Thursday, 6 November 2014

Chronicles of a journalist wannabe #2 In conversation with Alex Crawford

Aaaah London, what a glamorous town London is! A town where everything’s possible, where dreams come true!

Back to reality.

So I went to the One World Media “kick-start your foreign correspondent career” event yesterday, and it was great. I mean it.
First there was a conversation between the former director of the BBC World Service, Phil Harding, and Alex Crawford, Sky News’ special correspondent who is based in South Africa and flew overnight for the event. Alex was the first reporter to broadcast live from Tripoli’s Green Square as the rebels took over. She’s reported from all over the world, including some very dangerous war zones and has been arrested, abducted, interrogated and shot at.

Explaining how one eventually gets to cover war zones Alex said “war zones are like the world cup, you don’t start playing football one day and play the world cup the next, you have to go through the second, first division, everything before you eventually get there. Being a foreign correspondent is the same, you have to get experience first, but it doesn’t mean it necessarily takes a long time.”

When asked about her motivations Alex said she wanted her reporting to have an impact, be a part of a historic event. She also explained she wanted to witness and relay the empathy and feelings she goes through when she reports. “If you don’t feel you’re obviously not a very good journalist!” she chuckled.

On how she ended up where she is now in her career, Alex says “A large part of my career has been being rejected.” She explained how she started her school’s newspaper “which had a huge amount of staff members, one, me! But I got my friends to write contributions!” She then went on to a trainee course.
After being rejected for a lot of journalism jobs, Alex started writing personally to editors and one of them eventually took her in.

Alex Crawford is now a highly respected journalist; she has won Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year award, no less than four times, a record. She’s written a book and has been nominated for other awards. She is a very inspirational character.

After a short break the event resumed with panels of freelance correspondents and commissioners. These two talks were full in insight and advice on how to get going and get commissions. I certainly got out feeling motivated and enlightened even if the general consensus was “do not go to a dangerous zone,” I think each participant said that at least once, including Alex Crawford. But instead of feeling demoralised because that is essentially my goal, it made me want to work harder.

I stayed overnight in London giving me the opportunity to deliver my CV in person at a few places where I would love to work.
After being stuck at the overground station because of a false fire alarm (it was so exciting, three fire trucks came and all the firemen were in full gear but it turns out they didn’t need it) I took a series of trains and ran across London with a stop at the Shard to deliver to The Times then, after a live country music mini concert in the tube, at the Northcliffe building in Kensington to deliver to The Independent. There I saw Prince William in a convoy. Back on the tube to go to Hanover Square at the Vogue House to get to Vanity Fair. And finally The Guardian at King’s Cross. A whole adventure. I then proceeded to take myself out to a cheap lunch which wasn’t all that great.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week to know about the “Rencontres européennes Médiane” a conference about diversity in the media.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Chronicles of a journalist wannabe #1

I've just spent ten days waking up at 5.30 or 6 am sometimes but rarely later (6.30 or 7) to go on the set of the new film "At the Heart of the Battle" that will be showcased for years to come at the new Napoleonic museum of Belgium. The film, directed by the acclaimed Belgian director Gérard Corbiau, recreates the battle of Waterloo and aims to place, as its title might give away, at the heart of the action, using groundbreaking technology.

I had the luck and joy of witnessing the shoot as a member of the press. Other press organisations visited the set during an organised session (I have a couple of hilarious stories about the most ignorant BBC presenter ever, if you're nice I'll tell you a little later).

Ten days interviewing interesting people, taking some amazing shots of horse charges, troops marching in the sunset light, a cavalier falling off his horse repeatedly. I must say it was very impressive. Ten days of writing features of different aspects of the film.

Ten days in the mud, in all sorts of weather conditions, with a fun and friendly crew. I can't complain. I wrote my pieces, sent them with exclusive pictures, but no one seemed interested. Not the Guardian, not the Times, not the Sunday Times, the English press (apart from the BBC) was interested in the story. The bicentenary of this battle which was won by the British, is of no interest. The major Belgian media? Not interested.

Ten days to be rejected by all. But that doesn't matter, I'll try harder. But for the time being, I'm stuck with these texts and pictures, I could show you some, it was quite something!

The Marshal Ney, leading a charge.

The French under fire.

Ah yes, you haven't forgotten that Beebs gossip. Well, on the press day, I found myself with the special effects team, at the back of their pick up truck as headquarters were a little far from the set. Just before we leave, three people ask if they can join us. They climb with us and identify themselves as the BBC. I tell them it's such a shame as they missed the Duke of Wellington. "Oh, who is that?" asks one of them. I reply that it is only the British guy who won the battle. "She's Italian," jokingly says her colleague to me. To which she adds "you know, in Italian schools we focus more on the second World War, not the First." After a short moment of shock I had to tell her Waterloo was in 1815. To not know these facts is not a problem in itself in normal circumstances but it is when you work for the BBC, a national British media corporation, and are covering the reenactment of the battle of Waterloo. Ten minutes on Wikipedia and she'd known who'd won it and when...

