Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Diamonds are for ever...

So, I'm in Ramat Gan this morning, looking for the Jordanian Embassy (more on that later), and this neat looking chap in a Tommy Hilfiger V-neck sweater and slacks sidles up to me.

'Where are you from?' he asks.

'England.' Yes, I know, not strictly speaking true - but I did have my English pasport in my pocket at the time...subliminal association, I suppose.

'So you must like football then. Which team do you follow?' Actually, this presumption is made about Nigerians all the time too, so nothing new there. So we start talking about Avraham Grant and Ben Sahar, and I'm waiting for the strangeness to happen. It always does - people do not come to talk to me on the street apropos of nothing...

'England is a nice place. One of us' - he jerks his head behind him, towards the diamond exchange - 'just moved there.'

It took me a minute to realise that he was talking about him. And there I was, thinking that he was talking about one of his mates.

Anyway, the conversation circles around for another minute or two, and I tell him that I have family in Nigeria. He brightens immediately. 'You have diamonds in Nigeria?'

I shake my head sadly. No diamonds. A bit of Gold. A lot of Oil, but that's been more trouble than it's been worth, frankly...

He puts his hand around my shoulders paternally, and begins to confide in me. Times are bad in the Diamond industry in Israel. India is undercutting the industrial diamond market. The South Africans are keeping everything in house. 'Guys are desperate for connections...'

I tell him, regretfully, that I have no connections in this area. Or in any other, frankly, but that's neither here nor there.

He shakes his head, and tells me not to worry. 'Keep your eyes open. You know people there' - gesticulating with his head, I suppose, in the general direction of Africa Central. 'There are people here who would pay you if you help them make connections anywhere in Africa.'

We exchange numbers and I bid him farewell. Things MUST be bad if he thinks I can set him up with his next hit. I mean, the only thing I know about diamonds is this

I'm guessing that this is not the shit he needs to hear from me. Never mind.

The Jordanian Embassy is refreshingly old school. The receptionist was smoking - I didn't think that one was allowed to do that stuff indoors anymore - and took my phone away from me before I was allowed to enter. I was a bit puzzled at first, but when he asked me if I had a camera, I figured out that it was a Security thing.

There were about thirty coupled portraits of the Kings Hussain and Abdullah. The decor was very 1970s Soviet waiting room - serge carpets and office chairs in abundance. The desk had a glass pane with holes cut out to speak and exchange documents. On the other hand, I got the visa in half an hour, so I shouldn't complain, should I?

So, I'm off for a trek in the Jordanian Desert at the end of the month. I don't do the great outdoors very well, though...wonder how I can wriggle out of it?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Lies, damned lies...

The better half (as we speak, sitting in a corner, feeling sorry for herself) lured me here under false pretenses. Wall to Wall sunshine, she told me. Shorts and T-Shirts all through the year. Sitting on the beach in December, sipping refreshing amber nectar.

Dear reader, she lied.

I am, as I write, wearing socks, a T-shirt, jeans, a shirt, a pullover and a hoodie. I am too afraid to go to the bathroom because the heating doesn't get there. The sun IS shining, true, but it's an illusion - you step out and the arctic chill hits you immediately.

It's a statistical anomaly, she tells me. It's never this cold in January. Yeah, right, whatever. I'm packing the suitcase and heading back to London. At least, there you know what to expect...

Actually, it's not that bad, although we were up in the North last weekend and had to contend with sub-zero nighttime temperatures and snow on Mount Hermon (actually, that was kinda fun...)

Hopefully, the cold snap will soon pass. In the meantime, I'm going to curl up under the duvet (noisy small child allowing, of course) to read this

ta-ta for now

Saturday, 5 January 2008


Is, apparently, a particularly cruel thing to wish upon anyone. As I discovered.

I actually had big plans for the New Year - sorting out Hebrew classes, working out a writing timetable for the next few months, hunting for gainful employment - but instead, I have been flat on my back, breathing through my mouth, trying hard not to suffocate in my sleep and cursing all and sundry.

Eventually, I went to see a doctor. I am not yet eligible for Bituach Leumi - 180 days after getting my resident's visa, and that does not include any days spent out of the country during the intervening period - but fortunately, the better half had the presence of mind to force me to take out health insuarance. 

So I telephone the health insurance company (Harel, since you ask, and I recommend them to anyone), and half an hour later I have an appointment set up for later that morning.

Just like that!

The GP looks into various orifices (poor man), decides that I have suffered enough and prescribes antibiotics. He sends me off to a pharmacy round the corner that would honour my insurance, and wishes me well. And the receptionist smiles at me on the way out too.

Needless to say, I am a little stunned. I have lived in two countries (Nigeria and England) where public health care is, at best, variable, and to be treated swiftly, efficiently and with a smile is a bit of a shock.

And the drugs seem to be working too.

Suddenly, I am all in favour of health insurance..

I think I like the system here.