Reading About Cupcakes on the Internet vs Making Them in Real Life

About two weeks ago Buzzfeed posted an article “19 Lovely Cupcakes to Make this Valentine’s Day”  with #10 being heart surprise cupcakes Buzzfeed described as “actually super easy to make.” Super easy?! Super easy? Ok, Internet, game on. I will try and make your difficult looking but supposedly easy cupcakes and enlist Jesse help to bake with me so we can surprise our respective significant others.

I should mention that Valentine’s Day isn’t realllly celebrated in Israel (they have the Jewish version Tu B’Av) but many people go out to eat and restaurants attempt to be spirited with heart cut-outs taped to the windows. Originally I planned to buy heart-shaped cupcakes from a cupcake shop called Red Velvet, but making something from scratch that is both cool and “super easy to make” is worth it right? Right.

Not completely right.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the shopping. Most of the ingredients were easy to find, although not always cheap. Jesse even managed to buy a heart shaped cookie cutter which may be the most impressive part of this whole experience. The one thing that we had to hunt for, however, was heart shaped sprinkles. The most important part! And I should clarify that this search was also just to find interesting sprinkles in general. As far as I know, Israel sells the same 3 types of sprinkles: chocolate, multicolored, and “princess” sprinkles. After looking at three different stores we finally randomly found the princess sprinkles in the tiny 24/7 market called Super Baba. I felt a sense of familiarity when I saw the sprinkles,  and it only took me a minute to realize that they were the same ones my friend Aleah used to bake a birthday cake for me last year.

Last year’s cake

So really, if you find another type of sprinkles in this country, please tell me.

Anyway. To the actual baking! Everything started out easily enough when I brought all of the ingredients to Jesse’s house and we made the batter. The trick with this recipe is that you take 1/3 of the batter to bake a separate cake, cut the hearts out of that, and then you place the hearts in the batter in the cupcake liners. We put some of the batter in a separate bowl and added a small amount of red food coloring to give the hearts a rich, red color. Well, in America you add a couple of drops of food coloring to something and you’ve already added too much, but in Israel, half of the bottle wasn’t enough to make a difference. We were left with a bowl of pink batter. Since pink hearts also sufficed, we got over our frustrations about weak Israeli food coloring and continued baking.

Now I should mention that I didn’t take any pictures up to this point because I thought the baking process would be pretty ordinary. But baking in Israel + trying to make something from the Internet + lack of culinary skills = document everything.

We poured the pink batter into the cake pan and it barely made a layer over the whole bottom of the pan. But, that’s fine. It will rise! It’s a cake. No worries, we’re doing what the recipe said, easy!

The cake came out practically flat at the edges and sort of thick enough in the middle. A disappointment, but i was more concerned about the super sponge-y, bubbly surface of the cake, and why it came out such a bizarre color even though the dye was well blended before baking.

orange-pink?

Lesson learned: never trust Israeli food coloring.

Jesse’s roommate described the pink color as “meaty” and I have to admit that I agreed. Not such an appetizing color for dessert treats (but that’s what photo editing is for).

Moving on, the next step was to wait for the cake to cool. While that happened, we made the cream cheese frosting. Nothing worth mentioning there except that the frosting recipe from the website was really weird and I will never make it that way again. Putting cream cheese with regular cream and a small amount of sugar just creates…even creamier cream cheese. [The next morning when I went to ice the cupcakes all of the flavor in the icing was gone and it tasted just like cream cheese again, but luckily my roommate came to the rescue with some confectioner's sugar which saved it a bit].

By the way, this is what a baking work station looks like when you have no dining room or living room or counter space in your kitchen

#IsraelStruggles

Now on to the fun part. The cake cooled and we cut out the hearts. They were a little meaty looking, and thin, but they were also cute so I don’t care.

The directions said to put two tablespoons of batter into the paper liners, stick the heart in and press it to the bottom, then cover the heart with another tablespoon of batter. I’m not sure how I would improve this step, but I can say that it does not work as simply as it is written.

