Sunday, February 28, 2021

#59 Shopping online in a foreign country

 Amazon Prime is not in Israel, at least as of March 2020, and shipping to Israel from Amazon without prime is really hard to find. 

Here's what is says on their website:

Therefore, online shopping as an English-only speaker is rough. But sometimes I really want something from home, either out of necessity or for comfort. You can't just but a $3 thing on Amazon that will get delivered in two days. At the fastest it might come from the US or China in 5-8 working days. Also, there's no cool one-stop stores like Wal-Mart or Target. 

There are two stores that DO ship here and both use a pretty neat method. The package is shipped to a store near my house, the store sends me at text and I pick up the package at the store. It works great! In the last few days I received some clothes from Shein, a cheap Chinese store with fun clothes, and iHerb, which ships here for free.

Here a sample from the Shein shipment. This sweater cost me something like $15!

Another option for shipping is through companies like MyUS or Shop & Ship. These types of sites give you an address in a variety of countries (MyUS is only US addresses but Shop & Ship has address all over the world) which you use when you make a purchase. This allows you to take advantage of free shipping or to make purchases from companies that do not ship to your country. The package goes to the company's warehouse where they then ship it to you, sometimes repackaging and sometimes paying customs for you. This way is expensive in Israel because the customs fees are so high. But I still used it during the Loft annual sale! Even with the customs fees I saved money from the list price of the items!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

#58 Homework! [or: How I didn't leave teaching]

 Specifically, getting my Hebrew homework done on Saturday night for a Tuesday afternoon class!

I love being in school! Master's degree, bachelor's, professional development or Hebrew class--all so fun! What I'm super grateful for today is really not about the homework but instead about the time management skill that I have somehow acquired in the last few years. Five years ago I would be staying up late the night before the class or just not do it at all. Forget that--two years ago when I took Arabic I didn't do my homework. (Perhaps I am super motivated now because I am beginning understand words around town!)

But really the last few years of teaching has taught me how to manage my time. About 2 years ago I almost quit teaching because I just could not figure out how do it all. I was overwhelmed by prepping 3 classes, students didn't turn things in on time, I couldn't stay on track with the curriculum, my "long-term" plans were at best for the next day. It was not good. 

Then two things happened: I completely hit bottom, realizing if I don't change I am going to have to figure out what else to do AND move back to the U.S. and shortly thereafter I was assigned a co-teacher named Ann at my job. My desperation to make teaching work forced me to change the way I conducted myself at work. I no longer bought in to the excuses of the students. I stopped doing the work for the students (teachers will know what I mean); I stopped caring more about their grades than they did; I stopped waiting on them to do their part before I moved on to new topics. My co-teacher Ann was such a gift because she helped me stay accountable to myself. I bounced ideas off of her. Together we tried new things in class to help the students interact with the material in new ways.

It paid off! My stress level went down. After just a few months I decided I could see myself teaching in the long-term future. Over the next few years I have learned how to use my time more efficiently and to think ahead a few days.

Hence the homework due Tuesday is done on Saturday. I know some people figured this business out long ago, but I'm just grateful I figured it out in time to save my career!

Friday, February 26, 2021

#57 Wildlife Web Cams!

I got an email at work today about the barn owl couple who lives on campus has eggs!

This led me down the rabbit hole of webcams. The one I regularly check, even though I live on the other side of the world, is the Bogus Basin mountain cams page (see them HERE).

As I watched the barn owls, I went down the rabbit hole of wildlife web cams. What I found was the same sense of calm and comfort I get from the Bogus Basin web cams--a sense of the familiar; a warm wash of peace and connection to the world that I kinda miss. And during these days of cold and lockdown-living, the sounds and sights of my favorite outdoor activities of skiing, diving and African Safari-ing make me so grateful and comfortable!

Here's some samples I found.

There are bird cams--a LOT of bird cams. One I liked is the Cornell Lab All About Birds. Cornell is THE place for birds. Here's a fun one in Panama...

When I saw these cams from all over the world I realized I could go back to Africa!!!  What I really love is the sounds. It is so relaxing and peaceful to "be" in Africa again. Careful, the sounds can be quite loud! Here are elephants from Tembe Elephant Park

This one is on the border of South Africa and Botswana.

And this one is at a watering hole in Kenya.

 And THEN I realized I love diving! Are there underwater cams?

Of course there are! Here is one at a tropical reef in Palau. has a ton of wildlife cameras from around the world. One is call Nestflix--Bahahahaha!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

#56 A Surprise Gift!

As I was sitting here working on my gratitude for today there was a knock on my door. This has never happened before unless I ordered delivery or had plans. 

