Sunday, July 26, 2020

Corona Changed Everything

I am no worrier. I've lived in Israel for a very long time. I have friends. I even have childhood friends who also moved here. I work, I bought an apartment, I did IVF and had a baby, I've been a single mother for almost 12 years. And all this in a language I'm not 100% comfortable with.

I hate the weather in the summer which is far too hot for me, and getting hotter apparently. I hate the national pass-time of hiking in the countryside because I can't see any countryside - only Mediterranean scrub. Otoh, I love it that we live 45 minutes from the Mediterranean. In theory. We're actually not beach lovers.

I love visiting the UK. I love the countryside, I love walking in the countryside. I love London, I love the humour, I love listening to the radio talk shows and understanding all of it. I love dealing with bureaucracy or commerce on the phone or by email because I have full command of the language and all its nuances.

I've always been torn between living here and living in the UK. The more years you expat yourself, the harder it is to go back. The more you have invested in your expat life and the less you have to go back to. However, no one expected covid-19 or that it would change everything. Not just highlighting what I already knew, but bringing up things that I also already knew but had buried deep.

We are far away from close family. It wasn't a problem when a short plane ride was available and traffic went both ways - they came to us and we went to them. But now what happens if I get sick? Who looks after DD? Would you take in a traumatised child who needs to be in quarantine for two weeks and could endanger your own family?

So I'm being over cautious about social distancing. DD came to me last night and said sadly, "Mummy everyone else is out having fun." In theory she's correct. In practice, we both know that we hate that sort of hiking or even picnicking in 34 degree heat sort of "fun". I don't even know what other kind of fun there is in this country in this sort of heat. In past years we went along with friends and endured the heat in order to enjoy the company.

I have a drivers' license but I don't drive here because I don't have a person to call if we break down, get stuck or have an accident. I mean, I have people to call in an emergency but once the emergency bit is over, I still have to deal with all the mechanical and insurance issues. This scares the hell out of me. So we don't have a car and as much as I say it's cheaper to take a taxi any time we want to go anywhere out of town (which it is - I've done the maths) we don't. Our lives are limited.

Our lives are limited, not only by lack of private transport. It's a language thing. I shy away from too much responsibility at work, at school (DD's and mine) and in the community. This is tragic for a natural joiner and organiser.

Finally, as we face DD going into Middle and High School, I feel I'm limiting her education. Her Hebrew has surpassed mine but due to our English lives at home, she doesn't have the language skills necessary to excel. And though I can help her with the material, by looking up the information in English, I can't help her with presenting what she knows. School is half about what you know and half about presenting what you know according to the teachers' requirements.

Maybe covid-19 has turned me into a worrier. Or maybe it has just made me face some difficult truths. Whichever, it has changed everything.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

One Of Those Women?

A dress. It's not a photography blog, ok? 
Many years ago my flatmate and I decided to have a party in our apartment. We were living in the middle of a building with windows front and back. Left, right, up, and down were other apartments. They were mostly occupied by retired women - probably because it was a building of tiny apartments in an old neighbourhood. So being British and polite, we knocked on all the neighbouring doors to tell them in advance, apologise for the noise, and assure them that it would be over at midnight.

Back in our apartment, my flatmate said, "did you notice how every door was opened by a bra-less middle-aged woman?" We fell about laughing. We didn't get it. We didn't understand how not going out to work, not having a partner or flatmates, not having friends popping over without notice, can lead to a level of not bothering to get dressed heretofore unimagined.

I have DD of course but she's as laid back as I am. When we made the list of what clothes she needs for this summer it boiled down to 1 T-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, and 14 pairs of pyjamas. Even on a normal Shabbat (Saturday) we sometimes don't get dressed all day if we're not meeting up with friends. So I was halfway there before this isolation business. I blame a lot of it on the extreme heat in the summer but essentially, I had become one of those women.

My current neighbour, one of the first of us to go into quarantine after returning from the US in March, is also a single woman. However, she got up early every day, dressed as if she were going to work, and kept to some sort of routine. I want to be one of these women. I was not in quarantine at the time and we'd meet on our balconies - she in full make-up and executive blouse, me in my bathrobe.

The Fly Lady says the first thing you should do every morning is get up and dress till shoes. There is so much common sense in this. When your friend brings something round for you and asks if you can meet her at the corner as she's in a rush, you can just nip down to meet her. When someone says, "meet me in Roladin for coffee in 20 minutes," you can be there in 20 minutes because you don't have to also shower and dress in that time.

Yesterday I decided that with another five weeks of summer break still to go, I was not going to be one of "those" women anymore. So this morning I got up early, showered, and dressed till shoes (my Fitflops do double duty as shoes and slippers). And here I am. All dressed up and nowhere to go - because we're actually trying not to socialize atm.

