Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jerusalem Part III - Santa meets God

Santa? or is it Bill Clinton in disguise?

Dear Citizens of the World!

Being an expat in the very Western Tel Aviv you often forget that you are in the Holy Land...Whereas Jerusalem is the front-line of the battle between religions.

Personally, the stress of living on the front line would not be my choice location, but going for the day is well worth the time, and easy to do since it only takes about 45 minutes to get there from Tel Aviv.

However, on this visit, we were only had time to visit the Holly Supulchre and to have lunch at a restaurant the Pope John Paul ate at.

I love how the intense beam of winter sunlight shoots across the church.

The low amount of light and the one-meter thick wall makes the shot look like a drawing...

Natural light from the eye of the Pantheon-like dome of the Saint Supulchor Church

Christmas decorations on sale in the Christain quarter.

So, if you are in Tel Aviv and you miss the Christmas spirit. Head on over to the front-line and buy some decorations from a Muslim vendor in the Christian quarter that will still be open during the Jewish Shabbat!

-The United Statesian

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse 2011 - Tel Aviv

Dear Citizens of the World,

Traveling the world, not only do you get to see the countries from a different perspective... but the sky changes as well.

Luckily, it was a clear evening and the early 4:30 pm sunset made the lunar eclipse from my terrace easy to watch.

A close-up ... proof that I need a better camera for kings day ;-)

Have a nice week! And don't forget to look up to the heavens while you are might look different.

- United Statesian

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November - Bikini Weather in Tel Aviv

Coffee break during our 15km walk along the coast

Dear Citizens of the World,

Although less exciting than my last post about seeing rockets and long-range missile tests, I think that these photos of a November walk along our beach in Tel Aviv are worth a post.

I try to highlight the positive side of living in Tel Aviv as an expat. One advantage is the weather. Not many people can say they walk along the beach in mid-November and still see tons of people in bikini - not me though... not my style.

Leaving Tel Aviv going North you not only have the beach. There are lots of other sights.

Enjoy the Boardwalk around the Old North Port of Tel Aviv

A cool, long-green, hair-like algae on the rocks at low tide

The Sun melts into the sea behind a ship.

As a parting shot... I leave you with the sunset reflected in one of my favorite buildings along the beach. The wavy, modern design gives a great "golden" reflection to the sunset.

Maybe there will be missiles and rockets in my next post...but I hope to bring more of the good side of Tel Aviv and Israel. In the end, I think that the Arab Spring will be a good thing for Israel and the peace process.

-The United Statesian

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Israeli Missile tests - up-close

Israeli missile test this morning (Photo: JA)

Dear citizens of the world,

Ever since I moved to the Middle East, people have been asking about the security situation.

My honest answer is always something along the lines of - "Israel is actually quite calm, they have some of the best security in the world... in many respects I actually feel safer here than in many other countries."

This week, things have warmed up a bit:
  • Extremists from Gaza shot a few dozen rockets at Southern Israel (From the office window, I could see the anti-rocket defense system firing as fighter jets flew overhead, going 30km South toward Gaza) .
  • The newspapers are saying that Israel wants to make a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear labs.
  • The PA is pushing for statehood with the UN.
  • And now, Israel is testing long-range defense missiles....
A friend was stopped by the military because he was entering the test area... he got this shot of the smoke-trail with his phone. The most impressive was the sound and vibration of the launch from so nearby.

People all over Israel could actually see the tests. Even 40 kms North of here. An article in the local news about the tests:

Despite all the excitement, life continues as normal for most people and we don't feel any less-safe. Friday, a tasty lunch with friends and Saturday some tourism in Jerusalem, and Sunday back to goes on.

-The United Statesian

Monday, October 03, 2011

Always moving, finally on vacation!

Sunset from Ia, looking towards Fira

Dear Citizens of the world!

Life as an expat often means that you are on airplanes, packing bags, going from country to country, but not actually on vacation.

