The Australian Honesty Box

By Ilan Manor

Following my three year mandatory service in the IDF, I began making plans for the “big trip” abroad. The post military “world tour” has turned into an Israeli rite of passage, with each generation spreading its wings further than its predecessor. While my older brother’s generation set sail for the USA, my friends and I set our eyes on the crystal blue waters of Cuba, Central America and South America.

Choosing a companion for an intensive trip abroad is a daunting task seeing as how you are about to spend several weeks or even months together. Some of my friends resorted to making lists of possible candidates, “buddy lists”, while others went as far as to hold open auditions.

Luckily, I was not burdened with such procedures as I knew the identity of my Friday from the day we met some three years prior to the trip. His name was Elad and he was not only one of my closest friends but also someone who shared my passion for experiencing all that the world had to offer. In other words, he was willing to splurge on an open worldwide plane ticket that would take us from Tel Aviv to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the northern parts of Sweden.

On a rainy Monday afternoon in 2006, I met up with Elad at Ben Gurion International Airport. After parting from our tearful and hysterical Jewish mothers we put our seatbacks in an upwards position, turned off all electronic and mobile devices and took off on Frost’s road less traveled.

Continue reading

The Pretenders

Excerpt From The Venice Experiment- A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad

by Barry Frangipane with Ben Robbins

In our first few months of living with a new language and culture in Venice, the hardest part of communicating with the people around us was our pride. We found ourselves pointing, gesturing, and holding up a map while nodding or shaking our heads. The few words we knew were hard to pronounce correctly, so out of fear of embarrassment, we didn’t even try.

We pretended to blend in.

The guidebooks didn’t help, making claims like “You don’t need to know how to speak Italian” or “Everyone speaks English.” At the most basic level, for example, if you were a weekend tourist, it was true. You could survive without saying much and get by ordering in many restaurants without much knowledge of the local language. Service workers were trained in at least the basics of the “traveler’s English.” Simple phrases, such as “Where is the bathroom?”, “Two nights for two people,” and “Three scoops of vanilla ice cream, please” were generally understood. Of course, when they did respond, we didn’t understand their answers anyway. In Italy at least, locals had learned to be patient, for the most part, as American visitors repeated their requests over and over, each time louder and more slowly, as though that would make English immediately more understandable.

When attempting to buy maple syrup, I drew a picture of a tree with a cup next to one of the branches. “Sciroppo?” the shopkeeper guessed. “Sciroppo d’acero?” he continued the guessing game. “No, we don’t have it.”

Our first weeks in Venice were filled with frustrating encounters in stores while trying to buy items such as a sifter, flyswatter, yeast, food processor, corn starch, and duct tape. Such items were difficult, or in some cases impossible to find, and the words we knew them by were not in the typical shopkeeper’s English vocabulary. It was humbling, tiring, and more than a little disheartening to come home empty-handed after playing an hour-long game of charades with a store clerk.

To truly become Venetians, it was clear we would need a much broader vocabulary. My own Italian had matured enough that I could converse with my neighbors about many everyday topics—the weather, the high water forecast, and the vaporetto delays, so long as it was in the present tense. My wife Debbie was learning, too, but we both had a long way to go.

Continue reading

Busses and Brothels

By Kris Arndt

‘Noel’ he said as he placed his hand on my thigh. I looked at him surprised and then pointedly at his hand, which he gingerly removed, his eyes no longer able to meet mine. A handsome man in his forties he ran his fingers through his hair and laughed nervously in rich baritone. I had heard that the men in the north are more macho. Brazilian women further south warned me that they see women only in terms of sexual gratification or reproduction and that they generally aren’t too keen about the latter. Even so, I was not expecting the bus driver to make a pass at me in a roadside restaurant called Mr.Ping.

It was 24 hours into a 36 hour, 2000km, bus ride from Brasilia to Belém. I had dragged myself out of the bus seat doing a good impression of a broken concertina. Caught for 24 hours between a teenager who liked to sing aloud to herself while perusing the bible and a lady who spent most of her time propping herself up on the back of my seat. She seemed to enjoy whacking me on the head occasionally, until I put the seat back to go to sleep, to which she took offence, and told me off in portuguese. I replied I didn’t understand (sometimes playing the dumb foreigner is an asset). Incensed, and to my amusement, she stomped to the other end of the bus to give me vengeful looks for the rest of the journey.

