Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #75 – lice, rain, & Gilligan

Required Reading
Yesh kinim b’Gan. The dreaded words – we have lice in the Gan – came home on Friday. Of course I missed them completely. They were printed at the bottom of the sheet detailing the parshat hashavuah (weekly Torah portion). I guess I got a little lazy about struggling through school flyers without nekudot since I started ulpan. Thankfully, a very not-lazy friend of mine pointed the message out to me today at which point I started compulsively checking each of my kids for lice. So far, so good.

I know I packed rain gear somewhere…
In Brooklyn we would grit our teeth over a rainy day. Here, the short bursts of water pouring from the sky, which we now call rain storms, are cause for celebration. Thursday when the skies opened up for all of 6 minutes during ulpan my teacher ran to the window with her arms up and called out – “What beracha (blessing) – we should make a shehechyanu!” (a blessing for special firsts). So Friday at 12:45 – exactly the minute I needed to pick up Rosie from Gan – the skies opened up again. And since her Gan pickup could not wait the necessary 6-8 minutes until the rain stopped, I had to run out.

One rainy day when I was early for a doctor’s appointment in Central Park South I took 2 kids into Barney’s New York and made a single purchase. A big black umbrella. One I envisioned I would use to help the kids in and out of carpool on rainy days. I actually opened it in the store and made the kids stand under it with me to be sure we fit comfortably. Bob laughed and laughed when I brought it home – I’ve never NOT lost an umbrella. We calculated that if I could keep it for 5 years, the price would be the same as if I’d just continued my practice of buying and losing cheap umbrellas. It’s been 3 years and the umbrella is still with me. Somewhere. In a box. In my attic. And so under the cover of Rosie’s Dora umbrella which, by chance, was unpacked early on, I ran to the Gan, scooped up Rosie and ran back home. Just before the rain stopped.

I’m coming, Little Buddy!
When I was little, if I had to stay home sick (a rare occurrence), my mom would plug a tiny black and white TV in my room and let me watch from bed. I was so thrilled at the novelty of watching TV in my room (in my bed!) that I didn’t care that the TV was small or that it was black and white. Fast forward to Israel. My kids watch videos once or twice a week on our super screen but otherwise, nothing. We didn’t sign up for TV. We got through season one of the Brady Bunch (which they loved) and now we started on season one of Gilligan’s Island. From 1964. In black and white. The truth – the black and white was annoying to me! I didn’t realize how spoiled I’d become for Technicolor. But aside from a few murmurs of protest from Becky, the kids didn’t seem to mind at all. They are savoring every black and white episode. It will only be a short matter of time before they are assigning each other characters (you’re Gilligan, I’m Ginger! Aba is the professor.) – like they did with the Brady Bunch (I’m Marsha! You’re Bobby! Rosie is Cindy! Mommy is Alice!).

There are words more dreaded than 'yesh kinim'...
At 5:30 in the morning: "Mommy! My (cough, cough) stomach is (cough, cough) killing me!!!" You know what comes next. Let's see how getting sick on Yom Rishon compares to getting sick midweek...So far we are waiting until the doctor comes in at 4:30pm. Benatayim, at least there's Gilligan on the big screen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #74 –small nostalgic foods and gross creatures, small vs. big emotions, and my not so small anymore determined activist

Strawberry sighting!
In the bigger, meaner makolet. 25 shekels for approximately 15 strawberries. That’s almost 50 cents/strawberry.

I was there in search of pereg – poppy seeds. It was the fourth store I visited this week in search of pereg. I can’t wrap my brain around the shop first, menu second concept. Except for strawberries. I know not to put anything on the menu that calls for strawberries.

I’m spending half my cooking time making conversions – grams to ounces and cups – and the other half approximating (for example, margarine comes in a 200 gram block but 1 cup of margarine is 226 grams). As for Fahrenheit to Celsius, I cheat with an oven thermometer.

Bob just called to me from outside and asked if I wanted to see the fattest slug ever. You know I do – I was outside before he finished his sentence! It was pretty fat but I think I’ve photographed fatter.

There is no like. Only love.
When I was in first grade and learning to write I wanted to write a card to my mom’s hairdresser. I didn’t want to ask her for help but I didn’t know how to spell ‘like’. So I wrote:

Dear Seymour,
I love you.

I gave it to him even though I was embarrassed that I had overstated my affection. And I never forgot about it – not when I learned to spell ‘like’ and not even to this day. The man I told I loved even though I only liked him.

We learned numbers and time in ulpan today. And more about love. I pushed my teacher to give me the secret words to distinguish my love for my husband from my love for sanvichim. I insisted there were degrees of affection and that while I might like her cooking, I love my mom’s cooking. How could I ever make such a subtle distinction using only one word? She smiled and said in Israel everybody loves everything and everybody. There is no like here! Only love.

Speaking of love, I’d like to add Stevie Wonder to the list of artists Israeli’s really truly love.

Bob’s working on his platform for when he runs for mayor of Efrat – there will be an El Al style tax (the legend is that El Al has to pay passengers if its flights out of Ben Gurion are delayed) on shopkeepers who keep customers waiting by trying to wait on all of them simultaneously. It would be called the “you’re being too nice and it’s making us all late tax.”

The economist in me is trying to figure out an incentive structure that would change the behavior of cashiers in supermarkets all over Israel so that instead of them sitting and watching while you struggle to bag your groceries before the groceries of the person behind you are completely comingled with your own, the cashier would actually see benefit from jumping out of her chair and helping you to bag, thus moving the whole line along. I have far to go on this.

In the meantime, Barbara is working on her own issue – one that she feels quite passionately about – school uniforms. Yesterday, upon seeing Becky’s new and extremely short haircut, one of Barbara’s friends told Becky she liked the haircut – that it expresses Becky’s personality. I thought that was right on the money and yet clever for a 4th grader. So when Barbara told me her principal is deciding whether or not to implement school uniforms starting this coming Purim and that she was writing a letter of protest to the principal, I fully expected a letter about individualism and expressing her personality through her clothing choices. So I asked her – what are you writing? And she answered – “I am telling the principal that the uniforms (long sleeved white collar shirts with a long black skirt and a pink sweater vest with black buttons) will be sweaty. And they will be ugly. And we will all look like Hello Kitty.” long as i know i have LOVE i can make it...

Swirling Thoughts #73 – my dryer, my ulpan, & a dream come true

No clamp? No need!
When the washer/dryer installer guy came in August and asked if I wanted to buy the (aluminum) dryer venting tube for 200 shekels I said yes. After all, a dryer needs to vent. When he merely smushed it onto the back of the dryer I asked him if he would be putting a clamp on it to keep it in place. “No need,” he told me. “It will stay.”

Fast forward – and a word of advice
When your dryer venting tube falls off and disintegrates when you try to smush it back into place and you decide you need a replacement dryer venting tube and you want to just buy one because you have clothes in the washer and tons more laundry to be done, be prepared to pay for something packaged in a box that has the following warning in English:

Vinyl tubing - flamable. Not to be used with a dryer.

Be prepared to read this label and ask about aluminum tubing and to be told there is no such thing as aluminum tubing here and that this is what everyone uses. Be prepared to call your dryer installation company and have them take down your number so that they can call you back to let you know when they can first schedule you. Then call the local appliance repair guy and pay another 200 NIS for replacement tubing. The aluminum kind. Or you could just skip to the last step. Yes, that’s what I’d recommend.

How does this movie end, again?
My ulpan class is an eclectic mix of colorful characters. We resemble a movie cast – something from along the lines of ‘Summer School’. We have a group of young South African soccer players, a Frenchman, a middle aged married couple, a soft-spoken child genius, a kollel learner and his devoted disciple, a mini-support group of moms, and several others. I am the slow-moving pregnant character, of course.

I wondered what everyone’s motivation would be for the test this past Sunday. I mean – there is no report card. There is no failing ulpan. Ulpan is like this whole other dimension. If you say you are going to ulpan, nobody asks how you do on the tests. It’s understood. You go there to learn Hebrew. You are “in ulpan,” that’s what you do. End of story.

Today the tests came back. I got a Metzuyan! And everyone knows it.
I remember attending an Israeli child’s birthday party in Brooklyn with Barbara years ago. At the end of the party the little girl opened all her presents. In front of the guests. I figured the party had fizzled out too early and the mom didn’t know what to do next so that’s what we did. I never thought about it again until Barbara attended an Israeli girl’s birthday party here a few weeks ago. At the end of the party the little girl opened all her presents. In front of the guests. So it seems, maybe, possibly (though I need more evidence to test my hypothesis), that it’s a cultural thing – at an Israeli birthday party the host opens the gifts in front of everyone.

And so, why would I be the least bit surprised when the ulpan teacher went over each person’s test and grade in front of the entire class today. Suddenly I understood the motivation for studying for the test – to avoid public shame! The teacher started out with an announcement about our overall performance. “It’s not so worse. But it’s not so good.” One by one we got an analysis of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Plus each other’s grades – Metzuyan (excellent), Tov Maod (very good), Tov (regular good), and my favorite grade, Tov Menus (good minus).

