Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How I Spent the Summer Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall of Bureaucratic Futility, pt. 4

My favorite time of the year is not Autumn or Springtime or holiday season. No, it's the time of year when I venture forth to get my new yearly student bus pass. This adventure is always fraught with uncertainty, danger, & mental anguish. Egged has the unique talent of turning even the simplest task into a distressing ordeal. They could make a walk to the corner store for milk into a perilous undertaking, fraught with dragons and falling meteorites.
All I want to do is take a bus. Is that so much to ask for? I'm a simple girl, with simple needs. One of those being the ability to get home at night.
This year Egged decided to set up stations in various places around the city during various times where you could drop your card in an envelope in the morning and they'd return it fully loaded by 16:00. All you had to do was go to their website, fill out the online form, and give them your credit card information. Then you could leave them your card and return later to pick it up.
I decided to take care of this on Monday, as my card was due to expire on Wednesday. Sunday night I got home from work at about midnight. Even though I was about to collapse on my keyboard from sheer exhaustion, I WAS GOING TO FILL OUT THE FORM. They had most of my information from the previous year, so all I had to do was choose my area, click the option for yearly as opposed to per semester, and type in my credit card information. Unfortunately my credit card was DENIED. Perhaps I'd gone over my limit, so I changed the payment option from 2 monthly payments to 3. I clicked on send and got a loading page for a few minutes. I tried to click on send again but was no more successful the second time. I went back and refreshed the page, but this time I didn't have the option for the Jerusalem area, leading me to believe that I had already been signed up for it (according to their FAQs you can't sign up twice for the same area, so if your area doesn't appear, you're already signed up).
I didn't know what else I could do but hope the payment went through and bring my card into the bar that had been appropriated by Egged the next day. I went about my daily business, picked up the card at 17:00 before work, and went my very merry way. I had no confirmation of any kind whether it had worked or not since nothing had been removed from or added to the envelope, and there were no notes written anywhere. But I was hopeful.
I rode around the city in a blissful state of freedom for the next few days, enjoying the ease with which I could get on the buses and trains, congratulating Egged on the simplicity of the whole affair. And it only took them 4 years to get to this relative state of efficiency!
Until Tuesday night. I got on the train, no problem but when I swiped my card on the bus, the red light came up. I tried again with the same result.
“It's empty,” said the apathetic bus driver without even glancing at me.
“But I have a yearly pass! I JUST got it on Monday.”
The bus driver just shrugged and motioned me past. I looked at my watch and realized it was 12:05 am of the day my bus pass had been supposed to expire. It seemed that the payment had not in fact gone through and no one had cared to let me know that they'd returned my card without actually doing anything to it. I spent the next 20 minutes of my ride home, cursing and invoking upon them and all their family plague and pestilence.
Egged was going to be returning to the pub on Sunday and Monday of the next week with their stack of empty envelopes. It was the same deal- leave your rav-kav in an envelope between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00, and pick it up between 16:00 and 18:00. This time I paid with my mother's credit card and got confirmation of payment. I left the house at 9:00 in the morning, waited for a bus that didn't come, just missed a train, and ran through the door of the bar at 9:57. I did the entire process again and prayed for the best. I had been asked to come in to work at 16:00 but had warned my boss that I would need to pick up my rav-kav first so I'd be about 15 minutes late. He said fine, no problem, so I arrived back at the bar at 15:45. So I waited until 16:00. And then I waited some more. 16:30 came and went and the Egged staff member in charge of bringing the envelopes back was apparently still sitting in traffic a few blocks away. Of all the people in the entire country, you would think that an Egged worker would have planned for traffic. Apparently he'd forgotten that Jerusalem is a large, and very diverse parking lot.
He finally showed up at 16:40. I had my envelope in hand 5 minutes later (after the very Israeli initial mass convergence on the box of envelopes). It had a halfway illegible note written on the outside saying that my card had been put on the black list and that I'd have to go get a new one.
The girl in charge of this whole rav-kav-bar project wasn't exactly sure what having one's card blacklisted meant and the Egged guy had disappeared about 8 seconds after he'd arrived. She just looked at my face and said, “I am so sorry.”
I felt even worse than the guy who hadn't realized that he was supposed to leave his rav-kav in the envelope. By the time I got to work, my eye was twitching and people kept backing away from me in alarm.
I was not excited to go to the Egged office at the central bus station. In fact, I was the opposite of excited, whatever that may be. There was a line of students about 12 meters long (I'm not even exaggerating) waiting to get their yearly student bus pass. They seemed to be working out of 2 offices- one just for students, and one for the regular rav-kav issues. Every once in a while someone would be “chosen” from the student line to be admitted (ahead of the line) to the regular office. There did not seem to be any pattern to the choosing, but I was pulled out of the student line (after I'd finally gotten to the front) to be admitted to the regular office where I waited longer than if I'd just stayed in the other line. Figures. However, I finally got the answer to the burning question: why had my card been blacklisted? As far as I knew, it had no communist ties and was not even a member of any political party, let alone a far-left party.
The answer was... a post-it note. Apparently, the post-it note I'd stuck on it with a list of bus times had caused irreparable damage to the card and it was limping along on its last leg. This should have struck me as more absurd than it did, but the truth is, the entire process had been so unbelievably ridiculous that I just accepted this as another fact of life along with sunrise and winter snowfall.

