Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Two days ago in the life of Vicki

Ok. So I've started writing e-mails to my mom and Dan to explain what's up with my life. Since I'm too lazy to type anything different, here is a reprint of the day before yesterday's edition:

Yesterday I told you how I was making powerpoint presentations about American online banking practices because Bank HaPoalim is getting ready to revamp its entire site. Today, in half an hour, I am presenting those slides to one of my bosses. Hopefully they look ok/are spelled correctly, mostly because I did half of them in Hebrew, and I really don't want to be laughed at. :). I am having a lot of thoughts and perspectives and theories at this point, and it's going to take me such a long time to explain everything that's going on. Yesterday was a really action-packed day for me. Right after I came into work (straight from the bank where they wouldn't cash my traveller's checks and I was late, but did anyone care? Nope.), Shai, one of my coworkers, approached me because the Bank HaPoalim website is applying to win awards in the European Financial Site awards, under the categories of "best use of it in retail banking" and 'outstanding achievement" for their Poalim Ontime program. Like I said before, it's really cool because you have alerts sent by sms to your cell phone or your internet account anytime something happens, like your balance is too low or you cash a check, etc. They are the first in the industry to do this, and the first to offer sign-ups at branches instead of online. American banks don't even come close to anything like this, and I am really jealous. So tomorrow, I have to present a proposal for the technolgoy awards. Today, I am just working on that, and hopefully I'll get it done.

At 1230 yesterday, we had a half-day workshop that was REALLY REALLY INTERESTING for all the interns. When we came up to the floor where the meeting was supposed to be, of course there was no one there to tell us where to go, so we stood around for 10 minutes while people walked by us. So Israeli. Then, all the interns (including Jon, our last roommate, who flew in yesterday morning and was going on 3 hours of sleep) went into a conference room. First, we had the CFO of the entire bank (really big deal) come in and talkt o us about changes in Israel's capital (investment) markets over the past twenty years-very very interesting, although I kind of fell asleep a little because his voice was very soothing and we dont' get much sleep. Next, we had lunch-FREE! A big deal for me since I am down to one meal a day and trying to save money. After that, we had a very itneresting woman, Nadine Trajtenberg, the head of the economics department in the bank (very very cool, because she does what I want to do-analyzes macroeconomic policy and future macroeconomic trends for the bank in the Israeli/world economy) and she was very classy. She made aliyah from French canadia, but she has a very slight accent and spoke English, French, and Hebrew, fluently. She was also the only woman in the room wearing a suit. How American of her. :) Anyway, so Nadine is a PHD in Economics from Harvard. eeeeeeee. It was very exciting for me, as you can imagine.

After that, we had coffee (brought in by the Russian "servers" in our building-all the cleaning staff in our building is Russian. I don't know whether to be offended or see if I can get a discount on tea every day.) And after that, was the most fun part of all-a consultant cam in to give us a presentation about How Americans and Israelis operate differently in work environments. The consultant himself was born in America, made aliyah when he was in 5th grade, so he speaks both perfect English and perfect Hebrew and knows both worlds. He first started out by asking us what surprised us at work. The consultant then presented the differences betwen Americans and Israelis at work and how to deal with them, the most important being that we communicate differently. For example, Americans will say, "Um, I liked your file, but if you have time, could you just please look over section c? It needs a little work." Whereas Israelis will say, "This is wrong." And etc, etc. He also said that Israeli bosses are almost equal to their coworkers, whereas American bosses are a little more above them. I think I'm starting to like the Israeli work system a lot more, and I'm not looking forward to an American internship next year.

After that, all of us, including the two new additions, Danny and our roommate, Jon, left to walk home. After that, I got a call from Bella, one of my mother's distant, distant friends, and she offered to take me to the shuk (market.) So she drove me to the Shuk HaKarmel (which is maybe 3 blocks from where I live? What's the point?) and I bought cherries and grapes! Love Israeli fruit. Love it, love it, love it. I eat Israeli fruit all the time. I ate watermelon all day yesterday. And I love mint. After that, I went home to meet up with Batami and David, and they went down to the beach, I said I would join them later because I had to buy a book that Nathan (my Hebrew teacher last semester) wanted.

That was fun. I stood there, figuring out how to ask them whether they could look it up for me because I can't read Hebrew well enough yet to look for books among stacks, and I actually got along pretty well, but the process of figuring out what you want to say 5 minutes before you say it is really exhausting.

After the book store, I walked down to the beach with Batami and David, because Jon actually went to Jerusalem that same night to see the girl he is dating-wow, that is devotion. Seriously. He could have waited. I went down to the beach and we watched the sunset. It was soooooooo pretty. Afterwards, we called up Ben (intern), and Talia (intern) and the other Ben (also intern) and went to the store, iced tea and and drank it and just talked. One of the Bens actually met a friend who he knew from yeshiva who was in the army, and the friend's friends came too. They are all soldiers right now, so it was funny to see them in unifrorm on the beach. There were three guys and a girl, and they are all in teh unit that trains dogs to sniff for bombs. They told us a lot about it, and it was really interesting. They have about 300 dogs in the unit, and each person is responsible for 10 of them. Their commander is "Big Russian Mikhail" and he apparently beats the dogs if they don't behave. They train german shepherds, labradors, and some other breed that was intranslatable into English. Every time I talk to soldiers, I feel really guilty, because I feel that I should be one as well, instead of slacking around Israel like an American.

Anyway, then they took off their army clothes and just sat around in t-shirts and shorts talking to us, drinking, and smoking hookah. It's so funny that they're our age, but they have so much more responsibility and so much more weight, but they act younger. They had to be on the base by 5 in the morning to walk the dogs (it gets too hot later), but for now, they were just enjoying being young. It sucks that not everyone serves in the army. But I'm sure I would have a different perspective if I actually lived here.

I am constantly having thoughts about Israel, aliyha, being Jewish, regular Israeli life, international affairs, China, and business education while I am here, and I want to make sure that I record them all so I don't forget


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