“Does he have balls?”

Against my better judgement, I did not learn a ton (that is putting it generously) of Hebrew before we moved here. I wanted to. I like learning languages. I signed up for a five month intensive Hebrew class starting next month, but I wanted to start immediately. We bought books, and “methods.” We had visions of a utopian summer where we read all the books we had been meaning to read for years AND learned enough Hebrew to get by in our first few weeks here. The placelessness of this summer really jostled these plans into the ether, however.

To get to Tel Aviv, we left LA in mid-June. We drove up the coast to Santa Rosa, Mendocino, Arcata, Eugene, Portland (a few day trips), Seattle, and back to Eugene before flying to Boston to stay in Plymouth, with side trips to New York (me) and Chicago (Will), and finally drove to and flew out of Newark. We left for Tel Aviv in early August. Until we went to Seattle we had two dogs with us (Finnegan, and my grandmother’s dog, Ella), and then from then on we had just Finn with us. It was a very long moving process. Something about not having a space or a routine really eclipsed our efforts to learn Hebrew and we just didn’t.

While we can get by with English here for most things, I hate it. I hate immediately being a stereotypical American who does not speak the language and cockily assumes she can get by just speaking English. I hate calling places and cheerily but with a desperate edge chiming “Shalom! Inglit?” I hate laughing awkwardly as people try to make conversation in the street, and then hearing them say, “oh, you don’t speak Hebrew?” Yesterday, I hated when Finnegan surprised both of us by pooping in someone’s walkway…as a resident of that building was walking up the path. I hated being yelled at and not being able to understand, and not being able to profusely apologize and explain that it was unanticipated for me and the dog. So far, I like this city, and I would like to be able to speak its language.

Bureaucracy here is hard and different from what I’m used to, but it’s much more difficult not speaking the language of the country (obviously). I just spent probably an hour on the phone (split between two phone calls) trying to get a license for owning a dog (a requirement here), and to get Finnegan registered with the city. The woman I spoke with was patient, and helpful, but I really wished I could speak Hebrew. Or at least spell my dog’s name in Hebrew for her, without having to pause for an awkward 30 seconds between each letter while I confirmed that was how I would spell it. Not speaking Hebrew also led to the following back and forth:

“Does he have rabies?”


“Okay he will need a vaccine.”

“He was vaccinated in May.”

“Okay, does he have balls?”


“Balls. You get a discount if he doesn’t have balls.”

“He doesn’t have balls.”

Spay and neuter your pets, people. You get a discount if your dog doesn’t have balls.

And because this post was just text, here’s a picture of a really cool, zebra print bird I’ve seen around that I’m increasingly obsessed with:


A few more pictures while I freak out and hope that at least one apartment calls us back.

I have absolutely no idea what these manhole covers say, but they are nailing the graphic design:


Slightly hard to see, but some streets have these medians with bike lanes in opposite directions on either side, and a pedestrian walkway in the middle. At the ends of the blocks, there are these little restaurant stands:


There was kind of an open air zoo situation in HaYarkon Park, which is the park that goes along the river. In a really thrilling situation, Finn got to meet some ibex, deer, emu, and a bunch of different kinds of birds:





So we live in Tel Aviv now. We got here a few days ago, and have spent pretty much all day every day just nonstop walking. The walking has been a combination of trying to fully adjust to Tel Aviv time, exploring the city, and trying to get a better sense of where we want to live.

The flight here was, in a one word summary, sweaty.  Due to the ripple effect created by a situation akin to this (except replace “business class” with “economy seat”, and “first class” with “actually even less desirable economy seat”), Finnegan and I ended up an aisle and a seat across from Will. This meant that instead of the luxury having Finn splayed across both of our laps during the flight, like we did on our Portland to Boston flight, Finnegan spent the whole 10.5 hour flight in various unwieldy and clammy positions on my lap.


We were also right by the bathroom, so poor Finn repeatedly got bathroom light directly in his eyes, every time someone opened the plane bathroom door. Additionally, since all the space between me and the seat in front of me was taken up by a rather warm cocker spaniel, I couldn’t put my tray table down. All in all, I couldn’t really eat (holding the food tray + Finn + a fork = I actually just don’t have enough hands), which was a drag.


Even though it was probably the most uncomfortable flight I’ve taken in recent memory, my new, Hasidic-shifted seat was next to two incredibly nice Israeli women. They did not mind (actually, they were thrilled) when Finn fell asleep with his head on one of their arms, they helped me stuff my neck pillow back into its bag when I didn’t have much of a range of motion due to Finn’s position, and they talked to me about living in Israel pretty much the whole flight. One of them gave me her email address, and had me meet her daughter, who was also on the flight moving here. I also enjoyed what committed oversharers they were; definitely made the flight go by faster.

Right now it feels like we are on vacation, with a lot of paperwork. We have a lot of appointments to make at various ministries, and desperate emails to send (“Shalom! My name is Alivia. Do you speak English?”). We really, really should have learned more Hebrew before we moved. The timing of everything seems like it’s slightly off. We opened our bank account, but it will be a few days before the money transfer goes through. I need to wait two days for a call back from one ministry to make an appointment to get my voucher for free Hebrew lessons, but classes start very early September, and I need to register well before that. We leave our Airbnb in less than two weeks, but we haven’t heard back from a single apartment. Once we move into an apartment, I think it will start to feel more like we live here, and less like we are on a strange vacation where we flew for 10.5 hours to make phone calls and send emails.

