The daily grind

So as you've probably noticed, I've been posting significantly less frequently than I was when I started. This is mostly because I'm busy. The core of my program is an internship placement, which we do on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays.  It took a while for me to find an internship placement, but now that I'm in one, I don't have those days to write. On Tuesdays, we're at the Yad B'Yad integrated school, which I've discussed already, and we have various educational programs on Thursdays. In the evenings, we have language classes, chores, cultural events, house meetings, etc. On Fridays and Saturdays, we're nominally free, but it seems like I'm always traveling or attending events. I also have to leave time for independent language study, laundry, errands, and such. So not as much time to write as I used to have.

The other reason why I'm writing less frequently is that, after a few weeks of excitement at the new experience of living in Israel, I've settled into a routine. When you've settled into a routine, I think the natural tendency is to project your feelings of comfort and lack of novelty with it onto others and assume they won't be interested. I think I subconsciously assume that since I'm just going about my boring old day-to-day life, you're not going to want to read about it. So that's another reason why I've had a hard time writing lately.

With that said, I'm going to try to overcome this assumption and write a little bit about what I do at my internship placement. I mentioned earlier that I had a hard time finding one. This is because I had somewhat unrealistic expectations, I think-I came in hoping to do some legal work, but I didn't think about the fact that I would be almost useless to a legal NGO, since 1. I'm not a lawyer and 2. I don't speak Hebrew, Arabic, or any other language that people speak natively here. After some heroic efforts by my program facilitators, they eventually found me an internship placement at Kav LaOved, a large worker's rights NGO. I'm working in the development department, so I'm writing grant applications instead of heroically defending the rights of migrant workers before the Israeli Supreme Court, but I get a lot of exposure to the legal work by observing it and writing about it. I don't feel deprived at all.

There is one issue though: I live in Jerusalem, and the offices of Kav LaOved are in Tel Aviv. I was permitted to work from home one day each week, but that means I have to commute from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on Mondays and Wednesdays. The trip's about an hour and a half each way, but that's also fine. In some ways, it's great, since I get plenty of exposure to daily life in Israel, beyond the somewhat touristy center of Jerusalem where I live.

The commute starts with a quick walk to the Jerusalem Light Rail. It's politically controversial, like everything in this city, but it's very convenient.

 Boarding the train

Boarding the train

It's only a few stops to the central bus station where I catch the bus to Tel Aviv. I always seem to end up riding at the front of the train. There's a glass wall at the front that allows passengers to watch the driver at work, which I enjoy because I'm just an overgrown version of the child who made his mom take him to the Amtrak station to watch the trains.

 Not pictured: my childlike glee

Not pictured: my childlike glee

After arriving at the central bus station, it's a quick trip through a security checkpoint and up the stairs to the boarding area for the direct bus to Tel Aviv. The bus runs every 15 minutes, so I rarely have to wait. The bus seats make Megabus look comfortable, and there's no bathroom or wi-fi, but I'm usually asleep within 30 seconds of departure so it doesn't really matter.

 On the bus.

On the bus.

I wake up 40 minutes later as the bus exits the highway and pulls into the Tel Aviv central bus station. The Tel Aviv central bus station is a remarkable place: it's atrociously decrepit and remarkably unsuitable for its primary purpose, which is serving as a hub for buses, but it's become a hub of the refugee and migrant worker community in Tel Aviv. In addition to the expected coffee and falafel shops, you can walk by Filipino grocery stores and Eritrean barber shops as you make your way to the exit, and as you walk through on any given morning, it's likely that you'll hear Tigrinya, Tagalog, Thai, and Russian in addition to the expected Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

 Inside the maze-like Central Bus Station

Inside the maze-like Central Bus Station

After navigating the Central Bus Station, only a 20 minute walk through South Tel Aviv separates me from Kav LaOved. South Tel Aviv is historically and currently one of the poorest parts of Israel. In the past, it's been home to waves of Jewish immigrants from the Arab world and the former Soviet Union. Currently, it's populated by migrant workers, primarily from South and Southeast Asia, and African asylum seekers. As is usual around the world, poor neighborhoods mean stigmatized businesses. Like this shop selling bootleg porn videos, amusingly under a Na Nach banner, a symbol of Jewish piety:

Of course, in a country dominated by Jews and Muslims, pork-selling butchers qualify as stigmatized businesses:

 The Kingdom of Pork

The Kingdom of Pork

After the walk, it's a quick elevator ride into the offices of Kav LaOved. The offices are universally packed-thousands of people come every year, primarily to seek assistance in negotiating with their employers over violations of Israeli law related to wages and benefits. I find a corner in the conference room, take out my laptop, and work on grant proposals for a few hours before repeating the whole process in reverse.

See, I told you it's not that interesting.