Friday, June 29, 2012

6/29/12: The Sweetest Story Every Told

It is no secret that most women search and pine for great romances. Who wouldn't want a Mr. Big coming to rescue you in Paris because he finally realizes you are the one, or a Jack telling you he will "never let go" as he sacrifices himself beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic, or, my personal favorite, a Mr. Darcy beginning as a foe and turning into the most profound love for free spirited Elizabeth. I've never met a women yet who doesn't wish and pray for someone like this, or situations like this, to come along and sweep them off their feet.

However, to many a cynical woman, it seems that outside of brilliant hollywood scripting, men, and stories, like the ones listed above just don't seem to exist; I certainly have never heard of anything like these happening in real life... that is until I met Mr. P and Mrs. A (I have decided not to use full names out of respect for the privacy of the family). A few weeks ago I was put into contact with the family friends of my grandparents who were traveling throughout Israel for 10 days. I was lucky enough to be able to spend 2 days with this amazing family, and by the end of their trip I discovered something that made their story so unique and special.

When I was first introduced to Mr. P and Mrs. A I was under the assumption that I would be meeting the two of them plus one granddaughter (who's Bat Mitzvah present was the trip to Israel.) Instead I met Mr. P, Mrs A., 5 sons, and 3 grandchildren (including the Bat Mitzvah girl)! Though I was a bit overwhelmed at first due to the large number of new people I was being introduced to at once, it really only took me about 5 minutes to fall madly in love with the entire family! They were funny, and talkative, and energetic, and since I couldn't spend time with my own family, having 10 new family friends from Southern California was a fantastic second best situation. They really are one of the most fun, fabulous families I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

As I spent more time with them, every so often some of the sons would call either Mr. P or Mrs. A. aunt or uncle, and the grandchildren wouldn't call both grandparents grandma and grandpa. This was very, very strange to me, and I had no idea why Mr. P and Mrs. A weren't "mom and dad" to all of the sons, and "grandma and grandpa" to all of the grandchildren. I was definitely missing some vital information but had no idea what. I didn't dwell on this, but as soon as they left Israel my grandmother told me the amazing, fairy tale-esq story of Mr. P and Mrs. A. Once I had the accurate information the "aunt and uncle" name calling made a lot more sense!

Many years ago, right before the war, Mrs. A and Mr. P fell in love, however, Mr. P was taken away to war for a long time. While he was away Mrs. A became close with Mr. P's brother and they were married. After a time Mr. P returned from the war and soon after (or at least I'm assuming it was soon after) he was married to another woman. Though I'm not sure of the time frame, years later Mrs. A's husband (Mr. P's brother) passed away followed by the passing of Mr. P's wife. After numbers of years, children, and grandchildren, Mr. P and Mrs. A, who had always loved one another, were finally able to be together and they were married. They are now one big happy family, and if you saw the two of them together you would know that their story is a true fairy tale, and they are so very much in love.

It gives one a lot of hope and encouragement to know that sometimes great stories aren't just found in books or the movies. As I am in the process of embarking on my new Israeli life, and having a plethora of new journeys and experiences, I am slowly finding fairy tales of my own both in life and love, but that, my friends, is a post for another time :-).

Until we meet again,
Jordana Simone 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

6/26/12: So This Is Growing Up

Tomorrow marks the completion of my first full week of Ulpan study, and really, despite the horrific misery of waking myself up at 6:45am (7:45 if I'm fortunate enough to be staying with Frenchy), I have never enjoyed anything more. It is still extremely difficult for me to find a basic comfort level speaking Hebrew, I am shy in an area I have never been shy in before, but every day is getting better and better, and I have to keep reminding myself that it's a slow process that will work itself out with enough time and hard work.

In other news, after unsticking myself from the rut of not having most of my non-apartment associated friends with me in Israel I finally got off my butt and made plans to see a wonderful friend of mine from Berkeley. He has been in Israel for a few months but with our seemingly opposite schedules it has been impossible to get together until now. Luckily I caught him right before he leaves to start his international MBA program, so my timing couldn't have been better.

Me and Jon! Finally reunited! 

