Saturday, March 31, 2012

3/30-31/12: Losing An Hour Doesn't Stop Me + Who Needs Africa For A Safari

I must say that despite losing an hour due to daylight savings time FINALLY reaching Israel, I have been quite active and productive these last two days! I must admit that I am not very experienced when it comes to concert going so naturally I jumped at the chance to join my girlfriend susanna at a "Balkan Beat Box" concert here in Tel Aviv. Balkan Beat Box is an Israeli political band, and though I was not familiar with them Susanna's description of their music led me to believe that I would really enjoy them. In actuality all she said to sell me was that they have some Arabic songs; that's all it took  :-).

At around 8:30 pm I ventured over to Susanna's apartment where we then walked over to meet up with two of her friends that would be joining us at the concert. We arrived at the venue early enough to leisurely enjoy the outside surroundings where there was beautiful wall art to enjoy, food stands, and a number of other pre-concert attractions.
Some of the wall art

Enjoying the scenery 
When we finally entered the venue Susanna and I went to the top level where there was a phenomenal view of the stage and plenty of room to move around and dance (I was forewarned that dancing was a must at this type of concert). We settled into our little space and anxiously awaited the band's arrival. To kill time it seemed appropriate to take as many silly pictures as we could. It really is a great way to kill time and be thoroughly entertained in the meanwhile.
View of the stage 

Goofy photo op 

The crowd anxiously awaiting 

Getting all ready for good music 

Balkan Beat Box

Can't have a photo shoot without making at least one face 

Me and Suze! I'm so glad she is back! 
After what seemed like an hour or so of waiting the band finally came on stage to a roar of applause from the excited audience. When they began to play I was instantly struck by their sound. It is a mix of Middle Eastern meets Garage Band meets Funk and it was like nothing I have ever heard. Of course my favorite songs of theirs were the ones not done in English, but every song they played had such spirit it was hard not to fall in love with it! And, naturally, I fell madly in love with the lead singer who is an Iraqi Israeli... Give me and Arab Jew and I'm a goner! Here is a quick clip of one of their songs

By 12:30 I was absolutely exhausted but I champed through the last 30 minutes of the concert despite pretty severe dehydration that made me feel as if I was close to death. When the concert finally ended Suze and I left the venue and walked a ways away from the crowed in the hopes of finding cabs to take us home. Despite the massive crowds of people we were finally successful in finding our rides and I went right home to bed.

When I woke up this morning I thought I might as well start reading the Hunger Games Trilogy because I am so tired of not knowing what all this hype is about! I have only read about 30 pages or so but it seems very interesting thus far. After a few hours of reading Ben, his girlfriend Bar, and I decided it was too perfect of a day to stay inside doing nothing so we decided to go to the big Safari/Zoo in the neighboring city of Ramat Gan. Spring has finally arrived to Israel and we were about to take full advantage of being outside for a few hours! I can honestly say I have never experienced anything quite like this place despite having gone to plenty of zoos in my time. When we first arrived we were guided to a drive through Safari where we were to stay in the car driving through acres of land where various animals were free to roam right up to the cars. This was a bit strange for me since the USA would most likely never allow anything like this to take place due to insurance costs, but it seemed perfectly normal for Israel. The first animals we saw were a heap of Ostriches (some of whom were not shy about coming right up to cars). They really are ugly, stupid animals!
For our own safety I was glad they had this sign

Just saying a friendly hello

Ramat Gan: Where animals and humans share the road

I guess he really wanted to see what was in that car 

Once we had finished with the Ostriches it was on to much larger animals like Rhinos, Zebras and Gazelles, one of whom really took a fancy to me and I thought he was going to attempt to jump into Bar's little toyota. It was amazing being able to get so close to the animals! When we arrived to the Zebra  area there was one very stern looking male who was standing guard to make sure no measly human got out to mess with his herd. They are such beautiful animals and it really felt like I was on an African safari out in the wild (seeing as all the animals at this point were running completely free).
What a tough life! He is taking a little nap :-)

He really wanted to come in the car

They really just don't look so real 

The fact that at any moment this guy could come running towards your car is not so comforting 

Guarding the herd 

We could get real up close and personal 

Having the best time! 
Once we went through the driving safari it was time to park the car and enter into the proper zoo portion of the park. We must have started in the middle because for about an hour all we could seem to find were every variety of monkey known to man! Excuse the graphic nature of what I will say next but when we were looking at many of the monkey species (baboons, chimps, etc.) we noticed that half of the population had some very strange things going on with their back regions... At first we thought that maybe it was cancer that was making the butts look so awful, but after investigating we were told that when female monkeys are in heat their butts do some very funky things... I was very scarred by this experience and expressed that I was very happy that particular trait disappeared when we evolved from them.
It's a babyyyy! 

Cleaning time! And seriously... Just look at the butts... That's not normal 


The lone chimp

Couldn't pass up this photo op 

He looks like he needs some lovies 

The big man
When we had our share of seeing our distant relatives it was off to the giraffe and elephant enclosure where we spent quite a bit of time. Lucky for us the giraffes were feeling very friendly and social, and we even had a chance to feed them (though it wasn't so allowed, but since Israelis don't understand following rules we decided we might as well join in)! They were so sweet and it was a pleasure spending so much time near them; we definitely bonded!
The Giraffe enclosure 

A beautiful bull 

My new friend 

Bar decided to join in the fun and feed her 

Benny after feeding her

After our excitement at the giraffe compound we made a point to see the wild cats (who were absolutely breathtakingly stunning), a few more bird and monkey enclosures, and some domesticated goats, sheep, and llamas, and then it was time to start thinking about heading home. We had had a very full 4 and a half hours, and we were a bit tuckered out!

