Monday, 17 December 2007

The Best Way to Learn Hebrew

Get a stubborn, provocative, touchy, too sensitive, irritable, macho Italian boyfriend who doesn't speak any english, and fight with him every day in hebrew. Great improvement will follow. On your hebrew, not on your relationship.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Lost in Translation

My new little italian friend and I only have one language in common, and it's hebrew. It's a challenge, because we get into very deep conversations, and we have to do it in hebrew. It's more of a challenge for me though, because he has been in Israel for 3 years. Sometimes, in the middle of a lively debate, we get stuck on one particular verb, and we pause the conversation and start debating about that hebrew verb, how to say it, or use it in the future tense, etc. Then we realize that we have to get back to the main debate. It's quite funny. It's even funnier when it happens in the middle of a big argument. Because yes, we already argue quite a lot, and still, in the middle of the argument, we stop and start talking about a particular hebrew verb.

It's so challenging to argue in a new language. The words that come out of your mouth have to reflect your thoughts, and sometimes you don't have enough vocabulary to express subtleties, and also, the person who listens (or actually doesn't quite listen!!!) has to understand what you wanna say. So when you do that in a language that is a new for both parties, it seems that an argument that could only take 5 minutes actually takes hours, because of the language limitations.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Tzipi Livni Ha Ha Ha!

On my way home this evening, I saw a Russian guy walking down the street, speaking to himself in russian, and who kept on repeating "Tzipi Livni, Tzipi Livni... Ha ha ha ha! Tzipi Livni, ha ha ha!"... Don't know what he was thinking, but I guess he found her hilarious.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Only on El Al - Checking Out at Check-in

Here we go again. I arrived in Tel Aviv this morning at 5am. Time has gone by so fast that it seems like I never left Tel Aviv in the first place and never went to London or Paris. As usual, I travelled with El Al, and as expected, I was in the middle of what could be a very good episode of some kind of Israeli airport sitcom.

Funny things always happen when flying El Al. Why? Because it's a Jewish airline. You know, as in Jewish mothers, or Jewish jokes, but this time, it's an airline.

London Heathrow airport, 7.30pm, high security El Al check-in area. No passengers queuing yet because it's too early. Just a religious family and me. The security staff was in a very jolly mood, which was a nice change from last time. I got asked the usual questions, but it was much more fun than usual.

Security Guy: "What is the purpose of your trip?"
Me: "To find a husband, hehehe"
SG: "Oh you want to find a husband! Maybe we can find you someone here"
Me: "He has to keep shabbat though, because I'm going to start doing that soon"
SG: "Why would you wanna do that? I don't keep shabbat"
Me: "Oh well, it will never work out between us then"
SG: "hmmm... wait, Shahar keeps shabbat"
Me: "Who's Shahar?"

Meanwhile, a security lady comes over to ask me about a piece of my luggage which hadn't been with me the whole time and which could be a threat. (It wasn't in the end)

SG (to Security Lady): "She's looking for a husband who keeps shabbat"
Security Lady: "Oh, what about Shahar?"
Me: "But who's Shahar?"
SL: " You see the security guy over there, with the white shirt? That's him. He keeps shabbat"
Me: "Oh but he lives in London, I'm thinking of staying in Israel"
SL: "No, it's ok, he's going back to live in Israel soon!"

Then, SG and SL started calling Shahar, who was all the way on the other side of the check-in area: "Shahar! Shahar!"
Me, very embarrassed: "No no, don't!!!"
Them: "Shahaaaaar!"
SL: "I'm going to talk to him"
Me: " No, don't please!"
And there she goes.
Me (to SG): "You know, I'm gonna have to write about this on my blog!"

I went to check-in and started joking around with the (very cute) guy at the check-in desk. Then, I left, saying bye to my little shiddukh friends. I tried to check out that Shahar guy, but he was busy with some passengers, so in the end I didn't get to see what he looked like from close.

Three hours later, after a good dinner, and some duty free browsing in the perfume section, smiling to myself the whole time because of the security people, it was time to board the plane. It was late and the airport was almost empty. The only people left were mostly Chinese or Jewish: the last two flights were going to Hong Kong and Tel Aviv.

