball and it was so fun! Everyone was all dressed up and looking good, plus there was a fantastic band. It was held at a hotel, not far down the beach from us, so we were able to walk there and back.

The Marines were handsome in their uniforms; I enjoyed the presentation of the colors, and the observance of other traditions: cutting a cake with a sword, and the oldest Marine (57) passing a slice to the youngest Marine (21) to symbolize passing knowledge from one generation to the next; the table left empty to remember those who died. All very moving. Click here for more photos.

Thursday was Veteran’s Day and we had the day off. John and I set out fairly early to explore other parts of the city near us. We walked up Dizengoff and back down Ben Yehuda. I got to go inside the lobby of the restored Esther Cinema, now the Cinema Hotel, a beautiful old Bauhaus building (Tel Aviv has the largest concentration of Bauhaus style architecture in the world, and is a World Heritage Site).

While we were out, we stopped for brunch and had shakshouka – eggs poached in tomato sauce, usually with eggplant and cheese.

Work was busy, as usual, with some interesting cases. I got to help the ACS unit, going with a young American woman to a local bank to get money her mother had sent her.

The rest of the week was pretty normal. We watched “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” which was excellent, and a couple other movies, including “Iron Man 2” (fun). I re-read Tom Perrotta’s “Little Children” yesterday.

I found out that the odd bird in last week’s blog is the state bird of Israel, the hoopoe (pronounced hoo-poo).

Happy birthday to John!

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Jaffo cat

We celebrated John’s birthday on Friday –  I had cupcakes delivered for the NIV section – quite the hit! We continued our celebration that night with a very nice dinner out at Kimmel.  John had a steak; I finally had lamb, and the best eggplant (stuffed with cheese and pesto) I’ve ever had. It was a good day.

This morning, we walked down the beach to the old port city of Jaffo. The views were beautiful. It’s known for its flea market and antique/junk stores. Again, it’s odd, because there will be a junk store next to a high-end clothing store. When we walked back up the beach, we stopped at Manta Ray for brunch. I continued to the Carmel Market up the street to get some vegetables. It’s a beautiful day – sunny, but not too hot. Click for a few more photos of Jaffo.

The rest of the week was very busy at work; in addition to all of the visa applicants, we have a lot of extra projects to work on.

Odd bird we saw on the way to Jaffo

View from Jaffo