Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Evening in Hebrew

One great thing about making aliyah is connecting with friends who you haven't seen / socialized with in years - lots of our friends have made aliyah over the years and of course we've sort of lost touch.  Maybe we'd see them when we'd come for a visit, but to be honest when you've come to visit with your kids and grandkids any millisecond spent away from them seems like a colossal loss.

So now we are starting (yes, we've been here two years and yes, we are just starting, so deal with it) to re-connect.

Bern, through various odd circumstances, found two of his old friends from YU - one was his dorm counselor there, who'd been here for many years, and one just made aliyah 6 months ago.

We were invited to dinner at the home of the new olim in Jerusalem.  I was expecting a lovely dinner with conversation, in English, about aliyah, our kids, grandkids, etc.  WRONG.

When the second couple arrived, our hostess greeted her in Hebrew.  Uh oh.  Wait - is she Israeli?

Yes, she was Israeli.  And guess what - the language of the evening was Hebrew.  I mean it's only polite that when one person is Israeli, the rest of the guests speak in Hebrew.  So I greeted her as well and my head started pounding.

And then the unthinkable happened - the Israeli wife and I found ourselves in the living room by ourselves. NO!  Now I have to speak in Hebrew!  HELP!  SOS!  Well, help did not arrive, so speak I did.

I actually was OK.  At one point, Hebrew words were flowing out of what I think was my mouth and the woman didn't give me looks like, "Oh my God, she's been here two years and she still speaks like a 2 year old"  At least I didn't think so, because she asked me questions and I answered them, so I believe what we were doing was considered having a conversation in Hebrew.

We were there for 3 hours, and spoke Hebrew the whole time.  I even waxed eloquent at one point about how we love having Friday as a "get ready for Shabbat" day instead of a work day and how that makes Shabbat an entirely different experience than outside of Israel.

At one point I could not think of how to say a phrase in Hebrew, so I just said it in English and Israeli wife nodded.

Wait a minute.  You understand English?

But, no matter, I'm sure she was more comfortable trying to figure out what the heck I was trying to say in my broken Ulpan Hebrew, than trying to understand my English.

Now, having said all that, I don't know if, as they were driving home, the Israeli-wife couple was laughing themselves sick over my grammar/botched vocabulary, and saying things like, "Did she say ____?  Please tell me she did not use that word!" But I'll never know, will I?

As for me, I THINK I did ok.  All I know is that I was exhausted by the end of the evening.

I mean, that's a lot of grammar to remember, put in the right context, and get out of one's mouth the right way.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Insurance Week

Suddenly, we're swamped with insurance concerns:

1. Life insurance - do we buy it here?
2. Homeowner's insurance - we have it, we have to renew it - do we shop around?  
3. Health insurance - should we buy one of the supplemental policies?

For all of these questions, we have a friendly insurance agent.

Thing is, we don't quite know how we got him.  See, we got a call that our homeowner's insurance was about to expire and we have to renew it.  OK, sounds reasonable.

Then we got a call from someone who said he wanted to come over and talk to us about our insurance needs.  We THINK his call was connected to the earlier call, but we're not altogether sure.  

He came over and we had a nice, long discussion about various insurance needs.  

Health insurance: He thought we should get supplemental health insurance.  We filled out the forms.  We went to the doctor to get a "health report" which did not (surprise!) involve any kind of physical exam, it was just a piece of paper.  But our doctor did tell us that we were crazy to want supplemental health insurance - so that was interesting.

We now wait to see how much they want to charge us for the supplemental health insurance.

Homeowner's insurance: Then someone called and said he was an appraiser, and needed to come to our house for our homeowner's insurance.

We THINK he's connected to our actual homeowner's insurance agency, which we THINK is the company that sent the other guy.

See, there are sub-companies with different names and...oh, forget it.  I'll just confuse you.

So the appraiser comes by and does his thing a few days ago.

Then the insurance company calls and we have this conversation:

"Our appraiser has to come by."  
"No, he already came!"
"Impossible, he could not have already come"
"But he did, two days ago."

So then we look at each other - who WAS this guy who came over?  He seemed official enough (not that any Israeli professional wears any kind of uniform aside from jeans and a sweater).  He had all kinds of forms and stuff. When we asked for a business card, he wrote his email address down on a piece of scrap paper. hmmmmm....

Car insurance: Then there's the saga of the car accident...
We were billed for the ambulance.  We were told that our health insurance would cover it.  They do not.  We are told by the health insurance company to take this to the car insurance company.  They insist on us faxing (the faxing here drives me crazy - come on, start-up nation, scan the darn things and email them!) over paperwork.  We do it.  They get it.  They now tell us it is in the hands of someone else.  Bye-bye, 494 shekel.

And...most of the above discussions and transactions took place in Hebrew.  We greatly improved our vocabulary during these conversations.  So there's that.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tears at the Barber

No, the barber did not decide to cut my husband's hair with a blunt scissors, so calm down.

This is one of those "I love living here so much..." stories.

Here goes -

Two weeks ago we became grandparents again - a little boy born to our kids in Chicago.  Mazel tov!  Why thank you!

Bernie was getting ready to travel to America for the shalom zachar and bris, and decided to get a haircut.  He proudly told his barber (an older Israeli man) about the new baby.  The barber, and his buddies who hang out in the barber shop (none of them are religious, just so you know, because it makes the story even sweeter) were incredibly happy for him and asked, "Are you going to be the sandek?"

"I don't know," he replied.  "Well," they said, "if you are the sandek, you have to come back and give us a bracha!"

For those of you who, like me, never heard this before  - apparently a bracha from the sandek [the person who holds the baby while the bris is performed] is a huge, special thing. They did not teach this at Pikesville Senior High.

Sweet enough to stop there, but there's more.

Bernie returned home yesterday and went to the barber shop today to visit.  They welcomed him warmly and lowered their heads to receive their bracha.  They were so moved, almost to tears, in gratitude that this man came back and gave them a bracha.

As Bernie left, himself almost in tears, they wished him a Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov.

He called me, choked up, "I can't believe we live here."  He couldn't even find the words to express his emotions.

Yup, that kind of thing happens quite often.  Your heart fills up at the little things and you know that what you are feeling you could not feel anywhere else.

We hit our two year aliyahversary this Shabbat.  Still can't believe how blessed we are to be here.