I'm in the process now of writing a very angry letter to Egged and sending it to them with all the bus and train tickets I was forced to buy during the period I had already paid for bus pass privileges, requesting my money back. I am not overly optimistic about the chances of a refund, but I must stand up for my rights as a citizen of the free world!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How I Spent the Summer Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall of Bureaucratic Futility, pt. 3

Every year, I empty out my bank account in order to pay the down payment on my tuition (some 4,000 shekels). Then I apply to minhal hastudentim (the illustrious “student authority” for new immigrants) for a refund on my money, invariably messing up my paperwork since they've changed the system without informing me. One year, I had to bring in all of my documents in person (along with all the other immigrant students in the city of Jerusalem, creating a line that even the post office would be proud of). The next year they fired all the staff and created an email account for all the aforementioned students to scan and send all their documents to, creating an electronic backlog that took the one guy still working there months to get through.
This year, they decided to make the system more efficient and created an online form to be filled out, with all necessary documents to be uploaded. After having sent all my documents via the former method (the email address), I received an email with a link to this new form. A non-functional link to the form, I may add. The link consisted of a picture of the log in screen, but nothing happened when I clicked it. I tried again with another browser but no dice.
I waited until the next day and tried again. This time the link opened up to a box requesting my ID number. The “continue” button on the bottom led to a screen requesting my ID number, email address, and date of birth. When I filled in my details, a window popped up saying that my details were incorrect. This was perplexing to me since I'm quite certain about such details as my ID number, email address, and date of birth. There's not a lot of room for uncertainty there.
I sent an email imparting my woes and disclosing my imminent bankruptcy were this matter not to be taken care of immediately, and my money refunded to me. I got a response inquiring whether I had perhaps clicked on the link for new students as opposed to continuing students. I relayed my assurances that I had definitely not clicked on the wrong link and was quite sure that I had typed in the correct details. I received a reply a week later saying that they would check it out.
Meanwhile, I had received an email from another department of the student authority (most likely a woman sitting in the office next door to the one guy who checks the emails) that I had to do 120 hours of community service over the next year in order to receive funding for my studies, and fill out and return the attached forms in order to be placed with an organization. Which was also quite perplexing seeing as I did my community service hours last semester and as far as I understood, they would only foot the bill for 3 years. Considering that the second semester of the upcoming year will actually be my seventh semester, I had assumed that I was on my own for that one. I replied to the email, outlining my concerns and politely inquiring what in G-d's name they wanted from my life, and upon not receiving any reply whatsoever, sent another few emails along the same vein over the next few weeks before finally deciding that I had more pressing matters to deal with (the bank and class registration). It took another month or so before the coordinator actually called me on the phone to question me about my situation. She asked me if the government was financing my last semester and I told her I had no idea, since no one had kept me informed of such matters and why the hell was she asking me, anyway? She's the government bureaucrat, not me. She rang off, saying she still didn't understand whether I was supposed to be reimbursed for the last semester or not, but that she'd look into it. I'm sure she either promptly forgot or is at the bottom of a canyon in Peru, seeing as I haven't heard from her since. I did finally fill out the form and email it back to them with another inquiry about how many hours I was supposed to do if any, and whether or not the last semester will be paid for, just in case. As usual, I'm not too optimistic about the chances of anyone having any idea what's going on and getting back to me on the issue, but such is life (or at least such is government offices).
A week or so ago, I tried again to get into the link to minhal hastudentim's new and improved online form on a whim and was suddenly granted access to the mystical and somewhat capricious form. I was quite excited that I'd finally be able to fill it out and get reimbursed for the down payment to Hebrew U, until I got to the part where I needed to upload a certificate of study confirming that I'm a current student. Which I wasn't going to be able to get until signing up for classes.