In terms of the city, we are really, really liking it. Historically, Will and I have had differing ideas on places we would like to live, but so far Tel Aviv seems to be a bit of a unicorn city that we can agree on. It’s beautiful:


Has some A+ public art outside men’s restrooms:


And sells frozen bureks:


Plane flights, East Coast, and I have packed these suitcases seven thousand times.

We are on the East Coast.  We have been for about a week and a half at this point.  Update on current situation:

  1. Finn did fantastic on his first plane ride ever. He was very chill (the half a sedative he had was an A+ decision), and slept sprawled out on both mine and Will’s laps for 95% of the flight.  The only part of the flight he did not care for was when the plane actually landed and the plane shook a bit.  But all in all, a painless process.
  2. Pee pad failure.  Major failure.  I took Finnegan into a bathroom at the airport and really tried to hype up the peeing process.  After pulling out a dog-pee-soaked pad and ceremoniously laying it on the bathroom floor, he just stared at me and then went and sat politely by the door, hoping to leave. We continue to struggle.
  3. Speaking of Finn, here is a photo of him enthusiastically looking for fish in Will’s mom’s pond.  Please note the clownfish life vest:


He has been doing a lot of swimming and a lot of chasing fish around the pond, attempting to be interspecies best friends. Here is a very dramatic picture of him looking like an inspirational poster:IMG_0772

4.  After hauling 4 suitcases, 3 carry-ons, and a dog through the Boston airport (“Is that a cahka spaniel? Finnegan! What a nice Irish name!”), we have decided to reduce our suitcases.  Thus instead of being done with packing and obsessively weighing suitcases, we’re still rolling clothes and debating about bringing can openers. Currently we are 10-15 lbs over the weight limit (5+ lbs each on our two big suitcases), and getting increasingly tired of iterative packing. Once we are in Tel Aviv, I may blog about deciding what to bring, what to store in a closet in my parents’ house, and what to get rid of/sell.

5. I am spending the day calling and emailing every single Israeli consulate in the United States to ask about business days in Israel, since we need to fax Finn’s paperwork two business days before our flight. While this seems straightforward, the business week in Israel differs from in the US. So far I have gotten stuck in a recording loop in the Boston, New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Chicago consulates. We’ll see how many others I can rack up today.



Pee Pad-emonium

I hate pee pads. For the past couple months, we have been attempting, 100% unsuccessfully, to get our dog, Finnegan, to use a pee pad.  The guilt-soaked motivation for this quixotic task is Finn’s upcoming flights to Boston and Tel Aviv.  The Boston flight is slightly less imperative, as flight time is only 6 hours, and since we are taking a red eye, it’s not during a time he typically is used to peeing.

The Tel Aviv flight, however, is a behemoth. We are required to arrive at the airport 4 hours early, then we have an 11 hour flight, followed by a few hours in the airport dealing with paperwork, health insurance, etc (also yes, I’m very excited to register for health insurance in an airport).  All of this adds up to a lot of time to ask Finn to not pee. Honestly, I’m less concerned about him peeing in the airport out of desperation (since I can immediately and easily clean that up), and more concerned about him just holding it for 17ish hours straight. As the most polite dog I’ve ever met, all attempts to get him to pee inside on a pee pad have been met with a respectfully horrified stare.

After binging on research, we began the pee pad training. Not too hardcore at first, just trying to familiarize Finnegan with the concept of peeing on a “pheromone scented” patch of gauze (so intuitive!).  After the initial getting-to-know-you where I chased him around shoving the pee pad under him while he peed and screaming “GOOD BOY! GOOD PEE! GOOD GO PEE, FINN!” we decided to take it up a notch.

While brewing our last batch of beer before moving (see you in several years, freshly bottled beer!), we set out a few pee pads, and kept Finnegan (and my grandmother’s dog, Ella, who was with us as well) in the pee pad/brewing zone.  And we played the waiting game.


Clearly, Finn thought we had just provided him with a lovely, “pheromone scented” patch of gauze bed.

Serious attempt number two had similar shortcomings. We built a barricade on the porch, provided the dogs with copious amounts of water, and some jazzed up pee pads.


This time, I collected tons of dog pee on the pee pads, and sprinkled grass and plant bits all over the pee pad. Then we played hours of gin rummy, and encouraged the dogs to pee on the titillating pads.  This was to be my masterpiece.


Unfortunately, this also failed. The dogs held their pee for hours, and continued to regard us with very cordial, bemused expressions.

Today marks serious attempt number three. I barred Finn from going outside to pee this morning. Instead, I repeatedly asked him if he would like to “go pee??” and led him to an incredibly pungent “wee wee housebreaking spray” doused pad, in the shadow of a house plant.


So far, we continue to fail. But I just heard him drinking some water, so hope remains for a gold(en yellow) star day for Finnegan and the pee pad.

Adios West Coast.

In a few days, we’ll leave the west coast.  We have no impending plans to visit, just vague “at some point in the future” suggestions.  Tomorrow, my suitcase needs to shed 5 lbs to fit within the luggage allowance weight limit, due to the late breaking decision to bring a backpack in the suitcase as extra luggage.  We need to give the dog a bath, a haircut, and institute a pee pad boot camp (for the fifth or sixth time).  We need to order a life vest for him as well, and some treats that aren’t just dehydrated raw meat for the plane.  I need to make nachos everyday, burritos in equal measure, and debate the merits of getting rid of at least one suitcase.

After the looming east coast visit, we’ll leave for Tel Aviv.