Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #143 – as I try to grasp new words Rosie struggles to hold on to old ones

Rhymes with chutzpah
Every day I learn a new word. I mean, I hear about a hundred new words but then one of them will be a word I recognize because I’ve heard it before so I’ll just stop whoever’s talking and ask them what that particular word means.

Yesterday it was ‘tamshiki’ – continue. As in, ‘nu, continue with your ulpan, lady.’

Fitting, as I continue to break my teeth on this language. Today’s accomplishments in cave-man Hebrew include rescheduling a dentist appointment, calling Asher’s school to have them remind him of a doctor’s appointment, and making calls to my Israeli (as opposed to my American) neighbors, selling Chinese Auction tickets for the kids’ school. It’s impressive only in comparison to where I started (smiling pretty in the bank, remember?).

I cannot for the life of me keep straight kvutzah (group), chultzah (shirt), and kuftzah (box). Tomorrow I will drop off Bob’s chultzot to be ironed but when I spoke to the ironing lady, I informed her I’d be dropping off his boxes. I ledaber (speak) things when I am supposed to l’omer (say) them. I turn women into men at every turn – except for when I am turning men into women. Everything I say takes place in the present tense even if it took place in the past. So lately my kids have been correcting me. Yishavti. I sat. Choshavti. I thought. Shechachti. I forgot. And so it goes. For me, anyway.

Excited utterances
Rosie’s still tossing out random tidbits about yesterday’s tiyul. But yesterday’s events took place in Hebrew. So I’m getting information like:
On the autoboos we sang shirim!
I was zug with Liat! Pelly was zug with Boaz! Ahuva was zug with Neely!

I was making pancakes while she was telling me this. Then she asked if it the pancake in the pan was the achron.
The achron?
Yes. Is that the achron?
What is achron?
Rosie – are you asking if it’s the last one?

And suddenly there was an astonishing admission:
Ima. I’m forgetting some words in English.
What words, Rosie?
For real?
For real, Ima.
You don’t know how to say oznayim in English?
No, Ima.
Oznayim are ears, Rosie.
Oh, yeah. Ears. I forgot.

Thank Gd I know what oznayim are. What will I do when she starts forgetting words I don’t know? Maybe I need to start learning two new words a day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #142 – supply and demand and a magical mystery tour

In Israel paper is in short supply but magnets appear not to be. And so, we have magnetized business cards. Which you will find, unsolicited, everywhere. Stuck to your fence, your gate, your car. An essential part of Passover cleaning is thinning out the collection of magnetized business cards accumulated throughout the year. I wouldn’t have realized that many front doors here are made of metal if not for the magnetized business cards adorning them.

Paper’s not the only thing in short supply (Alternately “magnetic imaging is not a magnet”)
In Brooklyn there was a medical imaging office on just about every corner. Need an MRI? Get one tomorrow. A friend recently shared her experience trying to procure an appointment here for an MRI. There are maybe 5 MRI machines in the country. So it makes sense that they work around the clock but it still seems weird. She was first scheduled in Jerusalem for a midnight appointment but it was two months away. So she’s heading to Tel Aviv next week instead. For a 3am MRI.

The weirdness of middle of the night medical imaging is fading after hearing Rabbi Riskin talk more about his connection to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. A story from more than 40 years ago in which he desperately needed the Rebbe’s guidance and an audience with the Rebbe was quickly arranged for him. For the very next night... at 2:30 in the morning.

Paper is in such short supply there is not enough even to send home trip notices! (to be fair - there's not enough paper for an english notice after the hebrew notice!)
Rosie had a tiyul today. I knew she was going on a tiyul because she told me so.
Ima! I have a tiyooool. I don’t need to bring any food. Just a mamtak!
What’s a mamtak? Is it a snack? Or candy?
I don’t know. I think it’s potato chips.
Do you need a kovah (hat)?
Yes! A mamtak and a kovah!
Do you need mashu lishtot
(something to drink)?
Ummmm…yes. But no tik (bag). And no ochel (food).
Do you need sunscreen?
No! The ganenet will put.
Where are you going?
On a real tiyoool ima! With a bus and a train!