More Google Translator – finally a lunch menu! But is it Kosher? And who is Perry?
We are pleased to announce the provision of hot meals nutritious and balanced school students.
Kashrut is Mehadrin.
The cost of a dose - ₪ 12.
Hmgshit: Pizzeria bloc
Baguette with ham
All dishes will be added Perry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #72 – reach out and touch someone

I finally got a phone!
Well, one that works like a US phone and isn’t my cell – it’s in the house and I get reception all over my first floor. And I bought and prepared steak for the first time since we’re here. And we ate it with a 28 NIS bag of Bodek broccoli florets (exactly the same price as in the US). I spoke with one of my Brooklyn friends on the phone as I was preparing dinner and though I was snacking on olives, tehine and grapefruit soda while we were talking, it all was so totally reminiscent of a typical weeknight in Brooklyn – minus the homework and plus the husband.

Just the two of us...romance redefined
Bob and I took a trip to Shefashuk together this morning to stock up on cholent meat, snack sized potato chips, flour (five bags for 15 shekels!), “fruit” juice (we can’t shake our dependence yet), soda, impossibly thin plastic ware, store brand flushable wipes (score!), Israeli pasta, and gourmet chocolate chips (I bought out the inventory!). The highlight for Bob was finding the slice-it-yourself-bread-slicer in the front of the store and then taking a rye bread and slicing it himself. For me the highlight was having Bob there to help me push/pull my two wagon loads of groceries. We spent so much we earned free gifts. Sticker books “for to keep the children very busy for very long – it’s good for you.”

We’re off to see the Wizard
Just after the lights darkened in tonight’s production of the Wizard of Oz (in Hebrew), Rosie announced she was ready to go home. She has a way of announcing things that is not really conducive to just ignoring her and sitting through even another second of the show. “I want to go home. I want to go home now. I want to go home this instant! Mommy! Let’s go home. Let’s go home now. Let’s go home this instant!”

Odds and ends
Since Becky refuses to wear a pony tail I figured it was a good idea to get her hair cut fairly short to keep her safe (Ha!) from any lice that might want to jump onto her during lineup at taekwondo. It’s cute and really really short. She’s as happy as can be. There goes another fake contraction. Waking me up from my club chair nap instead of my snoring. I packed my hospital bag. Sort of. I can’t remember what you’re supposed to bring. And I’ve heard they don’t bring you food to the room during your stay (after you’ve given birth) – something about a communal cafeteria for new moms you need to walk to if you are interested in eating. Maybe I’ll pack some snacks.

Israeli TV revisited: It wasn’t Israeli Lost – it was Israeli Survivor
More like Israeli Survivor meets Israeli Baywatch from the looks of it. You decide:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #71 – I see security guards and vampires in my future

Not yet!!!
As we pulled into the parking lot at Hadassa Ein Kerem Hospital, Bob yelled frantically at the parking lot attendant, “The Baby! The Baby!” as he pointed at my protruding belly. I guess it was a test run on all fronts. We got as close to the main entrance as a car can get and at that point he let me out and then went to park (we’d heard the parking lot was two miles away – he needed to investigate). So I stepped up onto the sidewalk and entered an outdoor security hut. I got in line, and when it was my turn, showed them my bag, went through the metal detector and only then found myself inside the courtyard of 3 or 4 hospital towers. No one had asked if I was in active labor or if I needed to cut the line. I guess they see pregnant ladies all the time. Maybe they scream, “The Baby! The Baby!” if it’s really getting close.

Slowly and carefully I checked out the Hebrew writing on each building and then my eyes fell on the Mother and Child Building (this one was in English) and so I waddled in and looked around for where to register. I found the admission window and asked a man there if he spoke English (“yes”) and where I could register. He nodded and in a deep voice told me “It is here.”

It is here? Where am I? What is “it”?
I sat down and began answering his questions which seemed pretty normal at first. Name, address, teudat zehut number, which kupat cholim do I belong to? Then he asked if my husband is Robert. Yes. And who is your father-in-law? Huh? I suspected he knew the answer and was quizzing me. Asher. He nodded. What’s his birthday? Confused I asked, “Asher’s or Robert’s?” He laughed and said Robert. I gave the date and he nodded… but I didn’t see him write it down. It reminded me of the mandatory awkward exchange with the customs lady perched behind her tall desk at Ben Gurion airport. Where she asks you questions to which she mysteriously seems to have the answers.

The envelope please…
In any case, we finished up in just a few minutes. He handed me an envelope, which he said I must bring to the birth, and sent me on my way. I called Bob who’d just found a parking spot and told him to come back and get me. I can see now, between security, parking, and fumbling through my bag looking for “the envelope”, I will be giving birth alone. Hopefully inside the hospital and not in the courtyard. I peeked in the envelope and there were 3 sheets of paper. One with, presumably, all my information (in Hebrew) and 2 more which were actually pages of mini barcode stickers – the kind they put on vials of blood. Evidently they want to be prepared to take some 60 vials of my blood when I come to deliver.

I said “Not yet!”
As we made our way to Tel Aviv last night for the wedding, laughing about the day’s events - including breakfast at Wolfson Towers (Israel's answer to Leisure World), a trip to the doctor (more giggles over the 3D sonogram), and a makeshift birthday party for Asher (complete with sprinkle cake) - I started contracting – or doing something that was giving me jolts of pain in response to which there were excited utterances of “ouch!” Bob asked if we should to continue to the wedding or head back to Jerusalem. We were already in Tel Aviv. I wondered aloud if anyone in our family was a doctor. I wondered if a Tel Aviv hospital would honor my bar code stickers for vials of blood. Bob repeated his question. “Should I turn around? We’re an hour away!” I looked at the cityscape and wondered which of those tall, lit up, buildings was a hospital. And then I remembered how smushed the baby looked on the sonogram earlier in the day. I figured something about the way I was sitting in the car was just causing too much smushiness and that all I needed was to get up and walk around. Also, after all this musing about giving birth to my Sabra in Ihr HaKodesh (Jerusalem) I was determined not to give birth in Tel Aviv.

We arrived and made our way to the wedding, in the Harbor, right on the beach. I followed in a woman wearing blue jeans and gained some confidence about my choice of clothing. The outdoor pre-wedding reception was in full swing. As expected, my false labor stopped. The chuppah went off in the midst of the outdoor celebration for a standing audience under the stars and with a background swish of the sea. It was a lovely night and the only drama was as scheduled. A wedding, not a birth.

Swirling Thoughts #70 – old flour and a new way of dressing

Wow! If you google ‘kemach yashon’ my first blog post comes up!
Back when my thoughts were truly swirling I wondered about the logistics of keeping kemach yashon in Israel. For those of you who’ve been clinging to the edge of your seat ever since….

A quick oversimplified lesson in Yashon. Disclaimer: I am not a rabbi.
Chadash is new wheat, Yashon is old. We are careful not to eat from the new (harvested after Pesah) crop of wheat. Translated to things we would actually buy in the supermarket, this becomes relevant for items such as flour, cereal and pasta from about Sukkot until Pesah. In NY searching for items bearing kemach yashon labeling became a preoccupation of mine spanning two seasons. To the point where friends would accuse me of making aliyah so that I would no longer have to deal with kemach yashon. You see, wheat products made in Israel automatically use the old wheat. Essentially, you don’t have to worry about the chadash.

But I live in an Anglo neighborhood where Cheerios and Ronzoni abound. And so I inquired. The answer, as expected: if it’s imported, be careful about the yashon status. (Read: stick with the Israeli stuff). So now I’m bypassing the Ronzoni and looking at the Osem Perfecto pasta. Produced in cooperation with Osem by Pasta Zara Via Castellana, Treviso, Italy? I read the rest of the label (this is the real reason I study in ulpan) looking for some mention of yashon. And what do you know – an official stamp reading: “Don’t worry about the Chadash”

Do I want to invite meat to my house?
While it sounds deeply philosophical, it’s just a poorly translated question from the midnight delivery butcher shop. The butcher shop butchering.

And so I decline meat and invite pizza (for my kids) as I try to make my way to Tel Aviv for a family wedding. I briefly consider a Bordeaux ensemble that involves 3 inch squeezy toe heels. And then I look at my feet. Swollen beyond recognition. I remember the photos from Bob’s Tel Aviv cousin’s wedding last summer. There were flower girls wearing white denim jean shorts. And so I embrace the Israeli custom of under-dressing. I managed something fancy on top complete with pretty head scarf, sparkling hair clips, heavy eye-makeup, jewelry and a pretty blouse that will hopefully distract from my black elastic waist maternity skirt and the shep sheps on my feet. That’s right. The whole outfit was designed around the shep sheps.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #69 – stocking up on flushable wipes does not count as nesting

Some people would take it as a cue
Two people I know with pretty much the same due date as me gave birth this past week. I started a new book, bought theater tickets, and invited guests for Shabbat.

One of my favorite activities, if you can call it that, is visiting the girls’ school. It’s not like you can just pop in and hang out – you need to be going there with a purpose distinct enough for the armed security guard to unlock the steel gate and open it for you. I’ve had occasion to bring a wayward machberet (notebook), a lunch and then today Bob and I went together to meet with a morah (teacher). What I love about going to the school is seeing the girls playing so freely and happily. They are everywhere and then within seconds of hearing an ice-cream man jingle over the loudspeaker, they are nowhere – all seated in their class.

This morning just before school started the girls were outside the classroom bouncing a ball against the wall and then jumping up to let the ball bounce back between their legs. And then suddenly they disappeared into their classroom where they opened their siddurim and began morning tefilot before the teacher even arrived.

We’re on the last roll of Charmin from the lift but it’s the flushable wipes I’m after
Israeli toilet paper is not what it was 20 years ago when I dormed here. When we would have nightly dorm discussions about the exfoliating properties of the green, pink and blue paper and yearn for some squeezable Charmin. Israelis have since been turned on to softness and the good stuff is now readily available here.

