Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #11 – 2 forgotten days revisited

One day last week:
There is no ready-made glucose drink waiting for me in the refrigerator of the Kupat Cholim Medical Center but rather, the nurse mixes it for me while I wait – a hot sugary beverage in two impossibly thin disposable plastic cups. The walls are covered in posters, signs and flyers. When will I be able to read and make sense of these things? I sit and try to decode each sign, slowly, word by word. They say it takes years. Today I have three hours. Zmahn. (Time).

At night I wake up to the sound of a screaming cat and then barking wild dogs. I think the dogs are eating the cat but she keeps screaming and they keep barking and I realize she is giving birth outside my window in the valley below. Later I dream cats are living in the empty room that will soon, Gd willing, be the nursery.

The next morning the beds are damp from the thick morning dew. As if, with our air mattresses, cold showers and steady supply of cream cheese sandwiches, we’ve been camping outdoors instead of indoors. A preview of fall and winter in the aretz.

The kids start camp. Special ulpan camp for olim. No health form. No liability release. No permission slips for trips, though there are trips. Trips to Latrun (Mini Israel!), to the Biar – ancient underground mud and water tunnels, here in Efrat, dating back to Shelomo HaMelech, to the pool in Tekoa, and to visit Chayalim (soldiers) at a local shooting range. There was a total of one email about camp consisting of the date, time, place, and price.

One day last summer:
So the second biggest food item in Israel (after chocolate) is “toot”. Toot is Hebrew for strawberry and you can find toot most everywhere. Asher drinks toot-banan (strawberry-banana) “nectar” every morning in lieu of orange juice. The kids all enjoy toot yogurt and also toot banan yogurt. There is toot ice cream, toot slushies and (for me, the most offensive) toot marshmallows. The crazy thing is that you cannot buy regular white marshmallows. Every package of marshmallows has a little toot surprise in it. Perhaps there are 10 white marshmallows and 4 pink (toot) ones. I consider this a best-case scenario. Often, however, the ratio is reversed. Then there is my least favorite toot surprise – a bag of seemingly white marshmallows but then a marshmallow rolls over on the counter and you notice the underside of the marshmallow is PINK. Yes, in Israel they have figured a way to make a marshmallow exactly half-toot.

So I have completed a night of cooking. In Brooklyn, lahamagine is my easiest appetizer. I buy the dough. I buy the oot. I buy the meat. I mix it up and make it. In Israel it has been an ongoing process since I got here. I feel like the little red hen. i bought flour but then spent 2 weeks searching for a flour sifter. I found the sifter, sifted the flour and made the dough. Then I took my list of ingredients for ‘fake oot’ to the makolet and spent an hour searching for prune juice. I got it plus the other ingredients and spent 4 hours tonight simmering and stirring my fake oot. i just tasted it and can’t believe it actually tastes normal. Now I have to get the meat and finish the project. Not so hard but really not so easy either.

I also made marshmallow logs (hence the search for toot-free white marshmallows). They came delicious, as always.

I took the kids to Ir David (the City of David) today. Most normal people meet a tour guide at the Kotel and walk 10 feet outside the Old City into Ir David. Those 10 feet are in “East” Jerusalem but it’s no big deal. The people I went with wanted to drive directly to Ir David. They felt driving there was no big deal. After all, we’d be driving right next to the walls of the old city. So we caravanned in but our leader made a wrong turn and we found ourselves driving deeper and deeper into Silwan, the Arab neighborhood surrounding the City of David and from which gunfire is often heard Saturday nights at the Kotel. There were three of us (cars) so there was some feeling of security but not much. We finally parked and then walked for a good 8-10 minutes up a very narrow road with about 13 of our combined children walking in the street and trying to avoid being hit. We finally got to the City of David, bustling with families and tourists who’d most surely just walked over from the Kotel and experienced no anxiety whatsoever. The contrast between our previous half hour and the scene inside was like night and day. I wish I could say more about Ir David but all I know of it is there are tons of stairs. I carried Rosie in a stroller down and up all those stairs while trying to coax a miserable and hysterically crying Becky to walk with me. Ultimately it was Asher and Barbara who got the real tour – there are these underground water tunnels from 3000 years ago that the kids walked through for more than an hour. It was pitch black – they needed flashlights – and there was water I think to their knees.

Tomorrow I’m planning to catch an early bus from the community center in Efrat to Kever Rachel in Bet Lechem with Barbara. They give a women’s class (in English I hope) each week.

I just tasted my fake oot again. I still can’t believe it tastes normal.

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