Monthly Archives: February 2011

Israel visit – Day 1

I woke up about 5 am on my first morning in Israel, and by 5:30 decided to get up and take a walk.  I got dressed and took the cell phone with me, so I could call home and see how everyone was doing.  It was a good thing I did, because my mother in law, who was staying with the kids that night, had to suddenly leave to go with my father in law to the hospital a very short time before I called. Everyone but ds12 was asleep, and I stayed on the phone with him for about a half hour until dh got home from work.

It was a wonderful feeling to get up and be out and about while it was still dark out!  It was pleasantly brisk outside, and my sweater over a long sleeved t-shirt was perfect.  I noticed the school security guard was watching me from a distance, so I went over to introduce myself to him so he wouldn’t wonder who I was and what I was doing there.  Then ds12 called back, so I talked to him more, and then to dh.

I went back to the dorm as the first girls were trickling out, so I could get dressed (ie not in casual walking clothes).  My girls were just waking up – it was a nice change for me to be up and about before them  – that rarely happens at home!  We went down to breakfast, which was a typical Israeli spread, my ideal kind of breakfast – hard boiled eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and hot cereal.  I made myself a salad with the vegetable and cheese, then used the olive oil and Real salt we brought to the dining room to dress it.  Yum – the kind of meal that satiates you for hours while you still feel light after eating!

I was initially planning to leave to Jerusalem right after breakfast so I’d have a full day there, but then adjusted my plans to make room for a meeting with the head of dd’s program later in the morning.  This ended up being a very worthwhile use of my time, since by speaking to her in person, I was able to really understand who she is and where she’s coming from.  I shared with her my concerns about a couple of issues, and also shared what I felt were important things to understand and respect about dd16 (namely to recognize that dd is there because she wants to be there, is intrinsically motivated and doesn’t need to be told to do what she’s supposed to do, and that she doesn’t complain, so to realize if she says something is wrong, it has to be taken seriously).

We had packed up to leave before our talk, so we got our suitcases and took a local bus to Haifa’s central bus station.  We got a 1 pm bus to Jerusalem, then had a two hour ride getting there.  The weather in Haifa has been stunning – warm and spring-like, with temps in the sixies, but as we came into Jerusalem, it began raining heavily and felt like winter.  Once there, we began the fun of navigating with our four suitcases in the rain (we each had a large carry-on with our things for the week plus one more with items for others and to have space for whatever we bought, but in hindsight, we should have brought a larger piece of luggage instead of two smaller pieces so each of us had one piece of luggage- it would have made our travels that were about to take place much much easier).   We got onto a packed local bus, which wasn’t very fun or relaxing because it was so full and we had our suitcases and umbrellas to deal with (dd14 had the hardest time, because she took the two smallest pieces, while dd16 and I each took a larger suitcase, and she didn’t have a free hand).

It took an hour to get to our destination, due to the weather and it being rush hour – we stood with our luggage in the back most of that time, and couldn’t enjoy looking out the window since it was all steamed up and foggy outside.  I didn’t mind, but it made it impossible to get any sense of where we were.  Fortunately, someone on the bus told me where to get off, and we found the building where the studio apartment I had rented for our visit was located without too much trouble (though finding the entrance to the building was another story!).

The owner had told me that if he wasn’t there, he’d leave the key for the door there, and I was glad to see the key in the envelope as he had promised. We went in, and I was a little surprised to see that it was smaller than I anticipated, and there were no sheets, towels, or pillows.  I hadn’t thought to ask if sheets were included, but figured we’d work it out.  I called the owner and left a message to ask about it, then went across the street to a take out store to get some chicken to bring back to the apartment.

But the food wasn’t sold by weight, which I expected, but in portions, so I could get a piece of chicken with two sides for 39 shekel for each of us.  I didn’t mind paying extra for prepared food, but that seemed like too much, since I didn’t want the sides. Fortunately, even though it was 4:30 by now, thanks to our filling breakfast we weren’t hungry yet and we went back to the apartment.  I called the owner again, and this time he answered. I told him we were here and asked about the sheets, and he seemed taken aback; he told me that I wasn’t supposed to be there, that he had cancelled my reservation!   You can imagine that after hours of travelling in the cold and wet weather, this really wasn’t what I wanted to hear!

