I have to take self defense

December 12, 2009

So I’m still shaking a little, but I’m OK..and of course, the first thing I have to do is blog about it.

So I’m staying with friends of mine on Long Island, which requires that I take a train from the city. Tonight I took a different train than normal which required that I take a cab a short 2 mile trip. (Normally, I would walk but it’s in the low 20’s and 11 at night so I figure a cab will be warm and safe! Ha! Boy was I wrong!). So I grab a cab from the train station in Malverne, NY (note: NOT the city).

I tell the cabbie where I want to go and quickly realize his English is not good. I tell the dispatcher over the radio where I’m going, and he tells the cabbie it’ll be $5. So I give the cabbie directions, but he doesn’t follow them. I tell him to turn around, and he claims he knows where he’s going. Suddenly, he says he doesn’t know where to go and starts to yell at me for not telling him where to go! Long story short, I get him going the right direction and as we near my street, I tell him to pull over because I felt weird and didn’t want him to know where I was staying. As we pull to a stop, he calls the dispatcher, tells him where we are, and suddenly the dispatcher says it’s $7! OK. Before I go further, I’m not such a tightwad, that I’ll haggle over $2. The issue was the principle of the matter. You can’t change a fare on someone at the end of their ride! So I tell him that I will happily give him $5 but not $7. He starts yelling at me, yelling at the dispatcher…I calmly tell him I’ll give him $5. He then says that he’s taking me back to the train station. I was like, “Hell no”, so I jumped out of that car faster than I’ve ever jumped out of a vehicle before in my life. Again, I offered the fare agreed upon, he calls the dispatcher, the dispatcher tells him to take the $5. I figured it was settled, but then the cabbie started cussing me out and calling me not so nice names. At that point, I told him that if he was going to cuss me out that I would not pay him any money. I gave one more chance (I felt like I was dealing with a child!) but he continued to cuss me out, so I stepped away from the car and began walking down a different street. At this point, he opens his car door and continues yelling at me, then begins following me in his car! At this point, I don’t know what he’s gonna do, so I grab my phone to call 911.

At that point, I see someone coming down a driveway and call to them for help while at the same time praying that he is safe. Turns out he was. In a state of near hyperventilation, his wife takes me inside, he gets the cabbie to leave and they call the cops! The cops showed up, I relay the entire story, they drive me home and call the cab company. All the while I’m still trying to get my mind around what has just happened and am containing my state of hyperventilation with only minimal success.

In the aftermath, I realize that I must take a self defense class. I mean, nothing bad happened, but I felt so helpless and vulnerable and I NEVER want to feel that way again. What if this guy had actually gotten out and come after me? I realized that I had no recourse but to hopefully get a cop on the phone before this guy came after me. That was a very, very scary moment for me. So ladies, lesson of the day? Take self-defense. Oh, and don’t take a cab in Malverne!

BTW – the name of the company is Long Island Taxi. Just be wary.


It’s a Small World Afterall

December 11, 2009

People think New York City is huge. I’m here to tell you, it’s not. Sure, there are millions of people here, but it’s basically a big neighborhood with everyone living on top of each other.

To prove my point, 2 incidents in the last 3 days.

Wednesday, walking along 7th Ave at 57th, a super cute Beagle goes by with his owner.

Thursday, walking along 7th Ave at 57th, I spy same super cute Beagle and same owner.

Friday, walking out of the subway at Columbus Circle at 3pm, see a woman in leopard print coat, super short skirt, 40’s pin up girl make up and a red roller bag.

Friday, walking through Penn Station at 10:30 pm, realize I am walking behind same leopard print coat, short skirt, 40’s pin up girl make up and red roller bag.

Cue music…

David's Tomb - apparently the tomb is under the cloth

I knew that would get you! More on that later.

You know that Larson cartoon where the kid raises his hand in class and asks the teacher, “Can I be excused? My brain is full.” I felt like telling that to our guide at the end of each day. He was amazing. He’s the guy the Israeli gov’t goes to to give tours to people like, oh, Hilary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Tony Blair etc… He’s a walking encyclopedia.

Honestly, when I saw that we would be doing a few days of sightseeing, I was a little upset, because I came here to work. But after the tour, I see it was vital to be there and see and understand. Though, I am very glad I was in Nazareth a few days before touring with the group, because I got their perspective on life and on Israel. Jerusalem is a different world. Primarily Jewish, you get their perspective. And as a lover of political policy, I thoroughly enjoy hearing both sides.

