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Post Offices in Israel

Going to the post office in Israel can be quite the adventure.

The hardest part?

Finding one.

The Israeli postal service isn’t the greatest, and that’s partially because nobody knows where the heck the post offices are. For the longest time I would go to either the one on Emek Refaim or the one in Kenyon Hadar. Little did I know that there was a tiny post office on Beit Lechem…that I walked past nearly every day. Honestly, it’s like they don’t want you to find them; this one was marked by two random red poles on the side of the street, which obviously say “hey, walk back here behind the building and then come in the side door!”

Right.

After you go through the metal detector, you enter the room and take a number. From a machine. Like the ones at the deli. And they may not call yours for quite a while. One time, at the Ministry of Communications Post Office, I actually got a pleasant 45-minute nap on one of their hard wooden benches. It’s like the DMV or something. Smaller post offices may not have the number system as there is usually less traffic.

Mailing things also can be tough. That year, I was participating in BookCrossing holiday gift giving and had a bunch of postcards to send out. One happened to be going to a member in Lahore, Pakistan. It got handed right back to me, with the postal worker apologetically saying that they can’t accept it, because Israel does not send mail to Pakistan, because they are at war. So now I have a stamped postcard to Pakistan that has absolutely no value.

“What would happen if I sent it?” I asked.

“They would probably send it right back.”

Hmm. Quite a pickle, that. I went home and quickly logged onto the forums and apologized to said person in Pakistan, saying that it would be impossible to send anything to her for political reasons, to which she said ok. Funnily enough, someone in Texas posted that she’d be willing to forward the mail to Pakistan if I sent it to her. I thought about it for a quarter of a second before realizing that not only would it have to cross the Atlantic twice, but get postage paid on it TWICE. All for a 2-shekel postcard.

My experiences with postal people ran the gamut, but two instances were annoying when they happened but funny to laugh about, it retrospect.

The first one happened at the post office on Emek Refaim. I got to the counter and started speaking in English to an older woman at the counter, who just gave me a blank stare in return. It was still early on in my stay there, so I was not as confident with my Hebrew, but I did try to string together a sentence explaining what I wanted. Another blank stare, no remark. All of a sudden, a postal worker two stalls over starts yelling in Hebrew at the lady who’s failing at helping me. My postal worker turned her head to the side to hear the sound…

And that’s when I saw her hearing aid.

Oh…wait…huh?

Her blonde co-worker came over to me and apologetically said, “I sorry, she don’t speak English, only Hebrew,” and started saying some commands in Hebrew as she took my packages and stamped them. As she did this, her hands came up. Then she started using sign language to communicate with the older woman.

Sign. Language.

Really, Israel?

Even though I went back to that branch regularly, I never saw the deaf woman again. Maybe she decided it was time for a change of career. But for her sake, I sure hope it wasn’t as a phone sex operator.

The second incident happened on one of my final days in Israel. I was in downtown Jerusalem mailing out one last batch of postcards to friends around the world. That day, one of my postcards happened to be going to Jessica, a friend of mine from college who now lived in Honolulu. As the girl at the counter went through the postcards, typing in the countries’ names and printing the postage, she came to the one addressed to Honolulu, Hawaii. Without missing a beat, she tapped her long fingernails to the screen and punched the Hebrew letter hey, then vav, then another vav, then aleph, then yud.

To her surprise, nothing came up. She handed it back to me, mumbling in Hebrew, “Hawaii is not in the system. I guess we can’t mail there.”

Are you serious?

Then, I make things worse by suggesting to her she type in USA, because Hawaii is part of the USA. In fact, it’s been the fiftieth state since 1959, and still is, if nothing changed while I was in Israel.

“No, it’s not part of the USA. Hawaii is a country, no?”

Facepalm.

And they say Americans are bad when it comes to knowing about the world around them.

After a few minutes of arguing pointlessly, she called over her supervisor, and punched “Hawaii” back into the computer system, which again, unsurprisingly, came up with an error message. Her supervisor took my side, telling her to “just type it in as USA, because Hawaii is in the USA.”

“Then why doesn’t it say that on the card?”

Whoops. My bad. I had completely forgotten to write “USA” on the line under the city, state, and zip code.

And we all learned a very valuable geography lesson that day.

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How I Got Into Graduate School – Round 1, Part 1

I’ve been trying all day to think up a good and interesting story, but I couldn’t, so I’ll just tell you how I got into graduate school.

But first, how I didn’t get into graduate school.

