Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #14 – Seasonal items, balloons filled with gas and also cars.

Benatayim. In the meanwhile.
Benatayim we will store my Passover dishes in the middle of the living room. Benatayim we will put the antique desk, the kitchen table, the videos, the Wii, and all of our winter clothes into the attic. Benatayim we will continue renting a car. Benatayim we will eat on plastic. Benatayim we will eat salami sandwiches. And fish sticks. And sometimes corn schnitzel. Maybe eggs. Benatayim we will live with orange plastic garbage bags covering up the shelves of things I’ve painstakingly unpacked and arranged to keep them safe from falling plaster. Benatayim we will struggle to get the orange plastic garbage bags out of the stainless steel garbage can that likes to hold them in snug when they’re full of garbage.

When I asked my friend Michal how it was food shopping here after she first made aliya she complained that she missed strawberries. Not much is imported in the way of fruits and vegetables so we’re left with what grows here, in its season. A foreign concept to my kids who eat grapes, strawberries, kiwi and mango year round. Last summer, once I was settled and ready to hit the makolet, I made my menu, turned it into a shopping list and headed out. I was quickly reminded of Michal’s missing strawberries and of some advice she had picked up – go the makolet first and then make your menu. I had wanted to make spanech jibn. There was Bodek broccoli in the freezer but no Bodek spinach. I spent about 20 minutes examining all the spinach that was there and asking anyone who walked by in really embarrassingly primitive Hebrew if they knew if any of the non-Bodek spinach was checked for insects. Seems none of it was so I went to the Alei Katif section to see if there was fresh. None. I asked when they expected more Bodek spinach. Not for at least 2-3 weeks. Add Bodek frozen spinach to the list of seasonal items in Israel. Before Passover Michal called me with a very specific directive. “Load up your lift with GLAD trash bags. Trash bags in Israel are also seasonal!” Seems there’s only one type that fit her trash can – the green ones – and they are not always available.

Balloons for kids, balloons for moms.
When my order came to 283 shekels in the makolet yesterday the saleslady informed me that, “no it was not possible for me to receive the sale items” since my order was not the necessary 300 shekels. Amazing since my order included 3 32-ounce bags of frozen Bodek spinach – they must have just gotten it in because I’ve been looking for it all summer. I spent 96 shekels on spinach alone. A worthwhile investment I told myself and then imagined myself making spanech jibn for my adoring and appreciative brood. I added a 6-pack of 2-litre water bottles (as necessary as oxygen here). 14 more shekels. The lady tallied up my order and then shook her head. “I’m sorry. You can not have the sale items.” I have a little experience with adding on things at the end of an order to push my total over the necessary minimum. In Brooklyn I had a standard fill-in – bags of chocolate chips. Depending on how close I was to the minimum, I would buy anywhere from one to six bags of them. I didn’t care. I was always baking. So I looked at the woman who had told me ‘no’ with so much formality and finality. And I asked her, “if I buy something else that brings my total to 300 shekels, will you then give me the sale items?” I think what was throwing her was that the sale item I wanted was 2 6-packs of the 2-litre water bottles. She took pains to make sure I understood that I would have to pay full price for the original 6-pack but then, assuming I bought something to bring up my total to 300 NIS, I could purchase an additional 2 6-packs for 10 shekels. But what would I buy, she wanted to know? I looked at the five shekel bottle of ice cold eshkolina (grapefruit soda) in my hand. I was almost finished with it but did I really want another? I still haven’t really figured out my oven so I don’t need more chocolate chips, since I can’t imagine I’ll start baking before I start cooking. Did I mention my 9 year old asked me when I will start cooking real food again. I asked whatever did she mean? Not fish sticks, not corn schnitzel, not salami sandwiches, not hard boiled eggs – real food – “like a piece of chicken or something”. Gasp! Anyway, I looked at the Israeli wafer cookies. Can’t have too much of those. Not expensive enough. Pass. Gum? Not worth any discount – only leads to fighting. Have I mentioned my newest hypothesis – my kids will fight over anything. If I tell them there is a prize in the cereal box (even if there is not and I am just testing my hypothesis), they will fight over who got the last prize and who gets this one. I started buying the mini (prize-less) bags of potato chips because the regular snack bags come with prizes. It goes like this: if Asher is eating chips he gets the prize. But what happens if Bob takes a bag of chips? Who gets the prize then? It becomes an elaborate history of who got the last prize, who has the most prizes, who ate chips the last, etc., etc. With gum the fighting is about how many pieces each kid got including the distribution history of the last 3 packages of gum. No gum. The next thing to catch my eye – balloons. A six shekel bag of 20 balloons. Balloons, for some reason, provide fun in segments longer than one minute and there are so many that once the kids finish fighting over who gets which color (why can’t they sell the entire bag in one color?) they can actually each have a handful with which to play. They blow them up, hold the tops as the air squeals out, sometimes fill them with water (outside!), and at camp they learned to fill them with flour. I choose balloons and then struggle to carry all that water out to my car.

