Monday, February 21, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #189 - good friends, good times, good flafel

Today I had the heartwarming experience of spending time with two ladies, cousins, the grandfather of one who’d rescued the father of the other from Hungary just before the Holocaust. The rescued father passed away last month and his unveiling was yesterday. I sat with these ladies at the bris of his great grandson. Named today, in his memory.

On the way to the bris the conversation was a bit lighter. We discussed such things as the inverse relationship between time spent living in Israel and reluctance to drink sink water.
Hypothesis: The longer you live here, the less you resist sink water.
Barbara brought the following proof:
Rosie’s the most Israeli of the family and Rosie drinks sink water at gan every day. She doesn’t even want to bring a water bottle!
I volunteered that I drink sink water when it is served to me though I am still reluctant to open up the faucet into my drinking glass at home.

After the bris I got the compliment of a lifetime. My friend’s brother, living in the Haredi neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, mentioned that he’d been hearing about my blog from his sister and thought it was so funny he was tempted to get a computer.

It’s possible to taste Brooklyn
I spent a couple hours with a good friend in Geula yesterday. The mission was straightforward: Asher needs Shabbat pants. We parked, walked into the first store we saw, bought dress pants, and walked out. Time to explore! We shopped for gifts in a leather store (not like Wilson Leather – a store with leather bound prayer books, photo albums, book marks, you name it) then made our way to Brooklyn Bakery (Bob, later that day, “Wow! It really does taste like Brooklyn!”). We shopped for headbands in a store that sells decorative headbands, clocks, silver napkin trays, and fake bridal bouquets. I didn’t notice the name of the store but we referred back to it as the headband, clock and bridal bouquet store. We stopped for Felafel at Flafel Hashalom (that’s no typo), rumored to be the best falafel (flafel?) in Israel. And then we made our way home. Mission accomplished…and then some!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #188 – Some days are stranger than others

What is more bizarre?

40 international ‘activists’ planting trees along Route 60 under the banner of Action Aid on behalf of the Arab farmer who would normally have planted those trees himself (Oops! Did I miss ‘Bring 40 International Activists to Work’-Day?)


Mood 92 (broadcasting from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) playing songs lamenting the Babylonian exile of Jews after the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash?

Well you don’t have to choose. I experienced both today.

By the rivers of Babylon
Where we sat down
There we wept
When we remembered Zion
For the wicked
Carried us away captivity
Requiring from us a song
How can we sing a song of joy in astrange land
So let the
Words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable in Thy sight
here tonight
By the rivers of Babylon
Where we sat down
There we wept
When we remembered Zion

Monday, February 7, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #187 - how to be grateful for rain after 9 straight days of rain

Asher came home last week with his toes popping out of holes in his sneakers.
I think I need new sneakers, mom.
Every day since then I’ve lamented whatever turn of events that have kept me from taking Asher to the Teva Outlet, just 7 minutes from my house, to buy new sneakers.
It’s okay, mom. My feet get a lot of nice ventilation with these shoes.
What a sport.
Today as he walked in from the rain, toes wiggling inside wet socks, I put everything else aside and with much determination announced my grand intention.
Today we will get Asher his sneakers!

I loaded Peetoosh, Rosie and Asher into the car and we were on our way.
Soon we noticed it was hard to see out of the windshield. Rosie suggested I use my wipers. I gave the wipers a whirl. But it wasn't raining.
I still can’t see, mom! Asher was getting worried.
It’s just fog. You know, one of those clouds from the sky is sitting on the earth.
Then we noticed it was impossible to see out of the windshield.

We pulled into Alon Shvut, a nearby yishuv on the way to the shoe store.
I was concerned about continuing down the windy road but also concerned about turning back, since my next destination was the ever foggy Neve Daniel, to pick up Becky. I was weighing the risks out loud when Asher chimed in.
Let’s just go mom.
Yeah! We can make it!
Ok, then. We will risk our lives for sneakers.
Rosie didn’t appreciate the dark humor.
Me: I see a car coming!
Asher: It’s a bus!
Me: Do you see the street? Oh, wait, I see the street!
Asher: Are you sure you see the street? Uh, mom, you need to see the street.
Rosie: Mommy, I’m scared!
I have to admit. It was the scariest 2 minute drive of my life
But we arrived.
Alive, Baruch Hashem, and ready to buy sneakers.
I asked for the ‘We risked our lives to shop in your store today discount’. And got it.