That, right there, is the point where I started banging my head against the wall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How I Spent the Summer Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall of Bureaucratic Futility, pt. 2

It's time to start mentally preparing for the beginning of the school year, which starts (as does everything in Israel) after the holidays. Need to sell your house? After the “chagim.” Need to buy a new couch, take out a second mortgage, write your autobiography, invent a new way of harnessing solar energy? Yeahhhh, you'll get around to it after the chagim. Probably.
If I don't start thinking about school now, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are going to keep me so occupied that school is just going to sneak up on me suddenly and I'll find myself panicking the night before because I have no school supplies, haven't signed up for classes, or even paid tuition.
To be fair, I have been trying (fairly ineffectually) to sign up for classes. For over two weeks. But I have been having slight bureaucratic and technological issues. This, I'm sure, will surprise no one on this planet. Except perhaps geologists, who literally spend their lives under rocks. And yes, I just made a science pun. Deal with it.
The week before registration for classes opened up, I went in to speak to my adviser to make sure I wasn't missing any essential courses that may have fallen through the cracks when I switched majors. She noted that my major was listed incorrectly in the system, and instructed me to manually fix it upon signing up for courses on the course website.
Well, registration opened that Sunday for everyone except Natania. And the other few people who were bombarding the registration hotline, making it impossible to get through. I couldn't even sign in because my details were incorrect. According to the website, if I called the hotline, they'd be able to change my major in the system. I was told otherwise on Monday, however, when I did finally get through to a human being. They sent me to the secretary of my department, whom it turns out is only available between 10:00 and 14:00, and not at 14:30 which is when I got there. I arrived during the allotted time on Wednesday, whereupon the secretary of my department promptly sent me to the secretary of the undergraduate department. The secretary of the undergraduate department played around a bit with the computer and “fixed” the issue. The system has a lag time of 24 hours in which to update itself, so I wasn't able to check if it had worked until the next day.
The next day, I had two majors listed, neither of which would allow me into the system. This is a fairly unhelpful thing to have. I went back the following Monday to have her actually fix it this time. She typed some things into the computer, called up a bunch of people who didn't answer, and declared the issue resolved, with the added disclaimer that the entire system was closed down until the next Sunday so I wouldn't be able to sign up for classes anyway.
I was not overly optimistic that I'd be able to get into the system on Sunday. Some may call me a pessimist, but I say I'm just a realist since I was right. A few hours later, I was back in the secretary's office (which is starting to feel like home). She opened up my file on her computer and informed me that because I was missing 4 mandatory courses from previous years, I would have to repeat the second year. I just stared at her in disbelief. It would seem to me that the two times that I had done the second year would have been enough, and that doing it 3 times would be overkill.
Luckily, we cleared up the matter. Statistics I had done with the chemists as opposed to the biologists, which is acceptable though it doesn't show up in the system, and Biology of Organisms I had done without the lab part of the course as per procedure for the combined biology and chemistry major that I had started with. I had already gotten permission from my adviser to not have to repeat the entire course.
That left only 2 classes that I still need to do, which thankfully does not require repeating the second year. All I needed now was written permission from my adviser that I do not need to take the other 2 courses and the secretary would be able to force open the registration. That evening I sent an email to my adviser requesting written permission, the next day the email with written permission was forwarded, and the day after I received confirmation from the secretary that she'd unlocked the system and that after the aforementioned 24 hour lag time, I'd be able to finally register for classes.
The next day, the impossible happened! No, my mother did not eat my dad's Rosh Hashanah sweet and sour cabbage, and the Afghanis have not yet landed on the moon. I was finally allowed into the course registration site! Unfortunately, I need to take so many classes this year in order to graduate (at least 14) that there is physically not enough time in the week to take them all (unless HU has been hiding a time machine in the physics department). Not only that, but I can't confirm registration because of the two classes that I already did but which are still not listed as having been completed.