Next week I'll be going to London to attend a seminar organised by One World Media about being a foreign correspondent in developing countries (something I'd like to do), selling oneself and one's stories, getting commissioned, and more.

The following week I'll be attending a two-and-a-half-day conference about inclusiveness in the media co-organised by the EU, in Brussels.

Stay tuned to follow my adventures of a journalist wannabe on a mission to find a job and/or being published.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

This world cup makes me sick.

Unless you've been living in a cave or have just woken up from a long coma like Schumacher, you know the football world cup has started in Brazil.

Tonight Belgium is playing Algeria, and even if I had no intention of knowing this fact I do because this "info" has been forced down our throats all day long on the national "news."

All day long the national radio and TV "news" report opened with amazingly long featured about the football match. This so appalling to me as this is not newsworthy and as far as I know the world has stopped so everyone can focus on the football. Where are all the journalists? Probably in front of their TV.

Thousands of people have been forced out of their homes at gun point in Rio in the name of football and entertainment, thousands have been massacred because they didn't want to leave. But that, the "news" don't talk about. The world is silent. And the "news" don't mention how not a single penny all the millions will benefit the Brazilians.

And more appalling is that people aren't shocked to hear football first on the "news" report. They're not because most of them went home early to watch the match, and a quarter of Belgium hasn't even bothered going to work. Seriously, how is this possible for something as stupid as 22 men running after a ball that when they don't stop every time they break a nail.

I would love to go vomit on the national "news" that our public money funds.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


Today I voted.

First, there were the road works. Every time there is an election in Belgium, they block all the roads to fix them up so everyone knows how awesome our rulers are. And yet everybody is just annoyed; what is usually a ten-minute drive becomes a 25-minute one, the usual bus stops are moved to streets you've never even heard of and you're just supposed to find them, and if you decide to walk, if you don't slip on the sand caused by the works, it will just be blown into your eyes by the wind. And every election is the same, although our politicians deny this fact.

Then there were the installation of massive wood panels for political party members to display their photos, as if that was going to make you go "oh this guy there looks awesome with his stupid smile, Imma vote for him!" They seriously all look more stupid and fake than the one next to them. All these posters pollute our sight as if our neighbourhoods weren't ugly enough already.

And then, most annoying of all, is the constant flux of flyers through the mailbox. Recycling is compulsory in Brussels, and that's awesome but it also means buying specific government-approved bags so we technically pay to recycle but that's still okay somehow. What is not okay is that the government forces its flyers on you that will end up in the recycling bin that you pay for because of the same government. I have found a solution: giving the flyers back to the volunteers that hand them out, but that essentially involves staying near the mailbox ready to run out.

But despite all of the nuisance elections mean to me, I voted. You're gonna tell me that voting is compulsory in Belgium, it is, but I didn't just vote for that. I vote whenever I find myself in Belgium at the time of an election, because other than being compulsory, it is an important right and public duty at the same time. Our rulers and candidates are so incapable (I'm not saying I could do the job, if I could maybe I'd go for it, but I can't) that it is our duty to vote for the least worst people and if possible the opposition, to get a balance of ideas. In Belgium's case, the least worst are probably the Greens, for whom I voted today.

So many people don't get to vote for their rulers of choice in this world, I'm glad I have this right (or at least the illusion of it).

Saturday, 12 April 2014


Yesterday marked my final day of work, and in five days, I'll be heading home.

You cannot imagine how happy I am to have left work!!!! Don't get me wrong, I consider myself to be a hard worker but the conditions under which I have been working in the last three months can be described as bullying, professional harassment, psychological harassment, etc. These words come from my colleagues and there is a consensus, people have left after two, three weeks and another is leaving very soon.

But now, on to better things.

Today I will visit an NGO, an umbrella group that focuses on helping the Palestinians in the Jerusalem area, because they are often forgotten by the international NGO's which tend to focus more on Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinians here are residents but not citizens. I am currently deleting all my files on my old PC so I can give it to them to give to a needy family.

This week is Pessach so it will limit me in my previously planned travels But I will do things! Well, hopefully. What is certain though is that I will be taking lots of pictures and the best ones will be featured on my Flickr account, so make sure to check it at the end of the week (or before if you want).

And then finally I happily fly back to Brussels on Thursday.