Our lovely little Italian dinner was spent reminiscing about the good old college days, plans for the future, and how lucky we both feel to be able to call Israel our homes. Though he is going abroad to study he will be retuning to the Holy Land upon his program's completion. As I was sitting and eating on the outside patio of the restaurant, watching people walk by on the busy street in front of me, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed at how lucky I am to be where I am, and to be doing what I am doing. It isn't easy; it is hard and scary being on your own so far away from home and familiarity, left on your own to make the hard decisions in your life, but then I asked myself: who really wants easy? That's no way to fill a life with excitement!

It seems that the more I am in Tel Aviv the less I know about the city, and the more I want to discover. My comfort zone has always been my room and I have decided that this is no longer an acceptable way to live. I am fortunate enough to reside in one of the most exciting cities in the world, so it seems a shame and a waste to stay in so much (I also think that re watching Sex and the City and seeing those women galavanting all over vibrant New York helped kick my butt into gear as well. Thank you HBO).  Sometimes to get to know a place inside and out you just have to throw yourself into it, so whether that means doing my homework at a new cafe every week, or even going out to eat meals alone just so that I can see new places and try new things, then that is what I am going to do, and do it I will with pleasure :-)

Tomorrow will be another normal day at Ulpan, followed by homework and the drafting of various letters that need to be sent to both my university and various Israeli government agencies, followed by a hopeful dinner with my best girlfriend Susanna, who has FINALLY returned from the states. This Thursday is a treat for Tel Avivis who will be celebrating Lilah Lavan (white night), an all day, all night celebration of Tel Aviv being declared the white city by the UN (at least that is what I heard. I will get back to you in the next blog post after I have partaken in the celebrations)! Any excuse to party all night here good so I thoroughly look forward to missing out on some good sleep. After that we will see what Friday and Saturday have in store :-)

Until we meet again ya asdeqa!

Jordana Simone 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

6/21/12: And So It Has Begun!

Ulpan Gordon 

My journey to fluency in Hebrew all began Tuesday evening at 5:00. It was a beautiful afternoon as I made my way down to the center of town to take a test that would place me in the intensive language class that I would be taking for the next 5 months!! The test went well enough considering I haven't really studied Hebrew since last year, I had an interview with one of the teachers who placed me in my level, and then, to de stress a bit, I walked down the street (literally) to visit Mr. Frenchy. As I was walking to his house I told myself that I have to be very good and try not to impose and ask to stay at his place all the time since it is right down the street from my Ulpan that I need to attend every morning at 8:15 am... For those of you who know me you know I am not a morning person so if I can weasel my way to a few extra minutes of sleep I will definitely try and do so, it just happens to be a big bonus that I happen to like staying with him regardless of the fact that it is convenient for my studies!

After a good night sleep I woke up the next morning bright and early to start my trial day at the Ulpan. I attended class from 8am - 1pm, felt a little lost, mostly excited, and realized that though it would be one of the bigger challenges in my life. It's discouraging when you are in a language class filled with people who speak 2, 3, and even 4 languages and you are struggling to pick up just one additional language. I love being American but I think it is a big problem that language acquisition isn't stressed more in American schools; I almost feel cheated in a way. Almost everyone I have met in Israel from Europe, Russia, even Israelis speak multiple languages with ease because of an academic system that stresses multiple language learning. However, regardless of the struggle it is something that is important to me and so I will get it done! It may be a struggle but at the end of the road it will all be worth it.

The class was amazing and it was so good to be back in a study setting where I was studying something essential to my new life in Israel. Almost no english was used which forced me to really work hard to grasp what was being said, the teacher talked very fast which has its advantages because every Israeli speaks a million words a minute, I didn't understand everything, but I kept up as best I could and have confidence that each day will get easier and more comfortable. I still go through daily life wondering how I will ever be able to truly express myself in another language, but I have confidence that if so many people I have met can do it, so can I (in time). At least now every time I have a thought I try to see if I can express even parts of it in Hebrew; it's a good training strategy in my opinion.

It's a very scary and exciting time in my life. I feel like even though I have been in Israel since last July I have really only just started my life as an Israeli. No more studies in English, no more temporary programs, only real, big people life ahead and I couldn't be more ready.