And so I sent her off with a hat and water and a few pieces of Israeli toffee because Barbara said a mamtak is a candy. But then Barbara came back to tell me Rosie was supposed to bring candy for the entire gan. Of course she was. These kids don’t realize I am on to their scheme. I just smiled and gave over the big bag of toffee.

And so, from Rosie’s excited, albeit disjointed, recounting of the day I am getting, in little joyous outbursts, a glimpse of her mystery tiyul.
There was a REAL RAKEVET!!!
What’s a rachevet, Rosie?
It’s a um…um…um… oh, yeah, a rakevet is a TRAIN! And we took a REAL bus!

About an hour later, out of nowhere: And we went on a merry weather!
A merry-go-round?
YES! A merry-go-round!

During the bath she exclaimed: There were animals! I petted some!

A bus and a train and a merry-go-round. Candies and animals. If only they’d sent her home with a magnetic business card.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #141 – sometimes the holes in my vocabulary are more significant than others. Even if I am capable of filling out moadone forms...

Do Israelis not eat soft-boiled eggs?
For all the different ways I enjoy my Israeli breakfast, today I wanted something a little simpler – the comfort food my mom always made when I was feeling a bit under the weather. I wanted a soft-boiled egg. So easy to make. So difficult to order.
Efshar soft-boiled egg?
(hand gestures indicating round egg). Lo livtoak (Don’t open it). Laseem b’mayim cham beshveel shalosh dakot (Put in hot water for 3 minutes).
A puzzled look and then,
He tells the other guy to put an egg in a cup of hot water and leave it there for three minutes. Hmm… can you actually cook an egg in a cup of hot water? Why don’t I know how to say cook? Cook the egg for three minutes! I wanted to say. I should be in ulpan RIGHT NOW!
Oolye hamesh dakot (Maybe five minutes).
When my order was ready (exactly one minute later) I thought surely I would be opening up a raw egg. But, alas, no. It was a hardboiled egg, warmed up special for me in a cup of hot water.

I should let Bob do all the shopping
For 10 months I stayed out of Fox (Israel’s answer to Old Navy?). Not because there’s anything wrong with Fox. Quite the contrary. Clothes-shopping is simply not coded in my DNA. I see Fox, Golf, Zara, even Mish Mish and I quickly start looking for the nearest coffee shop. Or pharmacy – because I have no trouble shopping for diapers, wipes, or even 80 shekel sunscreen while balancing a café afook.

But today, I not only made my way into Fox. I succeeded in picking out clothes for the kids, using a store credit (which I wasn’t even sure was a store credit) and I allowed myself to be caught up in the hype surrounding a decision to opt in to the moadone (club membership). How could I not – even with the 60 shekel fee my total was reduced by forty shekels! And I now have a 100 shekel credit for the month of Yuni (June)! Let’s not forget the 30% discount in my birthday month! Knowing myself (read: all this excitement will be forgotten the minute I exit the store), I told Becky to remind me to come shopping in Yuni.

While I was busy attempting to transform my genetic make-up, Bob was in the pharmacy picking up diapers, opting out of the pharmacy moadone.
Lo, todah (no, thank you)
Mapitone? (What are you saying?)
Lo, lo.
(calling after him) But you can save 20 shekels!
Lo, todah, lo.

Less excitement, but undoubtedly, greater savings. With the added satisfaction of mystifying the Israeli salesclerk.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #140 - you learn something new every day

Insect of the day? week? month?
They come like seasonal mascots – a species of insect that seems to explode on the scene for a period of time. They disappear just as fast – but not before the replacement species shows up. Last month we had the Shabbat-shirt-seeking-flying-black-bugs. When they left we had parparim (butterflies). Then there were Herculean mosquitoes. Followed by microscopic mosquitoes (the bites are equally itchy).