Other than that, I wish you a wonderful Pessach, Easter, Passover, Hanuman Jayanti , Budhist new year, any other thing that you may be celebrating, or just week!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Just a few more days...

My work experience in Israel is getting to a close... Juste a few more days of work left, a couple of free days and boom, back to Brussels. Wow.

Has it really been that long? Almost three months have gone by but sometimes it feels like it's just been a couple of weeks.

What to say... This experience has been incredibly enriching, eye-opening and a real challenge. Many a time did I want to quit, a couple of times I ended up in tears after a long day of not being treated very well (not to be rude...). But I couldn't give up, not when I was so close to the end.

I don't like looking back on things, looking forward is the way! But in the situation that I don't actually know what is to come yet, I guess that gives me the time to look at these three months.

I won't bore you with a deep analysis and will rather opt for a short list of points...

  • Work: Exhausting. I am trying really hard to think of what I have learnt but nothing is coming to my mind... I have met some truly amazing and inspiring people at work, some of which I feel honoured to know and have had as colleagues. Some amazing people work at the Times of Israel.
  • Social life: None. Working six days a week while being treated like a Chinese child in a Nike factory makes you tired and not in shape or even the mood to go out. It's a good thing I have flatmates, they are my only social interactions outside of work.
  • Relationship: Long distance is horrible, I get it now, I'm never leaving again!!
  • Family: Some needy sibling, who I will not name, sometimes - always -, seem to be angry at you for wanting a life and wanting to do something with it, and that doesn't help the mood. Then if you have a cool mum like I do, she will visit, and that's fun.

It will soon be time for me to pack and head back north to Belgium and then inevitably England!

I had some fun and a lot of stress (I can't find a word that expresses the amount of stress I have been under, and I'm usually a very chilled person).
Because I hate stress so much and because of many other aspects I think the negative outweighs the positive, but the positive still made it all worth it in my mind. I don't regret this experience, I always love a challenge. But I won't lie, I am counting the days.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Highlights of the last two weeks.

I have been absent in the last two weeks but this fact can easily be explained by the presence of my mum and grandma who were here for the first time. I tried spending as much time as I could with them, juggling between them and work. I even established my headquarters in the apartment I rented for them.

But because I'm nice and all, I present you, in pictures yet, the highlights of my two-week-absence :

Three crazy generations...

Massada birds

If you happen to know what kind of bird this is, please share!

A little urbex on the way back from the dead sea

The Wailing Wall

Ruins from the 2006 bombardment of Haifa. This house has been converted into a stable.

Flea market in downtown Haifa.

Abra Kadabra! Haifa

The liberal mosque of Akko.

And its inside.

Akko shuq.

He can smell it, can you smell it?

What? The food!!

The old port of Akko.

Old Akko.

Akko shuq.

A mural in Nachlaot, Jerusalem.

The last evening in Tel Aviv.

Monday, 24 March 2014

On disait que toi tu étais Israël et moi j'étais Gaza...

Le journaliste israélien et ancien diplomate Gil Kessary a aujourd'hui publié un article sur le Huffington Post en français, qui essaye de savoir ce qui se passerait si la Belgique attaquait le Nord de la France comme Gaza attaque le Sud d'Israël :

"Essayons d'imaginer un instant un scénario utopique: le nord de la France est attaqué par des dizaines de roquettes en provenance de Belgique, forçant les habitants à se réfugier dans des abris; des avions français ripostent en bombardant des sites des responsables, à savoir une organisation terroriste flamande; les Pays Bas condamnent la France tout comme le fait la communauté internationale."

Il explique alors que ce scénario n'est pas spécialement utopique et que cette situation est bien réelle en Israël :

"Utopique? Pas forcément si l'on tire des parallèles: remplaçons la France par Israël, la Belgique par Gaza, l'organisation flamande par le Djihad Islamiste, les Pays-Bas par l'Autorité Palestinienne, et la communauté internationale est toujours la communauté internationale."

Le journaliste tire des conclusions hâtives et dit que c'est exactement ce qui s'est passé quand 70 roquettes se sont abattues sur le sud d'Israël le week-end de Pourim. Kessary conclut sa parallèle en affirmant que la comparaison s'impose pour "faire imaginer à l'étranger la tension que connaissent les habitants de cette région."

Mais voilà, Kessary oublie certains faits.

La première chose est que la Belgique est un pays qui a déclaré son indépendance en 1830. Les personnes qui se trouvaient sur ces terres se sont révoltés car ils avaient été sous occupation depuis toujours. La France n'occupe pas actuellement la Belgique et ses politiciens n'appellent pas, à ce que je sache, à son occupation. Les deux pays entretiennent des relations diplomatiques et ne sont pas en guerre.

