I've decided it would be good therapy for me to journal some, now that I'm on the other side of the planet. So here's the rundown of what's gone on so far in my great adventure.
I left New York last Tuesday, on a 6:30 PM flight out of Newark. Jet Airways, as Megha predicted, was a joy to fly. I was befuddled when they asked me my meal choice, so I got the western meat entree (I would have preferred the Indian one). It was an excellent chicken marsala, though, so I can't complain.
I arrived in Brussels at 7:30 Wednesday morning. I cleared customs, dropped off my luggage in a locker, and headed into the city on the train. It was still early, so I wandered around some through central Brussels. I really dug Brussels - very much a mix of old and new. There's been a lot of recent development, because Brussels is the capital of the EU, but you also have all of the older stuff that's been there for years. I went through the Cathedral, and then I headed to my real target, the Magritte Museum.
Which was awesome. Lots of his lesser works - he did everything from record covers to socialist propaganda - but also a lot of his well known pieces. Magritte frequently executed the same canvas a number of times, so they had lesser known versions of "The Treachery of Images," "Golconda," and a couple spectacular versions of "The Empire of Light." Also, they had "The Menaced Assassin" on display, which explains why it hasn't been in the MOMA the last couple times I've gone.
After that the jet lag caught up with me, and I decided to head back to the airport and nap. My flight to Tel Aviv was at 7:20. I also got a meal out of that one. Now I understand why everyone refuses to fly American carriers if they've ever flown anything else.
I got into Tel Aviv at 11:30 PM, and since it was the first day of Sukkot, I had to take a cab to my hostel. It ended up being a good thing, really, with all my luggage.
I woke up early the next morning and wandered around Tel Aviv a bit. I ended up heading to the beach for the day, since everything was closed for Sukkot. The beaches here are pretty spectacular - nice sand, warm water. A lot smaller than our American beaches, but nicer. Probably more elderly Russian men in skimpy bathing suits than you're used to, but the last beach I went to in the states was Brighton, so basically the same for me.
After that day (and my first Israeli sunburn - I wore sunblock, but I applied it sloppily the second time) I caught the sheroot to Haifa. Sheroots are basically shared taxis - they hold 7 or 8 people, and most importantly, they run on Shabbat and holidays. They're a little more expensive, but still relatively cheap. I checked into my hostel in Haifa and settled in for the evening.
The next day, I headed to the mall (hey, don't laugh - in a desert country, air conditioned shopping is more of a requirement and less of an amenity) to see if I could get a cellphone. I couldn't (turns out I need to jump through a few more hoops first), but I did get a cable so that I could charge my computer and my electronics. After that, I headed back home and fell asleep - still jetlagged, I guess. I ended up sleeping from 2-7, and then going back to sleep at around 11 and sleeping until 6 the next morning.
I did my yoga practice, and then headed to breakfast. After breakfast, I walked into Haifa and wandered around the city. I went through the German Colony (there was a colony of German settlers in Haifa in the 19th century), Wadi Nisnas (one of the Arab neighborhoods), past the Bahai gardens (more on that later), and up the hill through Hadar. Since it was Shabbat, most things were closed until the evening. But I did discover there's a spectacular produce market in Wadi Nisnas. The produce in Israel is incredible, and you don't have to feel guilty about your carbon footprint, since you know everything is locally produced - there's just not anywhere else for it to be produced. Not quite the same variety I was used to in New York, but I already knew that city was spoiling me. A lot of new things to try - dragonfruit, sabras, pomelits - and a lot of things I've already tried but don't know the Hebrew names for.
I headed back to the hotel about 6:00 or 7:00 (mind you, we're already off daylight savings time here, so it's dark by then - hell, it's 17:45 now, and it's already pretty dark out). The next day was Sunday, and finally a business day.
I headed into town, and found a spot with wifi. Using the wifi, I logged into craigslist and found myself an apartment. It's a bit far from the Technion, but it's close to transit (I can take one bus up to the Technion, and it's 30 minutes - basically the same as my commute to Columbia this summer). I'm a 10 minute walk from the train station, there's a grocery store across the street. And the apartment is nice - good kitchen, laundry in the apartment (I think this is standard, since I haven't seen a laundromat), and super cheap. I'm paying 1000 shekelim a month, which is about $250 American. The best part is the living room - one whole wall is windows, and you can slide them across so that the whole wall is open - it's really lovely. I'll post some pictures once I'm fully settled in.
Monday was mostly waiting around to sign the rental contract, so I wandered the city some more. This time I went up to the top of the hill, to Merkaz Carmel. That's where most of the spectacular pictures of Haifa from the facebook album come from. I wandered into the top of the Bahai gardens, which are one of the loveliest spots in Haifa. The Bab, one of the Bahai prophets, is interred in Haifa, and the gardens stretch up and down the mountain around his shrine. It's really a vertical garden - built on 18 terraces, with the shrine on the 10th. I got some great pictures, and I'm hoping to take a tour at some point so that I can get some more. When you come visit me in Israel, I'll take you to see them :)
I also wandered past the Stella Maris, which is the headquarters of Carmelite order. You can't really go into the monastery, but the church is very nice. And it's perched up at the tip of Mount Carmel, so you have lovely views of the city and the sea.
From then I walked down to my new place and signed my rental contract. The entire thing was in Hebrew, of course, but my new roommate is an American and walked me through it. After that, he took me to a barbecue on the beach with some of his friends from the medical school. It was a mix of Israelis and Americans, which was nice. I really need to improve my Hebrew before I'm ready to interact entirely in it.
Yesterday I spent buying things for the new apartment, checking out of the hostel, and moving to the new place. I haven't been able to unpack yet, because the guy whom I'm replacing hasn't completely moved out yet. But I should be in tomorrow, and at least I have internet now.
If you have AIM or Skype, I'm on pretty continuously during my waking hours. Username is electrichobbit on both - feel free to drop me a line on either. It's a little lonely over here, so I'd love to hear from you.