Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Clocks are ALWAYS Changing

I have had it with clocks.  No, I mean it.

You know that sick-to-the-stomach feeling you get when the clocks change? That yucky feeling that it takes you that whole first day to identify, until you say, "Oh, that's it!  The clocks changed! That's why I feel like someone filled my shoes with cement!"

Well, I live in one time zone and my clients and some of my family live in another one.  I am constantly trying to figure out what time it is and what the people in my life are doing at that moment.

Here's the questions I deal with on a typical day:
1.  What time is it in Chicago now (where my son & family are?)
2.  What time is it in Baltimore now (where my husband is at this moment)?
3.  What time is it for my clients in California, Alaska, Connecticut, and Maryland?
4.  My client in California wants me to set up a phone call between them and someone in Australia where - wait - it's tomorrow.
5.  Oh, and don't forget about the two weeks each spring and fall when everyone else changes their clocks and people in Israel don't - that's when we're 6 hours apart, instead of 7.
6. My client wants me to have a meeting at 9 his time which is 7 my time, unless it was last week when it was 6 my time.

I have tried and tried to get better at this. 

Lots of people in Israel work "American hours." That's fine when "American" means East Coast. Seven (or six) hours?  No problem! That said, it does mean that when I wake up at 7:00 am, my US clients are just going beddie-bye.  AND it means that when I go to sleep at 11 or so, it's only 4 pm (East Coast) or 1 pm (West Coast) - that's a lot of day for them to get through and send me work.

So most mornings I run to my computer and see what came in "overnight."  Then I have questions. Uh oh.  They're sleeping now.

So I wait.  When it gets to be about 3:00 (8 or 9 ET), I figure people are in the office and can answer me.  By the time they get in, have a couple of cups of coffee, talk to each other, and settle down to work, it's usually around 4 or 5 pm my time.  Suddenly it's dinner time here and my phone is ringing and the emails are pouring in.

When I talk to them, I have to remember that it's morning where they are even though it's getting dark here.  I have often caught myself saying "Good night" to their "Good morning" and talking about emailing them "tomorrow" when it's only 10 am their time.

My brain is not good at this stuff.  And I have even used all kinds of computer gadgets to help me remember what time it is where. 

So I am getting used to wondering what time it is in about 6 or 7 different places at any one point in the day.

I'm thinking of buying a sundial.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hello! Yoo hoo! Pesach boxes! What's Up?

I visited my boxes of Pesach stuff yesterday.  They live in my machsan (storage room). In the back.  Waaaaaaay back.  Behind the boxes of books we don't have room for.  They seem pretty happy there, at least they haven't complained to me.

See, apartments in Israel are generally pretty small and have zero storage.  For some reason, Israelis (and I think this is also a European thing) do not believe in closets.  I cannot understand this.  So homes and apartments are built without any storage and then you have to go and build closets.  We have not done this yet. So our machsan is full.  And this is after mega-purging before aliyah.    After living in a home and condo with huge storage (our house had a basement which was just really a large storage closet), this is an interesting adjustment.

When we moved in, it was last January (2012).  I asked the movers (because I am sooooo smart) to put the boxes labeled "Pesach" in the apartment, not in the machsan.  Then came the time for us to open all of our boxes and find room for stuff. The Pesach boxes were in the way.  We decided to (DUN DUN DUN) put them in the machsan.


So there I was before Purim thinking, "Huh. I should get those boxes out of the machsan."  Went down to find that somehow, someone (I'm not naming names here) stuck those boxes back in the corner and HIS SEFORIM were now the items closer to the front (again, not naming names).

Well, comes January again and I say, "Let's go down and bring up the Pesach boxes."  Seforim guy comes back up with the news that the boxes are so stuffed behind so much other stuff that getting them would require a front-end loader.  Then we thought we'd ask our son in law Donny to help.  Then Donny developed a bad back (which I'm SURE had nothing to do with being asked to move the boxes).  There goes that idea.

So once again this year I wave to my Pesach boxes and try to figure out Pesach menus which do not require pots and pans. 

