It’s actually pretty easy being green.

With the limited resources the country has (you know, being a desert and all), Israel is all about doing things the most economical way possible.  This has led to quite a few fantastic inventions, specifically in agriculture.

Drip irrigation is one. Technically around before Israeli Statehood, it has been updated and perfected by an Israeli engineer, Simcha Blass.  There is even an Israeli developed kit call <Tipa> that is used in South Africa as well as other African countries such as Kenya, Niger and Senegal.

You see drip irrigation everywhere.  People’s gardens, flower beds along the road and even trees all have irrigation pipe wrapped around their bases.

Photo taken by Paul

Photo taken by Paul

Another great invention is <reusable plastic trays> developed by Tal-Ya Water Technologies, where the plastic trays collect dew from the air and use that to irrigate the plants.

Keeping Israel green and sustainable also involves people on an everyday level.  There are recycling collection points on nearly every main intersection and outside schools.  The main things being collected are plastic and glass (you can also take certain empty bottles to the grocery store and exchange them for a small refund).  Interestingly there are also many collection points for old clothing.  You pop the clothes in the collection bin and they are cleaned, sorted and distributed to those that need them.

Another thing that is big (especially in Modi’in) is bio-degradable waste.  We have a small brown bucket under our sink, any fruit or veggie peals, egg shells, wood, grass/leaves and any leftover organic matter is collected into the brown bin and then that gets thrown into the big brown bin in the communal rubbish room. The large bins are then collected and the contents used for composting.

My favourite thing though is the solar geyser. Most houses have them, especially new houses as it’s a building requirement. The geyser does come equipped with an electric element for those cold, cloudy, rainy days when the water temp needs a boost.  Ours is on a timer set for about half an hour prior to when we usually bath/shower.  The best part is that in summer we will be able to switch off the electrical component and use only the solar side.  Even now, in winter, the difference in water temperature on the days when it is not overcast is amazing.  On rainy days I have to switch the tap to the hot side as far as it will go and the water is hot but not boiling and we have to be careful we don’t run out of hot water.  On days when the sun is shining I have to put the tap in the middle of hot and cold and even the water is sometimes too hot and I have to run in some cold water.

I’m loving how being eco-conscious has become such a natural way of life for us. Israel definitely makes it easy to do.

Here’s that post I promised about school in Israel

Since everyone is posting back to school photos and posts I thought it was time to tell you a bit about school in Israel.

*Please note that I may get some facts wrong.  I will try to make sure that everything posted here is as correct as possible.  Also note that a lot of what I am going to write is my own experience and that everyone will experience the school system differently.

The majority of schools in Israel are State Schools.  This means they are funded by the Department of Education and are therefore free.

For Aaron, who is in Kita Aleph/1st Grade, we still have to pay for his books and stationary.  We probably have to pay for a PTA type levy or a class fund but no one has asked us for anything like that yet, maybe because we started school in the middle of the year.

Faiths Gan (Pre-Kindergarten) also happens to be free (at least I hope so as they have only asked us for the PTA levy/class fund money and not anything else).

Children in Modi’in are assigned to schools according to their residential address, Aaron’s school is two blocks up the road from us. Faith’s is the same block as us, just on the road behind us (we can see the playground out our bedroom windows) and there is a nifty little path next to our apartment that cuts to the road behind us.

We drop the kids at school anytime between 7:30 and 8:00 and Aaron’s school day ends at 12:45 while Faith’s school day ends at 13:45.

Since we are working we have enrolled both children at aftercare.  This is a paid service and you have to register through the Education Department.  You can fetch the children no later than 16:45.  It is quite expensive but the children are given a hot lunch (yesterday they had chicken soup, hamburgers and salad), the older kids get homework supervision and they also have some kind of entertainment, either art class or drama or something sporty.

In Gan there is no uniform at all, kids wear what is comfortable for them.  In grade school the children wear a modified uniform.  They can wear any pants/skirts and shoes that they like.  T-shirts and sweaters/hoodies have to be plain (though can be any colour) and need to have the schools logo/badge printed on them.  The stores that sell the shirts also iron on the badges.

That’s the basics.

16130357468_1f23a4ebe8_h

Faith is loving Gan.  She is making friends and learning Hebrew.  She adores her teachers.

Aaron’s school is fantastic.  They are arranging for him to have additional Hebrew lessons so his vocab will increase and they also help him along during the day too.  He has made friends and is generally a very happy boy.

So far we are really really happy.

**It looks like a did get a fact or two wrong. Here is a comment that Dan left on Facebook for me:

You’ll have to pay for books every year. The school can charge an additional 1 time amount – depending on grade but with a cap set by the MoE – for extra activities (i.e. the annual trip.) The parent’s association may or may not ask for money at the start of the year but may ask for specific things – depends on the parents. The after-school is run by the municipality with no oversight from the MoE whatsoever. Education is from 3 and up in municipal schools although there are some schools in the city that are subsidized by the MoE and charge an extra fee and those any resident of the city can sign up for.

Go follow <Dan> on Twitter, he is funny and a font of information on Modi’in and living in Israel.  He also likes Star Wars so he gets extra points!

I’m a productive member of Israeli society!

So, my little {adventure the other day} was for a job interview.

I didnt want to say anything about the interview because I didn’t want to jinx it. According to everyone I spoke to and everything I have read, finding a job as a new immigrant can take a while.  So I was hesitant to be too vocal about the opportunity.

trees*

Anyway, I went for the interview which went very well and I got the job!  I start on Sunday! (The work week in Israel is Sunday to Thursday or (half day) Friday).  I get Friday off, which is amazing, the kids are at school on a Friday morning which means I get to do shopping and have some time to myself.

Im so excited. Its a fantastic company, about 60 employees, and it looks like a fun and relaxed environment.  The position is specifically for an English speaker and pretty much everyone in the company speaks English.  Although I am going to hound the Hebrew speakers to help me with my vocab since having a full time job will pretty much mean I can’t go to Ulpan (hebrew lessons) full time.

bicycle

The hours are long but are flexible with when I can start/finish, so if I wanted to start early and end early I could, which might have to happen once Paul gets a job and depending on his hours, in order for me to fetch kids from school/aftercare**.

I’m really looking forward to going to work.  Staying home and reading all day sounds great in theory but it gets old pretty fast.  Im looking forward to using my brain and interacting with new people.

stairs

I will let you know how it goes on Sunday :)

*All the photos in the post were taken by my amazing Hubband and are in and around Modi’in.

**The school system here is a whole blog post on its own and a very interesting topic, watch this space!

 

 

The extraordinary tale of the disappearing, reappearing bus stop!

Today was my first foray into the great wide world on my own, navigating the public transport system.

Armed with Google Maps and an app called {Moovit}, I dropped Aaron at school and made my way to the central bus stop.  All aboard the 150 to {Lod} and 25 minutes and ₪8.40 later I was at my destination.  I did have a moment of panic when the bus deviated slightly but it basically cut out a 5 minute portion of the route and hooked up to the road just before my stop.

I finished what I needed to do and consulting Moovit and Google Maps, I figured out I needed to catch the 150 back to Modi’in.  Except when I got to the place where the bus stop was supposed to be (according to BOTH maps) there was nothing there.  Not a bus shelter or even just a sign post with the bus number on it.

Scratching my head, I took a short walk to the corner of the road and saw a bus shelter a little further down to the right (on the road that the bus had detoured on).  I walked over and looked for the marker saying the 150 stopped there and didn’t see anything.  After walking back up the road to the nonexistent bus stop I decided to check the apps again and found another bus stop a little further up the road (on the part of the route that had been cut off because of the earlier detour).  That stop had the number 150 on it as well as a route map with the 150 bus listed.  Moovit and Google Maps agreed that this was the stop.  I waited for the bus.  And waited.  The wind kicked up. And I waited some more.  It started to rain.  The bus was officially 15 minutes late.  I walked back to the nonexistent bus stop.  It was raining but I couldn’t even use my umbrella because the wind was so fierce it popped the umbrella inside out!

big girl

As a last ditch effort I decided to go back to the bus stop on the detour road and just double check.  It still didn’t list the 150 bus so I started to walk past it and then… angels sang, the sun came out (ok not really but it did stop raining) and I saw a route map, INSIDE the bus shelter, that had the 150 listed!  I waited 15 minutes and the bus arrived!