Many of the hearts started tipping and we couldn’t find a balance for them in the center of the batter. Now, this may have been due to the hearts being thinner than we had planned, but I’m not sure. As soon as we were able to get all of the hearts standing we shoved the pre-cupcakes into the oven and hoped for the best.

Here is a before picture:

and here is an after picture:

As you can see we had less than a 50% success rate with this. Many of the hearts floated to the top of the cupcake, face up, and even the ones that were upright were sticking out of the batter so much that they created a less defined heart when cut open. I would say to put more than one tablespoon of batter on top of the hearts to prevent that. Or maybe the Internet is leaving out some secret step that makes this part of the process much easier. One may never know.

Since we had made 16 cupcakes, Jesse and I decided to test one out. You’re supposed to ice the cupcakes and then mark them in some fashion to know which direction you need to make your slice. And since the hearts are supposed to be perfectly in the middle, with one clean slice in the correct direction you have your surprise! Well, we iced one cupcake and half heartedly  (punny) decorated it. Jesse cut down the middle, hoping for the best, but no. We got a nice pink blob. It didn’t work because even the upright, successful hearts were off-center, so there was no way to know where exactly to cut the cupcake once it was iced. That is when I came up with the solution of pre-cutting the cupcakes and then icing them, and that worked much better.

Attempt #1 = fail

Attempt #1 = fail

So we made the cupcakes Thursday night and iced them separately Friday morning. I’m not sure why but the cupcakes came out a bit oily (though there was no oil in the recipe) and they looked more like muffins. They were still delicious though. Here are my decorated “princess themed” sprinkled cupcakes. I must give thanks to my handy assistant decorator/roommate, Sam, who supplied much of the creativity and cuteness.

Finished products:

cupcake heart

Even though they didn’t come out quite like the Internet told me they would, it was still a success. And I got to bring them to my boyfriend’s house and impress his family and make them believe I have some sort of culinary skills (I don’t).

Happy boyfriend:
Tal

So Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day, eat lots of chocolate and cake, and if the Internet makes something look easy, it probably isn’t.

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Shit happens.

I am really bad about going out in Tel Aviv. My mind does not know how to navigate a city full of bars that do not offer Penny Wine Night or All-You-Can-Drink for $5. Where are you, Grog? Beef O’Bradys? Expensive alcohol + walking outside in the cold = Kari doesn’t leave her bed.

A week ago Jesse convinced me to be social and go out for what I think was the second time since I moved back here. Of course, since it was only a 15 minute walk away, that sealed the deal. We went to a small bar called Salon Berlin, which actually had BOGO drinks until 10:30. I still didn’t buy any.

The best part of our night was persuading one of our friends to download the app Tinder, which is a dating and/or hookup app. Okay their website says “Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.” I agree. And it is fun. You put in your location and upload some pictures, and then Tinder gives you an array of people to look through. As my friend says, “it’s like shopping for boys!” If you decide you don’t like them, you can click the “X”, but if you think there’s potential, you click the heart. If you both clicked the heart, then it’s a “match” and you can start chatting with each other.

We played the app — I’ll say played, because it feels like a game — and I was entertained. There’s so much power in deciding after three pictures that you are going to deny a person the ability to speak with you. Especially the guys who put pictures of them that are small and far away or extremely edited or just weird..why? Once you have a match you chat with them and may have interesting conversations like a guy asking you if the rest of you is as hot as your face (Jesse’s response suggestion: Yes, the rest of my body is a bunch of faces!). Of course since I have a boyfriend, Tinder is not on my phone, but I can’t help but enjoy being wingman to my friend while she uses it. Welcome to the 21st century!