So did it make any difference? Yes of course it did. Not sure yet. I'll give it a few more days and let you know.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Tomatoes But No Abundance - R2BC

A few weeks ago I cut up a tomato and planted it in soil.
Now I have three tomatoes growing. 
This week was productive. Who was it who said, "when you look back on days you were proud, they won't be days when you did nothing."? 

The Linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum and here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. 

1
The End
I wrapped up three college courses and submitted the final grades to two of them. (The 3rd course has a retake exam at the end of August for those who need it (failed or absent).

2
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Wrapping up those courses freed my mind to start cleaning my apartment which has been neglected for a few weeks. It feels good to restore some order and DD appreciates it too.

1
Abundance - Ha!
I walked away from Deepak Chopra's Abundance course. I still believe in the power of the mind but on the third session the task was to start your own course and invite your own friends to join it. In other words it was a scam to get more hits on DC's You Tube channel - where the sessions are located.

My friend who invited me was only doing it as part of her course. I thought she'd chosen me among her friends as a spiritually open person and I believed she had a calling to guide such a course among her friends. I'm cheerful because I had the sense to just walk away when my instincts told me to. It was abundance for Deepak Chopra that's who. My abundance will come and meanwhile, it freed up some much needed time in the mornings. Actually, I'm over-abunded with work atm.

4
Refund
I got a refund from DD's school in lieu of the class trips and other activities that didn't happen last semester. At least that.

5
Bureaucracy
Lots of bank and bureaucracy to deal with this week. Yes it's a hassle but I'll feel great when it's done.

6
Summer Course
My summer course starts in one week. I'm actually looking forward to setting it up on the website. It's something new this summer. I'm using more of the website's wigdets and gadgets for quizzes and forums, rather than just asking students to submit work.

7
Stairway to Heaven
The building committee in my block has sprung to life over the past couple of months. Suddenly things are getting fixed. This week our stairwell is being painted. I've set up a Paybox account to collect money from all the apartments. (Did I mention that I was coerced onto the building committee?). Let's see how much of a hassle this becomes. So far I'm only one who has paid up.

That's it for now. Have a good week.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Corona Car Rally - R2BC

A car in a mask.
My Reasons 2B Cheerful this week are about DD's graduation from primary school. In a normal year the 6th Grade go on a two day trip with a sleep over, they spend weeks rehearsing a full show, and there's a graduation ceremony. It's a big deal.

This year they were barely in school for any of their final semester and obviously there was no trip. The parents' committee came up with an alternative keeping to the corona restrictions and gave the 6th Grade a great sendoff.

We met at the school (HQ) at 16.15 with decorated cars. The first event was a car rally around Jerusalem. Each car had two pupils and two parents. We were given five clues to places we had to go to in the correct order, and at each station we had a task to complete and then send photographic evidence (still or video) back to HQ. It was cleverly organised so that everyone had different stations and tasks in different orders.

As the photos and videos came in they were forwarded to the class and parents' whatsapp groups so we could enjoy seeing everyone else's efforts as we completed our own tasks.

Our route went as follows:
1. Cinema City to the person who said, "Sometimes it's the smallest things that fill up your heart." We googled it. It was Winnie the Pooh. Unfortunately the Disney statues were closed off. I felt I should have got extra points for finding a Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy in a vending machine. But we didn't and other groups were told to just skip that bit.

2. Sing this song in the appropriate place. Our song was Under the Sea so we went to the aquarium. Our girls were too embarrassed to sing so I took over the performance - making up the words as I went along in Hebrew. Then they had a better understanding of what embarrassment is.


3. The clue was a sculpture at the Science Museum where we had to build the tallest tower we could build.

4. We had to go to the house of the school nurse, where she had laid on healthy fresh fruit for her visitors. (Other cars went to other staff members with similar related treats.)

5. This is where we cheated. Although I claim that we were in credit for finding the alternative Pooh. Our final task was to go to the Jerusalem Forest, a good hour's drive round trip, and write a message in sticks, stones, and cones. We found some local trees near the school and faked the forest.

Back at school a burger supper was served in four different classrooms. Then parents who'd been on the car rally went home and the second parents arrived because only one parent per child was allowed, to keep the numbers down. First time ever being a single parent has been an advantage.

Parents of one class went to watch a slide-show while parents of the other class watched the kids performing some skits, dances, music, etc... followed by the graduation ceremony. Then the parents swapped places and the whole thing was repeated. There was a lot of hanging around.

For me the highlight of the performances was a group of kids marching onto the stage, chanting, "and then we returned to school!" Halfway across the stage they turned and walked the other way, chanting, "and then we didn't return to school." This was repeated a few times: "Then we did return to school!" "Then we didn't return to school!" "Then we did return to school!" Etc...

OMG, this is exactly how it was. As a teacher myself I can tell you that at least twice a week we were waiting for someone's test results to see if the whole school would be closed, or if just one class would be in isolation (and all who taught in her), or what the new government regulations were regarding which classes go to school and which get remote lessons and on which days. Absolutely crazy.

