Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Aks-sent-choo-ate the positive

So the table we were going to buy was sold to someone else (why does that keep happening to us??), but that’s okay, we found another really nice one. We went shopping for a fridge and a bed, but came home with a diningroom table. As many of our friends have pointed out, we can sleep on the table and store our food under it. It won’t stay fresh for long, but…

It didn’t take long though. We went back to Yishpru (that bus is reliable!) the other day, and finally decided on a fridge. And the salesguy gave us a great price. And, amazingly, even though he said it would take a week to 10 days, it showed up today. It looks nice, but it’s even nicer to have a real, working fridge. And after 8 years of living with a barely working, ancient fridge, it is so wonderful to have a brand new fridge. And wonderful neighbours who take us to the really cheap supermarket (where no bus has gone before) so we can fill said new fridge.

We still need a bed though. We went to cousins David & Beth’s last night for dinner in Jerusalem, and figured we’d spend the day in Jerusalem looking for a bed. Then we remembered we have a dog.

We’re so used to being tourists in Israel and being able to go anywhere for any amount of time; we actually forgot for a moment that we live here. And Maimo is here. And Maimo can’t stay home alone with no pee break for 12 hours. Which is how long it would be when you factor in taking the local bus to the Jerusalem bus, then our time in Jerusalem, then all the busses and connections back. So until we know our neighbours well enough to ask if they can take Maimo out for a pee break, it’s either the day in J’lem or dinner in J’lem, but not both.

But we did have a lovely time with David & Beth and family! It was very cool to see them, and know we can do that anytime!

Anyhoo, there’s a long tedious story about a lovely evening we spent with more new friends, but I’ll leave that for later. We had a lovely time with the friends, but a hellacious time getting there, and then getting home. You can thank Connex at the “we love you Connex” party we’re holding next month. Not.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh, Connex*, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

* the bus company in Modi’in. They’re French. The French historically don’t like Jews (Napoleon excluded). I think Connex is their revenge.

I hate that your schedule lists only the time you’re leaving the bus depot, leaving us to guess how long it takes from the depot to our stop. Of course, in that guess, we also have to guess which route you might choose to take today.

I hate that you say there’s a #1 bus at 9:15pm. I have only seen a #1 bus in the night - at any time during the night - once.

I hate that in the 2 1/2 weeks we’ve been here, we have 3 times waited fruitlessly for hours for a bus that never came.

I hate that Morey had to wait nearly 3 hours at the mall (which is a 40 minute walk from home), starting at 5:30pm after a very long day in Haifa, only to get a bus that only went to the bus depot and ended. Out of desperation, at 8:00pm, he finally called a friend to please take him home, which he got to at 8:20. He would have walked, but he had bags of groceries. He thought it would be convenient to grab some groceries at the mall, since it’s right near the train station, where he ended up after his trip to Haifa.

I hate that you wouldn’t wait 20 seconds at 2:30 for Morey to cross the street, causing us to miss our transfer to Yishpru Centre, which only comes once an hour. So instead of getting to Yishpru at 3:30, we got there at 4:30. However, I did learn that if this happens again, I’m standing in the door of the bus. The driver can’t move if the door is open.

I hate that after taking the bus home from Yishpro to the bus depot, the #1 bus that STARTS at the bus depot at 9:15pm (straight from the Connex driver’s mouth) never showed. And that Morey, who is sick, and I had to walk home carrying the standing fan that we bought today. Thank G-d it wasn’t a long walk.

I hate that you won’t take us where we want to go: for example Ligat Centre (where our lawyer is) and Shilat (where all the cheap shopping is).

I hate that huge, gas-guzzling, environmentally damaging busses are cruising around town empty. Switch to shuttle busses and run more frequently. And for cryin’ out loud, if there’s NO ONE on the bus, turn down the A/C!!

I hate that huge, gas-guzzling, environmentally damaging busses are cruising around small, narrow, filled-with-children neighbourhood streets. Switch to shuttle busses and leave the big busses on the boulevards.

I hate that busses are empty. Few people take the busses because they are unreliable, so the busses become a second thought, put on the back burner, not considered important, which causes less people to take the busses, creating the classic Catch-22.