This week we have the suffering bug. So named by Asher who will then get on the floor and do an impression of this little black beetle. It doesn’t start out suffering – it finds its way into your home (bathrooms and steps seem to be a favorite destination) and then – perhaps it gets overexcited – it ends up on its back, with all its little legs wiggling in the air. This is the suffering part. It stays like that for a few minutes and then it dies. Victory. Overexcitement. Suffering. Death. The life-cycle of the suffering bug.

Life goes on...
For all my shuk shopping (a considerable amount, if I may say so) I never noticed the awnings above the stalls and so I have no idea of shop names. I just have my guys. I get my meat from my meat guy. He’s next to the fish guy. I get my lettuce from the lettuce guy (lettuce guy anecdote to follow) who is up from the cheese guy and across from the halva guy. And so when my friend asked me to pick up salmon from the shuk I said no problem.
I’ll get it from my fish guy.
Who do you use?
The fish guy next to the meat guy.
Which meat guy?
The Mahadrin meat guy on the end.
No no. Get it from my fish guy.
Who is your fish guy?
David Dagim.
Where’s that?
Up 3 lanes and across.
And so began the search. Somehow I started out at my fish guy. Because who knows – maybe my fish guy is David Dagim. Turns out he’s Dawid Dagim. Close. But not it. We wove up, down and across and found Avner Dagim. Then Aharon Dagim. My favorite (because of the rhyme) – Nissim Dagim. Bob called out from ahead of me:
Is it Danny Dagim?
David Dagim! I answered.
As we passed Shlomo Dagim it occurred to me they don’t have ‘name this store’ contests in Israel. As we got back almost to where we started suddenly we were standing in a long line of ladies before the fish counter of David Dagim. At that moment my friend called me.
Did you find it?
I found all of them, I tell her.
Dawid Dagim, Avner Dagim, Aharon Dagim, Nissim Dagim, Danny Dagim, Shlomo Dagim, David Dagim
The man behind the counter laughed.
Yes! This (he points to the awning) - this David Fish.

Lettuce guy anecdote:
I insulted my lettuce guy when I asked if he had basil.
I was unpacking basil at two o’clock this morning. Don’t tell me “if you have basil.” Tell me “Give me basil!”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #139 – Rosie’s acclimation is complete

A Ghroze by any other name…
Rose is רוז
So far so good.
But then, for some reason, it gets spelled back into English as Roz. Which, to my American eye, is Rahz. But for an Israeli, is still Rose. Or should I say Ghroze?

In any case, it’s Rose, my most Israeli child, (did I mention she calls herself Ghroze?) who, when mumbling out loud in her sleep, has revealed something special – she dreams in Hebrew.

Got Dainty?
Another holiday is upon us – Shavuot. Tomorrow Rosie’s gan will visit another gan and have a halvi (dairy) party. She was instructed to bring her own מעדן
According to Rosie, ma’adan is a yogurt. With chocolate crunch on top. Or a Milky.

But when I looked up yogurt on google translate it gave me back יוגורט
(yogurt, spelled out in Hebrew). So what’s a ma’adan? I found madan. Not the same. Surely Rosie was not being asked to bring quarrel, strife or contention to gan tomorrow.

Where google translator fell short, my handy Hebrew-English dictionary (a parting gift from the Ladies Auxiliary) came through. Ma’adan is a dainty. That’s right. Rosie needs to bring a dainty to school tomorrow. Funny - I don't picture yogurt when I hear dainty. Quick consult with the English dictionary. Hmmm….

something delicious to the taste; a delicacy.

Okay! Dainty = Delicacy! And in Israel (or at least in Rosie’s gan), dainty = delicacy =yogurt with crunch. Or Milky.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #138 – water (but not ice) is crucial on a hot day

I’m not sweating the small stuff – even if my kids are
It was 35° today so why shouldn’t Rosie have gone off to gan in her snow boots? Well, for one, 35° here means 95° Fahrenheit. But don’t tell Rosie.

