While there were plenty of activities regarding me and the group, I also like to have some "me" time. It should also be pointed out that up until now, I always seemed to find my weekends spent in Modi'in, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but I wasn't getting the "full" experience that Tel Aviv had to offer me. Didn't help that everyone I knew told me to be spontaneous and to embrace the city. So how was it that I only spent two... maybe three weekends tops in Tel Aviv after being here for only a month and half is a mystery to me.
April 1 (3?), 2012
It was a Sunday afternoon after I was done from work when I was heading back to my bus stop. Routine being the same: Wake up, go to bus stop, go to work, flail, go to bus stop, head home. This was a procedure for almost a week and a half. Across from where I work is the Ayalon Mall (as stated previously in my journal about my journey to find the building) and I realized that up until now, I haven't even stepped foot in there. Which in itself was somewhat silly. Going with the "why the hell not" approach (a foreign concept to me, mind you) I showed my bag to the security and walked in. And it was packed. Christmas-like decorations hanging from the ceiling, people buzzing around to different stores, kids running around like lunatics. Yup. It's the mall. I wasn't really aiming to buy anything, I was merely walking around taking in the mall. I'm going to be living here for a few months, might as well know the mall like the back of my hand. I already knew that the malls of Israel were famous for having super markets in it, so it didn't take me long to find it, conveniently next to it was a super-pharm (the equivalent to a CVS in the States), but what made me the happiest was there being not one, but two book stores in the mall; something that made me upset that the mall back home decided to close down for yet another ridiculously expensive clothes store.
The thought hit me that I should look around for a movie theater, I mean... if there is a movie theater in the mall back home, there should be one here. It took me a while to realize that the escalator right in the beginning of the mall led to more floors. And not to more stores, rather, it was to an area of junk food, arcades (like... legit arcades, not the occasional game lying around in the lobby), and a giant play pen for kids to play around with. It looked like something straight out of the circus. It didn't surprise me that I saw yet another set of stairs and proceeded to climb up, curiosity being the one in charge at the moment. The smell of popcorn began to overwhelm me until I reached the top of the stairs.
The goal was achieved. I had found the movie theater.
I honestly had no idea how to react to this, as this was a much much neater layout compared to the one back home. I mean, yes, the second floor full of pre-movie activities and that in itself should have signaled me that this was an amazing theater, but the movie lobby itself was something else. My brother always mentioned that when going to the movies, it should be a special occasion, like you need to dress for it because you're about to go watch, experience, something out of this world. So when I see that there are cafe lounge chairs (the fancy kind you see in shows like Mad Men) and the lobby has a nice dim light to it, floor is clean, and tiled, and the posters hanging over the cashier cast a soft light... THIS was a sight to see. I didn't know what my face was doing, but I felt my my mouth slightly open. I took my ipod and quickly put it in reverse mode so I can take a picture and catch my expression. It basically captured how I felt in a good way.
The face of your tour guide through the Magical World of Israel
After taking in the sight, and chalking it up as a place to go for when I watch movies, I decided to head out. Of course... not before I grabbed myself a book and dinner.
Every Other Friday So Far
After my little escapade from the previous weeks, I decided that one weekend I'd stay in Tel Aviv. One weekend I got food poisoning (a story, while disgusting, I'll save for another journal entry), but the few hours before it kicked in, I went out with a bunch of people to find hummus and I can already tell that some of you out there are going "no sh*t you got food poisoning!" but do keep in mind that while I do speak Hebrew, have the Israeli citizenship, raised in an Israeli house, and have Israeli parents- I'm an idiot because of the fun fact that I was never raised in Israel (strike one). We grabbed some lunch at this hummus restaurant (strike two) when afterwards one of the people decided to... angrily proclaim that they wanted to be alone. And the proclamation wasn't told to anyone else. Just me. Taking the cue, I decided to ditch the group as a whole and venture off on my own. I'm twenty one, I'm not a kid anymore, and after being for two and a half years in a college that was on ghettoville, USA, I think I know how to handle myself. So I spent my day around the Artists' Alley. And ditching the group was easily the smartest move I've done thus far. It was a Friday, so naturally it was pack, but it also meant more street performers and artists for me to browse at. I knew some of the alley already because I was there every summer with my family and as stupid as this sounds, being an artist myself (at least, I'd like to think I'm one), it didn't feel in the slightest weird. I browsed the stands ranging from old Japanese comics turned wallets to custom made leather belts, all the way to cute flocks of sheep that looked like something straight out of Dr. Seuss. I passed a stand that were selling wooden instruments when a memory returned of a few summers ago when I was here.
