Monday, July 30, 2012

7/30/12: Some More Firsts And An Almost Goodbye

It has been over a week now since my sisters have arrived and it finally feels like everyone is starting to get settled in. I won't deny that it has been a bit difficult not having my own space in my home (I am very independent and very much crave and need a space that is just mine), but I think I'm handling it as well as can be expected. Since we last met Elana has ventured to Jerusalem and Ashkelon with a friend, and Ida and I had one fairly crazy night out in Tel Aviv where I did not return home (well to Frenchy's house that is) until 5:15 in the morning! It was quite a night and felt great to get back into the swing of Tel Aviv night life, but the glamor of club life has dissipated a bit now that a year of Tel Aviv residency has come and gone.

In other news, as you can see by the photo, I finally decided it was best for the good of everyone currently living in my room to buy a fan seeing as it is summer and quite warm here in Israel (not to mention humidity that could choke a horse). As my first big electrical purchase in Israel I thought the news deserved at least a spot on the blog! Plus its a cute picture so why not :-) It certainly makes sleeping a lot more comfortable even though I have probably only slept in my room twice since its purchase.

Now for those of you who have been reading the blog since its inception you know that I love to talk about new experiences no matter how big or small they may seem. I am proud to say I have yet another "first" to add to my list, and though it might not seem to be anything profound, it further asserted a life ideology I promised to adopt when I moved to Israel one year ago. When I lived in the states you couldn't exactly claim I had an open mind, especially when it came to food and my eating habits. I have a very specific diet and am utterly unbending when it comes to food I deem uneatable (i.e. tomatoes, certain fishes, cilantro, etc.) However, since moving to Israel I have been much more open about expanding my food palate and yesterday afternoon I did two things I never thought I would ever do.

I was at Stephane's house and neither of us had eaten all day. It was approaching 5 and he was still doing some work but we knew we had to think about eating eventually. Since he is a guy naturally he had very little food to work with but he told me he had a piece of salmon frozen and asked if I could prepare that while he finished his work. PROBLEM: I DON'T EAT SALMON. Well not cooked anyways. It took me 24 years to accept that salmon sushi was decent because it didn't taste fishy, but the thought of cooked salmon made me a bit nauseous. However, due to extreme hunger and a rather annoying inability to argue with Stephane when it comes to small things like food, I decided to do my best, grit my teeth, and eat some salmon. Now, it is also important to note that not only do I not eat much cooked fish, I have never actually cooked fish in my life. Luckily I had my handy-dandy iPad, I looked up a fairly easy recipe for a lemon-pepper salmon, figured that at least I could drown out the fish taste with lemon, got to work, cooked some veggies, and attempted to prepare a decent meal for the both of us. It's a true testament of how much I care for him that I did this, that is for sure!

I prepared everything as the instructions said, plus added a few spices not listed just for taste, got to grilling, and within 15 minutes I managed to utterly surprise myself and made, what looked to be, a very decent meal. It smelled very nice, and I figured I would probably think the taste was good simply because I took my own time to prepare it! After getting the nod of approval from Stephane we sat down to eat. This was my moment of truth. I kept thinking of how shocked my mother would be if she was seeing this scene transpire, so naturally I took a picture of the meal and sent it to her immediately. I took my first bite and was so surprised to find that it was actually quite good. I never would have given eating salmon a second thought in the states, nor probably would I have tried it with anyone but Steph, but the point is at least I had the experience and now I know I can eat salmon (and cook it) :-).

My Salmon steak creation 

In other, less enjoyable news, in a few days I will be saying goodbye to Stephane for about 3 months as he embarks on an amazing adventure in Australia. I am so happy for him (a little jealous too, I want to travel!), and so excited that he will have this amazing experience, especially since he has been so excited and talking about it for months now, but as strong as I like to seem I can't deny that I will be terribly sad to see him go. I feel so silly seeing as he is only going for a short time in retrospect, and one of the months I will be home in California, but I have been so spoiled having him so close by that it just seems hard to imagine being in Tel Aviv for a long period of time without him here. He has been a great source of escape when I have needed to get away, a wonderful friend when I have just needed someone to talk to, every day he is becoming more and more important to me, and again, I am so so so excited that he will get this opportunity to "get lost" in a totally unfamiliar place. I will miss him immensely, I plan on enjoying as much time as I can with him the last few days he is here, and then... well thank goodness for WhatsApp and Skype! Luckily time really does fly so 3 months really is not so big of a deal when you think about it :-) 

Steph bonding with Bun Bun who I have had since I was a baby 

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Until we meet again ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

7/25/12: Happy Anniversary And Hello Sisters

Dinner with my Sissies! 

