It's hard to believe that you can be so busy and not be getting up to go to work every morning. It seems like we haven't stopped but I'd be hard pressed to say exactly what we've been doing every day.
I think I have a new best friend (sorry, Shifra)! I finally bit the bullet and put an email on the Ramat Beit Shemesh list today to see if anyone plays mah jongg. My phone rang immediately from someone who lives around the corner. She even has a mah jongg set! We have a lot in common, just from the few minutes we spoke on the phone. I also got an email from someone who wants to learn how to play, and a phone message from someone I had actually been at the same Shabbos table with last Friday night who hasn't played in years but wants to play again. Unfortunately, when I tried to call her back, some pre-recorded message in Hebrew came on and I have no idea what it said. I think I dialed wrong, but I tried several times, and I don't know the woman's last name. Sometimes it can be very frustrating not to understand people. In person, you just smile and nod, and after they've finished speaking to you for about two minutes, you ask, "Do you speak English?" And I've gotten some phone calls from people who have the wrong number, but they can't seem to figure it out even when I speak English. They keep asking me questions and saying, "Mah?" (what?) when I answer.
Yesterday we had a fun day. We caught a bus for Jerusalem early in the morning and had brunch at our favorite restaurant, Cafe Rimon, on Ben Yehuda Street. Then we wandered along King George Street (I found 3 separate bookstores that sell English novels!) until our friend, Dov (Howard to you St. Louisans), told us where to meet him so he could pick us up. People with cars are sooooo lucky. He had taken his kids, Hudi and Chanita, to the dentist and was on his way back to Kochav Yaakov. I sat in the back with the kids and Hudi showed me magic tricks. As we passed through the security fence on the northern part of Jerusalem, we noticed that the fence came all the way to the road on both sides, and the checkpoint had gotten much larger. The road we turned on was the same road that takes you to Ramallah, although at a certain point we turn right and Ramallah is left (thank G-d!). We only had about 4 or 5 miles to go to get to Kochav Yaakov, and there's a lot of Arab villages along the way. About halfway there, Dov turned into a little industrial park that we had passed numerous times on previous trips. There had never been any buildings there before, but now there was an incredible grocery store. It was HUGE, with big wide aisles, lots of American products, and several brands of the same product (not usual by Israeli standards). The produce was gorgeous, as was all the selection of foods. And everything in the store had a good hechsher, so you didn't have to check labels for kashruth. There are several settlements in the area, so this store saves people from having to go all the way into Jerusalem for shopping.
Outside was a little pizza shop and Dov fed the kids lunch. Then we went to Kochav Yaakov. It's so beautiful there. We had originally thought we'd move there, before we saw Ramat Beit Shemesh. Housing is extremely affordable because it's outside the green line. A $200,000 house there would be $500 or $600,000 in RBS. You could even rent a big house for $400.
Lisa was busy working (she types legal depositions from e-tapes from American law firms), so I played with Chanita (okay, I snoozed on the couch while she put puzzles together) while Dov took the guys to Rimonim, a yishuv about 20 minutes away where they have an olympic size pool. David just sat in the shade while Dov took Hudi swimming. After they got back, the babysitter came over and Dov, Lisa, David and I went back to Jerusalem to Teddy Stadium. There was to be a gathering of about 25,000 people to hear Rav Amnon Yitzchak, who's big in kiruv apparently. He was going to speak (in Hebrew), and there was going to be musical presentations and a pyrotechnic light show to "light up the skies of Jerusalem." We picked up our free tickets (new olim get a few perks) and then we headed across the street to the mall where we had dinner in the food court, where all the restaurants are kosher. Unfortunately, about a zillion other people had the same idea. I've never in my life seen a mall so crowded before. David ended up pooping out on the whole evening; he couldn't keep his eyes open, so instead of heading back to the stadium, we went down to the train station where the 8:00 PM train was just heading out. So we waited for the 9:00. Only one other guy was there waiting, and he kept trying to engage us in conversation, even though he could only speak Hebrew. I'm pretty sure he lives up near Tel Aviv in a small community, and I know he likes dogs because he had pictures of his 3 on his cell phone, plus pictures of two others that I think belonged to neighbors. He tried to tell us where he lived and finally just said, "Boom! Boom!" I understood that he meant he lived where the katyusha rockets were hitting, but David thought he meant he lived in Gaza and was Arab. When I got up to look at the map of the train routes, he apparently reassured my husband that he was Jewish, but David seemed to be a little unnerved just the same. By the time we got back to Beit Shemesh, waited half an hour for the #14 bus and finally snagged a cab, we didn't walk in the door until after 10:30 PM. Did I mention how nice it would be to have a car?
Oh, we finally got our washer and dryer hooked up! We didn't have any more clean clothes or towels or dish rags or linens - it happened just in the nick of time. I've been washing like crazy. And unlike Israelis who hang all their clothes (including underwear) out their balconies and service rooms to dry, I used my clothes dryer. We shall see when we start getting bills how much we're paying for things. We may be in for a rude awakening.
Speaking of which, my new best friend (we're going to play jump rope tomorrow) told me that we were in our "honeymoon" period. For the first 6 months, new olim love everything about Israel and pretty much are just walking on air. After that they start getting frustrated with the bureacracy and say things like, "Why don't they do things like they do in America?" That period lasts until you've been here about 3 years, at which time you accept the way things are and start acting just like everybody else. I hope our honeymoon period lasts way longer than six months; I like being awed by the sunsets and the mountains and feeling so close to Hashem. I have a feeling that once ulpan starts, things are going to be a whole lot harder and more frustrating. David will pick up the language pretty easily; he's good at things like that. I, on the other hand, can't retain information much longer than the time it takes to repeat it.
Oh, we also got pictures put up on the walls in our salon. Our apartment looks so homey now! I'll have to try to take some pictures of it and have David upload them to the computer so I can share them with you.
I just realized that David probably went to bed. Guess I'd better go. I need to return lots of towels and linens to Yocheved that she lent us to use before our lift arrived, and I need to open up some boxes we stored in their upstairs because I seem to be missing a few things that may be in mis-marked boxes. Later!