First Days in Israel

Tivon_and_Carmel

Be warned that this blog will most likely be littered with run on sentences. For some reason all my papers in college would inevitably consist of about 10 long, rambling sentences in which I would try to cram all of my (ill though out and researched) ideas.

I don’t really know why I started writing like this. Maybe its because I never really have a clear outline of what I am writing, so I just kind of put my thoughts down as they come. I also think it takes less work to just throw a comma in there and continue your thought rather than put a period and be forced to think about the daunting prospect of creating intelligent transitions. Thus, the papers in college that I wrote at the last minute were never of the highest quality.

I want to mention that my roommate Erik took the long, comma filled sentence strategy to the extreme. I literally remember looking at one of his papers and reading a sentence that took up half a page. He must have been doing something right though, because his grades were always superior to mine. It probably had to do with the fact that he thought it was a good idea to purchase the books for a class in order to do the reading, and I thought it was a good idea to try and mooch off of his stuff. This would always lead to me only having access to important books at odd hours or the last minute.

It also led to me stealing his copy of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” for a road trip because we had a paper due in a few days. I was sort of hoping he would just not notice, but about a day later I got a pretty angry email. I felt really bad, but if I had not taken the book I seriously would have not been able to write the paper. It was my only option, and I knew I would be away for a little, meaning the rage he felt about my sleazy move might dissipate by the time I got back. Thankfully, that is pretty much what happened.

Another side note: The class we were both taking that I needed Machiavelli for was called “Shakespeare and Politics.” We were supposed to read Shakespeare and then see how he used politics in his books and learn how that relates to stuff toady. What kind of professor teaches a class like this? Who cares how Shakespeare uses politics? It did not matter to me, all I knew was it was a new class being offered that semester that fulfilled a requirement and promised to be easy. That was my, and my roommates for the most part, general criteria for selecting our course load: how easy it was rated by other students, whether it was a new course (new courses generally meant the teacher would want to give good grades, to insure good ratings, to insure they keep their cushy position the next year) and what time it was offered.

Anyway, back to what it has been like in Israel. After getting off the plane I had to go with all the rest of the people who were making Aliyah to a shuttle that took us to some far off office that deals with immigrant absorption. I was the first person in line but the last person called to be processed. Maybe they figured it was more important to get to all the families and couples before the one person who was by himself and under 25. Finally getting processed went something like this:

“ Do you speak Hebrew?”
“No”
(Hearty laughter, most likely at the fact that I am becoming a citizen of a place that I have never been to and I have no knowledge of the language.) “OK, sign here.”

This was followed by putting my signature wherever she told me to. Everything was in Hebrew, so I could have been signing over all my money for all I knew. I don’t think that was the case, since before she sent me on my way she gave me an envelope with 1200 shekels. It was pretty cool to have so many 200 dollar bills in my wallet, but I soon realized 1200 shekels equates to about 37 US dollars.

I was greeted at the airport by the two gregarious Israelis who are the owners of the second division club. We then went and grabbed a quick bite to eat, followed by the drive from Tel-Aviv (where everything happens and there are young people, buildings, beaches, stores) to Tivon (which they told me is known as a “nice place to live” which I guess means only old people, quiet homes, pigeons and stray cats.) But hey, we are pretty close to Lebanon, so maybe there is a whole lot going on over there that I can check out.

Back to the car ride, I have to mention how these dudes made about 50 phone calls during the hour long drive. They would just go from one to the next, sometimes with both of them on speakerphone at the same time. It was a lot of Hebrew coming at me at once, and I can safely say I did not understand one word. People always say “ O, you’ll pick up the language once you live there.” I can absolutely 100% guarantee you that will not be the case. Hebrew is nuts, and I cannot get over the right-to-left reading thing. All the newspapers open up backward, and it is very disconcerting.

So we finally arrive in Tivon, and they take me to the gym to watch the team practice for a little. My shock at seeing this gym cannot be fully described. Maybe the people who played with me in Pierce College’s women’s gym around the year 2002 can relate, but other than that there is not much to compare it to. It is about the size of one of those Vegas auxiliary gyms I used to play in all the time, except imagine there are about 300 plastic multicolored seats on one side. The place is dirty, the rims are bent, and no joke it has to be about 100 degrees inside, obviously with no AC.