The Upper Room

Back to peeing. One of the highlights of the day was the visit to The Upper Room where Jesus held the Last Supper. The Upper Room is located above what is believed to be the tomb of King David and also the same place believed by many to be the site of Pentacost. Well, by the time we got there, the coffee from breakfast had made it’s way through, and I was running into a minor emergency. And I quickly learned that Israel is very similar to Europe in it’s aversion to public restrooms. I figured I’d be up a creek for quite some time. But lo and behold, as we ascended the steps to the tomb, our guide announced that the “toilets” were around the corner…at David’s Tomb. Ya know, something just doesn’t seem right about peeing around the corner from the tomb of David. But, hey, when nature calls…

Me standing on the original stones - yes, I'm a geek

So anyway, back to the Upper Room. After seeing David’s tomb (which I say like it’s something nonchalant, when it was nothing of the sort. But if I were to write about absolutely everything in detail, we’d all be here at my blog for the next 10 years and considering I’d like to do something else in the next 10 years, I’ll keep it short.), we headed up the stairs to The Upper Room. The walls and ceiling are much newer – dates back a mere 1000 years to the time of the crusades, but the floor is original to the time of Jesus. Standing on those stones was incredibly overwhelming to me knowing that I was walking on the same stones that Jesus and his disciples walked on! I was in a place where God walked among us. I read about God walking among us in my posh, comfy bed in Nashville before I go to sleep at night, and it’s hard to really imagine what that means. But when you walk the same path that God walked, it’s quite overwhelming. Extremely humbling. A new perspective gained. One that will stay with me the rest of my life.

A Glimpse of Nazareth

December 2, 2009

Nazareth is primarily Arab and living among the Arabs for this short amount of time is so eye opening. Just when you think you know what’s going on, suddenly you realize how ignorant you are. These are some of my observations to give you an idea of the city.

1) There are 2 cities of Nazareth. 1) Nazareth Ilite (which means “elevated”, which is the Jewish section of town) and 2) Nazareth where the Arabs live. The 2 sections are separated by a road, so one side is Jewish, the other side Arab. Though separated by a road, they intermingle for business. Beginning around sunset Fridays until Saturday afternoons, you can only shop on the Arab side. On Sundays you can only shop on the Jewish side.

2) Within Nazareth (the Arab area), there are 2 sections also separated by a road. One side is Arab Muslim, the other side Arab Christian. Many on both sides are nominal believers, being Muslim or Christian by heritage only. They intermingle with one another, however, they are able to tell who is Muslim and who is Christian based solely on looks – not clothes.

3) The tension, however, is quite high. There has been a mass exodus of Arab Christians within the past few years due to the almost unlivable conditions they are placed under. For example, if it is known that a Christian owns a shop, a Muslim and their friends will enter, take whatever they want and leave without paying. The Christian can do nothing about it. If he tries to do something, the Muslims will retaliate by harming or killing the shop owner or their family. The shop owner could go to the authorities, but they would have to leave the city anyway because the Muslims would come after the family and the authorities are not strong enough or have enough manpower to keep them safe. Muslims have also been harassing the Christians, then offering them twice the value of their home to get them to sell and move away. Many are taking the offer.

4) The reason this city has so many churches is because it was the only way to preserve the place they believed to be the site of something significant. The Muslims have come in and a) built a mosque directly next to the church and made it taller or b) populated the area so much that no Christians are left and Muslims are literally the keepers of the church keys or c) bought all the land surrounding the church so no Christians can move in.

4b) There are calls to prayer from the mosques multiple times daily. On Fridays, a large number of Muslim men will gather on the plaza on the threshold of the church grounds and pray. They also have a banner that always hangs from the trees in the plaza that gives the prayer of Muslim salvation in both Arabic, Hebrew and English- directly in front of the church.

5) On the Jewish side of the town, you may not share the Christian faith with anyone. If found out, technically you can be put in jail, but most likely you will immediately be deported. I believe in order to open a shop in the Jewish part of town without being Jewish, you must have a Jewish business partner.

6) If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport, you can’t go to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries.

7) Although technically the Israeli government has jurisdiction over all of Israel, they leave the Arab areas to themselves. For example, the Arab part of Nazareth is a communist city. I don’t fully understand how that works, but I don’t think anyone else does either. It is also extremely poor and unstable. It is 3rd world like in it’s disorganization and instability.

8 ) The culture is very old fashioned when it comes to men and women interaction. As a woman, while walking down the street I may not look at an Arab man in the eye. It is considered offensive. Women stay with women and men with men – even in the younger ages. You can sense the tension between them in the younger generation, but they don’t break the social norm. While talking to a 14 year old last night, she didn’t even question the fact that she would never date. She knows that someday some man will ask her father permission to marry, if granted they will “date” for a few months and then they will get married. If a young woman decides to date and it is found out, she will not be marriageable and her family will be shamed. Women are expected to clean, dust and cook every day. I may look at a woman and smile, however, the Muslim women here know that we are American, so when we smile, they don’t know what to do with it because they assume that we think them lower class citizens since they are Muslim. Pretty incredible.

9) You live at home until you are married. It is offensive for a child to move out and get an apartment. Once you are married you often live in the same home with your family on a different floor or you live very close by. It is uncommon for an Arab family here to separate.

10) The Arab culture is based on an honor/shame system. It is apparently OK to lie in order to save your honor of the honor of your family or someone you care about.

11) Arab hospitality is second to none. I have devoted an entire post to that.