The reason I was surprised at Noel, having been forewarned, was that being on a bus for such a long time with no air conditioning or toilet leads to general greasiness and to smelling more of muck than roses. I supposed this must be the state of most of the women he chases if he uses his work as an opportunity to get laid. A Toulouse Lautrec of the brazilian bus system, reveling in women’s more natural fragrances and pseudo post coital griminess. Artisan of the steering wheel and suicidal overtaker, unlike Toulouse, he was tall and sober which is how I left him when we got to the bus station at Belém.

The problem was that we arrived at 3.00 am. We were supposed to arrive at 8.00am. At 8.00 all the buses would have been working, the hostels would have been open and the streets and their decaying houses would not have been deserted. With warnings of ‘peligroso, peligroso’ (dangerous) in my ears like the rhythmic snore of a narcoleptic city, I found a taxi driver who assured me we would find an open hostel. We did not. To be fair he was good about it, drove me to several with no success, and didn’t rip me off, or try to touch me. (Maybe 31 hours is too well marinated even for northern brazilians or maybe it was the Jesus bumper sticker).

We pulled up outside a hotel near the dock where a man stood in the green glowing half-light behind some security gates. After a slightly panicked discussion on behalf of the taxi driver the guy agreed to let me and my bags sit behind the gates until the city was kicked awake by the wet heat of the sun.

The man, typical in his northern brazilian fashion for going around with your t-shirt hiked up to your shoulders, sat reading a paper, resting it on the curve of his stomach, as a cat snuck in under the gate. The smell of urine permeated the lobby from the pavement and a hooker stopped by to ask for a light. Then another. Then another came up for a longer conversation. Eventually it dawned on me that there must be a back entrance to the hotel which was operating as a brothel. A cockroach crept out from under the counter, sheen and curious, waving it’s antennae and disappeared again as the round-bellied prostitutes walked by. One woman with a customer turned the corner to the back. She reappeared alone about ten minutes later hopping on one leg.

The man (or pimp) set about trying to extract some money from me. He wanted me to rent a room for 5 hours for $R50. I told him I didn’t understand (sometimes playing the dumb foreigner is an asset). Frustrated, he gave up. I wasn’t about to leave my bags, fall asleep, or take a shower until I’d found somewhere less red light district.

I sat there until 8.00am being eaten by mosquitoes and stared at by cockroaches. The pimp left for the bakery and locked me in. A woman came down to set up for coffee and unlocked the gate. I took my chance and my bags before the guy came back to try to separate me from my money with another rent by the hour offer.

Eventually, trudging around the streets with my bags through the skin melting humidity, over the broken pavements, passing the once grand houses of the rubber boom I made it to a hostel. I asked the guy at reception if he had a bed. ‘No’ he answered as I looked at him in despair after 5 hours in a brothel, 31 hours in a bus, and 2000km. ‘Only joking’ he said.

Kris Arndt is a Writer and odd-jobber living hand to mouth Kerouac style. It was Camus and a love of all things Beat which lead her to take to the road indefinitely. Read more at http://absurdtraveler.blogspot.co.il/

California Dreaming- Part Two

By Sylvie Barak

Soon after we moved to America, we begun seeking human interaction. Of Course making new friends necessitates technology that allows you to contact or be contacted by others. Thus, we had to buy ourselves some mobile phones, or “cell phones” as they call them here – as if the device is just supposed to sprout out of your ear skin or something.

After extensive enquiries about which phone company to opt for, we realised it was a case of  “choose your own poison” and not a choice between “lesser evils”. So we went with T-Mobile because they supported foreign bought Blackberries and, unlike the hilarious comedians at AT&T, didn’t ask for a $500 (!) deposit given our lack of a Social Security number.

Being without a Social Security number in America is much like being a child molesting leper with AIDS. One soon finds himself treated like a disgusting criminal that no one wants to be around as he might infect others with his putrid anti-social-ness. Plus, there is no cure in sight for this disease. Now back to T-Mobile and the craziness of US cell coverage plans.

If you’ve ever wondered why Americans are so insufferably loud, then T-Mobile may provide the answer. Aside from Yanks needing to shout (or “holler”) so listeners on the other end might actually be able to hear one word out of every five that make it through the incredibly crappy third world like signal, the other reason may be so that they can hear each other cross country, without having to use the bloody mobile phone at all.

