KG’s first Purim (that he is aware of . . .)

Quick, before Ellin comes back! I want to share with you something wonderful . . . .I LOVE PURIM! It’s incredible. Parades, kids in costumes, adults in costumes, Hamentaschen to snatch from the counter in the kitchen, HUGE amounts of bread and food thrown on the ground (the possibilities are endless!!!). Someone please tell me that somewhere on Earth this happens more than once a year!

An Afulian Dragon.

An Afulian Dragon.

While Ellin and JillfromJerusalem were busy walking around all of Israel today (you know that Ellin’s car died, right? I wasn’t there when it happened, but she told e v e r y o n e . She seems to have thought there was some humor in the experience. Leave it to Ellin. She’s got one weird sense of humor), I was busy looking at all the kids and thinking how wonderful life is for a Standard Poodle in Afula, Israel. You’d have thought that people would have become accustomed to seeing the likes of me. But no way, Jose. Nyet, Nicolai, Lo Leon! I bet you that people thought I was wearing a costume! Really! I mean, it could be. Everyone else was in costume, so how would they know that I wasn’t wearing the BEST costume in all of Afula. Ha!

Anyway, Ellin took me with her to the car dealership today when she went to give them the key to the car that was towed. They took a long time looking at it, then the owner of the shop came out and told her that the engine blew. No water. Not sure why, but no water. I hear that same problem all over Israel. Am I missing something? So. . .  blown engine means deciding whether to scrap the car and find another or change the engine. Ellin decided to change the engine. She got a great deal on the car when she bought it, and it’s in pretty good condition otherwise, so it’s cheaper to put in a new engine than buy another used car (cars are wicked expensive here). But here’s the funny part . . . . .Ellin had to do the negotiation in ITALIAN! Right. Dats’a right, paesane! Italiano! Seems like the owner of the shop is looking to learn Italian (JillfromJerusalem noticed the LEARNTOSPEAKITALIAN book in his hands and said to him, in Hebrew, “My friend here speaks Italian!”). So, Ellin finally got to have a conversation in a language other than English, without having to continually whack her head while she talked as she looked for the right words in a language that she doesn’t know! I don’t think I heard her speak so quickly and so animated in months! Of course, I didn’t understand a word of it, except for, “Si, lui é un barboncino” (Yes, he’s a poodle).  So you tell me, what’s the point of Ulpan when everyone here wants to speak to Ellin in English, where her Ulpan taught her Russian, and where she has to make a decision about her French car (she’s got a Renault) in Italian!

Exotic "princesses" on Rehov Yerushalayim in Afula.

Exotic “princesses” on Rehov Yerushalayim in Afula.

Oy! My head hurts. I think it’s time to scarf another Hamentaschen.

KG signing out.

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Yikes! Car Dies on Highway 2 in Olga, Israel, and Enters the Israeli Twlight Zone/Outer Limits . . .

Well, we all knew that it was bound to happen sooner or later. And just last week, I was wondering what would happen should my car decide to die while en route to some destination on the outer limits of Afula. Maybe I jinxed it. Because yesterday, I got to learn first hand just what you do when your car dies on a highway, as Shabbat approaches, and you are on your own.

First thing to remember— You’re rarely on your own. If you are in need and ask for help politely, someone is bound to help you. Just remember to take deep breaths and hope that you’ve brought some emergency money for you for tips, etc. And fortunately, the onset of Shabbas is not a problem when your car breaks down just as you approach a gas station run by Arabs. Their sense of urgency  about the impending twilight on a Friday evening is not the same as yours..

I was on my way to a CPA in Nehariya yesterday. For those of you who know me, while I love Stanley Carp, who has been my CPA for twenty years, each and every trip to the accountant is preceded by weeks of stomach aches, nervous palpitations, and general irritability as filing taxes makes me dwell on my financial situation. So you can imagine my delight in having to find a new account in Israel and figure out how to file for the first 6 months that I lived in the US before making Aliyah. Surely it would be fraught with its own demands of certificates, documents, and other bizarre requirements that would leave me stunned. Surprisingly, I was able to get my tax information gathered with a minimum of anxiety. Perhaps it was due to having met most of my fears head-on while selling the house and preparing to divest myself of everything before making Aliyah. Thank you, Immersion Therapy.