Until we meet again :-),
Jordana Simone

Monday, June 18, 2012

6/18/12: The Lull Will Soon Be Over

For the past few weeks I can't help but feel I have been stuck in a bit of a rut, suspended in limbo between an old plan that I feel needs to end sooner than later, and a new plan that will jump start my career and adult life. Unfortunately, however, I am finding it incredibly hard to motivate myself to close (or at least put on hold) my current chapter before beginning the next. When I am passionate and interested in something it is with pleasure that I invest 100% of my time an energy into whatever that something may be, however, when I feel that said thing has run its course, whether or not I happen to be finished with it, I lose all motivation and find myself bored and restless.

Luckily for me I go to take the placement test for my 5 month intensive Hebrew Ulpan tomorrow, which should begin in July and last me right up until I start the next 5 months of my intensive Hebrew hell to get me ready to study my next degree completely in a foreign language! To say that I am excited about this is quite the understatement as I am very ready to attain a decent level of fluency in the language of the country I am now a new citizen of. Now all I have to do is wrap my mind around the 4 papers I have to write, and doing that with little interest in what I am writing about should be fairly miserable. O well, we must do what we must do, and at least come September I will be able to completely move on.

On a happier note I received the best news that my little sister will be coming to visit me for a month in mid July. She will be flying over with my step sister who is coming to Israel for a year to do a Master's program of her own, and I will finally be reunited with my two siblings... at the same time! Tel Aviv is in for quite a treat once the Pepper-Lieberman clan are reunited. I can't deny that having more girls in my life will be a breath of fresh air and a wonderful change from the norm of living with and being constantly surrounded by men. As wonderful as it is I'm definitely on the prowl for more girlfriends. I think my recent re-watching of Sex and the City has jump started my desire for a solid group of girlfriends.

One girlfriend, however, just returned to Israel for a short time so it has been great being able to see her. I met her through my roommate Morgan and she lives in the penthouse of our building. The other night Morgan and I went up for some much needed relaxing wine and jacuzzi time before going out to a sushi dinner with the clan, and it was the perfect way to start my last week of classes. I think my trip up to the 30th floor motivated me to work really hard to make lots of money one day so that I can enjoy the splendors of living so high up :-). I know my mom is probably thinking to herself, "O Jordana, money isn't everything", and she would be right, but it will sure be nice to have a bunch of it one day!!!

Penthouse view! 

Hot tub, wine, and a perfect summer night! 

Like I said before, this week marks the end of my 2nd semester at Tel Aviv University, and the conclusion of my studies in the MAMES program, at least until I am finished with my next degree in Hebrew. It has been a wonderful experience, and the MAMES program brought me to my new home and for that I am eternally grateful, but I can't say I'm sad to see it ending. With a clean slate only a week away I am beginning to plan fabulous days spent studying Hebrew, readying myself for my next round of studies, enjoying all that Tel Aviv has to offer, trying to write these last papers, and beginning summer the right way; with lots of beach time and daily Israeli iced coffees! It's a good thing my Ulpan is a block away from the beach :-)

Until we meet again, ya chaverim! YOM TOV!!

Jordana Simone 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

6/12/12: My How Things Change In The Thick Of It All

As I'm only a short month away from the year mark of my move to the other side of the world it is remarkable to look back and see how different my life is from what I thought it would be. When I first arrived to Israel, having no intention of staying permanently, I figured I would get a degree in the Middle East, work in this area doing God knows what for a year or so, and then go back to the states after figuring out what to get my doctorate in.

Then I made a decision that dramatically changed the path that I thought my life was on; I decided to make Israel my permanent home thus changing some of the more major plans in my life. First of all my quest to become Dr. Pepper is still in full motion, however, with a few minor adjustments such as, o you know, studying for an advanced degree in a language that is not my native... Completely terrifying but also so exciting at the same time. Along this line of thought I never really knew exactly what I wanted to be a Doctor of until quite recently. Sure I wrestled with many ideas such as clinical psychology, psychiatry (although I really didn't want to do medical school), neuroscience, and so on, but it wasn't until I started researching the various medical degrees in Israel that I narrowed down exactly what I want my focus to be. I tried to find something that would combine my love of psychology with heavy emphasis on patient interaction and stumbled upon a field I hadn't given much thought to in the past; Occupational Therapy. If clinical psychology and physical therapy bred and had a baby it would be the profession of Occupational Therapy, and the best news is that psychiatric occupational therapists are in extremely high demand in Israel! I still get to focus on psychological impairments while working hands on with a wide variety of patients. Pretty perfect if you ask me!