There’s more to me than ‘illiterate immigrant’!
I may pick up my mail once a month (and then let it sit, unread, for another month, all the while feeling really bad about it) but if I want some quick and easy self-satisfaction, I do the Jerusalem Post crossword puzzle. All it requires is some experience being an American (6 across: newsman Geraldo_______), some experience being Jewish (4 down: from Passover to Shavuot we count the _______), and some cursory knowledge of American pop culture (21 across: ‘the gloved one’ Michael ________). It’s feel-smart therapy for the otherwise illiterate immigrant.

Remind me why I needed an advanced degree in Economics?
The grocery store clerk tells me what’s best for me economically. Really. There was a slight discussion about which sale item I should take advantage of – the tub of humus for 5 shekel or 2 packs of water bottles for 10. I say slight because ‘discussion’ implies two people giving input. In our case it went like this:
Clerk: No I will not give this to you (the humus). Take the water. It is better for you. Economically.
Was it economic analysis or did he just know about the pending heat wave? I wonder if he could complete the JP crossword. In any case, he was not relenting.
Me: Okay then. I’ll take the water.

What better way to start a 35°C day than with Israeli breakfast?
Israeli breakfast includes eggs, bread, chopped side salad, choice of cheeses (or tuna or avocado), one cold drink and one hot drink. No matter where you order Israeli breakfast, it will not deviate far from this benchmark. But what do you do if your cold drink is not cold enough?

Bob: Do you have ice?
Waitress: Why do you want ice?
Bob: The drink is not cold.
Waitress: It is cold. I took it from the refrigerator.
Bob: But it’s not cold enough.
Waitress: It is very cold.
Bob: I like it colder. I like it with ice.
Waitress: You don’t need ice.
Bob: Can I have ice?
Waitress: No. There is no ice.

Welcome to Israel. Where water costs more than fuel and ice is an indulgent luxury. Where the grocer and the waitress know what you need better than you do. And where absolutely no one will comment on how your kids are dressed for gan.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #137 - bob is gone but at least vee have cherries

Cherries spotted (but almost missed) in the shuk!
I walked past the first display of cherries thinking surely everyone will have them. But nobody had them. So I asked my regular fruit guy if he had cherries. He referred me back to the first guy I’d seen. I must have looked unhappy with that answer because then he told me someone near the Iraqi shuk also has.

When they start quoting prices in hetzi (half) kilos, you know you are in trouble
In fact two guys near the Iraqi shuk had. There are maybe 60 fruit vendors in the entire shuk. Exactly three of them had cherries today. After tasting one very mediocre cherry, I decided my kids needed to be reminded of cherries. And for 20 shekel, I walked away with a most pathetic looking hetzi kilo of (so far) the most elusive fruit in Israel. Save for blueberries.

I like to think I run like the wind
In truth I plod along. Just me and my ipod. (I refuse to carry even a phone). Me and my ipod, plodding along, imagining we are one with the wind.

But now Bob is in the States. Leaving me with the small issue of my small issue. And so, I plod along behind a massive jogging stroller. I wear the ipod but I shed the delusion that I am one with the wind. I am more one with the concrete. There are some amazing benefits to this type of running (let’s still call it running, please). Of course there is the obvious – I can store my water, check my emails, and sneak peeks at my cutie baby without really slowing down. I also have a chance to take in the scenery – both the beautiful (weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk are fig trees) and the hilarious (the Israeli gas company sign). The other day I noticed a deserted tik (bag), called security to alert them to its presence (this is standard procedure, or so the guard in the girls’ school advised me just the day before – so I was ready!) and was still in the general vicinity when they arrived (though running like the wind might have made more sense). I notice flyers posted in Hebrew which I try to decode and when I cannot decode them I whip out my camera and photograph them so I can ask a friend what they mean. So it’s this whole mind-body-sensory experience. In really slow motion. Bob returns tomorrow. I’m charging the ipod. I have a date with the wind.