I'm sitting in my seat, seatbelt fastened, waiting for take-off. The Chief flight attendant, or whatever you call him, comes up to me and goes: "Miss Worldwide?", "Yes, it's me". He gives me a little folded piece of paper. "It's from security". I open the paper. On the paper: Shahar's phone number and email address! I've never laughed so loud on a plane before.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Worldwide Sunday

Today was a typical worldwide sunday: had coffee and croissants with my Italian-Israeli friend Valentina, went to the French consulate to vote for my next president, had some authentic Japanese sushi in the park while studying my Hebrew vocabulary, then bumped into my Lebanese-Dutch friend at the organic shop, all that in London.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Shabbat-o-rama: Wing

This is the discovery of the year. Wing, a Chinese singer who emigrated to New Zealand, will perform at your bar mitzva, wedding, or retirement home, and will sing all your favorite hits, from ABBA to AC/DC. She had her own episode of South Park and reached international fame... Shabbat shalom!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Shabbat-o-rama: "Dallas"

Today, you will have the honour of discovering the French version of the opening credits of the cult 80s show "Dallas". I always thought that our version was a translation of the American one, until I moved to Canada and discovered in great astonishment, after years of ignorance, that you guys had a totally different song! I used to love that show when I was about 7 years old. I probably didn't understand anything that was going on, but knowing that JR was constantly cheating on Sue Ellen, that Bobby was a good guy, that Pamela always had nice outfits, and that Lucy was a bit of a slut, was enough for my enjoyment of the show. Actually, thinking about it now, it was like watching a live version of my Barbie games, house and pool included. I remember that my mom and her sisters found hilarious to compare every character of the show to members of my dad's family... I only understood why that was funny years later... Shabbat shalom!

Monday, 16 April 2007

Musical Chairs 2007

The next wave of Musical Chairs is to start soon. (reminder: Musical Chairs is, according to my friend Andy, a phenomenon that occurs every year or so, in which friends swap countries: X1 moves to Y2, X2 moves to Y3, X3 moves back to Y1...)

Musical Chairs 2007 (to be confirmed):

Miss WW from London to Tel Aviv
Anna from New York to London
Vera from London to Stuttgart
Zsofi from Tel Aviv to Zurich
My father from Paris to Bratislava
Julien from Paris to Montreal

Where are you readers moving from and to?

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Shabbat-o-rama: Serge Gainsbourg

Serge Gainsbourg - Le Sable et le Soldat (Chanson pour Israel)

During the Six Day War, Serge Gainsbourg* wrote a song for Israel. Gainsbourg never openly showed his support for the State of Israel, and the song never got released and remained unknown to the public until 35 years later. Listen to it here. Shabbat shalom!

"Oui, je défendrai le sable d'Israël,
La terre d'Israël, les enfants d'Israël;
Quitte à mourir pour le sable d'Israël,
La terre d'Israël, les enfants d'Israël;
Je défendrai contre tout ennemi,
Le sable et la terre, qui m'étaient promis
Tous les Goliaths venus des pyramides,
Reculeront devant l'étoile de David."

In english, that would be something like:

"I will defend the sand of Israel,
The land of Israel, the children of Israel;
Should I die for the sand of Israel,
The land of Israel, the children of Israel;
I will defend against every ennemy,
The sand and the land that were promised to me
All the Goliaths from the pyramids,
Will retreat in front of the star of David."

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Shabbat-o-rama: Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood - Some Velvet Morning

I've been listening to this all week. I love the way the two totally different styles blend into each other towards the end of the song. The video is pretty retro and very funny. It doesn't quite fit the images in my mind when I'm listening to this song, so I prefer to close my eyes and see myself in an old convertible car, driving on the highway in the American West... It's pretty cheesy too, but it's one of my old fantasies... I should really do this soon.... but not before I actually get my driver's licence. Unless I choose to ride a horse instead of an old convertible. Shabbat shalom!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Jew Amongst the Nations

What happens when a paranoid pro-Israel, middle-east politics enthusiast becomes addicted to a tv show such as "Curb your Enthusiasm" ?

This: I just came up with the theory that "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is an allegory of Israel. Larry David represents the State of Israel while everyone else is the United Nations. Larry David is talented and successful but he can be moody and grumpy, and sometimes seems to get himself in trouble on purpose. Although he fucks up a lot of the time, he wants nothing but peace, and tries, somewhat unsuccesfully, to fix the situation. People around him seem to only see the fuck ups he's done, but never the part where he tried to help. On top of that, they only see HIS fuck ups, but nobody else's. He is often the victim of bad circumstances, and gets blamed for everything, without ever having the chance to explain. He ends up being ostracized by everyone, and only manages to keep a couple of faithful, but somewhat difficult, allies, and of course, his wife Cheryl, who represents the diaspora, and loves him unconditionally, no matter how much he fucks up.


