Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Camera Can Capture It All: Alison, Jeremy and I Go To Israel

These fateful words, uttered by the Israel Outdoors staff photographer while trying to squeeze everyone into the frame of our group picture, proved prophetic. Nothing could sum up the vast array of emotions we felt over this 10 day trip. Though this picture comes pretty close:

This first thing we learned was not to trust our guide. She lied to us. Repeatedly. Our schedule for the first day was an "easy" 20 minute hike and kayaking in the Jordan River which probably wouldn't contain much water (if any). What ensued was a 2 hour death march and rafting (in one of those inflatable things - see below) in a fully full river. I thought I was going to die. The hike through the Galilee mountains was beautiful. Unfortunately I was so busy looking at my feet, struggling to get over enormous rocks and maneuvering through narrow passages that the physical beauty of the landscape largely evaded me. By the end of the hike (which we actually cut short because people were struggling so much), I was on the verge of hyperventilating, sweaty beyond belief and very annoyed that we'd been deceived. Since we were told the "kayaking" wouldn't involve us getting wet (since the river would be almost entirely depleted of water), I decided to go in fully clothed. Total mistake. I got completely drenched. On our ride down the river, we ran into a group of rowdy Hasidic school boys who disobeyed every single rule the rafting guy told us. They were swimming in the river, splashing around everywhere. Fantastic. Luckily, our rafting buddies were Luke and Emily, two people with even worse attitudes than mine and Alison's. We talked smack on everyone else in the group and really bonded. Love you guys!!

The rest of the trip was spent trying to gauge how much of what we were told was a lie and trying to adjust our attire accordingly.


1. All the kinds of Doritos. They weren't as good as American Doritos (of course), but it was fun to try them. They were much thinner and had less powder flavoring on them. This one tasted like curry!

2. The desert waterfall. Very pretty!!

3. All the hiking. Despite the fact that it was exactly 1000 degrees Celsius every single day we were there and I've never sweat so much and so consistently over such a long period of time, the hiking was really fun. I never get to do stuff like that at home. It felt great to actually finish the really hard hikes and see the viewpoints [sic] at the top. Hiking Masada was particularly feelgoody. Here we are, red-faced and sweaty beyond belief.

4. When I took this picture:

5. Becoming friends with Luke and Emily. AAWWWWW!!

6. Learning about bomb disposal robots! The police evacuate areas when they discover an unattended bag or package in a public place. Then they send in a robot that destroys the bomb! So cool! We heard the whole thing go down when we were at the Western Wall. They said stuff over the PA system, telling everyone that there was a suspicious package. Then there was another announcement that there would be a robot bomb noise in a few minutes. The soldiers translated this for us, but our leader didn't think it was important enough to tell us what was about to happen and kept lecturing about the Second Temple. Cool, good call Michal. No one will notice or be scared of the loud bomb noise. Anyway, it was a pretty substantial sound. Totally cool. Here's an example of a BDR:

After a while it became clear that the bus driver Yossi was stealing our water bottles so that we'd buy his instead. Every time we left water on our seats for an activity, we'd return to the bus unable to find them. Very clever Yossi. Great entrepreneurial mind.

Some things I learned:

1. Israelis love Israel. A lot. This was kind of surprising. Since the land of Israel is so significant primarily because of its religious importance, I assumed that secular Israelis (most Israelis) wouldn't feel that tied to it. Wrong! Totally wrong. They are so patriotic. It's kind of weird, but I guess it makes sense. It's strange because Israel is comprised of mostly displaced people (people who weren't born IN Israel). Lots came over after the Holocaust and in the early 20th century. So in that way, it's a lot like America, where patriotism is prevalent but maybe less based on the idea that the specific land is what's important.

2. Israelis are assholes. Not really, but like kind of. They have an incredibly brisk attitude and arrogance that is really offputting. I knew this going in, but it was pretty surprising to interact with a whole nation of jerks all at once. Our guide Michal, who ended up being great and very knowledgeable and accommodating, was so quintessentially Israeli. Whenever we were on a hike and she found herself not in the absolute front, she'd plow through the group screaming, 'Sorry, I just want to be first!' This really sums up the Israeli Weltanschauung. Sorry! They just want to be first! They're gonna take it all no matter who stands in their way. SORRY!! Sorry I just want to be first should be the state motto of Israel.

3. Israel looks like southern California. One of these is Israel and one is Griffith Park. Can you tell which one is which?!?!

4. There is a lot of America in Israel. I knew we put tons of money into the military there (one of our guard's bullet holders had U.S. on it), but I had no idea about the proliferation of American TV, products and language in Israel. So much of the signage is just English transliteration. It's not that they don't have words for things in Hebrew. They just choose not to use them. This was really weird and much more widespread than European adoption of American words.

