Friday, June 5, 2020

R2BC In Isolation

The pink flowers are radishes and the yellow flowers are lettuce.
Grown from Kibbutz Alumim vegetables received at the beginning of April
Birds have eaten most of the lettuce leaves...
...I didn't have the heart to scare them away. 
There are, surprisingly, a lot of Reasons 2B Cheerful whilst stuck in quarantine, so here are some of them. Then if you fancy you can visit the linky on Becky's Lakes Single Mum for more R2BC posts.

1.10 days after DD's exposure to a covid positive pupil at school we are both still asymptomatic.

2. DD hasn't actually missed any school because although only 6 pupils from her class (but 83 pupils and 13 staff in the whole school) are in enforced quarantine, the Parents Association shut down the whole school. Well, it's open but only about four kids show up each day. I love it that when the government didn't close the schools because of the economy, the parents took matters into their own hands and closed the school for the health and safety of our children and families.

3. There's no online learning going on but DD's teacher has been holding a daily Zoom-in with the whole class, just to keep in touch and make sure everyone is doing ok. This is so important in case someone is struggling but also because not all kids have friends that they can call and chat with if it's not organised for them.

4. As soon as I let it be known that we're in isolation, loads of people sent messages asking if we needed anything. Three of my neighbours messaged me again today to say they are going shopping and please send a list if we need anything for the weekend. I know people are kind, but it's heartwarming to be on the receiving end once in a while - even though we didn't need anything. And lovely to be reminded of what lovely friends and neighbours we have.

5. I registered DD's quarantine on the Ministry of Health website on Sunday night and first thing Monday morning our healthcare provider called to give me instructions about isolation and testing. I was impressed by that.

6. I've not been able to do an online shop with my supermarket of choice for almost a year. When my credit card was renewed last year, the number was the same but the expiry date was obviously different. The online website couldn't deal with this wildly bizarre event. I called customer service a couple of times but kept being told that it was a problem with my credit card and I should call my bank. Bollocks to that because they accepted my card every week in the store. In the end I gave up trying to shop online.

This week I didn't have a choice. So I did the shop, my card was rejected because they already have the same number registered to another card (mine), and I called customer service. This time I had the inspired idea to go directly to technical support. I explained the problem, I suggested that all my card information needs to be deleted so that I can start again, and I emphasised that we are in quarantine so we need this shop or we will starve to death.

It took less than two minutes for the woman to make it all go away. She put the order through for me, gave me the order reference number, and sent confirmation to my email. Sorted. And the delivery came on time the next day. It was so easy I'm going back to online shopping big time. I think this R2BC ties for top reason with neither of us having coronavirus symptoms.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy weekend. xxx

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

To Test Or Not To Test? - Not Even A Question

My Mum took this photo on her daily walk through
Stanmore Country Park.
We can only dream of such freedom.
DD's school is pressuring all the students to take a coronavirus test. Every day there's a message about it. First they said that no child will be allowed back into school without a documented negative result. Then the principal announced that she had been tested and how it only took a few seconds, it didn't hurt, it was just a bit uncomfortable. Next it was announced that all the teachers had been tested.

DD's teacher keeps texting me to ask if we've done it yet. And the class are meeting for daily zoom-ins where they're seriously pushing the testing.

DD is feeling the pressure and keeps asking me to get us tested. I keep explaining to her why we're not testing yet. I've also explained it twice to her teacher but I guess he's also getting pressure form above. So here's the situation...

Our health fund have called me twice and whilst they recommend that we get tested, it's not essential. It's more important for us to stay in quarantine where we can't infect anyone if we are corona positive.

The way they would prefer us to be tested is to get into a car and drive to an outdoor testing centre. We don't have a car. In order to go to a testing centre we would have to potentially endanger a driver - either a taxi driver or a friend. If either of us tested positive, that driver would have to go into isolation for 14 days. Or worse - s/he could become very ill. Or worse. I'm not prepared to ask anyone to do that for us when it's not an emergency.

If we show any symptoms, MADA (The Red Star of David) will come to us and test us at home. DD's teacher urged me to insist on this even though we have no symptoms. I understand that the school wants a full picture of the situation and I could probably make this happen if I were insistent. However, these testers in hazmat suits don't change their suits every time they visit a new home. They go from home to home where people have corona symptoms. I am absolutely not comfortable with one of these suits coming into my home when it has been around possibly tens of corona positive people. So we won't be doing that unless we develop symptoms.

If the school still needs a documented negative result we will go to be tested next Wednesday when we come out of quarantine .

Another valid point that was made by a friend on facebook, is that we owe it to all the people we were with over the weekend  (and the public at large), to get tested. Otherwise they could also be walking around with asymptomatic corona and infecting more people. It's a moral dilemma but in the end I decided that it was enough to inform them of the situation and they could choose to get tested themselves or not. I don't think they would thank me for sending their whole families into isolation for two weeks.

