Sunday, August 31, 2008
Alllllll the way on the other side of Modi'in.
Now, you may have heard that the buses in Modi'in bite the big one. This is even more true if you live in the northwest of Modi'in and need to get to Buchman in the south. There is no bus that goes from here to there ("you can't get there from here"). To get to ulpan we would have to take a #1 to some point in town, then walk to a #3 bus stop. And assuming we wouldn't have to wait too long for the #3 (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), we would still have what looks to be about a 20-minute walk from the #3 drop off to the school where the ulpan is being held. And remember, Connex doesn't do transfers, so we're talking 8 bus tickets a day for the two of us. Every day. For the pleasure of about an hour-and-a-half trip each way. To go maybe 5 kilometres.
But see, I just interrupted myself to double-check the Connex website and discovered there is no #3 that would get us to the school on time! We'd have to either take the 5:45am or the 8:25am. Except class starts at 8:30am. So rantus interruptus; I have to interrupt my rant with a new improved rant.
We were told the reason classes are being held in Buchman is because there is free space at the school. That's fine. But then, provide transportation. Most of us new olim (immigrants) don't have cars. And the Ministry of Absorption knows that. The Ministry also knows how bad the buses are. We were told there's are new buses for the schoolchildren, particularly the #10. That's great, the #10 stops near our house and goes right to the school. Except the #10 runs only once at 7am (and how, exactly, do we get home?) AND the Ministry of Education has not agreed yet that we adults can ride the schoolkids' buses.
Which actually is fine by me. It's hard enough when I have to go through each day speaking like a 5 year old and dealing with the frustrations of not being understood, and not knowing enough to make myself understood. It's embarrassing enough to stand in the middle of a store playing charades trying to get a store clerk to understand that I need a long shower curtain rod because I have a very long bathtub space. Do I really need to have what's left of my dignity buried under some kid's Dora the Explorer backpack by being the only adults on a children's schoolbus? No thank you. I love kids. I don't want to ride on a schoolbus with them.
We've asked the Ministry to compile a list of everyone in our neighbourhood who is registered for ulpan. Maybe someone has a car, and we can all carpool and share gas costs. Maybe there's enough of us to make it worthwhile for Connex to add another bus for the ulpan students. Maybe there's enough of us over here to make it affordable to split a taxi van; maybe the Ministry will arrange a van. Maybe maybe maybe.
All I know is trying to learn a new language as an adult, and living in a country where you don't speak the language is stressful enough. We don't need merely getting to the classes to be anxiety-inducing as well.
*ech omrim = "how do you say"
** Buchman is pronounced, "booochman" with a "ch" like "l'chaim!"
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I, on the other hand, don't do well with sugar. Sugar and I haven't gotten along well since our big row 20 years ago, where we didn't speak to each other at all for 4 months. Gradually, little by little, I let sugar back in, but for the most part, we only see each other on Shabbat. Occasionally, sugar drops by for a surprise visit during the week, but I try not to let it happen too often. I don't want sugar to get any ideas.
But now, in my quest for an Israeli breakfast cereal that a) doesn't break the bank, and b) isn't granola, sugar has practically packed a bag and moved in. I cannot get over the amount of sugar that is in every single cereal. And not just plain sugar - oh no, plain sugar isn't enough. The innocent looking cinnamon wheat cereal I bought has chocolate in it! The even more innocent looking puffed something cereal I bought next? Chocolate! For cryin' out loud, people! No wonder Israelis are always screaming at each other; everyone's on a flippin' sugar high.
For various reasons, I need to start my day with a benign bowl of something oat-y. For obvious reasons, I don't want to start my day with a bowl of hot oatmeal (just the perfect thing for a 35-degree day!). For fiscal reasons, I don't want to go to the store that specializes in American products and pay nis 28 (about $8 or so) for a box of plain Cheerios.
