Thursday, March 01, 2007

This is the 56th post I've made since I started this blog 6 months ago. Why is it so easy to write here, but so hard to do my writing assignment for my Tuesday morning workshop? Our assignment tomorrow is to write two pages about a childhood memory regarding a Yom Tov. The problem is, I have no memories of any. I do remember when I was four and my father was sleeping in the second twin bed in my room because they had just brought my new sister home from the hospital, and my brother came in, shaking me and yelling about Santa coming in the night and I needed to go see what was in the living room. It was totally dark out and it was only at my father's urging that I stumbled out of bed to see what the fuss was all about. I honestly don't remember an xmas tree (Baruch Hashem!), but I do remember stacks of wrapped gifts everywhere and the most unbelievably wonderful pressed board kitchen set in the whole world. There was a refrigerator and a stove and a sink, and if you put water in a little container under the sink, you could turn the faucet on and water would come out! Certainly not the sophisticated stuff on the market today, but back then it was state-of-the-art. However, a story about waking up to toys left by Santa was not the type of thing I wanted to read aloud to a group of frum women in Har Nof. So I wrote one draft with 2 pages of dialogue on an erev Pesach where each of my siblings and I had conversations with my mother regarding the important question of the day: was the charoses made with grape juice or wine? The other draft, which I finished just minutes ago, was a more somber look at the dynamics of my family. It had less dialogue, but a little more developed story. The only problem is, when I read it out loud I start crying at the end because, even though parts of it are made up, the basic premise is true, and it hits a little too close to the pain I didn't know I was still carrying around (my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer...). So I sent both versions to a fellow writer and friend in St. Louis and asked for feedback. I'm looking forward to her comments.

Shabbos was gorgeous and sunny and fun! Friday night we had 3 couples over and we laughed a lot. One of the men always has great dvrei Torah, although he had to be careful because his wife was going to be using one of them Saturday night at her daughter's bridal shower (which I went to even though Rabbi Yari was in town and there was to be a melava malka with him at a former St. Louisan's home in Har Nof. Instead we got to play really "exciting" party games, like dress each other up as brides with toilet paper. Yes, it's true. Rolls and rolls of toilet paper. As David said, we have to nurture new relationships...)

For Shabbos lunch we joined a rabbi and his wife who made aliyah from LA last September. I really enjoy meeting new people. The rabbi runs the evening learning program that David goes to twice a week.

Yesterday I had to go to a place in Yerushalayim I'd never been, all by myself. I had to get a bone density test (all us old ladies have to get them) at a hospital in the Katamon neighborhood. I actually rode the #418 autobus from Ramat Beit Shemesh which I've not done before - my first mehadrin bus. I need to describe this in an objective and politically correct way. Okay, how's this: on a mehadrin bus, the men don't want to be "tempted" by the sight of a woman, so the women "get" to sit in the back of the bus where it's bumpier, smellier and quite out of the eyesight of these very religious men who might see a part of a woman's body that isn't totally covered up, or that might very well be covered up but which might incite some part of their imaginations to work overtime. Of course, the women pay the price for these overactive imaginations. What do you think, was that objective enough?

I'm not a women's libber or a feminist, but I do have to say that I find it demeaning to be relegated to the back of a bus. On the other hand, I really enjoyed this particular bus! I sat right behind the back door, and there was a wide open space in front of me which helped my claustophobic tendencies greatly. Plus, hardly anyone rode the bus. Unfortunately, there was a baby in the back who cried, loudly, the entire last half hour of the trip; I felt more sorry for the mother than for the rest of us. I got off the bus at the convention center and waited for the #13, which is what they (the hospital) told me to take. After waiting half an hour and not seeing the #13, I crossed under the road in the tunnel to the Takanah Merkazit side and before I could even start looking for the correct bus stop, the #13 pulled up right in front of me. It was crowded! I stood for part of the time, but it wasn't so bad. After awhile I went up to the bus driver and asked him, בבקשה תגידי לי איזה תקנה במזגב לדך. Okay, I can't put any punctuation on that, and I don't know if the Hebrew will show in the post, and I don't know if I spelled it right, but the driver told me where to get off at the right place (it was the last bus stop). So now I know how to go on Wednesday when I have to go back for a full pulmonary work-up (I still have this fluid in my right lung that they can't figure out).