As we drove home the conversation shifted from Bob Marley lyrics
Asher: What's The Almighty?
Me: Hashem
Asher: If he’s singing about Hashem, is he Jewish?
Me: Um, I don’t think Bob Marley is Jewish, no.
to why Rosie didn’t need a 3rd pair of Shabbat shoes
Me: How many pairs of Shabbat shoes do starving children in Africa have?
Rosie: None?
to the cloud, which had miraculously lifted and shifted to rain.
And I was never so thankful for rain over fog in my entire life.

Sunset from Neve Daniel on a clear day:

Sunset from Neve Daniel today:
It's the same shot - note the tree in both pics.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #186 - Where we came from, where we’re going, and how we'll get there.

I know, I know, it’s been a while.

What can I say? Between chasing after Peetoosh who scrambles up the marble staircase at every opportunity (fun visual: I am trying to teach her to 'tushy-skootch' down), camel rides and negotiating with shuk vendors (read: lots of visitors this month), and (alas) finally uploading a year and a half’s worth of aliyah photos to Snapfish, I’ve been spending an hour each day in riveting conversation in Hebrew.

As we toggle between persons and tenses, I struggle to break away from caveman mode, where I speak in the plural infinitive – We must to buy. We must to speak. We must to eat. We must to order. – which has worked for me so far but limits me (and my imaginary friends) to the here and now. And so I sit in ulpan for an hour each day in the hopes of linking to my past and anticipating my future.

With conversations like:
On what do you recommend?
I recommend on the manly salmon.
(How else would I remember salmon is masculine?) He tastes good. But you should not take the manly soup. (ominous!) He tastes bad!

Of course, in Hebrew it makes perfect sense (to recommend on him).

It’s a small group of us sitting around the teacher’s dining room table so it’s extremely informal and the conversations lend themselves to analysis of the Israeli psyche.

You prefer to wait for the shoes in your size? But we have a sale today! Echad PLOOS echad! (one plus one).

What ideas do you have for after your studies?
I have the idea that someday I will do something. Maybe something in environmentalism or maybe something in music.
You really have no ideas of substance, do you?

Lech lecha! Go for yourself! (But don't drive or fly)
Israeli’s have a lot of words for travel. So far we’ve covered l’tayel – to travel for pleasure, linsoah – to travel (for any reason) but specifically by vehicle, l’tos – to travel by plane, l’lechet – simply ‘to go’ (by foot or by camel but which you would never use to say “I am going on vacation” since vacation demands l’tayel!) and (not exactly traveling but related): l'ratz (to run, literally, not the kind of running involved in errands).

Everything in Hebrew is about the shoresh – the root source of the word. Which can be pretty confusing. For example, the word for errands (siddurim) is the same as the word for prayer books (siddurim).

The prayer book, a siddur, is organized according to a seder, (order), as proscribed by the great rabbis of earlier generations. Errands are my tasks, presumably enumerated in some seder (ha!) on my ‘to do’ list, as proscribed by me. The root source of both words is ‘seder’. I totally get it.

Up to a point. That point being when you tell me about your errands which include going to the Jewish book store.

The root source of people is also important
In Yiddish when you want to know who someone is related to, you ask about their ‘yichus’. Basically, what important people are in your lineage? In Hebrew the word for relatedness is ‘yachas’. No surprise here. But then when you want to explain to your friend why you prefer the small store with good service to the big store with better prices (because the people treat you better), you explain it in terms of ‘yachas’. Literally, ‘they relate to me better’.

After an hour of giggles and throat clearing I do try my best to work at least one correctly conjugated verb in the correct tense into my conversation at least once before the day’s end. As I travel (sometimes by vehicle, sometimes by foot), according to my list of errands, to small stores where I pay more but they relate to me better and then make my way back to my marble steps, and stalled Snapfish uploads.

And once I figure out the word for travel via 'tushy skootch', I can tell you all about it in Hebrew. Something to look forward to.