Anyway, that really has nothing to do with anything. The main point of this post is that I finally went out and saw people and was social on a weeknight instead of just sitting in my room and watching another episode of the Mindy Project (I’m already caught up anyway) or Girls (that reminds me I need to download the last episode). However, I’m still not that wild, and around 11:00 Ruthie and I decided to leave the bar so she could catch a bus home and I could….Facetime with my mom.

Well, we missed the bus. As we stood next to the stop waiting for it to arrive, water hit my eye. This was impressive in itself because I was wearing glasses, and also disgusting because it was warm. It wasn’t raining, so I thought it must have been from an air conditioning unit above me. Nope.

It was bird shit.

But this wasn’t an immediate revelation. At first it was “Oh gross water just hit my eye, and it was warm, what was it?” Then, after we realized it was going to be a while before the next bus showed up, Ruthie and I moved to a bench at the bus stop to wait it out. That’s when we were chatting and a look of horror appeared on Ruthie’s face.

Ruthie: “Oh my gosh Kari I’m so sorry I didn’t notice this before, I don’t know how I missed it, but, look at your glasses.”

Me: “Okay…”

In the blurriness of my imperfect vision, I could still make out that there was a big blob of bird poop on the corner of my glasses. How it perfectly landed there, I will never know. While thanking the poop gods that it didn’t land in my hair, I cursed myself for not carrying around spare tissues in my purse. Luckily Ruthie came to the rescue with old bus tickets she still had. Yes, I slowly and meticulously wiped bird poop off of my glasses with four bus tickets.

After that trauma I had to move onto the question of “What exactly fell into my eye?” It wasn’t quite bird poop because when I wiped my eye it was just liquid. So was it post-bird poop liquid? Like afterbirth? I’m trying to make this as gross as possible, I’m sorry. The questionable liquid was and remains a mystery!

Finally Ruthie’s bus arrived and I called my mom on the walk home. The conversation went something like…

Me: “Well, a bird just pooped in my eye. Sort of. I mean it pooped on my glasses but some liquid part of it fell in my eye. I cleaned it off of my glasses with bus tickets.”

Mom: “What?? And you were sitting there for what, 20 minutes? When you get home you need to hang up the phone and go wash your eye out!”

Me: “Wash my eye out with what, water? What will that do? My eye feels fine right now! What could happen?”

Mom: “I don’t know but it’s poop so it has bacteria in it. I don’t know what happens if it goes in your eye. This doesn’t happen to people!”

Me: “Welcome to my life in Israel…”

For everyone who is concerned, so far my eye remains normal and I haven’t grown an extra one yet. As I was typing this post my mom texted me “How is ur eye since the bird poop incident” (Why is it normal and acceptable for people to spell out everything in a text except “u” and “ur”? Another blog post for another day)

So what have we learned today? If you try to be a real person and go out and have fun, something shitty will happen anyway. Always carry around extra tissues (and maybe some hand sanitizer). And don’t let your glasses mislead you into thinking that they are a safeguard for your eyes against the dangers of the world; they will only do a half-ass job.

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ReSNOWvot

Last Friday I went to Rehovot to visit my boyfriend in the hopes that we could drive to Jerusalem where it had started snowing the day before! Little did we know that it was going to be a snowmageddon and practically impossible to get near the city. Yes I’m going to make as many snow puns as possible here, okay.

Anyway, I do not take well to the cold. At all. Especially in a country that doesn’t believe in insulation. Especially in a country that’s idea of central heating is hot air blasting out of a vent while everything in the room continues to be cold except that stream of warm air, and as soon as you turn off the heat it’s as if it was never on. I could go on about this for a long time (and I have).

So I stayed inside, under a blanket, for most of the time. I prefer to hibernate at times like these. On Saturday morning we woke up to the pleasant sound of hail. It continued..and continued.. and when we opened the window we saw the face of misery. Cold, gray, overcast, hail, windy. No thank you, back to sleep.