When I left the hospital, I took a taxi to Geulah. You can't even begin to imagine all the Purim costumes and accouterments pouring out onto the sidewalks of all the shops. I bought David a pirate hat with green hair, and I got myself a sky blue HUGE afro. It's so funny to see Santa hats with payos or braids, and seeing all these religious people buying them because they have absolutely no idea what they are.

While waiting at the bus stop for the #417 to go home, a girl came up to ask if it had shown up yet and we started talking. It's turns out she's married to a St. Louis boy and her parents were one of the couples we had for dinner Friday night! We talked all the way back on the bus. Once again (and not for the last time), it's such a small world!

I'm waiting for my mahj partners to show up. It's pretty rainy out; I hope they remember to come. Just in case they don't, I didn't pop any popcorn yet. Hopefully it won't be so rainy tomorrow or Wednesday when I have to go to Yerushalayim. 3 times this week! We're really seriously considering moving closer to the "city", but I just love it here so much. It's so beautiful here; we have a great view and have made some good friends and there's a great park where Emma can run around. But if we move there, the commute will be so much easier and there are so many more programs and learning opportunities in Yerushalayim. I can't even imagine having to pack everything back up again. And it will be more expensive there. But it will probably take David 2 hours to get home tonight with this rain. But we invited Coco up this morning to play with Emma and she had such a good time on her play date. This is better, that's better. We're going to have to sit down and think through all the pros and cons.

Oh, there was a great story I wanted to relate to you that David told me he witnessed on the bus. A down's syndrome boy of about 12 or 13 got on and sat right behind the bus driver. The boy must ride that particular bus regularly and he realized the driver was new. David was sitting one seat back on the other side and had a clear view of the boy giving directions to the bus driver. The driver took it all in stride and nodded agreeably with each direction. After a few stops, a young soldier got on the bus, and greeted the young boy in such a way that David felt they must have known each other. He sat in the front seat with him, and before long the boy fell asleep on the soldier's shoulder. They stayed like that all the way into Yerushalayim.


I wrote all that on Monday and saved it as a draft; this is the first chance I've had to finish it.

My mahj partners ended up coming; we had a great time; my writer's workshop was cancelled on Tuesday because several ladies cancelled due to getting ready for Purim; I finished editing my deposition sample for the transcription company and will probably start working for them next week (not that I have time to work - I've been pretty busy lately).

So that brings us up to Wednesday, which would be yesterday. I took a bus to Sheinfeld mid-morning, which is an Anglo neighborhood in Beit Shemesh and was easily able to find a home where I attended a Lunch & Learn. But not just any Lunch & Learn; the speaker was Rebbetzin Pearl Borow, originally of St. Louis! The woman who hosted the shiur had posted it on the Beit Shemesh email list, and when I saw Pearl's name, I knew I had to go. We get the Israel Center Bulletin each week from Yerushalayim. They have many classes and programs on a weekly basis, and I've been noticing that Pearl gives a lot of classes there, as does Rabbi Bienenfeld, also a former St. Louisan. She gave a wonderful talk about Esther and her role in the Purim story.

Afterwards, I got a ride to Yerushalayim with the woman who drove Pearl back, and this lady drove me directly to the hospital where I (thought) I was to have the pulmonary work-up. You may be thinking, "I wonder why she went all the way to to Yerushalayim when she only "thought" she was having a pulmonary work-up." When one has an appointment to have something done, one believes that it should happen, nachon (right?) But no, in this country when one's doctor writes an order for a test, one must go get a form from the kupat giving permission to have that test (and/or testifying that one has paid for the test if payment is needed), and BOTH pieces of paper must be presented to the receptionist. Not having been told this little bit of information, I unsuspectingly arrived at my destination with only ONE piece of paper in hand. No amount of cajoling, begging, or laying on of guilt (I don't believe Israelis are familiar with that particular emotion) elicited any symapathy or compassion on their part, and I now have another appointment for NEXT Wednesday. See what I mean about having to move closer?