So, when I realized that my car’s usual  get-up-and-go had gotten-up-and-gone, I went into triage-mode, and tried to figure out what to do next. Good luck was with me as I spied the universal sign for a gas station (the ubiquitous gas pump drawing) just ahead of me. Muttering quietly, “I can make it, I can make it, I can make it . . . .” I urged the car to creep ever so slowly into the service station in the run-down town of “Olga,” where it proceeded to literally blow it’s top, spitting billows of white smoke  from under its hood. An attendant came over to me right away and asked me, in Hebrew, what was wrong. All I could gather myself to answer was, “Ani lo yoda’at. Car met.” (I don’t know. Dead car). It was one of those occasions when fewer words had greater power.IMG_1210

The attendant smiled, signaled for me to get out of the car,  opened the hood, waved away the white smoke, and opened a few valves. After a few seconds and some water poured into the radiator tap, he signaled for me to put the car in neutral and touch nothing while he pushed the car to a spot that was out of the way. Once safely parked, I took my insurance cards out of the glove box, and then had to figure out which of the many numbers printed on it to call. As the explanations were all in Hebrew, I was a little stumped. And of course, because my phone is connected by blue tooth to the car (hands free phoning), every time I tried to make a call from the phone, it got jammed into the blue tooth, which wouldn’t work because the car was dead. It took a few minutes to figure out how to circumnavigate this process and move on. Fortunately, the attendant couldn’t have been sweeter in helping me to make the calls and get some information.

First call was to the Israeli version of AAA. I know I paid for this service. But they said I hadn’t. “No service since 2010.” “I wasn’t here in 2010” I answered.  “No can help you.” they replied. Hmmmm. Quiet panic beginning to push at my stomach. The conversation then proceeded something like this:

“Can I rent a car? ”

“No. It almost Shabbat. Nothing to do. ”

“How do I get home?”

“I have no idea.”

Not great answers.

Next call was to the insurance company (I just kept calling all the numbers that were printed on the insurance card . . . eventually one of them had to be right).

Next conversation:

“Hello. I need some help, please.”

“Yes, what is your number?

“Which number? I have many numbers? Phone number? Teudat Zehut?(aka Israeli I.D. number))?

“No. Car number.”

“Vin number?”

“Eck, Eck??” (What, what?)

“I don’t understand. What number for the car?”
“License plate number.”

“Phew. I can do that. Hold on . . . .”

. . . .and while I was walking to the front of the car to read the numbers on my plate, it struck me that I was in the midst of an incredibly busy gas station where scores of cars were being driven by pink bunnies, Native Americans in war paint, cowboys, gorillas (one sporting  a huge penis hanging out of his boxer shorts), and scores of other fairy-tale characters,  all  busily driving their cars, looking at me, and laughing. For a moment I had a momentary panic as I though,  I am having a stroke. This is finally it. My six months of happiness were careening to an end in a blaze of surreal hallucinations. . .  And then I realized. It’s Purim. PURIM!. Breathe, Ellin. Breathe.

Ten minutes later, my heart beat having returned to a semi-normal rhythm,  I was talking to “Steve,” who, in a very thick Israeli accent, told me he also came from Connecticut as well (perhaps I was still hallucinating???), but that he’d stay on the line and all would be fine. The tow truck would come, bring my car back to Afula (either that day or on Sunday after Shabbat . . . he wasn’t sure when and I’d have to ask the tow man), and that it would be OK.

“Thank you, Steve. And how shall I get back to Afula?”

“Oh. I don’t know. I’m sorry. I can’t help you with that. You can ask the tow driver.”

. . . .In the meantime, between those phone calls, I had to call the accountant and tell him I wouldn’t be able to make it.

“Just leave the car there and take a taxi. You’re so close to me.” he replied.

“And how will I get back to Afula?”

“Oh. You can stay with me over Shabbas.” (I’ve never met this man). “You’ll take a bus after Shabbas.”

“That is too kind, but I need to stay with the car, and I have a dog to take care of back in Afula. But thank you so much. Shabbat Shalom, Purim Sameach, and I’ll call you next week to reschedule.”

Ten minutes later, another call back from the insurance company. “Stay with the car. The tow truck will be there in 15 minutes, he can probably give you a ride back if he doesn’t have someone else in the cab. Where do you want it towed to?”

Did I have the name of a car repair service in Afula? As luck would have it, the car wouldn’t allow me to put it into PARK a few weeks ago, and I found a Renault dealership within walking distance to my home. I had put the name and phone number into my contacts.

“Yes! I have the numbers! Can you bring it there?”

“No problem. It will all be fine.”

“And if there is no room in the tow truck, how do I get back to Afula?”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

Breathe. Breathe. What next? Call Shlomo. See what he suggests.

Ring. Ring. Ring . . . .Israeli music in the earpiece as the phone rings on Shlomo’s side. Shabbat is coming. I know he won’t answer the call if it gets too late.