A big thing here is find people who are moving to Israel and try to buy space on their lift for a package or two. Or sometimes a refridgerator. Maybe I should buy some space for a couple of Costco boxes of Cheerios.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I'm going to go backwards here and start with a second story. Tomorrow, bli neder (without a vow, ie, I'm not promising), I'll post the first story. However, the second story does require some first story information. Because of a lesson learned from the first story, I gave myself an hour to get from the neighbourhood of Har Nof to the Tachana Mercazit (Central Bus Station or "CBS"). It takes 20 minutes or so by bus. It takes 45 minutes to walk. Now you have the necessary information.
My sister Pamela had invited me to a women's concert last week at Neve Yerushalayim, a seminary in Har Nof. It was supposed to end at 10:30pm, but I knew I'd have to leave early to get to the CBS in time to catch the last bus to Modi'in, which leaves at 11:00pm. It was a wonderful concert, and I was having a great time, but despite that, when my phone alarm vibrated at 10pm, I whispered "goodbye," exchanged quick hugs and hightailed it out of there. I quickly found someone who could lead me out of Neve, since I was a little turned around, and made it to the bus stop.
The woman who helped me and I chatted for a bit about the concert while we waited for our respective buses. She offered me a ride if she took a cab, but the taxi that stopped wanted too much. Eventually, her bus came, and at the same time, my bus - the 15 - arrived. I hopped on the bus, and for some reason, decided to ask the bus driver if he went to the CBS. Even though I know the 15 goes to the CBS.
Me: "Ata holech l'tachana mercazit?" (Do you go to the CBS?)*
Me: "LO?" (no)
Dr: "11 or 15"
Me: "Aval ata hachamesh esrai!" (but you the 15)**
Dr: "I let off, I don't pick up. You need the bus building, not the bus sign."***
* Feel free to correct my Hebrew. It's a constant learning process.
** Yes, the driver was speaking English and I was speaking Hebrew. Eventually I realized this, and started speaking English.
*** In some places, the buses only drop people off. In this case, there was a bus shelter where you stand to get the pick-up bus, and a little past the shelter is a pole with a bus sign on it. That's where he stops to drop off. I don't understand it either.
So he lets me off at the next stop, where I go to the shelter - which claims to be a 15 pickup stop - and wait.
And wait. And wait. After a few minutes, quite strangely, the bus that picked up the woman who helped me earlier drove by again. With the woman still on the bus. Considering she was going farther than I needed to, I'm not sure who was worse off.
Eventually, an 11 comes by. I get on it, and double-check that this bus is going to the CBS. I ask what I think is a "yes or no" question, in Hebrew, and he gives me some long answer.
What I asked: "Ata holech l'tachana mercazit?"
What I expected: "Ken" (yes)
What I got: lots of words that probably translated into something like, "I eventually will arrive at the location you requested, however before I can do that, I have to drive all over the entire city of Jerusalem, getting stuck in small alleys, stopping to yell at people who are walking in the middle of these small alleys, while stopping for a smoke and a coffee, all to make sure you go sufficiently insane and have a meltdown in the middle of some unknown neighbourhood."
Yep. I'm sure that's what he was saying.
I responded, "Slicha?" (excuse me?)
And 3 English speakers on the bus yelled, "Yes. He goes to the CBS."
I wound up sitting behind someone who was wearing a Pacific Northwest NCSY sweatshirt, so I had to ask her if she was from Vancouver. Turns out she is, and we had a lovely chat while we both missed our 11:00pm buses. I arrived at the CBS and tore through the underground tunnel, running across the path between the main roads, and arrived to see:
I got to the stop at 11:06. After leaving the concert at 10. Had I walked, I would have been miserable, but I would have made my bus. Thank G-d I have a sister who lives in Jerusalem, and has a spare bed, and loves me. I waited for her to arrive at the CBS while trying to avoid thinking about how I missed the last performer for nothing, and she and I walked back to her lovely neighbourhood of Nachla'ot, bought a couple of beers (non-twistoffs which I opened without an opener. My teenage years weren't totally devoid of valuable lessons, thankyewverymuch.) and sat in a park chattering away. Eventually wound up hanging out with some of the artists who performed that night at Neve. Had a great time, stayed up too late, was grateful for my sister and her futon and her friends, got up early and went to catch the 10:15am bus home.
