Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My First Day In Country

I woke up far later than I had hoped and began to acclimate myself to my surroundings… I checked Gmail and Facebook. I had one goal for the day on Thursday, to open a bank account. Since Friday is Israel’s Sunday, I wanted to open my account so that I could arrive to work on Sunday (it's a work day here) with my account information for the HR people at GSE.

I do not know a lot of people in Israel, but everyone I know here has been really nice and welcoming. In the morning I received an email from Ely, a friend of mine that moved to Israel two years ago and just completed his MBA at Ben Gurion University. Ely was leaving to America for a month visit to see friends and family the day I arrived (I landed 12 am Thursday his flight was 12 am Friday). We got in touch and Ely invited me to his farewell happy hour later that day. Ely also strategized with me on how to go about opening a bank account. He warned me that the banks and postal offices in Israel have odd hours. Banking hours at most branches are something like 9 am – 2 pm and then 4 pm – 6pm. The bankers get a little siesta in the middle of the day. I looked online and saw that the Bank of Jerusalem branch that I intended to go to was open until 2 pm and then again at 4:30 pm – 6 pm.

I set out to walk over to the bank at 3:30 pm. As I am about a half block from Anat’s apartment (my cousin), a car pulls up from behind me and the driver yells “Hey”, which startled me a lot more than it should have. Sure enough, Ely is pulled over on the side of the road. He just happened to see me walking and offered to drive me to where I was going. Run ins and coincidences happen like this all the time in Israel. Maybe because it's a small country. On the way, Ely took me to get plug converters so that I could charge my electronic devices in Israel. Once I got to the bank, I was told by the security guard that the bank was open from 9 am – 4 pm. It even said it on the wall of the branch. I left kind of dumbfounded that the internet and actual hours would be so disconnected. Everyone who subsequently heard the story shrugged it off and said “Welcome to Israel.”

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