Sunday, February 23, 2014

You can take the girl out of her 20s but you can't take the 20s out of the girl

I just finished watching the Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey team win a gold medal and it was terrific. I was so excited for the team and for Canada. Not soooo excited that I wanted to pack my bags, sell my house and register my kids in school in Toronto, but proud nonetheless. I can't remember a time in my life that I couldn't skate and hockey was a big part of my youth. (But that's a story for after I am long gone; one of my old friends will have to tell it on my behalf after I buy the farm.)

Immediately after the game was over I ran to my computer to begin reading all the game analyses out of the Canadian newspapers. I like to see what the hockey aficionados have to say. And what was the first article I saw? Bars fill up early as Canada goes for hockey gold.

My first reaction was "who in their right mind would get out of bed at 6:30 am to make their way to a bar so that they could start drinking in time for the first face-off at 7:00 am?" And that is when a little voice inside of me said: "well, you, for one." Man I hate those little voices.

Let me clarify: there is no way I would consider doing that today. I need my sleep and on the off chance that I have a morning where one of my children doesn't need a ride somewhere at 6:30 am or an equally disruptive wake-up call, then I would prefer to stay snuggled up in my toasty, cozy bed. But there was definitely a time that I would have been in a bar raring to go by the time the first puck hit the ice.

I probably would have been wearing a big Icelandic sweater (all my friends had them back then) and flannel pajama pants because I think that fashion dictates very casual attire at that time of the day -- I still think that, but my husband monitors my early morning clothes choices now and he would have surely nixed the socializing-in-pajamas-thing. Plus my friends who would have been with me (you didn't think I would be there alone did you?) would have all be similarly dressed. And if a waitress had found her way to our table, I am sure I would have ordered a Caesar with celery (vegetables are a must at 7:00 am).

So now I am wondering two things:
  1. When did I stop living that carefree life?
  2. And what other habits did I leave behind on my road to adulthood?
I am not going to answer number one because we all know when THAT change occurred and I do not want to point fingers at the people I now love more than anyone else in the world.

As for number two, I will only list a few things that I am willing to put into print. Once again, those of you who knew me then can fill in the blanks (quietly and among yourselves):
  1. I no longer eat day-old donuts for breakfast
  2. Nor do I eat day-old pizza that looks like someone else might have already taken a bite out of it
  3. I definitely do not drink in the morning, unless there is an almost finished bottle of wine that I want to recycle when it is empty
  4. I do not sleep in my clothes, get up, and wear the same clothes all the next day
  5. I do not wear my pajamas under my sweat pants just in case I have time to squeeze in a nap later in the day
  6. I do brush my hair before I leave the house every morning
  7. I no longer throw away expensive things that I was party to damaging -- particularly when they are large and not mine
I think that's enough for now.

But one thing I will apparently do until my dying day (April 16, 2048) is cheer from the bottom of my heart when the Canadians play hockey. It will always remind me of a time gone by.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I am feeling very Canadian right now

I guess it's the Olympic hockey. Who knows. I doubt it was the snowboarding or the freestyle skiing. Either way, when my husband said he was going to Canada next week, I automatically began thinking about things that I need from Canada. Despite the availability of a ridiculous amount of stuff here, there are some things that someone has to go out of Israel to get for me.

If you spent a day in any of the malls here you would probably come away saying: "what could you possibly need?" Notice I said "need" not "want". These things are essential and without them I would face an existential crisis.

So here's my list. Feel free to challenge my selection. I dare you.

