Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dispatch 2 from Tel Aviv

Okay, Day... uh.. 5 in Tel Aviv. I've become much more comfortable here over the past few days. That is probably due to the fact that I've actually met and interacted with people. On my first day on the ground, I saw probably the worst parts of Tel Aviv (some zone between Tel Aviv and Jaffa filled with graffiti and "kibble" as Phillip K. Dick would've called it), followed by some concentrated time in Bethlehem. All of that followed a lovely 21-hour, trans-Atlantic flight--not exactly a formula for cheery times.

However, I've been on the ground and outside of Tel Aviv/Jaffa several times, and I've found that parts of Israel are quite beautiful. One of my colleagues here explained that this year is a shabbat year (or fallow year). You can read Leviticus 25 for an explanation. There are orange, lemon, and kumqwat trees all over the place, and I hear that there is some unimaginable number of olive trees as well. I will go on record that olives in the US are detestable (which I would've said even before I came here). The olives here have been excellent, and you wouldn't believe how much fresh produce is available. I've had some hummus made locally, and frankly, mine is better (probably because I got the recipe from an Egyptian who is also an ex-UN chef).

So I have taken a taxi from Tel Aviv to my client's site in Nes Zyonna/Rehovot for three days running. I haven't had the same route there or back once from what I can tell. Today's routes were particularly interesting--almost entirely surface roads. The funny thing is, whenever I show the drivers the address, they puzzle for a few minutes and then, look at me and utter a phrase that doesn't appear anywhere on my paper. "Pach madad?"

The first time this happened, I just shrugged and said, "I don't know." I don't speak any Hebrew and have yet to be able to utter the only two sentences I know: "Slijat, ani lo medaber Ibrit. Ata medaber Anglit?" (I'm sorry, I don't speak Hebrew. Do you speak English?") I have only choked out variations of the second clause, usually to the supressed titters of whomever is listening.

Anyway, this happened the first day. The second day, the driver didn't ask, but said "Pach madad." The third day, the driver called someone over, they looked at the destination, called another person over, discussed some more (all in Hebrew). I mentioned Rehovot. That just caused a round of dismissals. Finally, someone intoned, "Pach madad?"

And I said, "Pach madad!"

Off we went. My driver, a 60+ year old middle-eastern man who did not use GPS like the rest of his colleagues, merely laughed and said, "Bon voyage." And off we drove to Rehovot this morning, hitting every red light, and getting behind every bus between Tel Aviv and Nes Zyonna. At one point, my cheerful guide turned and said to me, "Israel has 7 million people and 10 million cars!"

Cliched as it might sound, every day has been an adventure.

My readership has dwindled. At least my wife still reads me (right, dear? Dear?)
Post a Comment