Israelis have yet to discover the wonders of white tuna and caffeine free diet iced tea
Everyone has their American product they stockpile when they can find it. And everyone who lives here knows all about not being able to find it. Yesterday someone was telling me about Philadelphia cream cheese which has been unavailable in all the local supermarkets for the past month. I have another friend who, when she can find Formula 409 in the market, will buy out the inventory. Incidentally, the entire inventory here is usually 6 of something. So my weakness is for flushable wipes for my kids. They carry one brand – Huggies – but only sometimes. Tonight I took a special trip to the bigger meaner makolet and bought out their entire inventory (three 3-packs).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #68 – pestilence and some foreshadowing from 1987 about the pitfalls of proper nutrition in the aretz

Please let lice NOT be the punishment for chutzpah!
I received a special invite to my daughters’ taekwondo class (in response to my daughters’, ahem, exemplary behavior – so exemplary, in fact, the instructor required me to come witness it myself…). As I sat on the sidelines watching 25 girls line up and then run and kick with all sorts of sound effects I couldn’t help noticing how close all the kids stood to each other in line. And how their hair, loose after a whole day of school, was almost touching. I began twitching and itching my own head thinking how much better it is when we don’t have all the details of our children’s comings, goings and lining ups.

Are fat pregnant women a protected class? Can I poke fun if I am one?
I’m like caricature of myself – each night I sit down on my club chair with my feet up – either to write or to read. Next thing I know I am awoken by my own snoring. And I’m all sweaty. From that exercise of breathing. No matter how cold it’s gotten outside.

It’s actually cold outside
Bob made me repeat myself when I gave him the weather report over the phone. He didn’t believe the words “It’s cold” were coming from my mouth. The khamsin departed as did most of the zvuvim in ulpan class. I don’t think I got any new mosquito bites last night but I am curious to know the temperature at which mosquitoes really truly disappear.

I will get my act together eventually – just don’t tell John Stossel about me
When the kids were recovering from their sick day I kept them home. Since they were, in essence, recovered, I took them with me to the makolet to do my weekly shopping. They informed me they like “Milky” – an Israeli chocolate pudding with cream on top. You can eat the cream first or mix it all up and then eat it. Always hoping to add new things to the lunch menu, I popped them into the wagon. I tried putting Milky into the lunches today as a special snack but the girls saw it and insisted on eating Milky for breakfast.

Sugar, ahh, Honey, honey, You are my candy girl, And you got me wanting you.
Honey! Ahh, sugar sugar!
(One of my favorite Israeli dancing songs from summer camp)

No tut for you!
There are Israeli moms who are so on top of their kids’ sugar intake – not even a pink tut marshmallow will cross those kids’ lips. The health food store here is busier than any I ever saw in Brooklyn. It’s like the people who’ve been here for some time are keenly aware of the sugar and fat conspiracy that is going on in Israeli food production. (We’ll leave the discussion about the fat content of milk and cheeses for another day.) I’ve been in houses where there is no juice – just water. Because, unless you squeeze it yourself, “juice” in Israel is liquid sugar! We are still so thirsty here we have a whole refrigerator filled with “juice”. Sour apple, mango, peach, minty lemonade, and of course the variety of iced tea flavors they created here for Nestea – pineapple mango iced tea, peach iced tea and (hard to come by) regular old lemon iced tea.

I am so far removed from the role of ‘health-conscious Israeli mom,’ I could be the subject of a 20/20 interview on horrific nutrition. ‘So, Mrs. M – when did you decide salami was a good source of protein for your growing boy?’ (I gave Ash a hug this morning and I could swear he had the smell of salami coming from his pores). ‘And your growing girls, Mrs. M – when did Milky and cream cheese sandwiches become their primary sources of calcium?’ ‘Mrs. M – are you aware than potato borekas are not considered a vegetable?’ ‘Tell me, Mrs. M – do your children even HAVE a dentist?’

Oh, voice of John Stossel inside my head, please stop! I’ll try to do better, I promise!

Benatayim, here are the Archies, singing my theme song!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #67 – morning sickness redefined and coveted and congratulations for the winter

Official confirmation of my theory
Before I left the Kupat Cholim the other day, the doctor sent me across the hall to have the nurse culture Asher’s throat for strep. “So I’ll go on line tomorrow afternoon and get the results?” I said, knowingly. “No.” She replied, looking at the clock. “The test will first go to the lab tomorrow.” I had to give my commentary. “So you just have people walking around with active infections here, waiting for lab results and getting on medicine days after the infection has started?” She smiled and answered, “It’s best to get sick in the morning, here.”

Kids can do lots of jobs, some better than grown-ups
Since Bob left I’ve been having the kids take Rosie to her gan across the street. Every time I remind them to be careful crossing. I also tell them to make sure she doesn’t run out the door after them. Today Rosie turned to me and said, “No, Mommy, I only do that when YOU take me!”

More hilarious Google Translator:
On the opening of school a festive ceremony attended by all girls school, girls were crushed at Khan…apologies tour… marched followed a lion Levy in Jerusalem. Cults John went for a walk around the house really Javier nose and delicious pita experienced an enjoyable activity…also went for a walk on the water and die fathers eye…It should be noted that many classes were held at the Arab awakening…Congratulations for the winter and continue a healthy fertile years.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #66 – the path to anemia is littered with caffeine, seasonal spinach, and chicken hot dogs…

When we hosted bar-b-q during hol hamoed Sukkot I ran to ShefaShuk to buy beef hot dogs. I searched the shelves high and low. I found them in the back. The ones that didn’t say AUF (chicken) or HODU (turkey). The ones that said VIENER must be beef. Or so I thought. Until one of my guests commented that he doesn’t eat any chicken, including chicken hot dogs. No, no, I protested. These said Viener! Chicken, he told me. Unless they say something to the effect of Viener Amerikayim they are still chicken. What a let down.

When the midnight delivery butcher shop called to see if I want to place an order this week I remembered that they have the best beef hot dogs in town. And so, in addition to steak (which I can’t wait to try), roast (which feels downright indulgent, even for Shabbat) and several different forms of chicken (because I’m really trying), I ordered two packages. The lady on the phone was very apologetic. She didn’t have any more chicken hot dogs. Only the kind that come from the egel (cow). This might have been a Twilight Zone moment if we were speaking to each other in English. The Hebrew kept me grounded in my new reality. And so I clarified for her. I wanted the beef hot dogs. Two packages of them. The ones from the egel, yes.

When I brought the kids in to the Kupat doctor she demanded to know which of them she’d seen before. None, I told her. But she insisted. I reminded her I’d been here the day before – for my blood work. Ah, yes. She had the results of my blood work. My iron is low. I am anemic. That explains my fatigue. But how isn’t this entire chicken eating country anemic? That’s what I want to know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #65 – Throw up is throw up but there’s nothing easier than cleaning it up from a stone floor with a sponga mop

I don’t know why horror films about insects need to have the insects grow to gigantic size
The khamsin seems to have subsided but there is no end in sight to the onslaught of microscopic mosquitoes it brought. There are no less than 100 bites between the kids and myself. My daughter’s friend walked in covered in Vaseline. I asked her what was going on. She explained it was so she wouldn’t scratch her 17 mosquito bites. My mom had recommended vinegar. We've been using what's left of some Band Aid anti-itch spritz from NY. Whatever works.

Tuesday is the best day to be sick here, remember?
I have two kids home sick today – with some sort of stomach affliction. Since malaria takes about a week to incubate (don’t think I didn’t look it up) and the last West Nile outbreak in Israel was in 2002 I’m working on the assumption that the illness is not mosquito-related. I was excited that at least they were sick on a Tuesday – remember the doctor has evening hours Tuesdays plus morning hours Wednesday – and was biding my time until I phoned in for an appointment (phone is first answered at 4:30). But, alas, I could wait no longer and at 2pm I called in the hopes that the doctor would accidentally answer and I could scoot my kids in for an early appointment.

Ulpan is helping my receptor skills
With my ears ready to listen carefully in Hebrew I started translating to myself the message on his answering machine. This is what I picked up: “Today is Tuesday… Doctor not in... Doctor not coming back until after October 20… Use the doctor in the Kupat Cholim… Here is her number…”

So I looked at the clock and dialed the Kupat anyway. “Segur” (closed) was the only word I needed to understand on their machine. Oy. I got clever and made a third call to the private medical clinic upstairs where, thankfully, they speak English and though they were quick to tell me they were not the ones substituting for my doctor they did let me know that the Kupat Cholim office re-opens at 4pm. A priceless morsel of information. And now, as my kids sleep upstairs, I wait. And scratch.

A down (albeit itchy) day in the aretz…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #64 – it’s a long way from Mayberry…but not really

For a place where they won’t (no matter what!) bag your groceries for you, the service (when you really need it) is unreal…
When my dashboard lights started flashing tonight (and I had visions of an encore presentation of ‘Grandis, Interrupted’) I grabbed my phone and dialed who I thought was my Israeli mechanic. About 4 minutes into the conversation (it takes that long when you speak broken Keeta Aleph Hebrew the way I do), the voice on the other end reminded me that he was my Israeli lawyer who has the same first name as my Israeli mechanic. As if he gets these phone calls all the time. Mind you it was 5:30 at night and I dialed him on his cell. He wished me the best and reminded me the full name of my mechanic. And so I hung up, dialed the mechanic and described the problem. He asked where I was (I told him the street name and that I was in the middle of doing taekwondo carpool). He reminded me that he lives on that street and that he’d be home in half an hour and that I should meet him after carpool in front of his house so that he could take a look and find the problem and did I have his private cell phone number?