When I had finished all my research on what I would need to do to become a professional in this field I started contacting the necessary people to get the ball rolling which led me to a few very major roadblocks. The first and foremost was the fact that Israel would not assist me with my education, including the pre academic program to prepare me for study in Hebrew, if I already had a Master's degree. DILEMMA seeing as I am currently studying for an MA.

As much as I love the Middle East, and was so excited about studying it, once I had decided that I was not going back to the states (where it would be so easy for me to get an advanced degree in any field regardless of my BA or MA), and that my professional life would be in Israel where I need certain academic degrees to even practice a medical field, I found that my current MA was becoming more of a curse than the blessing it was in the beginning when it had brought me to Israel. Anyways, after much struggle I am in the process of trying to postpone getting the masters (I don't want to just drop out and waste all the money I invested) so that I can get the assistance I need to complete the degree that will lead right into a career. As much as I love studying the history of the region I now call my home, I'm ready to be done with the past and focus on the exciting future I have ahead of me. In all honesty this degrees purpose was to bring me to Israel and allow me to continue my study of Arabic, and it did just that and more. Now I hope that I can part ways with it so that in July I can begin a 10 month journey that will bring me to academic fluency in Hebrew and allow me to begin my next chapter of becoming Doctor Pepper, doctor of occupational therapy!

In more social news about a week ago I attended a fundraiser for my best friend Susanna's non profit organization, Save A Child's Heart, which is truly an astounding non profit that takes children from third world countries who need a specific heart surgery, brings them to Israel, and performs the surgery free of charge. It was so great that I could contribute to this amazing business and I can't wait to be more involved with them as more things come up.
Banchi and me at the benefit 

Orlit and me at the fundraiser 

It was a MAMES reunion for a good cause 

Aside from that the only other thing of note that happened this week was my being used as a test subject for Stephane who is studying for his 2nd year Optometry exams. Along with hour long eye tests I feel like I'm learning a great deal about the profession by allowing him to test my eyes (and in turn he teaches me what he is doing and lets me try it on him as well). I guess if Occupational Therapy doesn't pan out Optometry would be a good second choice (kidding), plus in return for my help I proposed that I receive free eye care in the future (which he agreed to). However, it is so very interesting to see all that he is doing and it only gets me more excited for my own studies coming up!

Dr. Fitoussi... So serious! 
Come Thursday I should know exactly what is happening with the postponement of this degree and the continuation of my professional degree! I am both nervous and excited but can't wait to jump in and take the next steps in my life as an Israeli new immigrant!

Stay tuned and Lilah Tov ya chaverim,
Jordana Simone 

Monday, June 4, 2012

5/31/12: L.U.V MADONNA!

Tickets and badges to see Madonna! 

I remember when I first announced I was making my move to Israel permanent my mom mentioning  hope that I would one day meet a former love of hers who just happens to be Israeli. Though he doesn't live in Israel he would constantly correspond with my mom at which times he would check to see how I was doing and if I needed anything at all. Much of his family is still here in Israel so they would, naturally, be fantastic resources for a new immigrant like myself who is alone in this country. Now what I forgot to mention is that this wonderful man just happens to be the father of Madonna's personal manager, and he was in Tel Aviv for her world tour debut!