Continue reading

California Dreaming- Part One

By Sylvie Barak

“I like to be in America, okay by me in America, everything free in America…for a small fee in America!” (West Side Story, 1961)

It’s been a week and a half since Ohad and I started living the American dream and, after pushing the snooze button every other day this week, I’ve finally decided to wake up, rub my crusty eyes and write a few lines about our experiences thus far.

After three luxurious nights at our friend Roy’s house – including an airport Porsche Cayenne pick up (thanks Claire!) and a mouth watering pasta cook-off (thanks Mike and Tina!) – we reluctantly packed up our meager possessions (all four suitcases of them) and schlepped them over to our humble and empty new abode. Over the course of the next week, however, we not-so-slowly-and very surely proceeded to fill the apartment, not just with lots of shiny new stuff, but also with the hundreds of boxes, bubble wraps and plastic bags our new possessions came smothered in.

For two people now no longer homeless, we sure have plenty of cardboard boxes.

Single-handedly Boosting the American Economy

In a valiant attempt to drag the world out of the present economic recession and integrate ourselves into our new society, Ohad and I deemed it appropriate to buy as much “stuff” (SEE: Random crap we may or may not need) as was humanly possible; even managing to max out Ohad’s new Stanford debit card. Not to worry though! When one of our means of credit got crunched, we simply continued our frenzied spending spree on my new card. Continue reading

The Ringer

By Jennifer Williams

 

At low tide, the white sands of Mombasa’s northern beaches stretch nearly half a mile out to sea. The shore is framed by palm trees, run-down hotel buildings, and wooden stalls selling fried cassava chips and cold Coca-Cola; in the distance, the vivid blue of the Indian Ocean is flecked with the faded colors of tiny fishing boats anchored in the shallow water.

In my hometown of San Diego, California, a beach of this size would be crawling with toddlers in floppy hats, skinny girls in skinnier bikinis turning on their towels like meat on a spit, and hairy men dozing in bright trunks. In Kenya, the girls are fully covered and the men play soccer.

Continue reading

Why did you move here? Are you crazy?

By Raffe Gold

I had been to Israel several times before. But not like this.

There’s a substantial difference between visiting a country as a tourist and moving as a citizen. It brings with it extra pressures, panic attacks and a constant doubting of oneself when you’re making the flight over. The worst part about coming from Australia is that the flight over is around 24 hours. You literally spend every single nano-second of those 24 hours in a constant flux of emotions ranging from fear to excitement. Also…the food is terrible. I landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on January 31st at 12:07am and then the reality that is Israel hit me. Bureaucracy. The Misrad Hapnim at the airport was a disaster. I presented my aliyah visa to the security guard and the question he asked would be the question so many Israelis would ask me in the future:

“Why did you decide to make Aliyah? Are you crazy?”

That seems to have been the standard reaction from everyone that I tell I made aliyah: incredulity.   

I have plenty of funny and amusing stories about my (extreme) lack of Hebrew. There was the time that I worked in the plastics factory whilst on ulpan and, having just learnt the past tenses, I shouted ‘GAMARTI’ at my boss under the impression that I was simply shouting ‘I finished’. The entire room stopped, stared and then proceeded to burst out laughing. I was told by a friend later that whilst it is a direct translation for ‘I finished’ it is more of a slang term for having…ehrm…‘finished’…in sex. Needless to say I made a real mess (haha) of my short time in the plastics factory.

Since arriving here, I’ve experienced the soaring highs and the devastating lows of aliyah. I’ve made friends, been stalked, participated in a massive nude photograph at the Dead Sea and been ‘adopted’ by an amazing family. It has been quite a year and a half. When I was having difficulty writing this post I reached out to friends on Twitter and many chimed in with their experiences of aliyah. I found that there were many common threads. Whilst a lot of Israelis speak English (with their stereotypical ‘ehhhhhhh’ in the middle of every sentence) I miss being able to eavesdrop on phone conversations when I’m sitting on the bus. Maybe in a past life I was a spy but it’s depressing not being able to know everything about everyone around me. Because of this I seize every opportunity I can to sit near an anglo just to get a glimpse of their life-story.

As an Australian I’m proud of growing up in a country that has truly personified the ideal of ‘no worries’. It has helped me adapt to the Israeli mentality of ‘yi-hi-ye beseder’ or ‘it’ll all be cool’. It is this that has always astounded me about Israelis and was one of the reasons that I wanted to become one.

