Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Watch out for poop


In Israel you have to keep an eye out for poop. Dog poop. Because it's everywhere. Israel is ahead of its short 63 years in terms of technology adoption, universal health care, drip irrigation, solar water heating and pita, but they are sorely behind the times in terms of cleaning up after dogs. Even in a small town like the one in which we live as of four days ago, there is still poop on the side walk. So when I walk with my kids to school, we have our heads to the pavement always scanning for poop.

Don't misunderstand. The dog shit situation has improved in recent years, to be sure. When I lived in Tel Aviv thirteen years ago I had to almost tiptoe to work because the sidewalks were so covered. Do pet owners here just think that dog shit is magical and just disappears at the end of the day? Or maybe special poop fairies come out at daybreak to turn the poop into milk and honey?

In our case watching out for poop is tough because where we live there is astonishing beauty around every corner and it's distracting. The old stone houses. The olive and fig trees. The cobalt blue sky. The bougainvillea. It seems to be the perfect metaphor for our own situation as newcomers. So far our settling in has been a great success. We have a car! We moved into our home! We bought a fridge! We have Internet service! We have a bank account! Our kids are in school! I found the place to buy my son his school uniforms thirty minutes away along a winding road in the middle of the Judean Mountains! Beautiful!

But then you hit a dump bump. Like today, for instance. Mr. Rosen left at 7am to go to the Social Security administration so that he and the kids would be registered as returning residents and therefore be entitled to health coverage. Getting to this stage required a mountain of proof that we are actually residing in Israel in general and in our little town specifically. To help us out Saba Rosen stood in line for us to deliver this paperwork yesterday afternoon only to be told that they don't handle these requests in afternoon hours and anyway they can't do it in that office because now that we've moved, we have to take care of it in the Jerusalem office. Hence, Mr. Rosen's early morning departure leaving me to get all three kids ready and out the door by 7:40 for our oldest son's first day of first grade. Turns out that the Social Security Administration is on strike today. And closed tomorrow. That's some seriously stinky poop on the sidewalk if you ask me.

Such is life here these last two weeks. All things moving along pretty well. And just when you've spotted an alarmingly beautiful patch of bougainvillea and you can't believe your luck, you look down to see you've stepped in the poop.

Thankfully there is more bougainvillea around the corner. In our case, Mr. Rosen was able to get to the customs office instead since they're not striking and now all systems are go to receive our container in a little more than a week, barring any unforeseen acts of piracy or god. The sidewalk is clear again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Welcome to Israel

Welcome to Israel

Shalom! We arrived yesterday evening with all family members in tact and only missing one piece of luggage - the baby's car seat (he rode commando from the airport), which arrived to my in-laws this morning via London. When we got to passport control and the woman in the next line over cut in front of us when our window became available, I knew we'd arrived in the right country. The older kids went to sleep last night around 11pm and woke up at noon. Not bad. The baby was up pretty much from midnight until 4am. Not great.

Mr. Rosen and I ducked out at 10 this morning to start our administrative journey. We dragged the baby along in an effort to reset his internal clock. First stop, the Ministry of the Interior where we had to change our National ID cards to reflect our marriage and three kids. As we got out of the car I started to put the baby's little fleece slippers on and Mr. Rosen said, I don't think he needs those today (it's about 65 out). I knew that if we didn't put them on I would get reamed by at least eleven older women for exposing my child to the elements. We stopped for a latte at the mall under the ministry and a fifty year old man mentioned to us that it was windy outside and that our baby should have a sweater. Didn't see that one coming. While we were sitting there we also saw a young woman come in with her friends to get coffee wearing the clothes she was trying on from the store next door still with tags and a security device attached. Maybe she got thirsty all of a sudden? Only in Israel.

We headed upstairs to get passport pictures taken and we saw a a religious woman (head covering and modest flowy garb) and her teenage son (side curls and giant knit kippah) in line, both wearing Vibram five-finger frog feet "shoes". I guess the quest for good arch support is universal.

With our photos and baby in hand we headed upstairs to the Ministry. The Bedouin man ahead of us was there to register his newest child too. I overheard the clerk doing triage handing out the numbers at the front desk say to him, first wife or second? Nice. The Bedouin are still keeping it real I guess.

After waiting for about forty minutes, which was not a long wait considering the last time I was here fifteen years ago I actually learned how to knit and completed a six foot long scarf in the time it took before I spoke to anyone official, it's our turn. We are both in the system as citizens but it apparently takes the same system 72 hours from the time we go through passport control to recognize we are in country. We have to come back on Sunday. Minor setback. Fortunately Mr. Rosen can come by himself and complete the task for both of us.

