On Dating and Career Success

Today I read 2 cool articles. One of them was a piece called “You should date an illiterate girl”.  It was a nice parallel to the very successful “why you should date a girl who travels”. 

Another one, from the Wall Street Journal, was about the real things people should tell us when we graduate about the life out there before we graduate from college. I translated it into Russian for my grandpa so that he could comment from his 92 years of life experience. He agreed on most points but couldn’t really relate to the point about little league stuff. Me neither though…

I think my most favorite one was: Don’t make the world worse. I realized my lack of potential for making it better quite some time ago and indeed have been focusing on at least not destroying value.

When in Madrid, act like a…

Our story could start in an attic studio in central Madrid. I am sitting at the kitchen table with my Greek-German-Spanish friend. Lets call her “the historian”. I am sipping the greek coffee, and eating the traditional spanish sandwich with jamon and cheese she just prepared for me. The historian is a perfect host. Her greek mother raised her well. We share moms with very similar mentalities. It is rainy and chilly outside but I don’t care. I am feeling happy because we are catching up on our lives and looking at the architectural beauty of Madrid through the skylight windows that surround this little piece of home, the historian created for herself.

My 24 hours in Madrid were so wonderful that I felt that old energy that comes from new discoveries and time well spent with friends, come back to me once again. The historian has lived in Madrid for the past 5 years and she knows the city probably better than most locals. She took me on a walk through the old streets of the city center, explaining the history and cultural anecdotes about the places we passed by. Her Madrid had all those little things that I like. Historical buildings, beautiful balconies with greenery, cute coffee shops, local bars, foreign flavored bars, little pots and plants in people’s windows, ancient carved doors (a personal favorite of the historian that I learned to appreciate as well), a local market where I could buy some cheap cool jewelry (damage of 10 euros for 3 pieces) and a small community rose garden where people come on weekends to have a snack while reading their newspapers.

A lunch of local deliciousness (some more good cheese, ham and vegetables) with a glass of red wine (2!! euros, this country is incredible) made perfect sense to be had at 6 pm. It gave us some hours to relax before we hit the bar scene once again at 11 pm, to meet another friend I haven’t seen for a while. Some more delicious snacks were had by your truly and co. and washed down with a few glasses of chilled Cruzcampo tap beer. I liked the lively atmosphere at the bars we went to, where people of various nationalities and ages were commonly untied by a good time with friends. This is what life should be about.

A mojito then had to be consumed at bar number 3. Our jolly old time continued as we were people-watching (is the aging couple in advanced PDA mode across from us a client with a prostitute, or just a normal couple on a first date?) and discussing the differences between Brazil and Portugal portuguese as well as Spanish (which I consistently kept butchering). It was suddenly 3am when, our loyal historian responsibly reminded us that I have to catch my flight the following morning. We headed home, once again through those magical alleys, dotted with lit bar windows, through which the livelihood of the city were to continue to sparkle until the early morning hours.

In my deja-vu moment the following morning, as I was once again eating my spanish sandwich and drinking the historian’s aromatic coffee, I felt so grateful for two best interrelated types of assets I have in life: my friends and my memories of the times I spent with them.

Awesomeness is when a russian-israeli-american girl can find so much in common with a greek-german-spanish girl, despite having a completely different life experiences, circumstances and plans. This simply has to become the basis for a plot of a great story.

Update: I also got the tip of the year from the Historian – Put a reminder on your phone, to repeat the same question that you have to answer at the end of every day: “What made me happy today?”.

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Psychology of Israeli Airport Security or the Price I Pay for my Honesty..

In my 10 years of flying in and out of Israel, I have come to practically memorize the script of the security personnel as well as the appropriate responses to their queries.

On my way to Madrid airport, I was already feeling I will have some troubles with the standard questions, now that I have Brazil added to the life story I will have to tell them.