Les Israéliens sont arrivés en Palestine sous le mandat britannique, et chassé des personnes qui habitaient ces terres (Israël nie d'ailleurs ce fait, selon le pays, les Palestiniens sont partis de per propre accord). Je ne nie même pas le droit d'Israël d'exister, mais la comparaison est pour ainsi dire, grotesque.

Une autre chose, moins importante certes, est que les Pays-Bas et la Flandres sont deux peuples différents, contrairement à Gaza et la Cisjordanie, faisant toutes deux partie de la Palestine.

Il est dès lors un peu facile de faire une telle parallèle, un peu comme Bibi qui étudie les accords frontaliers entre Pays-Bas et Belgique.

La situation actuelle en Israël et territoires palestiniens occupés n'est tout simplement pas comparable et il serait même un peu naïf de le penser.

Monday, 24 February 2014

My first rocket alert.

10.05am. I just woke up a couple of minutes ago, I'm still half asleep, laying in my bed when suddenly the sirenss go off, I've never heard the rocket attacks alarm but after 20 seconds of listening to the loud thing I'm pretty sure it can only be that.
What do I do? What do I do? My brain is panicking to find a solution. I look out the window and people seem very calm about it, no one is running, two guys are on the rooftop of the opposite building, overlooking the streets. I admire these people who can stay very calm with this amazingly loud sirens.
Is this really an alert? Should I go find a shelter? Where and how do I find a shelter? Why doesn't anyone tell newbies where the next shelter is?
Let's stay very calm in my bed.

After 5 minutes the sirens stop, the loudness of busy Jerusalem slowly starts again. I reach for my laptop and google sirens and Jerusalem. Nothing. I alter my search a few times, still nothing. Should this be alarming?
I calm down, start reading Haaretz about a completely different subject and in the corner of my street I finally find my answer. It was just a drill, for school children and teachers. You'd think they'd tell the public in advance so as to avoid panicky  people.

I guess the good thing is next time I know what the sirens mean (God forbids there is a next time), and I can then panic about finding shelter.

Have a good day everyone! May it be siren free!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The world is fine!

Here's my latest human interaction which happened on my way back from the shop (out of grape water!!!).

"Hey, are you looking for a job?"
"Uhm no, I have a job"
"Oh, what do you do?"
"I'm a journalist."
"What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, my name is..." (I forgot his name already damn me)
"Nice to meet you too"
"You're very pretty, can I take you out sometime?"
"Erm thanks but I'm taken"
"Of course! If you hadn't been taken, there would be something wrong with the world, you're too pretty."

So don't worry, the world is just fine! Ah, Israeli guys... always trying to chat girls up! So many guys wanted to be my best friends...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Day 37/Rant

When talking about homophobia and horrible countries that pass anti-gay laws we often think about Putin's Russia, Uganda, Mugabe, and such. These places are more or less far and their society are perceived as traditional, old fashion, nothing like our Western society that is so amazing.

Yet we needn't look so far from home... We forget homophobia is on the rise everywhere, even in Europe. I feel awful whenever I tell my girlfriend I can't hold her hand when we're walking in the centre of Brussels, the capital of Europe. She doesn't hold it against me but I get angry at our society where I can't feel safe because of who I love.

A week after Kansas almost did the same but gave up at the last minute, Arizona passed a bill that would allow businesses to refuse to serve or give medical treatment to gays on religious grounds. First off if you want to get biblical, according to the scriptures, you should hate the sin, not the sinner (Matthew 5:43-44, 6:14-15, and plenty over other verses would help make a good judgement) and besides, didn't Jesus hang out with the worst sinners, wasn't he kind to each and everyone of them?

Then I can see the signs that would hang on the cafes', restaurants', medical clinics' doors; "No Gays Allowed." And that brings at least two images in my mind: one is WWII when signs like "No Jews allowed" were common and the American racial segregation era where not the Jews but the Blacks this time were the victims of such injustice. There are more examples,like the South African Apartheid, French Algeria, etc. All these periods are not so far from us in our past though. We sometimes hear the motto "Never Again" when learning about these events, which is fair enough but what does it mean? Does "Never Again" mean that we should never victimise the same group of people and that we should find someone else? (I know that's not true because anti-Semitism is also on the rise in Europe).
We often justify the teaching of these facts in school by the theory that no one should forget because these parts of History should not be repeated. it seems to me that not everyone got the memo...

Now, although the bill will probably not be passed into law (touch wood), it is extremely scary that a lot of people still think that way in 2014, to think that someone would [legally or not] choose not to save my life because of who I love. America likes to criticise other countries for their inequalities (gender, freedom of speech, etc.) but instead of creating inequalities at home, wouldn't it be wiser to help end them elsewhere? Just a thought...

