A life well-lived

This week I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the President’s House honoring a distinguished gentleman who I’ve indirectly worked with over the years, Smoky Simon.  He’s 97 years young and at the ceremony I finally had the chance to hear his life story.  I cannot do his story justice in a few lines, but I can provide a sketch. He and his wife came from South Africa as volunteers to fight in Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949). He was part of the first group of soldiers that eventually became Israel’s Air Force.  After the war, he and his wife stayed on for another year and a half.  Then, since they were just young volunteers, they went home to South Africa to start their family and save money for aliyah.

They came to Israel in the 1960s. He built his business and they raised their family (that now includes 15 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren).  He became the president of the World Machal organization (Machal is a Hebrew acronym for “overseas volunteers”) and since 1993 he has been the treasurer of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.  He was not a guy who did things for glory or accolades.  He did what he thought was right and just got to work.  In his speech, he shared the important parts of his life and only at the very end could you hear his voice shake with emotion as he thanked the president of the State of Israel for honoring him.

This post isn’t actually about Smoky.  But his story is important.

As we’re approaching the end of 2017, we might make resolutions to finally get to the gym or meditate more or finish writing that novel or manage money better or … We’re all just trying to be better people.

Then you hear a story like Smoky’s and the questions you ask yourself change:

  • Are you living a life based on your principles?
  • Are your choices reflective of your best self?
  • Are you having fun?
  • Does your life have meaning?
  • Do you have any regrets?

The key is to live so that your 97-year-old self will look back upon your life and say, “Indeed, it was a life well-lived!”

Happy New Year!

May 2018 be the best year yet!

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Fluff!

There’s too much to process from the news about Jerusalem and Israel, so please enjoy another fluff piece!

Solstice

I like marking solstices and equinoxes.  It reminds me that our little blue planet continues to revolve around the sun and the problems in our day to day lives are minuscule when seen through the lens of the galaxy or the universe.  I like the winter solstice because starting now, the days are getting longer.  We’ve passed the darkest day and it will only get better from here.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … oh, wait, no it isn’t

I enjoy seeing the Christmas tree in front of the YMCA.  I’ve even seen a picture of Santa riding through the Old City on a camel.  But Israel doesn’t do the commercial version of Christmas.  Black Friday is just a shopping day that has no relation to Christmas.  In fact, December 25 and January 1 are regular workdays.

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Santa

Issa Kassissieh, wearing a Santa Claus costume, rides a camel during the annual Christmas tree distribution by the Jerusalem municipality in Jerusalem’s Old City December 21, 2017. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) SOURCE

Wishing you all a

Happy Holiday Season!!

December in Jerusalem

I took a walk this week and took in the sights of Jerusalem in December. It happened that it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 C) and while that was a little warm for Jerusalem in December, it’s a nice feeling to get out into the sunshine on a pleasant day.

I’ve been passing this new statue on the street.  Part of me wishes it really was a talented street musician.  Maybe they can pipe some music in…

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There is an interesting photo exhibit on the walls of the Old City.  It seems to be reflective of the faces you see in the city.

And in the cool evenings, we are celebrating Chanukah by lighting candles, eating donuts and illuminating our best selves. We choose not to curse the darkness in the darkest days of the year (not to mention these “days of rage” lately, but that’s another story).

Oh, Jerusalem!

I’m not a good chess player. I know how all the pieces move, I understand some opening gambits, and I might be able to see one or two moves ahead. What I lack is any sense of strategy. This week feels a little like my chess-playing.

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Of course it’s great news that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel! Yay! (Though let me just note that we don’t need anyone to tell us where our capital is, but it’s good that it is recognized on the international stage.) Even with the recognition, moving the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, which has been in process for 20+ years, was still deferred.

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(I like to use alternative pictures of Jerusalem. How many times can you see the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Seriously, Jerusalem is so much more.)

Everyone knows that if you keep doing something exactly the same way, you will not get a different result. Trump is not a “business as usual” president and the Middle East might just need a shake-up to get things moving.