“Hi Shlomo,” I say as he answers. A quite recapitulation of the story and then the question of the day, “How do I get back to Afula?” answered finally by, “Look at the highway. I know where you are. There should be a bridge over the highway. Walk over the bridge and you’ll find a bus stop (on the busy Highway 2!). Wait there. Flag down a passing bus and get on one that takes you to Afula. Should be no problem.”

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“Phew. Thanks Shlomo. No more worries.”

Fifteen minutes later, a very sweet tow truck drive (also Arab) comes to the station, puts the car on a platform, helps me into the cab of his tow truck, and then treats me to one of the lovliest conversations during the ride back to Afula,  to where he drops off my car, parking it perfectly right in front of the shop.

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Lessons learned?

1. Don’t panic. It will work out.

2.  Make sure you know where your insurance cards are.

3.  Always have the number of a service station in your phone contacts.

4. Write all the important numbers on your hand so you don’t have to keep going through your purse or glove box to find them.

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5. Make sure you’ve got lots of change to tip the sweet gas station attendants (who made sure I had a safe place to sit and who kept offering me water, coffee, and whatever else I might need) as well as the tow-truck driver.

6. Make sure you share this story with others . . . the ones who only hear the bad stories about the Arabs who live in Israel. They don’t hear about these strangers who go out of their way to help a single woman whose car has just died in some God-forsaken turn off on a major highway. The ones who smile, are courteous, and make sure to give you a hand. Who wave goodbye and say “Good Shabbas” to you when you are safely tucked into the tow truck and on your way home.

7. Remember that life is filled with adventures. Especially on Purim when six-foot tall apes sporting tremendous “jewels” drive Toyotas.

8. Have a happy Purim. Tonight I think I’ll fulfill the commandment to get a bit drunk on Purim. This year, I think I deserve it!!!

KG’s Getting His Girl Back!!!!

Gotta make this fast, guys, ’cause Ellin is schnoozing away on the couch and I don’t want to wake her. She was down on her hands and knees scrubbing the grout in the kitchen floor this morning. Please don’t tell anyone she did that, although . . .nah. Go right ahead! I doubt anyone would believe it, anyway. She’s got about 10 people coming here tomorrow as part of a “Go North” pilot trip from Nefesh B’Nefesh. Seems people want to know what an apartment in Afula looks like before they even  think of coming here. So Ellin volunteered her place. That meant that she had to be sure it was really clean, and so she spent 3 hours on her hands and knees cleaning everything. Is is Passover or something? I thought it was only Purim. Oh well. I get those “P” holidays confused. You know how we dogs are when it comes to “P.” Ha ha. I just made a dog joke. And you thought poodles were snooty and didn’t have a sense of humor! Shows you!

Anyway, Ellin’s exhausted because she’s spent the past few days getting her house cleaned, taking her driver’s test (She PASSED!!!! Get off the roads now, is all I can say), and taking care of her cousin Shayna Burack, who is staying with us for a few weeks as she goes from one gap year program to the next. I’m loving having Shayna here. First, she’s the sweetest thing on toast (yes, we dogs are all about the food!) and she takes me out whenever she can. She’s going to the Emunah Center and working in the laundry, where she gets a private Hebrew lesson every day, and then works with some of the smaller kids. It’s great and she’s having a fun time. Except some of the kids gave her a present—the flu. So poor thing has been hanging out in the mamad (the bomb shelter) and just sleeping and drinking tea. That is not a fun way to spend time in Israel, but I kind of think Ellin likes taking care of someone, although she’d rather Shayna just felt better!

But the big news, as you already read last week, is that Zoe is coming. I mean, she’s going to be a real, honest-to-goodness Israeli next time she comes here. She’ll be a soldier and everything. Ellin often kids that Zoe is the Mossad’s next secret weapon. Guess it’s not so secret now! We all know that Zoe will be fabulous and that this is going to be an incredible change of life for her, but all for the best. And it also means that I get to see her more often! I really missed seeing Max and Zoe, and when they were here, it was heaven for me. So at least now I know I’ve got  2/3 of the family here. We’ll have to work on the Max Man next!!!! I’m  sure I can bat my long eye lashes and find him a cute Israeli girl on one of my walks. There’s music in Israel too, you know!

Life seems to be settling in pretty well here. We’re having trouble realizing how quickly the time has passed, and that it’s already 1/2 way through February, which Ellin always says doesn’t count . . .that they should just go from January to March, even though it’s only 2 days shorter. But for some reason, it just seems to whiz by! It’s still raining here on and off, which is great for the crops, and we’re all enjoying the cooler weather. None of us are looking forward to the heat of the summer.

