Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #204 - you say forests are for camping. i say forests are for spas.

If you see dinnertime is an opportunity to counterbalance the effects of a day of sugary and salty snacks (staples of the “I’ll pack it myself, Mom!” school lunch), you’ll find the last two weeks of school to be of dubious nutritional intake.

First there is the week in which each class celebrates the culmination of its learning with an evening of song and coordinated dancing. Whether in Hevron (potato borekas), at the school itself (candy, potato chips, hot dogs), or in the old city of Jerusalem (rumors of pizza), the performances and ensuing nachas offer sufficient sustenance to the parent-only audiences.

By the second week, in which each after school activity enjoys a night in the spotlight (guitar, taekwondo, gymnastics) the siblings (who are now encouraged to join the audience) are getting a little antsy. And so we bring dinner along. With proper planning, that could be noodles, fish sticks, cheese borekas, freezer pizza squares. Poor planning could yield the dinner we had last Wednesday night. A shared bag of Bissli followed by ice cream for everyone.

Bob returned from two back-to-back trips to America, delirious from jet lag. He missed all the school celebrations but was just in time for our anniversary getaway. Which I planned because I wanted luxury. Bob wanted camping.

As my kids enjoyed their last few moments of school, Bob and I snuck off to the Carmel Spa for pampering and (more than) our fill of legendary healthy cuisine.
Are you sure you don’t want to go camping?
Please get directions to the spa.

When you look up Carmel Spa, it shows up as being in Haifa. And so we got on our favorite road, Kveesh Shesh (the pay road, for which we finally figured out how to pay), and drove to Haifa. On our way, Bob was most certain he saw a tehine tanker.
Did you see that tehine truck?
That’s an oil tanker!
But it said Tehine on the side.
Do you seriously think there’s an oil tanker filled with tehine driving around Israel?
Yes. Yes I do.

We continued on and I spotted a red velvet couch. In the middle of an olive grove. I’m not delirious from jet lag, either.
Did you see that couch?
No, where?
In that olive grove, next to the plush green office chair. It was red velvet!

As we approached Haifa we drove through an Experimental Area.
What do you think an Experimental Area is?
I had no witty reply for this and in fact, I just now looked it up on-line.
Seems the Iranians (who’ve been accusing Israel of stealing their rain clouds) are following the experimental work of Israeli scientists who are trying to turn desert dust into rain clouds. Or something like that. In Experimental Areas in the North and in the South.

We arrived in Haifa and started our ascent up toward the Carmel, as per every sign we saw. When we weren’t sure we asked the locals.
And so comes the cruel punch line.

The Carmel Spa, Haifa is neither in Haifa nor in the Carmel. I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Israel truly is an insiders club.

Evidence in support of my claim
* The vowels, yes, we know.
There are none. To read Hebrew you must already know the words.
* The Carmel
Spa. It’s listed in Haifa. Why on earth would you then not go to Haifa. Why on
earth is there a place in Haifa called Carmel that is not the location of the
Carmel Spa. And if this is a 5-star destination of tourists, why is getting
there shrouded in secrecy (our story was matched by at least 4 other couples
once we arrived).
* The maps. Better yet, Google maps. Overloading you with
undeserved confidence in how to drive from door to door, Google maps relies on
good old fashioned street names. OF WHICH ISRAEL HAS NONE.

Conclusion: You must know the language, know that names
of places are not necessarily the names of places, and know the names of streets
which appear to be nameless. An insider’s club? For certain!

And so, after a scenic two hour tour of Haifa, we made our way to the Carmel Forest Spa, located deep in the Carmel Forest. But not before we happened upon these guys.

The drive in was eery.

Do you think it’s strange one of Israel’s top luxury spas is flanked by prisons on both sides?

There were charred trees all around us. Just as I wondered if a particular spot was where the prison guards had been caught in the fire, just six months ago, we passed a makeshift memorial urging us to remember the fallen guards.

My babysitter had told us about new growth in the forest. I shifted my attention to the new growth.

We arrived, more than ready to commence relaxation and pampering. My cell phone rang as we were checking in and a slight woman, not taller than myself, bum-rushed me out the front door, all the while pointing to signs prohibiting cell phone use in the hotel’s public areas.