What's good about London is that you can make friends from many different countries and get invited everywhere. So you can actually choose your friends according to what country you want to visit. The only thing is that if you don't hurry to visit them, you might miss out on an window of opportunity. By the time you finally decide to go, they might have moved elsewhere, or simply not be your friend anymore.

Places in which I had friends to visit but didn't visit, and can't visit anymore: Ireland, India, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Milan, Odessa, Kiev, Oslo, Devon, Taipei, Krakow, Barcelona, Malmo, Switzerland, Marseille.

Places I should go to soon before it's too late: Tokyo, Greece, Australia, Reykjavik, Nice.

What places did you not go to when you could?

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Pardon my French

Once more, last night, a French person asked me where I was from as I was speaking French to them.... French is my native language, the language I grew up with until I was 14 years old. Then we moved to Canada (the English side, thank God... or I would have ended up with the comical Quebecois accent... which I learned to imitate to impress people at parties.) Even though I went to a bilingual high school, and although I spoke French with my parents, my French quickly deteriorated: I acquired a French-as-a-second-language accent, and started making a lot of anglicisms. Seven years in London definitely did not help.

I'm slowly reaching the point where I will have spent more time in English-speaking countries than in France. When I arrived in London, people thought I was American, but when I go to North America, people think I'm English. But no one ever thinks I'm French.

When I speak French with French people, they are amazed at how well I speak French: "Wow! How come you speak French so well? It's amazing! Where did you learn it?"

I was talking about this with Olga, who has the exact same problem. We realized that from the several languages that we each speak, there isn't even one that we speak like a native, not even our own mothertongue! It did make us pretty sad. What does it mean, not to be able to speak your own language? Is it like being apatrid? Does it mean that you're not from anywhere? That you don't belong anywhere? That you're not part of anything? Is it a direct translation of the fact that we're not at home anywhere? This is part of a process: once you realize and accept that you are a Citizen of the World, things become easier. To quote my friend Margareth: "Let's just be international!".

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Urban Diplomat

In London since 1998, I have had 14 different addresses, and 39 different flatmates:

7 Spaniards
5 English
3 Germans
3 Swedes
3 Norwegians
2 Irishmen
2 Italians
2 Canadians
2 French
1 Serb
1 Greek
1 Colombian
1 New Zealander
1 Japanese
1 South African
1 Slovenian
1 Scottish
1 Cypriot
1 Brazilian

(I didn't count the many people I lived with for several months in a Bayswater hostel: this deserves a chapter of its own.)

You can see how this 9 year intensive training made me a very experienced diplomat: over the years, I worked very hard to appease many violent conflicts and cold wars; I negociated territories, imposed resolutions, signed peace treaties, and proceeded in several unilateral pullouts.

Sometimes it can be really hard. Especially past a certain age. I am this close to making another unilateral pullout now, not because of bad flatmates, but because I'm just tired of being a diplomat.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Definitely French

I was born in Paris from a Jewish Tunisian Father, born in Sfax, Tunisia, and from a Jewish Polish mother, born in Szczecin, Poland.

I grew up in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, a district populated mostly by Jewish and Muslim North-African, African, and Asian communities. In primary and junior-high school, most students were 2nd generation immigrants. Although I am of Tunisian and Polish descent, people usually think I'm French-French, because of my freckled light skin, light brown hair, and French sounding family name.

A teacher once had the idea of organising a special party where everyone in the class had to bring a specialty from their country of origin. There were Tunisian and Morrocan pastries, Yugoslavian sausages, Cambodgian sweets, Carribean exotic fruits, etc... My mom was working a lot at the time and didn't have time to prepare any Polish specialty for me... So I went to class with a bottle of "Banga" fruit juice from the corner shop, so I wouldn't arrive empty-handed.

My teacher, who was going from table to table to have a taste of each specialty stopped at my desk and said to me with a smile on her face: "A bottle of "Banga"! Well gee, you're definitely French!"