When I got back from Israel in 2010, I started looking at options for graduate schools, since that was clearly the way to go. I found several programs that I liked, and applied to three of them for admission: University of Iowa, University of Colorado-Boulder, and Yale School of Drama. Yes, I know, Yale School of Drama. My advisors advised against it, but a guy can dream, can’t he? And what’s the worst that could happen? Oh yeah, a rejection letter. But if you’re willing to face that as an option, then hey, go for it, I guess. Which I did.

While working on and sending off the applications, I got an invite from UC-Boulder to come out for the weekend and attend a Prospective Grad Students’ Weekend there. They offered free food, activities, and the normal grad-school-visit stuff. The only big expenses would be flight/hotel, and when I presented my parents with this option, they said, “why not?” So off I was to Colorado for the weekend, a state I’d never been to before and haven’t been to since. It was early spring, so it was gorgeous up there in the mountains – I had a great time, made good friends with some of the professors and students, and generally enjoyed myself. I even pictured myself living in Colorado. Upon leaving, I was taking a walk with a professor when I asked her (kind of bluntly) if she thought I could get in, and she seemed pretty positive about it, so I left Boulder with a good taste in my mouth.

Then the rejection letter came a few weeks later. For some reason, it wasn’t that upsetting – at least I had a great time there, and I had bigger fish to fry. Speaking of…

One day in March, THE EMAIL CAME. It was THE YALE EMAIL. To summarize, it basically summoned me up to New Haven for a day for a round of interviews. My dad said “whoopee!” and off to New Haven we went. I was so nervous about it I actually called up a professor of mine a few days before to ask some preliminary questions, and even practiced some jokes and read-up on early American theatre, for some odd reason. Of course, the day we were supposed to go, an electrical storm knocked out Philadelphia and our train got canceled, so instead, we took a later train. We still got there, but with barely a moment to breathe before I had to head out to get interviewed by SEVEN PEOPLE. At the SAME TIME. And of course, me being a clumsy idiot, about a block before the building, I slipped and fell on the ice, resulting in a bloodied right hand. What hurt even more was I was talking to my friend DeDe at the time, planning to meet up later for dinner, and then WHOMP.

Fortunately, the building had a first-aid kit, so with minor bandaging, I entered the interview room and got pelted with questions. I had them laughing a few times, and I thought that I did an OK job. While I was in the room, Dad found out that out of about 50 applicants, they’d only summoned the top 15 to New Haven for a mere 5 spots, so that made him (and me) feel pretty special. Later that night, we met up with DeDe, Yaakov, and their adorable baby (who is a big brother as of last week – congrats guys!) during which DeDe had an awesome spit take with her hot chocolate where she almost died. Then, Dad and I saw The Piano Lesson at the University Theatre, then I went out with DeDe once again for a trivia night, which we won (because my team ALWAYS wins), and then went home the next day. Still no word from Iowa.

The next email I got from Yale was…a rejection letter. Boo. But hey, at least I can tell my grandchildren that I almost got into Yale.

Never mind that not one but TWO of my cousins applied, got in, and actually went to Yale…but that’s beside the point.

And then, there was Iowa. I know they only had 2 spots available in their program, and I hadn’t heard, so I called to see what was up. They apologized for waiting so long to get back to me, but then I got the shocking news that they had made two offers…but that I was still in the running.

What?

Yay!

Apparently, they’d had a lot of applicants and a really tough time making decisions, and I made it through the final round of cuts to be put on the waiting list, and in fact, was the top alternate on the wait list, and they’d already sent rejections to everyone else but me. I don’t know how true this was or if they were just saying this to make me feel better, but we did speak about it by phone and email, so I’m pretty sure it was sincere. They told me to wait just one more week, because if one of the two offers declined, the spot would be mine, and they said that that situation has occurred before.

So I waited a week…

And it didn’t happen. REJECTION. They did, however, tell me to reapply and that I’d probably get in, but due to funding, they weren’t sure if they were going to accept a new class until Fall 2013, if I was willing to wait. DOUBLE REJECTION.

And that’s how I didn’t get into graduate school.

But wait…what? The title of this post is how I GOT into graduate school, not how I DIDN’T GET into graduate school!

That’s a story for another time, possibly tomorrow, or possibly in a few days. But it has a (sort of?) happy ending, so don’t despair, Pooh Bear. I just made that up, and I’m totally using it in conversation tomorrow.

Will the Brady Bunch get out of that old west prison? Will Rachel marry Joey instead of Ross? Will we ever find out who shot J. R.?

Cliffhanger…