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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An apple a day

Back in the USA again.  Got to stand in the line for "Israelis" on the way out of Israel and the line for "U.S. citizens" after arrival.  Pretty cool.  The flight here was rather turbulent and at one point it sounded as if an engine had blown out but apparently it was just some static discharge.  The Israeli flight attendant kept saying in English that we shouldn't worry it was just because of the "unstable" weather.  I for one would have been more comfortable with a different translation.  Unstable sounds a little too much like--not stable.  Don't worry passengers we are flying at 36,000 feet in the air in a tin can and the loud blasts you're hearing are just because we are in a situation that is not stable.

As I filled out my customs form I realized that I had accidentally brought some contraband in my carry on.  I packed a pb&j  and an apple for the Philadelphia part of my trip forgetting that you can't bring produce into the US.  A professor of agriculture explained to me why the U.S. has these restrictions but Israel and other countries often do not, though the explanation now escapes me.   Anyway, I had to get rid of the apple when I went through customs.  The officer asked me if I had any other food.  "I'm Jewish sir.  I can't travel without having a 10 day supply of food with me but I don't have any other produce. "

We had some flight delays leaving Philadelphia.  Just some mechanical things.  You know the kind of announcements that always make you feel confident about getting onto the plane.  When I'm travelling without children though I don't mind so much when there are delays.  OK I'll sip my coffee and flip through this magazine a little longer.  No big deal.

Being back in the ER is also great.  It's amazing how easy it is to work when you are staying at Hotel Megerman.  Got to hand it to my parents they are seriously providing a full service experience.  Not thinking about what's for dinner for 3 weeks is going to be awesome (though I did leave a detailed meal plan back home).  I don't want to think about how much I'm missing Israel and Michael and the kids.  One of the nurses asked me if I feel like I am coming home when I get to the US or leaving home because I left Israel.   What a great question.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Everything's up to date in Kansas City

So much travel this week.  Shira arrived today---hooray!  Now Lital has clothes for the next decade.  Kids have been so excited for her visit. We did the Israeli thing and picked her up from the airport with a bunch of  balloons.  Balloons are kind of a big deal here.   I leave this week for the U.S.  I know it's bad timing but both of our trips are connected to holidays in the U.S.  On the way to the airport to pick up Shira, Nehemiah started telling me that his gym teacher was from Ashdod and that if Hamas starts firing on us again she won't be able to come and teach gym.  I asked him if there are still some bombings right now:

N:  No, there's a ceasefire.

Me:  But what if Hamas doesn't want to listen to the ceasefire?

N:  They'll listen because they work with Egypt to fight us and Egypt told them to stop.

Me:  Why would Egypt want them to stop?

N:  Governmental elections.

It kind of got sketchy after that as to which government was having the elections etc. but since this particular line of thought didn't come from us, it is apparently the news as per a 4th grader who is learning through a non-native language.  
My Israeli passport in lieu of a real passport

In other news, I finally got the Ministry of Health to recognize my Kansas license.  I was stuck in a bit of a bureaucratic bubble that I think I would still be in if Michael hadn't made the astute observation that perhaps they just weren't used to paperwork from Kansas.  It turns out he was right--apparently if it doesn't have the words "letter of good standing" in the title then it can't be a letter of good standing no matter what it says--- and after several unreturned phone calls they called my translator/notary/lawyer to let him know that they will accept the paperwork from Kansas.  It's a good thing too because I'm not too sure what I would have done otherwise.  For all of you from the coasts who think of Kansas as a "flyover" state, you have something in common with the bureaucrats who work at the ministry of health in Israel.

While I'm in KC my ulpan will be on hiatus.  I am missing the 3 final weeks with my class and when I return will join another class for their 3 final weeks  (including our final written exam!)  Hopefully I won't forget all of my Hebrew while I'm away.  One of the trauma surgeons I work with speaks Hebrew so maybe he can quiz me on my verbs and keep me up to speed.