It was a neighbor to give me a Happy Purim gift!!!  What a wonderful surprise!

Purim is a Jewish festival celebrating the survival of the Jews from the Persian Haman's plan to destroy them. It is from Thursday night to Friday night and from all accounts is usually a big party over the weekend. Here is a basic description. 

This year with "the corona" (as they call it here) there will be no big street party or public celebrations and we are not supposed to go to other people's houses. There is a curfew each night from 8:30 PM until 5 AM the next morning from Thursday-Sunday. 

I'll have to wait until next year to see how Purim is truly celebrated here, but until then I am delighted with my surprise gift!

I think this may be a word search.

I'm not sure what this says but it is one side of the box.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#55 My New[ish] Car!

Today I brought my new car home for good. It's a Nissan Versa from the U.S. that is about 12 years old--perfect for Tel Aviv living. Remember that this entire country is only 420 km (261 miles) long, which is slightly shorter than the distance from San Antonio to Dallas, so I will be able to get all over the country.

It feels so wonderful to have the freedom to come and go, near and far, at will! 

Even though we have been in lockdown and there isn't really any place to go, just being able to is amazing! Of course, the fact that I actually went somewhere today might have something to do with it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

#54 The Digital Tel Aviv Marathon 10k that Didn't Count

Today i [finally] completed the Tel Aviv Marathon 10k! The official day was Saturday, February 19. Of course it was not going to be in person this year, but it was a great substitute.  There was a packet pickup that included a bag with about 7 food bars, a race number, shirt, decal and finisher medal inside.

You download an app that tracks your race for you and apparently allows you to download a certificate when you complete the race. I completed the race according to Garmin but not according to the app. Of course I want the certificate, though, for my scrapbook!


Cool shirt, too!


The bling

More proof I finished! (don't judge how slow I am :( )

Monday, February 22, 2021

#53 Hebrew Lessons #CountingSheep #SuperficialJoy #InternationalTeaching @CitizenTLV

When I lived in Abu Dhabi there was zero need to learn Arabic. I did take a class at the Eton Institute that I really enjoyed, especially learning the letters. However, when I would speak to someone in Arabic they almost always answered me in English. The common language there is English so gym classes and lectures and commerce are conducted in English, even if it is also in Arabic.

Israel, not so much. Everything is in Hebrew. The street signs are the exception: Hebrew, Arabic and English (which is super helpful). Many people in Tel Aviv speak English as well as Hebrew, but generally conversations will start in Hebrew. If I say "shalom" when I walk into a store, they answer me in Hebrew. The gym I attend conducts classes in Hebrew, although all of the trainers speak English and will translate for me if I ask. However, I was told by one last week, "you need to learn some Hebrew."  😕

Little did he know I already started learning Hebrew! Over Christmas vacation when I had the big epiphany that I was the one making myself miserable I looked at ways I could set myself up to accept and thrive in my life here, in Israel, right now. One of the principles I try to incorporate into my life is "participation is the key to harmony" that I borrowed from recovery programs. How better to participate in a foreign country, as well as reduce resentment about not fitting in, than to learn the language (Or at least attempt to)?

I've been going for 2 weeks now. Like everything in Israel, it is wicked expensive. Classes are twice a week for 1.5 hours each and this week 45 minute practice sessions just started.

I HATE it. I was skeptical from the beginning because the goal conversation. I have no confidence that I can learn to speak Hebrew, but I got swayed by the charming guy in my free 20 minute intro session. It is super uncomfortable. A teacher and about 12 of us gather and we practice saying phrases to each other for long stretches of time. We are also learning how to write in Hebrew as well, but we learned all of the letters in three lessons! I have to pay super close attention or I get totally lost. Actually, even when I pay super close attention I get totally lost. I feel like I did when I went to Mass one Sunday in Poland or Czech Republic--I went through the motions and had a general idea of what was going on, but I had absolutely no idea what was being said. Actually, I felt more comfortable in Mass because at least I had the motions down from years of practice.

So I sit through these classes feeling utterly lost and a little humiliated most every time I get called on. 

But on Saturday after the first week of classes I was shocked when I understood some words! Katan means small! At the gym I understood just a few more words. The speed-learning of the letters is working as well! I can pick some letters out of signs. When the homework started the next week, writing the words out really helped. I felt so lost in class without letters and sounds to look at--you are not supposed to write anything in English except the names of the letters--but being able to see the letters used for different words is helping with my pronunciation. Perhaps there IS a method to the madness of Citizen Cafe!

I started thinking I love it. There is no doubt I love learning and exercising my brain--and that is certainly happening here!