I told him that I had reserved two months before and hadn’t received anything about a cancellation, and happily, he realized he was mixing me up with someone else – we were supposed to be in a different apartment and the wrong key had been left for me.  The cancellation had been for the person in the apartment we had gone into, and wasn’t prepared yet for guests.  He told me where to get the key for our apartment, and after finding it, went in and saw our apartment nicely set up – much more spacious, with linens and towels, and a microwave that hasn’t been in the smaller unit.  We’re all pleased with the apartment – it’s a studio with sleeping for three, a kitchen area, table with a couple of chairs, cabinets for clothing, and a bathroom.  Perfect for our needs – I wanted to have the cooking facilities so we could prepare our own food and not be dependent on restaurants.

At 5 pm we headed out to do some food shopping at the Machane Yehuda shuk (outdoor market), but first went to the Geulah neighborhood to see if we could find some other prepared food to have dinner first.  Years ago I remembered there being a placed that sold affordable take out, and would be perfect for my needs – I wanted to get some chicken and simple cooked vegetable dish. But we couldn’t find that store that I remembered, and nothing else we saw was suitable. So we got a bus to the outdoor market, which is a great experience!

At the shuk (outdoor market), there are dozens and dozens of vendors selling all kinds of things –  produce, spices, meats, dried fruits, nuts – each with his stall heaped high with his particular offerings. It’s a very sensory experience being there – all the sights, people, noises of the different vendors calling out their wares and prices – we happened to get there towards the end of the evening, which was the perfect time to find some bargains.  :)  At the end of the day, the vendors are eager to sell what they have so they don’t need to pack it up, and they’ll offer deep discounts.  I started off by buying a bag of thirty pitas for 10 shekel, freshly baked that day.  Then we went on to buy chicken, then a pot, cutting board, and knife.  At this place when the owner told me the price, I asked him to lower it, and saw dd16 smiling as she overheard. She told me later she had heard you could bargain with the owners, but never seen it before.  I didn’t drive a hard bargain – they were items I needed right away and wasn’t going to walk away if he didn’t lower the price – but it was a nice discount.

Then we got our produce – we got our cukes, tomatoes, and oranges from a vendor who significantly lowered the price to induce us to buy.  Then the vendor right next to him selling baked goods started calling out his discounted price to sell all the bread baked that day that wasn’t sold yet – a shekel for a package of ten whole wheat pitas.  I stood there undecided, since I had already bought 30 (white) pitas, not wanting to get more than what we’d use but preferring to get the whole wheat.  Dd16 told me afterward she told dd14 while they were waiting for me that there was no way I was going to pass up that bargain, and she was right.  :) We got more produce at another stand, and of course I couldn’t resist buying the ‘seconds’ that were marked down.  I know, it might seem funny that I’m spending all this money to visit Israel and then to buy reduced produce, but that’s how I am – I’ll spend money on what matters to me, but I won’t spend it in a way that seems wasteful.   And to me, it would be excessive to buy lots of prepared foods when I could easily make my own, or to pay full price when the same vegetable that I would be eating an hour later could be had for 30 percent less.

Finally we headed back to the apartment, cold and hungry.  It had been raining hard all of this time, and after three hours trooping around outside, we were ready to warm up and eat!  At this point (it was already after 8 pm) I was really glad we had a microwave – I don’t generally speaking use microwaves, but after kashering it, it took six minutes for our chicken to be done.  The chicken was so fresh, and so delicious!

Meanwhile, I discovered that although I had bought a pot made in Israel so that I didn’t have to toivel (ritually dip it) it, the knife I bought wasn’t, and since I had no idea where to toivel something or who to ask, that meant that the vegetables I had just bought intending to cut up for salads and sauteing weren’t going to be!  The studio has dishes, silverware, and pot available, but weren’t kosher, so I boiled a pot of water in our new pot, and kashered the silverware in the apartment.    There wasn’t a cutting knife available, but I managed with the regular tableware.