So I've decided to give up on science and instead apply to beauty school.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How I Spent the Summer Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall of Bureaucratic Futility, pt. 1

A few month ago I noticed that my credit card was about to expire in August. I was pretty sure that the bank sends you a new credit card automatically, but I called customer service just to confirm and was told that they would send it to my house by the end of August.
It was nearing the end of August and I was getting a bit anxious. I didn't want to be in the position where I was stuck without a credit card for a few days. Who can predict when you'll suddenly need to buy a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands or withdraw a suitcaseful of cash? Certainly not me. I mentioned the fact that I still hadn't received my credit card to my father and he informed me that he and my mother had received theirs a few weeks before (we'd opened our bank accounts at the same time). Well that did not bode well for my chances of receiving it.
I decided to go to the bank and talk to one of the bankers since reaching a human being through the customer service number is a painful ordeal, no matter what company (internet, phone, satellite company- doesn't matter) you're trying to get to serve you. After 20 minutes and the sum total of 3 people (out of at least 10) progressing through the line, I decided that recorded messages telling me to press a succession of numbers were not as bad as previously considered.
According to the customer service representative, my credit card had been mailed to me on July 25th. She made this statement as if that solved all of my problems. Ah, well, if it was sent out 3 weeks ago with my parents' cards which were received 2 weeks ago, then I'm sure it's on the way. Because the post office's track record is so stellar that I shouldn't even consider the fact that it fell out of the truck 5 minutes after being loaded into the truck and is probably even now floating out across the Dead Sea or being snacked on by Bedouin camels. Thank you so much for your help!
According to her, I had to wait 20 calendar days (of which I had waited 18) and that I should call back in a few days if I hadn't received it by then. I was like, great! Looking forward to speaking to you again in 2 days!
Obviously the post office didn't magically reappear my mail Harry Potter style, so I called customer service again in 2 days and the representative informed me that he'd have to cancel my credit card and send a new one to the bank, which I'd be able to pick up in 3 business days. I raised my eyes to the heavens and let out a dramatic sigh.
“Well, if I've got no other choice, I guess you'd better do that.” Three business days fell out on a Friday (not part of the official Israeli work week), my bank branch was closed on Sunday, and Mondays I leave the house early in the morning for work, the gym, then more work. I was finally able to go back to the bank almost a full week after having my credit card canceled (luckily no spur of the moment business deals or flight from law enforcement officials had arisen). This required taking a number, and waiting for an hour watching the arbitrary letter/number system slowly tick by. My number was G104 which was called after F896, which was called after H67 which was called after G103. Most of the hour was spent listening to people try to haggle with the bankers over mortgage terms and attempting to figure out their number system (with little success). Finally, I was able to ransom my credit card from the hands of the bank, in exchange for a signature and my soul. I asked the banker if the card was a different number than the canceled card and she insisted that it was the same number as my old credit card. I informed her that that wasn't possible, since they had canceled my credit card in order to prevent credit theft. She maintained that it was the same number and asked if I knew my PIN or if she should order a new one, to be picked up at the bank in another 3 days. At this point I probably would have signed over my first born as well in order not to have to go back to that metaphorical pit of darkness so I let her know that I was all set.
At home I confirmed that the credit card number was definitely a new number, seeing as I had to change all of my online credit card information and one of my credit card payments had been denied. Over the next few days I made sure that my credit card was in working order and was quite relieved to find that I could make credit card payments.
Payday came around (yes, I'm working again, but that's a story for another day) and I was quite excited to deposit my check, having paid the 4,100 shekel down payment for school. My account was bordering on empty and in order to renew my gym membership and yearly bus pass, I was going to need funds. Well wasn't I surprised when I inserted my card into the check depositing machine outside the bank and my PIN was REJECTED. Turns out I require a new PIN after all.

