"L'Chaim" with the Locals

Note, I'm still catching up on posts. This one is about 5 days behind, but I'm getting there :) I've never been so excited to see paperwork in my life

Yes, we're still delayed. Yes, it's frustrating. But we're making progress! After camping out in front of the broker's office for a day, Chad returned to the sailboat with some important documents in hand. Off we went Thursday morning to the FedEx office to overnight this bad boy to the U.S. Sure we didn't have any idea on how long it would take to process, but at least we had located some of our missing paperwork! With paperwork sent and nothing to do but wait, what do you do? You improvise and take advantage of the opportunity, of course! For us that's meant seeing parts of Israel, spending some down time reading and getting our fix of the sun, eating our way through Israel and of course, hanging with the locals.

In North America, it's common practice clink your glasses together when you're in a social setting and things are no different in Israel--except you don't say, "Cheers!", you say, "L'Chaim" which translates to, "To life!" We've been incredibly fortunate to make a friend in Ilya who I swear is the mayor of Haifa because everywhere we go, people stop and greet him. And he also seems to know all of the shortcuts to get places. And my favorite, where the best shawarma in town is. (Cue drool.) Last week, after stopping at a mall to get some new knives for the boat, we ran into Angelina, a friend of Ilya who works at a store there. Seeing Ilya, she reminded him that it was her birthday party the next evening and since he was still in town (remember, we were supposed to be out of the country), he had to come and to bring his friends, us, with him. So off we went to Nahariya the next night.

Teaching Ilya how to fist pump. Tyler's a great teacher.

There's a billboard in Nahariya that reads, "Nahariya: A Resort for Fun Lovers" in English. (They mean people who love fun, not lovers who are fun--though ideally, those would/could be the same person, no?) I could see why. The street we were on was littered with bars, restaurants and cafes that I could imagine being packed with people during the day and night. It reminded me a little of a downtown area of a suburb or of my college town, Champaign. It was busy, but not overwhelming, full of life and bright. The two bars we stopped at weren't too different from American bars--one was an Irish pub (they exist everywhere!) and one reminded me a hole-in-the-wall bar you'd find anywhere in America. It was crammed of people, classic American bands were playing and there was at least one drunken couple making out in the corner. Isn't it amazing how even in a foreign land where the air is punctuated with conversations in an unknown tongue the atmosphere can still feel familiar? Gets me every time. We had a great time that night just having some drinks, chatting with the locals and checking out the nightlife. After the two bars we were thinking about hitting up a place with some music to dance (Ilya knows of a place that only plays hip hop and R&B--hello!) but like North America, there's a dress code and my sailing trip suitcase didn't accommodate anything that would pass for that. Oh well. Still a good night.

The next night, Friday--which is the Israeli equivalent to our Saturday, Oded and Zenobia invited us to a party taking place at Sahne, an Israeli national park about an hour away from Haifa. It was being organized by the community called Gilist. Gilist is a really cool community concept that I would love to see take off in the US. Basically, there's a gal named Gili who would email her friends and family about local events that are taking place, sharing 'for sale' or 'housing wanted' type of posts and just local gems that she thought would be of interest. Over time, the list grew where people could invite their friends to be part of the list. Eventually it got to a point where it's not a community/site where users pay a nominal fee (10 NIS/3USD a month?) to be part of this community where you can share wanted/needed ads, there's a personals section and an events section. If you think it sounds like Craig's List, you're right--but there's a twist. In order to be part of Gilist, you have to be invited by a current member, so there's a level of trust and camaraderie amongst the members, and Gili wants to know who is part of it. Gili explains it like this: Gilist is like a family, you may not like all of your family, but you at least know who they are or how they became part of the family. I love the concept of community around this and that Gili knows each and every member of the community. It's probably a lot of work since it's such a high-touch model, but the goal here is focussed on people. Definitely my type of community. It's one thing to describe a community, but it's another thing to experience it. Case-in-point, at the party, we met two people behind us in line for food named Shiran and Alon--they're the ones who were telling us about the community and how it all worked. They were incredibly friendly and kind, hanging out with us for most of the night, on and off the dance floor. Shiran shared a personal story with us about what Gilist meant to her and how it had helped her. She had joined Gilist a few years ago and since then, she had read the emails, gone to some of the events and even purchased a camera from someone in the community, but it was recently that she experienced something that truly made her understand and experience the power of Gilist. Another Gilist member had recently lost her grandmother and wrote this post to share her feelings about this sad event and describing the void her grandmother's passing left in her heart and her life. At the same time, Shiran's grandmother, who lived an hour or two away from her, had broken her ankle and was confined to her home. Seeing the fellow community member's emotional letter and feeling helpless about not being able to visit her grandmother as frequently as she'd like, Shiran saw an opportunity to connect the two. After all, both were English-speaking and lived in the same city (and actually ended up living only a few minutes from each other). Through the community she was able to make this connection and match, giving a community member a surrogate grandmother to visit and her grandmother some company during her recovery period. Isn't that incredible? Love, love, loves it. And stories like this are just one of many that have happened in the community virtually. The party, like the one we went to, was an opportunity to take that virtual community and give them a chance to connect in real life. So, how was it?

