Friday, April 4, 2014

Several Weeks At Once

There used to be a fridge magnet that said: I try to take one day at a time but sometimes several days all throw themselves at me at once. That has been what this week was like for me - several weeks at once. Here's the lowdown...

1. Work, obviously, and I was teaching right up until this morning. Except that one of the courses I teach had a deadline today including two papers and a one-to-one meeting with 50 students. You can't have the meeting until you've done the papers. But you need the last paper passed before you can go on to the next paper. No problem, only about 20 students had uploaded their papers and I was on top of it.

Then suddenly, woosh! Another 20 students sent in both papers at once and all wanted their meeting this week! They also needed their papers graded in order to continue on to the next paper.

2. I have friends who own a holiday apartment in Jerusalem. When they leave on an early morning flight I go in to throw their sheets and towels into the washing machine as they don't have time. After the washing's done I hang it up and then go back a couple of days later when it's dry, to put everything away. They left this week of course, on an early morning flight.

 3. I'd volunteered to help set up The Yedidya Bazaar. I could have cancelled on them but it's not nice to do so and I really wanted to help anyway. So that was 5 hours of free time swallowed up.

From inside the new guest bedroom
4. The sliding doors on my new dividing wall were fitted last week but the carpenter didn't finish. So he had to come back on Wednesday to put up the pelmet and paint the doors. Messy work, takes the best part of the day, and requires clearing up afterwards.

It was worth it as the wall and the doors look great - Thank you Kobi Haas (the builder) and Chaim Gottesman (the carpenter) - but it did mean that no Pesach cleaning could start until Wednesday night.

A peek from the new corridor

The new corridor with the doors shut

5. We are going to London for Passover (Pesach). I'd not managed to rent out my place this year so I was just planning to lock the door and go. Then, just this week, a friend of a friend asked if she could rent my spare room. It's not as big a business as renting out the whole place to a family who need all the bedrooms, but you do need to leave it clean enough for Pesach. I'm not even done yet and we leave tomorrow afternoon.

6. Packing - not even started.

Today I (along with every mother of young children in Israel) had to send DD to kindergarten at 7.30 am with a hard-boiled egg, a boiled potato and some lettuce for their practice seder. Go to the holiday apartment to put the dry laundry away and set the alarm (I don't leave it on with laundry drying as it inevitably falls over and sets off the alarm, usually in the middle of the night). Be back home to teach from 9am to 10am. Go to the post office to send my teaching cheques for March to the accountant which I couldn't do earlier as I was waiting for today's student to pay me. Go shopping for food for the plane (were're flying no-frills). Pay some bills and order travel insurance online. Collect DD from kindergarten at 12. Afternoon spent cleaning and getting the spare room ready. I'm almost finished (not really).

As I said, several weeks at once but tomorrow we move in with family and a full cast of supporting adults. Hooray!  I may or may not blog while we're away so have a Happy Pesach and/or Easter and I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Yedidya Bazaar

I wrote about this annual event last year. However, last year we thought we were going to a second-hand sale and we discovered something completely novel and wonderful. I was so impressed by the whole concept that this year I volunteered to help.

Before the sorting
In a nutshell, every item costs 2 shekels (about 30p). You fill your bags and stop at a counting table on the way out to tot up your stuff and pay. The money is obviously donated to charity but this is not the main purpose of the bazaar. The main point is that people clearing out and spring cleaning for Passover in this relatively affluent and largely expat area of Jerusalem, can pass on quality items (clothes, household, books and toys) that they no longer need to those who do need. There were also boxes from clothing manufacturers and local shops, full of new but older leftover stock.

Volunteers at work
It was bigger this year. Spread over three days and double the size. In fact so much stuff was donated that on the opening day, the organizer, Noomi Stahl, posted on fb to please not bring more clothes as we were at full capacity.

Shopping hours were from 4pm till 8pm. I couldn't help with that as I had DD with me. Instead I went in the morning to help sort out the bags of donated clothing. We had a three tiered system...

Still sorting

1. The highest quality, no stains clothing that went into the sale. Readers, we had items with the labels still on, we had designer clothes including coats and shoes hardly worn. These were then distributed into areas of the room according to type. I have a theory that expats often have more surplus in their wardrobes as they stock up or get sent from abroad without everyone being able to try on first. There is also the frantic shopping spree whilst on a trip back home with too little time and no opportunity to return items.

2. Items that were ok but not necessarily suitable for us. They went into the orange bin liners to go to charity shops. On the last day when there was more space, many of these bags were re-opened so that people could rummage through them. Anything left over went to charity shops whether orange bagged or not.

Full capacity tables
3. Rubbish into the yellow bin liners and straight to the bins. We tried calling one company who take old clothes for recycling (shredding, etc...) but they couldn't collect so we dumped by the bins. As delighted as we were with some of the wonderful clothing sent in, some of which was even ironed beforehand, you'd be amazed at the number of people who think it appropriate to send in old underwear or stained pyjama bottoms. Sorry if that's too much information.

