Summer with Grandpa is almost over

My stay in Israel has almost reached its finale. Many of my days were spent on teaching my technologically advanced, 91 year old grandpa how to use his MP3 player and listening to the newest and brightest conspiracy theories he read online. He loves those. I say time well spent.

Tomorrow I head over to London to spend a few days with my awesome friends from my analyst program. Can’t believe it has been 5 years since we had our training! It will also be nice to refresh my memory about L-town. Haven’t been there for two years or so, therefore it will be cool to check out all what’s new and exciting.

With respect to Brazil, the future seems pretty far right now. I received a request for tons of documents I need to obtain and notarize and have been spending my evenings and nights writing emails and calling USA and Brazil. From another American who is joining the company as well, I found out that my experience is not unique and much patience will be needed before I obtain that coveted work permit.

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The Joys of Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is this amazing thing that hunts you down and gives you headaches that you cannot do anything about because you are stuck in the system and have no way of changing it.

Thanks to this wonderful thing, I got an e-mail today that told me that in order to get my work permit I will need to submit a gazillion documents that need to be notarized and then legalized (whatever this may mean) by the Brazilian consulate – something that takes at least two weeks to do. Then once the company completes some other documents on its end, they will file for a working permit, which will take another 45 days to process. Looks like I won’t be starting work anytime soon..

Yay to more travels. Boo to stupidity of people who could have told me about these requirements two months ago.

I get to visit the Holyland

Many Saturdays of my happy childhood were spent around the many reservations and national parks in Israel. The parents loved to travel and took us everywhere. I hated every moment and couldn’t understand why would they not just go to the city center instead and sit in a Cafe where I could just eat my cheesecake with the other “amcha” (common people).

Twenty years later, I finally appreciate the gift they gave me, and feel the appreciation of the many wonderful natural and historical corners of our country. This past weekend, a Japanese classmate was in town and so I joined her and another israeli friend who was giving her a tour.  I spent Friday in Tel Aviv, visiting some of the old neighborhoods like Nachalat Binyamin and Neve Tzedek, with their cute shops and cafes, surrounded by the eclectic mix of new and old. We had lunch at the famous “Orna and Ella”, whose other location was featured in the film the “Bubble”, where it blew up in a midst of a suicide bomber attack. The food was to die for. Especially, the pumpkin pancakes which I plan to learn how to make in the future. For dinner we went to a Jewish Persian restaurant, “Edna”. I tried to translate the menu to our friend, but was utterly unsuccessful since I didn’t know any of the dishes myself. The night was finished at Dizi-Frishman bar and I soon observed the animal kingdom in action. The girls were sitting around the bar and having a glass of wine or another light drink (must stay in alert mode..). The guys were standing around the corners and pretending to have conversations while diligently observing any movement around the room, especially monitoring the doorway for entrance of fresh meat.  I realized I forgot about the pickup bar scene but thankfully, this experience reminded me once again.

The next day, we drove to Masada, a place which was a palace in the mountains built by kind Herod around 30 BC. It was later the grounds of the final Jewish rebellion against the Romans around 70BC. Masada holds a very special place in the hearts of many Jews as a symbol of patriotic resistance. The rebellion ended very sad when the rebels (around 1000 of them), chose to commit suicide (including killing their wives and children), rather than surrender to be slaves to the Romans.

These people were somewhat of a cult in my opinion but the symbolic value their actions hold is still very important. Anyways, the view from the mountain overlooking Jehoda Desert was  breathtaking, and we were very impressed with how these people were able to build such an elaborate imperial complex in 30 BC, seriously in the middle of no where!!  I guess a lot of slave labor was required…

Masada was followed by a short trip to the dead sea, from which we continued to Jerusalem. I got to see the Wall that separates the west bank from Israel. It’s amazing what difference it made on stopping terror attacks since it was built. I saw many cars with Palestinian plates and was surprised to find out that they are allowed to enter Israel’s territory after they pass inspection (doesn’t sound like extreme limitation to me…).

In Jerusalem, we visited the old YMCA building, beautifully built and furnished inside in old colonial style and drove around the city, finishing out visit in Arab village Abu Gosh, for some Hummus and Falafel. yum yum! The waiters I guess could not get rid of us fast enough so they started washing the floors right below us.. that was not so pleasant.. oh well.

We were passing by this new apartment complex, bearing the sign “Holyland”.. I asked if this was modeled after Disneyland, only catered to some rich old Jews. Then I was reprimanded for my ignorance. This was THE apartment complex because of which former prime minister Olmert was kicked out for taking bribes. Those guys bribed half of the country to get the construction permits. As possessors of so  much money, I don’t understand how they couldn’t figure out that the matter won’t come out to the public eye in our small country.  My friend explained that what they didn’t anticipate was the fact that the public attorney office and police would suddenly become less corrupt and actually prosecute them.. who would have known?? About such things we say “Only in Israel”.

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Time to update or my thoughts on business lounges

Now I remember why I hate being at home. Nothing interesting happens and therefore there is nothing to write about. I must get out of the house at once for the sake of the blog!