The party was really cool! For starters, they rented out the part so it was a private event. Second, the party wasn't advertised outside of the community so in order to join, you had to be invited. For 150 NIS (~$45USD), it included your admission to the park and the party, a DJ and an open bar. There was also vegan cuisine available for purchase. Walking into the park, we were struck by the 'lake' that Oded told us about. When I think of a lake, I think of a large body of water that's dark, that's cold and after nightfall, I'd probably be a little scared to get into. This lake was more of a pool.

The venue for the Gilist party. This is the 'lake'

Yes, there were fish in the lake, but the water was a warm 23 degrees Celsius and there were underwater lights installed so you could see within. As for the size, it was small enough for Chad and I to walk the circumference in 10-15 minutes. The other thing that struck me was that while the majority of people there were in their 20s-mid-thirties, there were a good amount of families with young children there as well. It was really cool to see everyone just hanging out and having a grand ole time with each other. Another thing that makes Gilist unique is how LGBT friendly it is. Even at the party, there were no signs for a "Mens" or "Womens" rest room. Instead, the signs were taken down and all of the restrooms and showers and what not were open to all. For some, this could be uncomfortable but for the Gilist community, this was part of what made the community a family. A cool activity that they did was pass out 'hearts' to people who were single. They came around and asked you what sticker you wanted. A silver heart means that you were interested in males and a red heart means that you were interested in females--and of course you could get both stickers if you wanted. What an easy way to figure out not only who was single, but if they were gay or straight. (Mind you, before they handed out the stickers, both Chad and Tyler were approached by a girl who asked if they were gay because she had a friend she wanted to introduce them to if they were gay--what a wingwoman!) To build upon the sticker idea, they had a designated 'Cupid'--a gal with a set of wings on and a basket of post-its. She would happily deliver a message to someone if you pointed them out to her. We all thought it was a pretty novel idea! Maybe I'll start bringing post-its to bars back in the US and become my own kind of cupid, just for fun.

First time silent discoers! Shiran, Tyler, Me, Chad and Oded

I know I keep talking about how cool the party was, but really, there isn't a better way to describe it! In addition to a cool concept, cool vibe and cool people, we experienced our first silent disco! Given that many of the party-goers were camping in the park overnight (they all took a bus to the event together), and different people go to bed at different times (especially children), they wanted to be mindful of that without cutting off those who wanted to dance and party until the wee hours. Cue, silent disco. At 11pm, the music switched from being played through a loudspeaker to being played through a set of headphones that you could borrow in exchange for your driver's license. It was so fun! You would look around and see a bunch of people with headphones on dancing around--but unless you had headphones, you wouldn't hear the music. This made it really easy to have conversations with each other without having to struggle to be heard over a blaring speaker. The funniest, though, was watching people dance and then during a popular line or the chorus, you'd hear a chorus of voices singing along. I've heard of silent discos before but now after experiencing one, I'm even more likely to go check one out in the US. I've heard that at other silent discos, you can actually switch the station you're listening to so you could all be listening to/dancing to different music at the same time. Whowouldathunk?!

[wpvideo wl44mIli]

To top off a great night, we had not one but two small world encounters. When Chad and I were in line to get our headphones, we met this gal from the UK who was visiting a friend in Israel. Remember when I told you about our trip to the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and how we spent a good amount of time just chatting with the security guard? While we were talking to the security guard, there was a gal who was hanging around our conversation just because she was also learning a lot from our chat. That was the same girl--she recognized us, apparently we're a distinct trio. Small world! A few minutes later, after I had given the headphone guy my Oregon driver's license in exchange for a set of headphones, we were hanging about the general area when a girl came up to me and asked, "Who's from Oregon?" Turns out, she also has an Oregon license because she lived in Corvallis before moving to Israel where she was making music (ukelele and harmonica). Small world, times two!

All in all, the local life has been great and a silver lining in all of the paperwork delay :-)


Two Weeks Later...

A Weird Spot