The Face of Misery

The Face of Misery

Eventually we went downstairs for breakfast (if you consider eating your first meal of the day at 12:30 to be breakfast) and looked out the window and saw this:

more hail

While eating this:

YUMMMM

 

At this point I looked at my weather app which stated that at 8 PM and 11 PM the weather would be “Rain to Snow.” Snow?!! In Rehovot?!! ReSNOWvot?!! This is exciting for me because I’ve never seen it “snowing” and by that I mean snow falling from the sky. When I was in high school my sister, dad, and I drove to North Carolina to see snow but it was a mild winter and there was snow on the ground and…it rained. Lame. Last year I went to Bulgaria and there was snow on the mountains but it didn’t snow while we were there. So I’ve still never experienced that. I am a true Floridian.

So…since all attempts at having a productive day were rendered useless, I went back upstairs and back under the blanket. Eventually I went back downstairs and looked out the window and saw this:

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Do my eyes deceive me?? Yes. That’s still just hail. Accumulating together to look like snow.

At this point we decided to go outside. But Israel is not built for such weather. So outside = death trap. And when there is hail covering your stairway and you need to clean it off, you show your true Israeliness and use the squeegee broom that is used to mop the floors (or squeegee the shower water into a drain).

Ultimate safety hazard

Ultimate safety hazard

Wearing a scarf on your head is practical for this sort of job.

Of course we had to go outside and experience the city’s transformation. It reminded me of that Disney movie where the girls find that snow machine and make it snow in Los Angeles. And now I’m going to Google it…

Oh yes, The Ultimate Christmas Present

I want a snow machine.

Here’s ReSNOWvot:

Resnowvot

Resnowvot Resnowvot

Resnowvot

Snowballs (hailballs?) were made and thrown. Children walked around in sweatpants (Israeli children always walk around in sweatpants, no matter the occasion. School, snow, hiking…)

Resnowvot Resnowvot

I was like a giddy child because this is only the third time I’ve experienced snow. It’s still a novelty to me. Okay I know this was hail but still, it’s my Israeli Christmastime and I’ll enjoy it how I want!!

Sadly it did not end up snowing when my weather app said it would. Around 8:00 PM it started hailing again but it was very brief or it totally could have happened! The hail melted in the evening and ReSNOWmageddon came and went within 24 hours. We never made it to Jerusalem because the city was on shutdown and trying to rescue its on people from the icy roads. So seeing snow in action continues to elude me.

By the way, seeing as they don’t have much experience with snow/hail, we came upon this Israeli attempt at a snowman:

The ugliest snowman of them all.

The most pathetic snowman of all time

 

Everything about this is sad and hilarious. Someone just used pieces of leaves to make his eyes and mouth…and one hand? Why are his hands nubs? Why couldn’t you find a stick? Frosty would be ashamed. If this snowman were to come to life he would have the worst quality of life and would probably run into the sunlight to end his misery. Except he can’t even run because he has no legs.

 

Ps – Thank you Jesse for the punny blog title.

Well…this exists on the Internet.

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I sort of adopted a cat

Okay that’s an exaggeration. But my desperation for needing/wanting a pet is reaching the I’m-going-to-steal-your-cute-puppy level. Obviously there is no substitute for my dog, Oliver, but he is all the way in Florida and doesn’t like Facetiming with me. The street that I live off of, Rothschild, is huge for dog walkers, so I see at least 10-15 dogs a day and I want to love all of them. But all of the dog walkers in Tel Aviv seem extremely unhappy all the time, never smiling, and like they don’t want you to pet their dogs. So I have to just gaze from a distance. Do I sound creepy enough yet?

Anyway, Israel is also the land of cats. Instead of having squirrels they have cats everywhere. But these street cats are very unfriendly and angry…and full of diseases. So you don’t want to pet them. Unless you’d like to get a fungus, something my roommate recently informed me about.

Here’s the story about my sort of adopted cat friend Hugo.

