I meant to update this three times before tonight

So where to begin?  First, I have been trying to embrace my inner traveller.  Whenever I have the strength to go out and explore the city I really enjoy myself.  I had a half day tour of the old city with a coworker.  He showed me around the Arminian quarter and we went into the Church of the Dormition.  The big part of that church that I remember is it is where the last supper took place.  But truth be told, it seems like the churches all have about 135 different things going on there.  Like damn boo, choose a schtick and run with that!  But we went up on the rooftops near there and got some good views of the eastern side of the city.  Then we walked along the walls and entered back into the city from Lions gate.  We took the Via Dolorosa all along the stations of the cross.  We then ended up in the Muslim quarter and went to the rooftop of the Austrian Hospise.  Wow.  By far the best view-point I have seen in the Old City up until now.  20160523_123947And we were up there just as the call to prayer was starting – just breath-taking.  This was the building just across from the hospice:  20160523_123336Then we went to the new city and had a great lunch at a hole in the wall place.  20 sheks a person and you left full.

There was also the Jerusalem Light Festival.  Not for those who don’t do well in crowds.  But it was another amazing local/tourist experience.  There were some not as amazing projects but overall it was really well put together.  My two favorites were this New Orleans inspired group:  20160530_211406and this opera singer with the church of Domitian behind her: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bz5sxig-Uy3SbWxHVUVIRWxYeGs

Then there are the little things around the house.  The roommate dropped more than a K on bringing nature to the house.  We have a nice little porch set up now and a few more house plants.  The picture doesn’t do it justice and we have since rearranged but you get the picture:  20160520_133020I really lucked out with this roommate.  Very positive without pushing it in your face if you need to feel down.  VERY funny.  Just overall a great living situation.

So now the not so fun times:

Things at work a hit and miss.  I’ve tried to put my foot down for a normal schedule.  And it worked for three weeks before the reception boss got pissy.  Every shift that I work with him he is either calling me fat or calling me spoiled (for wanting more than 8 hours off between shifts).  I have tried to look at things from his point of view but I really just can not understand why he operates the way he does.  It is like we are his plebs in his own personal kingdom.  His mood swings are notorious and frankly I can’t understand how he got into his position. I’m really on the fence about looking for another job but I’m trying my best to stay here for at least 1 year (9 very long months away….)

And probably the biggest thing I need to write about is the massacre at Pulse.  Truth be told I have no idea what I really want to say.  I called the LGBTQ resource center here in Jerusalem but their councilor is in the US this week.  So my head is swirling around.  And I know that all the things I want to say I shouldn’t.  So if you get butthurt, stop reading this paragraph.  I know I have rage in my chest when I think about this.  And there was a bit of time that I was just numb to it all yesterday.  Every time I get on Facebook the rage that had subsided into a small part of my heart comes running back.  In the first few days after the shooting I literally wanted vengeance.  I wanted straight blood to be spilled.  I know that is wrong – and I’m really trying hard to move beyond that (most of the time I have moved beyond it).  But the fact that we are still fighting for our own lives – in our own spaces!  It gets me so angry.  And the responses from the gun totting rednecks!  Dear lord almighty please please please let me not go off on my own family about that part.  Please let me not do or say something I’m going to regret to them.  Please just put a brain in their heads on this issue!  How in the world can they be so far off base on this!?  And the bullshit from conservatives – the republicans who constantly vote against the queer community trying to save face or worse score political points is nauseating.  And the bible thumpers with their prayers for Orlando.  No.  Don’t pray for Orlando.  Orlando is a city – it is not a breathing person.  I would say you should pray for the victims but chances are those bible thumpers are the same ones who want us to pray away the gay.  Go fuck yourselves.

Anyway, like I said, my thoughts aren’t clear on all this yet.  I’ve been watching drag queen music videos or queer movies all this week.  I’m trying to get to a place where I don’t have hate in my heart.  I hope dude or dudette I talk to next week can talk me back from this.

So that was an update!  I’m on the night shift and it is 4:15am so I just got tired as all get out.  kbye!


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Growing Pains

First, I want to start off by saying that I noticed I don’t post all the amazing, wonderful things going on in life.  On the whole, things are going well here.