 

Raffe Gold is a politics major that works in social media. He is currently writing a book about the role that social media plays in revolutions.

Rocking my inner Israeli Ke$ha

By Sarah Tuttle-Singer

About a year ago, I started highlighting my hair, wearing skinny jeans, and painting my nails black.

“What, you think you’re Ke$ha all of a sudden?” my ex asked while he watched me fasten my stripper stilettos — the ones with the seven inch heels.

I feigned indignation. But as visions of brushing my teeth with a bottle of Jack flitted through my mind, I was secretly thrilled.

Edgy and raunchy sounded good to me. A little dangerous, a little chaotic… why not? (Never mind that you won’t catch me dead in a halter top because after two back-to-back pregnancies and breastfeeding for three years, my boobs are intimately acquainted with my belly button. But still.) There is part of me that wants to wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy and fight until she sees the sunlight.

Continue reading

Suits and Bunny Outfits in Tokyo

By Iris Finkelstein-Sagi

I landed in Narita airport for the first time with about $300 in my money pouch, wearing a hideous hot pink Gucci knock-off skirt suit and carrying an immense backpack which I’d halfheartedly shaken before leaving my cozy Bangkok guesthouse in an effort to find any and all remnants of illegal substances that may have accumulated there during the six months of backpacking I’d done in Thailand, China and Vietnam.

The suit, I’d had tailor-made for maybe 200 baht at one of the Khao-san road shops, along with another white Dior knock-off and a black pantsuit made from real imitation Chinese silk. I’d heard that it was advisable to look respectable when entering Japan and that the suits would also come in handy at the hostess jobs I was aiming for. Yes.

As I smugly handed my American passport over to the immigration official, I looked over at Hila, my friend who regrettably had only an Israeli passport to show. We’d heard horror stories about Israelis being denied access to Japan and detained in holding cells at Narita, which is why we’d made the completely naïve effort to look like businesswomen. Israelis were notorious for working illegally in Japan, mostly selling pictures and jewelry on the streets. “Of course we have a place to stay in Tokyo” we told the immigration guy. No, we’re not planning on working, why would you think that!” we cried with mock horror. “We’re just so interested in Japanese culture”…

Hila and I were high-school friends. We’d both been travelling with our now-defunct boyfriends,
Hila in India and me all over South East Asia. After lamenting our respective romantic mishaps,
we’d met up in Bangkok, mostly broke, and instead of heading back home to our awaiting
family, university entrance exams and such, we decided to hightail it to Tokyo, the “Promised
Yen”. We were high on naiveté, low on fashion-sense and ready for adventure, new romances
and fun!

After politely Domo Arigato’ing the immigration guy (we’d cleverly memorized a few Japanese
catch phrases in advance), we figured out the complicated trains map and ticket machines
and dragged our backpacks onto the Tokyo bound train, clutching the card with the name
and address of the Israeli guesthouse we’d been recommended. This guesthouse was our first
encounter with Japanese living. It was crowded, sleazy, the futons were lumpy, the shower had
a ten yen slot for hot water, the train station was a 30 minute walk, and the trains stopped at
midnight which meant the threat of being stranded in central Tokyo was imminent.

But.

The Israelis running the guesthouse had seen me and Hila a thousand times before. They knew
exactly how to get us over our “Tokyo shock”, into our nice suits and out on the streets of Ginza
and Roppongi as fast as possible, looking for a hostess gig. And yes, this was almost as sleazy as
it sounds.

And so, before we knew it, we were ensconced in a respectable club, wearing our Gucci knock-
offs every day and sipping Bacardi-colas while pretending to listen to Japanese salarymen

in identical gray suits. By this time we’d moved out of the guest house and into a house in
Harajuku that we shared with 5 other girls, we were exploring the city and learning the lingo.

This is how we learned that in Japan you can take any word in English, slap on a vowel at the
end, put on an exaggerated Italian accent and the natives will magically understand you!
After many attempts to guide our taxi driver with “Hidari!” and “Migi!” we resorted to “lefto”
and “righto” which worked much better. My name was “Ailisu”, Hila was “Hila-chan” and we
were “Genki” ALL the time.