I hate that the busses are unreliable, inconsistent and often take you where you want to go only after taking you on a full-on tour of this whole beautiful city. There are no transfers, so to go from one side of the city to the other, you have to take 2 busses, but it costs you 2 trips.

This is why each task we needed to accomplish took us an entire day per task. Yet, when Rachel drove us around town, we were able to take care of 4 things in 2 1/2 hours.

I love Modi’in. I hate the busses.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How not to start your day in Israel

Hearing a huge explosion right outside your window that makes your entire building shake (actually, it felt like we were lifted right off our foundation) and sends you flying to the window (probably not the smartest thing to do) to see what’s happened.

Thank G-d, it was just construction workers blowing up the roadbed across the street in preparation for the new boulevard that’s being built. But you can understand our being a bit jumpy over that after yesterday’s so-called “copycat” bulldozer attack in Jerusalem. Which was apparently followed by a carjacking right near Modi’in, which may or may not have been terrorist-related. That’s what caused the highway to come to a standstill last night, btw, not the checkpoint.

(Oh, this is another “day late, dollar short” posting. How rude of our neighbour not to leave his internet available all the time. :Þ )

Meanwhile, today’s adventures consisted of:

- getting our new washing machine! Yay! I never thought I’d be so excited to do a load of laundry! Unfortunately, until our dryer rack comes in our lift, I can really only do one load a day. Other than our little clothesline over our air conditioner that can handle about 4 t-shirts, there’s nowhere to dry anything.

- our lift is here! Oy vey. I’m a little overwhelmed at the thought of having to unpack everything. But it will be SO nice to have our stuff! I wonder how much stuff we’ll have that we’ll look at, and wonder why on earth we brought that?! This also means that Morey had to go to Haifa to sign and pay for the lift. Today is the Yahrzeit (anniversary of his death) of Morey’s Uncle Norman and his cousins were heading to Haifa to be with his Aunt Shirley. We were invited, and originally offered a ride, but it turned out too many people were going for us to fit in the car. But, thank G-d, there was room for one person, so they were able to pick up Morey and take him to Haifa. So he’s able to be with the family, see his Aunt and cousins and then tomorrow, take care of the lift.

- the internet guy came! Ya- wait. Not a yay, because here, when you get internet, you have to call another company to get your modem. What the internet company didn’t tell us is the modem has to be installed first. Makes perfect sense, but when you’re calling for the service, and you have to deal with translating service phrases, and you have 8000 other things on your mind, things like that don’t occur to you. Internet guy - scheduled for today. Modem guy - scheduled for tomorrow. Argh.

- getting to Rachel’s house by myself on the bus. Major Yay. I figured out what bus, was more or less sure about the schedule (but forgot how long the actual ride takes) and made it only 20 minutes late. It was me and one other couple on the bus (I’ll rant about the bus system thoroughly in another post, maybe). When it was down to just me, it occurred to me that I could get off somewhere sooner, and walk a block or two. I started to ask the bus driver, but it turns out, she’s Arab and speaks only a little Hebrew. So we spent the rest of the trip trying to understand each other in our broken Hebrew, talking about Canada, about how long I’ve been here, where my family is, where she’s from, then she pulled over in front of Rachel’s house - where there is no bus stop to be seen - told me it was “assur” (prohibited) to do that, but because I’m new, she’ll do it for me. Was a lovely trip, followed by a very interesting visit. Rachel hosted a meeting for the women of the shul we’ve gone to the last two Shabbats. Shul politics knows no borders. They tried to conduct the meeting all in Hebrew, with English translation. What was cool was I was able to understand quite a lot of words. What was funny, was I was able to understand enough to get thoroughly confused. As Kelli said at one point, she wasn’t quite sure what the issue was, but she thought it had something to do with lettuce.

And I just tried to get online to post this, but our very weak, unsecured wireless connection is nowhere to be found. Oh please let the internet people be able to reschedule for Friday morning....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baby you can drive my car. Or I'll drive you around instead.