But I need to vent a bit and don’t want to talk shit to the few people I trust around me.  So here we are.

Tonight is Passover.  And oh my, what a cluster fuck it was.  To start off, I had asked for this Friday and Saturday off.  I wanted to go to the kibbutz seder and spend time with the few close friends I have in this country.  The assistant reception manager had originally given me Friday off.  But then it was switched before the schedule was finalized to have me work Friday over night and Saturday evening.

Then, I was invited to attend the seder here at the hotel.  The general manager invited me.  And being that I from the south, I assumed that the person inviting me would be there as a host.  I thought to myself that if I couldn’t spend time with those I wanted to down on the kibbutz, it would good to get some face time with the boss lady.  So I said yes.  It started off with a misunderstanding between me and the holiday/Shabbat driver that the hotel pays to drive employees from their homes to work.  I was told he would pick me up at 7:15pm.  At 6:45 he said he was on his way….   So I rushed to get ready and was on my way at 7.  The seder didn’t start until 7:45 and I was stuck putzing around at work while my co workers wondered why I was here hours before my shift.  I tried to explain that I was invited by Boss Lady but the looks were undeniable – nobody spends time at work if they don’t have to.

At 7:45 I go to the dining room where the seder is to be held.  Only one family.  I figured I would give it a few minutes so I go to my table.  Originally I was told I would be sitting with 4 other recent immigrants without any family here.  They would be soldiers but at least we could wallow in the awkwardness together.  When I got to the table, it was for 3 people in total.  So what should have been a bearable awkward 5 would now be an awkward 3 seated in the worse part of the room because everyone would be walking past to get to their tables.  Ok….   So after a few minutes I decided I would give it the Israeli Standard Time and wait outside until 8.  When I made the second trip in, there were three families and still no one else at my assigned table.  So I walk back outside to make a phone call.  The assistant reception boss man came out at 8:15 to say they were starting.  Sure enough, the room was fuller but I saw that my table was still empty. Also, the Boss Lady was no where in sight.  So I walked my happy ass right back out.  On the way out of the hotel, I saw the assistant boss man and asked him if Boss Lady was attending tonight.  That would be a big ol’ nope.  Never was even in the plans apparently.  So I tried to politely let him know that I would be back in 3 hours for my shift but wouldn’t be at the seder.

I could have sat there awkwardly by myself until another table, all of whom where guests by the way, gave me a pity invite.  But that is not how I wanted to spend this holiday.  I WANTED to be with my friends on the kibbutz.  Since that couldn’t happen, it would have been better to spend the night at one of the three other invites I had gotten from new friends in the city. But alas, I was a token “oh look at all the good we do for the new immigrants” table.  And that is not a feeling one enjoys alone.

So I walked down to the old city.  I roamed the closed down shuk until I ended up at a small street food restaurant in the Christian quarter.  I had a decent meal there only to find out that their card reader wasn’t working.  So then me and one of the employees searched for an ATM open at 9pm Shabbat and holiday evening… oh how fun.

When we finally found one and I paid what was due, I wandered some more all while still dressed in my holiday best – cowboy boats included.  Side note, the click clack of the boots on the old city pathways sounds wonderful.  But those stones are slippery.  Through all the wondering and past all the closed shops, I ended up deep in the Muslim quarter before I had realized it and decided I should probably head out.  As it would happen, the Kotel was the closest area out of the Muslim quarter.  So I sat there for a while.  First, on a balcony outside of the official plaza but with a nice view.  Then inside the security perimeter but not actually at the wall.  I watched as the city police and soldiers gathered and prepared for tomorrows crowds.  And chuckled at the 3 asian tourists who almost wondered into the woman’s section and then later took pictures next to the signs posted on Shabbat warning people not to take pictures because it is shabbat.  I tried praying some things out, but unsurprisingly, I didn’t get any thundering replies.  So when it was close to 11, I wondered on back to work.

And now, here I am.  I’ve already made a few mistakes tonight.  And I’ve managed to peeve a few of the other poor souls stuck here by forcing them to handle a guest who didn’t have the breakfast boxes they ordered.  There hasn’t been a single shift in my month I’ve worked here where I haven’t had some sort of problem.  Most of them are because of the horrible level of Hebrew I have (although, to be fair, some of the arab workers are also in need of a few lessons in Hebrew as well).

