Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nothing much to say...

Been really busy with 6 hours of classes every day followed by several hours of homework. I'm seriously starting to question the wisdom of sticking with the higher level of Hebrew... but hopefully I'll be able to pass the class. It's only another 3 weeks; how bad could it get?...

I spent all weekend with basically no cash and no way to get more because of the ATM being out-of-order. That was not fun. I spent Friday afternoon on the beach doing homework. That was fun. The ATM is working again now, so I can actually afford to get dinner tonight. I bought 5 frozen beef patties and a loaf of bread, so I should be set for a little while. I'm really not enjoying this place all that much, as I've basically been stuck on campus since last Friday. Although the campus is kind of like a small town, I hate staying in small towns. There's nothing to do. The mass-transit system here is nowhere near as good as the one in Japan. In fact, it seems like it's worse than the one in the Twin Cities. At least I get to look forward to a field trip to Caesarea tomorrow afternoon, if I can survive class tomorrow. Class is one hell of a struggle every day, and I'm counting the days until I get to leave. I guess that's about it for now; I'll post again next time I actually have some free time and internet access.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


My ATM card is working now. That is the good news.

The bad news is that, for some reason, they placed me in one of the highest-level Hebrew classes here. Therefore, I frequently have no clue what is going on. Thankfully, one of my roommates has very good Hebrew, so I'll be able to get help from him. Also, there are several Japanese folks taking classes here, so I get to practice my Japanese as well.

I've also discovered that pretty much everything here on campus is closed on Fridays. Not just Friday night: the ATM and all of the cafeterias were all closed by 12:30 this afternoon. The buses stop running around 4:00 or 5:00. Therefore, I ended up needing to take a taxi to get back to campus after heading to the beach with one of my roommates this afternoon.

So far, I'm surviving my classes, although I spent over 7 hours working on homework yesterday after class. We'll see how this goes, I guess.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

hectic couple of days...

Well, yesterday morning was pretty good. Turns out the long-time Uncle Hugo's customer who offered to host me for my first night in Israel was in the IDF infantry before becoming a sociology professor. I mentioned that I've got an interest in small arms, so we spent most of the morning chatting about various guns. Apparently, when he was going through Basic in the IDF in the '70s, they started training them on WWII Mausers, then moved on to the SKS followed by the AK as well as training with the Galils that they were issued. Also, one of his sons is apparently a certified small-arms instructor for the IDF who might be taking me to a range here sometime. After spending most of the morning chatting about weapons and the Israeli approach to urban combat, we had falafel for lunch and then he drove me over to campus.

The campus here is really pretty; the entire city of Haifa is built up the side of Mt. Carmel, and the campus is up at the top. The whole city is very vertical. The dorms are lower on the mountain than the actual classrooms, however, so I'm going to have to climb a combined total of around 15-20 flights of stairs every morning before 8:00 to get to class. Not looking forward to that, but at least the weather won't be rainy, so my right leg's tendonitis should be ok.

When I moved into my room, I found out two things that kinda suck: no AC, and no internet in the dorms. I guess I got spoiled by my time in Japan: they really like their creature comforts over there, and everything is all about convenience... and this creature loves his comforts and convenience! Also, there are lots of feral cats living here on campus, including a family with at least three young ones living in one of the drainage pipes.

After unpacking, I went back to the main meeting area for a group tour of campus. It went really fast, and many areas of this campus seem kind of like a 3D maze, so I think the tour did a pretty good job of getting all of us fairly well turned around. After the tour, I went to the on-campus ATMs to try and withdraw money, and found out that my ATM card does not work at the campus ATMs (contrary to what I'd been told). Basically, this left me with no money and no way to get money. Thankfully, one of my roommates loaned me some money until I can get my situation straightened out. His whole family is Israeli, and he's been here for the summer ulpan for the last three years, so he'll probably end up helping me out with my Hebrew, and I'll teach him some Japanese, as he's planning on going to Tokyo sometime in the near future.

Also, the tech guy for the ulpan here is... interesting. I've got a picture of my firearms collection set as my desktop on my computer, so when he was helping set me up with internet access, he saw the pic and commented on it. We started talking guns a little bit, and I explained that the Mossad in the picture is a CZ-75 clone made under contract for Israel by Tanfoglio in Italy. This was all well and good, but when I explained that the internals of this CZ-75 clone were very similar to the internals of the Jericho (which is also pretty much a clone of the CZ-75, and also was, at least initially, built under contract by Tanfoglio in Italy), he got very indignant and pissed off and insisted that they're completely internally different... right... now, where I come from, if you can swap barrels, mags, slides, and firing pins that means the guns are fairly similar internally, even though they don't look that similar externally. Yes, one has a frame-mounted safety like a 1911 while the other has a slide-mounted safety/decocker, but both pistols actually have the holes in their respective parts for the other type of safety, merely plugged up with a metal pin.