As for the public at large. Last week, before we started having more than 100 new cases a day and everyone thought it was all over, they came up with a great initiative to help the local economy. Each day one of the local shopping streets would be closed to traffic so that the cafes could spread outside and people could stroll and socialize (at a distance of course - hahahaha) and spend lots of money. Tonight they went ahead with this street party on one of the shopping streets near us. A friend posted about it on facebook and I could hear the music from my balcony.

I don't think my friends would be silly enough to go an event like this but if the virus spreads more over the next week, I wont' let it prey on my conscience when there are street parties going on around the corner.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

10,000+ In Quarantine - It's The Economy Stupid

Since yesterday and because of rampant corona cases in the education system, they changed the rule about which schools have to close. Initially it was if three pupils and/or staff tested positive. As schools with even one case were effectively shut (or shuttered - ugh!) by the parents associations and because the problem is bigger than they thought, all schools with any person testing positive have to shut and all the pupils and teachers need to be tested.

Today 36 schools around the country were closed, including DD's school. Around 10,000 people country-wide are in quarantine - and that's just the ones who registered but doesn't include family members who are quarantining with them, like me. 

We got a note from school saying that when they open, only children with documented negative test results will be allowed back. We don't know when this will be. For the moment they are urging everyone to be tested. I expect they will make decisions only when they know the extent of problem. 

Of course we all know that a negative test tomorrow doesn't mean the virus won't show up in another few days. Negative test results won't be a sure way to keep coronavirus out of the school. 

The government is adamant that they're not shutting (or shuttering - ugh again!) the whole education system because the problem is concentrated in certain hotspots. The main hotspot is in my area. They also mulled over the idea of shutting just middle and high schools - because that has least effect on the economy. Seriously, most parents will not send their children to the local primary school if it's not safe for anyone over 12 to be in school. That's just ridiculous. 

I am a bit angry because the original plan was to lift restrictions in phases with two weeks between each phase. The first phase was grades 1 - 3 in primary schools and 11- 12th grades in high schools. I admit that I was glad we weren't included in this experimental period. Then suddenly, after only half a week, they announced that all grades would return to school the following Sunday - just  one week after phase 1 began. 

There was talk about each grade going in for two days and having split classes and strict separation but they quickly decided that everyone could go back. IKEA opened, the shops opened, you could go to the hairdresser. It was all very quick and not according to the plan. One week after that the shopping malls opened, synagogues allowed up to 50 people, it was effectively all over. Except that they forgot to inform the coronavirus. 

I really wanted DD to stay home another week but there was no way I could stop her going to school. She's an only child and hadn't seen anyone in over two months! She was so excited to see her friends at last. Every instinct in me said that this was not a good idea but I couldn't fight the system and my 11 year old daughter.

So DD went to school. On the very first day she said no one was bothering with masks and the girls were all hugging each other. Then we had the hottest and longest heatwave for decades. 37-38C (around 100F) every day for five days straight. It was impossible to sit with the windows open and wear masks. We were officially told that the kids didn't have to wear masks at school during the heatwave. Well try putting that cat back in the bag a week later. 

And here we are in quarantine for 10 days only two weeks after the return to school. Us and 10,000+ other Israeli citizens. We could all stand at our windows and shout, "I knew this would happen!" or "We told you so!" It wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. It's the economy stupid.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Enforced Quarantine: It Is What It Is

View from my window (not tonight)
Yes, we are in enforced quarantine until the 10th of June. Just as we started to socialise a bit, just as DD was getting back into the school routine, and the evening before I was due to go back to my school... we got the WhatsApp from DD's teacher.

First some background. A big high school in Jerusalem had a few students who tested positive to corona. They shut the school and set up testing for all students. The closest primary school decided to close for a few days - until the situation was clear, because more than a third of their pupils have siblings in the affected high school.

The official decision was that primary schools should remain open, even those with siblings in the high school. However, the parents committees of various feeder primaries, including DD's school, directed everyone not to attend until Tuesday (that's two days off) when the high school testing will be completed. The parents committees have a lot of clout. A few pupils went to school yesterday and overnight the number of cases at the high school went up to over 100. I heard that only 4 pupils turned up at DD's school today - those whose parents absolutely had to go to work.

Back to last night, DD's teacher informed me that one child in 5th grade had tested positive for corona and that DD had been in an art class with this child last Wednesday. Thus she has to be in quarantine until the 10th of June. I can't make her stay alone in one room for 9 days so we are isolating together in the whole apartment.

Before I did anything else we quickly collected up all the rubbish around the apartment and I took it down to the bins. Unfortunately it was too late to run to the supermarket. And it would probably have been illegal or at least morally wrong anyway, so I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision.

