Bilingual Children

I’ve spoken before about how amazing my kids are in regards to learning Hebrew. How that, within the 1st few months of living in Israel, they were already able to hold a conversation with their friends, teachers and the cashiers at the supermarket.

The fact is that both kids are now fluent. They even know words in Hebrew that they don’t know the English for. Lots of dictionary looking up going on over here.


One of the things that struck me this week is that Faith tends to speak Hebrew when she is playing by herself. I often listen to her playing with her dolls or other toys and speaking in Hebrew to them and making them speak in Hebrew. She very rarely speaks to her dolls in English. She also sings in Hebrew all the time.

Its interesting to me because I don’t think Aaron would do it if he still played with his dolls and action figures by himself (he tends to prefer reading when he is by himself now).

When they play together, just the two of them, they will play in English with a few random Hebrew words or phrases thrown in. When they play together and they have friends over, they speak Hebrew mostly but they switch to English when they are telling each other what to do or fighting about something. I have to keep reminding them that they must speak Hebrew even if it doesn’t involve their friends because its rude to speak English in front of people who don’t understand.

Totally fascinating how they have adjusted.


Lost & Found

I’m on a bit of a roll.

Lost & Found

Last week I lost my bus pass. I only realised that it was lost when I couldn’t find it on the way home. It’s a good thing I had some cash on me or I would have been stuck at work.  I went the very next morning to the bus office in Modi’in to get a new one and transfer my balance and there it was sitting on the desk. The driver must have found it when he cleaned the bus and handed it in.

Then, yesterday was an ulpan day, which means I take 2 buses from work to Tel Aviv. I got off my first bus and reached into my pocket to get my phone so I could check the app to see when my next bus arrived and my phone wasn’t there.

Okay, let’s not panic. I checked my backpack thinking maybe I popped it in the bag when I put my charger away (I had been charging the phone on the bus). Nope, not there. Okay, now start to panic. One of two things could have happened, I left it on the bus or I was pick pocketed. I had my iPad in my bag but no connectivity until I reached ulpan, some 20 minutes away. The longest 20 minutes ever!

As soon as I got to class I messaged Paul who told me that he had spoken to the bus driver and he had my phone! Long story short, someone called Paul who then called the driver who confirmed he had my phone. After some back and forward  it was established I work in Lod and that the driver would leave the phone at the bus office at the central bus stop in Lod. Which is where I went this morning on my way to work. #OnlyInIsrael

After some very stilted Hebrew on my side and some charades (thanks for the word Shani!) from both sides I received my phone back. The guy at the office thought I was hysterically funny and asked for a selfie with me. Who the hell knows where that picture is going to end up. Please let me know if you see it.

Both times I lost things I was on a Kavim bus line and I have to commend the drivers and staff in the offices for their honesty, friendliness and hard work.

So, 2 lost things, both returned. I’m hoping I don’t lose a 3rd thing!

Oh yes, not technically a Lost & Found thing but on the weekend I dropped my iPad and cracked the top of the screen. I taped it together with clear packing tape and it is still usable but it needs to be fixed soon. Maybe the iPad is the 3rd thing and my streak is over? One can hope!

The wheels on the bus…

A few people have asked me when or if we will be getting a car and if public transport is feasible in Israel.

We have been in Israel for just over a year now and other than two instances where we hired a car for a weekend, we have not driven at all. We would like to eventually buy a car, especially so we have transport for Saturdays/Shabbat when the public transport system is closed.

So far, relying on public transport has been pretty much okay. Having a well oiled (haha) public transport system is a huge help. Buses are plentiful and, mostly, run on time as do the trains. Its also quite a bit more cost effective than buying and maintaining a car. The downside of course is losing the convenience having a car gives you. Standing in rain that is coming in sideways while waiting for a bus is not fun. Taking children to friends and parties that are not within walking distance or on a bus route would also be a pleasure. But, I personally think at this point, not owning a car makes a lot more sense for us.

Recently, public transport was reformed to streamline costs of bulk (monthly) tickets and yesterday the pricing for public transport was dropped across the board by 17%. I now pay ₪299/month and this covers all my buses and trains between Modi’in and Tel Aviv. I worked out that on average I travel 1044km a month between home, work and ulpan. So if my calculations are correct (they very well might not be, I suck at math), then I am paying on average ₪0.28/km (R1.13/km).

According to Numbeo, the same distance traveled in a ‘Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)’ with an average cost of ₪6.38/l of petrol, would average ₪333 in gas or ₪0.32/km (R1.30/km). Already more expensive and that’s just petrol, never mind insurance, drivers licence, car license and general upkeep (and the cost of the actual car!).

