My Day In Tel Aviv

April 11, 2017

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My first day in Tel Aviv I wake up at a reasonable hour and get ready. I shower and change clothes and all that good stuff. I head down the stairs and out the door because I'm so excited to explore the city—I don't realize until later that I completely forgot to eat breakfast...oops! When I walk out the air is warm and crisp and I'm super excited to be there. I can smell the Sea in the air, so I head directly for the seaside and take no detours. I'm on a mission for some suuuun. Soon I remember that in my haste I also never put sunscreen on, so I can feel the sun beating down on me, but I brush it aside because I'm dumb (yes, this is foreshadowing).

As I walk through Tel Aviv I realize several things. First of all, it's kind of dirty. There's trash on the streets, a metric shitton of cigarette butts everywhere (I mean everywhere), and there is graffiti all over the place (which I'm slowly realizing is kind of the norm everywhere in the world except for America...). But I also realize other things. The air smells incredible—it doesn't seem polluted in any way and the smell of food kind of overtakes the city. At this point I'm not sure how to take Israelis or Israel. I continue walking and eventually make it to the beach.

The beach is beautiful and clean. The people there all seem so happy and just... very open-minded. I look to the left and see the old city of Jaffa. I look to the right and see big cities in the distance as well as an old port/shopping center looking place. I'm conflicted on which way to walk, so I turn towards Jaffa. It's not a short walk, but I don't mind. I've got plenty of time, the beach is soothing, and I'm just enjoying the sun which is such a rare commodity in Northern Germany.

When I finally get to Jaffa, I get a very distinct and strong stench of fish everywhere I go and when I walk into the empty-looking warehouses I see books and trinkets galor...all over the place. Only problem is that everything is in Hebrew. I don't understand a lick of what anything says...I can't even glean because the Latin alphabet isn't used. No cognates...no cognates anywhere. At the same time, as I look around I realize that everyone looks like Vin from the plane. I'm confused and weirded out.

I CONTINUE ON THOUGH like the trooper that I am. From the port I walk to Old Jaffa to see old buildings and other old artifacts (I'm not sure what else to call them). Everything seems so historical—this old city is exactly what you think of when you think of "Jesus' times". It just seems so Middle Eastern and is incredibly beautiful. I'm so jealous that America was founded by Europeans so late and we don't have the kind of history that much of the rest of the world (especially around the Med) has.

At some point while I'm walking around (and this is only noon or so) I realize that I'm starting to get pretty sunburnt. This is bad, especially since it's my first day in Israel and I've got to endure the sun for another week or so. As a result, I find a tree in the Old City and sit in its shade. It's a beautiful, relaxing moment...one that I don't really experience much since I'm rather up-tight and think way too much about all sorts of random things. Furthermore, to elevate the wonderfulness of the experience, there were two dogs there and the owners were kind of neglecting them (that's not the wonderful part) and so they came over and played with me and it was wonderful (that's the wonderful part). ALSO, some little kids are being bad and playing in a fountain and I want to yell at them but, 1) I don't know Hebrew, 2) I don't know them, and 3) some old people yelled at them for me, so I didn't have to.

I sit in that same spot for about 45 minutes while I wait for Nicole (Renata's friend) to get there so we can chill and hangout and she can show me around Tel Aviv. She finally arrives (from the direction I wasn't expecting, might I add!) and we hug and are cordial and all that jazz. It was nice to see a familiar face and to hear English from someone! We're both starving so we go to some Arab place at the bottom of the hill and grab some delicious food. It was well prepared and pretty reasonable in price. I'm loving Israel at that point. Then we walk Jaffa, explore a bit, but then head out toward the beach.

Because I'm no longer in America, I need to adapt to new things—Americans text a lot but everywhere else WhatsApp is king. So, Nicole introduces me to voice chatting (obviously inferior to texting). I honestly don't get the point in voice chatting...just call the freaking person if you want to talk to them! Ugh.

Anyway, Nicole is like the biggest celebrity in all of Tel Aviv. Everyone seems to know her as we walk on the beach to the other side. AND THE LOVE SPREADS! One random girl (obviously not random to Nicole...only me) came up to Nicole, started talking to her in Spanish, and then hugged me...I was confused. But it was nice. I felt like I was part of the coolest entourage ever. We finally arrive to the port on the other side of the beach and stop to get something to drink because we're a bit parched (and I'm getting pretty burnt). We stop at this nifty little restaurant, Nicole orders us mint lemonades (apparently it's a thing?), and we gossip about Renata and she tells me all sorts of stories about Quito. The culture is so different there, so I found it incredibly fascinating.

Once we leave the restaurant, we go to buy sunscreen/aloe (that is highly overpriced and the most expensive sunblock I've ever bought AND the guy working made fun of me saying I was "red"), and then we headed into the city. Nicole was a wonderful tour guide and explained Israel's history to me so I understood what the heck was going on. I was pretty clueless prior. We visited a monument commemorating a PM of Israel that was assassinated in 1995 and then we visited a square where Nicole had to catch her bus. Quick thing I learned with Nicole: there are no vowels in Hebrew. You have to freaking guess what vowel sound would go in there. Like, what the heck Hebrew!?! Get your act together.

After she left, I went back to my hostel, had a nice conversation with two (wait for it..) Germans! One was from Bremen and one was from L├╝beck and my bunk mate was from Hamburg. It was weird. Almost all of the people in my hostel were German...which I found ironic in Israel...

Anyway, we talked about travel, philosophy, mathematics, American football (I felt I was the least knowledgeable on the subject...awkward), and told stories from the past. We all shared a bottle of Arak and got super wasted by the end of the night. One of their names was Till (or some spelling derivative of that) and one was Edward. Weird name for a German. We talked for probably 5 hours...it was good. Till gave me a Bremen ritual that I need to carry out. It's called the Bremen Baptism and includes a Haake Beck and three shots all in one quick take. I forget the bar in the Viertel he said it was at, but I will have to find it. It's how boys become men in Bremen.

Lastly, before this post ends, if you're reading this and are interested, ask me about Till's story about a wedding in the desert in Israel. It's a riot to listen to...probably one of my favorite traveling stories I've heard.

But yeah, that's it for Tel Aviv. Off to Jerusalem and Ramallah the next day!