Slumber party!
Asher is at a sleepover party. Isn’t it a school night, my sister in law asked? Every night is a school night when you go to school 6 days a week. Once the girls realized how the family dynamic had shifted (suddenly we were a pack of girls – no boys or men), they decided we should make our own sleepover party.
Let’s all sleep in mommy’s bed!
Uh, don’t you want to go camping in the attic, girls?

At this moment, they are in sleeping bags in the attic. They fell asleep telling campfire stories like the one about the viper who knocks at the door and says he’s the viper, to please let him in. And he persists and so the door is opened and the viper speaks with a thick Transylvanian accent: I am the viper, here to vipe your vindows! In any case, I expect them to find their way to my bed before morning. Vee shall see.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #136 – where’s a good bonfire when you need one and who’s blocking traffic?

I may plan my next visit to America to coincide with Lag B'Omer...
I have survived my first Lag B’Omer in Israel though it forced me to suppress every parenting instinct in my being. Let me set the stage. In a half block strip of the deserted end of the next street over, there were 8 fires going at once. 3 of them were, more or less, manned by grown-ups.

When my 10-year old daughter and her friends called over to see if any grown-ups could light their bonfire the question became “whose dad will supervise the girls’ fire?” I mean, that was my question. Their question, again, was CAN SOMEONE PLEASE COME LIGHT THIS THING? I sent Bob. To light and to supervise.

As I set about roasting hot dogs and marshmallows for the family I kept a nervous eye on the distance between little fingers and flaming marshmallows as I noticed most sticks the kids were using were foot-long shish kabob skewers. Except for one little 4-year old girl who wanted to roast her hot dog on a popsicle stick. As I delivered her to her parents in hysterical tears I wondered about air fare to New York this time of year.

At some point things (and I) calmed down. The campfire, the singing, the snuggling and the atmosphere - it really was amazing. Absurd and ridiculous. But also amazing.

Will I return next year? It's a question of which prospect shortens my breath with more anxiety - supervising my kids (including a one and a half year old toddler) as they hop between raging bonfires or supervising my kids (including a one and a half year old toddler) on a 12 hour international flight. My breath is already shortening with anxiety.

Sometimes it's like camping even when you're INSIDE your house
Obviously I am on the internet but, like my electricity, my connection is not always so reliable. Did I mention we spent Shabbat in cozy darkness for more than an hour 2 weeks ago? And by cozy darkness I mean blackness, inside and out. No light until Bethlehem. And so, while some people are suing the electric company, others have signed on to a petition to improve the internet connection on Rehov Zerubavel (priorities!). And guess what - soon my ‘high speed internet’ will actually become high speed. I know this to be true because of the cobblestones and street that were so carefully dug up and then replaced this week (see photo) in the middle of the road that runs through Efrat. Every time we drove by (or sat as traffic was waved around the work site) Bob would say:
You see that? That’s high speed internet for Zerubavel, baby!
I can’t wait!

What else is blocking traffic? Don't beep - he's backing in!
Israeli drivers love to find their perfect parking space and then back into it. Even when backing in is not required. Even when backing in is not convenient. Even when they will block traffic in two directions on a major roadway in order to position their car in such a way that, should they have to leave in a hurry, they can do so. A nation of minute-men, if you will. And they respect the ‘back-in parking’. Israeli drivers, not especially known for their patience, will, in fact, wait patiently for someone who is blocking traffic in two directions on a major roadway IF said person is in the process of backing their car into a parking spot. I speak from my very own (shocked) experience!

Somehow I stumbled on this chat page of engineers arguing the merits of front-in vs. back-in parking. It is refreshingly hilarious if you keep “Israeli drivers” in the back of your mind while reading through it: