Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #178 – Diet is exercise

Math and Ulpan before I drink my café afook? My brain hurts.
It’s been a bajillion years since I did WeightWatchers but what can I say? A year and a half of bar mitzvah hopping and Israeli breakfast is adding up. I decided it was time to revisit the familiar fool-proof pointing system of weight-loss past.

I joined WeightWatchers on-line and calculated point values for everything from 5% cottage cheese to 1.5% yogurt. I figured out how to say calorie (energie), fiber (sivan) and fat (shuman) in Hebrew. I converted the calorie, fiber and fat measurements from the irrelevant European-style 100g portions into actual servings. For example, whole wheat crackers come in a 200g package. Nutritional information is given per 100g. The crackers themselves are divided into four portions. Hm, hm, hm, (quick math-in-my-head-noise), divide the nutritional information in half for the 50g serving size. Got it.

Then, after a bajillion years of using the same points system, WeightWatchers decided it was time for an overhaul. Of the points system. Today.

I woke up and was welcomed to my new plan manager with PointsPlus and a little note about how I’ll love the new calculations.
Do they know how hard I worked to get the old calculations?
I fired off an email demanding the return of the old points system.
I got an automated reply letting me know I’ll be getting a human reply. I'm still waiting.
I settled in for a quick session with google translate. I've added carbohydrates (pachmimot) and protein (halvon) to my vocabulary and am working on recalculating the points values of my favorite crackers, yogurts, and cottage cheese.

I already get the gimmick of this new system.
After all the translating and calculating, there’s no time left to eat.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #177 - All I can say is that my life is pretty plain... I like watching the puddles gather rain...

Today Bob pulled a baby stroller out of our storage shed. It was still wrapped from our lift and I was reminded of the rainy summer before we left New York. It had rained for 30 consecutive days. I prayed the rain would subside so we could pack our lift without fear of all our belongings crossing the Atlantic in a sealed container of dampness and mildew and yuck. My prayers were answered that day.

There’s a law in Israel that requires you to drive with your headlights on during the daylight hours from November 1 to March 31. No matter what. No matter that we’re in the midst of our fourth consecutive heat wave since horef (winter) officially started. No matter that Rosie asked me to buy her sunglasses because it’s so bright out when we walk to school that it hurts her eyes.

Speaking of horef
Winter in Israel is defined, in my amateur opinion, as a continuum of beautiful sunny 70°F days interrupted by 3 days at a time of fog and intermittent rain showers. Except that, so far, nobody got the memo about the fog and intermittent rain showers. We’re past the 6 month mark of no rain. We need rain. We’re praying for rain. Barbara can’t understand why it rained so much in New York and yet we haven’t seen rain since March. I tried to explain it in some sort of lofty spiritual vs. material existence way but I wasn’t very convincing. I admit. I am coveting New York rain.

Side effects of no rain – straight from the headlines
Forest Fires Rage as Israel's Rainy Season Fails to Arrive

Cattle ranchers suffering as brush fires have turned large swaths of pasture on the Golan Heights into ashen wastelands

Bananas and persimmons have ripened early, causing serious problems for farmers

Israel faces worst butter shortage in country's history: Slow-to-begin winter is largely to blame for the shortage, since cows produce less milk and butterfat when it's hot out...

In other news
Bob went to the shuk yesterday for our weekly restocking of fruit, vegetables, meat, pita, pickles, ka’ak and nuts. We’re making “Thanksgiving Shabbat” so my vegetable order was particularly large. He reported he bonded a little with our vegetable guy in the Iraqi shuk.
You did? I always try to bond with him! Did I tell you that?
No. But we’re so bondy with all our other guys.
I know! I want to be bondy with our vegetable guy! So what was the bonding?
Well I had a lot of onions. And then a lot of potatoes. Then I got a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes. I handed it all to him and he said, “Are you sure that’s all?”
And what did you say?
And then?
Nothing. That’s it.
That was the bonding?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #176 – conversations with rosie

Rosie’s been learning about composting in gan. She’ll burst out with a tidbit about composting in the middle of dinner, bath, or playtime. What goes in the composter, what doesn’t go in the composter, all kinds of things about the composter. Except that she calls it the com-POST-air. And they must teach it in terms of gender roles because she tells me
Aba has to put the peels in the com-POST-air. Tell Aba, Mommy.