After months of flying back and forth over the Med, we finally got a week off to go on vacation to Greece. Athens was nice, but Santorini was great! A paradise island that was created thousands of years ago by the biggest volconic eruption in history. Still active, it could cause a big quake or erupt at any moment... just makes it that more exciting ;-)

If you are going to Greece, make it over to Santorini...

- United Statesian

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Welcome Home!...your new home!

Dear Citizens of the World!

Welcome home! Yet again, I am making a new home in a new country and learning a new language.

Each time I fly into Tel Aviv, I see this retro sign welcoming immigrants during their "accent" to the homeland. Each time, I am reminded of my many homes around the world.

Being an expat...the notion of "home" takes on a new meaning. I once felt that the increasing number of homes was a wearing me thin by trying to be in many places at once. However, I now see it as an enriching experience -- the more you expand you physical horizons, the more you expand your inner horizons.

In any case...I am happy that my new home is not on a street with a name like this one:

Is that pronounced "Bear Sh*t"?

The United Statesian

First rain in Tel Aviv - surprise!

First rain in months...

Dear Citizens of the World,

Tel Aviv has seen rain! This is news indeed. After three months in Isreal we have not seen a drop of rain...until last week.

It was not much of a rain -- only lasted ten minutes and it only got things wet enough to make the months of dust become mud after evaporating ten minutes later-- but it was enough to actually be called rain.

What would be a non-event in my other homes, is a big event in a desert. Tel Aviv's total average rainfall for the months of June, July and August combined is Zero!
See Wiki on Tel Aviv...

Our reason for being here is directly related to Israel's lack of rain, but it is one thing to see it on paper and another thing to experience it in real life.

I sudenly feel thirsty....
-The United Statesian

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Virtual Art Collection - Travel size for expats

"1/2 Torso - Lento" -- Keep looking at the picture until you see it...

Dear Citizens of the World!

Being an expat has ups and downs. One up-side is getting to meet interesting people from around the world. One such person, "Hans some" is a hard-working metal artist from Germany who is based in Alicante Spain.

His sculpture "1/2 Torso - Lento" has become one of my favourite works of art. It has a subtle genius to it that reminds me of MC Escher, but in 3-D. It really plays tricks with your mind. Fantastic!

Since I do not have a permanent home -- one of the downsides of being an expat -- I will keep a digital gallery of my favourite works of art. It is free, takes no space, and travels well.

Check out more here:

Have any suggestions of other pieces of art that I should add to my collection?

- The United Statesian

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dead Sea -- still dead, but fun!

White plastic chair on a salt-bar in the Dead Sea

Dear Citizens of the World,

What's an expat to do on a Saturday in July in Israel? The logical answer = Drive two hours through a desert to swim in the Dead Sea.

Since it is one of the "touristy" things you hear about for so many years, you actually go with low expectations. I was surprised at just how fun it could be!

A more beach-like entrance in Ein Boker

Gotta love the chubby-speedo look!

It was very hot! The thermometer said 41ºC (102ºF), but it felt much warmer. The water felt like warm pea soup, and the showers even warmer. It is not a Sea to go to in the summer to cool off on a hot day. It is the adventure and novelty that count.

Look mom! No hands...I'm floating!

There were a few people, but it was not crowded. Especially at the public beach in Ein Boker -- not the touristy one with a Spa and tractor pulled train.

There is still lots to see (the Oasis, the waterfalls, Canyon trails, Masada). I will definitely be back to the Dead Sea on a lazy Saturday, but when it is a bit cooler.

- The United Statesian

PS. Parting shot....

The terrain around the Dead Sea. What it feels like being in a 400 Meter "hole" in the desert.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Housewives on dope - Fabric softener sniffers

Eco products in Spain that are better for Chemical Sensitivity sufferers like myself

Dear citizens of the world,

I started to write this post last year while suffering from pneumonia. It was a bad experience, but I actually suffer more when I have an allergic reaction to chemical products. Unfortunately, I am very sensitive to chemicals in cleaning products, air fresheners, perfumes, paints, etc. Some doctors label it "Chemical sensitivity".

My "allergy" is not fully recognised and the only treatment seems to be to avoid chemicals as much as humanly possible.