Anyway, I've just finished taking my oral placement test (which wasn't as awful as I expected... it seems like no oral language placement tests are ever as ridiculously awful as the oral tests we had for Japanese at the U of MN). I've finished the rest of my paperwork; apparently, they never received the copies of my passport I mailed to them around a month ago, so I had to have my passport photocopied here, but that was not a big deal.

Now, I've got about 6 hours to kill until we have a group tour of Haifa. Starting to get a bit hungry, but I can't really afford to go anywhere that requires cash, and that appears to be pretty much everywhere on campus. I'll just have to hope my roommate can help me find an ATM that'll work during the tour. Until Bank of America sends me a new PIN number or I find an ATM that'll accept my ATM card, I'll just have to be a bit of a mooch.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

another (couple) years, another country

Yeah, been a couple years since I've posted anything here. It's been suggested that I blog while in Israel, so here goes.

The trip turned out relatively ok. My flight from Minneapolis to New York was delayed by an hour and a half, and I only had a planned two-hour layover before my flight to Tel Aviv. Consequently, I was seriously concerned about whether I was going to make my connection or not. It turns out I needn't have worried, as not only did I manage to get to the gate before my flight to Tel Aviv left, but that flight ended up being delayed a good 45 minutes or so (after we'd all boarded the plane, of course). Also, apparently Israel doesn't consider the screening job that the TSA does in the US to be good enough, as there was a second security checkpoint between showing boarding passes at the gate and actually being allowed to board the plain. There was no indication of this fact until you're AT the checkpoint (it was through a door at a right angle) and the folks manning that checkpoint were pissy as hell if you weren't IMMEDIATELY ready to jump through their metal detector. Poor planning on their part.

Once we were in the air, it was a fairly uneventful flight. It was long (about 10 hours in the air), but not as long as Minneapolis to Tokyo. Once I landed and went to passport control, the nice lady behind the desk there told me that I'm supposed to have a student visa, even though the University of Haifa never mentioned any need for one and I'm only going to be here for 4 weeks.

After waiting at the airport in Minneapolis for about 4 hours (because of the flight delay), flying for a bit over 2 hours to get to New York, sitting for about 11 hours in the 747 going to Tel Aviv, getting through passport control and baggage claim, I had an hour and a half long train ride to Haifa, where I was met by a long-time customer of Uncle Hugo's, who gave me a quick tour of Haifa before taking me back to his place where I will be staying tonight before heading to the dorms tomorrow. Dinner will probably be happening within about a half hour, and then I get to see how much longer I can stay up. It's 5:30 here right now, and I'm not especially tired yet, so maybe I'll be able to get onto a reasonable sleep schedule relatively quickly. Here's to hoping.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Empty nest

Since right before finals, there was a bird that built a nest near the elevator on the 4th-floor of the apartment building I've been living in. I also live on the 4th floor, so I go past that nest several times a day. I watched it go from just the mother bird with her eggs, to all the little chicks always sticking their weird-looking little heads up looking for food. Today, all the little birds left. My last roommate also left. Almost everyone from IES has returned to America, with the exception of me and two or three other people. We leave on Tuesday. Somehow, the timing of the birds seems fairly fitting.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Well, I guess it's really over

Almost everyone has left. I'm celebrating my birthday in Japan today, so as to avoid having a party the night before I leave on a 13-hour flight. I started the morning off by frying up some yakisoba for breakfast. For the record, frying stuff in oil while shirtless is not the most intelligent thing one could do. I've mostly just been killing time this week, as I've kinda been in a funk since Sunday. At this point, I am totally ready to go back to MN. I have basically no discretionary income left, so there is very little that I can do here, and I need to start saving up money to be able to travel and visit various people. Tonight, planning on getting together with a few people and having pizza and then maybe going to a nomihoudai or something. My, what an exciting life I lead, right?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Sayonara Party

Last night was the sayonara party. The semester is officially over. It was a very interesting day. I started out by showing up for my last class of the semester dressed as Jack Sparrow. Throughout the early part of the day, there were a great many Japanese folks taking pictures of me and whatnot. Then I rushed home (kinda weird that I'll be leaving 'home' forever so soon) to straighten my hair, change into my 'pimp' outfit for the sayonara party, and grab my sword, dogi, and hakama for the iai demo I did with my roommate during the party. After the party, a bunch of us went to the nearby beach to chill. Things got very interesting, and I am very dense. The party last night ended for me around 6AM this morning. It was fantastic. Now I need to help one of the roommies clean up, as he's moving out tomorrow and for some reason the IES Housing Director, also known as The Spawn of Satan, thinks that that means we should have the whole apartment spotless by today. Bleh. See you folks in like 10 days or so.