BUT. We were bored. Bored with the respectable nightclub in the business sector, bored
with our suits and bacardis, bored with shouting out at the top of our voices “Domo Arigato
Gozaimashta” whenever a customer came in or left the club, bored with our OK salaries. We
wanted action, parties, cute guys, nightclubs and more money. And so when we heard about
a fabulous new casino opening up in the center of Roppongi we said “Sayonara” to our suits
and “Ohaiyou Gozaimasu” to our new sleazy bunny lingerie outfits, which we happily pulled on
every night, convincing ourselves that although we were young, we knew how to watch out for
ourselves and we were going to have FUN damn it!

And FUN we had. We were in the epicenter of the most happening nightclub/casino in
Tokyo, waltzing around in our bunny tails serving cheap, watered down whiskey to strung-up
international businessmen who spent most of the time ogling the French topless dancers. Yes,
we had definitely left respectable behind. The staff was a mix of bunny girls (Jenny and Kate
from the UK, Masha from Yugoslavia, Sam from a commune in the US) and cute bartenders (Ben
from Wales, Martin from New Zealand). We downed cocktail after cocktail, made small talk with
the customers, flirted with the bartenders and went partying after work, well into the morning.

We had arrived.

We got to dance, drink, talk and generally have a good time while getting paid a $h*tload of
money (at least by our poor, backpackers standards), and do all this in the glamorous, neon
filled, noisy chatter of Tokyo’s nightlife scene.

On Sundays, our day off, we’d explore Tokyo, imitating Japanese girlie fashion on the streets
of Harajuku, getting lost in the train station of Akihabara and gazing up in wonder at the giant
billboards in Shinjuku. And still, to me, Tokyo always felt like an imitation of a “real” city. Partly
because of the vaguely unreal life I was leading there, but also because I kept comparing it to
New York, my hometown. New York always felt substantial, grounded. The buildings were made
of stone and they were huge and tall. Tokyo by comparison seemed fragile, slippery, flashy and
insubstantial. The buildings strove to fabricate Tokyo into a metropolis but to me it felt like a
Playmobile city, as if it could all be wiped away by a good wind.

And when our three months visas were over, we took a weekend trip to Seoul (the usual and
cheapest route for Israelis who wanted to renew their visas). And when we landed at Narita
this time, I passed immigration and waited on the other side for five hours until I finally had to accept the fact that Hila had been detained and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. And while I was already back in my bunny outfit, Hila spent a day in a holding cell and was unceremoniously placed on a plane back to Bangkok. This fact by the way, did absolutely nothing to stop both Hila and myself from returning to Japan several times afterwards to make some quick cash that got us across Nepal and all of India, with change to spare for (finally) university back in Israel.

And even though twenty years have passed, coming into Japan on a business trip, I still get a
hint of nervousness when I hand over my passport at Narita Immigration (will they let me in?).
And looking out from my hotel window at the (truly fantastic) Tokyo cityscape, I say “yep, still
Playmobile city”.

Iris is a 41 year old mom of three (awesome) kids: The (Princess (12.5), the Tsunami (8+) and the Hurricane (2.5). She’s a design lover, cook, baker, eater, fashionista, bookworm, obsessor, rebel, kickboxer, ace Powerpointer, Photoshop expert, grammar freak, INSEAD MBA grad, writer and museum lover. Check out her latest book project here.  

English Tea

By Aryeh Myers

Aryeh Myers is a sleepless paramedic and frustrated writer who has just returned to Israel after ten years in London working for the ambulance service. Also the author of InsomniacMedic.com.  This post originally appeared here.  


The first call of the shift was a transfer into town, to one of the big central London hospitals. Working out in the suburbs may not have held the same glamour as working in London’s West End or City district, but it brought its own challenges too. If the truth be told, I preferred it that way. The relatively infrequent jaunts into town, either through transfers such as this one, or just through the luck of the dice and the “You are the nearest” software, meant that I could still be a tourist in my own city. Travelling across Tower Bridge, driving along the Embankment, around Parliament Square and past the Palace of Westminster always held a sense of occasion if you didn’t do it all too often. It was also usually accompanied by a feeling of being a long, long way from home and the realisation that for the next few hours, the names of the streets we would be called to would be totally unfamiliar.

“You ready?” I asked Mike, my partner and chauffeur for the day.

“Ready. Let’s get lost.”