So yup, for now I will continue to take public transport.

Gratuitous picture of my brothers dog when she was a puppy.
Gratuitous picture of my brothers dog when she was a puppy.

*For complete accuracy I would really have to take into account Paul’s transport costs too. He also travels by train and bus. But, we would only buy 1 car, so one of us would most probably still take public transport to and from work while the other would use the car. In which case I think my above calculations are reasonable.

#ZombiePrompts Week 3

What do you consider to be your biggest achievement?

Sheesh people. Really? I have no idea.

Let’s see…

I’ve managed to keep two small humans alive for the last 8 and 5 years. That’s pretty epic right?

I’ve moved to a new country and am learning a new language and navigating a new culture. 

I’ve been married to a man I love, who drives me nuts, makes me laugh, loves me fiercely, keeps me in line, drives me nuts (oh wait, I said that already), supports me and adores our children, for almost 10 years. I think that’s quit an achievement.

Image by Paul

I cook dinner from scratch at least 4/5 times a week. It may only be pasta with cheese sauce or even waffles (sometimes with choc chips in it), but its from scratch. The other days are either re-purposed left overs or hot dogs or pizza and/or corn schnitzel from the freezer.

This years new achievement will be learning to ride a bike! Maybe. Probably. I’m not making any promises.

I’m a student again

Well, 2 nights a week at least.

Last night was my first ulpan lesson. It went pretty well even though the class actually started on 1 December 2015 and I have a little bit of catching up to do.

I was 1 of 3 new people in the class and my level of Hebrew seems to be about average compared to everyone else.

On Sunday I will officially register and receive my workbook.

The class is made up of Russian, French, British, American and South African (2 of us) students. They range in age from early 20’s to to 2 ladies who have grand kids.

My teacher speaks English, Hebrew, Russian and a smattering of French. 

I’m hoping by the end of the next 10 months I will be able to hold a conversation with my Hebrew speaking colleagues.

But for now, baby steps.

hebrewletters new

#ZombiePrompts Week 2

What DIY projects are on your spring to-do list?

Well, we have been in Israel for just over a year. We are renting our apartment but our landlords are pretty darn amazing and are happy for us to make our apartment our home (within reason).

One of the things I really, really want to do is put up our pictures. In SA we had a gorgeous red family photo wall in our dining room and I really miss seeing all those pictures.

Yes, I know, we have been living in our apartment for a year! Yes, I know, our things arrived 9 months ago! And we still haven’t put any pictures up on the walls (I’m looking at you Paul!)

So my big DIY project is to get those pictures up. Our home has come a long way since we moved in. Here it is right at the beginning. And here it is the day our lift arrived.

And here is what it looks like now. At least the lounge. I want to fill that big blank wall with the family pictures. 


Looking forward to showing you more when the pictures are up on the walls.

One word, two word, red word, blue word.

One of the benefits you receive as a new immigrant in Israel is free language classes (ulpan).

You have up to 18 months to make use of the benefit and if you don’t use it you would have to pay for any language classes you took after that time.

If we had not managed to find jobs almost straight away, both Paul and I would have attended full time ulpan. That consists of 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 months. As it is we were both very lucky and were able to find jobs within a few weeks of arriving. The Ministry of Absorption makes a plan for those like us and there are ulpan schools that provide part time, after hours classes. 

For the last 10 months, Paul has been attending these classes 2 nights a week for 3 hours a night. His classes come to an end at the end of this month and mine will start at the beginning of February.

This morning I hopped a train to Tel Aviv and went to the Ministry office to receive my voucher that needs to be given to the ulpan so that I don’t have to pay for the classes. On Sunday afternoon I will go to the ulpan to register and to be tested to see which level class I will be placed in.

While I can make myself understood on a very, very basic level and most of the children’s friends parents speak some degree of English, I’m actually very excited to be formally learning Hebrew, it will make my life that much easier are far more enriched to be able to understand what is being said around me.

I’m a bit nervous because I’ve never been very good at languages. Or classrooms. Or studying. But I saw the quote below (by a fellow Israeli!) and that pretty much describes me, so onward with the learning!

study learn

#OperationIsrael – 1 year on

A year!

Last year this time, we were standing in the aliyah office at the airport officially becoming Israeli citizens. We had been on a plane for 9 hours. The kids had only slept for a bit. I had a hole in my eardrum and hadn’t slept at all. Paul had been an absolute champion with organising all of us on very little sleep himself.

