Today marks the three month mark of our arrival – and the day our citizenship kicked in. Pop that champagne (after I write this blog – and finish 6 pages of homework, that is!). We were just discussing how in some ways it seems more like three years. We have accomplished so much in such a short time. We’ve painted the inside of our home to make it feel more like “our home” even though it’s a rental. We’ve received and unpacked most of our belongings, even though I’m still searching for a few key items. Did we possibly leave them behind??? We visited Akko and Jerusalem twice (so far); the majestic grottoes of Rosh Ha Nikrah; Tiberius and the Galilee; and Rosh Pinna. Most of our major paperwork has been processed save for our driver’s licenses and travel (exit/entrance) documents. We have finally leased a Renault Fluence for two years, so now are free to travel at will without waiting for busses. That’s quite a lot.
The biggest “event” has been our going to Ulpan classes – those intensive – and I mean intensive!!! – Hebrew classes. 5 days a week, Sunday-Thursday for 5 1/2 hours every day. No English. Total immersion. Sink or swim. For a while I was treading water, but now am doing the breaststroke. Soon it will be the butterfly. I had to do a mind-switch after a near melt-down a couple weeks ago. I realize that these classes would cost a fortune in America. They are absolutely free for new immigrants, and the opportunity of a lifetime. So I am savoring every second. By the end of the first month, my class had covered everything – and I mean Everything – I had learned in 3-4 years!!! We are now at the end of month two. We’ve conquered the present and past tenses of verbs. Sounds easy, no? Not when you realize there are seven types of verbs, conjugated differently with gender, number, and person/s addressed. There are active, passive, reflexive, imperative verb forms – plus!! Not to mention all nouns have a gender, and the adjectives must agree with the nouns, verbs and adverbs. Some phrases and words are idiomatic only to Hebrew; and Biblical Hebrew, which is similar, is really very different from modern conversational Hebrew… thank you Dr. Eliezar ben Yehudah, Father of Modern Hebrew. It’s a shame grammar and parts of speech are no longer being taught in American schools. I can’t tell you how much easier learning a foreign language is when the teaches says past tense, reflexive – and I understand. We also get history and geography, biographies, stories to read and questions to answer, reports to deliver out loud to the class – all in Hebrew. Yes, there are absolutely embarrassing moments, which are hysterical, like last week, when the teacher asked us if we worked and what we did. I confidently answered, “Yes!” I work every night in the meetah. OOPS!!! I meant meetbach or kitchen. I forgot the bach, so it turns out I work every night in the bed. Yikes!!!!
Class ends around 12:30 or 1pm, and it’s time to run errands. I absolutely love going around the town to different shops – mostly grocers – speaking all that I’ve learned in the past weeks. Even though I can handle my own, I still must tell people to speak more slowly: I’m a new immigrant: just learning. Most people want to speak in English, but I insist only Hebrew. Points earned with the locals. My 15 minute shopping spree turns to 45 minutes, much to the chagrin of John and Max, who by now have learned to drop in at the local cafe or humusia while I shop. Actually, I’m getting a lesson in both Hebrew and everyday life. Today was a delight as I sampled and learned about the various cheeses and how to care for them and use them. Again, kids listen up! Parents, tell the kids! You never know when you’ll find yourself in a foreign land trying to buy something. The clerk asks you how much (cheese) you want and you have to answer in grams and kilos. I know ounces and pounds, but can’t even begin to think metric equivalents. It’s harder than the new language!!! No joke! Learn that metric system. It will come in handy one day – just like knowing Celsius when you hear a weather report. Although 42 sounds a lot colder than 106…
I’ve planted a full fledged organic garden in the planters on our balconies and window boxes. And look forward to picking some of the vegetables in the upcoming weeks. This is great as I plan on teaching small space gardening to stretch the shekel. Since this has been the most wonderful stone fruit season, I’ve been canning like mad. Yes, I do work every night in my kitchen. I’ve made batches and batches of my rosemary-nectarine preserves; apricot ginger preserves; cherry-onion balsamic relish; spiced plum conserves and more. I’m almost out of pectin, and totally out of small sized canning jars. So the last couple days have been spent haggling with a shop lady over the price and ordering of Italian canning jars in large quantities (in Hebrew of course). Tomorrow….Now I have a large batch of samples and a small stock to sell.