For the rest of our visit we kept an eye on this woman (who turned up everywhere) keeping an eye on all of us. The first night at dinner, she was at the next table.
Bob was excited to try the food.
Let’s go check out the salad bar.
I’ll wait here until you come back.
The kids are not here. We can go to the salad bar together!
But your phone is here. I’m worried about… you know, the cell phone police.

We loved the food. But Bob was suspicious of the corn chowder. How could it be so thick, so creamy, so satisfying, and yet healthy? He posited a theory.
I think the food here is made to be delicious and they make it seem healthy but in reality it is NOT.
That’s a pretty bold statement.

He pointed to the corn chowder as evidence.
Tomorrow I will call their healthy food bluff.
Please don’t.

The spa was filled with detail people. Towel folders, chair pusher-inners, candle blower-outers. My friend told me when she was there she noticed a guy whose sole task was shpritzing bottles of the signature Carmel Spa scent all around the hotel.

The trip was indulgence defined. Lazy swims, fuzzy robes, treatments, relaxing in the garden, and 3 delicious meals daily. We had a great time and a ton of laughs. Bob enjoyed himself, even as he poked fun.
What’s people’s fascination with walking around all day in a robe? And getting rubbed?
But I got him to join the hotel “club” so we can enjoy discounts in the future.
Will you agree to come back?
Can we go camping in between?
Once I give birth? Absolutely.
Then, yes. We can come back.

And so we returned home, rejuvenated, pampered, refreshed, to a bunch of missed cell phone calls and, more importantly, to a bunch of kids who were all too happy to eat Bissli, instant soup and pizza in our absence.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #203 - the yoman reshet has made its impact!

Somebody’s been paying attention
I’ve been asking these questions since I got here. Did Israelis never need a svetshirt, eat a sanvich or a mahfin, go on a dayt, or be in shok before Anglos showed up? Of course they did! And now the Misrad ha Chinuch (the people who invented school, according to Asher), have implemented a campaign throughout our Anglo community to let us know that in Israel, we speak Hebrew.

There are signs hanging all over Efrat, each with a word that has been adapted from the English (such as shampu, deesk, trampolina, teeshu & veeroos), followed by the official Hebrew word (for shampoo, disk, trampoline, tissue and virus).

I’ve been busy compiling my photo mi-lone (dictionary). The highlights, so far…

AHN-LIYN (mekuvan)

GPS (navtan)

and my favorite,

BLOG (yoman reshet).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #202 – a mixed bag

I got a call today from Asher
Mom, we have a substitute teacher for math today and he doesn’t want me to wear my hat. He said to go the mazkiroot (secretary's office) for a yarmulke but I don’t want to do that because, you know...LICE! And I can’t tell the teacher that! So can you please bring me my yarmulke from home?

Rosie was talking about otiot (letters) on Shabbat. So Bob asked her,
What are otiot in English?

I’m losing sight of the weirdness!
It seemed so totally natural for the Teva Outlet at Kfar Etzion to be selling cherries today – after all, cherry season is only exactly one month long and most of the cherry trees in Gush Etzion seem to be concentrated right around Kfar Etzion. Asher was excited to see I had picked up cherries.
Where’d you get the cherries, Mom?
At the shoe store!
Mom! Cherries at the shoe store?
I guess that is kind of weird.

When spiritual nourishment is not enough
Becky has her end of the year siyum/mesibah/celebration-thing this Tuesday in the Old City of Jerusalem. There’s actually a grainy map of the Old City that came with the invitation pointing to the specific location. I can’t make heads or tails of the map so I’m excited to see where I end up. I’ve heard about this siyum/mesibah/celebration-thing. I’ve heard it is really special, meaningful, amazing and 3 hours long at dinner time with absolutely no dinner served. So I am getting ready. Grainy map, check. Camera, check. Potato chips, granola bars, water bottles, check.

When enough is enough!
Rosie was talking about how her swim teachers keep rotating in a degem (pattern). Before I could coax the meaning of degem out of her, Becky interrupted.
Rosie, can you please speak in ENGLISH?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #201 – spring cleaning

Seven weeks and a few sandstorms since Pesach, Shavuot is upon us and another round of pre-holiday cleaning begun. Not the kind of pre-Pesach cleaning that causes an entire country to run short on paper towels, but more the, ‘oh, it’s been almost two months since I moved my Mai Eden machine’ kind of cleaning.