I am just so sick and tired of always being confused as to what is going on around me.  I’m also so disappointed that I keep assuming people are going to have similar cultural understandings (Example:  someone inviting you to a dinner, and they aren’t actually going to be there).

I thought I would have problems with the security situation.  But truth be told that doesn’t really bother me at all.  I am used to seeing young adults – kids really – walking around with AK47 in tactical gear.  I’m amused every time I see the special UN vehicles driving around town or parked in my apartment building’s parking lot.  Even the bus bombing the other day didn’t phase me and it was just a few blocks from where I was and where I was living – the same road my bus takes.  But this constant state of feeling helpless and confused … that is taking its toll.

I also am still trying to bite my tongue on some things at work.  It is SO hard for me to go back down to a receptionist.  I have to ask for permission for the smallest things like upgrades.  My hands are tied when something goes wrong.  I can’t offer the small things we could do in order to make a guest feel better.  I know I am good at this kind of job, but oh lord does it suck to have to start all over from the very bottom.

Anyway, I’m mostly just tired now.  Like I said, things are going well. I have more to be happy about than not.  This is just my space to bitch.


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The new job

So here I am, working that 3-11 shift that I love.  It is not quite 8 at night and we only have 2 more people to check in.  Today is only my first full day on the desk and I’ve already been invited to a Shabbat dinner by one of our guests.

To be sure I’ll be treading water for a few weeks trying to fill in the hebrew words that I haven’t learned yet that I need here.  But, most of the guests I’ve seen over the past two days have been English-speaking so at least I can shine when the guests come through.  And from what I can tell, that is what matters here.  Why?  Because this is old school hotel.  This is from when travel was classy as fuck.  This is Bell Boys, bow ties, shined black shoes, ties on all staff, staff only elevators so as not to be seen.

Yeah, I’m pretty happy to be here.  I am at minimum wage for the first 3 months until I get my first performance review.  But from the amount of new staff I see here at the reception, I think it will go well – they must be looking for stability and will be willing to pay a better wage for that.

So here are some of the players in this story book:

Shmulik:  My boss man, the one who does what I used to do at the Hampton.  He is in his 60s and a “confirmed bachelor”.  He has this really bazar balance of sassy gayness with overbearing control needs.  He seems to have a less-than-stellar reputation but I think I like him.  You just have to understand that work is the only constant he has probably had in his life.  Don’t fuck with his way of doing things and he is probably a nice queen.

Mustaf:  Shmuliks number two man.  When first introduced, Shmulik said Mustaf is like G-d, you will never see him.  It took me off guard for about 5 seconds that a Jewish man was calling a Muslim man G-d while we were all in the same room.  But that is how things work around here.  Outside the world is going to shit, but in here, Muslim, Christian, and Jew all work together.

Ala:  This is the guy I’m working with tonight.  A nice young man, 20 years old and getting married next week (we can talk about my biological clock screaming at me later).  He was born in Jerusalem and I have had to tell myself that nobody likes to be questioned about their life the way I want to on the first time you meet someone.  So maybe next week I’ll ask him of his experiences as an Arab-Israeli living in J’lem.  Other than that, he his nice.  He explains things that need explaining and doesn’t force small talk.

Amir:  Bell boy.  College graduate in sociology.  A nice and quite guy.  He is also relatively new but seems very well suited to his job.

Issa:  Also Arab-Israeli.  28 years old as well.  Also worked at a few hotels.  He is very outgoing and I can tell that, while he isn’t annoying by any negative standard, I will probably have to end up telling him I need quite time if we work together a lot.

Elliot:  In his 60s.  Moved here from NY at 15.  Is the perfect personality for this job, equal parts of caring with equal parts of joking/making fun of someone without them realizing it (wait, I need to replay every conversation I had with this guy now).

So that is the team I know so far.  But for a hotel of 137 rooms, they have a HUGE staff (again, because this is old school classy shit).  There are somewhere between 80 and 100 staff members.