It was early evening in very early spring, when the mornings were frosty and the temperature gauge had a range of about two degrees over an entire twenty-four hour period and always struggled to head into positive figures. The streets were a mass of people, all huddled into their coats, hats and scarves, busily heading home, or to the theatre, or to continue their day-to-day lives. We were both in fleeces and I was wearing the green winter hat that made me look like a cross between a bin man and a garden gnome who had lost his fishing rod.

No more than three seconds passed between me pressing the green button and the next call appearing on the screen.

Exhibition Road, SW7. Main entrance, Science Museum.

I was like a kid in a sweet shop. The Science Museum is without doubt one of my favourite places in all of London. I used to skip school sometimes to visit it, hopping on the Underground and heading across town, only once being challenged at the entrance as to my reasons for being there rather than at my educational establishment.

“I’m doing research for a project,” was my instant answer.

“What project might that be?” asked the security guard, each word dripping with sarcasm and disbelief.

“A science project, obviously!”

With that, he gave up and let me in.

“The Science Museum!” I said to Mike. Brilliant. I hope it’s either a no-show or just another tourist wanting a check up. Then we can have a wander round!”

Mike looked less than impressed.

“I don’t DO museums. Boring places.”

“Boring mind, more like.”

“Whatever.”

A security guard met us at the entrance. I wanted to believe he was the same one who stopped me all those years ago, but somehow I doubted it and I certainly couldn’t remember for sure.

“How good’s your French?” he asked.

“Worse than my Cantonese. And Mike here can barely do English.”

It earned me a punch on the arm and a filthy look. It was worth it.

“Oh well, you’ll have to get by somehow. She tripped down a couple of steps and can’t move. Think she’s done her ankle.”

The two girls sat together, one of them, Deb, in obvious discomfort. They were heading out of the museum as closing time approached when the accident happened. Both were wrapped up in layers to defeat the English cold. Deb’s English was even worse than my French. I had to drag up memories of an unhappy term in the first year of high school just to remember how to ask for her name and age. When she told me, I still didn’t understand. I could never count past ten. She held both my hands, made me show all ten fingers, then added nine of her own. Her friend, Lara, was a little more communicative, but every English word was followed by a stream of a dozen more in French.

One look at her ankle told us all we needed to know at that point. Mike went back to the ambulance to bring some pain relief and a splint, whilst I continued to play charades in a failed attempt to explain what we needed to do. When the entonox arrived, just my demonstration of how to use it seemed to work better than the pain-killing, giggle-inducing gas itself, making both girls laugh at my acting skills.

Eventually, we removed her shoe, placed the splint and wheeled Deb into the ambulance on the trolley bed that Mike had brought back with him. The one-legged dance we did to get her from the floor to the bed was yet more cause for smiles, Mike humming some tune to help us along and despite the lack of verbal communication.

The heater in the ambulance worked for a change and we convinced Deb that she needed to take her two coats off so that we could get to her arm and check her blood pressure. Each coat was handed to Lara who was constantly talking to Deb at speed that seemed to exceed that of sound itself. Perhaps it was just the fact that I didn’t understand a word of it. Under the second coat was a fleece and as she unzipped it, a necklace appeared. A plain gold necklace with her name on it.

In Hebrew.

“You speak Hebrew?” I’m not sure who was more surprised. Mike, whose eyes were suddenly wide with a mix of shock and resignation, or Deb at the fact that I could read her necklace.

“Ken,” she replied, yes.

“And all this time I’ve been breaking my teeth trying to remember a single word of French?”

The conversation flowed from that point on. Lara and Deb and me talking about anything and everything, some of it even patient related. Mike was instantly lost, despite my attempts at translating the more relevant bits for him.

“I’ll go and drive, shall I?” his question amused and mocking in equal measure.

“Sounds like a plan. If you can ask Doris to navigate in Hebrew, that would be even better!”

I translated for the benefit of our passengers, who both laughed.

Arriving at the hospital, Deb’s luck was in, as there was a French-speaking nurse on duty. We moved her on to the hospital bed, said our goodbyes and taught Mike to do so in Hebrew.

“L’hitraot,” he said, the word tripping unnaturally off his tongue.

I met him outside after a few minutes of finishing the paperwork and him tidying the ambulance.

“Can’t speak English,” he muttered at me, handing me a steaming mug. “Here, have a cup of English tea.”

Then he said something in French. I think.