But, don’t worry! The problem of the ungodly heat is solved by the placement of a singular fan in one corner of the gym, whose powerful blades provide a steady stream of cool, fresh air. In reality, this 30-year-old fan strains to blow anything. Yet, standing in front of it during water breaks and feeling its tepid breeze might as well be a cold swim considering how hot it is. The “locker room” is 2 benches crammed into about 10 square feet of space, with a tiny shower room in which 3 old faucets dole out low levels of cold water.

The team itself is also a site to behold. At first glance they looked beyond terrible, but once I was on the court with them I realized a couple of them are decent. The three Americans are the best players, and there are 2 Israelis who are pretty good. In the name of full disclosure, the guard I was defending (one of the 2 good Israelis) scored on me a couple times, which was kind of infuriating. But, my legs were beat from the physical, the running, the heat, my morning lunge workout I did, and the fact that I hadn’t played 5 on 5 in a while. No one can make excuses quite like me.

Obviously I was going to save my energy for offense, where I played well and realized unless something drastically changes I should have a field day statistically. Anyway, after the first 5 players there is a severe drop off. Like drop off down to about low level California high school team drop off. I wish I were kidding.

The first practice was unlike anything I was expecting or anticipating. We ran for 25 minutes straight just doing laps around the court. Unreal. I hadn’t run laps since I was like 12. Once we were done with the running we had about a 2 min break and went straight into a simple shooting drill. 5 minutes later we had been broken up into teams and were playing 5 on 5. We played 2 12-minute games and that was it. The whole practice was two 12-minute games!

Basically our only play so far is a pick and roll, which is great for me because I play the point and can call for a pick every time down if I want. After we were done playing we joined again with the strength coach, who led us through a bizarre set of stretches/ exercises that he claimed were supposed to strengthen our core. It was all I could do to not break down crying at the prospect of such a rudimentary, archaic workout. I kept telling myself it was going to be like this, but I still could not mentally prepare myself for it.

At least they said there are only supposed to be 3 or so more days of running, which in the grand scheme of things is far less conditioning than I would do in high school or college. Mercifully we were done after about 7-8 minutes. I was already tired from my brutal physical, the running and the playing, so after this core workout I was about as sweaty as I had ever been. I seriously must have lost about 10 pounds that day.

Going backwards now, this whole day began by trying to cook up some eggs and potatoes, but the potatoes out here are like extra hard or something, because they were on the pan forever and were still rock hard when I ate them. Breakfast was followed by about 3 hours of sitting on the internet doing nothing, waiting for a call from team management to let me know what time I was supposed to go to Haifa for my physical.

Also, I am still stealing internet from god knows who at this point, because I broke my internet card the first day I received it. It was not like anything I had seen in the states. It was a USB drive that had a little slot for a sim card to go in. Even though there were clear instructions on how to put it all together, I failed miserably by putting it in backward and getting it stuck. My next brilliant idea was to try and remove the card with the closest thing I had to tweezers, which were nail clippers. A smarter person might have realized what was going to happen, but me being relatively clueless and determined to get my precious Internet, I forged ahead.

I clamped the nail clippers on the edge of the plastic and tried to pull. In my head everything would slide out smoothly and I would once again be able to be access the sweet, wonderful Internet. It had been hours since I had done essential things such as check facebook or read another rumor about where Allen Iverson was playing. In reality, I pulled the slightest bit and the plastic snapped, worsening the situation considerably. My brief moment of hope was dashed.

So far I don’t really get a set schedule out here, you just kind of keep your phone on you and wait to be instructed on the days activities. Finally I was told when I had to go to my physical, so me and my roommate left for Haifa. This was my first time leaving Tivon since I got here, and I was definitely happy to be out for a little. You kind of get used to the quiet, boring lifestyle in Tivon, but once I was out and saw Haifa I realized how much I would rather be in a real city.