Anyway, that’s all for this now.

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I just spent more than 3 hours on the phone with Danie B.  Some day, I’ll write down our story (if she doesn’t beat me to it).  It would be sure to be one of the most hated books around.  But we made it work and have such an amazing relationship.

We spent these past hours gliding between current life circumstances and stories from Florida State University.  It just absolutely flabbergasts me how many different faces we wore while trying to hide our underlying strings that held it all together.  It was nice to remember all the good times together and re-laugh at all those stupid jokes or happenings.  It was interesting to realize what I had blocked out – even hugely important moments to our relationship like when she and I both purposely found reasons to explain why we couldn’t hang out together on one day just to run into each other at the school’s crisis counseling center.  It’s interesting how the mind can protect us from ourselves.

But overall, I think we are both pretty amazed how far we have come through all the bullshit life has thrown at us.  Good job us, we are pretty amazing.

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Well the time has come to make changes in my life once again.  Staying here on the kibbutz has become more of a burden for my mental health than it is worth in the friendships I have here.  So when I returned from my trip to Germany, I decided to move to Jerusalem.  I went up there for a few days 2 weeks ago and have a solid game plan.  I should have my first sublet apartment finalized in the next week.  During that month (late March -late April), I’ll find a job in the first week, and then spend the next 3 weeks finding another sublet until June.  And starting in July, a friend of mine (who is living in Jerusalem already) and I will move into a new place together.  I am excited to be back in a city with options for culture, dining, and just fresh new faces.  I’m also excited about going back to working front desk (or management if I am able to) at some kind of real hotel.  I have committed to myself that I won’t settle for anything that isn’t front desk or higher.  No more housekeeping for me thank you.

Life in Israel is also strangely normal now.  The long bus rides between cities.  The yelling and shouting over normal things.  Even the security situation is just kind of an interesting experience during the normal daily routine.

For instance, during that previously mentioned trip to J’lem:  I had spent the morning at a queer community center trying to get a better understanding of the things I will need to know when I move there.  When I finished, I didn’t have any plans so I called my mother as I walked around the city center looking for a lunch place.  I stopped at a corner pizza joint, ate my two slices and just started walking all while still on the phone.  When my mother and I finished our conversation, I realized I had made my way the short distance from the modern city center to the walls of the Old City.  I was half way between 2 of the 9 ways into the Old City, Damascus Gate and New Gate.

Now, I only rarely get any meaningful experience out of going to the Western Wall. But it is one of my most favorite places to sit and people watch.  The only draw back is you have to go through security to get there.  So I stopped walking, rolled a cigarette and decided I didn’t want to go through security just to people watch.  And with that I turned around and headed back towards the new City Center.  Not even five minutes later I watched as one police car zoomed in the direction of the Old City.  Then a second.  Then an ambulance.  And 2 motor bike police.  I stopped counting around 15 and pulled up a news site.  A stabbing and shooting at the Damascus gate.  When the dust settled on that day, they found out the 3 Palestinians also had pipe bombs in addition to their rifles and knives.

But the thing is, I didn’t really loose any sleep over it.  That is just the way things seem to go.  There is a real tangible psyche of everyone in this corner of the world that life goes on.  You spend a few minutes think about all the “what ifs,” then you get a feeling of gratefulness that it wasn’t your turn, and then you go on with life.  I think the fact that my first night in my first real Israeli apartment (1.5 years ago) a rocket exploded 150 meters away probably sped up my integration into this psyche.

There is also the not so dangerous parts that would have seemed unimaginable before I moved here too.  I have been in the process of converting my US license to an Israeli one.  It is a long, drawn out, and expensive process.  And everyone knows that the driving instructors (which you are required to take, at least 1 for converting the license or at least 20 for new drivers) are in cahoots with the test givers to keep business booming.  So I took 2 lessons and scheduled a test.  Which, despite not messing up on anything, I failed.  I expected this as all immigrants fail at least their first test, if not the first 2 or 3.  I spent 15 minutes pissed, then moved on and scheduled my next test.  The instructor, assuming I would want to better prepare for the next test asked when I wanted more lessons.  I told him I didn’t need anymore, that everyone knows about the racket and that I’ll be just taking the test.  When the day arrived, I had 200 shekels ready for a bride to the test giver so he would stop wasting my time.  But just before the official got in the car (which belonged to my driving instructor), the instructor told me it costs an extra 180 shekels to use the car for the test if I haven’t taken any lessons that day.  So much for the bride…

But I drove second (which is a ‘trick’ the instructor told me to do) and chatted with the test giver – casually mentioning the racket they have.  I passed.  Now all I have to do is go pay almost 500 shekels to the post office for the actual card.