(this is from yesterday)

Today we had to finish signing up for health care, get some Canadian and US cheques exchanged and deposited and wire money to our shipper, get a bank form to the Modi’in aliyah program office, and go to city hall to register for our discount for arnona (city taxes, which everyone - tenant or homeowner - pays).

Based on our previous week of going to various municipal offices by the bus, it would have taken us at least 4 days to accomplish all of the above. Thanks to another new Modi’in friend, Rachel, who drove us to all our various errands (of course, none of them are in the same place), we finished all of this in 2 1/2 hours. It was unbelievable. We were done so early, we actually had plenty of time to go to the big shopping centre right outside of town where the Home Centre is (that’s actually its name: Home Centre, in Hebrew, phonetically), so we spent way too many hours getting the basics like a garbage can (for the bathroom only, their kitchen cans were awful), shower curtain (which turned out too short, even after I got the salesgirl to understand how long our bathtub space is because we have a ledge and she insisted the one we picked was long enough), an urn (with a Shabbat setting! And a letter from a Rabbi affirming that this urn is okay to use on Shabbat! It’s even marked on the box! I LOVE this country!), doorstops (a minor thing, but so important with the open windows, wind and a scaredy-cat dog). We were offered a great deal on a fridge, but didn’t buy it because it’s Turkish and there’s a warranty, but no service. We went next door to Best Buy (again, Best Buy is the actual name), and Morey demanded a great deal on a washing machine, which they gave us! It’s being delivered in a few days, and I gotta tell you, I’ve never been so happy to have a washing machine on its way. We reeeaallly need to do laundry and I’m tired of handwashing stuff in the tub.

We had dinner there - because we COULD! (and we were hungry) and while we were eating, Morey got a text message. It was in Hebrew, which we didn’t even know our phones were capable of, but we couldn’t figure it out. So we asked the owner of the restaurant who spoke English what it said. He stumbled on two words, and asked one of his staff if she could figure it out. She said, “Best Bi-yee” which made us laugh, because we realized it was a text from the salesman at Best Buy thanking us for our purchase and saying if there was anything else he could help with, please see him again. For the Hebrew speakers in the bunch, it was spelled bet-samech-tet bet-yud-yud. hee.

Then, while waiting for the bus home, we ran into Jeremy & Kelli! Modi’in isn’t actually that small, but it sure feels like it, since we ran into our aliyah program person at the city hall, and ran into Rachel at the health centre last week. We know about 7 people in Modi’in and we’ve bumped into half of them.

So it’s very weird signing up for things when you have no idea what you’re signing up for. You really have to throw your Bitachon (trust) out there, because unless you’re incredibly fluent, you have no idea what you’re signing when you register for health care (we have the Zahav (gold) plan, but we have no idea what that means, other than “it’s the best plan. It’s for everything.“) and the employees don’t speak enough English to explain it (“it’s the best plan. It’s for everything.” An interesting aside - despite not having the verb “to be” in Hebrew, every English-speaking Israeli I’ve encountered knows the contraction “it’s“).

Oh, and at the Home Centre, where stores have the gum and batteries and other various sundries at the checkout, they have cheap (oh, seriously, about $10!) Scotch. We’re having our first cocktails in 11 days.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Remember to bring a book for watiing for the bus

So today was one of those days that reeeeeaaly tries your patience. We decided to jump on the bus that takes a tour of the whole darn city before you get to your destination. Mainly because it’s that bus, or the bus that goes to the top of the hill, which, for a change, was not where we needed to go today.

After our lovely scenic ride, which at least took us exactly where we needed to go after all that, we visited a lovely Israeli/South African couple who are moving back to South Africa and selling some things. They have a beautiful dining room table that we’re going to buy. Their fridge is way too big, as is their washing machine, unfortunately, but the diningroom table, which is very big, is perfect for us.