We came home late, exhausted but happy. It was hard leaving the building because it would be the last time. It wasn't the building, obviously, it was the last time these particular parents would meet as a group. We were a good group. And it was a final letting go of DD's young childhood.

As always, the linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Last Day Of Primary School

First Day at Kindergarten, aged 3 3/4
Can you believe it? I'm the single mum who just had a baby on my own. Only apparently that was almost 12 years ago and that baby just left primary school.

I'm the friend who dropped out of social events in the evenings because she had a baby/toddler/little girl at home. Only now there's no little girl at home. Only an almost teenager who looks remarkably like a young woman.

I look at the school opposite our house and down the road and it's no longer our school after eight long years.

I took DD to the kindergarten when she was still 3. It was two year groups together and the twins who 'adopted' her were almost 6. She was tiny and a bit like the mascot of the kindergarten.

In 1st Grade I had to take her into the classroom every day and wait for the bell. Some days the Headmistress had to prize her off me saying, "A kiss from Mummy and in you go." What she meant was - off you go Mummy and be quick about it.

By 2nd Grade I was leaving her at the school gates and watching her run inside.

In 3rd Grade she wanted me to stop half way down the road and let her walk the last bit with her friends. I watched until she'd gone through the school gates.

By 4th grade I only had to see her across the road.

In 5th grade she went by herself, carefully crossing the road as I watched from the balcony and waved. She got her own front door key for the days that she arrived home before me.

In 6th Grade I often had to go to work early, leaving DD to lock up and go to school. Three times a month she was the supervisor for the crossing guard.

I tried to send her to bed tonight. I don't know what I was thinking. "Good luck with that," she replied, "No school until September remember."

I remember.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bat Mitzvah Perfect - R2BC

The Judean Hills
View from the Bat Mitzvah girl's garden.
Reasons 2B Cheerful are indeed 3 this week. The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as always. And here they are.

1
Bat Mitzvah Party
We went to a Bat Mitzvah party on Friday. It was a perfect gathering of a few families in the garden, a bagel brunch, dessert, some singing, some praying, some performances in honour of the Bat Mitzvah girl. Then the adults went home and left the Bat Mitzvah girl's friends for a sleepover.

They have a small pool in the garden and they put up tents for the girls to sleep in. I had a small glass of wine on my balcony at home and slept in my bed. And DD was delivered  home today. It was the perfect Bat Mitzvah celebration imo.

We talked about how corona has caused many events to be scaled down and it's sad when it means that family from far away can't be there. On the other hand, a more modest celebration can be extra special and meaningful in its intimacy and hygge.

2
Semester End
I have one more week of school and two more weeks of college until this semester is over, including grading the exams. During that time I still have to set up my summer online course ready to start on July 15th, but that's a new beginning. I love the ending. When every pupil's report card is written, most students have their final grade (because there are always some with extensions), I can almost close that door on a job done and relax.

3
Abundance
Tomorrow morning I'm starting a meditation programme facilitated by a friend on facebook, and based on 21 Days of Abundance by Deepak Chopra. You can find it on You Tube and do it yourself but I'm looking forward to the guidance, commitment, and energy gained by being part of a group.

I've done a programme like this but different, before, #Breakthrough with Devorah Sisso. That time, although motivated, I came up against a brick wall in lesson 5 out of 6, when I had to write my aspirations for the future. You could ask the universe for anything you could imagine. And I was paralysed by the chasm between what I would love and what I saw as realistic.

I read The Secret. I watched the movie. I read another book about letting grace into your life. I did a course run by a fellow blogger called LifeCircle. We have a roof over our heads, we have food to eat, we have our health, and we have friends, so maybe they all worked. Otoh, I didn't get my yacht in Monaco or my Chateau in Provence so maybe I didn't do it right?

Anyway, I'm ready for another bash at being one of the world's amazing women so I'm giving it a go. Obviously I'll let you know how it turns out. I may be writing from my poolside suite at an exclusive spa or I may be writing from this dining table still piled high with stuff waiting to be put away. Or something in between.

Have a great week.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

From One Day To The Next - R2BC

The lettuces on my window sill are doing well.
As soon as I plant them outside the birds get them.
Maybe I'll stick to the hydraponic approach inside this time. 
I didn't have any Reasons 2B Cheerful on Thursday when Becky published the R2BC linky on Lakes Single Mum. I didn't have any big reasons not to be cheerful but there was nothing particular to write about. By Friday God had provided me with three R2BC - because the world is running so smoothly he obviously had time on his hands to sort out my petty niggles. 

1
Dinner With Friends
We used to do this every few weeks. Friday night dinner with another single mum at either their place or ours. A friend for me and a friend for DD. Nothing grand, just company and good simple food. But then corona happened and we stopped doing it. So last night we walked over to their place and caught up, ate far too much, and had fun. (I need to get my place in shape so that they can come to us in a couple of weeks.)