We had the most wonderful break a couple weeks ago – a 5 day Shavuot holiday. My friend, Sophia, a professor from the Pasadena area, was assisting in a research project at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva – the desert. We were having a few 106 degree days, so I can only imagine how hot it must have been in the Negev. So, Soph spent a glorious 3 days with us! We took her to Akko for some fabulous photos ops and bizarre shopping (with So-much-fun Soph, it was nothing short of bizarre in every way: so now we plan to write a Wes Anderson style screenplay! LOL), and finished the day at a seaside restaurant where after the meal, Nargila was served. The next day we explored the Galilee- from a sunrise Charismatic Catholic Pentecost service to a Jewish Shavuot; we toured some archaeological sights, walked the Jesus trail, and dipped our feet in the Lake … it’s NOT a sea!!!! . Had some great adventures including an Arabic??? Israeli restaurant where we tried to order, but the owner decided to bring us a sampling of every dish imaginable. We totally pigged out on a bazillion Israeli salads – which, Americans: please pay attention!!! The joke among Americans is that a salad here consists of every kind of chopped, brined, pickled, or smoked vegetable -EXCEPT for lettuce. No lettuce in an Israeli salad. We went out about a month ago with another couple who was visiting, and I tried to explain that to the woman. She insisted on ordering a salad and asking for the dressing on the side. The waiter had no idea what she was talking about. And when the bowl of beautiful chopped cukes, tomatoes, avocados, and olives in a light olive oil lemon dressing with chopped mint and parsley on top (absolutely delicious and fresh and healthy!) arrived, the lady had a fit. Oh well… Anyway, John, Max, Soph, and I feasted on a table full of salads, my favorite to-die-for is the smoked, pureed eggplant with garlic. We had falafel, vegetarian khubbe wrapped like a drumstick on a cinnamon stick. Don’t worry, I have recipes, which I’ll post next week. It was a wonderful adventure. No. it’s not what we are used to, but that’s all part of what makes visiting a new land special.
This past weekend, we had a most special time meeting my girlfriend’s (from our Ventura, CA homeschool group) daughter. I’ve known Katie since she was a little girl, and she’s now grown into a beautiful and remarkable woman. She is nannying for a family who are touring the country, so we met in Tiberias and the family took us out to dinner at a resort hotel in Rosh Pinna. (Yes, it IS all about the food!!) Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to really relax and see each other, but thank you so much for the cinnamon gum -nonexistent here, and the gallon of Shout. Please come back with your parents to visit us!!! And next time, bring pictures…. we love ya, Katie!!!
Next week, more friends from CA arrive, and John, is the excited one this time, as it includes a couple of his friends. I can’t wait to see everyone again!!! Such a treat!!! In the meantime, we have been watching Disney films – in Hebrew – in our spare time in the evening. Madagascar and Mulan are also great language aides. We’ll see the first 15 minutes in Hebrew, switch to English. The next night, a Hebrew/English subtitled Hebrew version, followed by straight-up Hebrew. By two weeks, we have it down. Next is Nemo.
New addition to the family: a gorgeous white cat with ginger striped tail and forehead. Name: Mishmish (apricot). Now we have a real home – so does the cat… Celebrated Max’s 17th birthday. Has it been that long?? Now we wait for the draft papers to arrive. This Friday, my Conservative (Masorti) synagogue is taking a charted bus to Jerusalem (6 am) for a women’s retreat. It should be quite interesting, and we’ll be back late afternoon. Shabbat doesn’t start until almost 8 pm, so I’m looking forward to a yummy surprise from the menfolk at home. Then, on the 29th, the combined Ulpan classes are doing a Jerusalem field trip. Yes, we have a ton going on. But now, it’s time to hit the books again. After my next, lighter post, I’ll switch to the political scene. Things are beginning to heat up these days, both weather-wise and on the international-political front, but I shall save those parts for after our American friends are safely returned to the US… until next time, ShalomLecha…