Thursday, 28 May 2009

Not so happy cheese day

So, eight months seems to have passed me by without anything worth writing about happening in my life. Well, that’s what one would be forgiven for thinking were they to be a follower (ex-follower more likely…) of this particular blog.

It’s not true though. Plenty of things have happened. I’ve had various amazing visitors come to play with me in the Holy Land (including His Holiness, the pope), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made umpteen threats about his nuclear program, there have been a bunch of wars all over the world, my hair has grown significantly, the weather has gotten colder, and then hotter again, the US elected a black president and Israel elected a flawed prime minister for a second term, and I got a new computer.

So why then, one may ask, have I been so neglectful? Am I uninspired? Unmotivated?

Maybe so.

Or, maybe not. Maybe I’m just busy.

More likely, I think, is that the last shreds of the novelty of living in this ridiculous place have finally worn off.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that I’m over it – far from it. Everything’s just… normal. People come to visit from overseas and I get inundated with ‘Look at the size of that gun,’ ‘Wow the food is oily,’ and ‘Oh your Hebrew has improved,’ and I’m like… okay. Shrug. What do you want me to do about it? The day-to-day here doesn’t surprise me anymore, doesn’t make me want to share absurdities with the world.

As such, it seems, this is a nothing post, a Seinfield post, an attempt to get myself writing again. Writing something other than news stories, and scrawled semi-drunken rants which hopefully no one will ever see, at least not while I’m still alive.

Perhaps I’ll stop writing before this becomes a rant then, and leave you with this thought:

Most Jewish holidays are based around food, and most holidays based around food are based around meat. Piles of meat, of assorted types, which I do not eat. As a result of Jewish dietary laws keeping meat and milk separate, I end up eating lots of carbs and veggies, which though I prefer over ingesting murder, gets kinda old.

There is, however, one Jewish holiday, for which a tradition has evolved to make a milk meal. Shavuot. Oh Shavuot. The one vegetarian holiday.

Now, though this festival may well have been invented by Tnuva (milk company) like Valentine’s Day was invented by Hallmark, and really marks the Jews receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, which I couldn’t really care less about even if it did ever happen, I’m a fan. I’m a fan of pasta with cream sauces and cheese balls and cheese cakes and blintzes and the like. I can say ‘I love cheese’ in 14 different languages. Dairy products, though also questionable ethically, I must say, are of my favourite things in the world.

So you’re thinking I’m happy right now, yeah? Because after all, today is Shavuot.

But no, no. No, I have to work. Lame, I say. Lame.

Happy cheese day indeed.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

What the Holy Land can learn from the Land Down Under

There are plenty of things Australia could pick up from Israel. Ciggie breaks in movies for example, frying things more, big-ass salads with a loaf of bread and a bucket of butter on the side, regular trance parties in the forest, selling alcohol in every corner shop… the list goes on.

Israel has some vital things to learn from Australia too.

The one that stands out to me at the moment is to saving water. The Holy Land, like the Great Southern Land, is in the midst of a profound drought. Advertising campaigns have started, which is great, featuring a mildly attractive woman who quickly ceases to be when her skin dries up and starts cracking off as she explains that Israel has ‘no, absolutely no water to waste.’ There are big billboards over all major cities explaining to the public that the water level on Lake Kinneret, the country’s main water source, is dangerously low.

Awesome. Good work. It’s a start at least.

What I want to know is, why then, when I walk home every day, do I see pavements being washed with water, leaky pipes flooding the streets, sprinklers showering the park in the middle of the day? Speaking of which, why are we trying to make the desert into England anyway? Green fluffy grass isn’t quite native flora in the Judean hills.

At least no one here ever washes their cars.

I advocate bringing in some of the hardcore water restrictions from Australia. First and foremost, no ridiculous wasting of water. Sounds crazy right. Mmm… Okay, we’ve gotta stop wasting water… how do we do this… umm… STOP WASTING WATER DAMMIT! Listen to flaky-face woman!

  • Don’t wash your pavement. It’s concrete. It doesn’t need to be washed. Sweep it if you must.
  • If a pipe is leaking, fix it; don’t just let the water flood the city.
  • Program sprinkler systems to function at night, not during the day when all the water is being evaporated before it even touches the plants.
  • And - consider growing plants that are native to the environment. Sure grass is pretty, but maybe its just England’s reward for having to put up with rubbish weather.

That’s it. I’m translating the list into Hebrew and sticking it on every telegraph pole I walk past from now on. It’s gonna be Lan’s Little Community Action Project For The Week.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact me by email.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The day my computer melted

On Friday, my computer melted. Mmmhm.

It was sitting in its usual spot, presumably minding its own business, and half the keys melted so they now look like a mountain range, and pushing them requires all the strength in my fingers.

