Archive for July, 2011

Enjoying the view

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Last Sunday, my friends Jen and Rebecca went with me to a small shopping center in Hertzliya. We went for brunch and to shop – we had a good time, but we were expecting a big place on the ocean – instead, it was just a couple of blocks in a small village (with no ocean view, despite its name “Ocean View”). At any rate, we had a nice brunch at a little cafe and visited the jewelry shop of Sigal Meshorer and saw her beautiful designs, which was pretty much the point of the trip.

Afterwards, I introduced the ladies to the joy of the duty free store here in Tel Aviv.

We watched a good movie this week with Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, “Get Low.”

The rest of the week was calm. John is adjusting to his new schedule with the Ambassador. Some nights he gets home at a normal time, and other times he is past 7 PM – just depends on what is going on.

I don’t think I told this story last week…John learned that the new Ambassador likes Diet Mountain Dew, which is not available in Israel. John arranged to have a 12-pack shipped over and had it waiting in the refrigerator. One of the Ambassador’s first questions to John was about the availability of Diet Mountain Dew in Israel. John said no, we don’t have it here…but you might find a surprise in the fridge! Definitely got him off on the right foot.

Friday was my manager’s birthday, and I set up a cake and a small celebration for her. Unfortunately, I got called back to ACS for an emergency passport, and missed the whole thing! Oh, well…so it goes.

For my American friends, I’d like to pass on a piece of advice. When you are in a foreign country and have a question about the country that can only be answered by the Ministry of the Interior of said country, please do not come to the American Embassy and scream at the Vice Consul (me) about why I don’t know the answer. Avoid the following phrases: I am an American citizen! You have to help me! I pay your salary! What do you mean you don’t know? It’s your job to know!

Just sayin’.

New sheriff in town

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Our new Ambassador arrived this week, so John will be moving into high gear. We went to a small reception Friday night and had a chance to meet him. He’s a young, personable man with credentials a mile long – and fluent in Hebrew. John looks forward to working with him.

Last Sunday afternoon, we went to a party upstairs at Howie and Ale’s apartment. Ale is going back to Juarez for a few weeks and wanted to see everyone before she left. I’m jealous that she will get to see so many of our Juarez friends!

Yesterday, John did a coffee roasting demo on Dave and Emily’s balcony (I passed because I had work to do at the office). He said it was a lot of fun, and he sent everyone home with samples of his coffee. This is a hobby he’s been doing since before we joined the foreign service, and he’s gotten really good at it – luckily, I can reap the benefits!

The rest of the week was very low-key – mostly just worked and came home. We both got a lot of reading done (well, that’s always true for John).

I’ve been enjoying our apartment pool this week. I’m not much of a water person, but we have a gorgeous saltwater pool overlooking the ocean, and usually there aren’t a lot of people using it. I went up everyday this week after work to just float and relax – I call it my water therapy. Just 20 minutes and I feel so relaxed!

Turning point

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

John started his Staff Aide position this week in the Front Office. He is really enjoying it – this job is the reason we bid high on coming to Tel Aviv. Right now, we are in between ambassadors. The down time has given John time to settle in to his new routine and get organized, which is good.

I’m continuing in American Citizen Services, which I really enjoy. The American staff currently in place will be leaving over the next few weeks, so we had a going away lunch in the section this week for them.

Last Sunday, I made my first foray to the duty-free store and placed an order. It will take a couple of weeks to get processed. The selection is pretty limited, but I ordered some frozen meat and other things – the best thing is that they deliver and I don’t have to lug it home.

Tuesday night, we went to the DCM’s residence to hear a great speaker. She works for an NGO that works to help folks in Gaza. Very interesting.

Friday night we went to a fun going away party for our friend Stephanie, who is leaving post early to go to Baghdad – we’ll miss her. The party was on a rooftop deck with a pretty view of the marina.

Our big news is that we are going to Islamabad, Pakistan, for our next post! We are still working out the timing details, but we volunteered for two year assignments there. There are lots of reasons to go (and lots of reasons not to go) – mostly we just felt it was a good time for us to do it and we were able to get good jobs. (It’s surprisingly competitive.) We broke the news to the parents – luckily they are understanding and supportive! Two big pluses of the assignments are that we can take Flavia and we have eight other good friends who will be there with us! We have our built-in dinner party already, which makes us very happy.

