Trapped in Paradise – the DC Edition

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


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Study abroad, week 1: School, food, Cubs

What a way to start off the day! I declined to watch the World Series final since it started at 2am here in Israel, and had hoped to wake up to news that the Chicago Cubs had prevailed. However, when my alarm went off at 6:00 this morning, I discovered that the game was still going on with a 10th inning and a rain delay! Needless to say, I postponed my morning run to watch the stunning conclusion.

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Obviously it was destiny!

I’m not even a baseball fan. I guess you could say that I get to be a Cubs fan by marriage since Chuck had spent several years in Chicago and loves his team, but even that’s a stretch. However, everyone loves a good story, and who out there was not rooting for the Cubs to win it all? (Other than Cleveland, of course.) Congratulations to the team and to their fans, this truly was a game for the ages!

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Today, Bill Murray is all of us.

Anyway, classes started this week and I have to say, any reservations I had about studying abroad have gone out the window. The quality of instructors here at TAU is quite high, and the classes are interesting. Plus, this school seems to be strong in areas where my home university is a little bit lacking, so I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to fill in some of the gaps in my education.

Plus, we get to do cool things like open the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

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“All I see is signs, all I see is dollar signs…”

Many of my international classmates didn’t think this was a big deal, but I’d seen plenty of famous figures, celebrities, and sports stars open the NYSE in past years. You’d better believe that I elbowed my way to the front of the group so that I could have my hand on the button!

Last weekend, I also got to experience a bit of culture in the form of my first Shabbat dinner with a local family. One of my roommate’s parents had a work colleague living in Tel Aviv, and they were kind enough to invite us over for a traditional Jewish dinner last Friday night.

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SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD OMG

This was such a cool experience, and not just because this was my first time being exposed to Jewish culture. Despite our Catholic upbringing my own family is skimpy on traditions, and the family get-together is unfortunately becoming more sparse in a lot of American households. Truthfully, the only real formal dinner we ever have is on Thanksgiving (and even then, it’s hard to get all the adult children under one roof) so it’s wonderful that these families manage to do this at least once a week!

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Where I come from, family gatherings are little less relaxing.

I do have a tiny confession, though – before the meal, when the challah bread was dipped in the salt (which I learned is a tradition of its own) my initial thought was, “oh good, now I have guest right and I don’t have to worry about being killed tonight.” Clearly I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones.

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No Red Weddings here!

In all seriousness, the dinner was wonderful, and the family who hosted us was so kind and generous. The hospitality of the Israelis I’ve met so far has been unparalleled. It’s only been two weeks! I can’t wait to see what else is in store.


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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.