As long as I avoid chemicals I can lead a normal life. It is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you are travelling or living abroad as an expat which is my case.

The picture above of products is thanks to years of searching throughout Spain for products that would not affect me as much as popular brands. They are actually cheaper than the more "chemical" brands. Now, after moving to Israel, I have to start the search all over again. There is a brand of cleaning products, Ecover, for cleaning that I have found (not so cheap). However, I am still looking for something to replace the Sanex Zero shower gel...

You may ask: What's the deal with chemical sensitivity?...Does an allergy to chemicals/perfumes really exist?

I can tell you, Yes it does exist!

Are you hooked on chemicals? Do you huff?

Just say no!

Many people (mostly housewives because they are in charge of most cleaning and house maintenance) have been duped and pressured into perfuming their homes with dozens of toxic products. These toxic chemicals are not regulated by anyone and are pushed by many multinational companies.

These products are actually addictive and dangerous!
"A recent report indicates that fabric softeners found in most homes are highly toxic. According to reports, fabric softeners are among the most toxic products to be manufactured for home use. Chemicals like chloroform, pentance and benzyl acetate are all known to cause damage to lungs, nerves and the brain; some chemicals found in fabric softeners are even known carcinogens."

I don't believe it! you say. How about this quote I took from a popular fabric softener website:

"When I first smelled the original scent years ago I was hooked The smell really does stay in the clothes about a week after the wash is done, I use all products with the original scent and the dryer sheets not only helps in the dryer, but in my car, the underwear drawers, as a liner in garbage pails, inside pillow cases. The list can go on and on, I am so in love with Gain. Sniff sniff hooray."

I'm your pusher!

The addiction to perfumes (like those used in fabric softeners and many other products) is the same thing as the glue-huffing street children. One is accepted, the other is considered to be sad.

For the record, I am not anti-multinational companies! So, "what do you want?", you may ask.

Ahhh! Thank you for asking. Here are my wishes:

1.) All chemical products (perfumes, cleaning products, industrial chemicals, etc.) should be regulated.

2.) Long-term testing should be done to find out the real affects of the chemicals on peoples lives.

3.) Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) should become a recognized health problem.

4.) Public venues such as schools, hotels, offices, etc should not be allowed to use chemical cleaning products that use perfumes. Hypoallergenic cleaning products?

The first step will be for people to learn the difference between:
Clean = not dirty, no smell
Perfumed = an additive (possibly toxic) smell that often times masks the lack of cleanliness

So far, my experience in Tel Aviv has been good, but it is a daily battle to avoid the barrage of "chemical attacks" and to find safe zones where I can let my guard down. Thank God there are lots of outdoor cafes!

-The United Statesian

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hangin' in Granada - Goin' to the Boda

Jammin' on the Hang in Granada

Dear Citizens of the world!

June 18th was a special day. I flew home to Madrid... from my new home in Tel Aviv... to make it back to Andalucia (a past home) for the wedding of the year between my good friends Daniel and Vero --Will and Kate who?

Since the wedding did not start until 6:00pm, I decided to take advantage of the free time and the 40º C (100ºF) temperatures to stroll around Granada.

During my stroll I saw the typical touristy things: the Alhambra (already been there about ten times), the mosque, narrow winding streets and endless souvenir shops. However, I came across something different, something note worthy...Brunoise.

Nicolas Pirillo (pictured above) was sitting in an alley, jamming on his hang (wiki info on the hang). It was something so cool and different that I stopped to listen and find out more about the instrument. I even bought a CD to support the guy. The music is trance-like and it simultaneously reminds me of the Cambodian 9-gong Gamalan and the Brazilian steel drums.

Check out some of his music (with other musicians) at these websites:

One of the great things about traveling and living in different countries is that you can always find new things...even when you are going back home.

The wedding went off without a hitch -- they got hitched -- and I took one or two photos.

Congrats guys!

-The United Statesian

PS A parting shot...