Now to the topic of our children with their Hebrew in school.  Hmmm.  We met with the pediatrician yesterday and she seems absolutely fabulous.  It was actually her recommendation to meet us first without children so that we could go over issues relating to aliyah/immigration etc.  She said learning in school happens from after Hannukah break until Purim (approaching spring break).  And she's not the first one I've heard this from.  So in other words, our kids don't really have to learn much this year except Hebrew and keep up with the math and oh yeah that's all done in about a 4 month span.  Phew.  Any educators out reading this?  I mean Israel is way advanced in high-tech, science/medicine lots of Nobel prizes here so I'm thinking someone somewhere is learning something but that seems like a super short time to learn it all in.

Friday, December 14, 2012

An ounce of prevention is worth 28 grams

[Pre-post note:  And the winner of the never-announced "Guess The Title Theme" contest is Mala R., who correctly  and without coaxing pointed out that my recent blog post titles were all the names of Rolling Stones songs.  Congratulations Mala!  You win the prize of the fame and fortune that comes with being mentioned on this blog!]

Took the kids to get flu shots Tuesday.  They were used to getting the nasal mist vaccine and were somewhat terrified at the prospect of an actual needle.  Lital's library "job" starts at 4 and the clinic opens at 4 so I figured she would just be a few minutes late.  I got mine first to show them that it didn't hurt but that didn't seem to help.  While Nehemiah was talking 100 miles a minute and Lital was screaming, little Ariella just walked up to the chair rolled up her sleeve and got the shot.  Barely a flicker registered on her face.  I was rather surprised.  Her bravery did not seem to inspire her older brother and sister and we still had a lot of convincing.  I know from years in the ER that once people go to that irrational fear place no amount of talking will bring them back because well it isn't rational.  Eventually Nehemiah swallowed hard and got the shot and so did Lital.  I asked Lital why she finally stopped screaming and she said "the nurse told me to hold still, I didn't want her to have to do it all over again."  Go figure.

Next day we went to an amusement park in Tel Aviv.   Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day and perfect weather to enjoy.  The park reminded me of Rye Playland.  The type of amusement park that is fun and has great rides but still has character.  We called in advance to see if they had a kosher food booth and they said they did.  Now we'll know for next time to ask if it's open.   The same two who were begging not to get their shots have absolutely no fear of super fast upside down spinning amusement park rides.  Remember the irrational fear?  I am terrified of roller coasters (though I'm sure some readers would agree that this is most likely something highly rational!)  I don't like inclines at all.  I mean I'm slightly uncomfortable in San Francisco.  So as always I prefer to watch them enjoy the terrors.  At the kiddie coaster Ariella wanted to get on.  Most amusement parks I've ever been to have a sign with a height measure.  If you're up the line you're in and if not you're out.  This park had printed signs with height requirements (maybe in Israel parents are more up to date on their kids' heights) and age recommendations (for scariness purposes).  I was laughing at that one because I am 38 and I am afraid of the coasters but my 7 year old isn't so I don't think the sign helps much in that department.

Here's a picture of one of the coasters.  For those who read Hebrew note that it says:  Anaconda.  This brings me to another good point.  If you are struggling to figure out a Hebrew word on a sign it is most likely an English word spelled out such as "An--Kon--Da".  There are so many and it's fun when you find one.  (In this picture it helps to have the snake right above as a visual because I might have walked away thinking Ankonda was the word for roller coaster).