There are 2 morals to this story.

  1. We shouldn’t trust technology 100%, its not infallible.  The bus stop was there, just 150m down the road and around the corner.
  2. Open your eyes, look properly, don’t take everything at face value.

Oh well, it was an adventure.  It took me almost 3 times as long to get home as it should have but hey, I made it.  All on my own!

The simple life?

Its amazing what you can live without.

Our container is only now on its way to Durban harbour to be loaded onto the ship that will bring it to us in Israel.  Once its on the ship it will be 45 days on the water and then who knows how long until it is unloaded and we can claim it and have it delivered to our apartment.

In the mean time we are living with the bare minimum.  I insisted on getting beds before we arrived and my brother helped by going to IKEA and organising them.  We flew with linen, duvets and pillows in our luggage.  And other than our clothes, that was it.

The gorgeous park we went to last Saturday (Shabbos)

The gorgeous park we went to last Saturday (Shabbos)

The first thing I did when we arrived was buy a kettle and a toaster.  We decided that since we had our entire kitchen coming we would buy plastic/paper plates and cutlery and plastic cups instead of ‘real’ cutlery and crockery.  That lasted about a week.  We started by buying 4 cereal bowls.  That led to proper plates ({Fox Home}, similar to Mr P had a sale – bonus) and proper glasses.  We also picked up a pot and a pan (1 each for meat and milk), although I have been using disposable foil roasting dishes a lot, so much easier than washing up. Oh, and coffee cups, we had to have proper coffee cups.  I am holding out on the cutlery though, firstly I have a huge amount of ‘real’ cutlery coming and secondly we have a huge amount of plastic stuff since we bought in bulk.

The other kitchen thing we don’t have is a fridge.  I have shipped our SMEG fridge and SMEG freezer and we were going to borrow someones bar fridge until ours arrived but that fell through.  So far we have managed without a fridge.  How you ask?  Its winter here and our counters are some kind of stone so they are cold.  Leaving the marge, humus, juice and milk on the counter has worked pretty well.  So far nothing has really gone off.

The park across the road from Aarons school

That being said, having a fridge would make life easier so we went to a ‘strip mall’ type place yesterday and bought a small bar fridge.  It get delivered this afternoon.  It will definitely make things easier, like keeping leftovers fresh and we can buy bigger bottles of milk.  It also has a small freezer compartment which will help keep things like fishfingers and chicken nuggets for the kids.  It will also free up my counter space which is driving me a bit nuts since there is stuff everywhere!

Other things we are doing pretty well without is a TV and lounge furniture.  We watch series on Paul’s laptop and the kids are either playing on the old iPad or actually playing outdoors at the park and haven’t asked for the TV once!  I know Paul would like to buy a TV but I think its pretty much way down on the list of things we MUST buy.

Oh yes, laundry…

Thank heavens my bestie {Roro} lives a few blocks away and has graciously allowed us to hog her washing machine.  Im not sure what I would have done without her.  A few days ago I hand washed all the socks and undies and I have a newfound respect for all those people that don’t have access to a washing machine.  My back ached, my hands cramped and nothing was really as clean as it gets in a washing machine.  I have to admit that a washing machine is a luxury that I cannot do without!

A typical sunset

All in all we are managing but I cannot wait for MY things to arrive and make life just that little bit easier.

Whats in my handbag?

 

I have started using a small handbag as opposed to my little ‘purse‘ I was using before.  Its not much bigger, maybe twice the size but it it has a shoulder strap and leaves my hands free.