A more typical shot of Granada's Alhambra and the 3500m Sierra Nevada

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Night views from the hotel in Tel Aviv

View at night from the 14th floor of the Leonardo City Tower Hotel In Tel Aviv, Israel

Dear Citizens of the world!

First impressions are important when moving to a foreign country. This is the view from our hotel room.

The highway, train line, and luxury apartment towers can not compete with the Mediterranean sea views that are typical of the posh hotels that are only 3kms away...but it could be worse.

Last-one-out turns off the lights!

Later that same evening...

This poor guy was the last one left in the office building. Late on a Sunday evening (Israel's Monday), I could feel for him because were were still working as well.

The United Statesian

Recycled Ethics - Tel Aviv

Ethics book on top of a recycle irony?

Dear Citizens of the World!

While walking through Tel Aviv on my hunt for a new home, I saw this garbage bag sitting on top of the recycling container.

A few Ethical questions came to mind:
  • Isn't it ironic that this student decided to photocopy the Ethics course book instead of buying the original? Would you fail the course because of this?
  • Is it Ethical to recycle it...wouldn't it be better to reuse a few times before recycling it? --It honestly does not look like it has been read.
  • Would it be Ethical to reuse an Ethics book without paying royalties? Would the environmental ethics outway the economical, property-rights ethics?
  • The bag of recyclable materials was deposited on top of the effort was made to put it inside--even though there was plenty of space. How ethical is this half-ass recycling?
Just some food for thought.

What do you think?

The United Statesian

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Israeli fashion - Cool Hats and Scary Mannequins!

Cool styles on Tel Aviv's trendy Rothschild BLVD

Dear Citizens of the World!

When visiting a country like Israel your first thought would be of fashion being dictated by the religions.

It is common to see religious attire, but most people in Tel Aviv wear European style clothes and they dress quite informally most of the time. Note: The two pictured above are the more snazzy/stylish types I have seen. Most wear jeans and short-sleave shirts.

On the same day, I walked by some fashion outlets on a trendy street and found these people:

A chorus of Zombie Mannequins!

The oddest thing I have seen so far are these Zombie Mannequins. The freak me out!

The armless-zombie mannequin boy with a damaged face!

Ohhh look! An armless zombie mannequin boy with his face bashed in! Oh..and it looks like he is levitating! I'm sold in this. It's the perfect outfit for my son. Yikes!

At least these two are smiling!..

After living and working in many different countries I still have not found my own style. Maybe I should try the three-foot wide hat and all black clothes... what do you think?

The United Statesian

PS...parting shot...
Better view of those great hats!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Streets of Tel Aviv - Shiny Side Part I

The Diamond Exchange Building...the shape resembles the cut of a diamond. The West-facing, almost-windowless facade glimmers in the afternoon sun.

Dear Citizens of the World!

As promised, here is a look at the shiny side of Tel Aviv.

The shiny side is a stark contrast to the gritty element of TA. However, they are not seperated by areas...they actually co-exist.

The Azreily Towers...gorgeous!...more pics later.

Very shiny office building...

A small part of an apartment block in the centre of TA. Reminds me of a Beehive.

Our hotel and a shiny, rounded office building. The hotel's reflection makes it look
like the windows are missing in part of the office building.

The big question is... Will our new apartment be shiny or gritty?

The United Statesian

Tel Aviv Pigeons go on strike - head for beach

Pigeons in Tel Aviv go on strike!

Dear Citizens of the World!

I will have to admit that I do not understand why...but the pigeons in Tel Aviv have decided to go on strike. Any ideas?

After taking the picture above, I walked down to the beach and found this guy:

Hanging out on Tel Aviv's Beach soft-sand beach

He obviously stopped off at the hair-dresser to get the puffy-hair look. Then he decided to spend his "strike" sinking his feet in the super-fine sand. His blood-red, beady little eyes make him look quite scary -- despite the hairdo.

Note: The sand on the beach in Tel Aviv is the finest, softest sand I have ever seen. It is actually quite nice. I have only walked by part of the beach...still haven't had time to chill out on the beach day maybe...when I get a job...then go on strike to join the pigeons in their fight.

The United Statesian