  1. Decent bras -- there's no lack of bras here. What there is, is a lack of good WonderBras or Warners bras for a decent price. If you need a cheap bra that will look nice when you get hit by a bus, it is available in Israel. If you need a super-fancy bra that costs a month's salary, it's also available in Israel. If you need a pretty, yet sensible, bra that actually does its job and will still be useful after three washes, and doesn't require you to get a second mortgage, you need to leave Israel.
  2. Workhorse pantyhose -- fortunately I rarely need them but when I do, I do not think I should have to pay a fortune for a pair of really delicate (read: useless) pantyhose. Whatever happened to nude, reinforced toe, support hose for $3? The cheap ones here are awful.
  3. Vegan black licorice -- I only eat Panda and I have to stock up on it every time I go away. Fortunately it is plentiful everywhere but here.
  4. Sunglasses with readers -- you know, the kind you get in the grocery store for $18. In a country this sunny, I can't believe they are not available. They are critical to my mental state and that of my husband, who usually throws a Hebrew map in my lap as we are driving somewhere on a sunny day and asks where our exit is (usually about three seconds before we get to said exit).
  5. Pretty cotton underwear that won't fall apart after three washes -- you are probably noticing the under garment theme here but what can I say, the choices here are either Madonna or Whore. I need something in between.
  6. Decent food colouring -- the kind that actually turns your baking the colour it advertises on its label.
  7. Hypo-allergenic earrings -- just the plain loops will do. I have sensitive skin so I need gold, silver or hypo-allergenic metal. And since I lose them on a bi-weekly basis, I don't want to wear gold all the time. Plus silver has to be cleaned and heaven knows I won't do it.
  8. Cambridge hardback notebooks -- I have been using the same notebooks for the past 25 years and I am not about to change now. I like the size, the quality of the paper and the hard back -- and the fact that they open to the left.
  9. Red Rose Orange Pekoe teabags -- I grew up with them. Enough said. (I hide them in the back of my cupboard and I don't share them unless pressed to do so by some Nosy Parker.)
  10. Sheets and pillowcases that fit our beds -- if you brought your beds from North America the sheets here do not fit them properly. The sizing isn't the same. Fortunately I don't need new sheets often but if you are wondering why we still have some Pokemon sheets hanging around, now you know.
There are more things for sure. My toothpaste, my toothbrushes, my motion sickness medicine, Canesten (I am not explaining what that is here), disposable razors, flannel pajama pants, Baker's baking chocolate, benschers with English, and more. But you get the idea. 

It is just too bad that the Winter Olympics weren't held in Israel this year or I would have asked one of the Canadian hockey players to bring some back-up bras with him.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Midnight BBQing in January

It may simply be that this story sounds peculiar because I grew up in a climate with a cold Autumn, a very long Winter and vague and fleeing concept of Spring. Or, it might simply be a sign of the times and I am developing an old person's view of the world. So, if you live outside of Israel -- at 40 degrees latitude north or higher -- and this story sounds familiar to you, then please let me know.

Twice in the past few weeks I have had oddly similar experiences: members of my family (male persuasion and without completed university educations) have arrived at home around 10:00 pm and casually mentioned that a) they need me to leave of the kitchen or b) need a one-time barbecue kit because they are having a barbecue in a few minutes.

Did I mention that it was January? And did I mention that digesting meat after 8:00 pm sounds risky to me?

Here's how the first scenario went:

Son #1 showed up unexpectedly on a Thursday night around 10 pm and asked me if I was finished with the kitchen. Normally I am nowhere near the kitchen at 10 pm but it was Thursday night and I was cooking for Shabbat, so yes, I was still in the kitchen and I was feeling pretty territorial about it. 

"I'm almost done," I said without the slightest inclination for what was coming next. "Okay, good, because I have some friends coming over for a bbq in a few minutes." Since it was one of the last things I expected to hear at 10 pm on a Thursday night, I was rendered speechless..... momentarily. I regrouped quickly enough to determine that some of the friends were out buying meat, a few tomatoes and frozen french fries. What no one tells you, but after one experience you should already know, is that they do not have anything but the meat, tomatoes and the frozen fries and they don't even know what to do with the frozen fries. In other words, not only are you now back in the kitchen searching for paper plates and cups, condiments, cutlery, and napkins, but you are in charge of cooking the bloody fries.

The second scenario was a little simpler: Son #2, who is more inclined to carry on his social life as far away from his family as he can get by foot or bus, took a more practical approach two weeks later when, at about 9:30 pm he called to me from somewhere I wasn't in the house: "Ema, I need an 'echad pa'ami' barbecue (a one-time, one use barbecue) and hotdogs because I am going to a bbq."  He's younger so I am expected to have the portable barbecue on hand, as well as the food. And I did. You didn't really think I haven't been in this situation before, did you? The alternative is the guilt trip about why I will not take him to the grocery store on Thursday night at 10 to get all the things he needs IMMEDIATELY. The guilt trip never works but who needs to travel that road unnecessarily?

