Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #172 – Do I feel safe here?

As we sat in the food court of the Malcha Mall, Bob asked me this question.
Do you feel safe here?
What did he mean? This is the type of question I get from visitors as I drive them past the security checkpoint to enter Gush Etzion. Or as we enter Efrat from the traffic circle we share with Bet Lehem. Bob and I never have this conversation! Did he see someone suspicious? Did he have a gut feeling about something? I looked around to confirm my initial reaction and then answered him, confidently.
Yes. Absolutely.
Look up.

As you can see the decorative ceiling in the food court of the Malcha Mall is somewhat short of completion. And the piles of metal rods needed to finish the job are available. And waiting. Precariously perched overhead... Maybe the workers are on hafseka (break). Maybe they are on strike. I ate the rest of my salad looking straight down at my plate.

The benchmark for a subtle, unobtrusive fence…
The ‘light rail’ in Jerusalem is nearing completion. There are rails built right into sidewalks all over the city. Apparently the train will appear, doors will open all over the place, people will step on and the train will disappear.
But how will people not get run over by the train? The rails are in the middle of the sidewalk. There is no fence.
They’ll have to put a fence. Nothing big.
Like the landmine fence?
That’s more like a suggestion not to cross than a real fence. Yeah, something like that.
You know the baby really loved the pool last week. What are we going to do when she discovers the fish pond?
I was thinking we should put a little suggestion of a fence around it. Nothing big.
The landmine fence?
That would be perfect.

Just when you think you can’t be surprised at the upside-down-ness of this place…
When I called to schedule the baby’s appointment with a pediatric pulmonologist after a bout of wheezing, I was given an appointment at 8:45. The doctor is in Kikar Shabbat which is a well-known 5-way intersection in the heart of Mea Shearim. An extremely busy place but easy to find parking before 9am. I was happy.
To confirm. Your appointment is Sunday at 8:45pm.
No! No! I need a something earlier!
Something earlier…I have 6:45.
In the morning?
No. 6:45 in the evening.
Do you have something in the morning?
No, the doctor only has hours from 6-10 at night.

Hebrew Word of the Day (proper nouns count)….
There’s a guy everyone seems to know. He’s everywhere and yet, he’s nowhere to be found. He’s to blame for everything and everyone’s got a story about him. His name is Plony Almony and just the other day I was speaking about him to Barbara. And then the very next day her teacher mentioned him in class. Plony Almony is the Israeli Joe Schmoe.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #171 – Accepting that “First In Line” is a meaningless title will take you a long way here

Hebrew Word of the Day:
Chutzpanit – someone who has over-stepped the boundaries of accepted behavior with no shame.

I should have known better but how could I have known….
That when you visit Hevron during Hol Hamoed Sukkot that more than a thousand other people will also be visiting (okay, no problem), that you will have to park your car in a field somewhere in Kiryat Arba (reasonable) and take one of many available buses in (easy, so far), but that when you want to leave you will suddenly be involved in a struggle with more than a thousand other people to board a scarce bus back to the field somewhere in Kiryat Arba (very orderly, everyone waiting patiently in line, respecting the order and the line, oh, wait a minute, no, THE OPPOSITE of that).

After 3 failed attempts at boarding a bus with my children (each time I was first in line – a relevant fact only in my mind) I decided I had two choices. Become Israeli or wait until the last of those thousand plus people left at nightfall and then pray a final bus would come for me and my family. Was it really even a choice?

I threw 3 of my girls onto the next bus. Literally. Rosie’s feet didn’t touch the steps of the bus. She landed next to the driver.
GO GO GO! I shouted. IN IN IN!
Barbara asked if she should climb in under someone’s legs.
Rosie, Becky and Barbara disappeared inside. The bus driver got up to tell me and the throngs of people amassed behind me,
Meleh, Meleh (full).
With feigned dismay and pseudo-shock I said:
Aval ha yeladim sheli befnim! But my children are inside!
As I pushed my way onto the bus I looked the driver in the eye.
As I made my way to the back of the bus, found ample space for me and Rosie, and discovered Bob, Asher and the Baby had all boarded as well, I heard Becky asking Bob:
Aba. What is chutzpanit?
Why do you ask, Becky?
The bus driver said Mommy is chutzpanit!

How do you know your ‘klita’ (absorption and acclimation into the Israeli way of life) is progressing? For starters, you start using words like ‘klita’. You wish people a Horef Tov, literally, “happy winter.” And if you’re really making strides like me, when an Israeli bus driver calls you 'Chutzpanit!' you smile and wear that label like a badge of honor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #170 - enthusiasm for all things Israeli (80's tunes on intercepted airwaves included)

Hebrew Words of the Day:
Kan Kan – pitcher (We’ll take a kan kan of water for the table.)
Koo Koo – pony tail holder (Rosie – put your hair in a koo koo so you don’t get lice!)
Kooshbalaboosh – scribble scrabble (Look at my picture, Mommy. It’s kooshbalaboosh!)

