Trapped in Paradise – the DC Edition

Part travel blog, part philosophical musings. All tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness.


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120 days in Tel Aviv

I’ve been in Israel for about two weeks now, so I suppose it’s time I blogged about it.

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Here at last! A view of Tel Aviv during one of my morning jogs.

Getting here was an adventure involving many stops in other continents, stories I’ll get to in due time. But since I’ll be starting my study abroad program tomorrow (finally!) I feel like I need to catch up on what’s been going on in since I arrived in Tel Aviv.

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A bit of visiting all the touristy places, such as the old city of Jaffa.

I got here well before the start of the school year so that I could find a place to live. Thanks to my contacts here, I had learned that apartment hunting in Israel is not like apartment hunting in other cities I’d lived in. Sure, they have Craigslist and Airbnb and a few of the other normal sites if you’re looking to rent or sublet, but that’s basically setting yourself up to get ripped off. Everything is done in person at the last minute, where someone might wake up and decide to rent out a room in their place, so they tell their friends, and by word of mouth (or via one of the many online groups) you might find out about it.

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“Hey, did you guys here about the new apartment on Bograshov Street? Don’t let those exchange students anywhere near it!”

For someone who likes to have plans worked out well in advance, this idea of just showing up with no idea of where to live was not sitting well. At least I was more prepared than many of my fellow exchange students, who decided not to arrive until days before our orientation started.

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Group projects are going to be interesting.

But in the end it worked out well for everyone, including the late-comers. No one ended up homeless in a cardboard box, and thanks to a realtor who randomly showed up in our class Facebook group with a bunch of apartments for rent, I wound up renting a flat with two other students that’s just two blocks from the beach. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to let go of my need for structure and just embrace the Israeli attitude of doing stuff on the fly.

'I joined a relaxation program, to help me overcome my type A behavior. Damit! I'm going to be the best, most relaxed, one in the group.'

Yeah right, this is not going to happen overnight, if at all. Get back to me in February.

Aside from that stress test, adjusting to life in a foreign country has been interesting (in a good way, of course.) I’m reminded of the adjustment I went through when I’d moved to Japan back in 2010, since there were many similarities: non-Indo-European language, completely different writing system, unfamiliar customs and mannerisms, physically sticking out like a sore thumb.

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At least I’m not this guy.

However, in Japan I’d had the built-in support network of the military that had helped me navigate everything from living arrangements to riding the train. Other than the handful of contacts I’d made during my trip here over spring break, I was kind of on my own. Especially since my school had decided to cancel the annual short-term study abroad trip to Israel, citing security concerns. (Apparently letting a group of students come here for ten days was too risky, but sending me to live on my own for four months is totally fine.)

It’s been a fun adventure, though. Overall, I’ve found the locals to be quite friendly and helpful, and even though I had arrived right in the middle of the Jewish holiday season (meaning the city shut down practically every other day, which made shopping for groceries difficult) I haven’t had too bad of a time exploring and getting to know my new home. Plus, the food here is quite amazing (and healthy!)

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Breakfast of champions! Where has shakshuka been all my life?!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my time here, and am excited to be able to write about it.

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End of summer recap

Now that the busy summer is over, I’ve decided to take a look at my list of goals from a few months ago and see how I did. This should be hilarious.

  1. Find a place to do volunteer work on the weekends.
  2. Keep up with the blog. Maybe start a travel-specific blog.
  3. Sign up for a summer class, such as programming or something tech-related.

So these first three were a colossal failure. When I wrote this, I hadn’t picked up my second internship yet, so I had at least half of every workday to play around with. The second job took up the rest of that time (which I didn’t mind, because it was more experience for the resume) so that’s a resounding NO on the volunteer work this year.

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Yeah, yeah – rub in the guilt, why don’t you. GFY, random inspirational quote generator!

 

The blog – I really, really wanted to launch a new blog before the summer was done, especially since I’ll be living abroad during the next few months. I almost did it today, but then discovered that the WordPress hosting sites (at least the few that I looked at) were a little pricey after the initial “beginner” discounts ran out. Oh, to be rich. I admit that I haven’t looked around much yet, so the research continues.

4. Attempt to learn Hebrew in preparation for studying abroad.

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Learning by osmosis.

Let’s just say… this is a work in progress. “תהיה בריא” or something like that.

5. Consider freelance writing to earn extra cash.

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YES!! I can actually eat three meals today!

See #1-3. Again with wanting to start an official travel blog; I still have this dream of writing for a living, although I have yet to figure out how on earth to incorporate that into a business career. I wanted to use the not-yet-existing blog to get my name out there to start freelancing, but that may also have to wait.

6. Work on writing something for fun, taking one of the many novels I have mulling around in my head and actually putting it on paper.

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My attempt at being a novelist – 13 measly pages to show for it.

I tried! I started off so well, setting a goal at the beginning of the summer to write at least three pages a day (my pace during that one time I participated in NaNoWriMo.) But the two internships got the best of me, and what free time I had went toward the Hebrew studies. Oof. I’m really not doing very well at prioritizing my personal goals, am I?

7. Get my health back on track (which took a serious backseat in May, between finals and my health scare in China.)

 

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Yeah, this happened.

Okay, this one I accomplished! I started following a plant-based diet during the week (being very careful not to say “vegan,” lest I anger the hard-core vegans and end up with angry comments on my blog) and cutting out alcohol except during the weekends. This actually went a long way with helping me get healthy again. It’s not that I want to give up meat and dairy completely (hence the break on the weekends) but I wanted to eat more vegetables and experiment with healthier recipes. By the time Friday rolls around each week, I feel awesome! (I also really, really want an egg and cheese breakfast quesadilla with a bloody mary.) Between the new-and-improved diet and getting back into a workout routine, I found myself a few pounds lighter by summer’s end. Yes! Health was my priority, but if I don’t look like a complete cow by the time I go to Israel, I’m happy with that too.

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Those morning runs in the heat and humidity of Washington DC were tough, but the view made it a little more tolerable.

 

So what’s next (besides figuring out how to finally start a travel blog)? Well, school started for everyone but me. Since the school year at Tel Aviv University, where I’m doing my semester abroad, doesn’t start until late October, I’ve got some extra time on my hands. I’m taking advantage of it as best I can (especially since I won’t get a winter break – the Israelis only take off one day for Hanukkah!) so it’s off to the west coast to visit friends and family. And then… back to Asia!

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Glorious Hong Kong!

Yes, I’m taking the very scenic route to Israel. Two of my classmates are studying abroad In Hong Kong, so I’m going to visit them for a few days. I’m excited – Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities, and it’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Also, I should probably a custom suit made (since I’m supposed to be a serious business professional now, so I should at least attempt to look the part.)