Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My First Pet

First of all, best wishes to all of you East Coasters - does anyone think it's ironic that a hurricane named Sandy washed out so many beaches?  OK, OK, not funny.

Yesterday I received an email that a paycheck had been deposited in my bank account.  Whoopee!  I loooove money!  It had a link to use to go see how many millions of dollars had been deposited (a girl can dream).  I clicked on the link and the website asked me to log in.

Hmmm.  This was the first paycheck I was receiving from this company.  I don't remember creating a login or password.  Hmmmm.  Well, tech wizard that I am, I decided to click on "forgot your login ID?" and see what happened.  It asked me for my email address.  Ha, I thought, this is where I'll get the message that "no account exists for this email address."  But no, it told me to rush to my Inbox where a friendly message about my login ID awaited me.

And yes!  There it was.  But I totally did not recognize that login ID.  Hmmm again.  Then I started thinking this was spam.  So I asked someone else who gets paid by the same company and she confirmed it was for real.

OK, so I went back to the site and typed in the login ID I had apparently created, although I was feeling less optimistic.  Then I clicked on "forgot my password."  A new screen appeared asking me a security question.  "What was the name of your first pet?"

Well, there's a progress stopper for ya.  I would never have created that security question.  Time to write to the company and ask for help.

But this put me in mind of the fact that I did, indeed, have a first pet and I'd like to share his or her story with you.  Ready?  I doubt it.

When I was 4, I asked my parents for a dog.  "No way" was the response.  My parents were kind and caring people, and I don't think they wanted to deny me of a precious pet, rather I think that having a butcher shop with fresh meat in the same building as a dog (we lived upstairs from the butcher shop) was probably a baaaaaaaad idea.

So, because I was a very persistent child (read stubborn and kinda spoiled, 3rd girl of 3 and all that, and awfully cute if I do say so myself), they finally gave in and bought me and my sisters a parakeet.  I don't remember what we named it, but I remember it was green.  Or blue.  Or yellow.

We were very excited about our pet - it chirped its head off most of the day (oh, not annoying at all) and our wonderful, patient housekeeper Milly of course ended up being the one who had to change its cage-paper.

One day (cue the dun dun DUN music) the bird escaped while Milly was changing the paper.  She or he (the bird, not Milly) flew around in a crazed manner and we all tried to catch it.  Milly finally caught it and handed it to me while she fixed up the cage.  (Cue music of doom again).  I decided this was a good time to give the birdie a bath.

I took it into the powder room and turned on the water.  Can you see where this is going?  It tried to fly away so I held it.  Tight.  Really tight.  Oops.

Let's just say that I have never watched "The Birds" all the way through because I think one day our bird's extended family is going to come for me.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Just Went to the Supermarket - Need a Nap

Food shopping in Israel is exhausting.  Every time we go we come back and need to recover.  Not, mind you, when we visit the little store in the 'hood, but when we do the big supermarket shopping that even we empty nesters have to do once in a while.

Here's why this is such a wearying experience:

1.  Organization of the merchandise - I'm sure that in someone's head it makes perfect sense to put the shampoo aisle next to the fresh vegetable aisle, but to then put the body wash aisle waaaaaaay on the other side of the store. In the bigger stores, you could walk for miles (sorry - kilometers) back and forth to get from one part of the paper goods section to the other.

2. What is that? - for us newbies, figuring out what the product is when the label is in Hebrew and there is no pretty picture on the front is unnerving.  I usually pick something up and say, "Hmmm, those words look like they mean confectioner's sugar!  Surely, that is what it is."  And then I get home and realize that I have purchased yet ANOTHER package of regular sugar. We have a lot of regular sugar.

3. People behind the counters - when I see those people I think of a Vincent Price movie with the wind blowing, the sky all dark and stormy, that creepy music, and a big haunted house on top of a hill.  NOOOOO!  I can't speak to them, I have no idea what to ask for! I'll probably end up asking the cheese lady for paper towels.

4. Stuff in the freezer section - since I don't deal with real people, I am left with picking things up from the freezer section.  I can identify chicken pretty well, but with meat you don't always know what you're buying.  They have a number system here and I know an 8 is good, so I buy that.  No idea what it is.  My parents would be mortified.

5. Checkout - first thing they ask you is if you have a club card.  OK, I can handle that.  Then, you have to bag the stuff yourself.  Also not a problem, if not for....dun dun dun.....