Long process where lots of people are getting lots of money all from me and every other student.  But such is life in the Middle East.  You bit your tongue and move on.

So this is were I’m at.  I have mellowed out in some interesting ways when it comes to terrorism.  And in other ways, I’ve stepped up; I can almost hold my own in a shouting match over stupid things.  It is interesting to see a change in your own behavior to fit a different culture than your own.  I wonder if it will stay with me when I visit family and friends in the US or if I am still able to revert back into “polite southern society” (whatever that means!).

At any rate, life is interesting.  I’m doing a better job of learning that running away from your problems doesn’t make them go away.  And I’m happy with that.

I’ll try to update this a little more often as the adventures of the big move gets closer.


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I wanted to write a life check up, but now I’m tired

So, 28th birthday.  I wanted to write a life check up.  Talk about the ups and downs of being an immigrant.  Yadda yadda yadda.

But I’m crazy tired (which is the norm for my life now).

Bullet points for today:

  • worked a full day at work
  • Went to Eilat with a friend for haircuts, dinner, and a bit of shopping
  • Got home to a problem with a volunteer that decided to not show up for work 2 days in a row because he is up north.  I played nice and said he could have off today (he called yesterday) but he needed to be at work tomorrow.  Tonight he calls again and says he can’t make it back to kibbutz.  So I have to fire him tomorrow if he isn’t here by 8am.  First volunteer I have to fire – and truth be told, I won’t bat an eye lash over it.  It would make sense if I had to strength to write out the whole story, but the bottom line is don’t try to fuck me over – I’m the easiest branch for volunteers to work with on the whole kibbutz.

So tomorrow morning, I have to work out with the boss how far we are going to take it with this volunteer (minimum is telling him to pack his things when he comes back and leave the kibbutz, maximum is the packing, plus having his visa revoked and forcing him to leave Israel all together without his volunteer stipend due to failure of contract).  And then I have to ask the boss if I can still go on my 3 day vacation to Tel Aviv that is supposed to start tomorrow afternoon. I’m doubting I’ll be able to go since housekeeping would only have one person for the rest of the week and that one person was almost fired yesterday.

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I don’t even know what is going on in my head

Blow up at work today.  Sick of having to defend a 3 person volunteer staff.  Sick of having to explain how any hotel in any part of the world on any level works – including the other guest houses in this area.  Sick of having to be “that guy” who brings up all the many short comings when it comes to how we treat volunteers here (like that they have no kitchens in their apartments, and so when the dining room closes, and the markolet and tea house turns them away, they literally have no food).  Sick of only having the “throw away” volunteers that no other branch wants.  Sick of having to fight to get the information I need to do my job.  Sick of having to cover other people’s jobs when they decide to go hang out with their friends instead of working.

I’m just sick of this place.  I need to move.  I think I have a job offer, I’m just waiting for the manager to return my phone call.

The one thing sticking in my head from today’s blow up/break down in front of the boss:  a story he told me about setting expectations re: kibbutz.  No real answer came of it, but here it is abridged:  you expect that in a kibbutz, a community with shared ideals and ideology, people would strive to live to those things.  When they don’t time and time and time again, never trying to learn, you get let down.  When you move to the city, you expect everyone to be out for only themselves. And so when that comes true, your expectations are met.  You know how to prepare.  Not true on kibbutz.

Anyway, really rough few weeks.  The summer holiday season is almost over.  Now if only the heat waves would stop and the power outages would stop.  104 F degrees at 9pm isn’t fun when the AC goes out (4th time tonight).

Time to eat the first meal since a half a bowl of cereal this morning and write up my 30 days notice.

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