Anyway, I got the gold star parent award when Ariella measured tall enough for the kiddie coaster and I tried to send her on with Nehemiah and Lital.  The worker told me I had to go on.   When I tried to tell her I was afraid of roller coasters it didn't register.  I don't think it was my Hebrew.  I think it was that I was sending my 4 year old on a ride that I was afraid to go on.  OK.  So I sucked it up and went on.  While we were waiting all the children in line were giving me tons of encouragement.  In the end it reminded me of Disney's space mountain because I had my eyes closed the whole time.  But Ariella loved it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Get off of my cloud

The Rainy season has started.  This is not the misty wetness I thought we would have, but skies open pouring down rain.  Not sure it matters much if you have umbrella and rain gear because if you're outside you're going to get wet.   We got a head start on Hanukah break and headed up North on Thursday.  The kids were so disappointed to be missing an extra two days of school.  Now that we're in a much smaller country our road trip was only two hours long.  Road warriors that our children are they were already asking the "are we there yet" that every parent so looks forward to about an hour and fifteen in. The good news though is we were only 45 minutes away.  I tried reminding them that when we used to drive 10 hours to visit family in Chicago it took 5 times as long.  Short as the journey was the landscape completely changed.  We drove into the Western Galilee and were just a few miles from the Lebanon border.  The further North you get you start to see the signs have increasing amounts of Arabic writing.  

The panoramic views did not disappoint.  We even got to take the kids ice skating!  Lots of outdoor hiking and enjoyment.  Unfortunately the game station and dvd player at our rental did not work.  At first the kids were disappointed but the place was completely stocked with board games from my childhood.  We actually ended up having a good time going old school and playing "Clue" and an Israeli version of Uno--"Taki".  Saturday night after Havdalah (religious ceremony making the end of the Sabbath) our kids started yelling "Happy Hanukah".   They were seriously pumped.  We lit our Chanukiahs, played dreidel with our gelt and then walked around the neighborhood to see the lit up menorahs.  It was truly a first.  People we met over the weekend even brought us homemade sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts traditional at Hanukah time).

Sunday we visited a nature reserve at the Northern tip of Israel.  We were closer to Beirut than Jerusalem.   In the 1940s, the British dug a tunnel through the mountainside and built a railroad to connect Haifa and Tripoli.  This took 10,000 workers over a year to complete.  My children stood at the site eating ice cream.  Sometimes you're digging the holes and sometimes you're eating Nestle but the human chain keeps going.  We took cable cars down to the site and then walked through tunnels that were formed by thousands of years of rainwater and the lapping of the waves.   The picture you see shows the border of Israel at the site.

Next we motored on in the Merdinger-mobile to a little Marzipan museum.  We stayed longer than we thought we would at Rosh Hanikra and so when we called the museum to verify they told us not to bother since we would be arriving with only an hour and you need a minimum of two hours to really enjoy the museum.  We pressed on and arrived at the museum with only 45 minutes until closing.  Well dear readers I suppose my children were not sophisticated enough to need the two hours it apparently takes most to enjoy this museum.  It was about the size of my parents dining room.  Don't get me wrong they expanded their dining room and it's pretty good size but it took my children about 15 minutes to enjoy all the marzipan creations.  Next was a 10 minute movie (actually about wine making---later the employees asked us "Why didn't you tell us we showed you the wrong movie?"  Hmmm, what is the right answer to that one?).  But not to worry because they more than made up for it with the 25 minutes they had in the gift shop. All sorts of chocolate and truffles, almonds and sugary goodness.   It might have been the driving or the altitudes but I think I saw a costco on the way home.  Any readers from Northern Israel out there?  What is Cost-365?

Today we went to Hashmonaim for Nehemiah's first baseball game.  It was a bit of "Bad news Bears" minus the alcohol and the profanity.  Plus the kids all had names like "Ezra, Chaim and Nachshon" but you get the idea.  Our team actually won the second game with Nehemiah even scoring one run!  After the game we found out that the umpire was the son of our former Rabbi from Kansas City :)  We spent the afternoon getting Happy meals at the Modiin mall and sampling from the sufganiyot bonanza that was occurring on the first floor.  Seriously every variation on the theme of filled doughnuts that you can imagine.  Plus we were there for two menorah lightings.  I won't say it was like Rockefeller Center tree lighting but there were well over one hundred shoppers standing and watching and then singing Hanukah songs together.  Young and old, secular and religious all joining in together.