Let me begin by offering apologies for my lack of posting in the last few weeks. Between my sisters arriving in Israel, the continuation of my Ulpan, and the ending of my university studies, things have bee rather busy here in Israel. 

Last Friday my two sisters arrived in Israel and it has been so wonderfully amazing having family close by again. The day that they arrived my roommates and I decided to plan a huge Shabbat dinner filled with family and friends to honor the arrival of both my sisters and Michael's father who arrived the same day and will be in Israel with us for 2 months. We spent the whole day cooking and cleaning, prepared everything we would need for the party, and by 8:30pm everyone began to arrive. It was the first time in a long time that we hosted a big get together and it was the perfect way to welcome Ida and Elana to Israel. The apartment was filled with everyone who means the most to me here and the fact that my sister could meet everyone on her first night was a blessing. The food was delicious (minus a chicken that refused to cook all the way through), the company was amazing, and I couldn't have asked for a better first night for the girls. 

When the party was over and everyone had said their goodbyes my sisters decided to call it an early night due to jet lag, and I established my new night home for the week since both girls needed to be at my place and my bed only sleeps 2 people. Thank goodness I had another home to go to because I'm not sure our couches would be acceptable for a good night's sleep! 

The next few days I had Ulpan in the morning, would come home and be with my sisters in the afternoon and evening, and then would go to Frenchy's at night to sleep. In our first week we went to most of my favorite restaurants around Tel Aviv including the sushi bar near my house, the Burger bar close by, Hashdera 34 which is a very fun, cheap place to eat and drink, and the pizza restaurant that just opened up right down the street. Though we have been doing plenty of cooking, dinners have been reserved for eating out. Now that both girls are fairly settled in the fun Tel Aviv night life will begin which makes me happy that I got so much rest during the week. I will be posting more frequently now so stay tuned for updates on sister adventures every two days or so! 


At dinner the first night out 

Me and sissy!  
Me and Piz :-) 

The sissys at Sushi 

Enjoying a night out with our friend Sarah! 

In other news, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that my very dear friend Susanna will be leaving Israel in a month or so. It has been the most wonderful thing in the world having her here and I don't know what I will do when she is no longer in the same country as I am, but I will make the most of this last month and spend as much time with her as possible. I know that this decision is the best for her so I can't be too upset but I won't deny that I will miss her terribly. Thank goodness I'm going home in September for a month because with Susanna gone and Stephane away in Australia for 3 months it would be pretty lonely here in Tel Aviv! Thank goodness my sister is now here though :-) 

And lastly, Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my big move to Israel and I can honestly say it has been the best decision of my life. It is said that when you fall in love you fall in love with your whole heart for better and for worse, and falling in love is exactly what happened between me and this beautiful country. Everyday I'm finding myself more and more, I have met the most incredible people, have wonderful experiences almost daily, and couldn't be happier to call this place my home. Life is pretty great :-) 

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone

Monday, July 9, 2012

7/8/12: Sweet Escape: My Trip To The North (Day 3)

Rosh Ha'Nikrah 

Day 3 of my trip to the North of Israel was the day I was most looking forward to. No matter who I talk to, everyone who has been up north says that the city of Rosh Ha'Nikrah is one of the most beautiful places in Israel, and all of the world, and is a site not to be missed. Now, after years of wanted to visit this place, I was finally able to see it. When I walked off of the bus I was immediately struck by the beautiful contrast of the lush green landscape, the white color of the rocks, and the royal blue of the Mediterranean. It was a beauty like I have never seen before and I now understood why most people who visit here boast that it is one of their favorite spots in Israel. After a few minutes of sightseeing we were all able to take a cable car down the hill where we were to watch a movie on the history of Rosh Ha'Nikrah, look over the border into Lebanon (which was so close I could actually check in to the country on my iPhone), and then head off towards Zichron Yaakov. 

