Sunday, August 05, 2007


I pride myself on my ability to pack light. Compared to Spesh, who can go to Canada for two weeks with a tiny backpack, I'm an amateur. But for a middle-class American, I'm a pro. I went to Israel this year with a medium-sized rolling suitcase and a small backpack. In the old days, I could have carried on the suitcase, but this trip allowed only one piece of "hand baggage" on the plane. Still, with these two pieces, I was relatively mobile. My backpack was big enough to hold my computer and other on-plane necessities. The computer could go in the big bag for in-country travel and I could have a light, easy to carry around-town bag. The system worked.

Where I failed though, was in my clothing choices. I had three items I never wore (two shirts and a sweater) and more that I only wore once. That's a disaster. I completely misjudged my clothing needs. Of course, I had to dress for two completely different environments: the ultra-orthodox enclave of my brother and the contemporary world. I'd decided that in neither world would shorts be acceptable attire, so I packed none. That was a fine choice. My slacks, dress and skirt got a reasonable work out. It was the tops that I planned incorrectly. That sweater? What a joke. It was much too warm to ever consider wearing it, even though it's cotton. The long-sleeved tee was for sleeping if it got cool. It never got cool. I could have used another sleeping tee and some lightweight long sleeves. Oh, and fewer pairs of tights. More knee-highs. Lord knows how anyone could ever wear hose in that heat.

Oh, and when you buy a dress a size too small, expect to be slightly uncomfortable the entire time you wear it, especially while seated and especially if wearing a shirt underneath it. I felt slightly ridiculous in my dress, which is lovely but snug. It probably didn't look ridiculous, but I didn't fit in. It's very hard to match the dressing customs of this crowd. The basic rules: covered up to the collarbone, skirts and dresses with hems ten centimeters below the knee and sleeves below the elbow. (And only skirts or dresses for the women.) So what if it's almost 100 degrees? Keep covered! Whew. Makes me hot just thinking about it.

The other thing I brought on this trip was a plastic water bottle. I was curious to see if I could bring an empty bottle through security. Turns out you can. What's the point? After you get to the gate, you can fill it up at a water fountain and take it on the plane. However, make sure you empty it before transferring to the next flight because you'll probably pass through another security checkpoint. I drank my water before getting to my checkpoint and was able to keep the bottle. On my way back, the bottle raised no eyebrows in Tel Aviv. In Heathrow, where I changed planes, I overheard the security folks discussing whether or not it was empty but they didn't say anything to me and the bottle got through. There you go--a practical tip for the next time you fly.

Jet lag is a funny thing. For the last three nights, around 8:30pm I get very, very sleepy (that's about 3:30am Israel time). I fight to stay awake. As it approaches bedtime, I start to wake up (11pm here is 6am in Israel). I've been taking a pill every night to make sure I'm good and sleepy by 11pm. Falling asleep has been easy but I wake up around 4am, even though the room is totally dark. I sort of fall asleep again, but not deeply. I hope I get another hour or two of sleep tonight or work tomorrow won't be much fun. Heh. Who am I kidding? Nothing would make the first day back fun, but it would be good to stay awake. Hell, I might even make it to the gym. Hmm, probably not--maybe I'll walk to work instead. That's the ticket.

Grateful for: adjusting.

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