Totally Israeli phenomenon of the Day:
My Israeli neighbor has a gigantic side yard in perfectly manicured…Astroturf. And I’m absolutely 100% certain he’s never even heard of the Brady Bunch.
What is it about Anglos living in the Middle East rocking out to 80’s tunes?
I have a new favorite radio station – Mood 92.
Serving the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
And Efrat.
They play a few notes of something from Christopher Cross and then interrupt to announce:
If you like this then you’ll love Mood 92. Best music in The Kingdom.
Everything is about The Kingdom. They advertise the best BMW dealership in The Kingdom. The best hair removal products in The Kingdom. That’s about the only two ads they run. Then they’re back to the best music in The Kingdom. ELO, Mister Mister, Meatloaf, The Steve Miller Band, Kool & the Gang, Bob Marley(!!!). I’m loving Mood 92 but I would have named it something else. "Shameless 80’s for The Kingdom, plus".

New land. New fruits.
The last time I was enjoying Mood 92 I was on my way to the shuk. In search of Passiflora. Until recently I thought Passiflora was only a slushie flavor. Then my friend Melissa showed me the fruit and how to eat it (wait until it looks dried out and brown, cut it in half and scoop out the delicious inside). Of course I’m about a month too late. There is no Passiflora in all the shuk. But what is that intoxicating fruity smell? It’s everywhere?
I ask my fruit guy.
Mah zeh?
Zeh gwee-ah-vah.
Mmm! Guava!
Never having eaten one but sold on the fragrant aroma, I buy half a kilo. Then I see Becky’s favorite fruit, parsimon (persimmon). I buy a kilo, forgetting I bought a kilo yesterday in the makolet. Then I see figs. I can’t help myself. A kilo of figs. When my kids get home and see the fruit bowl they look mildly interested and then ask if there are more donuts hiding anywhere. I don’t care. I love our new fruits!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #169 - Mysteries

Disappearing time
My friend pointed out to me last night that I haven’t posted since October 1. What have I been so busy with, I wondered to myself?

Of course it’s those school emails I’ve been running through Google Translator. Every day, sometimes 4, 5 or even 6 in a single day. Since the first day of school I have received 16 emails from the girls school, 19 emails from the boys school and 4 emails from Asher’s teacher directly. 39 emails in 22 days of school.

Email about the uniforms and the long arm of the law:
Modesty shirt meets the long ruling of law school

And then the follow up email where they tell you where to park it:
Parents have not yet completed the purchase of polo shirts are asked to park the palm.

Email about the fangs pygmies online course:
will also Hebrew Online Course -" Fangs pygmies "which taught parents and children Onashir our knowledge in the holy tongue.

The school lunch menu email, (again with ham!):
Sunday Monday Wednesday Thursday
Hmgisit: Schnitzel, spaghetti, pizza and vegetable two triangles Pizzeria in Gush Hmgisit:Chicken, rice, vegetable baguette with ham
All dishes will be added to fruit.

Email about the inconvenience of olive grenade fire:
March rally tomorrow's youth rally with olive grenade fire. You like to stay for the inconvenience, we'd love to see you join us and your child walk.

The volunteering project email:
Youth movements in a week, we are pleased to announce that today the value like a commune in the business counselors - and then turn our daughters school activities and kindness six different stations. We see the appropriate Youth belonging to the spirit house.

And then there were multiple emails regarding the library project, the recycling project, the water project, the bus schedule, changes to the bus schedule, sweatshirts for the uniforms, and the crying-seltzer-on-fire-back-to-school-night:
Please note that the meeting was crying and 4 of the torch Seltzer begins earlier at 19:30.

This year, I attended back to school night for Barbara, Asher and Becky (last year I missed all three). I took notes on whatever I could understand.
Tzedakah yes.
Silly Bandz no.
Need sweatshirtim.

Missing vocabulary
This morning I took Barbara with me for coffee. She ordered a muffin. The lady understood muffin.
Ech omrym muffin b’ivrit? (how do you say muffin in Hebrew)
K’mo Anglit?
(like in English?)
I laughed.
Ein l’chem mah-feen lifney ha Amerikayim ba’im? (there was no 'muffin' before the Americans arrived?)
Nachon! (correct)

Along with muffin, sweatshirtim, and redymiks concrete, Amerikayim seem to have brought a host of new concepts to Israel. For example, fairness.
Zeh lo fair! (it’s not fair)
Zeh ken fair! (it is too fair!)
Lo! Zeh lo fair! (no, it’s not fair!)
Usually this discussion takes place near an elevator (or bus) door and involves people who waited patiently, hoping to get on, and people who pushed through (and actually got on).