I had to register DD with the Ministry of Health, giving the reason for isolation, dates, and the name of our health fund. Then I WhatsApped everyone we saw over the weekend during two meals out with friends. They would only have to isolate if we test positive but I thought it responsible to let them know the situation.

I messaged both my work places. My school to say that I won't be returning in the morning after all. And my college to say that if they do decide to return to frontal teaching next week, I won't be available until Wednesday and that this won't affect my online lessons at all.

I also sent a WhatsApp message to my building so that the neighbours know not to come calling. And because I'd sat with one of them only that afternoon. We wore masks, mostly, but still.

DD was distraught. Her best friend is also in quarantine so they cried over the phone together. Then I ordered pizza because we needed cheering up.

This morning our health fund called to say that we don't need to be tested, but we can if we want to. If we develop symptoms they'll send someone to us for testing. We don't have a car so we can't drive to a testing centre anyway and frankly, I'd rather not know. We're not going to pass it on as we're isolating and so far we have no symptoms. If we were to be tested and it came back positive I'd be worried about it for the next two weeks and everyone we were with over the weekend would have to go into isolation. They all know the situation so they can make their own decisions about testing.

Meanwhile the numbers are rising steadily. So far almost 200 staff and students from the high school have tested positive. About 8 other local schools each have a smaller number of corona positive students/pupils or teachers. DD's school seems to have decided to stay closed for another few days.

Other schools around the country have also been affected -  mostly middle and high schools. The government is considering closing all middle and high schools again but leaving primary schools open. Good luck with that. Parents are freaked out and mostly voting with their feet if they have the choice.

And here is a confession. I was going to go back to my school today. They have very strict rules about masks and distancing. It's a mess because it doesn't really work but they're doing the best they can under the circumstances. After wearing my mask for 20 minutes while I chatted with my neighbour yesterday, I was reduced to coughing fits throughout the rest of the day. I have a 40 minute bus ride to and from school. And if I get sick, we have no immediate family in the country who can take DD in immediately.

I really really really didn't want to go back to school but all the teachers are putting themselves at risk and enduring extremely difficult and uncomfortable working conditions. I didn't feel that I could wimp out with a clear conscience. I was scared but felt pressured to conform. And at the eleventh hour, I was saved. At one point last night I jokingly called DD my little get out of work free card. I was joking but I'm now less stressed than I've been for a few days while thinking about going back to school.

Today I did an online supermarket order and not very much else. Don't think you're going to get amazing blog posts about cooking and crafting and all sorts of productive activities during our 9 days of quarantine. I managed to waste the past 2 1/2 months so I don't expect this small reprieve to be any different. It is what it is.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

So-So Sushi - R2BC

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky link-up is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum

We made sushi
DD loves the sushi from the very expensive sushi place near us. It's the equivalent of £10 for six little sushi rolls. So we decided to make it ourselves.

I bought the rolling mat, the nori sheets, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. We have rice and we have cucumbers. I'm nervous about using raw fish from the supermarket frozen section so I didn't defrost the salmon we have in the freezer. Nor did a buy very expensive fresh salmon or tuna for this experiment. Instead I bought the mock-crab sticks that one of the sushi-making videos on You Tube used.

I cooked the rice. DD was offended by the smell of the rice vinegar that you're supposed to add to it. Honestly, I only added a bit. She refused to even taste the mock-crab let alone put it in her sushi. I made mine first with the mock-crab. I took a nice photo and ate it. It was ok.

Then DD made hers with just cucumber and rice inside. First she rejected the soy sauce. Then she rejected her sushi rolls. She ate the leftover cucumber, took a packet of crisps, and that was lunch.

I ate my sushi, DD's sushi except for one roll, some of the leftover rice, and a couple more mock-crab sticks. Then I threw away all the leftovers including the rest of the mock-crab sticks which have the texture of the cheapest vegetarian hot-dogs with a slight fishy taste. Ugh.

You might wonder why I'm so cheerful about all this? Well, we tried making shushi and we can do it. It's easy. I now have the equipment and most of the ingredients. I'll try making it again with more vegetables inside including avocado when they're back in season. Or not.

DD has crossed this expensive (when bought ready made) item off her limited menu of acceptable meals. I think I've gone off it a bit too.

Meals with friends
It was the festival of Shavuot (Weeks, Pentecost, The Giving of the Torah) on Thursday night and Friday. Thursday night was dinner with friends. It was a small gathering as a nod to the restricted socializing guidelines. This was the first time I'd been anywhere besides the mini supermarket around the corner for 2.5 months. I am now so unfit that after walking home and up the three flights of stairs to my apartment I was totally puffed. This was probably also due to the amount of delicious food consumed and alcohol for the first time since March.

