Ok, great questions! This is going to be fun for me...hope it is for you too.
Let’s start with a very vital question.
Is there McDonald's in Israel?
Yes. Where is there NOT a McDonald’s? Ok, maybe some remote rainforest village. We have only eaten there I think three times in the five months we have been here. Why eat McDonald’s when there is so much good Israeli food such as falafel!!
Have you found that you eat more fresh produce there?
Absolutely! For one thing, Israelis eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, even the children. Even when you go to a restaurant they serve a lot of vegetables in their dishes. Fruit is a whole different matter though. Israel does not import any fruits! They don't need to. I think that is really amazing. I’m not so sure about vegetables but I think most of what you buy here is grown here. And let me tell you, the fruit here tastes so much better than back home. I don’t know what it is but it is just better. Could it be that it’s grown in the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey? I think so. It’s what we like to call “prophetic fruit”.
How is ice cream viewed?
Ice cream is big over here. They have a lot of it in the grocery stores. They also have a lot of little ice cream shops all over. There is a lot of gelato too. Plus in the little kiosks they all have a separate freezer full of ice cream bars, pop-cycles, and little tiny containers of Haagen-Dazs that even include a tiny little spoon. Israelis love ice cream.
Does anyone speak English?
Yes. Most people speak at least a little English. The older generation not so much but the younger generation grew up learning English in school. You could live here and never learn Hebrew, but that would get old after a while and you would not be truly integrated into society.
What are the public restrooms like?
This depends on where you are. In nicer restaurants they are not too bad, usually pretty clean though not always stocked with toilet paper. However, let’s just say the seats are usually not so clean. I don’t do a lot of sitting. They don’t have them in most stores, even grocery stores because space is limited. However, if they do have them, I choose to go home. Enough said. There are a few public restrooms I know of in the Old City. They hardly ever have toilet paper but aren’t usually too dirty. I learned on my first trip to Israel to always have a roll of toilet paper on me, and hand sanitizer because there usually is not soap. Oh, and you hardly ever find paper towels.
What’s the weather like right now? Has it been how you expected it to be?
The weather this past week has actually been very stormy; cold, cloudy, rain, sleet, hail, very fast wind and snow in some parts of the country. But today the clouds are not so thick and the sun is shining a little more which is very nice. I originally did not bring my heavy winter coat because I really did not think I would need it. When my parents came to visit in the beginning of December they brought it over for me along with my scarf and mittens. Man, am I glad they did! I have needed those this week. However, on most days I just wear my lighter weight coat because most days are sunny and nice, chilly, but not cold. It’s more like having a really long Oklahoma fall with a few cold days here and there. I love it because fall and spring are my favorite seasons. However, I did not bring enough long sleeve shirts of sweaters because I’m a goof and thought “Well, it’s the Mediterranean. How cold could it get?” Lesson learned.
Now that you've been there for a few months, do you think you could give someone directions if you were asked? (Never mind a possible language barrier - this is assuming you understand them and they understand you.)
Sometimes. I have been able to do this on a few occasions but a lot of times people ask about small streets that I don’t know. I mostly stay on the beaten path and therefore don’t know a lot of back streets or neighborhood streets. I have been able to understand some people when the speak to me in Hebrew and this is really thrilling for me!
Is there country music?
Brent says, "Tell them yes. But which country are they talking about?" I have never heard American country music playing anywhere here.
Are there any movie theaters/video rental places?
Yes, both. Brent and I have been to see one movie since we have been here. It costs the same as back home. However, when you buy your ticket you get assigned seats. That was a little strange for us. There is also a really cool theater called Cinema City that we want to go to. They have what’s called the V.I.P. room. It costs about 120 shekels per person, which is about $30 per person which is a bit expensive, but listen to what you get. They have a buffet with all you can eat. I think it’s mostly what we would think of as finger foods but who doesn’t like finger foods. You can also drink whatever you want, pop, juice, beer, wine, champagne, etc. And you get to sit in comfy recliner type chairs! One of these days we are going to splurge and go indulge, when they have a good movie playing in the V.I.P. room.
They also have rental places here. There is even Blockbuster! We haven’t done this yet. I just borrow movies from my friend Kirsten.
Is it clean?
Well, sort of. I wouldn’t say it’s dirty. It’s not pristine. There is trash on the sidewalks some of the time and people sometimes don’t clean up after the dogs but it’s not filthy.
Where is your favorite place to sit and people watch, and why?
Really, and this is not a cop-out answer, I could sit anywhere here and people watch. I will say that one of the more interesting places to sit is on the beach or on the Tayelet (boardwalk). Of course this is more true in the summer time when more people are there. I love going to the Tel Aviv Port to people watch because there are a lot of families out and about and lots of children, adorable, beautiful children with gorgeous dark hair and eyes. It's also fun to sit in the sidewalk cafes and watch the people going by. There is such diversity here and that is interesting to see. They are also very social here. One of my favorite things to see is a group of "mature" men having coffee or lunch together. I think they are down right adorable. I always want to take their pictures but never do, I'm a little nervous they will think I'm some kind of weirdo. Maybe I am. Anyway, what was I talking about. Oh, people watching. There is always someone to see as there are always people out and about; families, groups of teenagers, mature adults and they are all fun to observe.
What surprised you about living there that was different from visiting?
Cooking!! When we visit we stay in hotels and kibutz and eat there. I didn't realize what a challenge it would be to cook. A lot of recipes I use are from Pampered Chef. These recipes call for pre-made ingredients such as canned biscuits or cresent rolls, canned soups and broth, Bisquick and large jars or cans of spaghetti sauce. They also use very American ingredients such as cheddar cheese or Velveeta. When we first got here and I tried to come up with things to cook I kept running into brick walls. I emailed my Mom and asked her to send me recipes from older cookbooks such as the big red Betty Crocker cookbook most Mom's have. Since then I have learned to be creative. I have even come up with some pretty good recipes. An Israeli friend gave me a good and simple recipe for spaghetti sauce when we first got here. After a few weeks Brent began to plead with me to not cook anymore pasta!! When you got a good thing going why do something different? Well, so I got brave. I started searching the FoodNetwork website and adapting the recipes to ingredients I knew I could find here. It's worked out well and know I'm cooking all kinds of stuff.
Thanks everyone for your questions. If you think of any more send them my way and I will answer them as we go. I'll also try to get some more pictures up soon. I've been cleaning the apartment today in between answering your fabulous questions, so that I can post pictures of it for you to see. Until then, blessings!