Were there no sandwiches in Israel before the Amerikayim showed up?
The hardest words to decipher in script with no nekudot (vowels) are the English words that have been adapted into the Hebrew. Pizzeria, mayonnaise, and my all-time favorite, sanvichim. Today in ulpan as we all fought off flies, we memorized the story of a Dr. Ticho from Jerusalem. I was so proud of myself for memorizing the story I recited it to my kids who were alternating between cracking up at my inflection (I’m a very enthusiastic story teller) and gagging from boredom. I recited it in the car while waiting for the mechanic and again over dinner – our weekly favorite, salami sanvichim.

The car is YES okay but now I must to do my homework
I feel like I am unraveling the mystery that is the consistent way Israeli’s misspeak, if, in fact they misspeak, in English. It’s a structural thing. Tonight’s homework is to practice saying the Hebrew equivalent of “I must to eat, I must to read, I must to speak, I must to pay….” In Hebrew there is no distinction between how many and how much. Interesting. How many do you want for this juicy watermelon? How much children do you have? Love and like are not distinguishable, at least not yet. There is a way to say you love someone but in Keeta Aleph, we love each other the same way we love pizza and sanvichim.

I must to do my blood work
I went to the Kupat Cholim this morning, waited my turn, and did my blood work. Results to be available on-line in a day or so. Sounds easy enough…

It’s Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan – you can’t forget it here!
The kids had shows and parties. Shiurim (classes) abound. We had special Rosh Chodesh cookies in ulpan. And everyone (including trempers) wished me a Chodesh Tov.

Chodesh Tov!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #63 – getting used to the system...or just delirious from the heat

A new twist on an old experiment
The khamsin (scorching hot desert wind, remember?) brought with it zvuvim (flies). Zvuvim seeking refuge in my ulpan class. I tried holding my water bottle in front of my face thinking they would maybe see their reflection in it and be scared as my teacher explained how it is ‘lo normali’ for it to be so hot this time of year. Not normal, yes, I agree.

Zvuvim and also mosquitoes
In our family Bob and Asher heroically take all the mosquito bites. Maybe the rest of us get one or two but the boys really bear the brunt of it – ten to twelve bites at a time each in high mosquito season. Last night with the hot winds blowing tiny mosquitoes in through the screen and Bob nowhere to be found, they feasted on me. And Barbara. I guess they got lost on the way to Asher’s room. Or maybe they, too, were delirious.

You listening, O?
I went to the Kupat Cholim to do my blood work. It was just before 1pm. Seems blood can only be drawn between 7:30 and 9:30am (the two nurses who draw the blood were there but were no longer able to draw blood since it was past blood drawing hours). And, of course, I need the referral/scrip for the blood work re-written by my Kupat doctor. So I walked in to the office where the Kupat doctor was sitting and asked if she wouldn’t mind re-writing the scrip on Kupat paper. She gave me an earful about how her workday was finished (now it was 1pm) and how did I not make an appointment to come get this scrip re-written? Thankfully, she wrote it anyway. I went back to the nurses to make sure I didn’t need an appointment for the morning. They said no – I’ll just have to wait on line. Yes, that sounds about right.

Prayers ARE answered quicker here
Just yesterday I was saying how at this point I’d pay any price for hot lunch availability at my kids’ school. I don’t know if I can handle much more pre-dawn preparation of fishsticks, noodles, and pancakes. And I can’t exactly picture Bob handling it once the baby is born…And so what do you know – one of the four emails that came through in Hebrew this morning was then re-sent to me in English (no Google translator necessary!) and it read like an answer to my prayer:

In recent days we have received several price estimates for hot meals. In the beginning of [this] week, we will choose the best supplier in terms of quality, kashrut and price and will publicize the menu and costs later in the week.

Woo hoo! I can’t wait.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #62 – I’m IN and Bob is YES Israeli already

I hear the staff in the consulate is dreamy
Well, I’ve got an appointment, anyway. As if the consulate people were sitting around reading my blog and realized they forgot to open up the appointments. In order to schedule the appointment, I had to name the baby (“Baby”) and give a birth date (I used the due date). They say to get to their (East Jerusalem) office early so you can go through security and to bring all your paperwork (filled out) or they won’t even put you through security. And if you’re late they cancel you. I am more nervous about getting to this appointment on time than I am about getting to the hospital to have the baby. Yeah, that’s normal.

People keep telling me stories about women who deliver themselves
The test run to the hospital has been rescheduled for next Monday, assuming the Grandis makes it through a second Saturday night without falling ill. The hospital is in the hills of Jerusalem. There is a curvy mountainous back road up to the hospital which we sort of know how to navigate but which I would prefer not to take if I am really truly in labor. Did I mention it is steep and quite curvy? The other way (which we’ll test out Monday) is via Jerusalem. Directions we’ve gotten involve a T-junction, a monster slide and a long road that gets skinnier and skinnier. The cool thing, which someone pointed out to me, after asking which hospital I will deliver in, is that no matter what, it will be in Jerusalem. As much as I already knew that, it never really registered. Be’H, my sabra will be born in Ir HaKodesh. And please, Gd, in time for the consulate appointment.

"If the khamsin blows for three days in succession a man has the right to kill his wife; five days, his best friend; seven days, himself." ‘old Arabic expression
We have a friend who’s a real weather guy. He explained to us about something technical and weather related that goes on in September over the Indian Ocean which, in turn, blows REALLY HOT WINDS into Israel in the fall. I expected the hot winds in September but they never materialized. Until now. There are different names for it – khamsin or sharav –scorchingly hot, dry desert wind which blows for two to five days at a time. Even Bob agreed. Until now I never heard him say the words. This Shabbat he said it twice. “It’s really hot!”

I keep offering Bob silk scarves to wrap around his neck in the house (like the old ladies in shul do) - to keep him warm as I try to keep myself cool. He just looks at me and says, "Pshhhhhhhhh"
When I was training for the half-marathon in New York (side note: training interrupted by pregnancy) my favorite running weather was between 36°F and 42°F (the latter being on the warm side). Anything warmer was passable but I could never get the right mix of layered clothing to stay comfortable for a good long run. Fast forward to Bob’s plane landing in New York this morning. This whole past week, Bob couldn’t wrap his brain around the weather difference. He insisted on wearing shorts and shep sheps (sandalim) on the plane. I warned him he’s become Israeli already – you know – complaining about the bone-chilling cold when it drops below 60°F. I’ve been listening to him complain about the ceiling fans since August – there’s no way he’s going to be happy in New York in shorts and shep sheps. Anyway, it’s a mind blowing 100°F in Efrat today. Most definitely the hottest day since we’ve been here. The wind itself is hot so that even if you find a shady windy spot, there is no respite. And so, from the comfort of my air conditioned car, I phoned Bob. I could hear him shivering over the phone. He was not even out the door at JFK and he was shaking. “It’s…freezing….here!” I had visions of us returning from Florida during mid-winter vacation and my father-in-law bringing blankets into the airport to cover up the kids in their strollers because it was 10° outside. I thought of Bob in his shorts and cringed. Then I came in and checked the weather in New York. It’s 50°F.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #61 – The path from deprivation to appreciation is a dusty one – best have a vacuum cleaner

When will they open the November appointments? Patience… patience! (Do they know how patient I am being? Will this somehow help me in the long run?)
Each time I pass my computer now I compulsively check the “Appointments” webpage of the US Consulate in Jerusalem for November availability. It’s the middle of October. This is NOT like when I would wait in August for Jet Blue to open up its Florida fares for mid-winter vacation. November is barely two weeks away! But what can I do? With that humbling knowledge (absolutely nothing), I wait. And I compulsively check.

I may not have a passport appointment but…
I got a new trash can!!!!!!!! It’s lovely and beautiful and (for the most part) functional and I’m telling you it has to be the most appreciated piece of plastic ever purchased in Jerusalem.

How we came to be trash can shopping today (yes, I played hooky from ulpan)
We brought with us (on the lift) a few area rugs to help ease the transition from wall-to-wall carpeting to wall-to-wall stone. On the one hand, it’s nice to step on carpet sometimes, especially when getting out of bed (how much more so when the temps drop and we bring out the down comforters!) On the other hand, the carpet sweeper (aka Shabbos Vaccuum) we’ve been using to clean the area rugs is a pitiful substitute for a real vacuum. When I look at the black feet prints on Becky and Rosie’s pastel area rug I start to think that maybe there’s a reason for stone floors and what are we trying to do here with these area rugs – maybe it’s one of those American things that just doesn’t belong here (like Tide – doesn’t work well with limestoney water).

And so, just a few hours after I contemplated getting rid of all the area rugs and being true to my stone floors, I saw my neighbor moving something that looked eerily like a brand new area rug into her house. I quickly shifted gears. Maybe we just need better area rugs! And more of them!

We bravely ventured into Jerusalem with 3 errands in mind and a scant 1 hour to complete them. (Usually the ratio is reversed – we allot 3 hours to every one errand). First the area rug store. When I had seen my neighbor with the area rug I nearly knocked her down, asking in disbelief, “Is that an area rug? Where did you get it? They sell area rugs here?” Not only do they sell them – they were half-off today! From area rugs we got to talking about vacuum cleaners – I desperately need one (to clean the area rugs!) and then I took a chance and asked her about garbage cans. She recommended I stop in the Keter plastics store after the carpet store and the vacuum store. They have lots of trash cans, she said.