As I left from there, with only 7 shekels to my name, a very nice English-speaking woman drove me to a bus stop on Emek Refaim (a Clayton-esque kind of area for you St. Louisans) and told me the #4 would take me down to Shmuel Hanavi, where I wanted to go. I walked the last 10 blocks or so to Yad Ezra VeShulamit, where I wanted to drop off our Matanos L'evyomin (donation for the needy) for Purim. {side note: I had originally made some beautiful postcards to hand out on Purim saying that in lieu of Mishloach Manot - gifts of food to friends - we would be donating to Yad Ezra VeShulamit. My mah jongg partners not-so-gently explained to me that no one would ever want to be our friends and we would be ostracized by all of Ramat Beit Shemesh if we would do such a thing. It is customary to "go all out" on Purim; mishloach manot here consists of "themes" or "color schemes" and very creative packages. So I ended up making today some very spicy salsa and I'm going to make some chips out of pita bread and zatar to go along with it. The things you have to do to keep up with the Cohens!}

So, anyway.

I called David who was getting off in an hour and we decided to meet in Geulah and go out for dinner. I walked up Yehezkel while I was waiting for him and just happened to find myself in a (very inexpensive) woman's clothing store. I was so proud of myself for bargaining the price down. The shop owners expect it; they're disappointed when they tell you the price and you just pay it (so I've been told). There was a style of blouse that fit me well, and they had it in 4 colors. So I chose two of them. The price was 59 NIS each (that's less than $15). I asked if he'd take 100 NIS for both of them. He said the special was 3 for 150 NIS. I countered that I didn't need 3 of the same style and only wanted 2. He said 2 for 118 NIS. I shook my head sadly and started to put them back on the shelf. He said, "Bring them back. 100 shekels." We both smiled and I told him I liked his store and I'd be back.

The second store had an owner who was a little more stubborn, but when David showed up he was pretty amused by watching me wheel and deal. Our friend's daughter is getting married in two weeks, and I got a gorgeous outfit for 200 NIS (less than $50), down from 249 NIS.

Getting home from Geulah was a mess. It's a good thing Shaina had been looking in on Emma all afternoon. After dinner we tried to get on the 7:00 PM bus, but it was packed, and about 50 people elbowed us out of the way to get on first. So we took some back streets and got on the next bus two stops earlier. It took 15 minutes for the bus to travel to the bus stop we had originally been standing at! There were so many cars, taxis, buses and people, it was total gridlock. All of Geulah and Mea Shearim was a party atmosphere with music playing, speakers blasting messages from vans, people standing 10 deep in stores buying Purim supplies, people and billions of strollers crossing the streets and crowding the sidewalks. It was awesome! Tourists, Israelis, chassidim, you name it. But we didn't get home until almost 9. I can see why David wants to live closer.

David informed me that he came up with his own idea for a Purim costume (he didn't like the pirate hat with the green ponytail I had bought him?). He's going to wear a denim shirt (I accidentally wrote skirt and had to change it - he hasn't gone that far over the edge yet) and jeans with his tool belt and a hard hat so he can be a contruction worker. I think he just wanted an opportunity to wear jeans. He said he originally was going to call himself a plumber but that he thought it wouldn't be too tznius ... okay, you'll have to figure that one out for yourself.

Today was Taanis Esther, a fast day. Here we are in Israel and David works with all Jews, and hardly anyone was fasting today. He said people told him that not everyone observes these minor fast days, especially when it was supposed to be on Shabbos and got pushed back to Thursday. But we did it, and we had our usual break-the-fast - bagels and omelettes, but I also surprised him with french fries. I never used to make dinner during the week; we'd both just scrounge around for whatever looked good. But now that David's working such long hours and I'm not (yet), I've been trying to have dinner waiting for him every night. He really likes that!

Because today was Taanis Esther, they had a Torah reading during minchah. A lot of the men where David works daven minchah every day somewhere in their building but they don't have a Torah scroll. Intel is located in Har Hotzvim, which is an industrial area. NDS, another company there, has a Torah, and guys came from IDT and Intel and other companies there to daven minchah in the lobby of NDS. Can you picture that? Pretty cool!

For us baal teshuvas (people who don't come from religious families and become observant later in life), experiences like that have a lot of meaning for us. Davening in company lobbies (or on street corners, like we did on our tiyul to Tel Aviv a few months ago with our ulpan class), seeing people waving chickens around their heads at Succos time, seeing all the menorahs in all the windows at Chanukah - the holidays here are so much more meaningful for us now than they used to be.

It's almost midnight and I still have to mop the living room/dining room floor. Emma's asleep on the couch. What are the chances I can put her in bed with David and she'll stay there out of my way while I mop?

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