The last couple days have been much, much better in terms of acclimation to the country. On Thursday night, our whole internship group went on a tour of Neve Zedek, the first Jewish neighborhood to be established in Tel Aviv. It was then that I really started feeling that I'm in Israel. I'm in Israel! The neighborhood was so pretty, and our tour guide was very interesting, telling us stories of how it was developed (it served as Jersualem's port before Israel became a state. This is why there are so many lions all around the area, because the lion is the symbol of Jerusalem.) Also, the houses are all so pretty, with shaded balconies and flowers growing everywhere. It's just so amazing to sit at the beach (which I've been doing a lot of recently-don't worry-I'm using lots and lots of sunscreen) and think that Jews just came from the sand, upon the sand, and built an entire city out of dunes. It's incomprehensible, how they toiled in the heat, for a hope. But now I'm waxing Zionist.
Anyway, during the tour, we came across the Susan Dallal center, which used to be the first public school in Tel Aviv, and there were five couples getting married there! Not getting married, but taking wedding pictures in the premesis. We were assuming that the weddings would take place tonight. It was so beautiful, and all of us were just staring at the brides. The photographers invited us to look. There were five couples getting married: three secular, one religious, and one Muslim. It's things like this that make you hope for peace, or at least a really pretty wedding of your own :). In Israel, since everything is informal, one of the brides came up to talk to us and our tour guide (a very very Jewish 60-year old man) told her a joke: Why does the bride go to the Wailing Wall before her wedding? To learn how to talk to a wall. It was the best experience I have had in Israel, up until last night, which I will get to a bit later.
After the tour, we went to dinner at a shishlik (kebab) restaraunt in Neve Zedek, and the food was just soooooo good. I love Israeli food so much. For starters, we had carrots and humus and pita and couscous with lemon and Moroccan cigars (kind of like egg rolls, but smaller and filled with different things, and house wine. Then there was kebab (I had chicken) with stuffed zucchini, and afterwards, there was baklava and tea with mint. We were so full. The best thing was that dinner was free. :) Which is a good thing, since I have been trying to limit my spending recently. Afterwards, me, Batami, David, and two other interns, both named Ben, went back to our apartment to figure out what we would do for the night. We ended up going to a bar to watch Japan versus Brazil-it should have been obvious who won. Afterwards, we went home late, since we don't work on Fridays. It really throws off our schedules, because we don't work Fridays and Saturdays, due to Shabbat, but come in to work on Sundays. Today, I feel like I have the whole weekend ahead of me, which is obviously not the case.
On Friday, we slept in late since we've been having to get up early every other day of the week and went to breakfast. Even the croissants here are better, more like they are in France. But again, I may be biased towards Israeli cooking (did I say this already?) After, we went to the beach for the whole day. It's really fun to go to the beach with just Batami, because Israeli guys are really friendly, and they'll just start shamelessly flirting with you. Obviously, we know better than to flirt back, but it's just amusing to see how they'll do it, guaranteed. A pair came up to us and asked where we were from, etc, and then said, "You know, you two look like sisters." They are so bad at pickup lines. They did, however, tell us this up and coming area to go to for nightclubs in Tel Aviv (although I forget what it's called,) and later on, we ventured there, completely by accident.
We came to a piano bar where a woman was doing a Billie Holliday tribute, and it was just beautiful. Her voice was so amazing, and the instruments, and the mood was right, and we just sat there with glasses of wine, drinking it all in. It was at that point that I felt a great love for Israel, an overarching presence that just makes me feel at peace being here. She sang for about an hour, and then we left because the crowd was filtering out.
Today, we are just going to be at the beach and maybe go to the area again tonight, but we need to clean and get ready for the workweek, because our last roommate, Jon, is coming tomorrow. Also, work tomorrow! I am working on a powerpoint presentation of online banking practices in America, and then after I finish with that, of how online banks annoucne news to customers on their websites. It's really interesting to see that banks like Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Wachovia, and Bank of America are benchmarks for Bank HaPoalim, because we think of these banks as being important, but not that big of a global impact (unless I haven't studied them in depth yet.)
My Hebrew is ok, but I have bad days here and there, and I really can't understand when people talk to me. But, I hope it will be better by the end of the summer.
Love to everyone!