Yesterday we went to another friend for lunch. More good company and more delicious food.

After today's sushi, that's it. I'm not eating until Rosh Hashana (New Year) in September.

We love the game Catan. My nephews in London play it every Friday night after dinner with the whole family including Grandma. I wanted to get it for us here in Israel. I hesitated because to bring the English version back with us might limit the enjoyment for DD's Israeli friends. Even though the reading is minimal - just the knight cards and the development cards and you can get away with not even using them. Otoh, I'm not comfortable with the Hebrew version. Unless we don't bother with the knights or the development cards, but that limits the depth of the game.

Yesterday after lunch we played Catan at our friends' house. It was the Hebrew version and I was delighted to see that it has both English and Hebrew on all the cards and instructions. We are so getting Catan.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

R2BC - Memory Lane

The once private fields behind my Mum's place,
 although we always went there for walks,
has become an official Country Park.
It's on my list of first places to go when we can travel again. 
I wasn't going to write a Reasons 2B Cheerful post this week as I couldn't think of anything to write. We're cheerful enough but there's nothing happening. And then, suddenly, a few things happened.

Childhood Memories
I got a message from an old friend from my childhood community, telling me about some members who have sadly passed away from the coronavirus. I was particulalry shocked and upset by one of the names - a man not much younger than me who I remember as a young boy.

I wrote a facebook message including a number friends from the old days and we reminisced for a bit. Then Daniel came up with the idea of opening a facebook group for anyone who grew up in our synagogue in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Within a few hours we had over 100 members.

Stanmore Synagogue was the heart of our lives back then. We went there for services on Saturday, Hebrew classes on Sunday morning and after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Mondays we went there for Brownies and then Girl Guides. The only day I wasn't in the building was Wednesdays and Fridays (and I sometimes did go to the Friday night service). During the week more than half the children from synagogue went with us to the local primary school and after we left, my mother taught there for 20 years.

It's been a blast catching up and awakening old memories, remembering names and events. Turns out that every single one of us hated those Hebrew classes three times a week. But hey, we can all read Hebrew and sing the Hebrew prayers in synagogue.

Thank you Daniel.

I am going back to school next week.
Not only am I returning to school but the school year and my contract has been extended until July 13th (instead of June 30th) so I will be paid for six weeks that I had assumed wouldn't happen. I spoke to my head of department and some teachers are back, some are not, some children are not coming back because school is not compulsory atm, the original timetable doesn't exist as each class is working in a bubble scheduling their own breaks, etc... it's all a bit of a mess and very difficult for the subject teachers to schedule lessons. I'll fit in wherever needed and play it by ear. I'm glad to be going back though. I've missed them.

I found this detective series set in rural North Wales, on Netflix. I'm enjoying it very much and learning some Welsh along the way.

The Weather
After a week of 37-38C temperatures, the weather broke and today there was rain (not in my neighbourhood but close) and a massive wind storm. Loving the cold weather. (FYI it's 20C. In Israel in May we call this cold weather.)

That's it folks. The R2BC linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum, as usual. 
Have a good week and stay safe.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Is It Over? - R2BC

One single poppy
(There was a live concert in the street below.
Not much social distancing.
Israelis are largely voting with their feet on that.)
Here are this week's Reasons 2B Cheerful. It's an interesting exercise to come up with things when you only venture outside twice a week to go to the supermarket. Thank goodness for facebook and zoom. And You Tube and Netflix of course. The Linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum if you want to see what other cheerful bloggers have been getting up to.

Schools Return
All schools go back this week. DD starts on Monday. So no splitting classes but there will be staggered playtimes, personal distancing as much as possible, no sharing food or touching, and masks worn all day. It's going to be 37C for most of this week but the classrooms do have A/C.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know three people who died of covid-19. And another seven people who are immediate relatives of friends. But not in Israel. Otoh, we still have over 3,000 active cases in Israel and the whole pandemic started from one person.

DD is more than excited so this is a reasons 2B cheerful for her.

I don't return to school because the foundation that pays me isn't reinstating their teachers yet. I teach the native English speakers so I'm considered extra-curricula. I'm wondering if they will take us back at all this year as their academic year stops with the colleges at the beginning of June (I don't usually finish the school year). It's a big cut in money but, otoh, we're spending very little atm. I don't really mind. I take a 40 minute bus ride to school and work closely with young children. I'd rather feel safe. But obviously I'll do as I'm told.

Family Quiz Night
My nephews organized a family quiz night on Thursday. We were five teams in four locations and each team made a round of five questions. There ended up being a couple of extra rounds and up to 10 questions were accepted. It was fun. DD and I came bottom.

One Poppy
Over a month after the official poppy season in Israel, one single poppy appeared in my meadow (planting box). It was beautiful. It was only there for a week and now it's gone. Such is life.