This makes me terribly sad and mad, and in the words of Sookie Saint James, I'm smad. I'll return to my natural optimism later though...

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Monday, 17 February 2014

"What is your name?"

"What is your name?" is always the first question I get when an official opens my passport in Israel, looking at me with this incredulous look on their face, eyebrows raised, waiting for my confirmation that my name is Surya which to them, pronounced the way my parents call me, sounds like the word for Syria in both Arabic and Hebrew. (What it really is, or the way my parents intended it anyway, is the sun)

Today I also learnt from someone that apparently, I look like what could be interpreted by many Israelis as a left-wing extremist student come to do activism in the country. And I certainly don't look like the typical intern that would walk into the office, which is a good thing. I do agree, I don't like looking like the norm, I like looking like what I want to look like. Anyway, I was in no way offended by this, I found it rather amusing and very insightful.

I was told this, and it was later confirmed to me by someone else, as I said I was always detained at the airport security when I land in Israel. This is why I find it insightful because according to her the name has something to do with it but so does my look, which is a theory I do agree with as they notice me as soon as I step out of the plane.

They do this thing when they have someone wait at the end of the tunnel that connects your plane to the building and that person looks at the people coming out and calls the funny looking ones on the side. And so the first round of questioning begins, and so the famous first question is raised. I knew I must have had a certain look-type because I never fail to be chosen but now I know what I am probably classified as in their mind when they look at me.

What I have yet to find out is what about my look qualifies as left-wing extremist? It would be easier for you to picture it if I posted pictures of my clothes but I won't. I dress in a rather classical manner, sometimes hipster, sometimes tomboy, sometimes more feminine, it depends of my mood, the availability of my clothes and my degree of hurry.

And don't want to change my appearance though, but for my general knowledge I would like to find out, what in Israeli(/Middle Eastern) standards qualifies as a left-wing extremist activist student. If you have info regarding this, please share!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

"She's a good woman"

Women of Israel...

If you know them personally and have even the slightest relationship with them, they are truly awesome, the nation of Jewish mums. They will make sure you're fine all the time, worry for you ten times more than you if you have the slightest problem, they would send you to the doctor and force you to stay in bed if you coughed just once.


If you encounter them at work when they have to provide a service for you, forget it, you instantly become the most annoying creature on the planet.
It starts at the airport ID check when you arrive in Tel Aviv. If you are a woman (yes because I've never experienced any of these things as a man, I can't speak from that point of view, sorry) and you have an option, try to choose a man, they'll be nicer to you. The last time a guy sent me to the "waiting room" he apologised. But the women, they hate you, you're here to have some fun aren't you? Well I hate you, I'm not going to smile to you, be nice to you, I'll just send you to that room.

Then at the supermarket. I always smile and say hi with enthusiasm, no matter who, that's just me. The female cashiers have weird powers that make me feel bad as soon as I say hi and smile to them. You can barely hear their answer, that is if they even bother saying hello. They act as if you're a disgusting thing they must get rid of asap and if possible avoid looking at you any chance they have.

Then at the post office.
My mum sent me an awesome parcel the other day, it took me a few days and a lot of walking/travelling to different services to find it. Every time I had to deal with a woman, same thing, they probably felt I was sent as a test to them, the most annoying girl on earth, trying to find her mummy's parcel. Urgh. The initial answer is always no because if you are, as Cheryl would say, a giver-uperer, you will go away and never bother them again. If you are a determined person, which I can be, you insist. But be prepared to feel very unwanted, like a chewing gum stuck on someone's sole or something.
After running around Jerusalem, spending hours on public transport, walking like mad I finally found it though.

If they have the slightest power over you, if you depend on them, they hate you for it, you'd be better dead for them. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule. Very rarely. But there are some.

Always choose the men. Again, talking as a lone woman here, I don't know what applies for groups or men.

At the airport, they are less likely to send you to the "waiting room" and if they do, they apologise!
At the supermarket, the cashiers are most likely to be women but if you need info in the shop, ask a man.
At the post office, same. The kindest and most helpful people to me during my parcel adventure were the male security guards.
If you smile at them and are nice, they'll help or try to anyway.

When I finally got to my parcel's final destination I was happy to find only men, I was in a parcel warehouse thing, a guy brought me to an office at the back of the building. The guy behind the desk brought me my parcel. "Who sent you this?" "my mum" "Well, she's a good woman."
She is.

I realise this might be a slightly sexist post but all the things I just said are my own experience, I've been in Israel a few times now and have spent quite some time here, this has always been the case for me.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Apology, this service will resume shortly.