One day I walked into my apartment building and and a cat walked in with me. I thought it was a street cat until it started purring and rubbing itself on my legs, which is not characteristic of unfriendly street cats. Still, it didn’t have a collar (apparently people in Israel don’t tend to put collars on their cats or dogs) and there was no way for the cat to leave the building unless someone opened the door for it. But it’s so cute and friendly! I want it. But it’s probably full of diseases. But it loves me. Maybe it just wants food. I’m pretty sure it wants me to become it’s owner right now. It looks too clean to be a street cat. But it came from the street.

I tricked the cat into going outside and shut the door quickly and then felt like a terrible person.

Within the week I was walking up the stairs when I saw something move and….the cat was back! Okay, it’s already in the building so it must belong here right? Right?? Friendly Cat followed me up the stairs to my apartment. When I opened the door it made a dash forward and I held it between my legs shouting at my roommate AHHH THERE’S A CAT IT’S IN OUR APARTMENT IT MIGHT BE A STREET CAT BUT IT’S TOO FRIENDLY IT’S A CAT WHAT DO I DOOO.

I pushed Friendly Cat back outside the door and shut it and asked Amos, my roommate, what we should do. He said he thought the cat might belong to our downstairs neighbor. But what if it didn’t? Should we leave it in the building and hope for the best? Should we give it food? Will it keep coming back then? Should we…adopt it?!!

Amos is allergic to cats so we decided (aka he demanded and I unwillingly followed) to send it on its way, which meant tricking it into going outside again. Friendly Cat followed us downstairs and we shut the door on it again. She laid outside at the entrance and stretched out. Then she saw us peeking at her through the window and ran back up to the door. This happened multiple times and I think I was crying on the inside. Why am I abandoning my pet child?? Amos wouldn’t let me adopt her. So we went back upstairs.

Then we watched an episode of Breaking Bad. It is one from the first season (I’m only on the second now) where Hugo, the school janitor, helps Walt when he is throwing up and offers him some gum. Hugo ends up getting fired for something that’s not his fault and you feel really bad for him. ….just like how we felt about abandoning our cat friend. Hence, we decided to name her Hugo. And we decided that she was a girl because Amos thinks she is pregnant. Maybe she’s just fat.

Hugo being the nicest person ever

Hugo being the nicest person ever

Then we didn’t see Hugo (the cat) anymore. And I felt like she hated us for putting her outside in the cold and abandoning her. Every time I walked outside I looked around for her, but she was nowhere to be found. Every time I opened the door to my building I was hoping Hugo would be on the other side. I told you, these were (and still are) desperate times.

Maybe a week and a half later I was walking up the stairs when I saw the bottom apartment’s door was open and two dogs were inside. Then I saw A CAT dash inside. Hugo!!!! I still can’t verify it but I am assuming she lives there. I don’t really care, because I’m still going to adopt her.

A few days later we saw Hugo in the stairwell again as I was going to do laundry. I knew I had to take a picture of her because how can I blog about my new cat without showing any pictures? However, the dark stairwell has terrible lighting and Hugo is too friendly to stand still so all I have are very blurry pictures of her.

Hugooooo

Hugooooo

Why are you so cute?!!

Why are you so cute?!!

Blurry Hugo

Blurry Hugo

Long story short, we’re basically best friends now. And by that I mean I see Hugo in the stairwell about once a week and talk to her and call her Hugo even though I have no idea what her real name is or if she’s a girl. And I don’t pet her because I’m still unsure of her street-cat status. And Amos still won’t let me have her.

Welcome to my exciting “living abroad in a cosmopolitan city” life.

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A typical morning in Israel

Remember that time Misrad HaKlita (the Ministry of Absorption) made me an appointment but didn’t tell me what it was for or why?

That appointment was today at 9 AM. Here’s what my morning looked like:

Misrad Haklita

Twenty minute walk to Misrad Haklita. Walk up two stories to the office and am shocked to see there isn’t a crowd of people and I don’t have to take a ticket. The woman at the front desk can actually speak English. Today is going to be a good day! No, no it’s not.