I was with my mom in the summer when we passed a kiosk being watched over by an old man. He was selling an instrument called an ocarina, only these were special. These were special in a way that they were all clay made and shaped out to be in the form of animals.I was floored and fell in love with an elephant ocarina, and both me and my mom agreed to go back to it as soon as we were done strolling around (we usually spend a day in Tel Aviv for the Artists' Alley and then a restaurant before we left back to Rishon). Unfortunately, we forgot (but was totally made up when we ate at a restaurant where a celebrity was eating a few tables away from us) and the topic of the ocarina was never brought up again.
This was three years ago, so I couldn't help but ask present day the guy running the wooden instrument kiosk. He was also selling an ocarina but his was wooden, not the animal shaped on I fell in love with. Fortunately, he was really happy to help, saying the guy was a few streets down. I thanked him and let him know that if I couldn't find the guy, I'd come back to him (his stuff was really nice and I did take his instruments into consideration). After strolling around and passing many hand made items, I found him. I found the man from three years ago and his collection of animal ocarinas. I was grinning from ear to ear when I approached his stand and told him happily in Hebrew how I was so happy to find him again.
"I found you!" "Oh, you did." "I was looking forward to come back to your stand for almost three years now." "Well, ha ha, I'm still here. Haven't left yet."
We had a pleasant conversation about ocarinas (he even showed me a trick or two) when I finally made my purchase. Unfortunately, the elephant sold out for a while now, but I found something else that caught my eye. It was small, simple, and had a minor shape of an alligator. When I asked the man what animal it was, he simply shrugged, gave a chuckle, and said he had no idea what animal it is, but it could be anything I want it to be. I thanked the man and walked away with my three years late ocarina. I felt a spring in my step when I heard a violin playing that reminded me of Pixar. I let my ears lead me when I came across a group of four standing with instruments in hand: One was playing the cello (or bass, please feel free to correct me), two playing Spanish guitars, and one of the with his violin. I stood around for a bit to take in the music, it was really ear pleasing that I couldn't help but record them. And of course, I gave them some money. I only give when I really feel like they deserve it.
Amazing folk/jazz group
I later left back for home as Shabbat came rolling in. For the next couple of weeks, (the few that I stayed in Tel Aviv), I spent my Fridays wandering around Tel Aviv, starting off always at the Artists' Alley but eventually I managed to spend a few of my Fridays looking for other restaurants to try out. Salads and Bars hardly count as "trying food" in my book and I like to explore in the morning where the majority of things are open. I'll get into food later with a different journal. So anyways, during one of my Fridays (the second Passover) I planned my day carefully. I already knew that things close early on Friday but because it was the second Passover, things were going to close extra early. I wandered around looking for a restaurant that was open (seeing as most of them were closed for Passover) when I came across the Disengoff Mall. I anyways needed to find a new pair of headphones, so what other place but the mall? I mean, Modi'in's mall was open during Passover eve, so it stands to reason that the mall here should be open as well.
I was horribly wrong.
Sure, they did let me in, but the sight of it was something straight out of a George A. Romano zombie flick. All the stores closed, floors completely empty of people, and 80's lite pop music playing and echoing throughout the deserted mall. I walked around trying to find anyone else, and I did. But there were only four of them, easily. Eventually I came across some stairs and decided to climb up, finding yet another movie theater, all those this one being less impressive than the one at Ayalon mall. After enough time listening to "Time Of Our Life", I decided to call it quits and head back home. Things were closing, and clearly I needed to leave. The weather was nice so the walk back wasn't bad, seeing as all the buses seemed to have vanished.
When I got home, I realized I liked Fridays. Not for Sabbatical reasons, but more for myself and traveling. Up until now I was going with groups, always being with someone, and always going to places I'd much rather not go. When wandering around by myself, I don't need to worry about the other person's entertainment, if their hungry and if so where should we go so they can have a good meal and within our budget. But when I'm on my own, I have to worry only for myself, and I get to go to places I would otherwise not go and eat whatever I want without even second guessing. So I officially declared Fridays as "Me Days" where I just go wherever my feet take me while listening to good music.
Just last week I managed to find a group of people standing and giving free hugs (something I really wanted for a while) as well as coming across a bunch of puppies. For breakfast I stopped by a cafe so I could have french toast with some coffee while reading a book, listening to a New Orleans-type jazz band. Eventually stopping by the mall (this time crazy full) and trying some homemade Dim Sum, Sweet Challah, and buying two awesome scarves. All of this at my own pace. I try to be as social as I can (and being stupidly bad at it, I should add), but being on my own for the day is fairly nice, especially when I have the whole morning/afternoon to myself.