Cable car ride down the hill 

Outside of the Rosh Ha'Nikrah caves

The Sea border with Lebanon! Ahlan Lubnan! 

Like I said, when we reached the bottom of the hill we were off to see a film on the history of Rosh Ha'Nikrah, which included some various legends about a bride who did not want to marry and so threw herself off of the cliffs, the science behind the formation of the caves embedded in the white stones of the area, wildlife that are native to the Rosh Ha'Nikrah shores, and so on. Actually the movie was quite impressive. Before this experience I never thought you could make a semi-educational film on nature seem like soft core porn, but as the video countlessly explained, the caves were formed because of a love affair between the ocean and the rocks, a love affair that is sometimes soft and sweet, and at other times violent and raging, and at that point I found out that I was wrong... Way to go whoever made that film, what an accomplishment! I don't think the people in front of us quite appreciated our laughter when these moments would arise, but it really was hard to control sniggering a bit. When the film was over we were allowed to enter the caves and see first hand the astounding beauty of the underground marvels. It was a sight to be seen. 

One of the caves

Morgan and me inside the caves

In one of the passage ways 

Last view of Rosh Ha'Nikrah 

The MAMES gang at Rosh Ha'Nikrah 
After we had our fill of the caves it was back up onto  the cable cars and off to the town of Zichron Yaakov. I have to say that since moving to Tel Aviv there hasn't been many places in Israel I could seriously see myself living in. I love Jerusalem, but at the end of the day there is nothing like coming home to the bustle of Tel Aviv. However, when I was in the quaint town of Zichron Yaakov I couldn't help but feel that one day, when I have a family and desire something a little more aesthetic and quite, this could be a place I would have no problem living. It reminded me a great deal of California and it has turned out to be one of my favorite places in Israel thus far. When we first arrived we were given a little background on the town, at which point many of us took the opportunity to rest a little, and then we were given about an hour of free time to walk around the town, eat some lunch, and then head back to the bus. 

Rest time when we first arrived at Zichron Yaakov

Mural at the entrance to the city 

Walking around gorgeous Zichron Yaakov

I could absolutely live here! 

As we walked around looking into various shops and restaurants a group of us finally settled on a cute little home-style cafe, had a leisurely lunch, and enjoyed the splendor of the town. It was a beautiful day so we decided to sit outside and it was a perfect afternoon. I really have not taken to a town like this since I have moved to Tel Aviv, and though at the present it seems a bit too subdued and quite, and because I am young and in love with the crazy life of the big city, one day this might just be the perfect place to live... One day when life could stand to be a bit more quite :-). During lunch I made a little feline friend who wouldn't leave my side (no doubt because I kept giving him some bread... I am a sucker for all animals and I don't even really like cats), had a great time with my classmates, and was thoroughly sad to be leaving the quaint town so quickly. 

Our beautiful lunch cafe 

My lunch date! 

The last stop on the trip had now approached and we made our way to the famous Tishbi winery for a tour and some wine tasting! I couldn't think of a more perfect end to an already amazing trip. When we arrived at the winery (which was very, very close to Zichron Yaakov) we met with our guide and began our tour of the facility. At first he explained about the history of the land and how it was given to two settlers who arrived in Israel during the first Aliyah by the Baron Rothchild himself. They cultivated grapes for years and years to sell to other wineries, and finally, in 1984, their great grandchild established their own winery. After we heard about the history of the winery the guide showed us the various machines used to make wine, including the cellar that held the wooden barrels where the higher end wines are aged to tasty perfection. When we entered the barrel room I was overcome by the smell of wine and brandy, and was fascinated by this whole process. Wine making really is a science and I had no idea until hearing the guide's explanations. 

Tishbi Winery 

The wine barrels 

More wine! 