Of course, Son #2 also has lower expectations because he is younger. Son #1, who is equally improverished, only barbecues steaks. Son #2 was happy to leave home with 12 frozen hotdogs from the freezer and a little bbq from my stash in the basement (yes, I keep a few on hand for moments exactly like this).

All I keep thinking in both instances was who came up with this plan and couldn't they have anticipated their needs a little earlier in the week. But planning ahead is apparently an adult mindset, so the answer is it doesn't matter whose brainchild this plan was, the concept of looking ahead more than 30 minutes was inconceivable. As far as they are concerned, this was thinking ahead!

I am sure this happens in Israel all the time -- this is the land of bonfires after all. I guess it is simply yet another example of how moving to a new country and culture at 40 means that you will never see the world the way your children who were raised here see it. 

Plus, the temperature could drop to 8 degrees Celsius at any moment or they could get a bad stomach ache.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

If you want personal space move to the Arctic

(Thanks to Sherri for the idea)

There are approximately 30 Alaskan Yupik (yes, they are Eskimos!) words for snow and its various formats. That means that when Eskimos are discussing the winter weather they have at least 30 words on hand to make their point. If you want to discuss snowflakes or fine snow with rain particles, there are several options for making yourself understood. Talk about leaving no room for misunderstanding:

"Yes Atka, I know I said I would bring my dog sled and come visit you today but the forecast is calling for falling snow that has rain particles in it which will eventually get a crusty top layer when it is no longer freshly fallen, so I cannot come. Maybe tomorrow, when the snow cornices are about to collapse and all threats of severe blizzard snow has passed to the East, then I will try again."

There you go. Perfectly clear.

So why is it, that in the 152nd largest country in the world, where there are more than eight million people often crammed into unreasonably small areas, there is absolutely no Hebrew concept of personal space? In all fairness there is an actual phrase -- merachev ishi -- which means personal space, but  no one who has lived here for very long knows what it is.

I am going to pause here for a moment so that you can think about the dilemma. Trust me, I tried to understand it, but I could not come up with even one reasonable answer. Take your time.

(doe a dear a female dear, ray a drop of golden sun, me a name I call myself, fa..... I am just amusing myself while you think)

So, now you know. There is no good reason why Israelis do not understand the concept. The country may be very small and many places are very cramped (like the Kotel on Tisha B'Av, Holy Bagel immediately after Tisha B'Av, the cell phone depots five minutes before the doors open in the morning, Park Ra'anana on Yom Ha'atzmaut, and the grocery stores hours before Rosh HaShana) but anyone with half a brain knows to avoid those locations.

If you go to an outdoor banking machine at a busy time of day you can rest assured that the person standing behind you in line believes that standing six inches behind you is enough to give you the perception of privacy -- and yet gives them a good enough view of the screen so that if you hesitate when entering your data, they can promptly give you advice on what you are doing wrong.

If you are standing in front of the selection of dried fruit in a cramped health food store and they want to get past (preferably with a full knapsack in tow) you to the nuts, then they can just squeeze between you and the display -- which is only six inches from your face -- without saying excuse me, knocking you over or even consider walking behind you.

If you are in line to pay at the grocery store and the customer behind you either notices something desirable in your cart or thinks that an item you are placing on the conveyor belt is not good for you or can be purchased elsewhere for less money, then they have no hesitation in sharing that information with you.

And if you are on the street and someone approaches you for any sort of conversation, they are not going to start speaking to you until the two of you are almost nose-to-nose. In my case that is often nose-to-chest, but you know what I mean. Why start a conversation if you cannot see the whites of the other person's eyes, not to mention the stye on his or her left eye lid?

I think the differences between the Eskimos use of language and the Israelis use of language could be called linguistic relativism. Eskimos will go to great lengths using additional suffixes and prefixes to make themselves understood. Israelis really only use words when the flailing of their arms, rolling their eyes, clickingi/tisking their tongues, shrugging their right shoulder ever so slightly, or other aggressive body actions fail to communicate their point.

It's very telling that the first person to discuss this concept (no, I didn't invent it) was a man names Willhelm Von Humbolt in the 19th century and he saw language as the expression of the spirit of a nation. Of course he did; Israel didn't exist at the time and the Israeli non-verbal communication spirit --executed within centimeters of your face -- had not yet been born.