My favorite animal 

The king taking a nap 


I think we interrupted a moment

It was an extremely successful weekend and I have had such an incredible time. This hasn't been the most active weekend party wise which is nice because every once in a while changing your routine is very healthy! This next week will be spent hitting the books so that I don't have anything to worry about when I leave for a 5 day vacation to ISTANBUL a week from Tuesday! I am so excited to travel :-)

Until we meet again ya asdeqa!

Tisba7 3ala khier <3,
Jordana Simone 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

3/29/12: If Only Money And Men Were Not Important...

In the one month since I have been back in the Middle East I have succeeded in saying goodbye to the life I knew growing up in California and starting anew in the land of Israel. Though the process of my citizenship is now complete, for the most part, the excitement is still, everyday, overwhelming. However, because much of the bureaucratic nonsense is now dealt with, and some of my fears and anxieties have and are subsiding, another aspect of this monumental journey I have embarked upon needs to be attended to, though I am finding that attending to it is wracked with hardships, obstacles, and difficulties.

A main reason I decided to move abroad (before deciding to remain abroad for good) was to ensure an ability to travel and see the world; at least a great deal of this side of the world (Middle East, Europe, parts of Asia, etc.) Though, during the bustle of my Aliyah, my travel bug was in many ways subdued, it has regained such a strength it's almost unbelievable. On the eve of the Passover holidays, with students constantly discussing their various travel plans, I have found myself both excited and overwhelmed at the many restrictions I face when choosing where to travel.

Problem #1: MONEY

Did you know it costs almost as much to fly round trip to Morocco as it does California??? This poses a huge problem when deciding where to go, and it limits many of the places I am dying to see due to the fact that I'm a poor, starving student who can't work in Israel until my Hebrew is better... SUCKS... the whole monetary situation really puts a damper in the mood when planning a trip. Luckily there are wonderful places that won't completely break the bank to see, but is it enough? Not for me. I have a very extensive list of places that I will not sacrifice going to whether for monetary reasons, personal reasons, etc. The lists is as follows:

Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria)
Lebanon (Beirut)
Syria (Damascus)
Morocco (Fez, Marrakech, Casablanca)
France (Paris, Nice)
England (London)
India (Mumbai, Amritsar, Delhi)
Greece (Athens, Mykonos)

Now these are just all the places I HAVE to visit. The list is almost endless in terms of places I want to see. If you take wants and not absolute necessities into consideration my list is open to many parts of Africa including Kenya and south Africa, Asia including China and Japan, and other places in Europe such as Spain, Amsterdam, Switzerland, etc.

This brings me to problem #2: I'm now Israeli... My US passport is filled to the brim with Israeli stamps and visas... And I want to go to Lebanon and Syria...

Unfortunately harsh restrictions exist to those people who are affiliated with Israel in terms of greater travel throughout the Middle East. Luckily there are some solutions although they take a lot of time, money, and emotional hassle. A second US passport can be obtained for those of us who want to go to places like Lebanon or Syria, and who have "Israel" all over our permanent passports, however the possible problems I will run into on both the Israeli side (leaving Israel and not using my Israeli passport) and the Arab side (should it be found out I'm an Israeli citizen) are a bit daunting. However, as much as I am in love with the fact that I am now legally Israeli, I still think of myself as an Arab and will not give up seeing these places! I'm transethnic, what can I say :-). Surprisingly in all of this I am the least worried by the fact that I'm Jewish... As Jewish as I am I am just as good at playing a very convincing Arab Christian or even Muslim if it came down to the need to do so for safety reasons.

Problem number #3: MEN (and or large groups/dependency on others)

The men issue is a problem in more than one way, which kills an independent woman such as myself (sorry for the feminist tone).  First of all, as a female, it is very hard for me to travel alone to many of the places I want to visit simply because it is not safe for a lone female. I would be very easy prey in any of the Middle Eastern countries, or even Europe, if I were by myself, which is so sad because that means my travel plans ultimately depend upon if a man or a large group of people can go with me, and there is nothing I hate more than feeling that my happiness, or wants and desires, depend on others. There are some days I just want to leave and go to Egypt and not have to plan based on other people's schedules. I have, however, made a deal with myself that if my girlfriend can't accompany me on a trip during Pesach (Passover) vacation I would put my fears aside and travel on my own. Sure I will be doing most of my exploring during the day and making sure I am inside at night, but I will not give up an opportunity to take advantage of an almost two week vacation! The plan is to go to Turkey (cost effective), but if I am on my own I think a quiet few days in Greece might be the ticket :-) I will say this, I love being a woman more than anything, and wouldn't trade places with a man for anything, however, I am quite envious that, for the most part, they can travel alone in relative safety...  A fact that is not so true for my sex. My roommate is going to Italy on his own like it is nothing... If only it were that easy for me!

Anyways, now that I have adequately vented, I will say that I am extremely excited to begin my travel experiences, even if the planning stages are more a hassle than a pleasure. Turkey or Greece will be a perfect destination for a quick 5 day vacation, and it will give me a chance to broaden my experiences outside of the Arab Middle East that I love so much :-). I keep telling myself that at least Turkey is a Muslim country so there are bound to be a few Arabic speakers there!

Plans will be finalized tonight so by tomorrow I will know exactly where I am going and for how long! The rest of this week will be spent working on my paper and getting ready for Pesach to being next Friday night. I have a few personal things to take care of during the time between the end of classes and my trip, and I am very excited to finally have time to attend to them.

Stay tuned for more frequent updates on the upcoming holiday, travels, life, and so on! Exciting things ahead <3

Yom Tov Chaverim,
Jordana Simone