Fulbright November

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! We hope that everyone had an enjoyable holiday. It was very strange to be abroad for Thanksgiving. Here in Israel, it was just another work day. Like all the other Israelis, we went about our daily business; Adam put in a full work day, and I cooked for Shabbat and then did some work for the environmental NGO.  However, Thanksgiving didn’t go complete forgotten. After all there was the incredible sense of homesickness that I felt throughout the morning. I had a chance to talk with my parents at different times throughout the day because they were preparing for the festive meal that would commence at 12:30 pm EST. While I was happy to hear all the details, it was hard knowing that I wouldn’t be there to partake in it. On a more positive note, we actually did get to celebrate this very American holiday with Fulbright. Our monthly program for November was a nice Thanksgiving dinner, which was actually at dinnertime since everyone had to go to work.

The dinner was at the home of Tom and Eden Goldberger. Tom is the Deputy Chief of Mission. According to the State Department’s website, the Deputy Chief of Mission is “like the COO of the Embassy, and acts as Charge d’Affaires (person in charge) whenever the Ambassador is absent.” The entire family was absolutely wonderful, and they were so nice to have us all at their beautiful house in Herziliya, which is north of Tel Aviv. We got to meet their daughter, Emily, who was very nice. She is studying here in Israel, and told us that she has lived in France, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia in addition to Israel. The family has one or two more years here before they move on to their next adventure. The family also had a dog, Billy, who captured everyone’s attention with his intense level of cuteness.

To get to Herziliya, we normally would have to take a bus, but we received an e-mail from one of last year’s post-doctoral fellows offering a ride. His name was also Adam, and he is doing his post-doc at Hadassah Medical Center. Because the post-doc fellows are in Israel for two years, there is an overlap between last year’s “class” and this year’s “class.” It was really nice to get to know him, and since he also lives in Jerusalem, we hope to get to know him better before he moves on to his next adventure. So, we drove to Herziliya with this Adam, my Adam, Adam Siegel, Gil, and of course me. It was a lot of Adams in one car! We had a nice drive to Herziliya and arrived practically on-time which was amazing since there was traffic!

When we arrived we were greeted by so many friendly faces that it dulled the homesickness a bit. While nothing can replace family, seeing all of our Fulbright friends really reminded me that we have this great support system here in Israel. We got to meet another person from last year’s “class” of post-docs, and we saw many of the embassy staff that had welcomed us during our last Fulbright event. We also met a number of new people which was really nice. There was a constant buzz of conversation in the room, which helped remind me of home.

While we were talking, catching up with friends, and trying to take pictures, it started to downpour. There was incredible thunder and lightning as well. The rain storm delayed our meal a bit since we were supposed to eat on the closed-in patio. I think there might have been some fear of ceiling leaks, so we stayed in the living room/dining room area for a bit longer than originally planned. This reduced the amount of time that the head of the Israel Fulbright program got to speak, but he didn’t seem bothered by it. Once we all were seated for the meal, he thanked everyone for coming, thanked our host and hostess, and the meal began.

Now I’m not one to take pictures of my food and post them online (I never fully get the purpose of this), but this time I am because it was a night of firsts for me that I need to record. As many of you know, I am a picky eater and am very reluctant to try new things. Adam has been the main reason that my food explorations have increased so much in the last five years. To be honest, I still prefer grilled cheese and pasta when it comes to a restaurant, and pizza is hands-down the best food ever created on the face of this planet. Yet, there are always occasions when you have to be adventurous, and tonight was one of those nights since we had a catered meal. My first adventure was the soup, which was pumpkin. As many of you probably know, I’m not a big fan of orange foods (squash is a maybe, sweet potato is a no go, and carrots are just plain yucky), but pumpkin was one that I had never tried before. I thought the soup was pretty good and was proud of myself that I ate the whole portion. The meal itself was as traditional American as you can get here in Israel. There was salad, carrots (which I didn’t take), brussel sprouts, turkey, stuffing, potatoes (that weren’t mashed but I thought they were very good), some mushroom thing that I wasn’t brave enough to try, salmon, and a green bean dish that had what looked like corned-beef in it. I didn’t go for the salmon because it was Thanksgiving and I wanted to go traditional although there has been a Thanksgiving salmon in Thanksgivings past. It turns out that the corned-beef was actually duck breast. I was a little shocked to hear that and wasn’t sure if I should eat it. I did and it tasted okay. I don’t think it is something I would ever order for myself at a restaurant, but it was worth trying. And hey, the green beans were great!

While we ate, we talked a lot with our Fulbright “classmates.” It is really nice that we are all so close. We caught up on each others research, swapped stories about Thanksgiving traditions, and tried to go around the table so each person could say what they are thankful for (we kept getting distracted though so that never got completed). The head of the Fulbright program joined us between dinner and dessert to ask us about our experiences so far and what suggestions we might have to help improve the program. A few people offered some ideas, but I had trouble coming up with anything useful. So far, everything seems to be going pretty well. Soon after he moved on to the next table, we were visited by the hostess. She came over to specifically talk to Adam and myself because she heard that we were from West Hartford. She herself is a West Hartfordite. Her grandparents actually lived on the same street as Adam’s grandparents and the family most likely were the developers that built their house. It really is a small world!

After lots of chatting, we had some dessert during which I had a little more pumpkin in the form of pumpkin bread. It was really delicious! Shortly after dessert, everyone got ready to go. Our hostess was so sweet; she gave us a ride to the Tel Aviv bus depot, and then we caught a taxi to Adam’s cousin’s house in Givatayim. Nancy and her husband Miki were up when we arrived even though it was late. We had a chance to chat with them for a while and then we used Face Time to drop in on my family’s Thanksgiving get together. It was really nice to get a chance to see everyone. We could tell that everyone was having a really good time and that everyone was really happy to see us. I know I’ve probably said it a million times, but I am very thankful for technology. It is making it so much easier to be a part of things even though we are so far away!

After dropping in for Thanksgiving dinner, we got ready for bed. It was late by that point and we were both pretty tired. Adam had a 10K road race to run the next morning. It started at 7:30 am so we had to be up early. Adam will tell you about the run in his next blog post. All I can say is that I am so proud of him!

We had a really great evening with all of the Fulbright folks. Thank you to everyone for giving us a bit of Thanksgiving here in Israel!

Until next time…
Allison

Here are some random pictures from throughout the evening, including some of food! Sorry the group shot is blurry; I don’t think the flash went off!

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