I have not abandoned you, dear reader, or this blog. As you may know I moved houses last week and I am currently out of an internet connection, this issue will be settled at the beginning of the week. Just so you know I have a ton of subjects I want to write about that I will eventually write as soon as my connection issues are settled.

I apologise for any inconvenience.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Shabbat is coming!

Shabbat is in the air!

It's Friday, it's 4pm and I need to rush to my friends' flat if I want to make it in time to cook for Shabbat.

I get out of my shoebox (I finally moved in) which is near the Old City, and start my 30-minute-long walk. The streets are packed, everyone is in their best attire, walking towards the Old Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall. Orthodox, young and old, men wear their best looking hat over their yarmulkas, their leather shoes are as shiny as ever. More moderate people are still wearing their best clothes. I'm not though, I was rushing and now I feel a little out of place, going to schul in sneakers is not the best idea I've ever had. But they're the most comfortable shoes to walk in, shouldn't that count on Shabbat? Everyone looks serene, happy.

The roads are packed too, everyone is commuting to where they need to be before Shabbat starts (Approximately 4.30pm). I'm out of the centre, walking by the parks. For once, their full of people. The Arabs take the opportunity to gather in the parks while they're "free". Children are playing on the grass, adults are chatting, laughing, preparing their Friday night barbecue. They too seem happy.

You can feel the Shabbat in the air. Everyone relaxes.

Tonight I'm going to the Mizrahim Orthodox schul down the street with my hosts, I've never been to one. An interesting experience.

The next morning, in the same parks, the Falachas (The black Jews from Ethiopia) will celebrate weddings, all dressed in white and light colours. Many people will take the day to go out as a family, taking long walks in the sun. It feels like a national holiday, well it kind of is, but it happens every week.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend for those in the Diaspora, and Shavuah tov for those who are here!

(I apologise for disappearing but I don't have internet at my new place, which is quite horrible)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

One of the most amazing things about Israel

There's one thing everyone should have a right to have at least once in their life, it's just so amazing that's it's a crime not to share!

It's something I long for every time I'm away from Israel, it comes back in my dreams on a regular basis, it makes me salivate. It's almost orgasmic, I'm telling you. I don't know what my life would be without it, probably very sad.

I'm of course talking about the grape juice (Of the Prigat brand) and the grape flavoured water (any brand), which is slightly healthier and less sweet than the juice. I mean,what else? I drink on average a litre of the stuff a day. Near work it's 12.90 shekels for 3 litres, a reasonable price.

Seriously though, to me, it tastes like Israel, every time I know I'm going there, it's on my mind. It's just so good. Do yourself a favour and order a gallon online! If you pity me you can send your donations to the office.

- On a more serious note, my spirits are up! I think I've found something less isolated for March and April, it's only available during the period I was looking for and it looks nice on the pictures, I'm visiting tomorrow! Happy me! 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Day 11 (Day 7 at work), change of tone.

I found a shoebox, wait, I mean a studio to live in! Woop, woop!

It's so small I wonder if people in China have bigger space. It's probably kif-kif, but without the pollution.

The good thing is that I'm literally five minutes away from the Old City, that's going to be quite cool. I don't think this outweighs the bad things (small, small, small, did I mention small?) but it's just for sleeping, I'm working all day and it might encourage me to get out more. I signed and paid anyway so there's no going back though I only paid for a month, if I lose my sanity I can always move after that. We'll see.

Smile, everything will be fine!

I really don't know what else to write about tonight. Truth is I'm not at my happiest. Living in the same room as my editor has proven a nightmare and I think it made me rush towards that shoebox. Not the end of the world, not the end of the world, not the end of the world... I'll find a better place next month, right now I'm just happy to escape this Hell, I'll be running on Friday, I'm telling you.

I get back home from work and try to do something only to be interrupted to be told about something regarding work. I skype, I'm interrupted to talk about work, I read, I eat, I write, I'm off work, I'm drifting of to sleep, I always get interrupted to be told about work, to be asked about work. WORK WORK WORK. I can't take this for much longer, my morale is at a lowest.

Don't get me wrong, she's nice and stuff. It's just the no privacy bit. The no consideration. The always having to be at disposition at the expense of my personal space and time. I'm going crazy, I need out. It'll be better on Friday. I have to keep telling myself this.

Breathe in, breathe out, it's going to be okay.

Signing off. Have a good night, wherever you may be.

Tea tales

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I drink tea. And when I say I drink tea, I mean A LOT of tea.
During my first few days here I didn't have a single cup of tea which for me is extremely rare, my close friends would have, at this point questioned my sanity or well-being. But they weren't here to witness it and I was perfectly fine.