I had to order a new PIN to be sent to my bank branch since sending it to my place of residence wasn't an option. This means that 5 work days later, I will be forced to return to the bank and wait for another hour, listening to people trying to haggle over their loan payments (this never works) with one of the 2 bankers present (for a population of 40,000) and attempting unsuccessfully to decrypt their number/letter cipher (which was clearly set up by the Soviets).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Jewish Riddle

What do you get when you stick a bunch of Jews in a room together? Jewish geography!
“Oh, you're from NY? I once met a guy from NY. I can't remember his name but I think he was a lawyer or a doctor or something from the Upper West Side.”
“Toronto? Do you know a guy named Shmuel? I think that's his name anyway. He's my mother's second cousin from her father's side. I think he has a beard.”
What happens when the number of distant family members and passing acquaintances from all over the world is exhausted? The matchmaking commences!
And what is Israel if not a large metaphorical room with a bunch of Jews stuck in it? Everyone and his mother is a shadchan in this country. The old lady at the gym is a matchmaker. The hairdresser and the shoe repairman are shadchanim. Even the guy at the cheese counter decided I needed to find a nice boy.
I was in the changing room at the fitness center and an old woman sitting on the bench randomly asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told her that I did not, and she promptly asked me if I'd like one. I was like, “no, not really.”
“Good! I go to the Western Wall every week to pray for all the single people. I'll say a prayer for you that you should find your soul mate!”
I just sighed and replied, “If you feel you must.”
My mother brought a pair of shoes to the shoe repairman outside the shuk a while back and she must have mentioned that she had a daughter because the guy then tried to set me up with either his son, or some acquaintance (my mother's still unclear about who this poor shlemiel was) whose wife he didn't like. He hoped that they would get divorced and that this guy would marry someone else that the shoe repairman liked better. This was the first time someone had tried to set me up with a married man.
After this I asked my mother to please never mention me again and to stop showing people the picture she keeps of me in her wallet. I then secretly replaced the picture of me with a picture of an ogre with the hopes that even the most desperate would think twice about setting Shrek up with their 50 year old son who lost his job 5 years ago and still lives at home, but who happens to be a very nice man (even if he doesn't have much hair left and could probably stand to replace a few of his falafel meals a day with a salad).
A few years ago my roommate tried setting me up a few times. Matchmaking is clearly not included in her skill set (and I'm sure she has many). She should probably leave matchmaking to the professionals- like the guy at the cheese counter, for example. The first guy she asked me about was a guy who worked with her in archives. He had overheard her and another woman talking about dating and how there were no good single men. He popped his head up from behind the cubicle and announced to them both, “I'm single!”
I said no thanks to the desperate, eavesdropping archivist.
The next guy she tried to set me up with was apparently interested but couldn't even work up the courage to call me. I was not interested in a guy I'd probably have to coax out from behind the couch every time the doorbell rang.
The third guy was some yeshiva bochur about my age, whose Rabbi she knew and had said nice things about him. He was interested until he found out that I'd served in the army. It seems that his brain couldn't handle this new information and caused something to short out. He started freaking out that it was prohibited for women to serve in the army and that it was a corrupting environment, etc. etc. Even his Rabbi said he was overreacting and told him that there was nothing wrong with women serving in the army. It's probably a good thing no one told him that I had been a weapons mechanic, wear pants, and have no intention of staying home with the children. They might have had to call him an ambulance and defibrillate his heart. Nothing that my roommate had told me about the guy (even before his freak out) had made me want to date him (really? a yeshiva bochur?), but I least I'd had the dubious pleasure of being the cause of his minor mental malfunction.
Honestly, I'm a little too evil for a “nice guy.” A few weeks ago the hairdresser had mentioned to my father that he knows a nice 24 year old guy whose hair he cuts- an industrial engineer serving a 5 year stint in the army. I guess my dad knows me pretty well (a side effect of me living at home for the past too many years) because he answered that the two most important things to me are that a guy appreciate my sense of humor and that he like animals. The hairdresser didn't have enough information on this count but decided it would be worth pursuing. Thanks to my incredible timing, I'd made an appointment with him for the next week (before he could forget the entire scheme). But by the end of the session, he had managed to convince himself that a nice, shy 24 year old with very little experience with women (having come from a very religious background) maybe wasn't the best match for me. I was admittedly relieved.