Thought you’d have fun seeing this picture. Sheval, one of the little ones here, who loves to take me on walks, also loves to steal Ellin’s iPhone and take photos. She’s a clever little thing and I think she can operate Ellin’s iPhone better than she can!

Sheval and Miriam (also known as "Masha") are happy to gab the spotlight . . .and Ellin's iPhone!!!!

Sheval and Miriam (also known as “Masha”) are happy to gab the spotlight . . .and Ellin’s iPhone!!!!

And that’s about it! I hope that JillfromJerusalem will be coming soon for a visit. Ellin and Jill always have fun when they explore together. And Jill always sneaks me some special snacks. Mom thinks I have such a delicate  digestion (I have barfed over her different carpets the past few days) but it’s no biggie. Maybe it’s the cat food I got into upstairs at Sarit and Roie’s house. Sure tasted good the first time!

Stay warm and dry you guys. I miss jumping in the snow, so you’ll have to do it for me. Make a poddle-angel for me while you’re at it.

Woof-a-doodles for now,

KG, signing out.

Wow Wow Wow! and 3 Hours to Get a Prescription????

OK dear friends. Lots to tell and share. Best to do it “digest” style:

1.  Ulpan is over (so sad, actually!). I completed my exams. Not sure what my scores are. Proctors and graders are still pretty sore from laughing at what and how I wrote things, so I think I’ll have to be patient while waiting for my grades. Heard one fell off the chair laughing t0o hard. Possibly the other pee’d her pants. I will send updates when they are available.

2. Max was here for 3 weeks. Had a great time. Played at a bar’s Open Mike evening a few times. Made friends with our neighbor upstairs (he’s a recording engineer) and they are now best buds. Max went home with an antique mandolin strapped to his back and is very happy.

3.  Zoe just left and is, as I write this, almost back in the US. Incredible time with her. Two weeks of hugs and love. Lots of touring, driving, eating, walking, saying “Wow! This is incredible!!!” and a trip to Sfat where magic happened.

a)  Incredible sunset. Photo just doesn’t do it justice.

Sfat Sunset

b) Zoe told me that she has decided to make Aliyah in July and will join the army. That’s right. Read it again. She’s coming. She’s making Aliyah. She is going to begin her life now. She is looking to become either an engineer or a medic. I am so proud of her. For Zoe, this is a perfect step. Self-reliance, bonding opportunities, learning opportunities . . .you name it. World, just get out of her way because here she comes and she’s ready to grab it all.

c)  Every cute guy in Sfat came to meet her. She realizes that beyond a shadow of a doubt, the guys are incredibly adorable here.

d)  While in Sfat, Zoe makes small noises about not feeling well but says she thinks she’ll feel better soon.

4. Back in Afula. Zoe doesn’t feel well at all. Plane ride home is next day (clock is now ticking in my head). By 11:00 at night we know she has to see a doctor, which translates to a trip to the hospital. Rather organized ER and Zoe and I laughed at how we mangled the Hebrew language enough to figure out where to go and to explain to the doctors what her problem was. Nothing that NIS 1,000 wouldn’t fix. A credit card is a thing of beauty.

5.  Four hours in the ER with almost every bed filled. Very sweet staff. Arabs and Jews all mingled together receiving care. Even prisoners in their ankle and hand cuffs. Of course, Zoe and I had a few jokes to make on the very particular “jewelry” they wore. Zoe laughed, translated when the doctors yelled at the inmates not to touch anything!!!!! and then fell asleep.

6. Left the ER with a prescription for some medication and one pill to take in the meantime.

7.  Back in Afula and asleep by 1:30. Zoe is now in her last day in Israel with me.

8. Wakes up not feeling so great and wants me to get the prescription filled. No problem. I grab keys and wallet and go. Leave cell phone home. No biggie. Ten minutes max back and forth from Mimmelstein Pharmacy.

9. Russian pharmacist says “Nyet.” No Macrodantin here. Need form Tofes 28 daled. Maybe go to Nazaraeth Elite to see if they can fill it. Maybe go to my own Chupat Cholim (doctor’s office) and see if they can fill it. Damn. Why did I leave cell phone home?