The case of the missed boat
With Google Translator in my corner, I was holding my head up high. Knowledge really is power! Then Rosie’s back to school night pounced upon me. And knocked me flat on my back. She came home last Wednesday with an invitation she’d made herself.
Asher – does this say “hayom b’sha’ah 20:30”? (today at 8:30pm)
Uh, yes. And you have to bring a photograph of her.
What kind of gan tells you about back to school night
– (I look at my watch) - 4 hours in advance??? I have no babysitter! I cannot possibly go.
Yes rosie?
You HAVE to go.

I thought of the ‘Daf Kesher’ Rosie brings home from Gan every Friday. The ‘Page of Connection’ that doesn’t connect me because I don’t know what it says but of course it must have said something about Rosie’s back to school night. And the photograph. If only they’d emailed the notice! Oh Google Translator, where are you when I really need you???

Disappearing white pasta…
When Bob was in America last week I decided to make some small changes in our family diet. I went to the health food store and returned with wheat berries, amaranth, legumes, agave and whole wheat pasta. I cooked up lentil soup, fava beans, black beans, brown rice, soy protein, tofu and polenta – and insisted everyone try it. They all did, with varying degrees of resistance, and then settled in, each one, for a bowl of Cheerios.

The Case of the Disappearing Donut...
Bob returned from America with processed, hydrogenated and chemically altered (to last indefinitely on a shelf), Entenmann’s Donuts. A box of 12. The mother of all ‘whadjabringus?’ surprises.
12 donuts divided among 4 junk deprived children.
These children dream about donuts.
Their first words to Bob were
Hi Aba!
And their second words were
And to prevent a donut free-for-all which would surely result in crying
We implemented a strict schedule of donut consumption
Which also resulted in crying
Shabbat morning – one donut each
Sunday lunch snack – one donut each
That’s 8 donuts in 4 little bellies.
A report comes in.
Aba let Asher have a second donut on Shabbat.
Asher is maxed out.
9 donuts in 4 little bellies.
From 12.
Which leaves 3, right?
Except that there are only 2 in the box.
In unison:
Aba says, No. Maybe Asher ate it.
The kids join in.
Asher says no and then blames Becky.
Becky says no, blames Asher.
Someone suggests it was Rosie.
Bob points a finger at me.
I look at Barbara.
We are at an impasse.
And so, 2 donuts remain, uneaten, in the box, on the shelf.
Where they will last indefinitely.
Until the donut thief strikes again.

For the last week we’ve had a cat in the window.
My first question was
Who’s been feeding the cat?
They all say no.
Yesterday we noticed a second cat in the window
Somebody must be feeding these cats.
Who is feeding the cats?

Did someone feed the donut to one of the cats?
Did the cat come in and take the donut?
Will the children feed wheat berries and polenta to the cats?
Stay tuned for answers to these mysteries and more…

Friday, October 1, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #168 – serpents, chocolates, songs, and tzaddikim

Just in time for his 15 minutes of fame...

Yes, that is just outside my front door. Maybe I should stop saying I live in Gan Eden?

The finer things... We have them – Belgian Chocolates, yogurt covered energy bars – but they belong in the refrigerator. The eggs can sit on the counter indefinitely but unless you want a big melty blob of gourmet chocolate (or a confusing mix of yogurt melted together with glue from the wrapping of your energy bar), it’s best to rethink your use of refrigerator space.

Casualties of my aliya
Every Israeli knows these same 100 songs. They learn them first. In fact, they are called ‘100 First Songs’. In a year’s time my kids have learned every one of them. Yonatan Ha Katan (Little Yonatan), Yom Huledet Shel Itamar (happy birthday, Itamar!), etc., etc. So last week I told Rosie to sing the ABCs while she soaped her hands to be sure she spent enough time scrubbing. This is what I heard:
A-B-C-D-E…….I….. Silence.
Again, Rosie?
Again silence.
Followed by a lot of squealing, mostly from me.
OMIGOSH! She forgot her ABCs!!!
Barbara and Becky spent the rest of the day reprogramming Rosie in English (at some point they realized she also didn’t know Twinkle Twinkle and Wheels on the Bus) and by bedtime she was ready for a solo performance. Hesitating but without mistake she made it from A to Z. Thatwasacloseone.

A trip to Kever Yosef - Date Night redefined
A late night rendezvous, a bullet-proof bus, a military escort, dancing hassidim and fervent prayers. Only in Israel.