I’m told to go to room 202. The man in room 202 is not expecting me and doesn’t understand why I’m there.

Me: Hi, do you speak English?

Man from 202: Little.

Me: Oh, ok, well I have an appointment and they told me to come to this room..

Man from 202: You already signed up for your Sal Klita (Absorption Basket aka government money)?

Me: Yes.

Man from 202: You already signed up for Ulpan (language classes)?

Me: Yes.

Ok…

I tell him they made me this appointment to explain the benefits I will receive as a new immigrant. The man shows me that my Sal Klita payments are set up. Can I get a copy of the paper I signed for them? No, you don’t need that, it’s already set up! Is there a tax break I get while I’m working? Yes, but you need to speak to your employer. Do I get a discount on my Arnona (property tax)? Yes, but you need to speak to the city of Tel Aviv about that. I have to change my license after one year? Yes, but you have to go to Misrad Harishui. I get a tax break on customs when I ship from abroad? Yes, but you need to call this number.

Thank you, goodbye.

Ok, that wasn’t as bad as I thought. And now I just have to go to the bank and the health insurance place and that’s easy. It’s not even 9:30 yet!

Bank Leumi

A quick refresher: I had to switch bank branches from the one I had last year in Rehovot to one near my apartment in Tel Aviv. I also had to switch my account from my American passport to my Israel ID number, which I did in Rehovot two weeks ago.

Twenty minute walk to the bank.

Me: Hi, do you speak English?

Bank Man: Not good (when Israelis say this they actually can speak very well)

Me: Ok…  I need the card that says I switched to a new bank branch. Oh, I have a new bank account number? And new cards? That wasn’t supposed to happen, but okay. Please, cut up my old cards, that seems like a good idea. While I’m here I’ll just order some checks for 8 shekels, no big deal. Easy enough. I can’t get my online account to work anymore. Maybe it needs to be different because I have a new account number? Oh you’re just going to make me a whole new online account to set up, okay, great.

Thank you, goodbye.

Maccabi Health Insurance

Well, that was pleasant. Only one thing left! Another refresher: a week and a half ago I tried to sign up for my insurance at Maccabi but I couldn’t because my credit card wouldn’t link up to the health insurance account. We thought it was because I was in the process of switching bank branches. It wasn’t.

Fifteen minute walk to the health insurance (it has started raining). Walk in surprised to find hardly any people waiting. Take a number and wait about ten minutes, which is like 30 seconds in Israeli-bureaucratic-waiting-time.

Me: Hi, do you speak English?

Maccabi Woman: Little.

Me: Ok… I came here last week and tried to sign up for health insurance but it didn’t work. There are notes in my file explaining it all.

Maccabi woman is nice and of course her English is great. She helps me go through things and it is time to link my card up to the account, again.

Maccabi Woman: It’s not working.

Me: What?

Maccabi Woman: It says you can’t use your card to order anything. This happens with new olim a lot.

Me: I literally just got this card from the bank. My cell phone plan is already linked up to it. It has to be able to charge things.

We then proceed to try my other card which also doesn’t work. The woman asks for the phone number of my bank branch but the internet doesn’t work in this building. We can’t find the number anywhere. I call the bank call center and wait on hold for ten minutes while Maccabi woman prints out the forms I can bring to the bank since this obviously is not working. Someone finally picks up the phone and Maccabi woman speaks to them and is transferred to a banker. She talks to the banker who, of course, decides to transfer her back to the call center and put her on hold again. She hands the phone back to me.

Maccabi Woman: Ok you need to go to the bank and have them fill this form out and then you need to fax it to us.

Me: Ok so I’ll just have them fill it out at the bank and then fax it from there.

Maccabi Woman: No, no the bank will not fax for you. Maybe you should just bring it back here.

Me: Ok.

Thank you, goodbye.

Bank Leumi

Fifteen minute walk back to the bank. It’s still raining.