Already having our onward assignment feels like a turning point in our time here. We will probably have to leave here in the spring, earlier than we originally anticipated leaving here – it just makes us want to enjoy Israel even more, knowing that we don’t have that much longer here!

July already?

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

It’s hard to believe it’s already July – we’ve been in Tel Aviv a little over nine months now. We’re getting our first taste of summer – hot in the sun but fairly pleasant otherwise, but we do feel the humidity rising. So far, not too bad.

Last Sunday we met our A100 classmates from Jerusalem at Raphael’s for another nice brunch. It was great to see Dave, Liz, Mary, and her husband Jimmy and baby Will. Will is such a good baby and a horrible flirt with the waitresses!

After brunch, Dave came home with us and we spent the next six hours sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine and talked. Great to catch up with him! We had another good visit with him yesterday when he came to spend the afternoon with us. Dave is a good guy, with boundless energy and fun to talk with.

Last Monday, the actual 4th of July, was a holiday for us. We spent it totally relaxing at home – wonderful and restful!

Last Thursday, I went with my ACS co-worker down to Dimona to visit the Hebrew Israelite Community (someone told me there is a song called “Ramona from Dimona,” but I’m not sure I believe it!). This is a primarily American community in the Negev desert who came to Israel from Chicago back in the ’60s by way of Liberia. They are African-Americans who wear traditional African clothing, practice strict veganism and mostly live together in an urban kibbutz. We had an interesting meeting with their founder and spiritual lead, Ben Ammi, and spent several hours talking with their PR person and touring the compound. If you click on this link, you can see Ben Ammi on the upper right. And click here for more of an overall view of the community. The state of Israel doesn’t know quite what to do with them. They have been here since the late ’60s, and only recently has Israel given them legal permanent status.

Thursday night was book club at our house. I led the discussion on “Prince of the Marshes,” by Rory Stewart. It was an account of his tour in Iraq as a deputy governor of one of the southern provinces in 2004. We had a good turnout and an interesting discussion.

Friday afternoon we had a happy hour at work for John and two other people who are leaving the NIV section (John starts his Staff Aide rotation on Monday – the new ambassador arrives later this month.) Later that evening, we were guests of Chip and Anne for an excellent dinner at their apartment, along with Paul and Jen. It was a nice evening. Anne made a great salad that I want the recipe for – watermelon, tomato and I think a balsamic vinaigrette – delicious!

Happy 4th of July

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

The highlight of the week was attending the Embassy’s 4th of July party at the Ambassador’s residence. Although we were there primarily to work, it was still a lot of fun. The weather was perfect and we had a gorgeous view of the fireworks over the ocean. It was also pretty impressive to see the Ambassador on stage with the Israeli president Shimon Peres and PM Binyamin Netanyahu (whatever your politics).

The party is a huge deal here – the hottest ticket in town. There were literally thousands of people there.

When we got home a little after 11PM from the party, we sat on the balcony and watched Tel Aviv celebrate “White Night,” an annual all-night party to celebrate the city’s designation as the White City by UNESCO (because of all the Bauhaus buildings here that are primarily white). The streets were jammed, music was playing and everyone seemed to be celebrating – it was fun to watch!

We started the week last Sunday with a nice brunch at Rafael’s, overlooking the ocean with our friends Bill, Diane, Ray and Anna. Afterward, Jen and Rebecca came for some pool time at our apartment. When the pool closed, we moved to our balcony to watch the sun set. In the winter, we couldn’t see the sunset because we’re on the north side of the building, but the last month or so, we’ve been able to see it and it’s always beautiful.

I started a six-month rotation in American Citizen Services on Monday. It’s good to get back into passport mode, although I have also enjoyed my time in visas here. The ACS staff, like the NIV staff, are really friendly and helpful.

Last night we went to dinner with Jen and Mary at a very good tapas restaurant – good conversation and food.