2
The Home Front
Talking of getting my place into shape, I saw the funniest meme on facebook. Of course the funniest ones are the most true. 

Is my house clean and tidy? - No
But are we having crazy fun times making memories? - Also no. 

A friend told me yesterday that when they got the notice that it would be back to school and work in two weeks in their State of the US, he panicked because they'd not done any the things he'd planned to do during lockdown. That too. 

3
School Changes
Talking of going back to school. DD had one week of the two day arrangement and her school decided that they're all going back on Sunday - full normal schedule, full classes. 

My school was a nightmare because when they were splitting the classes teachers got put in wherever they were needed. The English staff got shuffled around (at least we're still teaching English) and now we're with classes we've not taught all year. I don't know any of the kids' names, I'm taking over specific remedial programmes for the weaker students (who are also less motivated) and I have no idea how these programmes work, and all in masks with no breaks because every teacher is on playground duty and lunch duty three times a day because of staggered break times. And if you found that long sentence difficult to read and take in - that's how I feel all day in school. I honestly didn't know if I could do it for another three weeks. 

The primary school teachers union had agreed with the government to continue school until July 12th instead of the usual June 30th. Meanwhile the middle and high school unions were still saying they want to finish on June 20th as usual, instead of continuing until June 30th. Then yesterday afternoon the labour court sided with the teachers. Middle and high school students are suddenly and abruptly finished for the year (except those taking public exams over the next month) and us littlies have only a week and a half to go. 

Hooray! I would have been happy to teach for the extra couple of weeks but I can't do this babysitting lark whilst pretending to teach. And K - 4th grade are getting free summer school until August 6th.

5
The Summer Holiday
Talking of breaking up from school, obviously we're not going anywhere this summer but what plans I have for us whilst stuck at home for two months. LOL. See R2BC 2 above. #procrastinatingoptimistsyndrome  No seriously...

4
Sick Note
I got a sick note from my doctor for the two weeks that we were in enforced quarantine. So I'll get paid for the full month of June and not just for the two weeks I went back to school. Hooray again! 



Monday, June 15, 2020

Unschooling Happened

Real homeschooling would involve trips to Kew Gardens,
learning photography, about plants, and Chihuly. 
Unschooling is a thing. Really. And it's allowed in places where homeschooling is legal, which is in most of the world these days.

Unschooling is leaving your child to his or her own devices in an information  and experiential rich environment and trusting that they will educate themselves. Perhaps with some gentle guidance and a few rules like only educational screen time during the day, a certain amount of out of house time, obligatory chores that promote useful skills, etc...

The rich environment could include books; the internet; the library, museums; available adults who are willing to engage; group activities like scouts, a choir or orchestra, swim team; family experiences like travel, camping, religious rituals and celebrations, cooking, gardening; play with other children; a part time job; and anything else that provides stimulation and opportunities to learn anything at all.

The coronavirus lockdown is nothing like homeschooling. It's temporary, we're not set up for it, we can't use the library, museums, go on nature walks, etc... There's distance learning from the schools, and regular parents have their own work to do. It's a sad but true fact that only families in which one parent can do flexi-hours from home, can do homeschooling. Most families don't have this choice.

Most important of all, there are at least seven different methods you can adopt for homeschooling and/or combinations thereof. It can take a while to explore the options and see which method works best for your family. For example, recreate a classroom at home and follow the national curriculum with textbooks and a weekly schedule. Co-op learning with other families and each parent teaching their field of expertise or passion. The Charlotte Mason method of real literature and learning till noon followed by outdoor pursuits in the afternoon. Place Based Learning uses the local environment, community and culture. Remote online learning. Umbrella or theme based learning. You get the picture, it's not just staying at home and working through the textbooks.

Despite all this, a lot of unschooling by default has taken place over the last three months. In our home I had lots of online teaching going on. DD also had some remote lessons but also a lot of free time during which I wasn't available to occupy her. Add to this that she's an only child and I'm almost dying of guilt as I write this. I admit that there was far too much screen time and not enough no baking, balcony gardening, art, teaching her to sew and knit, playing the recorder or piano, learning a foreign language, board games, jigsaw puzzles, or reading aloud.

All of the above were mentioned by various mother friends on facebook as a job well done. I let it go and put my trust in the theory of unschooling. Largely my trust was misplaced but I was surprised by some definite indications of unschooling success.

1. DD suddenly got interested in world affairs. She became obsessed with the corona numbers and statistics. She listened to Trump's daily media briefings in order to analyse how vague and ignorant he sounded. She told me about the murder of George Floyd before any of the protests had spread around the world. She gave me an hour by hour update as events unfolded in the US. She knew all about racism and white privilege, and started expressing strong opinions about the racism in various tv series and movies she watches.

2. She asked me to help her get rid of her lisp and stop saying f for th. I showed her how to place her tongue and she's been constantly practicing. It's almost perfect now.