A little while later, after collecting 8 of our 9 bags (one was delayed in Johannesburg and would only arrive a week or so later), we made our way outside to find a taxi to take us to our new apartment.

Arriving outside our apartment we were greeted by my sister from another mister, Roro, with a HUGE hug and the keys. Once we got all our bags inside we walked down the road to buy some really important stuff from the local store. A kettle and coffee! Okay, and a few other staples.

My brother arrived after work a bit later that afternoon to help Paul assemble our IKEA beds and we had pizza delivered for dinner, which we ate on the floor. Then our landlord came over to welcome us with a plate of homemade sufganyot (donuts) since it was the first night of chanukah. 

That first day seems so long ago and yet it feels like yesterday too.

We’ve had difficult days and bad days between then and now but the majority of our days have been great days.

We have good jobs, a great apartment with a wonderful landlord and fantastic friends, our kids are happy and settled in school, they have awesome friends and speak fluent Hebrew. I’ve learned to navigate public transport and can speak just enough Hebrew to order things at the butcher. I start proper ulpan (Hebrew) classes in February and hopefully my Hebrew will improve enough for me to speak to the kids teachers and friends when we have play dates. In the mean time, Paul’s Hebrew is coming along in leaps and bounds and he can converse with taxi drivers, teachers and random strangers. We get to be close to my brother and his family and even though we don’t see each other nearly enough its great to finally be living in the same country again after over 10 years apart.


Our first Modi'in March in the Ben Shemen Forest


An afternoon on Yafo Street

Processed with VSCOcam with c6 preset

This last year has been amazing. I’ve learned so many new things. In particular how strong our family is. Moving to a new country is stressful and our family could have been torn apart but we have only become stronger and closer. 

Mostly I am just happy to be home! Here’s to many many more happy years!


Neighbourly Neighbours

On Thursday afternoon, while on the way to a work fun evening, I received a message from our babysitter that she was ill and wouldn’t be able to fetch the kids. The problem was that, because it is Chanukah holidays, the kids finished their after school program earlier than usual and there was no way Paul or I could get to fetch them on time.

We panicked. Paul called a variety of our friends who have kids at school with ours but they were all unavailable. Aunty Roro (who has been my saving grace before in an emergency) was not at home either. In the mean time, I had hopped on a bus to get back to my office so I could catch my regular bus home and Paul was at the train station waiting for the next train.


The after care teacher had called me to see where we were as she needed to leave and a mom who was at the school waiting for her kid to finish an extramural said she could wait another 15 minutes with my kids. At this point I was at least 1 hour and 15 minutes away and Paul was an hour away.

That’s when Paul had a genius idea. He contacted our neighbour who has 3 children, 2 older boys and a girl Faith’s age. As it turns out, the oldest boy was able to run up the road and pick up Aaron and Faith and take them to their apartment.

When Paul got there about 45 minutes later they were all happy and playing and pretty much unaware of the crisis.

I’m not sure what we would have done without our amazing neighbours. We took them some yummy donuts as a thank you and from now on, Aaron will have a key to our apartment just in case they need to walk home from school. I’ve said before how hard it is not having immediate family close by but I can say that our neighbours and friends are a huge part of a village that is raising our children.

Sick kids

Back in South Africa, when our kids were sick they either stayed home with our nanny, Aletta or if they were ok to go to school and then didn’t feel well, Nana or Bobba could fetch them and take them to their house or back to our house to be with Aletta.

If If they needed to go to the doctor, both Paul and I worked close enough to home to be able to pop out and fetch them and then drop them back home and go back to work.

Having sick kids in Israel has been one of the steepest learning curves we have faced.

No Aletta.

No Nana or Bobba.

We each work at least an hours bus and/or train ride away from home.

If the kids are so sick they cant go to school, one of us has to take a day off work to stay with them.

Luckily Paul can work from home if he has to and my boss and manager are very understanding about needing to take time off for sick kids.

Photo by Paul

Faith has been sick the last few days. Not enough to stay home (except for the first day) but sick enough that this is the third day the school has called us to fetch her just after lunch time because she is coughing (sometimes so much she vomits) and is just generally feeling yuck.

That means that I left work early the last two days and Paul left early today to fetch her.

Its hard without that immediate support system that we had before. But living in a country where a lot of people are in the same position we are in makes it easier.  We also get to spend time with the kids when they are extra cuddly and clingy and just want mom or dad to be with them, which besides the sick part, is awesome.

Now for the little sicky to start getting better!