And so it went. First the carpet store. Two area rugs purchased at half-off. Then the electronics store (across the street). The vacuum cleaner I want was out of stock but will be in tomorrow. I have every intention of getting it tomorrow. And then, the coup de grace…the Keter plastics store for a garbage can. We walked in and all you could see displayed were the fancy stainless lined cans with the clever (NOT) pull-out handle (which has been the bane of my existence since August). Bob asked if they have any other trash cans. The guy shrugged and pointed and said, “We have regular plastic ones over there.” Yes! Regular plastic ones! So just to give a little history, once in the Gush Center I saw a regular plastic Keter trash can and I told Bob, “Let’s get it!” He said sure and then he said, “But I don’t think you’ll be happy.” He went on to give a little demonstration. If you step on the step with any kind of force, the top doesn’t just open up. It flies off. He had me laughing so hard in the Gush Center I had to walk out. When we saw the very same Keter plastic trash can today in the Keter store, Bob asked the salesperson to demonstrate how it works. This guy definitely knew the limitations of his product. He stepped on the step mechanism oh so gingerly and demonstrated how the top opens up. I said I wanted a turn. I stepped a little harder and the top simply opened. So far so good. Then I told Bob to give it his all. He stepped with some force and the top went flying off the can. This time, amidst uproarious laughter, I authorized the purchase nonetheless.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #60 – some follow up

My gas balloon came. I am putting off the aggravation of doing bloodwork for at least a couple of days. Someone asked me a while ago to describe, step by step, how a tremp works. I have a classic tremping story which I’ll tell first.

An angel, a Rebbetzin and a tremp
I had taken a car we were considering purchasing to be looked over by our local mechanic. I was in the makolet with 3 out of 4 kids when the mechanic called to tell me it was ready. Out loud but to myself I asked, “How will I get to the mechanic now with no car and three kids?” A lady (really an angel sent by Hashem) walked by and answered me in perfect English. “I’ll take you. Where do you need to go?” I insisted she did not want to take me – having some premonition about my kids’ behavior (or maybe just experience from knowing what time of day it was), I explained that I was traveling with three little monsters. Now she insisted that it would be fine and we all piled into her car. My kids, not wanting to make a liar out of me, turned out their best performance of their worst behavior in the history of their lives. There was screaming, pinching, hitting. Then there was the kippah being dangled out the open window. Followed by more screaming, pinching, hitting. Did I mention screaming?

I was thinking of Rebbetzin Churba’s sage advice – pretend they are someone else’s children. Still not sure how that works. Okay so you don’t take it personally when your children defy you but are you somehow less mortified when you are taking someone else’s children on a tremp and they behave this way? I was ready to open the door and roll out of the moving car when the screaming changed to excited yelping and there were actual words. “My tooth! My tooth!” followed by “Becky’s bleeding!” and then there was me (speaking in an unnaturally calm – read: super scary – voice), “Please do not get blood on this woman’s car.” By the time we realized that Becky had swallowed her tooth (the very first one she ever lost) we were at our destination and not a moment too soon. Though the fighting had shifted to a heated discussion about tooth-fairy practices once a tooth has been swallowed, Becky’s mouth was now spewing blood. And as I simultaneously pulled the kids out, apologized and thanked the woman (and Hashem for not letting Becky’s blood get all over her car), I felt, very acutely, that Efrat may not be big enough for the anonymity I sometimes require as the mother of my, Gd bless them, children. Fast forward to Sukkot, more than a month later. One of my dinner guests mentioned the kind lady by name. “I hope you didn’t tell her you were coming here!” I exclaimed. “She must think we are the craziest family in Efrat! I think she may be scarred for life from picking up trempers because of me!” In fact the lady had told my guest how nice we were and to please tell us hi and send warm regards. I guess for her, they really were someone else’s children.

The nitty gritty. A tremp, step by step.
So I tremped home Monday from Jerusalem. Actually I took a taxi from Wolfson to the Gilo Junction – basically the southernmost point of Jerusalem where the “tunnel road” or the “60” starts. The taxi driver asked me if I live in Beitar since I was obviously going to now hitchhike home – within Jerusalem people don’t really hitchhike but to get to the Gush and certainly within the Gush, tremping or hitchhiking is a mode of transportation as common and as acceptable as driving. So why did he say Beitar as opposed to Efrat, Neve Daniel, Bat Ayin? I can only guess it was something about the way I was dressed that day. There’s sort of a guessing game people play here – based on how you are dressed, how your hair is covered, and if you are a man, how you wear your payis, your beard and which type of gun you are toting – to see which yishuv (settlement) you come from. I told him I’m going to Efrat. Him taking me to Efrat wasn’t even an option. It’s like the cabbies who don’t want to drive from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Times ten.

So anyway, he dropped me off at the junction which has a bus stop although I’m not sure how often a bus actually stops there. I’m really a novice tremper but my understanding thus far is that to tremp a ride you stand up from the bus stop by about 20 or 30 feet so it is clear you are not actually waiting for the bus. Bob tells me there is an actual spot where Efrat trempers stand at the Gilo junction. I haven’t figured this out yet. There were about six other people standing there with me. I should have probably announced to them where I’m headed (still not sure about the drill here) but I didn’t. Several cars turned the corner. Some of us held out our hands (no thumbs! Right hand held out, pointer finger pointing). Some did not. The thing about cars who will now come and offer you a ride is that they are going to come and offer you a ride no matter what you do with your hand. These cars simply turn the corner, stop at the junction, call out their destination and if it’s good for anyone, that person hops in. If not, they continue on their way. It’s not like you have to flag anyone down. I guess this is why not everyone holds out their hand. It’s sort of a foregone conclusion.

The first guy to come was a Bat Ayin guy. As he pulled away I was thinking I need to spend more time tremping to succeed at the guessing game I described earlier. I had picked him for a Hebron guy. Then an Efrat guy came but since I told no one I was heading to Efrat and he drove up and away so quickly, only speaking to one of the group, I missed him. At this point, I announced loudly, “I am going to Efrat. Any part of Efrat.” Not two minutes later a lady drove purposefully right up along side of us, announced she was going to the northern gate of Efrat but no further and one of the other trempers signaled to me. Here was my ride.

So now, there’s tremping etiquette. You get in, you buckle up and you be quiet. If the window is open, you leave it open. No phone, no speaking unless spoken to. Since she spoke only really fast Hebrew, there wasn’t even speaking when spoken to. We listened to Gal-Gal-Gal-Galatz (the pop music station in Israel that plays Israeli music, American music and then music which is in English and sounds American but which is so raunchy and dirty you can’t believe you are hearing it in the holy land followed by the DJ announcer saying Shalom Shalom!).

And so goes a (typical?) tremp. I got dropped off at the northern gate (really quite desolate) and within 30 seconds was picked up and on my way to a point on the main road where I can walk down a hidden staircase to my front door. Easy peasy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #59 – early or late? Depends – are we talking about the baby or the water guy?

Acharay haHagim?
The Mai Eden delivery guy came today to pick up our water cooler. Huh? He said since we no longer wanted our cooler he was here to pick it up. Okay that phone call with Bob yelling and screaming and them admitting they charged us for all our free gifts was more than a month ago. Vladimir from the water never called me again and as far as I know there was no real resolution. We were never credited for our “free” gifts but we did get a water delivery shortly thereafter (for which we were promptly billed). Bob told the delivery guy today that no, we do not wish to return the cooler at this time but rather that we’d like our credit (ha!) and in the meantime we’ll take five bottles of water. Truth be told, we need the water more than we care about the fight. Ultimately, Mai Eden must know this.

Ulpan – i should probably be doing homework right now...
My ulpan class has suddenly filled up. When I missed class Monday it seems the consensus was that I was giving birth. Glad I only gained 40 lbs. with this pregnancy and not my usual 50-60. Today we worked on ma (what) and me (who) questions, verbs with their infinitives and nouns with their genders (including about a bajillion exceptions to the gender rules). It’s funny the first words you learn in Hebrew – someone somewhere must have decided these are the really important things to be able to say and understand if you are going to live here:

Cigarettes. Dogs. Kibbutz. Bank clerk. Interesting. Government office. Autobus. Chocolate.

Traffic patterns and career choices
There are always a few goats being herded when I take my kids to OT Wednesday afternoons –cute but nothing really noteworthy once you’ve seen it a few times. More like, “Hey, kids, there’s the goats again.” Until today.

It was more than a few goats – more like a regional goat convention with representation from every local herd. As we exited from the southern gate of Efrat there was a line of goats about 4 wide and about 30 long making its way up the road. The hitchhiker in my car didn’t seem impressed but I was going bananas. The kids liked it too.

Since the goat herders tend to be young boys just a little older than Asher (usually riding a donkey), the question of Asher becoming a goat herder with his own donkey has come up on more than one occasion. It takes a back seat to his other career ambition – as he reiterated for me this morning, he’d like to learn to play the piano, drums or guitar so that he can sit on Ben Yehuda Street and play for money.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #58 – I can pull my new cart right up to the airport gate but then it gets tricky

A capital investment – and this set of wheels is brand new
Our first purchase in the shuk was a push cart (which is really technically a pull cart) to pull our olives, meat, chicken, ka’ak, fruits and vegetables through the shuk. In Brooklyn I would have carried 40 bags on my breaking arms rather than use such a cart. Now I’m a proud cart owner!