Alright, let’s assume this is a covert, L-shaped knight move. We don’t know where it came from or where it’s going.

What’s the next move?

Condemnation by leaders around the world, veiled or unveiled threats from Arab leaders, Palestinians protesting.

Ok. That’s probably a rook making a strong appearance in the center of the board.

And then what?

The middle of the board will be messy, so we’ll have to sacrifice a few pieces to clear the way.

Bishops will certainly be involved. Pawns will be strewn everywhere.

Real life is not a game of chess (thankfully!). If it was, it would look more like this.

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But I’m still left with questions. Why recognize Jerusalem as the capital now? Israel gains on the international stage to some extent, but there will likely be a price to pay. So what does the US gain?

I’m not a good enough chess player or political strategist to have an answer for that.

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(Yes, I went a little crazy with the Pixabay chess pictures.
What does this one mean? I don’t know.)

A little rant

Call me Grumpypants.

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I’m annoyed this week.  Lots of things annoyed me this week. Here’s just one.

Black Friday

Did you know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now international holidays? I wrote last year about Israeli ads touting sales for Black Friday.  This year, I saw that there were Black Friday sales in Germany and Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales on my Korean beauty products websites.

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Not an endorsement, just a good image of Black Friday in Hebrew

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Cyber Monday sale is still on!

Now to be fair, Israel, Germany, and Korea don’t celebrate in the traditional way by rolling out of bed at 3am to beat down the doors of stores in order to buy the latest, most popular doohickey.  Moreover, they don’t even have the preliminary turkey feast to prepare for the onslaught.  It’s just a regular Friday and Monday (sales extended through the week!) to sell stuff.

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2 images I found on the internet, above Germany and below from India

What I wish had been exported from the US was the idea that there is a holiday to celebrate gratitude. But unfortunately, that idea exists in a fantasy world with unicorns and Care Bears.

Turkey day

In the real world, Thanksgiving – also known as Turkey Day – is squeezed in between the sugar-fueled, scary/sexy cosplay festival of begging your neighbors for handouts and the colorful, tree-killing, shopping extravaganza pushing everyone deeper into debt and destroying any chance of clutter-clearing.

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Image from my personal copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags! …
Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store.

I’m glad Dr. Seuss isn’t around to see this. He would be so disappointed in us.

Or the video, if you prefer.

In transit 2 – The joys of Berlin’s public transportation system

After five days in Berlin, I felt like a public transportation ninja, mistress of all trains, trams, and buses, conqueress of the Bahns. I didn’t need to follow my blue dot on Google Maps. I’m clever and experienced. I’m practically a Berliner!

Or not.

I went to Berlin to take an abdominal massage course and I can personally attest to the mental relaxation that this massage gives you. I had transported myself across the city for the past three days using various forms of transportation and felt like I had a handle on all of them. I could not have been more wrong, but I blame the mental relaxation of the massage course. On the plus side, I was so relaxed, I didn’t get upset or nervous.

I chatted with a new friend after class and was closer to the tram than the subway, so I decided I would go home by tram and bus today. It was a little rainy and already dark, but since I took the subway in the morning, I’d just add some tram-bus variety to spice things up a bit.

The tram came and I got off two stops later and realized that it was the subway that dropped me off in Alexanderplatz in two stops not the tram. Oh, well. I hopped on the next tram a few minutes later and went on to Alexanderplatz.

I looked around and didn’t see my bus stop. Hmm. Now it’s starting to rain. Well, since I’ve already made one mistake, maybe I’ll pull out my phone and look at Google Maps for a second. Ok. Walk two minutes. Here it is. Next M48 is in 13 minutes according to the real-time updated digital screen at the stop. Whatever. I’m in the bus shelter with all these other Berliners and I’ll read this article on my phone, just like them.

Several Bus 100s come by, quite a few 200s, one or two airport buses, a couple of M85s. What the heck! I check the digital screen. The M48s keep getting pushed down the list. I check my watch. It’s been a half an hour!! (To be fair it was an interesting article.) Fine. Now it’s not raining and I know that the subway station is nearby. I’ve already wasted 30 minutes on a bus that wasn’t coming.