Here is what’s in it…

  • My purse that I was using before.
  • My glasses in their case.
  • An iPhone cable and an adapter so I can charge my phone if when I need to.
  • A nail file.
  • Apen.
  • A cupcake shaped birthday candle (don’t ask).
  • Mascara.
  • Aarons asthma pump.
  • My house keys.
  • A piece of cotton wool.
  • Lipice.
  • Two lipsticks.
  • A piece of foil (??)
  • A tag from a McDonalds kiddie meal toy.
  • Not pictured: My cell phone is usually in my bag too :)

All in all not too bad for a small handbag.

Prepare to be amazed!

Yesterday we went to the municipal building (home affairs) which is 5 minutes down the road from us.  We needed to do a few things.  We needed to change Faiths name on our ID because at the airport (where we received our original ID documents) they spelt it in Hebrew as Fais instead of Faith or Fait (they can’t really pronounce the ‘th’ sound).  We also needed to change our address as they put the wrong area on the ID books and in order to register the kids for school we need the correct address.  We also needed to register the kids in their respective schools.

The first stop was school registration and that office opened at 13h30.  The lady was extremely helpful and got Aaron registered quickly.  We then had to find a Gan (kindergarten) for Faith.  She found one directly behind our apartment.  We can see the playground from our bedroom window! So awesome.

The lady who helped us with the school registration then directed us to the office next door where we had to go to change the address and name details.  That office only opened at 14h30 and it was only 14h05 so we sat around for a bit.  Just before 14h30 a lady came and manned a small desk by the waiting area, she gave us a number and then explained the how the waiting system worked.  Our number flashed up on the screen and in we went.  Now this is the amazing part, we sat down, explained the address change, showed the woman our lease to prove the address, she clicked away on the computer, pressed print and handed us our new document.  In less than 5 min! No payment, no waiting 10 working days to collect the document.  Just done!

We hit a small snag with Faiths name as they wanted to see her birth certificate so we went home, got it and Paul went back and wham bam thank you ma’am, it was done.  No mess no fuss.

Efficiency seems to be a thing here.  We ordered SIM cards from a company called 012 Smile and we ordered home internet through Bezeq.  Not only did the SIM cards get delivered when they said they would, we received a phone call first to make sure we were home to receive them.  The same with the internet connection, the technician called to make sure we were home and in 5 min he was ringing our bell.  The gas guy also called last week before he arrived and in fact he called to say he was available earlier than our allotted time and did we mind if he came early? Hell no we don’t mind, come on in.

Its going to be pretty easy to get used to this kind of service.

A bit down and thats ok.

After all the hype and all the excitement of planning and getting ready to move I’ve found myself sitting staring into space and feeling a little blue and lost on more than one occasion.

Its totally natural and understandable to have a bit of a crash.  I’ve identified a few ‘triggers’ and having done so Im more aware of what sets me off, how to deal with it and also that all those ‘triggers’ are temporary.

Firstly, the fact that we are in a bit of limbo is an issue.  The kids haven’t started school yet, we haven’t started Ulpan (hebrew lessons) yet and we don’t have jobs yet.  We (I) need more of a routine.  All temporary.  We have a meeting with the school people tomorrow.  im going to call the Ulpan lady tomorrow as well and jobs will come in time.

Also, even though we have an amazing apartment so we have a roof over our heads, we don’t have much furniture.  I thank heavens we decided to buy new beds before we arrived and that my brother and husband worked exceptionally hard to set them up the first day we arrived so we have a place to sleep.  I also brought our duvets, pillows and linen with us on the plane so we have our familiar things when we go to sleep.  As for the rest of the furniture, living in an empty apartment is a bit soul destroying.  No cupboards so our clothing is all on the floor in piles.  No couches so no where to sit.  No appliances and familiar cooking things.  No pictures on the walls.  This too is temporary, our lift should arrive in February and then all our ‘stuff’ will be here and the apartment will feel more like home.