3. She has been reading more, out of sheer boredom. And also because I say no treats until she's read a chapter in English and three pages in Hebrew. Ok, so that's not exactly unschooling, but I've noticed that more reading is being done without the bribe incentive.

4. She has decluttered and organised her whole bedroom, deciding what she wants to keep and what needs to go. She's started making her bed and hoovering the carpet because she likes a clean and tidy environment.

5. One day she wanted to make sushi so we bought the equipment and made it. We tried a few times with grilled salmon and tinned tuna - because I didn't trust the raw fish that was available. We don't love it but we know how to make it.

6. I've noticed an inclination towards documentaries on You Tube and Netflix. So far DD has watched the whole series of History 101 and Explained. She also chooses to watch Sky News Live at least once a day. And of course she doesn't just watch these programmes, she asks questions and we discuss them.

So we didn't do half or even a quarter any of the things I'd planned for us to do during lockdown. But it seems that a bit of unschooling magic happened. Not much but enough to renew my interest in unschooling as an alternative method of education.


Saturday, June 13, 2020

R2BC - In Limbo

I  was playing with a photo editing app.
This one seems to reflect how I feel atm.
It's not good and it's not bad. Sort of in limbo.
I'm writing my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week with somewhat of a heavy heart due to the way the long overdue and necessary fight against racism is playing out in the UK. This is not the post to explain - perhaps tomorrow if I dare. Today is R2BC day so here are mine. 

The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum and recommended for anyone else who needs cheering this up weekend. 

1 Life of Brian
I made DD watch Life of Brian with me. She didn't fancy it but within five minutes she was screaming with laughter.

2 Big School
We signed up with DD's new school for September. It's actually called Middle School here but is akin to the American Junior High. We gave all the necessary information, chose Spanish as a third language (Hebrew is first, English second), and wrote the name of a friend she'd like to be in the same class with.

Now I sit back and wait for the list of things to buy, the bill for school extras, and the days and dates of meetings for each of us. I'm assuming that school will be back to normal by September but who knows?

3 Semi-isolation
I went back to my school on Thursday. It's extremely difficult with all the changes and physical restrictions and I'm also nervous about the virus. However, I want my salary so I went back. It's only another four weeks.

DD's school has been thoroughly disinfected after the whole school ended up in quarantine. Different year groups are going back on different days and learning in capsules (bubbles in the UK). DD gets to go to school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The other three days they'll return to distance learning.

Semi- isolation is better than full isolation I suppose. I'm still nervous.

4 The Virus' Demise
I heard a doctor on British TV who has studied all the evidence of past pandemics. He firmly believes that Covid-19 will burn itself out and just disappear. He says keep working towards a vaccine as this virus may yet come back for a second wave, or the burnout may take longer than the race for an effective vaccine. However, there were no vaccines in the distant past and every pandemic in history has burnt out and disappeared as suddenly as it came. You could look at this as a R2BC or you could retort with, "at what cost?" - you choose for yourself. I was encouraged.



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

1
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.

2
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.

3
Catan
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.

1
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.

2
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.

3
Hinterland
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.

4
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.

1
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.

2
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.

3
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.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothers' Day On Social Media

Mothers' Day a million years ago
Today is the American (some say Hallmark) holiday of Mothers' Day. Several of my friends on facebook felt the need to acknowledge that Mothers' Day can be a difficult day for many. The childless, those who have lost children, are estranged from their child, or estranged from their mother, those who have lost their mother...

I get it. It sometimes feels awkward to be happy in the face of others who are suffering over this very issue that we are celebrating. This is one of the reasons why Israel changed its Mothers Day
to Family Day. But this also isn't 100% comfortable. Why shouldn't mothers, in the one job with no days off during the year, have a special day to celebrate their unique role?

When we post photos of a fabulous wedding, do we feel the need to acknowledge singles who are lonely and desperately searching for their soul-mate or secretly wistful over the wedding they never had?

New baby photos, Bar and Bat Mitzva photos, wedding anniversaries. These are all events that will pass some people by and cause them pain.

I once wrote a blog post about how it took me time to work out how to live in my apartment and arrange it comfortably. I received a comment telling me not to be so spoilt as there are many people who would love to be home owners but can't see any way of making that ever happen. It was a fair point but does that mean I can never write anything about how I love my home? I don't believe this. I think I just caught her on a sensitive day.

However, during this lockdown I began to feel funny about people posting their children playing in their gardens or of taking walks in nearby country locations. Even a photo of us enjoying lunch on our balcony seemed like a poke in the eye to all the city folk in flats without any outside space.

I admitted a couple of times that I've enjoyed this time at home with DD. Woops. Sorry sorry sorry. I know there are whole large families in smaller apartments than ours. I know others have lost their jobs and are worried about paying the rent or mortgage, or cannot even pay for food. I know that more than a quarter of a million people have lost loved ones. I know all this. So should I just keep my mouth shut rather than admit that I've enjoyed this extreme slowness of pace?

