Showing posts from 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 t…

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…

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 pen…


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 the…


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…

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…

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 :

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 Pale…

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 re…

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...

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 ple…

"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…

"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, …

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.

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…

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 thi…

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.

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 e…

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 ne…

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.

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 acces…

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 sh…

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).


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!

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

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.


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 …

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 g…

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 downlo…