It was a hot day, sure, but certainly not the hottest my room has seen in the last two and a half years. Seriously that are the chances?

Typing this has taken me like ten minutes. Grr

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Post Office

I went on a little trip to the post office this morning. Fairly ordinary I hear you say, but alas you would be wrong. Whilst after almost three years of living here, there are a few things in my life in Israel that are starting to become ordinary, the post office is definitely not one of them.

A trip to the post office, I'm here to tell you, is always a most extra-ordinary experience.

I was apprehensive about my trip to the post office because I've been having a bit of a zoning problem lately. And when I say lately, I mean for the entire two and a half years I've lived in my flat. Whenever I get one of those 'come pick your letter/package/whatever up from the post office' notes, I go to the post office, and, without fail, they tell me I'm at the wrong post office and send me walking 15 minutes in the other direction to the other post office in my area. Regardless of which post office I decide to go to (obviously there's no number to call and check these things), I'm always wrong. There's some sort of Israel-evil bureaucracy-Murphy's law power play going on here. I'm telling you.

Each time this happens I have the same conversation, they tell me that there's been a zoning problem, I'm right in the middle, apparently. If I lived at number 32 or 28 it would be fine, but number 30 is a problematic building. Right. Regardless they always assure me it'll be fine next time, and surprise surprise, it never is.

Maybe they're just trying to keep me fit.

On my last post office trip (which was only two weeks ago so I'm still smarting from it), the kind man at post office number one let me in on a secret. The scribble in the circle in the corner of the little slip is actually code for the post office that the item is being held at. TWO AND A HALF YEARS. Two and a half years of back and forth, and I find out there's a code. You live and you learn right?

Next time, I thought to myself, next time I'll know.

So. That's one reason I was apprehensive about my post office trip this morning. I'd deciphered the code on the slip, and I thought I actually knew where my item was being held captive. I was excited to put the theory to the test.

There was, however, one other thing niggling on my mind. I had no idea what the item was. I'm fairly sure that I live an inoffensive enough life not to be the victim of any anthrax type letters, but still. On my last post office adventure, the very same one when I was let in on the secret of the circle-scribble-code, the item that I was rewarded with was in fact a bill for a superannuation policy that I'd canceled three weeks earlier (which is a whole other story). So I was concerned that perhaps, for the second time in two weeks, my trip would be a colossal waste of time.

All this aside, I took a deep breath, and headed to the post office.

I honestly believe that a trip to the post office is one of the most organic Israeli experiences one can have. Walking up to the building, the first thing I saw was the security guard, chatting to two people like they were his best friends, whilst in reality I'm pretty sure he'd never met them before. They're holding little slips of paper with numbers on them. First tip-off that this wasn't going to be an in-out deal - people are having cigarette breaks from waiting in line. I open the door, and all hopes of getting home in the next hour are out the window. There's about 20 people standing around, all holding their precious numbers, chatting with one another like they're at a family reunion.

I don't know what to describe first.

There's the old American woman who comes up to me and tries, in her terrible Hebrew, to ask me how long I've been waiting and what my number is, and if it's usually this busy, and what I'm here for (it gets a lot easier when I tell her she can just speak English).

There's the crazy shaved-head three-teeth-left-in-her-mouth woman literally screaming at the man across the counter because he isn't doing what she wants. Presumably giving her money for more crack.

There's the postal teller who screams out "ENOUGH! Stop screaming! We can't work like this" to the three-teeth crack woman.

There's the Moroccan man who finds it necessary to explain to me that no other post office in the world is like this one, making sure to go into detail about what other post offices do that is so much better.

There's the four year old kid running around the place with a toy car making 'zoooooooom' noises.

There's the young guy who after about 15 minutes decides it's up to him to tell crack-lady that she's wasting everyone else's time and should leave.

There's the normal looking woman who sits down next to me, asks my number, and starts trying to calculate, out loud, exactly how long until she will be served.

Seriously. Anyone who knows me knows what a massive statement the one I'm about to make is.

I was the most sane, most normal person in that place.

Eventually my turn came. I walked up to the teller, gave her a smile, and handed her my little slip. Poor woman looked like she was about to lose it as the screaming woman hadn't stopped yet. Anyway she got up, and I held my breath waiting to find out whether I was even at the right post office. Miracle of miracles, she comes back with a package in her hand, gave it to me and I was free. Didn't check my ID or anything I might add. Whatever, I was free.

It had been almost an hour.

What was the package? I know you're itching to find out. Oh, that's right, it wasn't even for me. It was sunglasses and a curling iron that my friend's mum had sent her from Canada. Yup. All that for someone else's stuff.

At least it seems I've broken the secret-scribble-code. Still, I think maybe I should just quit my job and stay home all day, every day, so that I can catch the postman when he arrives rather than having to ever go to a post office again.
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