So we ended our day in Jerusalem with hot food, hot showers, and warm comfortable beds to snuggle into – it is wonderful to be here!


Israel visit – arrival day

The morning I arrived in Israel, dd16 met us at the airport, and from there we took a train to Haifa.  This was a pleasant 1.5 hour ride, and it was funny but nice how normal it seemed for dd14 and I to be sitting there with dd16, talking as if we’d just seen each other a day before instead of five months before!

We had a lot of luggage – we used just about every pound allotted to us – our four suitcases weighed 49.5, 49.5, 50.5, and 43 lb respectively, plus we each took a full carryon.  We had a lot of stuff for dd16 – mostly food – dehydrated mixes (split pea, 16 bean, meat chili, lentil-chicken), organic peanut butter, 2 lb butter, 20 pkg tuna in foil packs, xylitol, extra virgin bottles olive oil, ten boxes of tea, 2 mini pans of vegetable quiche, 3 mini pans of meatloaf, Real salt, raisins, cashews, walnuts, homemade peanut butter cups – I wanted to get her some healthy fats to supplement the food she gets in the dorm, because that’s the main thing that’s missing.  Oh, and some chocolate to give her friends on Purim.  We also had things to take for other people, so that took up about a suitcase and a half.  I was happy to take it all, but that’s why we were so loaded for our trip – otherwise, dd14 and I are pretty minimalist packers!

When we got to the train station where we got off, we met the dorm father of dd16’s program, which was really nice because I had purchased a ticket to a stop two stations before we needed to get off, and you have to electronically have your ticket electronically scanned before you can get through – and even though the price was the same, our ticket wasn’t scanning properly so we couldn’t get out!  It was nice to have someone help us out with that – not a big deal, but after a long trip and only 4 hours sleep in over 40 hours, I appreciated not having to immediately jump into explaining all of this in Hebrew that I haven’t spoken in over a decade!  The reason he was there was they were picking up a girl from the school, so he told us all to jump in to the 5 person vehicle, with all of our luggage and another person already in it – that was a fun squeeze!

Thanks to his help, we got to the school right on time for lunch, where I began to meet dd16’s friends.  I really wanted to get a sense of what the school was like, so this was a great way to see how everything is run – I took a lunch tray and filled my plate with food, then sat down to eat in the lunchroom with all of the girls.  After lunch we got unpacked in the apartment the school provided for us – this was on campus in the building directly opposite dd’s dorm.  I appreciated that they were so ready and willing to accommodate visiting parents.  Then we took the suitcases of things to dd’s room, up four long flights of stairs, and she unpacked all of that.  At this point, I was starting to feel deeply exhausted, and as I was sitting on her bed, starting falling into a deep sleep sitting up every time my head drooped.

Dd16 knew I wanted to stay up until nighttime local time to avoid jet lag, so she suggested we go for a walk. This wasn’t something I wanted to do, since I felt too tired to move, but once I stood up and got moving I was fine.  We went to the local store and did some food shopping – the food at the school is basically fine but dd16 is having digestive difficulties so she avoids most of the food provided there, and I wanted to make her something that would fit into her dietary restrictions.  (That’s also why I took frozen meatloaf and quiche, for her to keep in the freezer there and have portions she can reheat when she needs something to supplement what they are given.)  It was mentally an adjustment to see prices is shekels and kilos, since it meant constantly doing price adjustments in my head to figure out what was a good price.

But I worked it out and left the store with a whole chicken, onions, carrots, and zucchini for 35 shekels (about $9), then went back to the dorm to cook it all.  By this time it was dinner, so we went to the lunch room again!  I met more friends and staff – all of whom were nice and the Israelis all told me how good my rusty Hebrew is.  :)  Then we went to make the food I prepared – dd16 hardly ate anything at dinner, and I planned to make some for her to eat that night and to freeze the rest in portion sizes for her to have after I was gone.   This usually wouldn’t take me long, but I didn’t have my usual kitchen facilities at my disposal, so it was a little more involved. Thanks to the help of the very sweet dorm mother, I managed to get set up and get it done.

Then we packed it all up in portion sizes, and finally got to sleep sometime between 10 – 11 pm, nine hours after arriving at the school.