Bob must have sampled every ka’ak in the shuk. His effort was not in vain. While none of them were exactly what we’re used to, the one we bought was well received, especially by Asher, the ka’ak connoisseur. “Thank you mommy, for buying me ka’ak” has to be the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me, ever, coming from my Asher.

Inspired by the fresh meat and chicken (until now everything has been frozen and uninspiring), I made roasted chicken, meatballs, and rice for dinner. Becky came home from the sticker store asking if we would be eating pizza (again). When I told her the menu she looked at me funny. “Is it Shabbat?” When I told her it was Tuesday she said, “Huh?”

I would never bring my pull cart to America but I think I’d bring my kid
Remember that Sally Field movie – the one where she goes to Iran with her daughter and then can’t leave? Someone mentioned to me in passing that I am not able to leave the country on my US passport unless I have an Israeli passport or some such thing which, evidently you have to apply for. So when I called to apply for it, I mentioned how I am pregnant and don’t want to be running around with a new baby doing the paperwork and could we please get it all done as soon as possible. The kind lady on the phone said, “You’re pregnant?”

A simple inquiry has turned into a series of appointments involving tons of documentation since if I would want to leave the country once my baby, Be’H, is born, assuming I would take little baby with me, little baby will need a US passport, an Israeli passport, an Israeli birth certificate and a US Report of Birth Abroad. My Asher couldn’t understand it. “Don’t babies fly for free?”

In a place where the custom is to not even purchase a baby outfit until said baby is born, I am struggling to schedule an appointment and apply for a passport for said baby. Did I mention the October appointments are all booked and the November appointments have yet to open up? The excitement of dual citizenship – bureaucracy in two countries!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #57 – inverse proportionality and some kids’ stuff

I happily paid 60 shekels for a sub-par manicure in Jerusalem today.
The amount of material things you long for decreases as the length of your stay here increases.

Inadvertent experiments in brand loyalty - Poland Spring, Tropicana, Ziploc...
It took about a month for the kids to forget about Poland Spring. It took me longer but now if I get an ice cold bottle of Mai Eden or Neviot I can enjoy them at face value. For Bob, on the other hand, one of the luxuries (there aren’t many) about flying back and forth is gulping down a bottle of Poland Spring water each time he arrives in New York. The down side, I suppose, is that he requires a few shots of ‘petal’ to flavor his Israeli water.

This week, exactly 14 weeks since the last time we woke up to Tropicana orange juice, my kids finally asked for (and drank) some of the Israeli orange juice that I’ve been consistently buying and using for recipes or drinking myself. There you have it folks – it takes 14 weeks to forget about Tropicana. Well, maybe not totally. Asher still has not let go of his Tropicana memories. Tonight, in fact, Rosie told him, “It’s good. Do you want me to drink it for you?” He took her up on the offer. Incidentally, I pay 19 shekels for the orange juice. Seems the orange juice cartel has a stranglehold on prices worldwide.

Before I left, my neighbor teased me as I packed box after box of Ziploc bags in every imaginable size. He warned me the Israeli children will tease my kids, call them spoiled Amerikayim even, if they show up to school with Ziploc sandwich bags. Not knowing how to function sans Ziploc bags I just went about my business and packed more bags. A couple weeks ago when I was doing my pre-dawn lunch drill, the kids came into the kitchen and requested I use the Israeli sakim (impossibly thin, closure-less bags I had accidentally picked up in the makolet) in lieu of Ziploc baggies for their lunches. It seems there had been some comments made at school – I couldn’t believe it!

One Persian
Whenever we’re with his (Persian) Israeli relatives, Bob loves to take off Becky’s glasses and cover all of her face except for her eyes and eyebrows. “See! Parsi!” he shows them. It’s true. She’s exactly him from the eyes up and the look is totally Persian (Parsi). But who knew she was paying attention? This morning she danced around my kitchen holding persimmons (parsimon) from the shuk, demanding, “Feed me parsi-mon! I’m Parsi! You have to feed me parsi-mon!”

A Banker and a Spender
There are some kids who will hold on to every penny (or shekel) they’ve ever had. This is my Asher. When I took my kids to the makolet to buy candy yesterday, they were ecstatic – enthusiastically laying down their shekalim for candy. Except for Asher. He was visibly upset. Torn between buying candy and holding on to his shekelim. Of course it is Asher I turn to when I am short tip or pizza money. He’s like a little bank. Barbara suffers from the opposite affliction. She will spend or give away her last penny or shekel. Once when I sent her to the makolet she told the cashier to “keep the change”. When the cashier told her it is not the custom in Israel for a cashier to “keep the change” she answered with a very sincere, “But I insist!” The down side to this openness, of course, is that you quickly run out of money. When we returned from the makolet, Asher with full pockets, Barbara with nothing, she went through her things from America and came up with $35 in savings from allowance, the tooth fairy, whatever. She asked Bob to please change it to shekels for her. He said no problem. Then she asked me what $35 x 4 equals. Four? I told her the exchange rate has been 3.75 since we’ve been here. The legendary and elusive 4:1 exchange rate (used by my rental car company – go figure) has not existed since before we landed here in July. “But that’s what shekels are! You have to give me four!” I wish it were four! I stood firm on my 3.75.

Sometime later...
The kids are home early from school (Yom Shlishi - ki tov!) and off to the "sticker store" with enough each for 2 packs of stickers and one 2 shekel slushie (a kid's answer to the five-dollar shake).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #56 – a beach trip postponed but new trips have already begun

Jennifer, our baby elephant
I had almost forgotten about her. We used to joke with our shipping company rep that we would need a lift big enough for all our stuff including our elephant. When Jennifer Convertibles kept calling and inquiring about their paperwork somehow the elephant came to be known as Jennifer. In retrospect we would have had room for Jennifer and as many peanuts as she would have required for a six week transatlantic boat ride. If only I would have used that space to bring a trash can. Or a car.

Saturday Night Fever – the illness of my Grandis?
Not more than one minute after I posted my last blog, the phone rang. Again, Bob was returning a guest to his yeshivah motzei Shabbat, this time in Jerusalem, when the car simply died. Four hours later the car was towed and he returned home, thanks to a ride from our Car Guy. Did I mention you need to have a sense of humor to survive here?

There’s always the Isru Chag after Pesah
It took me a while to comprehend what Bob meant when he said we won’t be able to go to the beach Sunday (What does one have to do with the other? Oh, yes, now I see). It’s funny, when we left his Aunt in Tel Aviv the other day I was overwhelmed by the strong aroma of her lemon tree. I mentioned to Bob I wanted to plant a lemon tree. I wanted lemons. Oy.

School’s back. And that’s not the only thing.
For the most part, the kids were excited to return to school. Asher to his ulpan bus, Becky and Barbara up the hill. Rosie was less excited. Bob peeled her off me and the morahs ended up peeling her off Bob. I don’t see or hear her crying from my spy window upstairs so I will assume she has made the transition by now.

Part of the tranquility of this holiday was the complete work stoppage on the construction site next door. No drilling cement, no hammering stones, no cutting wood, no arguing in Arabic, not even an afternoon prayer. As I started my pre-dawn lunch preparation this morning, all the familiar construction sounds were back. And then some. There is a truck parked in front of my house with an arm the size of a crane. This arm will extend high up over my roof and my neighbor’s roof and deliver wet cement to the construction site between and behind our houses. Very carefully but very noisily.

Brain exercise
My gas balloon is coming Yom Reviyee. Echad, Shtayim, Shalosh, Arba. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Got it.

Cool is cool. This was way cool.
Half the gan kids were plastered to the fence across the street watching the cement machine. So I went outside to check on the cement delivery. There were two trucks, backsides facing each other. The first, a cement mixer, was pouring cement into the other (the cement crane arm machine). The cement was somehow pumping up the crane arm (way way over my house) and then coming down out of a tube that seemed like an unwieldy elephant trunk. There were two workers trying to wrestle the elephant trunk into position with the help of a third worker manning a hand-held remote control box that had the power to move the crane arm. I’ve never seen anything like it. Check out the pics.

Planes, trains and automobiles? Something like that.
More specifically, a ride with a friend, 1 bus, 2 taxis and 2 tremps. By sampling many different modes of transportation I made it both to and from my doctor’s appointment in Jerusalem. Unscathed and on time. Really it was a breeze. My doctor, giddy as ever at the sight of my baby on high resolution sonogram, informed me the baby is big – quite big – and we have some time to go yet. Some quick calculations by Bob put the birth weight in the baby elephant range.

Bob’s taking care of business – I’ve got fruit on the brain
Bob’s been following the progress of the car – it sounds like the car is in advanced stages of rehabilitation – I’m hoping we’ll have it back in its restored health tonight, Be'H. Tomorrow we plan to go to Mahane Yehuda together. We haven’t been there as a team since our honeymoon when we staged a hilarious negotiating fight between him and a fruit vendor for the sake of a photograph. It’s a classic. We have big plans to save big on fruit. And ka’ak. And halva. Must to feed Jennifer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Swirling Thoughts – the one after #54

Our final judgments are sealed on Hoshanah Rabbah
Apparently, fish are also judged. Bob’s fish pond saw its first casualty Friday morning. We’re trying to discern if it’s possible he made the fish pond too clean (read: no algae or bacteria for the fish to feed on) with his new filter. We’ll see what the week brings.

