Beanies and gloves and scarves. Oh my!

The majority of my Facebook and Twitter time lines are South Africans.  This means I’m seeing a lot of shorts, t-shirts, swimming pool and {braai} (BBQ/grill) pics.  I keep thinking to myself, sheesh, are they not cold? I’m freezing! Then remembering they are all in the Southern Hemisphere and experiencing the hottest summer in ages.

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Which means I am in winter. Cold, miserable, rainy winter (to be fair it hasn’t rained that much but when it does its nasty!).

If I hailed from Cape Town, maybe it wouldn’t be such a shock to my system.  Winter here is very similar to a Cape winter.  Lots of wind, days of rain, biting cold.  I’m not used to that.  {Jozi} winters are mild and sunny and dry.

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In 35 years I’ve never had to wear a down jacket (or a jacket of any kind!) or a beanie or a scarf and definitely not gloves and yet that is what I leave the house in most days. And I’m still cold to the bone and cannot wait for a steaming hot bath at the end of the day.

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Having had a bitch and a moan, at least I can say that winters in Israel are relatively short (also very green and pretty, see the rain I mentioned above). Spring lasts only a few weeks and then we are in for some super hot, dry weather.  Thank heavens for air conditioning!  I cant wait though, I’ve always loved Israel in summer.  I find it invigorating. I’m looking forward to longer day light hours and hot nights and braais on my balcony.

*Photos by {Paul Jacobson}

What I (don’t) miss.

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.  In 35 years, the longest I lived away from Jozi was when I was 19 and I lived on a Kibbutz in Israel for 8 months.  In fact, the only country I have been to outside of South Africa is Israel.

Uprooting your life and moving countries is hard.  You realise that there are things you miss that you never thought you would miss and there are things that just don’t make a difference.

Here are my Miss/Don’t Miss lists.

I Miss

  • My mom, desperately! We used to see each other at least twice a week.  Thank heavens for Skype!
  • My friends. Again, thank heavens for Skype, Viber and social media.
  • My car. I enjoy being able to walk around and to take reliable public transport, but a car would be nice on weekends.
  • My old job. I really, really enjoyed what I did. And the people I did it with.
  • Aletta. I miss our conversations and the great hugs she gives. I miss hearing her interact with the kids and listening to her sing songs with them. I miss having a babysitter available at night and on weekends if we needed.
  • Pap and Gravy. I have no idea if there is an equivalent to Mielie Pap here.
  • My dogs.  I really, really miss them but they are happy and settled and being totally spoiled by their adopted mommy and daddy in Kimberley and that makes my heart happy.
A very happy, and spoiled, trio of pups.
A very happy, and spoiled, trio of pups.

I Don’t Miss

  • Load-shedding. Looking at all the tweets and FB posts and talking to my mom makes me realise how much worse it has gotten.  I am so grateful that we don’t have to deal with that anymore.
  • Driving. I know I said I miss having a car but the commute to work is so much less stressful when you are not the one driving.  I just sit back, close my eyes and have a snooze.  Also all my kids friends live within a two block radius of us so no schlepping to play dates either.
  • Aletta. Again, I know I said I miss her, and I do, but I don’t miss having someone else in my house all the time.  I don’t miss having to discuss meal plans and grocery lists.  I don’t miss having to wear clothes all the time. I don’t miss sorting out misplaced clothing, I mean really, Faith is a lot smaller than I am, those socks were not going to fit me.
  • Roadside beggars. So far I have not seen a single beggar.  There are people in the main centers like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who will ask for money, usually for a charity or religious organisation, but road side beggars are non-existent.
  • Busy weekends. Friday mornings are a bit busy since the kids are at school and we do all our errands in the morning but from the time we fetch the kids to the time we go to work on Sunday, its quiet.  There is no rush.  We go for picnics in the park and we take a slow walk to wherever we are going.  We sometimes get invited to someone for Shabbos lunch and we mostly eat and sit back and chat and relax until its time to walk home again.

There are probably a dozen other things I miss and don’t miss but these are the ones that jump into my head right now.

 

 

 

You say rude, I say cut the bullshit.

Israelis have a bad rep as being very rude and abrupt people.

While we have encountered a few genuinely rude people (of which every country has their fair share), in general we have found Israelis to be friendly and helpful and a fun loving bunch.

I think the problem is, that what people perceive as rude, is actually a dislike of bullshit.  Israelis are direct and to the point. Ask a question and you get an answer not a whole story to go with it.

