Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day One

A-Plus: 1 Day

Oh boy, have I just bitten off a HUGE piece of work for myself. From me to get to where I am; mooching off distant cousins, homeless, to where I want to be; in my own apartment, with an internet connection, cel phone, taking an ulpan, and doing my telecommuting job, is going to require my full and undivided efforts over the next several weeks.

While absorbtion will be much tougher than I thought, I do have a major head start thanks to the year and a half I spent here from 2000-2002. I woke up at noon today and had slipped into my pidjin Hebrew like an old pair of jeans. I can already miscommunicate with absolute fluency! My base at cousin Amnon and Leah's house established, I decided to make a reconnisance foray into downtown Jerusalem. I set out to find the Interior Ministry, Absorbtion Ministry, the Young Men's Hebrew Association (the YMCA of Israel, where my ulpan will be), and the Nefesh B'Nefesh main offices. Amnon and I sat down over a map and pinpointed locations based on addresses. We decided I need to take bus number 4. So off I went, with some of the money I got from the Absorbtion Ministry yesterday in my pocket, and went exploring downtown.

Now, my previous time in Israel, there were really only five places I went in Jerusalem. The central bus station, French Hill (where I am now), the Ben Yehuda mall, the Kotel (western wall) in the old city, and the suburb of Pisgat Ze'ev. Fortunately for me then, there was one bus, the number six, which could hit all of these spots. I thought I knew the city, but now that I'm trying to find government offices and other places, I'm realizing that I really don't know Jerusalem all that well.

So I took number four, and, based on my coordinates (Hillel St. and King George St.) jumped out and was on the ground. I wandered for some time looking for the address given for the Absorption Ministry, and eventually found the place. Then, I advanced on my next target, the interior ministry. I walked back and forth on the same street several times before I found an Ethiopian guard in front of a cafe and asked. He waved his metal detector towards a single door set into a limestone wall I had passed three or four times. Eureka!

Next, I decided to walk to the Kotel (western wall.) I knew the way and arrived directly. The Kotel certainly has changed! The main outdoor plaza, as before, is separated into a men's and women's section by a mechitzah (separation.) There's a tunnel adjascent to the men's section of the main plaza where one can find a continuation of the wall. It was always dank and poorly lit, full of praying chassidim and felt like a holy dungeon. Well, not any more! The municipality installed several halogen lamps shining towards the ceiling, so the stones on the archways over the ceilings look to be glowing. Better yet, the whole place has a powerful new air conditioning system. They also built an elegant women's section with separate access, so now women can see the inside of this tunnel, which they couldn't before. I caught a pickup minyan (quorum of ten Jews) for Minchah (afternoon prayers) with a couple of Yemenites, some Ashkenazi Soldiers, an American tourist, and a Moroccon Shaliach Tzibbur (prayer leader.)

The next stop was to get a map of the different bus lines so I could find my way around. I knew that, if such a thing existed, then I would be able to find it at the central bus station, so off I went. I could have taken a bus but want to conserve funds so I walked. It was only about 2 miles, and it was nice to re-familiarize myself with Jaffa street, which connects the old city to the city center. Wandered through the Ben Yehudah mall and saw a pro-Israel Christian demonstration. I ended up at the central bus station and found the information booth. I faked a heavy American accent so the clerk spoke slowly.

"I'm looking for a map of the intra-city bus lines."
"We don't have it."
"You mean you don't have it or it doesn't exist."
"It doesn't exist."

End of conversation.

I then continued wandering through the bus station until I found another information center, and this one had exactly the map I wanted, the one that doesn't exist, posted in the glass. I excitedly approached the clerk but forgot to put on my heavy American accent, and so had some trouble understanding the clerk.

"Can I get a copy of the map of the bus lines in the window there?"
"Blah blah blah for you, but blah blah blah twenty blah blah."

"Wait a minute, can I or can't I get a map of the city bus lines?"

She shot me her "conversation over" eyes.

I walked over to the map and took a digital photograph, and caught a bus back to French Hill.

I made good progress, and found two of the four locations I'm looking for, so the reconissance mission is deemed a success. Still, I'm a bit nervous about my living situation. I was only supposed to be here for a day, and I've already been here for two. I'm trying to contact my cousins Rafi and Galila, who said I could stay with them longer, and thought that I would be able to head over to their place today, but I still haven't heard from them. And I don't want to overburden the hosts I'm with now. Fortunately, I went to daven Ma'ariv (evening prayers) at the shul (synagogue) down the road here and ran into my old friend Shmuel Elitzur from my time here before, and received an invite for Shabbat, so tomorrow night is taken care of. But I'm antsy to get myself squared away, so I can start my telecommuting.

P.S. I took lots of photos, but have no way of posting them, so will send them later.

1 comment:

Baleboosteh said...

Sounds all very exciting! I can't wait to see the photos!