Saturday, October 13, 2007

Don't take this wrong way, because I value all experiences that come my way, for whatever I may learn from it, but it seems that the first time I do something I always have to do it the hard way. Not necessarily the 'hard way,' but certainly not the 'short way,' or with any shortcuts.

A few days ago I found out about the only certified Apple repair shop in Israel. Unfortunately, it is in Rosh Ha'ayin, which is something of a Silicon Valley in Israel. I say unfortunately because I had never been there, as it really isn't much of a tourist town, and I wasn't sure of the best way to get to the repair shop. I figured the bus would be the best shot. Firstly, I got to the bus station at about 11am, and then found out that the only direct bus was leaving at 1:30pm. I definitely didn't want to risk the other option: transfers. Certain personality traits will never escape me, and for this circumstance my soft-spokenness in strange places and with strangers is a major disadvantage. I just knew I'd miss a transfer.

So I waited. Finally the bus came, a very uncharacteristically 15 minutes late, and we were off. The bus took Route 443, which is an Israeli-only highway that cuts through the West Bank. I've been on this road a few times, but it never ceases to amaze me. I mean, being in the West Bank, going through checkpoints, riding alongside concrete walls, past towns with at least 5 minarets within 5's sobering, to say the least. At one point the road forks, with the sign calmy declaring, Ramallah this way, Tel Aviv that way. At this juncture there is the largest concrete wall, and an even large concrete guard tower known to man. The tower looks something like a short traffic control tower, with bulletproof windows up top and an unmistakable Israeli flag above. This whole trip always reminds me of a Dave Chappelle stand-up routine, where he is unwittingly taken into the "ghetto." He says, "gun store, gun store, liquor store, gun store... where the hell you takin' me?" Instead, I was thinking, "mosque, mosque, checkpoint, mosque..."

After the foray into the dark side, I saw signs for Rosh Ha'ayin, my destination. I wasn't sure what the bus's plan way, whether it was going to stop in the city or on the road, or if it would stop at all. Honestly, if the one other guy getting off didn't get off, I would have been on the way to Tel Aviv. I just didn't know where we were, and the bus driver didn't announce a thing. Thankfully I got off, but found myself on the very outskirts of the city/town. I started walking, only knowing the name of the technological park where the Apple repair shop is located. I was walking through neighborhood after neighborhood, with no definite clue as to where I was or going.

I think I walked about 2 miles before I got a taxi. Don't think I was being foolish and walking without purpose. Instead, I was walking according to the signs, hoping for a taxi, but between the 3 I saw none stopped for me. I was in an expensive suburb, so there weren't really any taxis just floating around looking for pedestrians, as you'd find in a city. Eventually a taxi did stop for me, reluctantly taking me to my destination. Reluctantly. All the taxis were going in the opposite direction, I suppose taking people home from work, and then on their way home as well.

The technological park is something of a Silicon Valley. Israel has two big economic sectors, in my observation: tourism and technology. Israel is absolutely a 'first-world country,' in my opinion, but there are some parts that don't really look very 'Western.' If you see a group of clean, modernist buildings with the typical walls of windows and brushed steel, you can almost bet it is a technological 'park.' Among the companies represented in Rosh Ha'ayin are Orange, Ericson, Verifone, Nokia, car importing companies (for every manufacturer you can think of), and some others that escape me now. The point is, it was a very nice place.

After all the hassle of waiting for a direct bus, having to walk forever before a taxi would deem me worthy, figuring out how the one-way loop of the park works, it was finally made clear that the easiest way to get to Rosh Ha'ayin is the train. This is it: the train goes to the station, and the station has buses that go everywhere. That's it. Now I know!

On the way back to Jerusalem, exhausted, I had to make a train transfer at Beit Shemesh. I got off my bus, walked down the underground tunnel that goes back up to the station, and asked which platform the train to Jerusalem uses. The woman looks at me, stupified, and yells, "RUN! It's where you got off!" I run, the train is still sitting there, and as I press the button on the door to open it, the train rolls away. It was probably 55 degrees out, and I had on shorts and a t-shirt. An hour later I was on the way to Jerusalem. It was a long day.

But hey, now I know how to get to Rosh Ha'ayin properly.

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