Our plan for this year is to get to the Pesach boxes by NEXT year as follows:

1. Have someone build a bookcase
2. Put the seforim that are now in boxes in the apartment in that bookcase.
3. Bring up some of the seforim from the machsan.
4. Rearrange the machsan (I know, that one makes me laugh too)
5. Make sure the Pesach boxes are easily reachable.

Yeah, sounds good, right.  I'll be in touch next March and let you know how it's going.  More than likely I'll just be buying more plasticware.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Ask any oleh and that will tell you that the aliyah experience has plenty of ups and downs.  For the most part, we are thrilled and proud that we are here, but sometimes we kvetch to each other about how things were in the "old country:"

  • Normal priced clothing
  • Ziploc bags
  • Clothes detergent that smells normal, not like a candy factory just threw up
  • Courtesy
  • Grocery carts that don't give you back spasms
  • Customer service

I was talking with a 25-year olah from South Africa the other day.  Frighteningly, she was complaining about the same things I complain about - in other words, after 25 years she still finds this annoying.  That was upsetting - I mean, don't you get used to it?

Apparently not. 

We got to talk about going back to our former countries of residence and how easy everything was. We understood the bank, the doctor, the television, the radio, the traffic signs - everywhere we went we knew how to act, what to do, what to say.  Ahhhhhh. 

Thinking like that can bring you down.  And it did bring me down.  The daily struggle with the language and the culture can wear on you.   

Then today I was driving and listening to the radio.  The newscaster on the radio station was talking about a person in the Sharon region who was attacked by a terrorist today and was injured.  The newscaster, and his reporter on the scene, were relaying the details.  Their conversation was peppered with comments about thanking God that the person wasn't killed, with prayers for the person's recovery, etc. 

My heart swelled.  

Right, I said to myself.  Our country, our holidays, our army, our people.  I am where Jews are supposed to live.  I am proud of myself, and also of all of the people from all over the world who come here to live.  

So I can think about speaking English in a Baltimore bank, and how easy that is.  But after all, living in Baltimore was just a temporary stopover until I came home. 

Sometimes you have to stop and think big. 


Monday, March 18, 2013

Brain Department Store - First Floor! French!

I have been living in Israel for 14 months, speaking Hebrew badly, speaking English at home, and hearing/speaking no other languages.

Then, yesterday, I was thinking of the Hebrew word for "next" and the word that I came up with was "prochaine."  If I could have taken my brain out of my head and stared at it in disbelief I would have, painful and messy as that would have been.  I could not understand where that came from.  So I shook my head (because, you know, that always makes your brain work better, kind of like kicking the TV), and said, "Silly, not prochaine!  Proxima!"  That really scared me.

So clearly there is a department store of languages in my brain and there is a little me in there with a shopping cart running between the departments looking for the word "next."  And I must have stopped in the wrong department.

The funny (or sad or scary - probably scary) thing was, I started thinking in French.  Whole sentences.  I haven't thought in, or about, French since college.

Then I got mad at my brain.  I mean, listen, brain, for 14 months I've been trying to get you to think in Hebrew and now you decide to turn the lights on in the French department.  Thanks, really.

On top of all of this I am reading a book "Songs for the Butcher's Daughter" [those of you who really know me will appreciate that].  The book focuses on someone who is enthralled with Yiddish.  There is a lot of Yiddish in the book. 

So, my brain must have decided, "Oh, she wants to speak Yiddish, no problemo!  We'll open the doors to the Yiddish boutique on the third floor!" and then last night I had a dream where I spoke in Yiddish - and very well, might I say.

Or maybe - because this is more my style - instead of these languages residing in elegant little departments, they are in a Costco-like warehouse, living together on the shelves.  This would explain my current situation much better.

I'm sure there is a neurologist out there who will explain this to me - but save yourself the effort.  Here is my scientific explanation, after much exhaustive research:  The brain works like that sometimes.

Gotta get back to cleaning the cocina.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Can They Move Seven Mile Market Here? Please?

I have never appreciated Seven Mile Market's approach to Pesach preparation more.  True, last year I complained about preparing for Pesach in Israel, but somehow this year it really got to me.

Last year, my attitude was, "Oh!  Things are so different in Israel!  Isn't that interesting!"

This year, my attitude is, "Sheesh."

You see, when you do pre-Pesach shopping in Israel, you...don't.  You know how before Purim, when you walk into Seven Mile Market, you see the staff stealthily cleaning off certain sections, and all the women shoppers looking at each other with faces marked by stark fear? 

Yeah, you don't get that here.  For example: TODAY I went shopping, one week before Pesach.  One week, people.  Do you know how SMM looks one week before Pesach? With the lines going down the aisles and people shlepping two carts, each of them overflowing?

Well, in my neighborhood store today, it was empty. Why? Because it's not time for Pesach shopping yet - it's too early.  I am not kidding. They'll go on Thursday.

And last week when I went into a supermarket armed with my list, I couldn't find Pesach products.  Seriously.  I walked around and around.  So they just merge Pesach products with the regular stuff and you stand there checking to see if what you just picked up is Kosher l'Pesach. And what they did have for Pesach was pitiful.

And let's not even get into the kitniyot problem (for those of you who don't know, kitniyot are things like beans and rice which Ashkenazim don't eat on Pesach and Sephardim do eat on Pesach).  I got a headache today inspecting each package for those holy words, "B'li Chashash Kitniyot" meaning that there is no chance of any kitniyot being contained in the product.  Then I know I can buy it.  And do you know how many products like that I found?  Two! So come on by if you want butter or a box of matzah.

I came back from the store disgruntled and nervous. 

So, to summarize - no Pesach section, very few products we can actually buy. 

It reminds me of when I was little and my mother brought home "Nyafat" (remember that?  you're gagging a little bit now, aren't you?) and we were all so excited because there was something we could use for frying!

Now, aside from all of this, the emotional preparation for Pesach in Israel is all-consuming.  The billboards, the malls, the radio announcements, the newspapers - every other word is about the upcoming chag and wishing everyone a chag Pesach sameach.  Everyone you see is excited and talking about their preparation - and not just the religious community.  It's everyone. The very non-religious security guy in the supermarket with a shaved head and an earring looked me in the eye as I left, with a huge smile, and said, "Gveret, chag pesach sameach lach!" [Ma'am, Happy Pesach to you!]

It's the whole country.  It is our country, and we are all getting ready together. And really, as long as we have matzah and butter, what else do we need?


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Doctor Day

Before we begin, let me bring you up to date after my last blog.  The package came!  Miracle of miracles, a man came to my door with a package and it was the right package and it had my things in it and I was so thrilled!

OK, back to today. Today was medical appointment day.  In Hebrew. Just imagine. Oh no, you can't.  Believe me. 

I decided it was time for a dental checkup.  In this country, it is not understood that the dental exam and dental cleaning will both happen at the same time.  I knew that!  Gila told me!  Yay!  So, savvy as I was, I went online and filled out a form asking them to contact me for an appointment.  They did!  I asked the guy who called if I could speak in English, and he said yes.   I said I want both an exam and a cleaning.  He said, fine. He gave me a time and date.  I am so set!

Went to the dentist, all set. A nice lady greeted me and I told her that it was my first visit to this office, and she checked that I indeed had an appointment.  I was about to ask, "Don't I have to fill out some paperwork?" but I mean, she was the official greeter and she didn't tell me to fill out a form, so who am I to question the Greeter Lady?

After 45 minutes it was my turn and the dentist asked for my file.  Uh oh.  No file.  Greeter Lady had slipped up, dropped the dental floss so to speak.  So, she gave me the form.  Uh oh again.  There was a LOT of Hebrew on that form. I filled out some things in English, because what are they going to do, send me home?

I had brought the x-rays from my last visit to the dentist in Baltimore.  I showed them to the dentist.   She was unimpressed, and I thought they were some good looking x-rays. She was not impressed.  Anyway, they took more, she examined me, and she said, "You also need to get a cleaning."

Hmmmm.  I explained to her that the appointment was supposed to be for both.  But, of course, even though phone man had told me he had done this, he had not.  Now I have to go back again in April.

Physical therapy:
The PT person asked me how I was doing and I explained (in Hebrew, thank you) that I was much improved.  Then she started talking. Fast. With lots of words that I did not know. I tried to do what you are supposed to do when listening to a new language - just listen, don't try to translate word for word, get the gist of it, etc.

So I THINK she said that if I didn't get better in 3 weeks she would do some sort of procedure that had to do with putting pressure on my lower back.  I think it involved her jumping up and down on my back singing Hatikvah while I lay on the floor, but I'm not absolutely sure.  Then she said that in three weeks I had two choices.

OK, I thought, listen carefully, because she is going to give me two choices. 

OK, one choice was to come back for more therapy, I understood that.  And the other was.....was......  Yikes!  I didn't really understand it.  I stared at her and she explained it again.  OK, I heard words about a phone call and I think I got it.  I repeated it to her and she nodded and smiled.  Now, either she nodded and smiled, thinking, "Oh forget it - this stupid woman is never going to understand, let me just get her out of here so I can eat lunch," or I really did get it right.

All in all, I did it all in Hebrew so I guess it was a semi-success.


Monday, March 4, 2013

The Saga of the Online Order

Clothes shopping here in Israel is, um, interesting.  Eventually everyone seems to get used to the fact that you can't have your relatives and friends bring your Old Navy orders with them indefinitely - at some point you're going to have to bite the bullet and buy clothing here.

Everyone eventually gets used to the fact that the quality is not the same and if you want US quality you have to basically sell your children, car, and house to buy a new skirt.

Well, after a year here with my clothing slowly deteriorating due to my super efficient sounds-like-it's-going-to-take-off-into-the-stratosphere washing machine, I have many shrunken skirts and tops.  Haha, you think, they did not shrink, you've just been eating too many rugelach.  No, they shrunk.  I didn't get taller, even though I may have eaten one or two rugelach over the past year.

So imagine my supreme glee when I saw that my favorite online clothing store, to whom I've paid literally thousands upon thousands of dollars over the years (when they see an order from me come in, they all immediately book their Hawaiian vacations), was offering international shipping!  And happiest of all, Israel was on the list!  No way!  I could order from my favorite store and they would ship it to me in Israel?  Yippee!

So there I went, click click click click.  Before I knew it, I had a few skirts and tops in my shopping cart and then went to the dreaded "calculate shipping costs" section.  And it wasn't too bad - well, it was less than the cost of a plane ticket anyway.  So I clicked "submit order" and happily awaited my new wardrobe.

I know, you are already laughing, clutching your sides and rolling on the floor. 

Right after I made the order, we left for our famous cruise to the Caribbean.  Oh, no, I thought, my package will come and I won't be here! 

I mean, am I an idiot or what?

We returned from the cruise and lo and behold there was no "petek" from the Post Office informing me that I had a package waiting for me.  Hmmm. strange, I thought, it should have arrived already, the website said 10 days.

So I waited a bit more and checked the store website which offered me the tracking number!  Proof that it had been shipped!  It won't be long now, for sure!

The tracking number went to a DHL site (so far so good) and the long list of travels of my poor little package informed me that the package was in customs.  OK, I understand, this may take time.

A week later I emailed DHL and asked about the status.  They called me!  No worries, it will be released soon and you will receive a text message that it is on its way.  Woo hoo!  How silly was I to worry about this?

A week later no phone call. so I emailed them again and they called me again. 

"Oh," said the woman at the other end, "it seems that your package was destroyed. I will find out more and get back to you."

I hung up the phone and burst out laughing.  This blog had just written itself, I love when that happens.  Destroyed?  Why ever would they do that?  Did that black skirt look dangerous?  

Well, DHL did not get back to me, and I waited another week.

Which brings us to today.

I decided to just write to the clothing company and ask for a refund since my package never came.  At that very second (who says the Mossad is not tracking every single thing we do?), DHL emailed me that there was a problem with my package.  But they did not say that it had been destroyed.

I tried to translate the Hebrew email and it looked like they just needed more info, but I wasn't sure so I wrote back to them and asked what I needed to do.

Then...a phone call!  Yaniv from DHL said he just needs my teudat zehut number and that should be it, and he also needed me to confirm that it was a personal package.  I confirmed.  I gave him my TZ.

"OK," he said, " tomorrow you will  receive an SMS that the package is on its way."

So....I wait.  We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Oh, and lesson learned?  You get 3 guesses.