Today they took a field trip to the Mercaz (Central) Something or Other that has to do with composting. Not recognizing the words I asked her what it was. She thought for a minute and then explained
It’s like a gan…without yeladim (children).

Mini Clips
Look Mommy! A heepusheet!
You mean lady bug, Rosie?

Look Mommy! Asher and Becky have otodovar! And me and Barbara have otodovar!
You mean Asher and Becky’s slushies are the same? And yours and Barbara’s are the same?

Mommy, I want to make sure there is lahamagine maspeak l’kulam.
You mean you want to make sure there is enough lahamagine for everyone?

I’m trying not to lose Rosie’s English. But this email from school reminded me that the important thing is not to misplace Rosie.

Via Google Translate:
School Secretariat collected many pairs of glasses. And children.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #175 - where do I live? what language do I speak? will a cactus take bob to the airport? it's all so confusing!

So much faith!!!
When I speak to my Sri Lankan housekeeper it’s in slow and deliberate English. I know English is not his first language and I want to be sure he understands what I’m saying. It would never occur to me to speak to him fast.

So why is it when the school secretary calls to tell me that the post office doesn’t think I live in my house (yes, I do live in my house) and that the school has a package for me and she will just send it home with my son since the post office doesn’t know where my house is, why is it that she speaks to me so fast? Yes, one year and four months into it all I understand enough key words to understand what she is saying. Post office. Package. Address. Maybe she doesn’t know Hebrew is not my first language. But wait, she said something about Olim Hadashim (new immigrants). She is sending me a package for new immigrants. Surely she suspects that if the school wishes me to receive a package designated for new immigrants, than I, myself just might be…a new immigrant? She’s not the only one. I find myself asking people to repeat themselves ‘liat, liat’ (slowly slowly) several times throughout each day. So this begs the question. Do Israelis have no patience for a slow absorption? Do they underestimate the amount of time it takes to fully take on the language? Or do they have faith in the ability of new immigrants to acclimate quickly. So much faith that it would never occur to them to speak slow and deliberate Hebrew?

What’s worse? My Hebrew or Rosie’s English?
When Rosie came home and explained to me she needs a tikya for gan I thought I knew what she meant. I gave her two plastic folders to choose from.
No, no, Ima. I need (something something something, really fast in Hebrew with a strong Israeli accent)!
Huh? This isn’t a tikya?
No, Ima!
I asked Asher.
What’s a tikya.
You know, a tikya.
How do you say it in English?
I don’t know. Like a plastic thing. I think. I don’t know.
Asher does know what a tikya is. He just doesn’t know how to say or describe it in English.

Fast forward to this morning. Rosie asked me what day it is. I told her Monday. We started talking about the days of the week. I asked her if she knows the days of the week and she whizzed through them. In Hebrew. She told me something about Yom Rishon and Yom Reviyi. I tried changing the conversation to English days of the week.
You mean Sunday and Wednesday?
Rosie, how do you say Yom Hamishi in English?
She thought for a while, then answered.
Nachon. Can you tell me what day comes after Tuesday, Rosie?

I sent Rosie outside to put a bag of trash next to the front door. Meanwhile, I told Barbara about the days of the week thing and we agreed - Rosie not knowing her days of the week in English is a problem. Just then Rosie called to me.
Should I put the bag next to the taxi?
What taxi, Rosie?
The taxi next to the door?
Rosie, do you mean the cactus?
Yes, Ima! The cactus!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #174 – when the ordinary is extraordinary

One year ago today I visited Kever Rachel on a rather urgent impulse. In fact I was on the way to see my obstetrician. I had my mother in law in tow. We jumped in the car and I said something to the effect of,
We’re running a little bit late but it’s okay. The doctor will be running late, too. Let’s stop at Kever Rachel.
And so we did.
Later that day we enjoyed my sonogram, lunch and a lot of iced coffee. Later that evening there was the drama of my water breaking. In front of the kids. In front of the sofer. In front of the security hut at Hadassa Ein Kerem. Breaking breaking breaking.

There was the triage station. Where the Israeli triage doctor asked me questions I simply could not answer because I’d left all my important papers behind. Questions like my blood type, my previous children’s birth weight in kilograms, the result of my glucose testing. There were the midwives. From everywhere but Israel. Mostly Russian. It’s funny how a thick Russian accent sounds the same in English and in Hebrew. There was my doulah, walking me around, talking me through contractions in a thick British accent. And then the orders came down from above. My doctor had ordered petosin and an epidural. My protests were overruled and on we marched. To a new room with an IV drip. And an anesthesiologist. An Arab doctor, trained in Russia. Five spinal punctures later, the anesthesiologist finally nailed his target. But not before some intense screaming on my part and some intense fainting on the part of someone who shall remain nameless. From there it was the standard miraculous progression from woman in labor to woman with baby. Enter Rachel Merav.