I took DD after kindergarten to choose some games and books. I bought 5 novels for me, 2 books for DD, we got 2 board games in perfect condition, and I also found her 2 t-shirts, thick leggings, and a tricot skirt that I'm sure have never been worn (2 complete outfits for 8 shekels). So far 13 items.

Then I showed my true colours. A friend held up a black, long-sleeve t-shirt for me. "Nah," I said, "I'm not buying clothes for me." "It's Old Navy." "Nah." "It's still got the label on." "I'll take it!" I also came home with a skirt to round off the outfit.

I paid 30 shekels in total (about 5GB pounds). But it's not the money! They came from all over Jerusalem to kit out their families entirely. The more than 10,000 shekels (which is also not insignificant) that was collected for charity means that over 5,000 unwanted items were re-homed. That is phenomenal!

All pictures by Noomi Stahl (or possibly by one of her daughters). 

Monday, March 31, 2014

35 Years Ago Tonight - Halellujah!

This morning I woke up to the radio playing Halellujah. Thirty-five years ago on March 31st 1979, Israel hosted the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time and won for the second year running!

It was the 24th contest. In the era of three tv channels and before everyone had video, it was a night when everyone stayed in. In was an event on telly - a bit like a royal wedding but without a day off school.

It was an age of Eurovision innocence with only 19 countries participating. Turkey and Yugoslavia opted out for political reasons. Was this the beginning of the end? On the other hand, in a bizarre Eurovision karma, where is Yugoslavia today?

It was a time of dignified judging rather than the money grubbing telethon and mad dash across borders with multiple mobile phones stashed in the boot, that symbolize the contest today.

Even Israel, with Milk And Honey singing Halellujah, was a source of Eurovision pride with the emphasis on simple entertainment and the music rather than the over-the-top, all-dazzling extravaganza it produced in 1999. In fact, we declined to host it again in 1980 even though we won in 1979 - we couldn't afford it. It was the tail end of austerity and maybe the tail end of modesty.

These days I don't even bother to watch the three-ringed circus that Eurovision has become.

Here is Gali Atari and Milk And Honey singing Hallelujah in 1979.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tidbits 17: The Passover Story

It's that time of year again. DD is learning about the story of Moses and The Exodus in kindergarten. Her teacher swears that she understands everything in Hebrew.... If she says so....

DD: Moses saw a bush with flames but it wasn't burning, you're right?
Me: You're right. Then what happened?
DD: Someone started telling him things.
Me: Who was the someone?
DD: I don't know. I think there was someone standing behind the bush.

DD: God made the water turn to blood. Then Pharaoh's daughter had to quickly come and get Moses out of the river because it was all blood.
Me: You've got the story a bit confused. I'll tell you the whole story from the beginning.

DD: They got 10 plagues. Blood, frogs, lice, hail..... *sighs* I love the 10 plagues.

DD: Moses put his stick down and it turned into a snake. Then someone else did it. It's magic like when [Uncle] Charles takes sweets out of my ear, you're right? But only if I'm a good girl, you're right?

DD: Pharaoh was very happy because he had slaves and they built things for him and he didn't have to pay them anything.

DD: I know why we eat matza. Because when they were running away they didn't have time to make bread so they ate matza and it happened on Pesach so we eat matza on Pesach.

DD: What was the last plague?
Me: All the first born boys died.
DD: But only the boys, you're right?
Me: Yes, only the boys.
DD: Phew! Lucky Aviva's not really a boy.
Me: She's not a boy at all.
DD: She's like a boy because she likes to play football and wear trousers.
Me: Well she's got two older brothers so she's not the first born anyway.
DD: Phew! Lucky!

DD: It all happened a long  time ago, you're right? So everybody from the story's dead, you're right. There aren't any bad people in Egypt now, you're right?
Me: Ummm. Yeah, right.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Expected Jerusalem Marathon, 2014

After last year's unexpected marathon, this year we were up early and looking forward to it. As the weather was (accurately) predicted to be hot, they started at 6.45 am. Most of my friends who were running were doing the half marathon (or the 10k or the 5k but they didn't come through our neighbourhood). We were at the crossroads at the end of the street by 8am, boogieing to the music, clapping and kiffing (fives - high and  low depending on the size of the kiffer).


I wanted to photograph some of my friends but everything was happening too fast. In the end I put the camera away and enjoyed being in the moment.

From 8 - 9 were the serious runners. David Graniewitz we saw you at 8.30 (by Bagel Bite). I clapped, woohooed, shouted "Kol Hakavod!" (Well done!) and your name, but you didn't hear me.

8.40 - Yael Zisquit Gabai joined for a short stretch by her husband and four children. "Woohoo! Kol Hakavod!"

8.50 - Our mayor, Nir Barkat, ran past. I gave him a cheer as, on the strength of one pre-election parlour meeting and seeing him in the street occasionally, I consider him to be a personal friend. He also came to my daughter's kindergarten once and although the parents were invited, I didn't go as DD tends not to join in if I'm there.