The highlight of my week was finishing reading Brothers Karamazov at a beachfront cafe, crying my eyes out at the end. I guess the cafe wasn’t so popular because there was no one there despite the great weather outside. As a typical MBA, all I could think of afterwards was how to improve the appearance of the place and market it so that it gets more customers. I sat there for 2 hours (!!) and no one came. I was toying with the idea of painting the outside walls with bright colors, hiring a music band, or putting some creative sign outside.. then I decided it’s non of my business and moved on with my life.

Back to what I had planned to write about before – business lounges. Since I got my amazing gold status at Continental (Tfu Tfu and touch wood that I get to keep it for next year as well..), I have been spoiled rotten in avoiding many lines at the airport and getting free access to the business lounges almost everywhere. It got to a point where I started to give condescending gazes to all those common folk sitting outside on the shitty chairs with strangers’ babies drooling over them, while they devour their disgusting Big-Mac. “Was I one of THOSE people before?”, would cross my mind as I would pass them by with a disgusted look as I turned to my business lounge. “Now I am a legitimate member of the President, Emerald, Executive or [enter any other pompous name here] lounge, and not one of those peasants”.

Anyhow, I am digressing. What I actually meant to write was about my feeling at those lounges. Generally, I go there to eat and spend an hour or so before my flight, reflecting on what I must have forgotten to do / prepare. This gives me sufficient time to focus on people-watching and play the “glimpse into my future” game. This is very simple. As most of the time the people in those places are signficantly older than me, I try to guess who would I look like among them when I am older. Will I be the super refined lady with perfect makeup, diamond jewellery and the designer suit. Or maybe, I will be the one dressed in wrinkled biz casual, looking like she hasn’t slept for two months but definitely had time to overbleach her hair? Or maybe I will be the abandoned wife of the charm-exuding gentlemen on the other side of the room. That one, who looks perfect, acts perfects but never has time for his personal life and loved ones. He is married to his job and to his ego.

Another habit I picked up visiting those lounges is the need to compare between them and always find the many ways in which they are better than the ones run by Continental (filter coffee, seriously?). So far the favorite one was the Virgin Atlantic lounge in Heathrow but who can compete with a free hair salon for guests??? Certainly, not Continental.

A third thing I observed about these lounges is that they are probably good places to men. They are successful, well dressed, seemingly  well-educated (one could hypothetically observe and see if they are reading the Economist or playing aircraft lander on their iPad). On the other hand, this annoying thought crosses your mind.. if he is picking you up in Charles de Gaulle today, maybe he is picking someone else up in Heathrow next week? who knows?

I guess these are all my thoughts on business lounges for now. Sitting at home doesn’t provide too much brain stimulation, although I do feel like my sense of honor and love for my nation is definitely improved after reading the Brothers. “Oh, mother Russia”

To Vienna and Back

The next couple of days were pleasant just as the first, and maybe even more because my lovely friends accompanied me around town and showed me some cool places. More excellent food was eaten, of course,  thanks to my italian food expert. He was also generous enough to cook two amazing dinners of fresh pasta to die for. Happiness in my belly!

I also developed a special appreciation and slight obsession with Prosseco, after trying some Italian one from a company called Canella.

I visited the Schoenbrunn Palace where the last emperor Franz Joseph used to reside before the abolition of the monarchy. It was a very interesting tour across the various rooms in the palace which displayed the possessions and habits of the royal family. Franz Joseph’s grandmother, Maria Theresa, for example, had something 16 children, 12 of which were females. She married all but one of her daughters to princes/ dukes of other nations for political reasons when they were 15 or 16 years old. One of such daughters was the famous Mary Antoinette. Anyways, back to Franz Joseph: Franz was married to Elizabeth of Bavaria who was an extremely beautiful woman, nicknamed “Sisi”. According to the tour guide, Sisi was obsessed with her looks and used to exercise a lot, spend hours attending to her hair, and often was absent from family dinners. She also seemed to not be too interested in her husband and chose to travel a lot and spend as little time as possible at Shoenbrunn. She was said some things about the institute of marriage, which I found amusing for someone of her epoch to say: “Marriage is a preposterous institution. You are sold as a child of fifteen, you swear vows you don’t understand, and you regret them for thirty years or more, but you can never break them.”

Schoenbrunn

On the way back to Tel Aviv, I had an interesting incident in the boarding line. There was a group of girls, aged 16-17 or so, that I am guessing went to Vienna for a tennis tournament.  They were accompanied by their coach, a lady in her early 30’s. I was standing and minding my own business when I hear one of those girls,  after helping one of the chaperons fix something on his iPhone,  come up to her coach and tell her in full arrogant “I -know-it-all” tone: “Let me tell you, YOUR generation, you don’t know ANYTHING about technology!!”. Wow.. I really wanted to punch this little brat.

I also enjoy my Continental Gold status access to business lounges and have some thoughts on this which I may share in my next post..