On my second day of work the Arabic version editor invited me to tea, I had a fresh mint tea with lots of sugar. It felt good to finally have a cup of tea but that's not how I drink my daily tea so it wasn't entirely satisfying.
After my second of work, on my way home, I stopped by the 24/7 convenience store down the street. It's a neighbourhood full of UN and EU expats so they have a couple of European products. I found Twinings English breakfast which isn't normally my first choice but I felt it was good enough considering where I am. I paid 24 shekels for 25 teabags, that's a lot (approximately 5 euros).

I had it the next day at the office and thought it was damn weak. After the second cup I realised it was decaf. But in the little kitchen at the office I noticed Waitrose Organic English Breakfast and I was really jealous. Seriously though, only British people to import Waitrose tea! I later learnt someone has left it there and it's free to drink.

Still, I bought myself Israeli Witowsky (sp?) tea, which is a little weak but better than the regular Lipton they have at the office. But I forgot it this morning. Damn it. I could not resist the temptation any longer, I had the Waitrose tea. It had been calling my name! I had it and it taste just a little too strong, that's how weak the other tea is, it makes normal tea taste strong! It was orgasmic almost.

That might be one of Israel's biggest downsides: tea.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Us and them, beyond the wall.

I currently live in the German Colony of Jerusalem, it's south-east of the city. Right now the numerous muezzins are calling for prayer "Allaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah w'Akbar!", it feels very unreal sometimes. Sometimes it feels like thousands of people are crying at the same time, desperate. Sometimes it feels serene, calm, hopeful and peaceful.
In the part of the neighbourhood I am in, most people find it invasive. They believe Arabs do it on purpose to bother them. That's what people have told me how they feel about it anyway.

Down the streets begin the Arab part of the city, all the way to the wall. That famous separation wall I can see from my bedroom window. I stare at it.

My bedroom window view. When the weather allows it you can see the mountains in the background.

It's not rare to hear gunshots. And on Fridays, there are usually weddings, fireworks, it makes me want to go party with them. I think I might go crash a wedding in the next three months, that'd be fun!

The wall protects us. Or so I've been told. It prevents terrorists from accessing the country. Really? Just two days ago, an Al-Qaida cell was dismantled in Jerusalem. Or so the media say. I think it's partly there to make people miserable. But what do I know, I'm not from here.

Like I did back in 2011, I want to walk to the wall again, I don't know why it fascinates me. Maybe I just want to be the annoying journalist/tourist/rebel.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Day 8, second shabbat.

The day is not over yet, but that's okay, I can always update you later if anything amazing happens!

I woke up naturally at 9.26am, I was so happy, you can not fathom how happy I was. A little newsreading, a before we're off to the supermarket.

After a long walk in the sun which was not too bad, we get to the supermarket. No one checked my bag at the entrance! Not when I went to the chemist, not when I went to the bank and not at the supermarket! So weird!
Anyway, we're in, it's the rush, everybody's pushing their trolley in eachother's legs, Not time to call "slicha!" (pardon) because the shabbos is coming, you just gotta push, get your stuff and go home to prepare everything. At the same time, the staff is pre-"cleaning", pushing everyone because they have to close in time, which is 2pm. It's mayhem, everybody's on edge.
The fact that Israelis can't be in a line is a well-known fact but this situation gets even worse before the shabbos. You were a fool, you should have shopped the day before. Is there even a word in Hebrew for a line?

In the "queue".
This guy didn't need a holster, it takes too much time to take your gun out when you need it... You know, it's just in case some tried to force their way in front of him...

We're finally out, no injuries except maybe psychological ones, we have everything. Let's go home. Let's clean in time before the night falls, everything needs to be ready!

Have a great shabbat everyone!

Oh and feel free to follow me on instagram (@tsirah) and on twitter (@talk_that_smack).

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Day 7/Day 5

Today concluded my being in the Holy Land for a week and my first week at work (I do Sunday-Thursday).


When life gives you lemons. ↑ On my way to work.

Change of plans, on Sunday I won't be an unpaid intern, I'll be an underpaid, but paid nonetheless, trainee translator/editor (But shhhhhhhhh! It's a secret!). I flipped. In my head. Because I couldn't shout in joy when my office is next to my editor's.
It will be just under my rent! :D Yeah because today I may have found my accommodation!

This is too much happiness for me to handle! Someone send me a depressing news story!

All in all today was a good day. Today we also got an AFP subscription for us to have plenty more content for the website!

↑ Also on my way to work.

I'm dead tired, tomorrow morning I will sleep until I wake up NATURALLY!! After being woken up at 6.30am by my editor's alarm clock every morning when I go to work at 9am, I think I deserve it

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A quick note on another day.