When I wrote a blog post about amazing things people have done during lockdown, there was a reminder to spare a thought for those who couldn't. I was told that some people were struggling. Gosh it's exhausting to consider the whole of humanity every time you write a comment. And yet, I wasn't being asked to consider the whole of humanity, just those who started in similar situations to myself but are now struggling. But why only them?

In Israel we are in a transitional period in which immediate families are allowed to get together. It means that children and grandchildren can now go to Grandma's house. I saw photos of family gatherings with the grandparents, adult siblings, and cousins all having a whale of a time together. We have no immediate family in Israel and I felt it. For us there is no transitional period, either we can socialise with friends or we're in the same isolation as we've been in for the past two months.

Is it the responsibility of social media not to cause distress in these ways? Every time we post a comment from a position of happiness, good luck, thankfulness, or celebration, should we temper it with an acknowledgement that others don't have what we have? In some ways that's worse. Patronizing even. Should we not post happy things at all? That would make social media a pretty depressing place to be. Unless we took out the social bit altogether and just called it media for information and discussion. 

When we celebrated VE Day on Friday, there was a two minute silence for those who gave their lives to fight for our freedom and for those who lost their lives during that fight. Then we partied without guilt because it happened three generations ago. I wonder if everyone celebrated to the same extent on that first VE Day 75 years ago. I imagine not.

So it's not social media, it's the human experience. Or rather the human experiences. Everyone's experience is different. Some people have truly wretched lives. More often than not life's not fair. We know this and I have no empty platitudes to attempt making it seem otherwise.

I say celebrate at every opportunity. If your child pampers you on Mothers Day, enjoy it and thank him or her with a hug and a smile. If you do Mothers' Day (our family never has) call your mother and tell her personally. Does it mean more if you announce it to your 500 followers and friends on social media? Personally I think not, but if it does, then put it out there. I'm not the social media police, just offering some food for thought.


Friday, May 8, 2020

VE Day (Victory and Vegetables) - R2BC

Potatoes, tomatoes, oranges and lemons! Thanks Esther!
The biggest Reason 2B Cheerful today is that it's VE Day - Victory in Europe. If VE had not been won our lives would have been very different. And as a Jew, I might not have even been born. I'm sorry that all the street parties and public celebrations in the UK were canceled, although rightly so. No nation does street parties like the British!

A few weeks ago I ordered a vegetable box delivery  from Kibbutz Alumim, where my friends live. It was fabulous and very reasonably priced. Since then they've been continuing the box deliveries but as a family of two, we really didn't need a whole box of vegetables every week. Yesterday there was a knock on the door and my friend Esther, who lives on the kibbutz, was standing there, in a mask,  with a box of fruit and veg.

They are discontinuing the service now that the schools are going back (the surplus was from the dormant school lunch contracts) but they had some produce left over in Jerusalem. Esther took a box, divided it up between some of her Jerusalem friends, and made personal deliveries. Thanks Esther! (Note to self: Don't think you can not clean the bathroom because no one is coming to visit.)

In other news. I really enjoyed the enormous storm we had on Wednesday. Sheets of rain, thunder and lightning and heavy winds into the night. It might have been the last big storm of the year and was certainly very unusual for May. But what is usual these days? (Update: I just looked at the weather app and scattered thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow. Here's hoping.)

Another of my daily app checks is the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). It's only 11 cm below the upper red line. So exciting when you live in a desert.

Last but not least. Having put on loads of weight during the first six weeks of lockdown, I finally brought myself under control and went back to Intermittent Fasting. So fast so good.

Have a good week yourself and check out the linky on Becky's Lakes Single Mum for more cheerful blog posts.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Eight Lockdown Initiatives

Angie Bunny ready for Independence Day
We hear about the selfless work of those in caring professions and medical professions. We know the teachers are working hard, people in essential services have never stopped going into work, people are working from home, students are studying, and parents are providing non-stop support (and food) for their families.

What of those who found time on their hands at home during the lockdown? Many of us have watched far too much tv, eaten far too much, maybe cleaned our homes, maybe read a few books, indulged in loads of social media. However, I am impressed and inspired by others who have used the time to do something different.

Here are eight lockdown initiatives that have crossed my facebook feed.

Funky Face Masks by Yael Katz
1. Yael Katz is a kindergaten teacher in Jerusalem who right from the beginning was making crafting videos and storytime videos for young children. Then she started using her sewing skills to make fun and fancy face masks. People started donating material and so far she's made hundreds.


2. Charlotte got her paints out and is creating a set of portraits of each of her four children. It's a hobby but she's really good. And what a great gift to herself to keep forever.


3. Annabelle Landgarten is a professional story teller in Jerusalem. During lockdown she has been Telling Tales for adults on a weekly facebook video. There's one tonight, Wednesday 6th May, at 9pm Israel time (GMT+3) on Face Book Live. Check it out.
Lemon Macarons by Yael Stekel Gabbai
Sweet Art Creations

4. Yael Stekel Gabbai had a cake making business before Corona, Sweet Art Creations. She's used this time to perfect new skills and increase her repertoire. Yael has posted her new creations daily and her daughters have got into the act too. She'll be ready to hit the ground running with a family enterprise as soon as we're allowed out.