Then we crossed the street to The Mall (tm). It’s the only one in town, so if you say The Maill, you can only mean this one. We wandered around, explored the Mega Ba’ir - a supermarket chain - (OMIG-D, you can get wine and vodka and Frangelico IN THE GROCERY STORE! Cheap!) and looked for a wireless router. The guy at the store was trying to convince us we had to get a mega powerful router, because we plan on using our computers mostly in the second bedroom. Our second bedroom is our Mamad. The Mamad is a safe room - I think I’ve mentioned this previously - all Israeli apartments built after a certain year have to have a Mamad. The Mamad has a metal door like a bank safe door, the walls are reinforced, the window is reinforced glass and there is a metal plate that slides across the window. All this is in the event of a bombing, war or another Sadam who threatens to disperse mustard gas. That’s also where we’ll keep our gas masks when the new ones are distributed in January.

Aaaanyway, for the signal to get through the walls of the Mamod, the salesman was saying the router has to be super duper strong. But we know people who have a regular ol’ router in their Mamad and it works just fine. We didn’t buy one yet, so it’s back on the list for tomorrow.

Then we walk up to the shopping centre where our health care service is so we can sign up. Except Morey didn’t bring the papers with him. He thought he gave them to me, which he didn’t (I have them now!). Then we walked up yet another hill to the next shopping centre to look for a non-intimidating muzzle for Maimo so we can take him on the bus so he can get microchipped (Israeli law) tomorrow morning. No luck on the muzzle (I will NOT put one of those cage things on Maimo), so we’re going to jerry-rig something tomorrow and b.s our way onto the bus.

After all that walking, my ankle was shot again. Just when it was doing better, and after I had planned our whole day so that we’d have to do a minimum of walking (we thought there’d be a pet store in The Mall). Thank G-d, another new Modi’in friend offered to drive us around tomorrow on all our errands. So tomorrow, we should be able to accomplish the last 4 things on our beaureaucratic list (instead of the one a day), and then it’s on to fun stuff like garbage cans and shower curtains.

Oh, and to mark the end of the fast, our neighbour blasted Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” It’s not our custom, but hey, they do all sorts of weird things here ;)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Waiting for Internet...

…then I’ll post more, but meanwhile we had our second Shabbat in Israel, which was lovely - met two more families, including one who lives in our building. They provided our first meal that was less than a 30 minute walk away ;)

We had seudah shlishit (the third meal of Shabbat) in the park behind our building and then watched the sun set over the hill. Was absolutely magnificent.

And tomorrow, along with many of our neighbours and many of our fellow Israelis, we will fast to mark the start of the three week period leading up to Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar). Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning that commemorates many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, including the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The only remaining part of the Temple (above ground) is the Western Wall. You might recognize it by the gleaming gold dome of the mosque that has been built on top.

During the three weeks, Jews observe minor mourning practices. Some Jews will not cut their hair, or shave, or buy new clothes. No marriages take place, and there are no planned celebrations. All of this is to prepare us for the full day of mourning and fasting on Tisha B’Av, when we spend the day reading Lamentations.

What’s sort of blowing my mind is, in one way or another, nearly the whole country is observing this. No one will look askance at my frizzy split ends, or at Morey’s scruffy beard. And so very many people are planning their day tomorrow around the fast.

I love living here.

Shavua tov (a good week).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Israeli 101

I think I’m going through a second phase of jet lag. This is weird; I had planned for today to be “set up the apartment as much as possible” day - empty the suitcases, put away our clothing, empty our rubbermaid bins and fnd temporary places for all that stuff, do some laundry (without a washing machine or detergent). But I could not sleep last night - after 3 nights of sleeping like the dead - and today I feel like Wile E Coyote after being run over by a steamroller. I did manage to empty the suitcases, but then I had to sit down before I fell down. Wooof.

Anyway, back to the aliyah story…

Things they don’t tell you when you make aliyah:
You won’t be able to read your apartment lease
You won’t be able to read all the forms you are signing at the bank. I could have agreed to do a fan dance at the batchelor party of the branch manager; I would have no idea.
You won’t be able to read your cellphone contract (see above)
You won’t be able to read the labels on your food.

I’ve been grocery shopping 3 times now and I’m still flipping over products to read ingredients. haha.

Kelli and Jeremy are absolutely spoiling us and man, is it going to hurt when they finally kick us out of the nest. They even took us out to dinner last night. Although, I guess since their friend Jay drove us, he technically took us. J & K paid.