Except when I got to the CBS at 10:13, there was no bus...
So I tried both. I can't make up my mind. On the one hand, I like the unified, smooth look of the "disappeared" doorknobs. On the other, the shiny knobs give the unit a more sophisticated, less Ikea look.
What do you think? Feel free to post your opinion in the comments or email me.
With white knobs
With silver knobs
Friday, August 22, 2008
Yet, the other day the most interesting thing happened. I was on my regular bus to the mall. The driver was a charming Arab woman (try to find a female bus driver in any Arab country). We took on a couple of passengers who sat at the front next to me; they looked like a middle aged mother and her 20-something son. A few minutes later the driver spotted an elderly Arab woman in traditional dress walking with some difficilty in the midday-heat, stopped the bus and beckoned her to board (for a free ride - an action I completely support). The 20-something guy leaned toward the driver and asked, "At Aravi?" (Are you Arab?). She responded yes, and then they all began babbling away in Arabic. As the old lady joined in, I looked around and realized that I was the only Jew on this bus in Modi'in, the modern, Jewish city. Fantastic!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
We have furniture! We have stuff! As evidenced by my last post, of course. I realize I posted about all the packing paper before posting that we had anything to unpack. It's been so nice getting re-acquainted with our stuff. It was also very nice to realize how few boxes we actually have. We got rid of a lot of stuff in Vancouver. There are still the odd item here and there that we realize could have been left behind, but for the most part? We done good.
Israeli apartments don't have closets, so figuring out where to put everything is a bit of a challenge. We'll certainly have to buy an aron (wardrobe) or two, we just need to figure out how many and what size. And erm, bookshelves. If you go through the pictures linked below, you'll see alllll the boxes of books.
We're really pleased how wonderful our furniture looks in our new apartment. I was afraid the grey couch and chair would get kind of lost against the white walls and beige floor, but the walls are winter white, with blue undertones, so it brings out the blue undertone in the grey furniture and really makes it pop. And our artwork is full of primary colours* which just look brilliant against the very white walls. I'm very excited to see it all hung.
Morey's been extremely happy to use real plates and bowls again; I'm happy not to be using anything disposable. Turns out our Presidents Choice water filter pitcher filters out the minerally taste in the water just fine. I don't mind the taste of the tap water, and I'd prefer the healthy minerals in my water, but Morey doesn't like the taste. So ice cubes and coffee get the filtered water, my water bottle gets the tap. Nice compromise.
Speaking of water, we bought new dairy pots before we left Vancouver, so now we have to tovel (ritually immerse) them. Certain new dishes and cookware needs to be immersed in a mikvah (ritual bath). In Vancouver, you had to make an appointment, and use the same mikvah that men and women use. In Modi'in, you go to the mikvah around the corner any time of day or night and use the small mikvah that is just for dishes. However, in Vancouver, we had a car that we could carry our dishes in. In Modi'in, we have to carry them up the long, steep hill.
We don't have use of the storage room for the apartment - the landlord uses it - so we have to figure out where to put the suitcase and all our Passover dishes, but we'll figure that out. And we still need a bed. It's reeeeeaally hard to buy a mattress!! If anyone has any suggestions, hints or tips, please let us know. If you bought a mattress (in Israel, please: different sizes/brands/materials here) and love it, please let us know what you bought and where you bought it. Seriously, we're stumped. And sleeping on couch cushions.
Enjoy the "in between" pictures of apartment (scroll past the empty apartment pictures). Phase I was moving in empty, phase II is "the lift just arrived." Phase III, please G-d, will be everything's unpacked and put away and looking lovely!