Scrubs for the NHS by Amanda Phillips

5. Zia Jaffe owns the famous Sefer VeSefel (Book and [Coffee] Cup) Secondhand book shop in Jerusalem. It's open again now but during the lockdown Zia made weekly book vlogs. She told us what she's reading, recommended books, chatted about the situation, and generally entertained in her engaging and witty way. Zia, Corona should end but the vlogs should continue - you're a natural.


6. My Sister-in-law Alyson is working through a new cookery book by her favourite chef, Rukmini Iyer. The book was a gift from my brother. More than one person has pointed out that it was more of a gift for himself in the grand scheme of things. Clever man. The photos look amazing. Add a blog and we could have the next Julie&Julia effect.


7. Amanda Phillips in London, is making scrubs for the NHS out of old sheets. I understand that NHS staff have been asked to source their own scrubs, which they have to change several times a day. So this is a big help for people on the front lines. I like Amanda's scrubs better than the usual plain colours.

NHS staff grateful for new scrubs
from Amanda Phillips


8. Deborah Nathan made Angie Bunny from the designs of Mo Malron ( @crochetobjet ) . Every day she adds a new outfit for Angie, including an Independence day outfit, exercise gear, 1970s retro style, pyjamas and lots more. It's a lot of fun and we all want an Angie Bunny now.

Angie 1970s retro style
made by Deborah Nathan






Friday, May 1, 2020

Back To School On Sunday?

School - so near and yet so far
There were news reports early in the week that Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, and 11th and 12th Grades, would return to school on Sunday, 3rd May.

Facebook was full of it of course. I'd say there was about a 50-50 split of parents who were for it and those who said it was too soon. And all the parents who were for it weren't 100% convinced either. As usual, those with children in that age bracket who needed to go back to work, didn't have a choice. Those with money (either savings or with desk jobs that can be done from home) to see them through another month were able to make their own decisions. Not to mention the gap in mental health between those with outside space and those without. Bottom line - we are not all in the same boat.

On Wednesday elementary schools were told to prepare for Sunday. Kindergartens are deleted from the equation - enforcing social distancing on 3 - 7s isn't practical. The final decision was made today, Friday, and we're still on. I don't believe this is the final decision but I've been wrong before.

Apparently (I didn't hear it myself but someone posted it on Facebook so believe it or not) they felt compelled to ease restrictions because they think that if they don't, there will be serious unrest and actions against the government. It's the economy stupid.

Other news reports say social distancing is falling apart in many places and the government has lost control over it. Lifting restriction on babysitters, how many families can share childcare, opening high street shops, and easing permitted travel distance, have all helped to erode any sense of logic. Although I am sticking to the rules, I can understand others who won't not go to the park with their kids when people can go to IKEA. (News flash - a corona positive man from Jerusalem spent an hour in IKEA in Rishon on Monday. So there you go.)

A poll found that the biggest hurdle to returning to work is the lack of childcare. The classes are being split into halves (no more than 15 children in a class) so there's only room for half a school to return. They assume that 4th - 6th Graders can be left alone, or with siblings, while the parents go to work. My 6th Grader can but I didn't leave her for more than a couple of hours when she was 9.

In my school the following measures are in place. 1st Graders will enter the school via the top gate, the others by the bottom gate. No parents are allowed on the premises. The class teacher will team up with a subject teacher and teach half the class at a time. No other teachers will be with each class. (The class teachers for 4th - 6th Grades will continue with distance learning.) Only one child per table. Playtimes will be staggered and masks worn during the breaks only. There was some more about the toilets and hand washing.

Many parents are scared and not sending their children. Some children live in families with at risk members. Some teachers live with at risk family members or are at risk themselves. So it's not compulsory. Teachers can opt to take sick leave although there is a certain amount of pressure not to.

My take is that it's a national experiment, with the children as the subjects. If it were known to be safe then everyone would go back. The economy has trumped health with the safety net of restricted school so that the hospitals will be able to handle a modest spike in corona cases.

As an overweight, older mother of an only child, single parent, with no immediate family in the country, this does not reassure me. I'm glad my 11 year old is in 6th Grade (and I am on unpaid leave from school) so I don't have to decide whether to allow her (or me) to be part of the experiment. But if I did have to decide... we have a balcony, I have enough money for another month in lockdown, and we are two people in a not tiny living space. I won't judge.


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Israel Indepencence Day - R2BC

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I missed last week as I had so many students' papers to grade. So even though very little has changed since two weeks ago, I don't want to miss another week. The Linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum (and I promise to go back and read all the posts from last week too.)

