Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Aliyahversary

I recently posted on Facebook that we just celebrated our 3-year anniversary of making aliyah. One of my friends asked what was the best thing about making aliyah and what was the worst. I gave a nutshell response of,
"the best: I live in Israel for cryin' out loud! :)
the worst: not being able to easily see friends & family. Although many of them come to Israel, so I do get to see a lot of people, despite leaving."

I decided to answer this in more detail. So without further ado, here goes (and I am SURE I'll think of more after I post this blog!)

  • See above ;) This country is beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is amazing beauty. From the green fields and mountains in the north, to the pristine beaches, to the rocky Judean hills, to the stunning variations of the desert. I never get tired of looking at this place. And that's not even taking into consideration all the ruins to look at!

  • I am not "the Jew" - one of a few, someone different, standing out. I am one of many people who look like I do, live like I do, eat like I do, believe like I do. Yet, all those many people are still very unique and individual.

  • My holidays and the country's holidays MATCH! My goodness! I don't have to use my personal or vacation days for my religious holidays. Along with that is the fact that the store decorations at holiday times are relevant to me.

  • People truly do treat each other like one big family here. If you are in trouble or need help, your neighbours will be on you in a flash (assuming, of course, they know!). Of course, this also means that they will ask you too-personal questions like family would, yell at you if they think you're doing something stupid and ignore you if they just don't feel like dealing with you right now.

  • In keeping with the family theme, people here know how to disagree with each other. A good friend of mine is very left-leaning. I'm more centre, with an occasional toe into the right. We occasionally work together, and one day during a break we got into a big debate about a very hot, touchy political topic. For 15 minutes we spoke vehemently (I wouldn't say we yelled) about the subject, disagreeing completely. After 15 minutes, we looked at the clock and said, "should we get back to it?" and went back to work. It affected our friendship not one whit. I think he's wrong, he thinks I'm wrong and we accept that.

  • Men are not afraid to ask for directions. Or wear pink. Or carry a man-bag. Or take their baby out for a walk in the stroller. With another dad taking his baby out for a walk in the stroller.

  • The weather. For at least 10 months out the year. One month is cold and rainy, the other month is stinkin' hot. The rest of the year is usually pretty amazing.

  • No matter where you are, you're never really that far from the beach.

  • Vegetables have taste. Wonderful taste. And smell! I never knew red peppers had a scent until I moved here, walked into a grocery store that has the vegetables right at the entrance and walked around trying to identify that wonderful odour.

  • Dairy. The spectrum of dairy products makes my head spin. I eat yogurt and cottage cheese ("cottage") and feta and leben (kind of a yogurt-y cheese) on a regular basis. With those tasty veggies!

  • Almost everyone visits Israel at some point, so we get to see friends and family all the time!

  • Two words: kosher cruises

  • Two more words: ice cafe (which is very different from iced coffee. Think frappacino.)

  • Antiquities and archeology. The trail through the forest where I regularly walk the dog takes us past ancient graves, ancient mikva'ot (ritual baths), wine presses, old wells and cisterns and buildings carved into stone.

  • Consumer goods are plentiful. You can get pretty much anything here. A lot of it will be more expensive, but a lot of it won't.

  • Cheerios! I can get Cheerios here!

  • The sun is the best dryer in the world. And the best stain remover. And the best bleach. Unless of course, you accidently leave your navy blue shirt outside for 3 days. Oops.

  • Getting to know other branches of the family better.

  • So many people speak English here that when I get stuck for how to say something, between my broken Hebrew and another person's broken English, I can usually make myself understood. Or vice-versa.

  • Our soldiers are HOT. Seriously. We have the cutest guys & gals in uniform in the world. IN THE WORLD.

  • We have the silliest names for things that lead to many innuendoes and lots of jokes. Kfar Pines (which is pronounced pee-ness), the HOT company (which results in everyone saying "I'm home waiting for the HOT guy to show up."). You get the idea.

  • There is still a shuk (street market) mentality here. You can bargain for anything.

  • As much as Israelis are some of the most giving and helpful people I've ever met, they can also be some of the most self-centred. I can't count the number of times people have parked their cars up onto the sidewalk - blocking it completely from strollers or people walking their dogs - so it can be in the shade, despite there being an EMPTY parking lot across the narrow street.

  • Hardly anyone picks up their dog poop. Sitting in the park is a hazardous enterprise.

  • The dog culture here in general kind of stinks. A large number of people are afraid of dogs (it's a Middle Eastern thing), dogs very rarely get properly trained so socializing is difficult, dogs have to be leashed and there are no dog parks, so the dogs are not getting appropriate exercise, which means they have too much energy so they bark. A lot. It is getting better, though.

  • There's nowhere for Maimo to swim, no doggy friends for him to play with regularly, he went from having a big yard to living on the 3rd floor with no elevator, he's a black dog living in the desert.

  • Despite the plethora of consumer products, the quality of some things just sucks. Oh, quality ziplock bags! You are like gold to me! And baking soda. Can someone please explain to me why baking soda comes in teeny tiny little bitty packets?

  • Salaries kinda suck.

  • In line with that, when you send a resume in response to a job ad (or in my case, audition), it can be 3 months before you hear back. Or never. But 3 months is not unusual.

  • Not being able to easily see friends & family. Although many of them come to Israel, so I do get to see a lot of people, I still miss a lot of folks.

  • I miss Vancouver & the northeastern US. Green piney forests with soft undergrowth. And water. Lots and lots of water. And Allan's cabin on Helby Island. ;)

  • HEBREW. It's killing me. And arguing with very sweet Israelis who insist on speaking English to me when I'm trying to speak Hebrew with them is getting annoying. Especially when I finally give up, speak English, finish my transaction with them, and their parting words are "You need to learn Hebrew! You should try to speak Hebrew!" gaaaaah

  • People truly do treat each other like one big family here. Which means no one has any qualms about randomly starting up conversations with the strangers standing around them, because, of course, we're not strangers, we're family. This is kind of a nightmare for me, because eventually it will get to the point where I no longer understand what they are saying, they will then switch to English, and then, refer to the paragraph above.

  • Bills and banking. Native Israelis cannot figure out how to read their bills or bank statements. There is a 5 shekel charge on my water bill every month that no one seems to be able to explain. Not even the water company.

  • Oh, the bureaucracy. It's enough to make your head explode. Everyone has a story about having to go back to the same office 5 times to get one thing processed.

  • CORN. Israelis love their damn corn. It's in everything. Even pizza! I hate corn. Corn is stupid.

  • Cereal is expensive, and 90% sugar. Finding a non-sugar cereal is near impossible.

  • It has to be said - the politics. The world thinking it knows what's best for Israel. Israel knows what's best for Israel, thank you very much. Go pay attention to the countries that truly need help. Anyone ever heard of Darfur?

  • There is still a shuk (street market) mentality here. You have to bargain for almost everything.

So there you have it. THE BEST far outweighs THE WORST. Everything under THE WORST is easily handled or easily ignored or will improve someday. Nothing tops the fact that, plain and simple, I live in Israel. Every day I have to pinch myself.