And for me, some switch has been tripped in my brain (I wish I knew how to trip that switch on purpose) which has caused me to do things like sift through the ‘TO DO’ list on my Blackberry. The TO DO list which, until yesterday, still contained such tasks as ‘Register Rosie for Gan’ and ‘Rosh Hashanah Menu’.

There were some tasks I didn’t recognize
For example:
Seven Wagon With Stove
I’m not sure if this is a car reference or a camping concept.

Others I recognized and was ready to delete
For example:
Beytza Reka
I kept this for a really long time, thinking it would help me order a soft-boiled egg. Until I actually tried to order a soft-boiled egg.

When you go into an Israeli restaurant (or anywhere in Israel), you have to accept that there will be something you want and someone to tell you that you really don’t want that thing.
For example:
I’d like some ice for my drink.
Your drink is cold enough.
Can I get ice?
We are out of ice.

Ani rotza lehazmin beytza reka. (I would like to order a soft-boiled egg.)
Ayin Hafook? (Over Easy?)
Lo! Beytza Reka! (No! Soft Boiled egg!)
Beytza b’mayim? (Egg cooked in water?)
Hmmm. Sort of.
Im haklifa. (With the shell.)
Lo. Blee haklifa. (No. Without the shell.)
Bob interrupted.
I think they mean poached egg.
Mevushal b’mayim im haklifa l’meshek shalosh dakot! (Boil in water with the shell for three minutes!)
Ani tzareeka livdok. (I must to check).
We were in the CafĂ© in Wolfson Tower – a residence popular among American retirees. I wondered to Bob how a restaurant catering mainly to a 70+ population could not know about soft-boiled eggs. The waitress returned.
Hem lo maskimim. (They do not agree.)
Hem lo yecholim la’asot et zeh? (They can’t do it?)
Yecholim aval lo maskimim. Ein efsheroot. (They can but they do not agree. There is no possibility.)
I actually went through this routine in a few restaurants before I just gave up and started ordering my eggs poached.

There were tasks I have yet to accomplish
For example:
Ani Ohev Song
This one I actually remember – there was a cute song on the radio with a guy (or girl?) singing about how they love this and they love that. I want to find it and buy it but I don’t know how to find and buy music in Israel. So for now, it stays on my TO DO list.

Hagiga B’Snuker
This is an Israeli movie my friend Yigal told me to watch. I actually know where to find it – there’s a movie guy in the shuk – I just have to remember to go there when I’m in the shuk! Somehow between buying lettuce, halva, meat and pickles, it never occurs to me to go looking for movies. Still on the list.

Hayiti B’Shok!
This is an expression in Hebrew that means (you’ll never believe it), I was in shock. This was on my task list to remind me that one day I want to post about all the English words that have made their way into the Hebrew. Apparently before the Anglo influence, Israeli’s did not go on dates (dayt), have perspective (perspectiva), or be specific (spetzifi). What surprises me more are the words that DO NOT mean what they sound like in English. For example, yeediot is not idiot and ananas is not bananas.
On our brief Netanya get-away (to the prison/hotel with soft robes but no pool access) we were given the most delicious chocolate rations. I have big plans to procure more of this chocolate some day.

And then there were the tidbits which were intended for blogging but just never made it
Like the Cellcom conversation.
Once a week I have this conversation (in Hebrew) with Cellcom (the Israeli cell phone service provider we chose one fateful day…)
Hi, this is Cellcom. Can I speak with Robert.
Robert cannot speak but I am his wife. I will speak for him.
We want to *something something something*.
Can you say it again? Slowly?
We want to *something something something* monthly bill.
Is there a problem?
No! No problem!
Are you offering me gifts?
Yes! Gifts!
Robert does not want gifts.
What are you talking about???
No gifts!
Are you sure?
I am sure!

I stopped asking them to stop calling. Apparently there is no ‘do not call list’ in Israel. I look at it as an opportunity to practice my Hebrew. Each week I get further and further into the conversation before I stop it cold with the “Problem or gifts?” question.

I guess I can take Cellcom conversation off my TO DO list now.

Oh, yeah. And this guy. Eggplant Gumby. I've been meaning to post him for a while. He's just been sitting on my Blackberry waiting.

Hag Sameah!