Random runner with runners in the background #rubbishphotographer

By 9am we were cheering the fun runners, the dancers, the stop for a chatters, and the huggers.

9.10 the lonesome ownsomes, the walkers. In a way it was almost more rewarding to cheer them on as they really appreciated it. And if there's only one runner he knows you're talking to him personally. I applauded one runner who stopped, came over to shake my hand and said, "Shalom Rachel." "Who are you?" I asked. Turns out he's the landlord of the apartment downstairs that's rented out. Sorry, Yehoshua Mendel, I didn't recognise you under all that t-shirt and shorts. :~P  "Woohoo! My neighbour! Kol hakaovod!" He ran on smiling.

Sorry we missed you Gershon, Sam, Guy, and Ariella. Emma and Nadia we missed you at the barrier - where were you?

At 9.30 it was almost all over but the music and the street entertainment kept us hanging around a bit longer. Then it was off to the shops to buy food for Shabbat. I would say we did the full 42.2k (where k stands for kiff).

For the less marathon minded

The Jerusalem Marathon 2014 - Kol Hakavod!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

No Mess Crafts - Sticky Mosaics

It's not creative as it's stickers by numbers but DD loved it and it was hours of entertainment. My sister bought DD Sticky Mosaics Dolphins (15 pounds or 25 pounds for two sets) Luckily my sister was also buying for another nephew at the same time as they are quite pricey I think.

A lovely present for a 5yo, no mess, DD could do it herself and spent ages concentrating on it. In the end she was very proud of herself that she'd completed all the pictures.

She received the present in Eilat and recruited her cousin to help
There are lots of different sets - we got dolphins

You get 4 pictures on card, with stands
This is not a sponsored post just an FYI to mothers of 5 year olds.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fluent In Three Months

You can't look inside, I got the image from Amazon.
You can buy it here.
I actually wanted to call this post: My Name's In A Book!!! However, that wouldn't be fair to Benny Lewis who wrote Fluent In 3 Months (from an SEO point of view).

It all started a couple of years ago when I found a website called Fluent In 3 Months. Written by Irish polyglot, Benny Lewis, it documents his travels around the world and learning languages to fluency in just three months. Benny speaks 12 languages and those are just the ones he remembers. I was hooked.

Then last May Benny sent out a request for people with masters degrees or Ph.D.s in language related subjects, to read one or two chapters of his soon to be published book. The brief was to supply some academic references to give his experience and anecdotes more weight. Not that they needed more weight but it couldn't hurt. I have an M.A. in TESOL and language acquisition. I have over 20 years of teaching English as a foreign language experience. I live my life in two languages. I have a library of academic books on the subject and [I had] a box full of coursework, texts and papers submitted for my MA. I volunteered and I was chosen.

I received my two chapters by email and settled down one evening with my personal library and M.A. coursework. It became apparent very quickly that nothing I had in the house was suitable. In academia you can't cite studies from nearly 15 years ago. You just can't. Reader I threw out all my M.A. coursework the next day and severely culled my library.

However, I had made a commitment to Benny. I switched to the computer and spent about 6 hours online looking for articles. I managed to add a few references to the chapters (literally a few, like when a few means 3) and correct one spelling typo. I was so embarrassed by my paltry contribution that, when I'd returned the document by email, I deleted the website Fluent In 3 Months from my blog list and never went back. LOL - like Benny might see me lurking on his blog and sneer at me? Anyway, that's how embarrassed I was.

Fast forward to March 2014 and I got an email from Benny asking me to send him my postal address so that he could send me a copy of the book. I did, he did, and it arrived on Friday. I was gobsmacked to see my name in the acknowledgments as one of:  "...the group I lovingly call Team Linguist ...... Their feedback was essential ...... and ensured the book had a solid foundation ..."

This book is so coming with me when I have to go and plead my case at the Ministry of Education.

So with humility and gratitude, I give you Fluent In 3 Months by Benny Lewis, 2014, Collins, UK. (256 pages) RRP UK 9.99.

Benny Lewis and his book. Image stolen from Benny's own blog.
(Seems to be a different edition from mine.)

I read the book, I love the book. How can you not love a book that explains how anyone at any age can learn a number of languages to fluency?

One of the things I love about Benny's philosophy is that his definition of  fluency is entirely subjective. Reading the book, for the first time in my 26 years living in Israel, I feel that I'm fluent in Hebrew. Not that I don't conduct a great part of my life in Hebrew, I do. But the perfectionist in me always focuses on how much I don't know and how much I'm reluctant to participate in Hebrew situations where I don't have to.

There's no room for perfectionism in language learning, according to Benny, just passion and a willingness to start talking from day one. He's right of course. As I resolve to brush up my Hebrew I can already feel the enthusiasm bubbling below the surface for French (I have all the text books - Uh Uh, not the text books, that's not the way...) and I would so like to speak Spanish. And maybe Greek... or Czech... or Russian.

Thanks Benny, I'm returning you to my blog list.