One line of questioning I hate the most is the one where they try to establish loyalty to the country through asking leading questions about one’s jewish identity. They see I was born in Russia, and then ask me when have I immigrated to Israel, how have I learned Hebrew, etc. Then they moved to my parents, and where do they live, imploring about their connection to the local Jewish community. At this stage, I normally get really annoyed, ask if I can show them my Israeli ID that states I am Jewish and they normally leave me alone.

Not this time. The lovely agent, Ziv, continued asking me more and more questions about my parents and if they celebrate holidays, keep any mitzvot (“hmm, no? Me neither”). After his disappointment with my negative responses, he moved to my personal practices and lack of follow up with the ways of the Torah at my exile in Brazil. As I once again proved to be a failure of jew, despite all of his sympathy, I was then sent down to the dungeon of personal security search, where a bunch of 20 somethings in uniforms, gladly searched every millimeter of my personal belongings, scanning every item I had individually in the bomb detection machine. I was getting really pissed off, and they were getting nervous when I kept asking why I was flagged, especially when they found my Israeli ID and were told I was not asked for it during initial screening. They also detected some very suspicious substance in my luggage – guava jam- and decided for security purposes to pack it in a special box, along with some chocolates. To be sent separately from my suitcase.

After this circus finished, I demanded to see the supervisor, a wish they finally granted, I assume because they felt bad. After all, I was one of their peoples (this is also the reason why I felt so aggrevated at the first place. Had this been USA, I would have silently accepted, attributing to American idiocity of politically correct random searches).

The supervisor, a handsome, well educated man, named Rimon ( parmogranade!!!), arrived shortly after. We had an adult conversation after which he apologized for my bad experience and time wasted, thanked me for my honesty and hinted at the fact that I was completely right at my assessment. He asked me when I was coming again, and told me to ask for him personally. I was still very pissed off but at least I felt that he honestly cared, especially when I mentioned that I plan to avoid flying El Al in the future, from concern of this to be happening again. We silently agreed that next time I should be smarter and say I celebrate Passover. I liked this Rimon guy. He gave me some hope about customer service in my country.
As I was finally being personally escorted to the fully boarded plane, I heard my companion’s walkie-talkie saying in a harsh tone: “who is the person who handled that girl?”.
Someone is gonna get heard really bad…

Lessons learned: don’t fly El Al. If you have to fly El Al, since your only other option is Aeroflot or something along those lines, have all of your facts ready to explain why you love Israel, the jewish people, anything jewish, and how this also applies to your relatives, friends or anyone you come to close contact with. Otherwise, be ready to take the chance of spending an hour or more in a room, with a bunch of suspecious looking people people while three strangers are touching all of your stuff.

Despite all of this crap, I still love my country. I guess that El Al isn’t so bad either. They had Rimon, then the flight attendants were super nice and friendly. They gave me hummus on the plane, convinced me to eat my meal and asked 3 times if I am sure that I don’t want my pita bread. Much better than the Iberia robot jail wardens I encountered on the flight from Rio to Madrid. One always have to look at the bright side in life.

The Grobetrotter is about to venture out on the new journey

The general routine of packing was executed. As always, I packed too many clothes for any kind of occasion. I also tried to arranage a cute airplane outfit but ended up with a blue sweatshirt and a red scarf and my falling apart all-stars. I guess I will never become one of those ladies, strolling the airport in a fancy dress, perfect makeup and hair, high heels and LVMH luggage. Less chances of getting mugged…

To be continued….

Mining in Space

Today my co-workers were sending around an interesting article about a new company launched by Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt. The idea behind Planetary Resources is mining asteroids for various metals and minerals. James Cameron is also somehow involved in this venture. an interesting point that a colleague highlighted was that it may be easier to mine in space than at the bottom of the ocean (which is what some companies are trying to do these days) as there is no pressure.

I was thinking that these guys are either really brilliant or really crazy. Or, perhaps they are just trying to make the next Avatar. Talk about thinking out of the box. Regardless of the outcome, I am happy that this world continues to have big dreamers. Inspirational!