*I noticed this a while ago - I'm attracted to colours and design in a piece of art, but if I don't love the colours, I won't like the art, no matter how beautiful. And nearly all the very varied, unique pieces of art that I've picked out are in primary colours.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I am appalled at the sheer volume of packing paper that was used as filler in our boxes. Empty sheets - 5 or 6 sheets together - stuffed or layered into the boxes with nothing in them. Absolutely unecessarily.
Let's face it, no matter how you look at it, moving is not environmentally friendly. We tried to get our movers to use towels and clothing as "bounce protection" as much as possible, but it was a hard battle. And there are nooks and crannies that need to be filled to prevent breakage, and unfortunately, packing paper works great for that.
We had no idea we'd be moving boxes of empty paper, though. And paying for the pleasure. We're taking the unused sheets and putting them aside, and we're being as careful as possible when unwrapping our items so as not to tear the sheets. Hopefully, when we advertise boxes available, whoever takes them will re-use the paper, too. That will make us feel a little better.
Won't bring back the trees, though. Sorry, Vancouverites.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Speaking of furniture, we bought a new dining room table.
Click on the picture for a larger image
It's beautiful, expands to seat 10 - 12, and was more than we should have spent.
However, we've spent the last few years talking about how we would love to host people for Shabbat, but we were never close enough to anyone and didn't have a big enough table.
We had 7 people for 2nd Seder this year, and were very cramped. But we had so much fun, it didn't matter at the time. So we figured that since the table wasn't strictly for our enjoyment but for the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming of guests), it was worth the extra money. We just won't get as nice a bed.
Speaking of beds, we need to buy mattresses too. A friend drove us into Jerusalem last week and dropped us off near the tachana mercazit (central bus station aka CBS) so we could hop a bus into the neighbourhood of Talpiot. Talpiot has lots of stores and malls and is great for getting furniture. Talptiot is also home of the "big" mall, Kanyon Hadar. Morey and I nearly fell over laughing when we saw the "big" mall. It's one floor, with about 30 stores, including food stalls. In Israeli terms, it is a fairly big mall. By North American standards, it qualifies as a shopping centre.
Anyway, here's where my lousy bus karma came into play. We knew we could take the 5 or the 21 buses. We passed a 5 stop, but it said "tachana mercazit" which confused us. We were walking to the tachana, which was about a block away. Did the 5 end at the tachana? We decided to keep walking to the CBS. After waiting a few minutes, a 21 came up. Morey went to confirm with the driver that he went into the "industrial" area of Talpiot, not the residential area, and he said no, we needed the 74.
After waiting 25 minutes for a 74, the driver of the 74 told us we needed the 21, that he doesn't go anywhere near the stores.
We then waited for ever for another 21. (Of course, after waiting 25 minutes for the 74, 3 more showed up in the space of 10 minutes.) We were at the tachana well over an hour by the time the next 21 finally came. Then, we were stuck in the construction on Jaffa Street, so it took nearly an hour to get to Talpiot. That didn't leave us with much time, but we did get to explore Kanyon Hadar, and go to 3 different mattress stores, which left us just as confused as when we started. We weren't able to catch a ride back to Modi'in with our friend, but it seemed like G-d wanted to make up for our horrid trips to Talpiot, and when we decided to go home and left the last mattress store, we were right at a bus stop with a 21 bus sitting at the stop. Which got us to the CBS 5 minutes before the bus to Modi'in left. That was perfect.
So we still don't have a mattress, and don't have the foggiest idea what to get, but at least we have a less foggy idea of what's out there, and how much this might cost us. Suggestions welcome.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Cigal and Yitz were intending to get married in Toronto, but that's not what G-d wanted for them, so in less than a week, a full wedding with reception, flowers, band, photographers and benchers (Grace after Meals prayerbooks) was put together. Amazing teamwork by the couple and their wonderful friends. Right after the reception, Cigal and Yitz took off for the airport to finish the celebrations with their families in Toronto.