Me: Hi, I just went to sign up for my health insurance but it’s saying that I can’t order anything through my cards.

Bank Man: No this is not right. You can charge on your card. For how much?

Me: 42 shekels

Bank Man: No this works. [Speaks to Bank Lady besides him]. No, no, it will work.

Me: No, it doesn’t.

Bank Man calls Visa to ask them why my card isn’t working. Bank Man prints out a paper and tells me that the charges have to go through my American passport number and not my Israeli ID number (Thank you Rehovot bank for never thinking to switch that! You are too kind.) Bank Man insists I go back to the health insurance building and tell them to use my passport number instead. He will switch my bank cards over to my ID number on Sunday.

Me: By the way, is there a number I can contact for this branch if I have problems at Maccabi again?

Bank Man: No direct number to this branch for your account. That’s only for the rich men. [By that he means your account has to have over 500,000 shekels in it. Just to be able to call the bank. Right.] You have to call this number and then we call you.

Me: Ok, that’s fine. I’ll go back to Maccabi now. I won’t be coming back today!

Thank you, goodbye.

Maccabi Health Insurance

Fifteen minute walk back to Maccabi health insurance. It’s still raining. Now that it’s almost noon, the waiting area is a bit more crowded. I wait 30 minutes for my number to be called.

Me: Hi, Do you speak English?

Maccabi Lady #2: *Shakes head and points to someone else* (At times like these they really can’t speak English)

Okay..I’ll just stand here until something happens then.

My number is called. Oh look, it’s the lady who helped me a week and a half ago! She remembers me. I must be famous around these parts by now.

Maccabi Lady #3: It’s saying this card is not linked up to your ID number.

Me: Right so we need to put it through my passport number instead.

Maccabi Lady #3: No you can only put it through your ID number. You need to go back to the bank. Have them fax it. When you have a doctor’s appointment you can get your new card.

Me: Ok.

Thank you, goodbye.

Bank Leumi

Fifteen minute walk back to the bank. It’s still raining.

Me: Hi…I’m back. They said I can’t sign up with a passport number. I need to switch my cards over to my ID number now.

Bank Man: Ok.

Ten minutes later he enlists the help of another banker. Then they ask another banker.

Bank Man: We can’t do it. We have to order you new cards (I see a trend here, no?). But why do you have two cards? You don’t need this second card! They charge you 14 shekels a month for each card!

Me: Are you sure? Can you check that? I don’t think I get charged for both cards.

Bank Man: No, no, you don’t need this card! *Shows card to Bank Lady* Does she need this?

Bank Lady: No, no, only the one!

Me: Ok, ok just the one card then. I’ll be back on Wednesday to pick it up.

Thank you, goodbye.

Home

So here I am, four hours later. Still no health insurance. Still no bank cards. Still don’t understand what my benefits are.

But I still have a little sanity.

Ps – I’m pretty sure I’m only being charged for one of my bank cards. Though it’s difficult to tell when the whole online site is in Hebrew and the English version doesn’t work.

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Filed under Israel, Life, Travel

Two Weeks in Israel

I’m still alive, people.

Exactly two weeks ago I took the long flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. But for the first time no one was sitting in either of the two middle seats in my row, so the lady and I sitting on both ends had the best flight ever. So much room for my things!

The benefit of making Aliyah (becoming a citizen of Israel) is that someone helps you get processed at the airport for all of your important official things. There’s no crazy ceremony, but a few people holding a large “New Olim (Immigrants)” sign in front of passport control. They take you up to a special office to give you your ID card. And they inform you that they will now stick a webcam very close to your face and take a picture of you after you have been on a plane for twelve hours and then use a glue stick to put it on an ID card that everyone is going to look at and it may be the most unattractive picture you have ever taken. The internet will never see it. For some reason they used the passport photos I brought from home for my Israeli citizen ID card, but the terrible webcam picture for my New Immigrant ID card, so at least I have one decent one. They even let me keep the extra copies of the pictures they didn’t use! What a souvenir.