Simhat Torah – the day Hashem gave the Jewish people candy, right?
It was a very festive holiday. Asher read from the Torah, there was hakafot (singing and dancing with the Torahs), food (a shul luncheon for maybe 150 people), and most of all, candy. Every time I told Becky ‘no more candy’ she would insist that this was her last piece. Maybe her last piece until the next piece! We adopted the philosophy of ‘they’ll eat it until it’s gone and then they won’t be able to eat it anymore’ (also known as the ‘path of least resistance’). We’ll measure the success of this strategy by how the night goes.

Hadassa Ein Kerem or Bust
I must look so huge and pathetic – there were a lot of queries as to when I’m due and some shocked reactions when I said I had another month to go. To most people who offered assistance I mentioned that I don’t know how to get to the hospital – if anyone could draw me a map or be relied on to drive me there should Bob be out of the country… Bob likes to joke that in a pinch I could deliver at Bethlehem General Hospital. Assuming I can make it until Monday, Bob and I have a test run planned. We even plan to register!

Noisy Neighbors
Today the donkey was so loud and so close I thought he was being broadcast over the ‘call to prayer’ loudspeaker. Seriously. The kids and I were sitting in the dining room and it sounded like he was in our sukkah. (The only wildlife in the sukkah turned out to be lizards which, by the way, were out in spades today).

Isru Chag
A very nice concept - a way to extend the sanctity of the holiday. The concept was lost on me in Brooklyn. The reality there was more like I am exhausted, Bob is back at work, why are my kids still home? Isn't this day covered in our tuition bill? Isru WHAT?

Here I couldn’t be happier. I am so not exhausted (one day yom tov!) and I can’t wait to have a day with my kids that’s not yom tov and did I mention it’s still warm enough to go to the beach? I guess the fact that my kids are in school six days a week adds to the excitement of having a truly free day. That and knowing it’s the last truly free day until Chanukah.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #54 – really Israeli stuff

A trip to the shuk
I woke up early to go with a friend to Mahane Yehuda – truly the place to find rock bottom prices on fresh, high quality fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, baked goods, nuts, spices and halva. Yes, halva is its own food group in Israel – I bought a slab that was so fresh it was still jiggly and hot. As they say here, “Oooowah!” I found all the specialty items I’ve been looking for – freshly ground allspice, rose water and orange water (but they sold it to me without the water – in tiny vials, super concentrated), oot paste (also super concentrated), and the coup de grace – fresh ka’ak. Hamdallah.

A pit stop in Israel has a whole other purpose
When you drive in this country you see cars randomly pulled over on the side of the road (even alongside the ayalon – highway). The driver will be nearby and you don’t have to turn your head to avoid seeing what he’s doing. Go ahead and look - he’ll be facing Jerusalem, praying shaharit or minha, depending on the time of day.

Shakshuuka – there’s really nothing better – (except maybe Doda’s sugar cookies)
Today we took another trip to Tel Aviv – two more Dodas (aunts) and countless cousins – but alas the cycle of bar-b-q-ing has been broken. A dairy lunch in the sukkah (Israeli style with shakshuuka, borekas, cheeses, and vegetables) was a welcome and delicious change. After lunch the kids were glued to the Nickelodeon channel in Hebrew (“Ma? Einlach TV baBayit?” – “What? No TV in your house?”) until dessert. I got my first Israeli recipe today – Doda’s sugar cookies with a secret ingredient. We used an Avent baby bottle to figure out the ounces (or cc’s) of Doda’s drinking glasses since the entire recipe was given in cosot (glasses). I’ll try it out next week – stay tuned. The secret ingredient? A clue – it’s also in halva.

The holiday is like the rose water
Tomorrow night begins the ultimate “three-for-one” – in Israel, Simhat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are celebrated simultaneously. Since they fall out on Shabbat this potentially three day holiday (chutz l’aretz – outside of Israel) is combined into a tidy package – one day only. Still very festive – maybe even more so – super concentrated!

Free things
Sunday is probably the last free day my kids will have until Chanukah – it’s “Isru Chag” – the day after the holiday which is not a holiday so we are free to return to the beach one last time. Which will hopefully distract them (them being kids and Bob) from the free puppy I turned down today…

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #53 - skewers of chicken, skewed language, a skewed shopping experience

Day 3 of the Sukkah Bar-b-q marathon…
Bob’s aunt has clear plastic bags of water hanging in her sukkah. Knowing why but needing to hear it from a real Israeli, we asked her why. She and her kids answered excitedly and with authority, “Zvoovim!” (flies). Okay, so we thought the bags of water were supposed to scare away bees – she’s using them to scare away flies. “Does it work?” we asked. With noticeably less excitement and authority they all shrugged their shoulders. “We don’t know.”

When they say everything is negotiable here, they are not kidding
On the way to Tel Aviv Bob told me a little about his visit to ACE Hardware in Jerusalem the day before. I sent him there to get me a normal trashcan (yes, I am still slow dancing with my trashcan liner each time I need to remove the bag) and a basic vacuum cleaner. Four hours later he returned, defeated. We’re sensing a common theme here – the problem is not so much that the stores don’t carry what you want. It’s not that the service is lacking. It’s not even that the prices are ridiculous. It’s that when you see a known name such as ACE you sort of (incorrectly!) expect the same level of quality and service you would get in such a store back in the states.

In addition to my requested items (neither of which were available), Bob had been looking for a Black & Decker drill to replace the one we brought which burned out the minute we got here. It is his favorite tool. He found it in ACE but the package was opened. He asked a salesperson for an unopened box. They gave him one that had clearly been opened but was now tightly closed with green tape. He asked for another one. Another opened box. The price was more than 450 NIS. The salesman told him “It’s fine, it’s good, I’ll give it to you for 400 NIS.” “What is this, the shuk?” Bob asked. The salesman said to call him when he’s in line and he’ll come to the register to confirm the discount. This gave Bob some time to think and get into negotiation mode. He decided he wasn’t paying an agarot over 350 NIS for this opened drill and when he called the guy over he told him as much. They agreed on 370 and so the deal was made. Not in the shuk. In ACE Hardware.

Is broken English the pathway to fluent Hebrew? I sure hope so...
After 3 skewers of pergiot (baby chicken) Rosie grabbed her stomach and exclaimed, “I am too much full!”

Hoshanah Rabbah - not just a calendar holiday
Tomorrow night starts Hoshanah Rabbah – the holiday marking the final sealing of our judgment after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There are shiurim (classes) being held in the evening and all day on Friday. What’s remarkable here is the universal awareness of this inherently significant and amazing day which, until now, used to just pass me by unless I happened to be looking at the calendar.

A yishuv tov
This is what people wish us constantly. “A good settlement.” In other words, we should have a good experience settling in. No settler pun intended. I have to go mix up the second round of my kids' antibiotics now - a service not provided in the pharmacy. I am running to Mahane Yehuda to buy meat for Shabbat early tomorrow morning since the butcher is closed for hol hamoed. Too bad I don't have Bob's bargaining skills! Overall, it's a process but i think we’re on track. I hear drilling sounds coming from the basement. That’s as good a sign as any.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #52 - i can sure tell it

Wildlife in the aretz – and some advice – do NOT walk barefoot after dark.
This would probably go under the heading of “things nobody has ever told you about Israel” but let me please be the first. I opened my door to shake out a tablecloth in front of my house and saw no less than 6 gigantic slugs on my front porch. By gigantic I mean absolutely huge. Each one was almost the size of a cigar. I photographed each one, partly for posterity and partly because I knew Bob would think I was exaggerating when I said six. Now he can examine the distinct (and huge) features of each one via my photography.

Why doesn’t Obama just ask me?
I can tell you all about socialized medicine. It’s bottom line care with no service whatsoever. Lots of sign this and go here and wait for this and then go there. Need bloodwork? Take this scrip, have it re-written on your insurance paper by a doctor that you may have to officially switch to for the next three months, then take the paper to the nurse in the clinic. Let her draw blood and come back to the clinic for the results. Or you can call the lab. We did this tonight – the calling. Not for bloodwork but for my strep culture. I had my husband’s cousin call. She’s lived here since childhood. She’s raised four kids here and made plenty of calls here. Her Hebrew is immaculate. I gave her the required paperwork and documentation in preparation for “the call”. My strep culture’s bar code. My teudat zechut (Israeli ID number). And the phone number for the automated lab results. It took her four calls to get through the menu, the data entry and finally to the results (normali, Baruch Hashem). On with my life. My next medical adventure will be after the holiday when I register at the hospital (I’ve heard a range of views on this practice – ranging from ‘you must’ to ‘you don’t have to but they’ll yell at you in Hebrew when you show up in labor unregistered’ to ‘I’ve never registered ever and it totally doesn’t matter’) and go for my next sonogram/doctor’s visit (at which she will prescribe bloodwork for which I will have to go to the clinic, have the scrip re-written….). I’m seeing this very nice private doctor at my own expense and will be paying her to deliver me, Be’H, when the time comes. As Israeli as I am trying to be, I couldn’t wrap my brain around a delivery sans doctor (yes, midwives deliver you here) although if my private doctor can’t make it to the hospital when I am actually delivering I may get a chance to be so Israeli after all. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #51 - ulpan and tradition

In ulpan we have the makings of an opener for Middle East peace – our teacher pointed out that Ivrit (Hebrew) and Aravit (Arabic) are essentially the same word with two letters inverted. She reviewed some Aravit words that have been absorbed into the Ivrit (Kef (fun), Yalla (come on now), Sababa (okay, cool)) and said, “See - cousins!”