It was a wonderful day and great fun, and Morey was honoured with the first bracha (blessing) of the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) under the Chuppah (marriage canopy). And leave it to Cigal to come out of the deepest, darkest day of the Jewish year, Tisha B'Av with an incredible simcha (joyous event)! We are so happy for Cigal and Yitzchak; we wish them many, many years of happiness together, b"H. We were so blessed to be there.
And that wouldn't have happened if we hadn't made aliyah.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
So now while we're looking for jobs and trying to figure out what to do with ourselves in the meantime, we'd love to take the opportunity to travel and explore before we get bogged down with jobs, but aye, there's the rub. We have limited funds because we're not working and had to buy things like a new refridgerator, washing machine, stove, diningroom table - and a bed, which we haven't done yet. Do we spend our limited funds on things we likely won't have time for later, on the assumption that we'll get jobs soon (please G-d!), or do we behave frugally and save every penny and try to do stuff during vacations and holidays, along with everyone else in the country?
Our table gets delivered today! Assuming the delivery guys can find their way here. They called and asked where we were, but got fed up with our lousy Hebrew (we knew all the right words, it just sounded like a 6-year-old giving directions.) and decided to call someone else. So hopefully they'll show up soon.
The latest news on our lift: it should arrive at the port today, with delivery sometime next week. And of course, next week is really busy. We have a wedding, Morey has appointments, we have an aliyahversary party to go to.
It will be really nice to finally get our stuff and make this place feel like "home." Right now, it still kind of feels like we're staying in a really big motel room. Except there's no ice machine.
Grocery shopping is still a challenge, but getting much easier. I'm starting to understand some ingredients, and recognize the difference between juice and juice "soda drink." The only 100% fruit juice we've found though, is orange and grapefruit juice, and lemon juice with mint. All the rest of the fruit juices are juice drinks, not what we got used to in Vancouver. Maybe because fruit is so plentiful and inexpensive, people make their own juice. There is so much cheese to choose from, we were in front of the cheese counter for a good 20 minutes trying to decide on something to get. And Morey is very happy - he has fresh parmegian.
And the woman who rang up our order asked us for our moadon kartis (membership card) and we somehow managed to convey that we had signed up for one, but hadn't received it yet. So she asked if we were olim chadashim. When we said yes, she wished us b'hatzlacha (success) and bruchim habaim (essentially "welcome home"). When we were all packed and ready to go, and had paid, she wished us a Shabbat shalom (um, y'all got that one, right?).
With all the language difficulties and bus frustrations and job worries and hills, I love living here. Yesterday, we got a speech from a mattress salesman about how very difficult it is to live in Israel, but it is so worth it. "You have to work hard, it's very hard, it's very very difficult to live in Israel. But there is nowhere else."
He's absolutely right. There is nowhere else.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
- We should have asked for an Isracard (a debit card that allows you to break a charge into payments, known as tashlumim) when we opened our bank account. (We should have insisted on someone who speaks fluent English and deals with olim, actually)
- How to access our bank account online. No one gave us a passcode, a password or anything else. No one even gave us the url.
- How to fill out a cheque in Hebrew. You can write the date in English, and the amount numerically, but having someone write out NIS 3,170 in Hebrew would be helpful.
- How Israeli banks actually work.
- Where the best appliance stores are, what are typical prices for various appliances, beds, other furniture, etc.
- What are typical sizes for beds, since they're different than North America
- Where do you buy sheets, since we didn't really see any selection at Home Centre
- How do you buy stamps and mail a letter
- What's a good shampoo
- Hebrew so we could talk with our landlord.
Fortunately, he's a really nice guy, although I don't think he's the innocent, "counting on this apartment to be his pension" man that was portrayed to us.
Anyway, the whole experience has made my headache worse. It's hard doing all that concentrating for so long. It's reminding me of calculus all over again - let your mind stray for 10 seconds and that's it; you've lost the stream of knowledge and you'll never make your way back again.