6. Hermetically sealed plastic bags - they must hire someone with a twisted sense of humor to purchase the shopping bags to for the store.  These bags are impossible to open.  I am not exaggerating.  TODAY, after almost 10 months here, I figured out the best method for opening them.  I hope you are not eating when you read this, becasue the method is to lick your thumb and forefinger before you open each bag.  This gives you enough grip to open them.  I tried licking just the forefinger (much daintier), but alas it is not enough to do the job. This even grosses me out and it's my fingers.

7. Deforestation - for some reason, in this country where conservation is so important, when you check out of any store, the register generates like 5 feet of paper.  The cashier then sorts these into 3 or 4 different slips and you sign one.  I have no idea what the other ones are - she takes some, she gives me some. 

8. Payment - there is always, always, always a "bargain" at the checkout.  Before your cashier finishes checking you out, she will ask you, with a very serious look, if you want the bargain.  If you don't, she looks off to the side where a Mossad agent is waiting with arms crossed, sunglasses, ear thingy, and gives him an almost imperceptible nod.  He nods back and takes your name down as a "bargain rejecter" and you are marked for life. That last part was a joke. Lighten up, people.

9. The cart - ok, shopping done. Now try wheeling this cart out to your car. Every single shopping cart in Israel veers to the left, so you have to either have someone in front steering or you end up developing impressive biceps. You actually see people walking the cart out by pulling it from the side. Someone once explained to me  the reason for the veering to the left, but it involves wheels, weight, blah blah blah.  Forget it, who cares, it just makes me tired.

So you can see why we need a nap when we come back, right?  Well, gotta go put the groceries away - we are building a new closet just for the sugar.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farm Girl, Phone Company, Chumus, A Wave

We just received an email from our Rav, detailing the halachot of saying the brachot for rain.  This is serious stuff. 

I used to wonder, with some amusement, at the Israeli attitude of "after the chagim" and the constant gazing into the sky for rainclouds, but it is no joke, and living here you really feel the angst over the dire need for rain.  Yestrday we took a train ride to Haifa and along the way you are struck by the brownness of all of the farm land.  The cows stare at you as you ride by on the train, with that, "Hey lady, got anything to eat?" look on their faces.  When we returned to Modiin, lots of people were looking up at the sky hopefully, becasue it had become very cloudy and dark.  Alas, though, no rain. We were all disappointed.

Israel is very big into medical and technological research, but when all is said and done it is an agricultural country.  It's quite different from Jackie Mason's famous line, "Jews don't work on farms, Jews OWN farms." 

Mind you, I'm not going to quit my current job and start herding cows.  I mean, I don't like being in the sun, I don't like being sweaty, and I am scared of most animals, not to mention being terrified of bugs, whcih I hear they have on farms.

Well, the phone company keeps calling me.  They want me to take advantage of this wonderful deal.  I told the guy on the phone, "Listen, either speak in English or speak more slowly."  So he stated to speak louder.  Happens every time.  I still didn't get the deal, but these people are so insulted when you don't accept.  It's like you've pesonally hurt them and all of their ancestors.

And chummus.  Yesterday we went out for dinner to a local place.  We order the salad appetizer (lafa bread plus like 64 different salads in little dishes).  When we ordered, the waitress said, "Well, you understand that this does not come with chummus."  Um, ok, so what?  "No, I want to make sure you understand that this does not come with chummus."  I thought we were going to have to sign a form agreeing that we understand that the appetizer lacked chummus.

Yesterday, as usual, I waved someone on to pull in front of me as I was driving.  I would much rather..um...LIVE...than try to fight Israeli drivers.  And guess what?  He waved thanks to me!  I mean it, I am not making this up.  Or else he was waving a fly out of his face.  Or waving to a friend on the street.  I'm going to believe he was waving thanks to me, no matter what.  Made my day.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Post Office Failure

In Israel, life pretty much revolves around the Post Office.   It is the Israeli version of the General Store from the Old West. It is yet another Israeli thing that reminds me of Mayberry.

Pay a bill?  Post Office.
Register for a library card?  Post Office.
Pay for your driving lessons?  Post Office.
Toys?  Post Office (no joke, my PO has a toy store in the back of it)

So every few days we receive a "petek" (note) in our mailbox instructing us to come to the PO to pick something up.  Usually it is something which didn't "fit" in our mailbox.  Now, think about this - maybe make the mailboxes a little teensy bit bigger and the mail carriers would not have to spend their time writing out those little notes?

I know, I'm being silly.  That's just crazy talk.

We received a petek, which noted on it that it was the second notice for this item, which is listed as "publication."  OK, whatever, guess there was something we didn't pick up or a petek we missed, etc.