Tomorrow we are off to Jerusalem to pick up our Teudat Zehut. When you arrive, you get a Teudat Oleh, which is kind of like your card showing you will be getting an Israeli ID. Your Teudat Zehut is your ID. You are nothing in this country without your T“Z. Even if you have a number, like we do. And of course, being a family, they gave us one Teudat Oleh with both our information in it. Morey is off in Jerusalem today, so he has the T“O, which means, for the moment, I don’t really exist.

Oh, and we had our first real Israeli blow-off. Our landlord was supposed to come by last night around 5pm. We had gone grocery shopping at a shopping centre outside of town, with lots of great shops that we wanted to explore. But no time! We didn’t even have time to do a real grocery shop - we raced in and out of the store to catch the bus (the busses here only run every half hour. Bril.) to get home in time to meet our landlord. Since we were so late gettng in from the airport when we arrived, we missed our original meeting with him (he understood), and didn’t want to miss this one.

When we got off the bus, it was just 5pm, so we called him to let him know we were only 5 minutes away. After talking to him the whole rest of the way, we come to find out - he’s still in Efrat. 45 minutes away.

Lesson learned: before rushing away from anywhere because you have to meet someone, call that person to confirm. I’d have shower curtains and garbage cans right now if we had called from the shopping centre.

I’m sure this is only the first of many lessons to come…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Real Israelis now!

We are officially “real Israelis” - we have our bank account (hello, Canadians: if you think Canadian banks are beaureaucratic, you ain’t seen NOTHING!) and our Israeli cellphones, so Morey and I were walking around with two cellphones each (we still have our Canadian cell and our temporary Israeli one). We truly looked like Sabras.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home. B'bayit.

(We don’t have internet yet, but there’s a reeeeeaally weak signal that we can barely pick up from our mirpeset (balcony) if we hang over the rail. Which is interesting when you’re holding a laptop and trying to type...)

(This was also typed on Friday, but we only got a signal this evening.)

Pamela, Cigal and Jeremy and Kelli were at the airport to greet us when we arrived! The welcome celebration has obviously been scaled down a bit after 32 flights, but it was still a rip. The line-up of soldiers forming a cordon for us to walk through, the music, the people yelling - the noise was tremendous. But the best part was being able to hug my sister/friends and know that they were welcome home hugs, instead of the usual, “so great to see you for the next couple of weeks before you leave” type hugs.

The speeches were, well, speeches, except for the speech from the family who sponsored the flight. They sponsored this flight in honour of their father, and when the son spoke, it was very emotional.

Of course, we almost ruined it, because my sister’s cellphone was ringing and she could not find it. She was taking everything out of her bag, and because she has a silly ring, we were laughing, then when she couldn’t find the damn thing during this hugely touching speech, we practically split a gut. Thank G-d she found it just before the son got to the really emotional part.

Then the guests were kicked out, we desperately tried to find Maimo and our luggage. Maimo was fine, just a little shell-shocked. And the poor little guy must have kept his legs crossed the entire trip because he peed and peed and peed and peed when Morey took him outside. He eventually calmed down, and became the star of the party again when all the kids found him.

We eventually found all our luggage and settled in for the long wait for a taxi. Because we were the only ones going to Modi’in, and it’s so close, they left us for the end. The very end. Typically, we were the very last ones to leave the airport. The Nefesh b’Nefesh staff even left before we did.

Jeremy, Kelli and Pamela had gone on ahead to our apartment to turn on the A/C, so they were there to greet us when we finally arrived. Hanging off our mirpeset, leaning over the Israeli flags they had hung up, they hollered a greeting to us. I would have taken a picure, except the batteries died on the camera. Of course.

Our apartment is really cute, with beautiful views and an incredible breeze that blows straight through, keeping it pretty cool. And the view of the sunset last night from our livingroom was stunning. We’ll appreciate it even more on Sunday night when we’re actually awake for it.