We had all our bags and clothes and bits and pieces strewn all over the lounge which was making me very anxious.  It looked messy and was making me cringe every time I saw it.  Today Paul cleared it all up.  He packed away all his clothes and the last few of mine.  Aaron packed his clothes away (and buy pack away I mean place in piles in our bedrooms) and then Paul took all the clothes we wont be wearing now and placed them in the cases and put the cases in the laundry room.  I am MUCH more calm now that the lounge is clear.

The ‘empty’ kitchen is also an issue.  Not being able to cook whatever I want whenever I want to is hard.  We dont have a fridge, although we will be getting a small bar fridge this week hopefully, so keeping milk, meat and veggies cold is a problem.  Although it is winter and so far small cartons of milk have been fine sitting on the counter.  I bought us a meat pan and a milk pan and we have had eggs and toast a few times as well as baked potatoes and tuna mayo for lunch.  We are using throw away plates and knives and forks but I will buy us a few proper things this week too as well as a milk pot and a meat pot so we can cook proper meals.

I think I just need to breathe and keep reminding myself that these issues are all temporary and that things will come together.

Here are some pics of the apartment :)  I will update them as the rooms come together.

 

Lounge as seen from the dining room

Lounge as seen from the dining room

 

Dining room with kitchen on the left and bedrooms at the end as seen from the lounge

Dining room with kitchen on the left and bedrooms at the end as seen from the lounge

 

Passage with kids bathroom on left, Aarons room on right, Faith's room at the end and our room and bathroom on far left.

Passage with kids bathroom on left, Aarons room on right, Faith’s room at the end and our room and bathroom on far left.

 

Kitchen

Kitchen

 

Kitchen

Kitchen

 

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

Part Two: Our first few days!

We arrived at our new apartment at about 11am and were met by another of my sister from another mister, Roro, who had our keys. After a pinch to make sure we weren’t dreaming and that we were actually standing in Israel together, we opened up the front door to our new home. What a feeling, walking into our apartment. The place we will hang our hats for the foreseeable future.

We live on a main road. Its a one way and on the other side if the road is a park or three. Lots of green grass and trees and places for the kids to play or ride bikes. About 200m down the road is a Superpharm (like Dischem or Clicks) and a Mega Supermarket. A further 5-minute walk and we can throw a stone at Roro’s front door.

modiin road

Roro took us around and we did a quick shop to get some basics, like milk and bread. Until our lift arrives (hopefully beginning of February) we will be eating off paper plates and using throwaway cutlery. I did buy a pan and some proper mugs as well as a toaster and a kettle.

A few days before we arrived my brother went to IKEA and bought us beds and mattresses, which were delivered the day before we arrived. My brother Matt came to visit after work and he and Paul put together three beds! We had brought our linen and bedding with us on the plane and that first night in our new apartment in our new beds was bliss.

The Mall

The Mall

Our landlady came over that evening with our lease to sign as well as some donuts (It was 1st night Chanukah!). She is so sweet and kind and obliging. She was very distressed that we didn’t have any furniture so she sent her husband over with 4 chairs for the kitchen island and when he arrived he insisted on going back home and bringing back a small two-seater couch for us to sit on until our lift arrives.

Our apartment is lovely, the rooms are quite big by Israeli standards and the kitchen is amazing, its about a third of the size of our SA kitchen but it has at least 30% more cupboard space. Most apartments in Israel do not come with a stove/oven and you have to buy your own. Our amazing landlady decided that she would include a brand new oven/stove in our rent. The gas guy arrived on Thursday morning to connect everything; he was early and it took him exactly 5 minutes to finish up. What a pleasure. Now we can cook which makes life a little easier too.

modiin night

We still need to buy quite a bit of furniture. There are no built in cupboards and we are living with our clothes on the floor which is driving me slowly mad. So perhaps next week we will take a trip to IKEA and buy some cupboards if we cant find any second hand ones for sale in the area. We also need to buy a couch as we didn’t ship ours with the rest of our furniture.