I wish Bubbie were here to make her famous latkes and potato knishes because we are definitely missing those this year.  Final thought:  people tell you that your kids will know Hebrew by Hanukah.  One mom told me "yeah that's true they'll know Hebrew by the third Hanukah".  OK, so hopefully it won't take that long but their knowledge of Hebrew does not come by the first Hanukah.  I think what does come is the removal of the first layer of resistance to such a big change.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ruby Tuesday

When you live in a country where you can get whatever type of fruits and vegetables you want any time you want them you can get sort of used to well getting whatever type of fruit or vegetable you want whenever you want it.  Before we moved to Israel , we had very little connection between seasons and availability which is probably why my children (Lital in particular) was so upset that we couldn't find strawberries or blueberries in Israel.  But guess what?  They're back!  The strawberries anyway.  I don't think I've ever had the experience of feeling such utter delight at finding strawberries at the store.  I think this must also contribute to the produce here seemingly tasting so much better.   We stopped at our new shuk on the way home last night and picked up a bunch.  A woman in line told us that in the summer we will be able to get blueberries from the Golan.  I really hope that turns out to be true.  Not sure how long strawberry season lasts but we will definitely enjoy it while it's here.  Bon Apetit!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

No expectations

Friday we had a major cultural experience in the form of the preschool Hannukah party.  A few weeks ago we were told that there would be a party/performance.  I was sort of expecting a 5 minute deal where the kids sing about the Maccabees, we have some cookies and call it a wrap.  When we dropped Ariella off the morning of the party all of the other children were wearing blue and white.   Ariella was in pink.  I'd like to say it was a language thing but any readers who were with us in our previous preschool would probably call me out on that one.  We haven't always been the most attentive to these details.  Anyway, we returned a few minutes before the "show"  and changed Ariella into blue and white.  What followed was a full on extravaganza.

These kids sang and danced their hearts out for a full hour.  There were costumes, there wet set changes, there was even a segment which I can only describe as "Riverdance Hannukah."  It was truly remarkable and I was happy to see Ariella singing along.   (Mom-dad-Joan-Paul you should seriously consider being here for one these shows--they are incredible).  The teacher who has been concerned about Ariella's reluctance to speak in the classroom probably wasn't predicting that Ariella would do a running commentary in between numbers.  She suddenly felt the need in front of the 40 or so adults who were there to watch to let us know how wonderful she thought the show was going (in Hebrew).  At the end parents and kids joined in for some special spinning dance (think spinning dreidel) which probably everyone in the room knew from their own childhood and now Ariella will too!  Seriously, I can only hope that each of you gets some moment in your lifetime that is as amazing for you as it was for us standing in Israel watching these children sing about the Hannukah miracles and sing "Am Yisrael Chai" as we are about to celebrate out first Hannukah as Israelis.  Exceptional.

Our family friend, Hannah, who is here learning for the year came to spend another Shabbat with us.  So great having her around.  While the kids were playing on Shabbat afternoon N apparently gave her a lecture on the importance of attending college.  Hannah told me later that N let her know that if she didn't go to college she could end up on the street and no one wants that.

Tonight we walked to our new favorite local felafel stand for dinner.  Darn if the calories in calories out thing doesn't follow you wherever you go.  Anyway, I had the most amazing chicken pita and so the owner said that next time he wants to make an even better chicken pita for me.  Some type of Jerusalem pita.  I was totally into it when he was telling me about the spices and the onions but when he got to the chicken heart I had to pause.  "I don't think I understood that last part, Lior.  Could we try in English?"  So he said chicken heart in English.   That did not make it sound any more appealing.  N wanted to know if there was any part of the chicken that was not Kosher.  Lior was shocked that I had never heard of this delicacy.  So any readers out there that are foodies?  Please help me out. Have you ever heard of eating chicken heart?