Monday, August 10, 2009

swirling thoughts #5 - getting around

spent some time getting familiar with the wolfson complex yesterday when i showed up for my drs. appt and found my dr. was out of the country on vacation. can add rehavia, wolfson, and the knesset to the list of places i can now get to without a map. today looks like rehovot - another first.

I Wonder…
I am 7 months pregnant and sitting on a park bench at the convergence of Kiryat Wolfson (yes, there is an official Israeli neighborhood name allotted to the location of the very American Wolfson Towers) and Rehavya. I am roasting in the sun and wondering how smart it was to grocery shop at Mr. Zol when I found out my doctor’s appointment was cancelled. I wonder if Bob will find me? The directions were sparse. Enter Jerusalem, drive five lights, make a u-turn. I look ahead to the next intersection and see u-turns are prohibited. I wonder if that is the fourth or fifth intersection? I wonder why no street in Jerusalem can keep its name for more than 2 blocks. In the back of my mind I am wondering how to learn all the different ways to tie my head scarf. How long can I sit here without water before I officially dehydrate? Me and my 6 Mr. Zol shopping bags that I bagged myself (clever me, double bagged all the heavy stuff, ready to explain myself to anyone who questioned me about my overuse of plastic bags but never given the chance…). How Israeli and un-Israeli I am behaving simultaneously. I wonder if anyone else notices.

Hebrew Language
Some words in Hebrew are just the English word spelled with Hebrew letters. You’ll be carefully trying to decode one and then recognize it – like “barkod” – just what you think it means on a bag of potato chips, above the barcode! I need to go to ulpan so that I can make sense of the text messages and automated welcome calls I receive daily from Cellcom advising me to take advantage of my “welcome basket of prizes”. I’m scared of that welcome basket. Somehow I know it will cost me money. I’ve noticed some things seep into your consciousness and then you just know them – like how to pronounce certain words when written without nekudot (yes, written Hebrew is an insider’s club – if you don’t know the words you won’t know how to read them WITHOUT VOWELS). Without anyone translating for me I have learned the word tashlumim. Tashlumim is what they ask you when you present a credit card at the register in the grocery store. Or in the auto inspection shop. Or the Home Center (called Hom Senter even in Hebrew). Tashlumim? They are asking if they should bill you in payments. Until I opened an Israeli bank account and learned that Israeli credit cards are, in fact, debit cards, I didn’t understand the question. I’m giving you a credit card! Put it all on the card! Now I smile and answer, “Lo, toda. Tashlum echad” (one payment).

Today I became aware of the fact that each time I see a colorful storefront with Hebrew writing on the sign I get excited to eat. This is especially true if there is a neon light-up sign. In fact, such a storefront is likely to be a copy center, cell phone store or even a health clinic whereas in Brooklyn it would most certainly have been a grocery or restaurant. Hebrew is no longer just the language of prayer and food – it is the language of medical forms, my kids’ school supply list, the sale circular at the makolet and just about everything else. Oh, I have much to learn….

kids were so excited UP was shown in English they didn't care that it was not in 3D. got a family membership to the zoo in jerusalem. can now legitimately threaten to drop the kids off at the zoo if they behave like animals.

Movie Theater in Hebrew is B’tei Kolnoah
The easiest part of going to the movies last week was learning to say “where is the movie theater?” in Hebrew. We were desperately lost (note: Never use an internet mapping program to get around in Jerusalem. There must be a conspiracy-which only I have uncovered – TWICE – to take you hopelessly out of your way by giving you painfully incorrect directions). “Eifo ha b’tei Kolnoah?”. Remember what I said about street names? Useless. The answers were along the lines of “straight to the circle then straight to the light then left and then straight, straight, straight” – it’s funnier in Hebrew – “yashar, yashar, yashar” because all directions seem to end with that ‘straight, straight, straight’ directive which seems to just roll off the tongue when given in Hebrew. We stumble upon the theater which is located above a huge discount grocery store. We drive into a parking lot, past an attendant who does not give us a ticket or ask us to pay but rather, gives us a once-over. (More about parking lots in Israel later). We walk through the vegetable section to an elevator. Since we are about an hour early for the next show (truth be told, we are an hour late for the show we intended) we pay for the kids to go into a bouncy place where they can bounce and climb – a perfect prequel to any movie in my book. So we buy the movie tickets and they ask me if I want to sit near my friend who is also buying tickets. Of course I do. Is it a seated affair? Why, yes it is! When it is time to enter the theater, an usher looks at our stubs and directs us to our seats. With the assigned seating, the usher and the INTERMISSION midway through the movie, I guess it was supposed to be a Broadway type experience. To me it felt like a combination of a seated wedding and an El Al flight complete with a pilot’s interruption of the in-flight movie to make an important announcement about the weather at the flight destination. Did I mention we were the only ones in the theater but the usher stood guard the entire time?

stingray, supra, 280z, mustang - you've been replaced. i am pining for the 2010 mazda mpv.

Speaking of standing guard…
Last week I met my friend at the Mamilla Mall parking lot near the Jaffa Gate of the Old City – why there? Parking is free! To enter the lot, however, you must pass two policemen who ask you to pop the trunk and then give your car a quick inspection before permitting you to enter the lot. I’m driving a car we rented from a rabbi who spends his summers at camp in the States. It drives great but it’s not new and it’s not high tech. I can lock all the doors (including the trunk) by pressing down on my door lock but I have yet to figure out how to unlock the doors. Now I am waiting for my inspection to enter the lot and anxiously trying to think of how the police can open my trunk since I have locked the doors. I decide to shut the engine and use the remote on the keychain to unlock the doors. My car is clever. Since I never opened the door to exit the car, the remote does not work. I am not quite in the lot but rather blocking a lane of traffic in the street. The cars behind me are now beeping and I am trying to start my car but alas, I have forgotten to press the security code on the keypad next to the steering column. I press the security code and try to start the car. Nothing. I try again. I am pleading with the police officer to please excuse me – I just need a minute or two. I try to mimic exiting the car (I open and then close the door), locking the doors with the remote, unlocking the doors with the remote, re-entering the car, pressing the security code and starting the engine. Nothing except for the beeping of cars and now there is a city bus waiting for me. The policeman was kind and maybe a little bit worried I was going to put myself into labor – he started singing the only English words he probably knew – ‘Don’t worry! Be happy!’. Happy? I was mortified! A good 6 or 7 minutes later I got my car to start and inched into the parking lot for my inspection. Turns out when you drive a station wagon they don’t even ask you to pop the trunk – they just look right in the back window.

Before I left Brooklyn I bought a wallet at Century 21. It had a magnetized strip inside to prevent theft. Somehow I made it out of Century without beeping but for about a month I beeped whenever I entered a store. Okay so I was busy but eventually I took the time to look for and remove the strip. Fast forward to Israel. There is a guard at the entrance of every store (in addition to the parking lot guards). They inspect your bag. Your bag that you bring in to the store. They could care less about your bag upon leaving. There ARE metal detectors – for use upon entry and not exit. There are no magnetized strips.

1 comment:

  1. Lisa - You are bringing back very fond memories. I used to be able to say "Tashlumim" in a Russian accent because all of the cashiers working at our Supersal were Russian (that was 8 years ago...perhaps they have all been promoted to better jobs by now???)

    I had a hard time getting used to being back in the US and having stores worry about what you were taking OUT of the store (anti-theft) and not what you were bringing IN (anti-terror). It will become second nature to you, don't worry...

    I'm enjoying your updates - keep them coming!!!