Saturday, 10 March 2007

London: Je t'aime moi non plus

London. Either live there forever, or miss it forever. When you're a foreigner in London, you always feel like you're there temporarily. Even though I've been here since 1998 (with a 2 year break in Paris), I always feel like it's temporary. Maybe it's the fact that even at 30 years old, unless I worked in finance, I still have no choice but to live like a student, with total strangers, having to deal with inconsiderate flatmates and having to argue about dishes, stolen food, and worry about money. Or maybe it's the fact that in London, one has to move flats regularly. It's usually because either the landlord wants to sell the flat, which happened to me a couple of months ago after only 6 months of moving in, or because the flatmates are complete psychos, which they often are in London.

Since 1998, I moved from Bayswater to Bayswater to Bayswater to Farnham to Kilburn to Highgate to Chalk Farm to West Hampstead to Camden to Paris (2 years without moving!) to Stoke Newington to Stoke Newington to Golders Green to Stoke Newington.
That's 14 flats in 9 years. Wow.

Two solutions: buy a flat (with a 150 year mortgage) or marry a guy who works in finance...

How many years can anyone live like that? And is it even worth it? How much can you love a city to be able to accept this way of life? I really really love London, but do I love it so much that I don't mind living like an eternal nomad?

London is a seductive trap. Once it seduces you, it won't let you go. And even though it doesn't treat you so well, you can't stop loving it.

It's a catch 22: I can either decide to settle here, but accept the consequences, or go away, and feel like I will always be missing out on something.

London. Either live there forever, or miss it forever.

Thursday, 8 March 2007


Owning stuff makes you heavy, when you're international. It seems like a dozen cardboard boxes full of stuff have been following me through all these years (another dozen boxes rotting at my Dad's in Paris). With time I learned to cut down and actually learned to take pleasure in throwing stuff away. The least I own the lighter I feel. I went from 30 boxes to 10 and I feel much better. Nevertheless, my life is still mostly in boxes and I have no idea when I will start unpacking.

Have you ever dreamed of a wall full of books, in your living room, next to the fireplace? Well, until I actually live in that living room (a real, permanent living room, not a London flatshare living room) and have that fireplace, those books will been sitting in those boxes like they have been for close to 12 years! And who's actually gonna read them again? They're just there to remind you that you've read them (or that you haven't yet) and to show off to visitors. And in the meantime, you can't even show off because they're in boxes! So I actually just got rid of 90% of my books. I only kept all my Israel politics stuff (quite good for showing off... and provoke arguments), a couple of classics, and most of my art & design books for inspiration. Well, I feel much lighter and my next move will be that little tiny bit easier.

As for bulkier stuff... I bought the same desk about 5 times at 5 different Ikeas in 3 different countries (it's always called the same weird Swedish name everywhere). It's actually cheaper than transporting one. This also works for kitchenware.
Many of my friends had to buy the same furniture and kitchenware over and over. I think it's a new sociological phenomenon and for all you entrepreneurs out there, I think there are some great business ideas to look into... But for the time being, Ikea stays the big winner.


I am not just a wandering (and wondering) Jew. I am part of a new international generation. Most people I know all have lived in at least 3 different countries and all speak at the very least 3 languages (many of them 4). Every year or so, there is the "Musical Chairs" phenomenon, as my friend Andy calls it:

- I moved from Paris to Vancouver to Paris to London to Paris to London.
- Sophie from Berlin to London to Beijing to London to Taipei to Paris to Frankfurt to Berlin.
- Andy from Bavaria to Tubingen to Costa Rica to Nanjing to Taipei to Berlin to London to Seoul.
- Ben from Paris to London to Paris to Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur to Paris.
- Vera from Stuttgart to London to Stuttgart to Barcelona to Stuttgart to London.
- Kasia from Szczecin to Ingatorp to Boras to Gothenburg to Paris to Ingatorp to Paris to Szczecin.
- Olga from Paris to Wales to Paris to Berlin to Switzerland to Berlin to Marseille.

These people all met at some point, mostly in London.
One always arrives when the next one leaves, hence the musical chairs. Will we ever live in the same city again?

Consequences (good and bad):
-We are chameleons who can blend in, adapt, and make ourselves at home anywhere we go. But the reality is that nowhere is our home. We have tasted the good bits of each place therefore cannot choose one because there is always something that's better in the other places. No matter where we are.

-We have an international accent. People always know we're foreign but never know where exactly we're from. Even when I speak French (my mothertongue), people tell me how well I speak French and ask me where I learned to speak it so well...

Next destinations: New York City and/or Tel Aviv.

Where will I settle down? Will I ever settle down? Do I want to settle down?