10.  Go to Macabbe. Take my number from the Deli Counter Red Ticket Dispenser. Realize my toe is tapping with impatience. Why did I leave cell phone home? Someone jumps in from of me and takes 10 minutes at the counter. I’m getting pissed. Almost my turn now. Some guy comes and decides to jump the line. Wrong day for him to do that. In English and very loudly, I hear myself saying, “You’ll wait! Take a number like the rest of us!” “I only have a question!” comes his snotty answer. “That’s too bad!” comes my very forceful reply. “So do we all! What’s the point in taking a number if you don’t bother being polite and waiting! You’ll wait!” “But I only have a little question!” he has the nerve to interject. Wrong comment at that particular time and place, my dear young Israeli boy.. . . .”And I have a sick child at home!!!! You’ll wait your turn just like the rest of us!”

11.  Stares from people who are within earshot. Who is that crazy American? I don’t give a whit. Don’t mess with the Mamma when her kid is not feeling well and her plane is only a few hours away (shades of Ellin running to Jerusalem on 2 hours notice a few years ago to take care of sick Zoe on her last day of school . . . .Deja vu, Israeli style????).

12. Woman who jumped in front of me is done. I’ve had enough. I walk right up to counter (realizing that there is really someone next to me who SHOULD be next, but they’ll have to deal with my inconsistency!!!) and ask in English what I should do about this prescription. No English No help. Finally a patient comes and helps. Answer is not good. You can’t get this medication. Need a Tofes 28 daled.

13. Who prescribes a medication you can’t get filled? Minutes are ticking away. Why did I leave my cell phone home?

14. Run from the Chupat Cholim to the Emunah Center. Shlomo must be in the office by now.

15. Rap. Rap. Rap on his door.  Cayn? (Yes) comes the answer. In I jump. “Hi Shlomo! I need your help.”

16. Brief recap of ridiculous scenario followed by “Can you help me, please?”

17. Shlomo makes many calls. You need a Tofes 28 daled. Great. What’s that? Forget it. I’m going back to the hospital. Why did I leave my cell phone home?

18.  Up to the hospital in 10 minutes. Walk right over to the desk at the ER and say, “I would like to speak to Larry  Rich.” I speak in English (makes me seem like a Rich, Important American. You Get Immediate Help). Larry Rich is the head of PR for the hospital. He’s on the blower in 4 seconds. Explanation, explanation, frustration, and request for help.

19. Meet me in the lobby in 5 minutes. No problem. Where the hell is the lobby? Doesn’t look like a regular hospital. I give up and ask someone in broken Hebrew. He is American. Tells me I’m standing in it. Chagrin. Grin. Why did I leave my cell phone home?

20. Larry meets me. We go upstairs to the operating suites. He’s called the head of a department out from surgery and who is the cutest doctor I’ve ever seen. I start to relax. We retell story. What’s the deal with this prescription?

21. Cute doctor says no problem. Writes a different script, carefully peels the sticker off the original prescription, smiles at me, Larry tells him it’s worth the effort since Zoe will be making Aliyah and might be a medic. Smiles all around. Mom is beginning to calm down.

22. I grab script. Drive to local mall to go to SuperPharm! Get stopped for trunk search at security. No problem. Almost there. I can feel it!

23. Get script filled in 10 seconds plus pharmacist gives me all kids of other homeopathic pills and drops to help Zoe feel better and ward off recurrent episodes.

24. Drive home. Give Zoe meds. Find my cousin Shayna (daughter of my 2nd cousin from Charlotte, NC) has found her way from Jerusalem to my house (Couldn’t pick her up . . . I had spent the last 3 hours getting Zoe’s prescription filled, remember?) to stay for a few days. She’s on a gap year program that is a disaster. Where’s the “calm” safe haven? Ellin’s apartment in Afula, of course!

Shayna Burack and Zoe having breakfast at Kibbutz Merhavia (Gold Meir's old haunt). So glad they met each other!

Shayna Burack and Zoe having breakfast at Kibbutz Merhavia (Gold Meir’s old haunt). So glad they met each other!

25. Deep breaths all around. Pack up, say goodbyes, drive to Tel Aviv, take photos on the Tayelet with Zoe and Shayna (now best buds!), have dinner with Andy and Label Waldman (what an incredible cook he is!) and just have a great evening relaxing. Then off to airport. Drop off Zoe. Next time she sets food on Israeli soil, she’ll be a citizen. Breathe, Ellin. It’s all good.

Zoe:Mom:Rocco TA

26. Sitting here at work, first full day after Ulpan is over and kids are back in the US. Shayna is back at my apartment sleeping. She’ll drop by here for lunch and we’ll see if this is a place she’d like to volunteer for a while. I’ve got the room and she’s a doll.

So . . . .really, not much happening here in Afula. Life is calm. Uneventful. Wonderful.

Is this a happy girl or what? Zoe says "see you soon" to Rocco.

Is this a happy girl or what? Zoe says “see you soon” to Rocco.