When my mother told me he was in town I jumped at the chance to meet with him. Like I previously stated, I am quite alone here in Israel and I try to never miss an opportunity to forge new contacts. I immediately wrote him an email expressing my desire to meet him, arranged a time, and then discovered that he had told my mom he was going to try and get me two VIP tickets to the concert!!! I was absolutely beside myself. I made sure to convey the fact that I was not writing to meet him for tickets (I genuinely wanted to meet someone who was such a special part of my mother's life), but, nonetheless, I was so so so beyond excited to receive such a wonderful gift. The next day I met with him at the Dan Tel Aviv hotel (where Madonna was staying as well) where I was greeted by rooms and rooms full of security. We had a quick meet and greet but because he was so busy with the concert we could only be together for a short period of time, I gave him the short version of my life story, and when it was time for him to leave he gave me a wonderful gift of two tickets and passes to a concert that had been sold out for months!

Since I found out about the tickets only 1 day before the concert I had a lot of work to do on Wednesday to lock in my date, figure out what to wear, how to get there, and so on. Because Madonna isn't so much a young, 24 year old man's cup of tea my first choice of guest was my best friend Susanna, however, she was leaving for the states that night so couldn't come. After some thought I realized that even though one might not be a Madonna fan, and I must admit I'm not the biggest Queen M fan either, I still had AMAZING tickets and it would be a wonderful date night, so, naturally, I had Stephane come with me! Saying that there is never a dull moment when Stephane is involved would be a dramatic understatement. I knew when I invited him that we would not be doing this concert experience half assed; there would be costumes and craziness because, well, that's just how he does things and I surely wasn't complaining. After I had my attire planned out everything was set for the next day.

When it was time to depart for the concert Steph's mom was kind enough to take us which was really a mitzvah (good deed), seeing as we probably would have scared people on the bus... We were decked out and ready to make our presence known at this event!

The perfect center of attention! 

I went for the classic Madonna 80's look 

80's style! 
When we arrived we flashed our shiny badges and were immediately directed to the "Friends and Family of Madonna" VIP lounge where lots of yummy food and free drinks were waiting for us!!!! I like to call this a HUGE hook up by my mom's former boyfriend. Of course everyone was dressed to the nines and here come Stephane and me in our crazy little getups, but I can say that we commanded attention... Especially that crazy Frenchy! Again, never a dull moment when Stephane is involved :-)

Me and my crazy date! 

VIP Friends and Family lounge! 

Open bar! 

Of course he gravitated towards the cheese... so French! 

After spending some time in the lounge we decided to enter the venue where we were escorted to an area practically right up against the stage! I couldn't believe how close we were. Out of sheer curiosity we asked some people how much they spent on tickets in the section we were in (which would be totally not appropriate in America but a question which is absolutely acceptable in Israel :-p) and we didn't get an answer under ₪ 1500 shekel ($400+). AMAZING! Since all great stars must be fashionably late we spent a good hour and a half enjoying the French DJ who was opening, and then the the lovely montage of Michael Jackson music they were playing immediately before Madonna took the stage. We danced around, talked to people, took pictures, and enjoyed the fact that we were in such an amazing section, for free, which for two poor new immigrants is something to get excited about :-)

Hello stage right in front of me! 

My favorite goofball 

Finally it was time for the queen herself to emerge and what an entrance it was! Not only were men chanting sections of Kaballah (very appropriate if you know Madonna's fascination with Jewish mysticism), but acrobats dazzled, and then appeared Madame M... Right in front of my face. I was so close I felt like I could touch her at times!

With a brilliant combination of new and old material Madonna absolutely dazzled, and for being a 53 year old woman, she looked damn good! She really is a brilliant performer who puts on one hell of a show. It was amazing singing along, dancing, acting crazy, and having one of the best times, especially because my company was so great :-)

Stephane and his pre-teen fan club :-) 

As the concert was coming to a close Stephane and I decided to beat the crowd and leave during the last song so that we had a prayer of catching a taxi back into Tel Aviv. We planned it perfectly, found ourselves a cab, and ended a perfectly wonderful night with ease (which is not always easy to do in Israel). It was really the perfect night, the perfect concert, the perfect company, and I couldn't have been more happy with how everything worked out. It was a fantastic end to a fairly stressful week!

Friday night was fairly relaxed since I was still so tired from the concert, Saturday was spent being positively lazy (something I could be a professional at), and Sunday I was off to Jerusalem with my class to see a world renowned Islamic art museum. Stay tuned for that post next!

Until we meet again ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone