Sunday, September 29, 2013

On the Phone...with the Department of Transportation

Oh, today was fun.  My husband was in a minor car accident (he is OK, thank God).

This meant that I had to call the insurance company, deal with the police, etc., all in Hebrew.

Yay for my daughters, is all I can say.  They, in true daughter fashion, ran to our sides and were incredibly helpful as we talked to the police, then helped me negotiate the ins and outs of the insurance company and find out what to do next.  The whole time my husband was at Shaarei Zedek hospital getting checked out.

So here I was:
1. Unsure what Hebrew words to use
2. Never been to Shaarei Zedek before
3. Without a car
4. With less than stellar Hebrew (did I mention that yet?)
5. But [yay] with two amazing daughters

Well, the police asked for the insurance card.  It was in the car!  Yay!  It was also expired!  Not yay!  We finally get that straightened out (yes, I had paid, and no they had not sent a new card to us).

Then when we got home, I realized that although I had paid the car registration for this year, we never received a new car registration card with the new date.  And I had to take this to the police station the next day, so that they can release the car to the garage.

So I had to call the Ministry of Transportation.  Can you imagine my excitement at this prospect?  Something akin to how you feel on your way to a root canal.  But worse.

I find the number.  I dial it.  Then, of course, there is a menu of choices.  After about 4 attempts at listening to the menu, I understood it.  This, by the way, is par for the course.  We even did "listening to phone menus" in Ulpan, because it's a huge problem for olim.

The menu offers help in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian.  Hmmmmm, definitely Hebrew.  Then finally I get to what I THINK is the right menu and the next option is, I think, whether you have a manual or automatic car.  I think to myself, "How strange!  Why would that make a difference?"

But, you are probably already laughing at me.  It wasn't "manual or automatic" car, the option was "do you want to speak to a person or use the automatic phone system."  I figure that out after hanging up several times and then thinking about it.

And yay!!!! I get a person!  Who speaks English!  I tell the person my story, they look up my record and say yes you did pay.  I said, but I never received a new certificate.  And tell her about the accident, and how I need a new certificate....immediately.  She says, "No problem, you can go to [listen to this people, I am not making this up] the Super Pharm [pharmacy] in Modiin and use the machine there to get a new certificate!"

Yes, the pharmacy has a Department of Transportation machine.  It is true.  I was wondering if you can get a prescription filled at a local garage, but I digress.

So, Gila and I (and Nadav, who was an unwilling but cheerful participant since he had hopes of receiving a treat at some point), trek on over to the Super Pharm.  And we find the machine!  It is there! 

And it is not working.

Of course.

So the pharmacy man says that they will call the tech person to get it fixed and they will call me when it is fixed.

Hahahahahaha!!!  Riiiiiiiight.

So I will go to the police station tomorrow to have them release my car to the garage and I will show them my expired registration and hope for the best.

Pray for me. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is it "After the Chagim" Yet?

So....the holidays.

In the mind of my non-Jewish and/or non-religious friends, this conjures up images of sugar cookies, decorations, gifts, and driving to Grandma's.

For us (well, me anyway) it conjures up images of meal after meal after menu plan after food shopping after long davening .....sprinkled with moments of happy family togetherness.

Living in the US, I was always amused when, returning to work after Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, my colleagues asked me "So, how was your holiday?!"  with an expectant look of glee and joy in their eyes, thinking of their own happy holidays.

So the image bubble over their head looked something like this:

While the one in my head looked something like this:

So I'd always answer, "Great!" and think that it was sweet of them to ask, but they had no idea at all what it was like for us. 

In general, the Rosh Hashana - Sukkot holiday season is tough for everyone. I mean let's get real:

  • Kids just started school and are now on a more than two week vacation
  • Parents have to shop, cook, serve, and clean up from way too many meals
  • It's become a competition, it seems, to have tons of guests over - it's the Rosh Hashana equivalent of "How late did your seder go?" to hear the question "How many guests did you have yesterday?"
  • There is too much eating and sleeping and sitting 
  • The money!  Aside from the food, how about the lulav and etrog, the sukkah decorations, the clothes, the shul seats, and chol hamoed trips
  • Stress levels are at an all time high, making it not so much a fun meaningful holiday for anyone

It's just not natural, I tell you.  We need to rethink this thing.  Here are my suggestions:
  1. A ban on guests on Rosh Hashana - first of all shul is so long that you don't get to eat until like 3:00.  Then you just end up in a loshon hora fest anyway (and yes, the comment, "Wow, why did he have to drey out that "v'chol maaminim"? is considered lashon hora). On top of that, if you have guests, your meal (probably meat) takes a longer time, and then you can't have dairy until like 10:00 or 11:00 pm, which wrecks your menu ideas for dinner.
  2. School on chol hamoed - seriously the kids actually want to be in school, let them go and have chol hamoed fun there.
  3. School on the chag!  OK, that is going a little too far.
  4. Esrog/Lulav delivery service - OK, the 3 trips to the lulav guy is a little ridiculous, I mean we do have other things to do.  So why hasn't anyone thought of delivery?  The guy comes to your house, and in his car are all of his choices.  Then he comes back erev chag to deliver the hadasim and aravot.  Smart, right?  
  5. Fun in shul - really, shul can get to you, am I right?  I  mean after 2 hours it's time for some fun - so how about games instead of a drasha?  Like "guess the ushpizin" or "capture the lulav."
  6. More fun in shul - how about a little yoga session to stretch those muscles after the long shemoneh esreh on Rosh Hashana?  Is that sacreligious?  We can call it something else.
  7. Services that take your kids on chol hamoed trips - someone could really rake it in here.   Pay someone else to take your kids on a trip. 
  8. Cereal meals.  Cereal is possibly man's greatest invention.  Have at least 2 meals on the chag where it is the main/only offering.  Your kids will love you for it. Include Fruity Pebbles.
  9.  Ice cream meals - even better than #6.
  10. Nap helpers - what about chag / shabbat afternoon babysitters?  Why has no one thought of this yet?  Imagine the happiness of parents if they can snooze in the afternoon while their kids are entertained!!
 I got a million ideas, these are just a few.  I gotta go stock up on cereal now, it's almost Shemini Atzeret.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hebrew, French Fried Onions, and Holidays

So we've been here 20 months!  And guess what?  My Hebrew is....a tiny bit better!  Yay!

I don't think I'm used to having to prepare my sentences and vocabulary ahead of each confrontation with an Israeli, but at least it has gotten a tad easier. 

Let's just say that I can tell my Hebrew is better by the fact that:
  1. I mostly understand what my three year old grandson Nadav says. Sometimes he has to repeat himself, though.  And he has learned to roll his eyes a bit at me.
  2. I can turn on the radio and figure out the topic of the discussion - but that's not really fair because it's always politics.
  3. I have had Israelis yell at me that I should stop being embarrassed to speak Hebrew because my level is not that bad.  But I bet then they go home and tell their families they did a good deed by making an olah feel good about herself. And then laughing. A lot.
  4. When random people call me on the phone and start speaking quickly I have learned to let it all wash over me and wait for the one word I know - like "dentist" or "car" or "pizza" and then ask a question, like, "Oh, this is about the _____________?" and not sound too stupid (well, I don't think I sound too stupid but I'm probably just fooling myself)
  5. I am VERY good at the Resh sound.  I can chhhhhhhhhhhhh the resh with the best of them.  Got a word with two Resh's?  Bring it on, baby, I can handle it.  
  6. I am outstanding at saying English words with an Israeli accent, which is sometimes all you need to get by.  Example:  Ani michapeset [I am looking for] eh tccchhhhhesh ken [a trash can] - works every time.
  7. I drive around in my car having Hebrew conversations with myself and a phantom friend and my phantom friend never corrects me.
No, seriously, my Hebrew is better.  For all of you who think you could never move to Israel because of the Hebrew, let me reassure you - you get used to sounding like an immigrant.  No matter how good your Resh is, the Israelis know you are American - sometimes they even start speaking to you in English (not very good English) with this knowing look in their eyes.

In other news, guess what?  Our little grocery store has bowed to the pressure of the Americans and started stocking French Fried Onions!  What a treat!  Now I can make my famous tuna casserole the right way (after having to go searching for cream of mushroom soup - American - and white tuna - American).   It's the little things.  I was so happy when I saw that that I actually called people to tell them.

So, by learning more Hebrew and acquiring more American foods, things are good.  

Oh, and by the way, there is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING like the Yomim Noraim in Israel.  Every single person I have come in contact with (including the pizza delivery guy) wished me a shana tova last week and a tzom kal (easy fast) this week.  Aside from the nice davening, which you can find in other places, the feeling in the country is totally and completely centered around the chagim.  Think mid-October through December 25 in America.  THAT is how completely the country is involved in the holiday season.  So cool.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gas Masks and Cooking and Shopping Stories

Well, the title just about says it all. 

We are in two mindsets here in Israel - one part of us (well, OK, one part of ME) keeps listening for sirens to go off and wondering how I would actually live in our mamad (safe room) for 3 days if I had to. Regarding the latter, my thoughts run to things like bathroom needs, cleanliness (yes, they are related, I know), food, water, boredom, fear.

So back to the war.  Yes, it is scary.  But somehow not as scary as being in the US.  I guess because it's our country, with our soldiers and our unique brand of chutzpah that makes me feel OK.  Whatever happens happens, but if God forbid something does happen to me here, at least it happens for a purpose, for my country and for my people. That gives me a sense of purpose I never had before.  Don't get me wrong, I think America is great, but when as a Jew you live here, you realize what it means to belong, really belong, to the country and everything in it.  Can't explain it any other way.

The second part of me is enjoying preparing for Rosh Hashanah.  Although I haven't been much of a cook and nothing of a baker since we arrived, I dug in and made challah this year for the first time in a very long time.  It felt right and it was fun.  The problem?  Very few people in Israel have freezers aside from the ones on the top or bottom or side of their fridges, so freezer space is at a premium.  I used to cook and bake away and freeze everything, and now we have to invoke the strategic talents of a army general to figure out how much we can freeze and what has to be made in the last day or two.

Ordering online: As usual, my pre-chag shopping included some amusing Hebrew-related mishaps.  For one thing, I started ordering online.  Nice, right?  Well, nice if you can do the whole thing in Hebrew and know how to measure things in kilos.  Which resulted in me getting way too many pomelos and lemons and not enough carrots. 

Chicken: Also, a nice lady from the store called and asked me a question.  It took me 3 sentences to realize she said the name of the store.  Then she asked me another question and the only thing I understood was "of" (chicken).  I had ordered chicken!  Yes!  We are talking about the same thing!  So then she asked me a veryquickhebrewquestionthatIcouldnotunderstand.  So I gave her my one size fits all response "Ken." (yes).  I figured, what could go wrong with chicken?  As it turns out, they gave me one package of chicken instead of two.  Did they bill me for two?  Who knows?  Do you think I can understand the receipt? 

Flour:  I knew I needed the flour in the clear plastic bag.  I found it - indeed it said it was pre-sifted!  Yay, that's what I was looking for! I bought 3 bags!  Then I came home!  And guess what?  I had purchased.....Rye Flour!  Darn.  Do you think I am going to go back and exchange it?   hahaha!  That would involve speaking complicated Hebrew sentences!  No No!  I simply went to another store and bought more flour!  Because (say it with me) - I   am    a   wimp.

So that's it.  K'tiva v'chatima tova to all of you and yours.  And if you have any regular old white presifted flour, could you send it over?