Next up, finalizing the bank account that my in-laws already opened for us. On Thursdays the banks are closed from 12-4 and reopen from 4-7. Until then, the kids are at the park and the baby is asleep and mama needs to take a shower. In queue after the bank, shopping for a refrigerator, Ministry of Absorption, elementary school registration and dealing with our iPhones that don't work here. Good times. So far I have not yelled at anyone or cried or used any vulgar hand gestures.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear California

Santa Cruz

Hi there. How are you? 72 degrees and sunny as always? Just checking in before we fly out tonight. I've been thinking about you a lot and how much we've been through together. I know I haven't always been your most loyal resident. Remember how I used to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks year round in elementary school and tell people I was originally from New Hampshire? Sorry about that. But in my defense I was never exactly your type, at least as far as appearances go. I never tanned. I was a freckle puss from day one practically. I hated the beach and no one was watching out for my skin. It was the seventies and eighties after all. So I figured we might as well go our separate ways.

But I was so wrong! There is so much more to you than your constant sunshine. I love your fruits and vegetables. I love your ocean cliffs. I love your elephant seals. I love your national parks. I love Disneyland. I love your beach boardwalks, your Hollywood hoopla and your spring skiing. I love your taquerias, your dim sum, your In-N-Out, your pho, your pad thai, your chicken tikka masala, your sushi, your grass fed beef and your tofu. I even love your neon strip malls. How's that for devotion?

So for the record I'm sorry I once wished I was from the east coast. It was immature. Now I realize just how much you have given me and how much you have to offer yet. I'll be back one day.

love always,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where it all began

Essex Street

On Sunday we met up with an old and dear friend of mine and his amazing wife and two delicious daughters. They live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan about two blocks from the corner where my grandmother grew up and about eight blocks from where Mr. Rosen's grandmother was born and raised. In fact we told this to Grandma Rosen and she asked if we had seen all the pushcarts. She remembers it very differently from the funky, eclectic, bistro'plenty place it has become. But even though the vibe is very different now, it was easy to imagine what it looked like a hundred years ago when these women were born. The streets are still lined with five story walk ups (read: three million dollar tenements) and their ubiquitous fire escapes.The pickle guy is still there and plenty of kosher delis. Although now the neighborhood is peppered with Chinese grocers and organic juice bars.

It got me thinking about all of the Jews who came over from Europe at the turn of the century. My dad's parents arrived as kids from Poland and what is now Romania. Back then the country designation made no difference if you were Jewish. Your nationality was Jew and the authorities made it clear you were living on borrowed time.

All of this seems especially poignant right now as we prepare to cross the ocean and start our lives anew. While we like to complain that the process and the packing and the goodbyes and the schlepping seems never ending, we are most certainly doing it on our terms. No one is chasing us out of America. We are not refugees. We are not saying goodbye to loved ones forever only to land in a country full of hardship. On the contrary. We feel loved on both sides of this journey; we are dual citizens; we're making this move because we want to, not because we have to.  That feels incredibly fortunate to me. And we owe it all to our grandparents whose generation made terrible sacrifices so that we could enjoy the liberties they or their parents never had in Europe.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Same old story

Back in the day.

It turns out that having a lot to write about makes me not want to write anything. The stories pile up in my brain and then there's like a bottleneck in there. I have storytelling constipation. I happen to have the regular kind of constipation too but that's from all the moving around. So where are we these days? We're with family in New York. And we fly to Israel on Tuesday.

Our last week in the Bay Area was ridiculous. Even after sending all of our stuff on the container we still had a house full of odds and ends. We decided to have a goodbye/u-pick party as in, come say goodbye and take a can of tuna for the road. Or a toaster to remember us by. Lots of teary goodbyes. My sister-in-law and I had a sob fest that I think caught us both by surprise.

And then, without much ado, we got in our rental minivan and left Northern California. Eleven years earlier, to the day in fact, Mr. Rosen and I left Israel to embark on a new adventure together. We were only two of us back then. Now we're five. Back then we each had a backpack. Now we have eight suitcases and a twenty foot container. Back then we had palm pilots. Now we have iPhones. The cast has grown and a few of the props have changed but it's basically our same old story unfolding again. Can't wait to see how things turn out this time around.