On Friday morning we are going to spend the day in Tel Aviv with my brother, sister in law and our new nephew. It will be  first time using public transport from start to finish. We will walk to the train station, take a train to Tel Aviv and then a bus to my brothers place. I cannot wait to see them all and to give my nephew cuddles and squishes.

So far it has been a bit overwhelming and a lot exciting. Next week we speak to the school people about registering the kids in school and us in Ulpan (Hebrew classes) and then maybe it will feel a bit more real and not so much as if we are on holiday ;)

Part One: A hole in my eardrum and the easiest flight ever!

What an ‘interesting’ few days its been.

Two days before we left South Africa my right ear became blocked. We thought it was possibly a wax buildup and I got some Waxol and put it in. The next day we did it again, and I had the most excruciating pain when I sat up, it was so bad that I was in tears and almost made my mom take me to the ER.

In fact the next morning she did take me since I was feeling nauseous and my ear was still sore, the doc gave me a drip with anti-nausea stuff and pain medication and ordered irrigation. The first few tries were uncomfortable but not sore then she changed the angle and OMG! The pain! I made her stop and refused further treatment.

I came home and went to sleep. As soon as I woke up I was ill and then every time I sat up I was sick again. I was either sleeping or hanging over the toilet seat and completely missed the braai my mom organized as well as all the visitors that came past to say goodbye.

After everyone had left my mom took me back to the ER since I was so dehydrated and still nauseous. They gave me more anti-nausea stuff and got me a name of an ENT to see the next morning (the day we were leaving!).

I seriously didn’t think I was going to be allowed to fly. As sick as I was on Sunday, I woke up feeling ok-ish on Monday morning. Paul got me an appointment at about 11am. We saw a great ENT who charged us an absolute fortune to see us on such short notice. He also did ultrasounds of my ears and cleared out a TON of wax from the right ear using microscopic instruments and a very expensive operating microscope. Once the wax was clear we found a small ‘v’ shaped tear in my eardrum. We are not sure if the hole was there before the irrigation or if the irrigation caused the hole but flying with a hole in your eardrum is ok, so away we went!

plane

We got to the airport early so we could check in the 10 huge bags we had.  We were the first in the queue and watched the security guys check the counters and general area before they opened up.  Suddenly we were being told to clear the area.  There was an unattended bag near the check in counters and they were calling in the sniffer dogs.  Two gorgeous doggies came to sniff out any explosives and after about 10 minutes we were given the all clear to proceed.

We were questioned by the El Al staff and allowed to check our bags in.  10 bags takes a LONG time to check in.  Once we were done we got dinner with my mom and Brian and then said a teary goodbye.  Its was really hard saying goodbye to my mom.  Especially as we had been staying with her 24/7 for 4 weeks.  We made it quick if not painless.

Passport control was short and simple and we stopped off at the Mugg & Bean which overlooks the tarmac and actually overlooked our plane.  The kids were fascinated.  Pretty soon boarding started and they kindly allowed those of us with little ones to board first.  We got our seats and landed up with a free seat next to us so Faith got to stretch out and slept pretty much the whole way to Israel.  Aaron slept as well but I didnt since I was sitting next to him and he managed to kick me a few times as he moved.

Next thing you know we were being served breakfast and getting ready to land.  I was anxious about my ears but it turned out this was the easiest landing I have ever had.  My left ear got sore for about 5 minutes.  Then it ‘popped’ and it was clear.  No hassles at all!

Once we landed we walked down to passport control and used the direct line telephone to call the Absorption office. One of the staff members arrived a few minutes later and escorted us to the passport control desk where they informed the controller that we were new immigrants. He checked our passports, stamped them and we then went up to the office where we filled out a few forms, had our pictures taken, chose our medical aid, were given a sim card with NIS 200 and were then given our new ID books.  The whole process took about an hour.  Once that was done we were put on a taxi and taken to our new home.

modiin

Its quite surreal how in less than 24 hours we went from one country to another, one home to another, one nationality to another.  I think I am still going to be hit with the reality of it all but for now we are settling in and learning our new surroundings.  Stay tuned for Part Two: Our first few days!

 

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