After the barrel room it was off to the wine tasting room that also housed the fancy machine that makes their signature brandy. We were told about the process to make brandy, explained to that Tishbi brandy was aged something like 18 years and voted best brandy in the world some 3 or 4 times, and sells for 1,600 shekels a bottle (roughly 400 dollars). After hearing about the brandy it was off to taste the wine. We were able to taste 2 whites, 2 reds, and a dessert wine which was mixed with their famous brandy, and then we had the option of buying more tastings or sampling some of their gourmet chocolate. Not being the biggest fan of alcohol I immediately went for the chocolate and ended up buying a tasty treat as a souvenir of my trip. Most people bought wine but I felt my money would be much better spent on chocolate! 

Part of my purchases! The other half was already eaten :-) 

After a wonderful afternoon it was finally time to head back to Tel Aviv. I was so sad to see the trip end but was very happy to get back to town. It was a fantastic trip but I was ready to be home. When I finally got home I had just enough time to unpack and take a quick shower and then I was off to see Frenchy. As soon as I got to his place I suddenly didn't miss the North as much anymore, my beautiful Muslim from the north didn't seem as gorgeous, and I was able to unwind and get a good night sleep 
:-D. Thankfully we were both exhausted so by 9:30 it was time for bed. I felt a bit like a grandmother but after the events of the weekend it wasn't so bad sleeping early! 

Today I woke up bright and early for Ulpan, had a great class, and now, much to my misery, have to turn my attention to a take home final that I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever, and the thought of spending any of my precious time on such a thing makes me a bit glum. But alas, I must do what I must do, so plug away at it I shall, and I will be very thankful on Thursday when I can be finished with it and on to much more stimulating things... Like pretty much anything else... 

And so the accounts of my Northern adventures have concluded and I can't wait to plan my next visit up to some of the amazing places I was able to experience on this trip. I had a wonderful time and am so thankful I had the opportunity to go. 

Until we meet again, ya chaverim! 

Jordana Simone 

7/7/12: Sweet Escape: My Trip To the North (Day 2)

Being Outdoorsy

Day 2 began with a very early wake up call. Luckily I had slept very well the night before because at 7am I was up and getting ready to start the day. 7:30am was the call time for breakfast at the kibbutz, which, thankfully, was much better than dinner the night before (Israelis definitely know how to do breakfast). Since I am never really hungry that early in the morning I ate a bowl of yogurt and granola to give me strength for our first activity; a 3 hour hike at Keziv Stream Nature Reserve. When we arrived at our destination around 9am it was quite lovely outside. It was not too hot, there was a nice breeze, and much of the hike down to the stream was shaded. As I was walking downhill, however, I couldn't help but think how miserable the walk back up the mountain would be at the end of the hike! However, for as un-athletic as I am, I was at the front of the group the entire hike (both downhill and up). 

View of the nature reserve 

The group getting ready for the trek 

Halfway down the mountain and I was doing just fine! 

Gorgeous view from mid mountain 
After another half and hour or so we had reached the water. Now, as hot as it was, I did not think to bring a change of shoes and or clothes, so when I was told there were trails that had to go through the water, I was not so happy. I love the water but not when I think it is optional and don't bring changes of clothing, and, let's be honest, there is no worse feeling than spending the day in wet socks and shoes. However, there was little way around it so I told myself: "When in Rome". When we had reached the bottom of the mountain we spend quite a bit of time expiring the area, walking through various streams, and heading back to trails that would lead back up the mountain. By then it had already been almost 3 hours, so the promise of a maximum 3 hour hike didn't quite turn out to be so correct. By this time the temperature was quite hot and I wasn't so upset about the water situation anymore (though I still think wet socks and shoes is one of the most awful feelings in the world). 