We go to the PO and hand over the petek.  They look and look and look and cannot find our package.

Here is the conversation that ensued:

PO Lady:  This says it's your second notice.
Us:  yes.
PO Lady:  So maybe you picked it up already.

Now, listen, I am not that bright by some standards, but I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that if we had picked up the package, we wouldn't have received the second notice.

The conversation continues:

Us:  No, we did not pick it up, that's why we are here.
PO Lady:  But it says it's the second notice.
Us:  Yes, so shouldn't it be here?
PO Lady:  But where is the first notice?
Us:  We don't know.
PO Lady (getting irritated and now asking her colleague, PO Man, to help):  OK, let me look.

She continues to look.

PO Man:  It's a calendar.
Us:  How do you know that?
PO Man:  Because it was shelved over here and that's where all the calendars were.  It's not there now so you must have picked it up.
Us:  We did not pick it up, we do not have a calendar.

Now a little wire in my head makes that pinging sound when it just snaps off.  I'm toast.

How did he know it was a calendar?  How does he know anything is a calendar, if it is in an envelope?

Now PO Man makes a management decision - he is going to give up looking for the item, but will put our phone number on this eensy weensy piece of scrap paper and call us if it shows up. Haha!  Seriously, even I know that is completely ridiculous, after all I am not a new olah, I have been here a whole 9 months!

We stare at each other and, without saying a word, decide to give up.  I say the only thing I can think of, "Well, if it's a calendar, it is not important."  In one sentence I have not only given up the fight, but have also conceded that PO Man really did know what was in our envelope.

I'm such a wimp.
And now I have to go buy a calendar. 
So I'm a wimp-loser.

Monday, October 8, 2012

After the Chagim

Well, today we will take down our sukkah.

Um, well, it's not exactly a sukkah you take down.  The schach is permanent (wooden slat covering recently installed at a perfect angle so as to block the harsh sunlight streaming into the sukkah - thank you Donny). 

And, the decorations.  Well, let's just say that we decorated the chatzer (courtyard) of the sukkah.  See, the sukkah is on our mirpeset and the walls are mostly stone, to which nothing really adheres.  So, in our frantic pre-Sukkos decorating frenzy we hung decorations from our railing, which is technically outside our sukkah.  In order to hang things from our slats would have required getting on a ladder, something neither of us is crazy about. Son in law Elie promised to decorate for us next year.

Why was it a "decorating frenzy," you ask?  That's because we had put off decorated since we were both sick.  I was struck with a horrific case of strep and my dear husband had a cough that later turned into pneumonia.  Fun! 

But we did manage to shlep the new sukkah table up from the machsan (garage-level storage closet).  After which I asked my husband why he had purchased said table, since we already had a nice folding table sitting in our mamad  (safe room / storage room / guest room).  His reply was, "We do?  I thought we left that in Baltimore."  Hmm, methinks the mamad is a bit overcorwded.

Never you mind, we had a fabulous Sukkos anyway.  First day in Beit Shemesh, followed by chol hamoed of coughing, sleeping, visits to the emergency center, and medication.  But after that, we had a great Shabbos with US cousins (hahaha!  we are not the US cousins anymore!) and a lovely Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah.

We even met a new couple who just arrived 5 weeks ago.  Now we're not the newbies anymore.  We got to give someone else advice!  Yay!  But oh, the looks on their faces, I remember that feeling so well. 

Now comes the momentous season in Israel known as "after the chagim."  As soon as Sukkos is over, Israelis decide it is winter.  Out come the sweaters, boots, scarves, etc.  It is still at least 85 degrees here each day, but that does not deter them from acting like it is winter.  We look at each other in wonder.  They are thinking, "How are you still wearing sandals?!  It's after the chagim!"  And I'm thinking, "Please take off that sweater you are making me feel even sweatier."

Our next project is getting our extra "stuff" out of our apartment and into the machsan - I am soooooo tired of seeing plastic tubs full of blankets, pillows, dishes, and other whatnots that I HAD to bring with us but for which we have absolutely no room until some carpenter comes and builds us more storage units. 

And somehow my husband keeps making clandestine trips to the machsan and bringing up armfuls of seforim - I think maybe when he says, "I'm going to the machsan," he is actually getting in the car and driving to the seforim store, but I'm not sure so I may have him followed one day.

We are also awaiting (yes, this is true) lift #2 which is to arrive next week.  It contains 13 more pieces of art, MORE seforim, and other stuff.  This means a trip to Haifa to visit the port and sign our lives away, and of course it also means......more stuff to find a place for.  Looking forward to that.