Relaxing at the park on Saturday
Relaxing at the park on Saturday

As in any country where the language is not your own, if you immediately start gabbing on without at least trying to make an effort to speak the native tongue then sure, the person you are talking to is going to be a bit rude, you’re not speaking their language!  That being said, I always attempt to speak a bit of Hebrew first, followed up with the Hebrew for ‘I don’t speak Hebrew, do you speak English?’* and the vast majority of people will switch to English.  They usually apologise for their own lack of English and then we have a conversation. Some of these conversations have been the best ones I’ve had with Israelis.  People are naturally curious creatures, they want to know why I am in Israel, what made me decide to come here, how long have I been here, where do I live, can they help me in any way at all?  Yes, you read that right, can they help me in any way? Perfect strangers offering to help me beyond the small slice of time we are occupying at the moment. Rude? I think not.

Something that has taken me a while to get used to is getting on the bus. You all stand around waiting, the bus arrives, the driver randomly stops the bus a  few metres up or down the road from the stop, you jog to catch up to him and then everyone just piles into the bus, no line, no waiting for the lady with a half dozen packets or the soldier who looks dead on his feet. You just climb on board all willy nilly. So yup, there’s a little rudeness for you.  I no longer stand at the back waiting for my turn, I jump in just like everyone else.

Daddy's girl
Daddy’s girl

Something that has totally blown me away though is the utter acceptance by the parents of the kids Faith and Aaron go to school with.  I lost count of how many phone calls and text messages I received in the first few weeks the kids were at school.  Not only inviting the kids to play dates but just to say hello and offering any help they could give.  The parents are always happy to have the kids come over to them and to help us translate messages from the schools.  Aaron has a class trip this week and the parents need to get there by car (kids are going on the bus) and since we don’t have a car one of the parents has offered to take Paul with them.  The most amazing part is that nothing is expected in return.  When we mention that we have no furniture and the kids games and toys are not here yet they immediately reassure us that its OK, their kids will come play at us eventually and for now our kids are more than welcome at them.

In my experience Israelis are outgoing, friendly people, if a little rough around the edges.

*I am starting to change this phrase to the more accurate, ‘I only speak a little Hebrew, do you speak English?’

When good translations go bad.

One of the benefits I get at work is a food card.  On the 21st of each month a balance is loaded and I can spend it on certain restaurants that will then deliver to the office (or I can go out to one of those restaurants if I would like).

The {10bis} site is obviously in Hebrew so I need a little help from the translate function in Chrome.

Most times it gives a pretty decent translation.  But not always.  Take today’s translation for example.

my lunch choice today

 

From the top:

  • Couple = Pair
  • Psychic = Medium (I cant stop snort laughing)
  • Psychic Wall = Medium Well
  • Visit = Beef
  • Miraculous extra charge = I have no idea, and no one else can figure it out either!
  • Plug-in = extra/add on

All the giggles!

These boots were made for walking…

…or not.

We don’t have a car. This is not an issue.  With excellent public transport (trains and buses) and most things well within walking distance, we don’t really need a car.

That being said, my poor takkies (sneakers/running shoes) are taking a beating.  And don’t get me started on walking in my boots or ballet flats.

And my feet! I gave calluses on calluses.

On Friday Paul and I walked around running some errands.  Everything was within a kilometer or two of our house, but everything was in different directions.  We walked over 13km and only took the bus in the afternoon when the kids were with us.

Yesterday there was a kite festival in Modi’in.  It looked like fun so we decided to go.  We mapped out our walk on Google Maps and in theory it was a 35 minute walk over 2.8km.  We have a cram (Crappy pRAM) that we push Faith in, there is no way we would walk anywhere further than 500m without Faith being in the cram, she is slower than a turtle walking behind a snail. Going backwards.

Things started looking wrong when Google (bless it) decided to take us up a rather long flight of stairs instead of on the road.  We changed over to ‘car’ mode and the directions switched.  To a road on a very very steep hill.  I did get to take this awesome pano of our beautiful city though.

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Ultimately it took us about an hour and 4km of walking to get there.  But once we were there we had fun.  we bought kites for the kids and some popcorn and drinks and spent a good hour or so flying kits.

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The walk back was about 4km too but Paul managed to find a route without Mount Everest in it.

In total we walked almost 8.5km yesterday.

Most of the time I dont mind not having a car.  The last two days though… Yup, I would have LOVED a car!

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.

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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.

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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.