Thursday, July 31, 2008

Living Nightmare

I hate the umbrella. Typically it's some obscene shade of neon and being waved high in the air. Behind it is a hoard of people with cameras, sunburns and fanny packs. And yesterday, I became what I hate. One of those people mindlessly following the umbrella. And it wasn't just any umbrella. Check it out.

My irrational disdain of such tourism was thrown back in my face. With a Wal-mart umbrella. Talk about irony. BUT...I have to say that this tour was for the best. While in principle it was not my ideal, I saw far more in a day than I would have on my own and I learned some interesting facts. Here are a few that I enjoyed.

Tel Aviv has a population of only 260,000 but on any given day there are a million people in the city. Apparently everyone commutes in to work. Needless to say, there are some serious traffic issues.

60% of the world's diamonds are exported from Israel.

Apparently Nazareth in the time of the Savior had a population of only about 150. If this is true (I inherently doubt everything tour guides tell me), Mary's situation as an unwed, expectant mother, seems even more amazing. Only a real woman could put up with such small town gossip.

I'll save the other interesting facts for a later blog, but here are a few pictures from the day.

Hanging out at the Jordan River where baptism has become a strong tourist attraction. For a small exorbitant fee you can pay to be dipped in these waters.

The Mount of Transfiguration.

An olive press in the ruins of Capernaum.

Along with these sites, we made stops in Nazareth, Tiberias, and the Sea of Galilee. More pictures will be added in the future in case you're desperate to see them. I will say that while it's interesting putting places with names you've heard you're whole life, if you didn't already believe in the events that occurred there, seeing them commercialized will do nothing for you. This being said, I'm grateful I got to see them and look forward to my Dead Sea trip tomorrow!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When in Rome

Once upon a time, I was in Italy....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Life in the Lobby

I live in a hotel. The Basel Hotel to be exact. More accurately, I live in the lobby of the aforesaid hotel, since apparently I was assigned one of the 3 rooms in the hotel that doesn't get wireless internet. This being the case, I've gotten to know the hotel staff very well so I can put in quality time on Skype and checking my email. Despite the inconvenience of being a permanent fixture in the lobby, I am VERY grateful for my internet service and decided I should blog my appreciation. Not just about my internet, but my life in Tel Aviv. So here goes...

I live in a hotel. Which means I have maids. They make my bed, tidy my room, and bring me fresh towels every day. I haven't lived at home for a while, so this is quite novel and refreshing. I could really get used to it. Beyond the housekeeping, I get free breakfast every day. And it's amazing!!! Lots of salads (Israelis are really into salad for breakfast), veggies, fruits, eggs, pancakes, pastries, cheeses, cereal, yogurt, etc. I love food and even more importantly, I love having someone make it for me. So life is pretty sweet. I don't have a washing machine which is a bit problematic, but it could be worse.

My hotel is approximately a two minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea. There are plenty of sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and refreshing salty breezes. I've always loved the ocean (especially when I can actually see the bottom) and it's reinvigorating to be able to go for a seaside stroll at the end of a long day at work.
Only negative would be the sand that manages to take over my existence.

I get to go to work every day doing what I love. Not everyone is so lucky in real life. I play the piano for a living and will for the rest of my life. Which is fantastic!!! On top of that, I'm currently working with some top people from the business and getting wonderful job experience that I know will help me in the coming years and job applications. Beyond resume building, I learn A LOT from all these people. Sometimes I learn what I don't like and what I don't want to be in the future, but that's also quite useful, so...I'm glad I came!

I meet amazing people everywhere I go and Tel Aviv is no exception. First, there's the White family. Ashley (Mott), B and there wonderful family have been so kind to me--picking me up for church, having me over for dinner--basically just being family away from hope. It's always wonderful being around such strong church members and they have made my stay in Israel much more enjoyable. There are other members of the Tel Aviv branch who are equally friendly and have been very interesting to meet. Just an interesting side note, but our church meetings are typically conducted in four different languages: English, Russian, Spanish and...whatever they speak in the Philippines. Quite the international experience.

Beyond church, there are wonderful singers and wonderful people in this program. It's always fascinates me to hear peoples stories. So many different people in this world and so much to learn from all of them!

Finally, being here in Tel Aviv has made me especially grateful for all the wonderful relationships I have at home. I have so many people I value in my life and being away from all of them just makes me appreciate them even more.

Basically I have a wonderful life. And it's pretty great in Tel Aviv. I'm tired and looking forward to some time in Utah, but I'll miss my little existence here in Israel. But mostly due to the fact that once I leave I'll have to start making my bed...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I have no desire to ever learn Hebrew. In case you were wondering. It just sounds difficult and I can't even read the letters, so it's out.

As you can probably deduce from the above statement, I made it to Israel. I got to Tel Aviv Sunday evening, started opera rehearsals on Monday and have been busy ever since. Coming from Italy the work load's been a bit of an adjustment. Something about having a pausa in the middle of the day that just makes everything feel more relaxed. And the Italian attitude in general. Here in Tel Aviv I've only had two long days at school, but it's felt like a week. Partly because I picked up some type of virus on my flight to London and have been suffering from a cold (in the hottest climate ever), but regardless it's been long.

That being said, I absolutely LOVE it here! Tel Aviv is breathtakingly beautiful. You can see the beach and the Mediterranean from my hotel window and it's lovely. And even better, the program is fantastic! My conductor loves me and is arranging for me to work with some Russian conductors on the opera I'll be doing in Michigan in the fall. The program coordinator gave a masterclass last night, and it was brilliant. And really well attended---about 400 people! I play for one tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to it.

The people in the program are very friendly and lots of them are very talented as well. My roommate is from Mexico City and is one of the nicest girls ever! We won't be roommates for too long because her boyfriend will be coming to Tel Aviv next Wednesday, at which point she'll move out---but that just means my own room! The other pianists here are incredible, which is a bit intimidating but more inspirational than anything. Most of them are older and have a lot of great advice and helpful suggestions.

Basically, life is good. And I'm in Israel. รจ tutto.
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