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I get to the subway station and I think to myself, “I’ve been here before. I need the train on the left track.” It’s packed so I miss the first one. I get on the next one and take a seat and continue reading my article. A few minutes later it occurs to me that I should check the names of the stations as they go by. I turn my head and, just as the doors are closing, I see the name of the subway stop for my school.

I am an idiot.

I get off at the next stop, cross the platform to the train going the opposite direction, and commit to riding this train all the way to my stop. I confirm by checking the stops as we go along that I am finally going the right direction. I feel silly as we pass Alexanderplatz.

Then I realize that I haven’t checked my travel plan for getting to the restaurant where I’m meeting a friend for dinner. Ah, it’s a two-line subway trip. I see that the transfer station is an M-O-umlaut station. I look up and I see that we are at an M-O-umlaut station and I get off thinking that I could transfer here to get to the line that takes me closer to where I’m staying.

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Of course, it’s not this station. As if there is only one M-O-umlaut station in all of Berlin. Not only that, if my brain had actually been functional, I would have known that this transfer wouldn’t work, otherwise, I would have taken this route to the school in the first place. Why walk 10 minutes to another subway station in the freezing cold if this one would be more convenient?

I am an idiot, but I’m just about to start hysterically laughing because this trip home has now reached the level of the circus of the absurd, starring me. (In an alternate version of this story, this would be masterful spy craft. No one would be able to follow this circuitous route!)

I get on the next train and totally commit myself to staying on it till my stop and also to not missing it. I arrive and walk home.

Now I only have a half an hour to drop off my stuff and get ready to go out for another half-hour trip on the subway. I’ve learned my lesson now: Google Maps, carefully assure myself that my blue dot is following the path, and do not wander.

I go to my subway station. Good. The train is coming in four minutes. And right then an announcement: the train is delayed. Internal hysterical laughter. Of course the train is late!

Google Maps gives me an alternate route. Out to the street again and the M85 is on the way. I will not wait for the inconsistent and betraying M48! I make it to the subway and I’m on the way with no more problems.

On the way home after dinner, some young drunk people get on the train and serenade the crowd with The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” followed by A Flock of Seagull’s “And I Ran.” And that seemed like the perfect end to my transit adventures.


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Thank you for reading my blog and

joining me on this writing journey!

In transit

Actually, I’ve already arrived in Berlin. Last night, I stayed at a fun, party hostel with loud dance music – think “Despacito,” “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me),” German drinking songs, and house/hip hop – and enjoyed my complimentary “martini.”

Now I’m in my more stable accommodation that will be my actual “mobile office” and home base while I take a massage course.

Just getting here was an adventure…

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The airport in Tel Aviv was ridiculously crowded. Four budget airlines with all their weekend flights leaving at approximately the same time.  It was madness.

But we’ve reached a new age in travel seating – charging stations!

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My flight seemed to be running on time and we got in the air.  About 15 minutes into the flight, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” Yes, there was a medical emergency, and yes, there was a doctor on the plane.

Next announcement, “We are returning to Tel Aviv for an emergency landing.” And we turned around.  The landing was smooth but felt extremely heavy.  After all, we landed with a full tank of fuel.

Thankfully, the person with the medical emergency walked off the plane under his own power.

Next announcement, “Please stay in your seats.  We will take off after we get our landing gear checked.”

Then: “For security reasons, we have to remove the luggage of the person who got off the plane.”

Eventually we got back in the air, only about 2 hours later than scheduled.

But then those calm, understanding people who had allowed for a medical emergency and who mostly stayed in their seats on the plane faced a single passport official dealing with all the non-EU passports. At one point they tried to crowd the booth nearly causing a security incident because they just couldn’t understand why we were standing in this dang line for so long. (But seriously, she examined each person’s passport like she thought she should run them all through INTERPOL.)

Once I passed that endurance test, my bag was practically waiting for me on the carousel, the bus pulled up to take me into the city, and R2D2 showed up to let me know everything was going to be okay.

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