My neighbor calls and insists on bringing me “real dinner”. I protest, telling her my kids love to eat cereal for dinner but she ignores me. I think Barbara ratted me out. She gives me a choice – a dairy dinner – some kind of jibn (notice how she does not specify spanech jibn but rather leaves herself open for a broccoli or squash substitute – clearly a seasoned makolet shopper) or chicken and mashed potatoes. Chicken! Barbara loves mashed potatoes. Hmmm…the evidence is adding up. And so it is settled. Several hours later she shows up with a pot. Is that the mashed potatoes? I wonder aloud, trying to get a whiff. “It’s water, almost boiling. We have a change of plans.” Seems her gas balloon ran out. Yes, that’s right. We live in American style houses, drive big American cars (Chevy Uplander is the newest coolest thing), have high speed internet access (although with daily power outages it can be intermittent) but we do not have gas lines! Well maybe some people do but I do not know of any. Everyone I know has a balloon. Some have big balloons, some small. I have a small one. Benatayim we are using what’s left of the landlord’s gas balloon. So as my neighbor is telling me how her balloon ran out and she called the gas company and they told her they will come with a new balloon in 2 ½ days (that’s when you tell them it’s an emergency – normally the wait is 3-5 days. Yes, that’s normal.), all I can think about is my small balloon outside. Who knows what gourmet dinner I might be preparing when that balloon would run out? In the middle of her disaster I am fixated on averting my own disaster. I have her help me call my landlord so we can discuss how to get the gas company to send ME new balloons. While she’s on the phone I call to Asher to come help me pull the orange plastic trash bag out of the stainless steel trash bin. I struggle a bit and then hold the top of the bag closed while turning the whole can upside down. I’ve figured out how to harness the power of gravity. This goes on several times each day. My neighbor puts her hand over the phone and tells me I’m using the wrong trash bags. I need the clear ones but they don’t sell them in the makolet here. Sometimes they have them in Alon Shvut. If she sees them she’ll buy me some.

This morning my babysitter returned. I was in the middle of trying to get the gas company to send me a technician (since I am a new customer they must examine my connections before they send me any balloons of gas). They tell me Yom Shelishi (Tuesday) and I tell them Yom Rishon or Yom Sheni (Sunday or Monday) but NOT Yom Shelishi. They tell me they can not come before Yom Shelishi. I hand the phone to my babysitter and explain to her that the technician MUST come before I leave for the north on Tuesday. The babysitter repeats my request but with force and in real Hebrew. After a few times calmly but forcefully repeating my request she turns to me. “It’s no problem – they will call you Thursday to let you know what time he’ll be here Sunday.” Amazing how that works.

waiting by the phone for eldan to call me back...

the power of prayer - woo hoo! eldan just called me with my mazda chamesh!

I’m exhausted. And the ceiling fan guy didn’t even get here yet. And we have not even discussed my car situation. The rabbi returned from America yesterday. And, as I should have expected, he needed his car back. And so I returned it. He was gracious and kind and drove me back home with four kids in tow so I wouldn’t have to tremp. And really, truly, between tremping and kindly neighbors, you can get by here for a few days without a car. But there are some events coming up for which I would like to arrive sweat-free in a timely manner with some certainty. Tomorrow I return to the obstetrician in Wolfson Towers and Thursday I have my two Kotel bar mitzvahs. Plus my washer-dryer installer will (please Gd!) be showing up back here at noon. I felt I needed a car sooner rather than later. And so I booked one online with Eldan. I filled out the form, got the 20% internet discount, made an Excel spreadsheet to see how much I’d be paying weekly if I took the car for long term (4 weeks is the same price as 2 weeks!) and decided to rent the 7 seater Mazda Chamesh (Mazda 5) for a month. It was easy and it was fun. I pressed the button to submit the reservation. A notice came back to me. Reservation submitted. I will hear from an Eldan representative within 48 hours. Huh? I called the Jerusalem branch right away. Do you or don’t you have the Mazda Chamesh? She would not tell me and she asked me if I’d read what it said on the internet? The part about waiting 48 hours. Was she kidding? “You have to be patient. Someone will call you.” I tried using my new fighting persona with her but she had the upper hand. “If you want the discount you must wait.” Since the discount was about $400 I figured I’d wait. So I waited. On the first day, nothing. The second day started and I could wait no more. I called to check on my reservation. Seems it was not in the system. I should come in. “I am pregnant, hitchhiking with four kids and no husband. I will NOT come in!” (Scary how easily I’ve transitioned into fighting mode though I’ve decided it’s not really fighting – just strong negotiations, at all times). He agrees to make the reservation over the phone though he cannot guarantee me the internet price since he ‘does not have access to the website’. Now think this one through with me. Does anyone believe for even one second that the Eldan representatives do not have internet access on their computer or that if they do, they are somehow UNABLE to click on the Eldan website and make a reservation on-line???? B’kitzur (to make a long story short) I am renting a car from another agency who specializes in long term rentals of (what else) Chevy Uplanders! The price is better, and they will deliver the car to my door. Eventually. Benatayim, they will bring me a smaller cozier Chevy Opra (for the price of a Hyndai Getz – I am wheeling and dealing now). At 8am tomorrow so that I can get to my doctors appointment on time. Here’s hoping it has air conditioning.

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