1
Independence Day
We're 72 years old! We celebrated on our balconies instead of in the national parks and on the beaches. The road outside my building has become the local synagogue as it was our neighbours who started the regular prayers.

On the eve of Independence Day a couple of guys came out with a harmonica, a guitar, and a microphone. We sang all the prayers together, then we sang some Israeli favourites, and we finished with Hatikva, the national anthem. It was much nicer than when we all troop up to the promenade for a rock concert and outrageously priced food and souvenirs.

We did miss the fireworks though.

2
Distance Learning
DD is really into her distance learning from school now that her friend's mum is there to help her. She's much more relaxed and she doesn't worry if she misses an assignment or two because she's getting most of it done. It's actually fantastic because she's occupied for the whole morning.

There's a lot of Zoom and video calling going on. Every so often she calls out from her bedroom: "Mummy! Don't come in, I'm in a meeting!"

3
The Wonders of Boredom
It took a whole month of nothing to do and nowhere to go but slowly slowly, DD has been tidying out her bedroom. Drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf. Every few days a couple of bags of clutter appear by the front door ready to be taken down to the bins.

And she's developed a love of the Windolene squirty bottle. So far the balcony doors, the kitchen window, her bedroom window and the mirrors in the bathroom have been cleaned.

I'm being as encouraging as I can whilst trying not to seem too happy about it or I know it will stop as suddenly as it started.

Have a good week y'all. Take care, stay safe and keep well.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Back On Distance Learning And Summer School,

Sunset over Jerusalem
Yesterday, after a major meltdown, I'd had it with distance learning. But DD is far more conscientious than I am about her school work and she wasn't happy about giving up. Thankfully another mother from our class came to our rescue. Her child, also an English speaker, wasn't into reading the long texts in Hebrew, so she has been reading them with him and she invited DD to join them via video call.

This morning they had sport, maths, Hebrew (in which she learned to work the system and managed to do the activity without reading the lesson), and History. So she joined her friend for History and it was fantastic. She finished it and I've not seen her that relaxed and happy since before the Pesach holidays. Even during the holiday she was anxious about going back to distance learning. I won't mention names but Friend's Mother, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You'll notice that I'm using the phrase distance learning today, instead of home schooling. It was rightly pointed out to me that Home Schooling is a thing and this isn't it. I knew that but I used the phrase carelessly yesterday because it described our situation. However, we are not Home Schooling, we are School Schooling without the teachers present.

Which brings me to the enormous facebook fracas that erupted yesterday after a disastrous TV interview with Yaffa Ben-David, the head of one of the Teacher's Unions in Israel. She is probably the most hated woman in Israel atm and all because she didn't handle the interview well.

The problem is twofold:

1. Distance learning, 
We're trying to do distance learning so that the children keep up with some education and not feel so isolated. Also it's a good idea to have an outside adult in contact with every child under these lockdown conditions. Unfortunately, the teachers are learning to do this on the fly. Whilst there are a lot of instructional meetings via zoom and sharing of information and resources, it's all a bit hit and miss. It's being refined day by day and the teachers are putting in hours and hours of work to make it all happen, plan lessons, give individual feedback, be available and to trouble shoot.

It's a herculean task and they are doing it while trying to supervise their own children at home with different school schedules and often limited screen and internet access. Despite all this, there is a lot of frustration among parents who also need to work on the family computer and have a number of children who cannot work alone, and all need the computer or phone for a zoom lesson at the same time, etc...

For all these reasons the directive is that these online lessons are not compulsory and everyone should do as much as they can.

2. Summer School
In order to recover some of the economy, if we are out of isolation by the summer, we need the children to be in school so that parents can work. Some people are saying that the teachers are off school now so they should make up the hours in the summer. Excuse me? You may not like the distance learning but  the teachers are working very hard to make it happen and it is a lifeline for some families and children.

Ben-David argued that the teachers will not be working an extra 6 weeks with no pay. This created an uproar mainly with the response that the teachers are paid for 12 months a year but only work 10 months, so they need to forgo their ridiculous amount of holiday and do their bit to help to help the nation.

There are three points to make here.
A, the teachers are not paid for 12 months of the year. Many years ago their 10 months of salary was spread over 12 payments to help them budget better. Pay in July and August is for work done from September till June.

B, I don't think Ben-David could have argued anything else, she was just doing her job which is to protect the teachers.

C, No one has asked the teachers. Most of the jobs that teachers pick up over the summer break to make up the shortfall in their salaries, will not be available this year. If you asked the teachers to volunteer over the summer I suspect that most of them would say yes. What they object to is the assumption that they must pay back for the years of shirking over July and August. That they are paid anyway so they owe the country to work.

Teachers are willing to do their bit, as they have been doing and will continue to do through the many hours it takes to organize and execute distance learning. All they ask is some respect and acknowledgment. If you want them to volunteer over the summer to help the nation get back on its feet, call a spade a spade and ask them to volunteer. And don't forget to thank them afterwards.