A friend of mine recently asked me to keep her in mind if I met any nice guys. I was like, right, because I meet so many normal guys during the course of the day. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were her.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Hobby a Day Keeps the Boredom Away

During the summer I like to collect hobbies. Two years ago I decided to learn the guitar. That didn't go as well as hoped due to the tendonitis in my left wrist. I have made some progress in the intervening time, but I tend to judge the amount of progress I've made based on how fast Moby runs out of the room when he sees my guitar. Cookie can't be trusted for judgment calls since she has terrible taste in music in general.
Last year I started making jewelry, admittedly a strange hobby for one entertaining a marked apathy towards ornamentation. Which is a nice way of saying I just don't care. Sometimes I even forget to look in the mirror before I leave the house. Which often explains the looks I get at the bus stop.
My mother has benefited from this new hobby, being the recipient of my first few experimental pieces. In addition to making jewelry, I decided to sell it at craft fairs and yard sales, since I'm not going to wear it. Craft fairs are kind of hit-or-miss. The most successful one to date was the Olim Craft Fair sponsored by the city of Ma'ale Adumim. The key to a successful fair is advertising. Which is one thing the city of Ma'ale Adumim has mastered. There were Godzilla sized posters plastered all over the city, at the entrance to the city, in the mall, in the local newspaper (it was a really large edition that week. Even Godzilla likes to read about local news).
The fair took place in the “Golden Age Club” building (yes, that is a euphemism for old people's clubhouse) and consisted of about 20 or so tables ranging from jewelry, to paintings, to Ethiopian fabrics, to a guy who made impressive use of popsicle sticks. They even had a table with samples of wine, cheese, and olives produced down the road in Mishor Adumim (the industrial zone outside of Ma'ale Adumim). It seems however that the city was doing the company a favor by putting out these samples and that nobody actually had any idea how one could acquire these products. This may have been the least thought out part of the fair.
My incredible luck put me directly behind the fragrant sample table. I decided to push my table over a few inches in the other direction rather than not breathe, seeing as making small talk with customers is rather difficult when you're lying unconscious on the floor. Even so, it was not far enough away from the aromatic goat products and pickled olives. They also kept stealing my customers. I could see people meandering in the direction of my table, getting distracted by free food and alcohol and immediately forgetting that they had ever been on the way to the jewelry table behind the pungent freebie stand.
Every cloud has its silver lining however. They did keep passing me samples of wine when they got bored. That almost made up for diverting my potential customers. And I did manage to do a bit of business regardless.
I have learned that any fair where there are children's activities are a no-go when it comes to jewelry. Aside from the fact that I'm forced to listen to hours on end of children's songs, the women and grandparents who come to these things are just looking for a place to dump their kids for a few hours and take an unobtrusive nap in the back while the kids are clapping and singing along. These people don't want jewelry. They just want to rest a bit after being run into the dirt by 6 year olds so that they can remember where they parked the car and where they live.
The most depressing craft fair I participated in was the craft fair that takes place in Jerusalem on Fridays in the center of town. My mother's friend Varda had talked me into selling jewelry and said she'd even help me. This is a woman who could probably sell ice to Eskimos and sand to Bedouins. I kept putting her off because of school, then finals, and this and that but I finally agreed to get in contact with the person who runs the fair and see if they had an opening.
As usual, easier said than done. I found a phone number and email address on their website for Yossi, the guy in charge, and tried calling the phone number. No answer. So I sent them an email and waited until the next week for a response, which I didn't get. Finally I tried to call the guy again, who answered and then asked if I could call him back in an hour because he was having issues with his phone or some such thing. Half an hour later I got a transliterated Hebrew text message in English letters from a different number asking me to email them. I texted back: “I did. No one answered.” A few minutes later I got another text: “Did Ze'ev answer you?”
Ze'ev? Who is Ze'ev? So I tried calling back the first number. Still no answer. I sent them another email figuring that it was probably just going to get piled up somewhere with the first email I'd sent them and that whoever was supposed to be monitoring the email account was on vacation in Turkey or Nepal.
Wonder of wonders I actually got a response to the email. Whoever it was (Yossi? Ze'ev? Itzik? Moshe?) responded that I should email them at the beginning of the week of the Friday that I wanted to sell jewelry. I was like, isn't that sort of what I just did?
None of the above was the sad part however, more just par for the course. The sad part was that on Friday, the city was practically deserted due to the “situation,” as people had taken to calling the undefined military activity and influx of rockets into the country. It was past the point of being a military operation but people were still hesitant to designate it as a war.
A few Israelis wandered over to the table to take a look, and a few young tourists from Ohio showed some interest but in the end I only sold two pairs of earrings (one pair to a fellow seller). None of the sellers fared much better and the organizers ended up collecting only a small portion of the money they usually take for a table, based on how much each seller sold. This was quite decent of them since at the other unsuccessful fairs I had been forced to pay full price for the table, whether or not anyone attended.
It probably wasn't very wise of me to finally agree to sell jewelry while there was a “situation” going on. My sense of timing is impeccable when it comes to a witty quip, but terrible when it comes to useful things such as making money. I'm not going to give up though. Mostly because the jewelry is starting to pile up in my room and pretty soon I'm going to have to move into the bathroom.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Natania Vs. the Government & Old Ladies With Cake