Today I attended the first practice session and the ick started all over again. I was totally lost and felt what Brene Brown describes as a "warm wash of shame" come over me. I cringe to recall some of my responses. 

But I will not give up. Because it is used daily here, I already know more Hebrew than I ever learned in Arabic. 

I am so grateful for something to challenge and occupy my time in this world of mundane repetition we are currently living in; most importantly I am grateful that I was willing to look and have found something that helps me fit in rather than sitting on the sidelines feeling left out and resentful. 

My practice session today

Sunday, February 21, 2021

#52 The Kindness of Friends and Strangers

I went for an outing today to another national park with two of my new friends. Today it was to Apollonia National Park on the central coast of Israel. The ruins were at various times an ancient city, a Roman villa and a Crusader fortress. The weather was beautiful and the view of the sea magnificent--a fabulous way to begin a Sunday and a new week.

Yalla! Let's go!

Although I had a delightful time, especially enjoying a take-away burger from Roberta's on some nearby steps, I am super grateful today for the kindness of friends and strangers.

I have acquired a new-to-me vehicle but it sat at school for ages while I was in Africa and working from home in Tel Aviv. When I picked it up last week it had to be jumped to start--then it was fine. But it sat around all week in Tel Aviv and last night around 2 a.m. I realized that it was going to be dead this morning and I might miss the outing to Apollonia. 

As I walked to the car I started praying (one of the things I love about the masks is I can pray out loud and no one can see my lips moving!). I asked God to start the car but, realizing that is a pretty selfish, petty prayer, added, if if doesn't start, please send help quickly! 

Of course it didn't start. Not a click. Now my goal was to get the car back to school (the seller was scheduled to pick it up from there today to make a few adjustments) regardless of whether I could go to the park. From there I could take the train back to Tel Aviv. I stood next to the car texting my friends that I would probably not make it. I noticed a big work truck leaving a space on the opposite side of the street just a little behind me. A brief wave of panic went over me as I failed to ask that guy for help but I managed to calm myself down. 

A guy in a typical Tel Aviv car (read: tiny) pulled into the open parking space. I got brave and basically stalked him as he parked. I asked if he had jumper cables, my car is dead. He had enough English to understand and did, in fact, have jumper cables (which are a staple in any car I've ever had, but I've only driven this one once, not including the test drive)! Within 10 minutes my car was running and I was asking my friends to pick me up from school, which is not on the way to the park. 

A previous version of myself would have just thrown in the towel, driven to school and taken the train back home, scrapping the entire morning. Shame or pride or embarrassment would have prevented me from asking them for help. I don't like the feeling of helplessness and having to rely on other people--perhaps this is one reason why I am still single! But I have learned that sometimes I have to go through discomfort or even pain to live the life I want. This ranges from walking through a ton of fears and terrors to live in another country all the way down to a little humiliation in asking friends to come out of their way to pick me up. These are the times when I really miss living in a family or a relationship. I rarely have to rely on others nor do others get to rely on me. It allows a self-centeredness to grow if I don't keep it in check. This is why I love that I have made friends--hang out friends--since I moved abroad. We see each other and hang out and go and do things. Travelling together forces us to depend on each other and be flexible.

That is what I am grateful for today: trusting in God enough to assume all will be well--that  stranger will come along with jumper cables who is willing to help and that friends will be willing to go out of their way to help me. I know that many people in my life are willing to is me that is still learning to ask. Every time I do I feel better and closer and a sense of belonging. The payoff is definitely worth the discomfort!

Here are some pictures from the outing today.

Waiting for our burgers.

Doing a little work on the train back home.

Friday, February 19, 2021

#50 My parents have power!!

 My hometown of Austin has been sunken in snow, freezing rain and cold. As the world now knows, millions in Texas have been without power for various lengths of time--my parents and brother are three of them.

Photo from KXAN gallery

Their electricity went out about 3 a.m. Monday morning and just came back on this morning - Friday--at 5 a.m. They were without power for basically 4 days! Daddy said that when the power came back on the house was at 38°F (3° C) !!! A couple of nights they went to the home of their best friends for food, warmth and device charging, so there were a few small reprieves. I asked them what they did all day long--we are people who usually have a TV on and are on an electronic device. Both of my parents wore 4 layers of clothing in the bed under all the blankets in the house to stay warm. And they just stayed there all day. For four days. Oh my gosh, I though 14 days of isolation was bad!

The water is still off and at some point during the week a pipe burst. Luckily a plumber was able to come out yesterday but since the water was out there was no way to check the work.