Morgan at the stream 

Trying to avoid getting in the water 

Our fearless leader, Chaya 

In the end I gritted my teeth and got in 

After some more wandering around on flat-ish ground it was time for the miserable trek uphill. Though I thought this part would kill me seeing as it was not shaded and at one of the hottest points of the day, I remained in the front of the group, told myself over and over that it was almost over, and made it to the top feeling very accomplished. There was a point when the 4 people who were in front of me sped up towards the top, and everyone behind sat down in the shade to take a break, but since I wanted to take as little time as possible to get to the top, I went ahead alone, following the markings on the trail, and had a wonderful 15 minutes or so of solitary hiking completely to myself. It was actually quite enjoyable once you got past the misery of the act itself. When I had reached the top my socks were wet, my shoes were filthy, I was drenched in sweat, a spider attacked my neck when I was sitting, but I made it to the top and that is the most important thing. Luckily one of my classmates had an extra pair of sandals and I had brought an extra tank top and my deodorant on the bus (it was good I remembered that). After I had changed and was comfortable again, we were off to a little Arab town, Rehaniya, in the middle of nowhere to eat some lunch. It was Shabbat so nothing was open in any Jewish area. 

It was my roommate Morgan who suggested we stop in this town and there is one very specific reason I am eternally grateful to him. When we arrived at the family owned restaurant, a restaurant owned by Muslims from the Caucasus (Georgia I think) who looked Russian but spoke fluent Arabic (quite a site if you ask me), we all placed our orders, were given tons of appetizers, and then I saw possibly the most beautiful man I have seen since arriving in Israel (hence why I am grateful Mo suggested this place). This young man was the dictionary definition of my type; Muscular build, dark hair, bright blue eyes, and a beautiful face. It should surprise no one that I was very happy he was making my food because I don't eat tomatoes so naturally I had to tell the chef to leave them off of my meal. It was a wonderful few seconds followed by quite a bit of eye contact after. I was sitting right across from the food making station so it was perfect.

I just had to sneak a picture for the blog! 

When lunch was over, and though I looked completely revolting due to the hike we just finished, I told myself that I would ask to take a picture with my beautiful, lunch eye candy. Why not? I told myself. I was most likely never going to see him again so I figured I might as well capture a memory. I suddenly felt like I was channelling my fearless grandmother because it seemed like this would be something she would do! He seemed very flattered and I got a good picture of him out of it! Plus I figured after an hour of exchanging glances I might as well have something to show for it :-) 

The picture hardly does his beauty justice! 

When lunch was finished, after a bit of prolonging on the end of the female trip participants for obvious reasons (see above picture), it was time to head up to the Golan heights to see neighboring Syria. When we arrived I was immediately struck with a sense of familiarity that I couldn't quite put my finger on until I was confronted with one of the ugliest statues I have ever seen. Immediately I remembered coming to this exact spot some 4 years ago when I came to Israel for the first time on Taglit, Birthright. It was a very nostalgic moment and wonderful memories of my first trip to Israel came flooding back to me. 

My former boyfriend at the same spot 4 years ago during Birthright 

The Golan 

4 years later and I find myself here again! 

When we reached the lookout point we could see into the depths of Syria, and I couldn't help but but think how unfortunate the situation in the Middle East is. I have heard Damascus is among one of the most beautiful places in the Middle East, and though I was closer to Damascus than Jerusalem, there was no way, and probably will be little chance in the future of me every seeing a place like it. Even if the situation within the region calms down, the fact that I am Jewish, and now Israeli, make travel to places like Damascus and Beirut a bit tricky at the moment. Such a shame, but it was great being able to at least look into the neighboring country from afar; I'll take what I can get! 

Hello Syria. Forgive the black dot in my pictures... My camera is not working so well

Looking into Syria. We were so close 

By the time all of the explanations were given on the history of the situation in the Golan, it was getting to be time to head back to the Kibbutz. We were all exhausted from a very long day and very ready to get home to shower! I don't think I have ever needed a shower so badly in my entire life. On the bus ride back I utilized the long drive to do some reading and take a quick nap, and when we finally arrived back at the kibbutz it was straight into the shower for me. After I was all clean and refreshed I went down for a quick dinner and then returned to the room to get a good night sleep. I was completely exhausted and very ready to get to bed. The next day was our last and I didn't want to spend it tired and cranky! 

Stay tuned for day 3 :-) 

Until next time,
Jordana Simone