I have now completed my 5th semester and second year at Hebrew University (yeah, go figure that one out). It has been an exciting year, one of much personal growth and growth of laboratory yeast. I learned many things, including how to sleep sitting up and how to do the kakuro puzzle in the newspaper (you know, the one with the numbers). Hopefully I learned some physical chemistry the second time around, since I don't think I could handle physical chemistry a third time. Don't worry, I did learn some actual stuff but when I talk about it, people's eyes tend to glaze over. This is a warning sign of impending science talk induced coma if I do not shut up within 3 minutes and 42 seconds. Therefore I will not share with you what I learned as you may be reading this at home alone. It could be days before someone found you, eyes open, face down, drooling on your keyboard.
I was also informed by the student authority that I would be required to complete 60 hours of community service during the second semester in order to receive a refund from them upon payment for the semester. This was mildly amusing since they hadn't yet refunded me for the first semester. I decided to turn the tables on them and threatened not to do my community service until receiving the 5,000 or so shekels that they owed me from the first semester. I then received my money. Of course I had already started volunteering, but they didn't need to know that.
I received an 8 page list of organizations I could volunteer with. None of them sounded like a good fit for me (i.e. they involved working directly with people), but I had to make a prioritized list of 3 places I wouldn't mind volunteering. Most of the organizations worked with children, children with problems, adults with problems, the needy, or old people. The first place I chose was mostly a logistics position not involving too much human contact. That one was of course not available in Jerusalem (even thought it was listed in Jerusalem). The second place where I was in fact accepted, was visiting Holocaust survivors at their homes. It seemed like maybe not the best idea sicking ME of all people onto these poor people, but it was either that or possibly traumatizing a bunch of innocent children. Somehow I also got wrangled into being a group leader of other volunteers. This involves sending out monthly emails and calling my group of volunteers once a month to ask how things are going with their old people, at least until they get tired of hearing from me and start screening my calls. My job is now much easier 6 months later since only about 3 out of 12 or so volunteers answer my calls.
The woman I visit is a Viennese woman who fled from the Nazis to Denmark at the age of 14 and lived with a Danish family for a few years until she was able to get to Israel at the age of 17. She then married a kibbutznik and had three kids. She's 89 and a half and still pretty sharp. We actually have quite a bit in common, and I do enjoy visiting her. She worries though that she tires me out on our walks up and down the block. I have to reassure her every time that I can probably handle the trek. Seeing as I did the 5K marathon and all which basically took place on a hill.
She also likes to feed me cake and cookies. She has that Jewish mother mentality and insists that I must eat more cake. I tell her, no thanks, two pieces are enough for me, really. She says “it's ok, you're skinny, you're allowed.” Well, even if I was skinny when I entered, I won't be when I leave. Sometimes I have to fend her off with chair.

Unfortunately she cancels our visits on occasion due to ill health or a doctor's appointment, etc. This means that I have not finished the requisite 60 hours I was supposed to have finished by June 10th. I got an email from the student authority stating that since I did not complete my hours, they would not be paying for that semester. Joke's on them though, because they already did! Natania: 1, government: 0.