After getting picked up at the airport the first thing to do was…buy sufganiyot (donuts). They are everywhere in Israel around Hanukkah time and one store called Roladin has especially “gourmet” donuts, but really they are basically what you would find at Krispy Kreme. Just much more expensive.

The fanciest of donuts

The fanciest of donuts

Yes they come with extra flavor injections to make your sufganiyot eating experience even more pleasurable.

Then I started surprise calling my friends in Israel who didn’t know that I had landed yet. That was fun until I got to two and realized I didn’t have anymore friends to call.

So I spent a few days in Rehovot after landing and they looked like this:

Nutella dessert overload

Nutella dessert overload

Pancake trying to join us for breakfast!

Pancake trying to join us for breakfast!

On November 19th I moved into my apartment in Tel Aviv. A great location with great roommates! Tel Aviv is a the perfect walking city, and though I don’t know my way around very well yet, I do know that I am about a 15-20 minute walk from everything…including the beach!!

Life in Tel Aviv has mostly consisted of signing up for a lot of things and dealing with Israeli bureaucracy. Here’s what that’s like:

Switching bank accounts: The bank teller will ask you how old you are (16? 15?) and also say “You don’t much money in your account…you don’t have a salary?” Thank you for reminding me.

Going to Misrad Haklita (Ministry of Absoprtion): The bus drivers can speak English. The people at the airport, bank, health insurance, and random people on the street can speak English. The workers at the Ministry of Absorption cannot speak English, and they don’t care. They will sign you up for a meeting on December 5th and not tell you what it’s for and have you sign a paper that is completely in Hebrew and not give you a copy of it.

Signing up for Ulpan (Intensive Hebrew Language Course): As part of making Aliyah you receive a voucher for 5 months of free language class. In Tel Aviv there is one place that is covered by this deal, Ulpan Gordon. They make you take a placement test yet somehow still completely fail at placing you in the correct class. I am now three days into a beginner class that started about two months ago. Last year we had Ulpan class 5 hours a week but it moved very slowly and the book was terrible. Our teacher, Orly, was sweet but had a pretty ineffective method of teaching. This year my teacher’s name is again Orly (though not the same one), and we are learning from the same terrible book, and we are moving at the same slow pace. So we’ll see what happens with that.

Signing up for Health Insurance: You will take a number like you would at a grocery store deli in America (it seems to be the only effective way to get Israelis to wait their turn, and it is also done at the Ministry offices and the bank, though not at the deli…). You will try to sign up for health insurance and link the payments to your bank account, but you can’t because your account is being transferred from Rehovot to Tel Aviv which, for some reason, will take two weeks, so after waiting 30 minutes to be helped you find out you have to come back in a week after you have your new bank account number.

Here’s what Tel Aviv has looked like:

Azrieli Center

Azrieli Center

Dizengoff Square

Dizengoff Square

Sunset on the beach

Sunset on the beach

This is what happens when you don't have curtains yet. You use the fitted sheet you brought from home that was too small for your mattress.

This is what happens when you don’t have curtains yet. You use the fitted sheet you brought from home that was too small for your mattress.

My room is a pretty sad sight right now because I have no furniture except for an exceptionally long table, and couple of chairs, and a mattress. Oh yeah and that coat hanger. So a trip to IKEA is in order this weekend since apparently it’s the cheapest place to buy things in Israel…and I’ve never ever been to the store before (the closest one in Florida is in Orlando, okay!?!) And now I can live out those scenes from 500 Days of Summer. Perfect.

So this is a very general overview of the past two weeks. Oh and maybe the most exciting thing…I’m not completely unemployed anymore!! Okay, it’s only a 12 hour job four nights a week recruiting for a long-term Israel program..but it’s something.

Be prepared for the upcoming Thanksgivukkah blog post. Sneak peek: it involves even more sufganiyot.

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