Low class.
When I asked her about some of the words I know that she wasn’t teaching (I thought “where are you from?” was “m’eyfo ata?” as opposed to “m’ayin ata?”) she gave a quick but clear explanation. “There is Shakespeare…” (she held her hand all the way up high) “…and there is Kveesh (street)!” (hand held way down low). Seems much of the Ivrit I’ve picked up along the way is kveesh.

Sakana! (Danger!)
We learned about the otiot garon – throat letters – which, if used in conjunction with the wrong prefix can cause you to choke (choking demonstrated by our instructor) and which, if used with a dagesh or a shvah become lethal. (I don't even know what that means but we'd best be careful!) We learned about the counterintuitive nature of Israeli double negatives. ‘Nobody doesn’t understand’ is the literal translation of a sentence that actually means, ‘Nobody understands.’ He doesn’t understand anything? He doesn’t understand nothing! My inner grammar freak is quivering.

Existentialism in ulpan – “Why?”
When someone asked about the double negatives the answer came in the form of a musical interlude. “Masoret!” she answered and then in her best Tevya, she belted out “Tradition… tradition! Tradition!”

The weather here is a blessing – and not just when it’s good for beach days and bar-b-q’s!
We’re finding ourselves caught up in another Israeli tradition. Tomorrow will be our third consecutive hol hamoed bar-b-q. As for something a little more meaningful…it rained this morning – something even the kids know to appreciate here and at this time of year. I received the following note from my friend Shelomo, a learned historian:

In the old days, when it would not rain, the Sephardic rabbis would all gather in the lower portion of the courtyard of the "Four Synagogues" near the Rova HaYehudi parking lot. There, they would sit for 24 hours - while they would fast, as they prayed for rain.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #50 –sukkot, togetherness, language

Sukkah hopping
From Friday morning my kids were asking when they could go sukkah hopping. By the time the actual “hopping” from sukkah to sukkah began, dinner was eaten and 3 out of 4 kids were asleep on the couch. Giddy and euphoric, Barbara went with her friends from house to house, collecting candy. Meanwhile, as we enjoyed dessert with our guests, we were the recipients of a variety of sukkah hopping guests, most under the age of 10. Candy was flying (literally – Bob was tossing it out) as they shared divrei Torah, stories about ushpizin (Sukkot guests), and pizmonim (songs).

Kulam B’yachad – everyone together…
After just one day of Yom Tov we began our 6 full days of hol hamoed with a trip to the beach at Herziliya. On the radio in the car, the DJ was playing music by which to enjoy our hol hamoed and wishing everyone a hag sameach. Everyone in the entire country. Hol hamoed is a time for family trips. The entire country is involved on some level with tiyulim – trips ranging from daylong excursions to the beach, olive picking, orange picking, dune buggy riding, kite festivals, music festivals, hikes, forest bike rides, etc. to overnight vacations to the Dead Sea, the north, the coast. And it’s a great time for – what else – sukkah bar-b-q’s. We have 3 scheduled.

Before the breathtaking Herziliya sunset and after the arctic man (ice ice!) we caught a glimpse of an army training exercise – about 40 young men running with two different stretchers on their shoulders, each loaded up with sandbags. We cheered them on and I later explained to the kids how they prepare for any possible scenario, including, Gd forbid, injury to one of their own.

Before we left the beach my phone rang. It was the pediatrician. The strep throat we had cultured for 3 days earlier had come up positive. For all three girls. I would have forgotten about it completely if Bob and I hadn’t woken up that morning with burning throats ourselves…

There’s a reason 3 year olds don’t go to ulpan…
My Rosie, who didn’t say a word before she turned two and who hasn’t stopped talking since she turned three, has started to babble in Hebrew. She’s in the habit of talking to herself anyway but now, if you listen you hear her talking about a Chamudi (cutie) and singing about the Shemayim and the Aretz (heaven and earth). She counts everything around her (in Hebrew) and even makes up Hebrew-sounding gibberish names for the new baby. She’s ahead of me on multiple fronts.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #49 – a new skill set

It happened! Just like they said it would!
I feel like I just got initiated to some sort of club – satisfied at my efficiency, I looked at my stovetop thinking about our delicious dinner in the works (gefilte fish, soup with gundi, fasoulia, string beans with meat) – and wondered why the pots were no longer giving off steam. I peeked underneath the pots and could only laugh at my fate. The gas balloon ran out! Since these things are known to happen erev hag I was not surprised when I called the gas balloon people and got a busy signal. Four different times. B”H, I have a second balloon and so I turned it on (I now know how to do this!!!) and continued cooking. Note to self: call gas balloon people during hol hamoed (reality check: there is NO WAY they will be open until acharay haHagim).

Life experience
I am now an experienced medical specimen courier. I set my alarm for 7am and had my children’s throat cultures at the Kupat Cholim office well before the real lab courier showed up at 8:30. I was given a series of barcodes, a phone number, a username and a password. By hook or by crook I will be able to access the results sometime on Sunday. Here’s hoping I can understand them.

My gardener and I were reviewing which southern California plants would thrive in my garden when the Lice Lady ran in, between appointments, to check my kids because I had begged, begged, begged her to come. When she left, he asked me what she gets per head – I told him the money is good – maybe his daughters should train as lice ladies. He laughed and said, “They should train?!? They are already trained! They grew up here!”

Hag Sameah!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #48 – small victories – fish, bees, hot water, lice – and a nighttime trip to the doctor

Fish pond clearing up
Until today I thought we had two fish. One orange and one white living in really murky water. When I returned from ulpan this afternoon I saw Bob and Barbara sitting outside watching our cascading waterfall running (through the home-made-by-Bob filter) into the fish pond. I took one look and saw no less than 6 fish plus in almost crystal clear water. Unbelievable!

If Bob can make a fishpond filter, surely I can commission a bee trap!
I hoped Bob would find a bee trap when shopping for sechach yesterday but alas, none was to be found. Last Friday when I didn’t know how to operate my new Gold Line crock pot (it has a mysterious third setting called ‘auto’) I posted a question on the Efrat chat list about it. I got maybe 45 responses with all sorts of instructions and tips. It was really remarkable. And so again, I took my query to the chat list. How to make a bee trap? I got about 6 responses within the first hour with varying levels of detail (including this one: Hang bags of water and the bees see themselves in the reflection and leave!). Fortunately my seminary guests walked in (ready for a project) just as I was reviewing the bee trap responses. I now have a coke bottle bee trap (thanks, girls!) ready to be set up outside my sukkah tomorrow.

Ouch! Burning hot water
Suddenly the dud shemesh is giving us hot water. Seemingly ample amounts of burning hot water. We don’t know what to make of this, after exactly 2 months of NOT HOT WATER. We’re holding our breath and waiting – for what I’m not sure – but it seems too hot to be true.

It’s lice season in the aretz
3 of my children’s friends have nits – so I call the lice lady (who is booked solid) and BEG for a pre-emptive check. Baruch Hashem the lice lady came AND found nothing. Did I say Baruch Hashem? Baruch Hashem!!!

I’m so American it’s embarrassing sometimes. Need a doctor? Better to time your illness.
When Barbara came downstairs yesterday morning complaining of a sore throat I encouraged her to go to school, explaining that I’d take her to the doctor that evening. Because as far as I knew the doctor only has hours in the evening. As in you call at 4:30pm and they tell you when to come. Same day service. And so I called the doctor at 4:30pm hoping to get in quickly. I left a message. By now Becky was complaining of a sore throat and I didn’t much care for the way Asher was coughing. After a half hour I called again. Another message. A while later the doctor called me. Very apologetically and gently, with patience, he explained to me in English what I must have been missing each time I heard his answering machine. Seems he had hours the evening before, he’d had hours that morning and he was having hours again the next evening. A quick mental calculation told me it’s best to time an illness to fall out on a Tuesday evening. He apologized further for not having his diary with him and advised me to call his office the next day at 4:30pm to schedule an appointment. There are people who predicted my aliyah would fail based on the high level of medical pampering I was used to in New York. They are laughing now.

I kept Barbara home today and brought all four of them (Rose was now also complaining of a sore throat) to our 7pm appointment this evening. Three sore throats and one cough. For the cough – tea with honey. For the sore throats, B’H, he had the throat culture kits in his office (I was dreading waiting another day to take them to the kupat cholim just to culture them). So as I see him wrapping up the cultures and labeling them I ask (in shocked dismay), “They don’t have rapid strep tests here?” He assured me they do and if I don’t want to wait (the wait is a whole other story) I can go to the pharmacy in the morning, buy the rapid tests, go to the kupat cholim and have the nurse administer them. Okay… So now my advice to anyone planning on needing a strep test in Israel is to need it early in the week. A Thursday night test gets to the lab (this is a whole other story as well) Friday. It cooks overnight but the lab is closed for Shabbat. So the test is first looked at Sunday morning. Okay…So as the doctor hands ME the strep cultures I look at him sort of funny. He says they need to get to the kupat cholim before the 8:30 lab pickup tomorrow morning. I am wondering why he is sharing this detail with me. Of course there is some medical service that picks up the cultures and brings them to the lab. Right? Ha! I am the medical courier! I will wake up early tomorrow morning, deliver 3 cultures and then wait until Sunday for the results. The doctor was amazing and thorough, there is no question. The level of medical pampering, however, was less than zero.