We still have a lot to do until the launch of the website but we're getting organised and I think work is getting easier on me, I just have to find my rhythm, got an interview done today (Champagne woo!!).

What a pleasure walking to work in the warming sun, going outside to get lunch in the SUN!!! SUN SUN SUN!!! Yes, I said it, because I can and I feel like I deserve it after three years in rainy Preston.

I haven't yet gone crazy, don't worry.

I'm afraid I don't have much to say about today apart from the fact that I made a new friend, which is always nice.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Day 4 (second day at work)

This morning I was a little more relaxed on my walk to work, I even risked a shortcut which took me a little longer as I wasn't sure where I was going! But I was calm enough to notice the numerous clementine, orange and lemon trees. An air of spring.

I did not confront my editor as to the question of had she stolen my idea but before my translating torture began, I asked if I could write about my story idea that I sent her last week that she said she liked. She asked to remind her, I told her and she told me she was writing on that. Boom. Result, I will be able to write on interview profile piece and might have to share a byline. GUTTED.

Anyway, more translations, getting the hang of it now, it's getting easier.

On my way home I noticed a soldier sitting on a bench with her full automatic machine gun on her knees and I realised I hadn't seen a soldier or a weapon since my arrival which is pretty unusual for Israel. But then again, I have been staying and working in the same residential area for the last four days.

On my shortcut which was shorter than this morning (I was hurrying, gotta skype!!!) I passed by a pub/restaurant called Colony which I thought was pretty damn ironic for this country (I've been writing about colonies and stuff for two days).

I guess I have nothing more to report!
Have a nice evening/morning/day/whatever!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Day 3/Day 1

Today was my third day in Israel and my first day at work.

So I did 9am-7pm with a quick lunch break which consisted of a breadroll and hummus.

My editor had me translate stories from English to French all day and I think, hearing what she was saying on the phone that she might have stolen my story idea. I'm a little gutted I must say even if there are multiple subjects but I really wanted that one especially since it was good and my idea. I'm also a little angry because why should she have all the fun when I have to translate? It's boring and not journalism what I essentially want to do. Then afterwards I see my translating work completely revised, which leaves an unimpressed Surya.
And today I have also come to realise that as a big fan of word puns I now hate them because making puns is one thing but translating them is absolute hell, believe me.

BUT I'm still in a newsroom full of cool people and I'm still in Israel which is pretty cool in itself.
Now I'm going to skype because I have a date with my other half.

Have a good week!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Mixed feelings.

A three month internship in Jerusalem at the Times of Israel. Great, I'm overjoyed! Stressing out a little because it's far, I'm not used to writing in French but still really really happy. The last couple of days are extremely hard on me emotionally in Brussels as the moment when I am going to leave everyone I love far behind me. But it's only three months, it's not the end of the world, it's everything I had hoped for, a big adventure!
At the airport I act blasé although deep down I want to let myself cry all the tears I have in me. I can't though, I'm with my mum, in public, I hold everything in. My eyes are already puffy from crying really hard the night before anyway. Time to say goodbye at the ID check, I give in, let a few tears out but quickly gain back control of myself and stop.

I wait in the lounge, I'm okay, online chatting.  We board, I'm still good, I read, watch Hatufim, eat. Then my episode is over and I realise I forgot to download the next one. I'm to tired to read, I pull my cap down and try to go to sleep but the thoughts creep in, slowly, painfully. My eyes are tearing up as I wonder what I am doing on this plane, I start questioning my motives, my needs and wishes. Do I really want this? Or is it me trying to please everyone and bluff them by pretending I have a dream? Is it really me? Where/what am I going to? It's swirling in my mind, a hurricane of bad thoughts. I eventually realise my fear is only being far away from my friends, family, love, cosy habits. It's only for three months but it's soooo hard, I can't stop crying now. I go to the toilet and catch my reflection in the mirror; bloodshot tired and tear-y eyes look back at me.
When I get back to my seat I calm myself down and manage to get some sleep.

We land and as usual their highly trained airport security spot me just as I step in the airport. Some mild questioning, it's always the same. Walk to the ID check, sent - with apology from the guy - to the detention room for ten minutes and I'm given back my passport with no more questions. The luggage aren't on the conveyor belt yet. I chat with three enormous Christians while I wait. I see my suitcase, grab it and I'm out of there. I step out of the airport, board the shared taxi and the bad feelings are all gone. I'm extremely tired but I'm smiling in my seat.

I've been here for a day now and it's not very easy as I miss some people a whole lot but it's okay, I'm okay, it's just for three months. I know I will have fun and enjoy myself. I start work on Sunday but the adventure has started today.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!