I didn't get a lot of information out of my parents when we talked today, but I got more than the last few days. My dad is not, shall we say, talkative via text. So I was super happy to hear their voices for the few minutes we took for them to fill me in on the high points of the last few days. 

They had to go and tend to the water situation, but hopefully they won't spend another night in 30 degree weather inside their house.

Here's an aerial view of Austin this week courtesy of the Austin American Statesman.

Update: My dad sent me pictures from their house. That's a LOT of snow!

Photo by RFD

Photo by RFD

Photo by RFD

Thursday, February 18, 2021

#49 Old Jaffa/Yaffo/Jafa

A few weekends ago I met up with my friend Olivia and she took me on a walking tour of sorts through historic Jaffa. Though it was at night during lockdown and relatively deserted, it was like a mini vacation. Jaffa (that's the English version; Yafo in Hebrew and Yafa in Arabic) as I understand it is the more Arab section of the Tel Aviv Area. It is one of the oldest ports in the world. 

Fun fact: The Jaffa Port is thought to be where Jonah left from in the story of the whale!

Since it is Arab, it felt Arab and I felt so comfortable. We were in the midst of the lockdown and the isolation was beginning to get to me. Wandering around Old Jaffa felt the same as many of the places in Abu Dhabi and a few in Dubai. The stairway in a few picture below, for example, felt just like the souk's in the UAE. After having such a difficult transition to UAE and being so ready to leave, I was shocked when I heard the adhan (the call to prayer) and it sent a wave of delight through me. The familiar can be surprisingly comforting, even if at the time it didn't feel like it filled me with joy.

Thank you, Olivia, for a delightful evening!

Photo by Olivia Favero. 
Photo by Oliva Favero

Napoleon points the way to another historic site.

The Catholic church in Jaffa.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

#48 Carpool Karaoke

If you are ever having a bad day, watch some Carpool Karaoke! I have been down this rabbit hole for several hours tonight and am having the best time! I'm grateful today that James Cordon, host of the Late Late Show, or someone that works with him, thought of this. It is so fun! You can see 

Here is a small selection:  

My absolute favorite so far! If you love Hamilton you will love this one!


This one is a great tour of Liverpool with Paul McCartney as the guide. Parts of it made me cry:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

#47 My best friend

Continuing with the mail theme of the last week, I'd like you to meet Shelby, for whom I am especially grateful today!  In the mail Sunday was a Christmas present from her that she made just for me and mailed over here. It was in perfect condition!

Shelby is my best friend. We have stuck with each other through the good at the bad, the difficult the fun, trans-Atlantic trips, one move to the UAE, another move to Israel, cries in the middle of the night (from several countries and many states, though mostly Texas). Shelby is who I called when I was hit by a car in Boise and she sat with me in the waiting room and stayed with me all day. She is and has been a constant companion who helps me ground, listens to me vent, rage, cry, yell and work things out. 

I am so grateful for you, Shelby! I love you!

Thanks to technology we can talk face to face and it feels like she's just next door.

Monday, February 15, 2021

#46 Christmas cards in February

Everyone loves to be thought of, and I am no exception!

 I went to school yesterday and collected the mail my mom sent from home, which contained four Christmas cards! Every year I am so amazed that people think of me, but I am especially delighted this year. Since I didn't go home for Christmas I didn't have access to the Costco photo center, or the U.S. Postal Service for that matter, I didn't send out cards this year. For the first time in over a decade, I believe! 

So thank you so much for thinking of me and next year I will be back on track with the Christmas cards!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

#45 Sunday at Taninim Stream Nature Reserve

Taninim in Hebrew means crocodile--but I didn't see any of those today on our outing to Taninim Stream Nature Reserve. Four of us (two from Tel Aviv, 2 from Poleg by school) met there at 9 a.m. this morning and had a lovely morning exploring this site. I got to use my brand new Israel Matmon Annual Pass that gets 2 people into each of the over 40 national parks once per year. It was triple lovely because the first day of the work week here is Sunday but it is the second day of our weekend!

This site is where the Taninim Stream flows into the Mediterranean, which is "the last remnant of the region's coastal waterways". It also has a Roman-Byzantine dam that was used to channel water to nearby Caesarea. It was a great combination of history and a lovely walk out to the coast for a beautiful view of the Mediterranean.

The one thing I intensely disliked was the trash. There was SO MUCH garbage. SO much. There is so much beauty here (not just in this park, but in Israel) but so much garbage. It's like there is a little cloud from all that trash that blocks some of the sunshine of all these beautiful places.

Despite the trash, however, it was a lovely, lovey way to spend a Sunday morning!


My friend Lynn :)

A lovely view, except the rubbish in the stream.