While I bonded with my slimy little black haired angel I listened to Israeli women giving birth all around me. I’d never heard the screams of anyone else giving birth. They must keep the birthing room doors closed in Mount Sinai. Here at Ein Kerem they were wide open. Scream, scream, scream….wah, wah, wah. Over and over I listened to the miracles around me as I held my own close to my heart.

Today I visited Kever Rachel. On an urgent impulse I tagged along with a women’s group on their weekly bus trip. At some point I realized the significance of the date and the poignancy of having Rachel Merav in tow, though it’s not her first (or second or third or even fourth) visit.

Happy birthday, my Jerusalem-born Sabra. My Kever Rachel buddy. My sweet Rachel Merav.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #173 – if it’s possible and appropriate we would like to pair you up

I decided some time ago that what’s important culturally can be gleaned from the language. My proof was of the inverse – things that don’t matter, don’t really exist in the language (for example, words for “fairness”).

Some words stand out as used disproportionately. Efshar is my favorite. I use it the way I hear it:
Is it possible to order? Efshar lazmin?
Is it possible to enter? Efshar lekaness?
The answer is usually 'betak!' (of course) or an enthusiastic, ‘efshar!’ (possible!). But sometimes it’s ‘ani hayav livdok’ – I must check.
I love efshar because it’s not at all sarcastic the way it would be in English. Imagine you want to get the attention of the sales clerk at the Gap in Kings Plaza and you ask
Is it possible for me to pay?
The unspoken response: It might be possible, but now you’re going to have to wait while I fold these returns, Lady!
Not only isn’t it sarcastic here, but there’s an added dimension. If it’s possible, of course we’ll do it for you! And if we’re not sure if it’s possible, we’ll find out if it’s possible. Because we want to do it for you!
But then I get carried away because it seems to me you can just say ‘Efshar – Anything’.
If you live in a forgiving place where nobody expects your Hebrew to make sense you can get away with questions like:
Efshar kapit? to mean: Is it possible to get a teaspoon?
Of course, what I unwittingly asked the waiter was:
You can spoon?

How very inappropriate!
Which of course, brings me to my next favorite word – matim –fitting, but really, appropriate. The school is matim for him.
The topic was matim.
I love appropriateness! A fitting ideal in the holy land.

What my 4-year old had to say about couples:
When Rosie had a tiyul in gan, she came home and told me excitedly all about it.
Today we went on a rekevet and an auto-boos and I was zug with Yoseffi.
Liat was zug with Avital, Ahuva was zug with Boaz, Neely was zug with Pelly...
This concept of zug, pairing, is of paramount importance in the Hebrew language, although I’m not sure why Israeli culture values its time units (and body parts) in couples.

What my ulpan teacher had to say about couples:
If you have a day, you have a YOM. Many days are YOMIM.
But if you have 2 days, they are YOM-AYIM.
One week – SHAVUAH. Many weeks, SHAVUOT.
Just 2 weeks – SHVU-AYIM.
One month – CHODESH. Many months – CHODESHIM.
Just 2 months – CHOD-SHAYIM.
Are you following? It’s the AYIM to indicate a cozy zug of time.
If something happens once, you say PA’AM. If it happens many times, PA’AMIM.
But if it happens twice – you guessed it – PA'AM-AYIM.
Then there are hands (YAD, YAD-AYIM), eyes (AYIN, AY-NAYIM), legs (REGEL, REG-LAYIM) and all the other zugim of the human body.

I thought I knew all there was to know about couples
Then I had coffee with a good friend. I ordered for both of us.
Efshar lazmin shtey café afook? (Is it possible to order 2 coffees)
Or so I thought.
Café afook pa'am-ayim, she corrected me.
Café afook two times?
They take this couple thing very seriously.

Later that week I asked a waiter at a bar mitzvah for water – for me and Bob.
I thought about it for a second and then I made my move.
Efshar mayim pa'am-ayim?
I got a nod from the waiter, raised eyebrows from Bob and then water. Two times.