By the way, a 4-year old corrected Morey's Hebrew today. That's really great for the ego.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Last week’s Torah portion, Masey, includes a listing of all the places the Israelites stopped on their 40-year journey through the desert after leaving Egypt, on their way to the Holy Land. What is the purpose of this detailed, itemized list of locations? And why such meandering? If you plot out the list of locations on a map, it looks like G-d led the Israelites on a wild goose chase.
(Actually, it looks like our 30-minute tour of Modi’in on the number 1 bus to get us to the mall that’s 2 kilometres away. But I digress.)
Our ancestors toured the land. They were led east, then north, then west, then east again, probably a short turn south, before heading back up to their final destination. The usual discussion is that the detours were necessary. It’s easy to take the Israelites out of Egypt, but not so easy to take Egypt out of the Israelites. We needed those 40 years to get de-Egyptized. To get the idea that we were slaves out of our system. To learn what freedom was and to not be terrified of it.
But last week I read a different, but similar, take on the subject. I apologize, I can’t remember who wrote it or where I saw it, but the author posits that perhaps equally important is just the journey itself. Each place is mentioned in the Torah, implying that each place has importance. Why else mention it specifically? Although, in looking back at our journey - crossing Canada - I specifically mentioned Merritt, BC and Brooks, AB. I talked about Falcon Lake, Kenora and WaWa. Are those places important? Do they have significance? Only in that they are markers, place holders for our journey. It lends credence to the story. It’s like a bibliography of our trip. If you’re writing a book that contains facts you want your readers to believe, you will list your sources. “Some guys said that...” won’t hold water.
Saying we left Brooks, Alberta gives our story a source. The reader can go to a map and look up Brooks, Alberta and then look up Falcon Lake. They have a fact to base our story on, to give it weight. Saying we left “someplace in Alberta” and “arrived somewhere in Manitoba” still gives the reader an idea of the journey, but has less impact, less truth. Saying we left “somewhere” and arrived “somewhere else” has no meaning at all.
Of course the journey is important. Judaism expects its adherents to be present in every moment, whether the journey is life, a job hunt, a vacation to the mountains or a trip to the supermarket. There will always be moments during every journey that are important, that can have an impact, that we should be taking note of. Of course, there will always be important moments that will be missed, as well. Those have an impact, too.
Taking note of the locations that make up our journey, whether they are towns or emotional landmarks gives us sources. It lets us see where we’ve come from, how far we’ve traveled, and where we’re heading. It lets us know if we’ve taken a wrong turn, if we need to travel faster or slower or if we just need to stop a take a break. Journeys are a series of learning events. Each stop on the journey out of Egypt was another step in emotionally leaving Egypt behind as well.
The irony of reading this Torah portion this week, our third week in Israel was not lost on us. Crossing Canada was a number of steps in emotionally leaving behind our life in Vancouver. Then we left Canada. Then we left North America altogether. Each week in Israel brings us closer to Israeli life. We still feel like we’re camping, since our lift still hasn’t arrived, but each week brings us yet another “normal” item. We now have our refrigerator. We have a stove. And Thursday, G-d willing, we will have a diningroom table. Each little steps on our journey.
That fridge, stove and table will help us bring together people for meals. And may each of those meals bring us a step closer to the day that this period of the 9 days, a period of mourning leading up to the fast day of Tisha B’Av, will become a time of joy and celebration instead of lamentation and tears.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Oye. This is about as far as you can get from a realistic portrayal of what new olim (immigrants) experience.
How do they decide who wins a particular event? Do you win if you go to the bank to open an account, and actually come out with an account, or do you win if you go to the bank to open an account, don’t get an account, but you successfully yelled at the clerk in broken Hebrew, threatening to take your business elsewhere, so they gave you the phone number of a manager in Jerusalem who speaks English?
How do they choose?!