Thursday, October 20, 2005
look out, rant ahead!
Well it seems that the powers that be do not want me to have a cellphone while I am in Israel. Three attempts have all been met with failure.

Attempt #1: Several weeks ago while in Eilat with a friend of mine he gave me an old cellphone of his that he had just lying around in his glove compartment in his car. We even went and had it activated and put $25 down on it to use. The catch was that my friend did not have the main charger with him, only the car charger. So the phone got a small charge while we were driving around but a full charge would have to wait until my friend sent me the proper charger. My friend never did. A month later I asked if he was going to send me the charger or if I should just go ahead and buy a cellphone. He never replied, so I decided I had wasted a month already and I had people in Israel I wanted to call; it was time to get my own phone.

Attempt #2: After speaking with my mother on MSN and hearing of her frustration in trying to reach me I assured her I would order a phone online with Talk N’ Save after I finished talking to her (Talk N’ Save is a company that rents phones to those traveling in Israel). Almost everyone else in the program who has a cell got it from these guys so I figured it would be the easiest. By the time I finished talking to my mother and I went on the website it was race against time as my laptop battery was almost dead and I was in a coffee house that had no available plugs. I rushed to fill out the form only to find it wouldn’t accept my “departure date for Israel” likely because it meant that I was already here. I attempted to fudge the form and change the date around but I just couldn’t figure out what the hell the form wanted from me. I wrote a scathing email to the company asking what the friggin’ problem was and then went back and downloaded the application to see if there was a way around the problem. My laptop promptly died.

Attempt #3: Upon hearing that a two of the girls were going to get new phones (to replace the ones stolen from their rooms) I decided to tag along and just go get a phone in person. That way I could get it right away! Perfect, no? Upon entering the phone store we took numbers as it was a huge store and it was *packed *. We waited 10-15 minutes and I was called up first.

I sat down with a young man whose English wasn’t too bad and explained to him that I would need a cellphone for 4 months and that I would be leaving Israel Jan 30th. He asked what I was doing in Israel for so long and I told him I was in a program, etc, etc. We made small talk for a moment and he began to go over some details with me and told of a great plan, very cheap, with a great phone. It sounded amazing and I was very excited. When he was done his sales pitch I dug a little to find out where the catch was and finally asked the right question: “There’s no contract to sign, right? Because as I said in the beginning, I am only here for another 4 months”. He said no, that every cellphone company in Israel asks for a 36 month contract. I reminded him that I had told him from the very start that I only wanted a phone for 4 months and he said they don’t rent phones out like what I was looking for. Now I was getting upset. I said, “Really? Because 2 of my friends are out in the showroom doing *just that * even was we speak”. He said it wasn’t possible, they don’t do that. Confused I went out to one of my friends, got a card with Talk N’ Saves info from her, and went back to the guy I was talking to and showed him. He said that yes, that was Talk N’ save, but not his company. I asked it was then that the girls came here and were in fact in the middle of getting new phones. He said that they work with Talk N’ Save but that Talk N’ Save provided the phone and his company (Cellcom) provided the service. Frustration, at this point, was mounting. “You mean to tell me that you guys work with Talk N’ Save but I can’t actually get a phone with them here??” Yes, he replied.