Haifa reminded me of LA. There are beautiful beaches and a vibrant city with actual young people, which, as I mentioned, are hard to find in Tivon. On a serious note for a second, seeing Haifa provided some real motivation to get off of this god forsaken second division club and into the premier league as soon as possible. The apartments the Haifa players get to stay in might as well be the 4 seasons compared to my place.

My place is not terrible, but it is nothing special either. Just a two-bedroom place in a shabby apartment complex. I am pretty sure my bed is just like 2 futon cushions sewn together or something, but it is surprisingly not that bad. Also, there is a family of birds living right outside my window that provide plenty of unpleasant early morning noise. I already regret not brining better earplugs.

As for air conditioning, we have it, but we were told the team only pays for electricity bills up to 150 a month, and we are worried about going over. Having never paid bills before, we have no idea how much 150 is, so if I find out that we only used like 25 dollars worth and suffered in this heat I am going to be pretty upset. Anyway, I for sure need to work extra hard to make it clear that I belong on the first division team. On the ride up one of the owners said he was told that I would be on Tivon for a year and move up to Haifa next year, but you never know if that is really the case, and I would like to expedite that process as much as possible.

OK, I know this next part is going to sound weird, but I have to write it down if for nothing else so that I can remember how strange it was. You kind of had to be there to appreciate it, but we had got lost on our way to the physical and were driving down a road parallel to the beach. We were behind a small red car on the long road back to the highway. On the right side of the road were a bunch of openings that looked like big sewer entrances or something. Anyway, this car in front of us turned into one of those openings, so we followed it, but when we made the turn the car was gone. I know, I know it does not sound very impressive, very anti climactic, but if you were there (or if I was a better descriptive writer) you would be as shocked and impressed as my roommate and I were. The car just vanished into nothingness.

So, back to the physical, we finally arrive, and I go into a back room. I get all these cords hooked up to my chest and back, and they tell me to begin walking on a treadmill. Walking quickly turns into a jog, which turns into a run, which turns into a sprint. All uphill mind you. I guess the goal is to get you to 90% of your aerobic capacity. Throughout the running the other workers kept coming up to the computer and making gestures that seemed to me like they were impressed with my numbers.

Who knows if that was really the case, but I’ll keep telling myself that. After what seemed like a half hour of running it was finally done, and I was dead tired. Like really, really, really exhausted. I asked the woman working the machine how I did and she said very well. I asked her if I did better than my roommate and she replied that I did way better. So I am feeling pretty damn good about my aerobic capacity at this point, and saunter into the doctor’s office feeling like the man.

Then, the first thing the doctor tells me is that I am out of shape. I was thinking whaaaaaaaaaaat? He looked at my little readouts and said I had an athletic heart but that on a scale of 1-10 shape wise I was a 6.5. I don’t know if I believe him. In fact, I am sure I don’t believe him, but whatever. If I am a 6.5 now then I was about a 1.8 last year at Harvard, yet I was able to finish every running drill. Something does not make sense.Who knows if doctors out here have real credentials.

He then gave me the expert advice that I needed to use one of those leg machines that you sit down on and work my legs one at a time, because my left hamstring and right quad are stronger than their counterparts. The day I ever use one of those leg machines again is the day I die, or if our crazy, misinformed strength coach makes us, which I doubt will happen. One good thing is that we kind of get to do our own thing strength training wise. If someone were to force me to do deep, heavy squats that would have made my life so miserable.

We have early practice today so that people can have Shabbat dinner, which I will be spending with some of my roommates family, followed by going to experience some of the Tel-Aviv nightlife, which everyone says is awesome. We now have a plumbing crew here to fix our terrible water pressure and patch up holes in the pipes so the 3-pound cockroaches will stop coming into our kitchen. We are on the up and up!
So, that is my update so far. More to come later. Hopefully With pictures!

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One thought on “First Days in Israel

  1. Hey Drew, Robyn forwarded your blog. ‘Fun’ to hear about your adventures in the holy land and the ancient languages. Sounds like there is potential for some young fun. The silver lining is at least it is not Afghanistan or Egypt. Italy or Greece would have been even more fun. Sounds like your terribly disappointed. But, the Tivon ‘farm’ club will, hopefully, be temporary.

    Put me on your blog list if your inclined.

    Gary G.

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