We tried to take care of some errands, wound up at the mall for lunch (pick a restaurant! They’re almost all kosher - Chinese, wraps, falafel, pizza!) then to the bank and cellphone, which we couldn’t complete, because we’re not in the government system yet, and if you’re not in the system, you can’t get a bank account, and if you can’t get a bank account, you can’t get a cellphone account, etc., etc., etc…

We got home and were very very very tired. And our feet HURT! Standing in the airport for 4 hours in the morning before departing, then standing on flight-swollen feet for 4 hours waiting for luggage, then walking all over town - owie. We’re better today, but after sleeping all night, I got up had coffee, ate a bit, then literally was struggling to keep my eyes open, so I went back to bed for 4 hours. Hopefully I can sleep tonight ;)

Now we’re about to get ready for our first Shabbat as Israeli citizens in Israel. Jeremy & Kelli arranged for people to host us, so we have nothing to do but enjoy. Shabbat shalom!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Last Day!

Ooh, bad me, I haven’t posted in 4 days. Er, 5 days. We have been sitting around the B&B relaxing, running errands, hanging out with my Aunt Pat & Unca Jim and the ‘rents, talking with Rybo (who is leaving the country for his own adventure with Habitat for Humanity soon), walking the dog, and trying to get over not getting any sleep. Curse my light-sleeper genes. Can’t sleep in the basement with the furnace going on and off, can’t sleep upstairs with the sound of the air conditioner, can’t sleep without the air conditioner ‘cause it’s way too muggy..


So today, I’m packing - again - for the final time. Each stop, we have to take stuff out of the bins and suitcases, but now, it’s going in there for the flight, and I’m telling you right now: we are not going anywhere for more than an overnight for at least a few months. No more packing!!

Fortunately, most of the CDs and DVDs we ordered to to be sent to the B&B have arrived. Except for the one I ordered first, two months ago. Of course.

In other news, Jeremy and Kelli have the keys to our apartment! Our guarantors have signed (bless you guys), the landlord received his deposit, so we are definitely not homeless. Thank G-d. Jeremy and Kelli also have a Day From Hell planned for us our first day, but it’s all stuff we have to do, and as exhausted as I’m sure we’ll be, I’d rather get it out of the way and then be able to relax. We have to open up our bank account, sign up for health care, get our cellphones, buy some groceries, oh - and buy a refridgerator and stove.

So this will likely be the last post before we leave. We leave Delaware Water Gap at 0730 hours tomorrow, we have to be at JFK no later than 10am for our 2pm flight. We arrive in Tel Aviv at approximately 7am Israel time (midnite EST, 9pm PST). If you want to watch us (or the flight in general) arrive, Nefesh b’Nefesh will be videocasting live:

That’s all from North America, folks. See you on the other side of the world!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Poco Knows

We have made it to my parent’s Bed & Breakfast in the hoppin’ hamlet of Delaware Water Gap, in time for my mother’s birthday. We said goodbye to Princess Petunia of the Cherokee Jeeps, thanked her for getting us across the country, and thanked the lovely young man who drove Petunia down to La Fayette, New York (and back to Canada where she will be sold, hopefully to a little old lady who will only drive her to church and back) where we rendezvoused with the Colonel.

And now we are toast. Exhausted. Fried. We were supposed to go up to Westchester County to visit some extended family, but that’s just not happening. We simply cannot get into a car again, and drive anymore. Plus I think if Maimo saw another car, he’d go commit dogicide.

We need a break.

So we’re sitting on my parent’s lovely veranda, enjoying the cool breeze (and the wireless) and contemplating a hike along the Appalachian Trail.

Meanwhile, we’ve found our two guarantors (thanks guys!), our Power of Attorney has been couriered to Israel, we’ve taken a HUGE risk and emailed our potential new address to the Jewish Agency and to Nefesh b’Nefesh. They need our address a minimum of one week before our flight in order to be able to process our paperwork on the plane. So even though it’s not completely confirmed, we’re crossing our fingers and holding our breath, and sent them the address.


I’m hugely disappointed I won’t get to see my girls and their parents and grandparents, but I will get to see my aunt & uncle, and some other good friends who are descending upon the B&B over the next few days, G-d willing.

And now, if you will excuse me, I’m going back to relaxing.