Now steaming I asked what the alternative was, because I’d be damned if I was walking out of there without a cellphone. He told me I could buy a phone outright and then pay for a monthly plan. Fine, how much is the cheapest phone? 510 shekels (about $135 CAN). Now I am really steaming. How much is the monthly plan? 15 shekels (less than $5). FINE, I said. Let’s do that. He began the paperwork, took my passport info and credit card number. He began to fill it all out on the computer when he hit a problem; my credit card isn’t Israeli, he said. Go ahead, imagine the look on my face. Of course it’s not, I replied. We will need a deposit, he told me. Here’s where I go from a polite Canadian to an angry one. “What the hell for?? I am BUYING the cellphone! You will still be charging the monthly amount to my credit card, yes?” Yes, he answered. “Then why do you need a deposit?? You take a deposit from someone in order to encourage them to return something! I will have nothing TO return!! How much is the deposit??” He excuses himself to go talk to the manager. He returns and writes down a number on the piece of paper. “My manager says normally it’s this much (he writes down 1500 shekels, almost $400 CAN) but he says I can do it for this much (and he wrote down 500 shekels, or around $131 CAN)”. I laughed in his face. “Are you kidding me?? That’s more than I am likely going to spend on the plan itself!! Do you SEE how that makes NO sense whatsoever?? WHAT WOULD I BE PAYING A DEPOSIT ON???”. He said he was sorry but that was unfortunately just the way it was. I told him that I was sorry that I was upset and that it was not directed at him so much as the absurdity of the situation and the utter frustration of not being able to get a phone in a country that has more cellphone users per capita than almost any other country in the world. I said that I was angry and frustrated that I had just wasted 40 minutes for absolutely nothing.

And there you have it. I am still without a phone. I am wondering why, WHY, am I not meant to have a phone while here?? Sorry mom, I tried. I’ll try again later, when I’m not feeling quite so homicidal.

Since I’m in a ranting kind of mood, allow me to share some annoyances about the program today. Before I do let’s just wave and say hi to the Livnot staff who are reading this and to those individuals who found my blog when looking for information about the Livnot program (I’d encourage you not to make any decisions based on this entry. Heh).

Last night the group was taken by bus to Tel Aviv to participate in a drum circle. We met with some guy, we got to bang on some drums, sing a little and even do some group primal screaming and such. A pretty cool event, for sure, but by the time we returned back to Jerusalem it was 1am. And GUESS who was on kitchen duty the next morning? Aye, that’s right… I had to get up 5.5 hours later to make breakfast for everyone (along with my other 2 kitchen mates for the day and one of the Livnot staff). I am a girl who needs her sleep so I was none too impressed with being kept out so late. *sigh* Whatever.

This morning I am downstairs bright and early to meet with my kitchen mates and the Livnot staffer to make breakfast. My kitchen mates and I head into the kitchen to assess what is available so we can decide what to make. The inventory was something like this: 5 eggs, 1 bag of milk, no fresh fruit (we often cut up a nice fruit salad), and frozen bread. Various spreads were available for the frozen bread, but that’s about it. For 25 or so people. We did also manage to find 3 little bags of oatmeal and made that as the hot part of the meal, but it wasn’t enough to feed everyone. Those who managed to get to the milk before it was gone got cold cereal.

To add to the frustration, the girl who works for Livnot did not show up to help out. This person is usually pretty essential since they know where things are, they can suggest alternate food ideas, they can maybe run out and buy needed ingredients and they keep us from ruining a kosher kitchen by mixing things up. This girl, as sweet as she is, has had a habit of sleeping in and arriving late or just not showing up at all, as one of my other kitchen mates pointed out. What especially irked me about this scenario is the fact that I got not one but TWO lectures last week from the group leaders about a hike/tour I elected to miss. I was told I have to be punctual and that attendance is mandatory (at the beginning of the program we were told we didn’t have to do anything we didn’t want to). So what of this staff member setting this example? Will she be asked repeatedly if she really wants to be in this program? Will she get two separate talks about this one incident?

In the end we managed to feed 25 people by conjuring something of a breakfast miracle. One of the other Livnot staff had shown up to pick up the slack that the first had left and we had a breakfast made up of odds and ends. I had 2 pieces of bread with some kind of cream cheese/garlic/dill spread and a small bowl of oatmeal, all washed down by the goodness of water.

Hey Livnot….. are you listening? Feed your program members! There’s nothing in the kitchen half the time we are expected to make meals! Oh, and stop asking us all the time if we want to be in the program… we paid to be here didn’t we? We have stuck it out through thick and thin for the last 6 weeks, have we not? Missing a class here and there doesn’t mean we don’t want to be here. It means we have to go outside the program to get something we need.

/end rant.