5. Israeli soldiers are pussies. Who knew?!!? I think they get so used to having their guns with them they stop actually being tough. Two of the girls didn't make it all the way up Masada because of a headache and a fear of heights. Ohad had to have his mommy pick him up from the bus because he was feeling sick. Man, so lame. It made me feel super strong and powerful. I'm tougher than soldiers!!

6. There is a lot of garbage in Israel. Mostly in the country. The cities are pretty clean.

7. The Western Wall has a women only section that is 1/4 the size of them men's section. This was really shocking, but I guess it was naive not to expect it. Women are relegated to the periphery in all other aspects of Jewish culture, so why not here at the most holy site.

By the end of the trip everyone had gotten terrible ill and was afflicted with various intestinal and respiratory ailments. I'm still 100% sick.

Overall the trip was a nice diversion from normal life and it was great to spend time with Alie and Jeremy. Thanks to the American Jewz for sending me on the trip of a lifetime for free!!!!!! You really did yourselves a disservice because now I hate religion more than ever.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Swedish Fish Weekend

This weekend I went to DC to visit Erin. I sat next to a really smelly man the whole ride. When we got there, the first thing we did was head to Virginia to get fish pedicures.

We were nervous and excited. The sanitation at the salon was questionable. They forced us to wear these skanky rubber flip flops that were definitely not cleaned after every use. The salon was also really weird. They had free buffalo wings. Like tons and tons of buffalo wings. Also free strawberries in a clear vase (not a nice way to display strawberries in summer (condensation=unappetizing)). We were brought back to the tanks and in we went! I could not stop laughing at first. One because it was extremely tickley and two because helloo there were tons of fish eating my feet! A lot of the other people were being hysterical at first too. The fish nibbled at my toes for a really long time. They just didn't stop! Finally I got out of the tank and the pedicure was finished regular style. All in all, I was not very impressed. The fish didn't make my feet incredible smooth and the sensation they provided was not pleasurable. I will not be getting another fish pedicure, but I'm not that upset I did it once.

Here is Erin's recap of the fish pedi:

To preface. I hate Virginia. I hate most people from Virginia, I hate the buildings there, I hate the way they arrange their highways and streets, I hate the way Virginian's drive, I hate the tobacco and Republicans and slavery and plantations. However, as it turns out. I do not hate the fish they have there that eat dead skin off of peoples feet.

The place was very nondescript, in a strip mall, beside a Domino's (which is relevant, just wait). This lady/boy washed our feet which felt a little biblical and weird. Naomi didn't want to put on the flip flops they provided cos she thought she'd get diseased. But like. HER feet were covered in poison ivy which I'm sure would have canceled it out.

Finally they put us on these benches side by side with our feet in these tanks of little inch long fishes. It was hard for me to put my feet in the first time, cos I do NOT like aquatic life. As soon as my feet hit the water the fish ATTACKED. It was a really weird sensation. Like tiny little sucking mouths all over your feet (not sexually, gross, they're fish).

Our first reaction was hysterical laughter. I attribute the laughter to three different things: 1. it tickles, 2. the situation is patently ridiculous, and 3. it makes you kind of nervous to have fish gnaw at your feet. Serious laughter too. Like to the point of tears. Then things settled down.

There was a really nice man (he was featured on the GMA segment I think, NAOMI: do a link) who was really proud of his little fishes and all they were doing for our feet. He told us that everyone who does the fish for the first time has a few minutes of hysterical laughter, which made me feel better about causing a scene. THEN this other lady came to get her feet eaten. She had driven down all the way from New York just for the fish treatment! She was really nuts. She cracked up and kept cracking up for a long time. And also grabbed the lady next to her (who she did not know).

Anyway. It was kind of weird but not painful or anything. Then they take you out of the tank and do your nails the regular way. They also served us buffalo wings from dominoes! Like a lot of them! Which has never happened to me before in my many years of nail maintenance.

We inspected our feet afterwards, and we both agreed that the fish were not really effective. I think they would have been if we had been in there for an hour as opposed to 15 minutes. OR if they had really gone to town on our calluses before hand. But it was fun. I wouldn't go again unless I had another out of town guest, cos I bet they would think it was fun and funny and worth the 40 bucks it cost us.

So in conclusion. The only thing coming out of Virginia that I don't HATE is fish pedicures. And the Neptunes.

After that we got some drinks and snacks with Erin's friends and saw her brother's band play. I got pretty sleepy, but I had fun.

Saturday we hung out at Faith's pool. Real relaxing. Then we got home in time for CRABFEAST. Very delicious.

Sunday we saw Mamma Mia! It was a really fun, totally bizarre movie. It also reminded me that Super Trouper is a gorgeous song.

Camera Obscura's cover of it is pretty special too. Listen here!