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Friday, March 14, 2014

School's out for Adar

And the 2 words every parent can't wait to hear:  "Great news mom, no learning for 2 weeks!"  That is how the lead-in to Purim started and while I don't think it has been entirely true, things have definitely lightened up.  Considering that after Purim we will be in the "pre-Chag" period leading up to Passover,  I am not too sure when learning will resume.  The last couple of weeks have been marathons of crazy dress days, projects, parties, fun and fairs.  Ariella asked why Mordechai is called a Yehudi (Jew) but Esther is not.  An interesting question and I think one that comes from understanding the text in it's original language.  She also wrote a song called "Haman is the loser."  Don't ask for the lyrics because the title does double duty as chorus and refrain (with the occasional "we hope he does tshuva "<repentance> thrown in).  Also, she wanted to know if Esther spoke both Hebrew and English.

Nehemiah's school fair started out sunny and beautiful and within 20 seconds turned dark, windy and started raining.  My question for the evening was were we being punished or rewarded?  Right now we're in a drought so we are all praying for rain but balance that against one of my father's mottos: No good deed goes unpunished, and well, you'll have to answer that one for yourself.  The bouncy rides were taken down but the pedal cars continued and suffice it to say that for a 10-year old boy, racing pedal cars in the rain is a major reward.  

Today I was able to see hundreds of kids in costume as schools did their own Purim parties.   Adar is a good month to keep snacks, treats, and small change on hand because for the weeks leading up to Purim it gets celebrated everywhere the kids go and even if it's gymnastics class they find themselves exchanging goody bags and/or raising money for charity.  My kids threw their things together from the Purim costume garage sale/fair we went to but some of these kids got seriously creative.  Ariella ended up wearing a flamenco dancer dress she got from Savta Joanie a few years ago and went as a flamenco rock star (some of it's attitude).  I saw quite a few flamenco dancers but none that had a rainbow wig and butterfly wings.  Costumes are her thing.

Tonight we're going to Shabbat dinner with friends and than it's party, party, party.  I'm hoping to make  a quick run to my hospital on Purim day and take the kids to visit sick kids along with other members of our congregation before we go for our festive Purim meal.  Nehemiah likes to say "Haman might have been a bad guy but if it weren't for him we wouldn't be having so much fun!"    If we have time I can also give them a quick our of the ED, so that they can see how I am spending my days now that I have "graduated from ulpan."

Wishing you all (for whom it is relevant) a Happy Purim!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Put on those Vulcan ears

So the Purim candy hop that Lital went on was so fantastic, that I want to share.  I had originally thought it seemed like a trick-or-treat type scenario but it was so different.  Apparently, the kids go out on both nights of Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the new month) in full Purim costume singing and dancing.  They collect a sandwich bag full of treats.  On night two they came to our house and they really are spreading the joy of Adar.  About 25 kids in costume came dancing in, sang the popular (Mishe nichnas Adar) Adar song, got a couple of mentos each and went on their way.  In the same way that even though I don't get a "summer vacation" anymore but when the end of school rolls around I just feel a little lighter and as if there is something more to look forward to, I imagine that kids growing up in Israel must feel the joy of Adar well into their adult life.  Last year, I got the sense that Purim is almost a month-long celebration but now I can really say that.  These kids have dress up days/parties/activities etc. for weeks leading up to Purim.  With each one at a different school I can barely keep track of the goings on but now that they understand Hebrew they are keeping track.  Homework, surprisingly, still can fall through the cracks, but the "I need to bring chips for the party" message makes it's way home each and every time.   Plus,  Ariella's interpretation of the Purim story is keeping us laughing.

I started at the hospital this week.  That in and of itself is a whole megillah (got to stay on theme) which I will write about at a later time but suffice it to say for now that if you are feeling sort of doldrum, ho-hum about your life...move to a new country and try doing your job there.  It is an eye opening experience.  I am trying not to compare because it is like comparing the proverbial apple and orange.  Instead, I am just trying to observe and experience.  One thing I learned this week, which means that Israel's more limited resources must be allocated quite efficiently:  Life expectancy in Israel is one of the highest in the World.  #14 (US is 35).

Which gives us the first half, at least, of the classic Vulcan greeting.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dressing up

Good news.  I don't have tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, varicella, rabies, influenza, polio, or mad cow disease (OK I threw that last one in to make sure you were still reading.)  This means that I can start at the hospital Sunday.   Whooohooo.  Someone commented that it might be easier for me to get a job at the CIA.   Last week I completed the Human Resources scavenger hunt--it was so much fun!  The hospital campus is sprawling with building after building, clinics, labs, office buildings.  All surrounded by palm trees and greenery.  Walking pathways, people getting around on golf carts, so many languages and ethnicities.   It reminded me of Disney world but without the piped in music and people in costume.    I'm a bit directionally challenged at the best of times, but throw a massive campus and a foreign language in, and well you can imagine my difficulties.  I went from office to office in search of signatures.  In the first office I opened with "I don't know why I'm here maybe you can help me and showed them my forms."  It was there that it became clear that I was seeking signatures from heads of various departments.  People sometimes ask how I keep from feeling like a moron during this process.  The short answer:  I don't.  How could I?  The most basic tasks are difficult and confusing.  The scavenger hunt was made even more rewarding when the directors would respond with something along the lines of "why do they do this ridiculousness?" (shtuyot).  How am I supposed to answer that question--you're the one who works here!

In one office she called the benefits guy and I overheard her ask him to come meet me, because she thought that I might not ever find him and she could picture me just walking around aimlessly.  The reason I was able to overhear her say that is because she said it out loud in a regular speaking voice on the phone right in front of me.  The benefits guy was interesting.  We didn't have too much to talk about.  Apparently in Israel, retirement saving is compulsory so 5% of my paycheck goes to a pension and the government will match 12.5%.  But since you don't really get paid for the observation period 17% of zero keeps ending up at zero no matter how you spin it.  He did teach me that in Hebrew when you wish someone luck you use the word for success because the word for luck is just an acronym for being in the right place at the right time.

Last night I took the kids to a costume fair for Purim.  It was delightful. (This time, no sarcasm). Imagine a big garage sale of gently used costume pieces.   Costumes here are rather expensive, but these were pieces for 2-20 shekel.  Each kid ended up putting together costumes for about 30 shekels (about $9) and they had such a great time picking out the different combos.  As N commented to me recently, "Costumes for Purim are about getting into the joy and the fun not about putting on a zombie outfit and scaring people."  We went with some friends but also ran into friends from their schools and I saw a friend from camp Ramah who also lives in Modiin (though a different section).  We've already taken to buying hamantashen (triangular cookies for Purim with filling) at the bakery, the kids are singing their songs and Lital's school built a world's fair type thing for Purim.  Her project was Paris and they built an Eiffel tower.  Bon jour.

Tonight after havdalah we broke out into song about the happiness that comes with Adar.  The kids started dancing and it was a really nice moment.  Later some of their friends came by dressed in costume and invited them to come along going door to door for candy and singing "misheh."  I'll say coming from the US that this custom sounds strangely familiar, but I think my poor kids who had to sit out on October 31st all the years we lived in Kansas have finally gotten their chance.  Adar is going to be so much fun. 

Starting today, when I get to dress up-- in scrubs!