Category Archives: friends

What a difference a decade makes

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Ten years ago today I said good-bye to my family and friends and boarded a plane for the Holy Land. I was about to embark on a journey of life, of discovery, of fear, loathing and love. Ten years on, 3 children, 3 conflicts, 3 homes and a lot poorer I can honestly say that I have some of the best friends I could have ever imagined, I have tasted a life I never would have imagined and I am certainly not the naive small town girl I was back then.

In December 2004 I had been married just 4 months and had lived as a married woman with my husband for 1 week before his visa required he returned to his native land. We had spent the 7 years previous working towards the end goal; marriage, family and a life together in one of our countries.

I arrived to blue skies and bright sunshine, a far cry from the grey, damp, drizzle of the UK and was filled with hope and dreams for our new life together. I was still at the stages of checking my wedding ring finger and admiring the shiny rings. I was excited, but also I was scared. What if I never spoke the language, what if I couldn’t find a job? What if this place was just. too. foreign? It was, not so much now.

Our first few weeks were spent at the apartment of very generous and welcoming friends, sleeping in their spare room and seeing each other every now and then. Husband was, at the time, working as a pastry chef in a newly opened restaurant and that meant long hours, day and night. I was on my own. Luckily our friends lived near Tel Aviv’s large and luscious park and I spent many an afternoon with a book or a journal, marvelling at the sunshine and the parrots and acclimatizing myself to the Middle East. Each morning I rode our friend’s bike to the Ulpan, the Hebrew school for new immigrants (you may remember the comedy of errors that experience was). I met people from around the globe, 1 of which has become a great friend and ally here.

In lieu of my husband the weekends were spent with his friends, one in particular who became my regular date for nights out, coffee shop meetings and cinema trips. Seems like as good a time as any to say thank you, your friendship was and still is invaluable.

We finally found an apartment to rent, close to my newly beloved park and I set about setting up home as a not so smug married. We got a dog, my adored Jesse. We bought furniture and unpacked our belongings from their shipping crates and the first of our UK visitors came to see us in our new life. Once Husband changed jobs his hours became easier and we spent time exploring Tel Aviv, the beach and the benefits of year round sunshine.

There were ups and downs. The language was so hard and the people so aggressive. Many a visit to the supermarket or post office saw me seeking refuge on our balcony, sobbing into Jesse’s fur. But on the up side, Husband and I were finally together, permanently, after our long and international journey. We had a ready-made set of friends from his early army days and I could manage one or two words in Hebrew. We had money in the bank and we wanted to start a family.

A long period of ill-health put paid to the family for a few years but eventually and due to the incredible health system and amazing Doctors here, 4 years later at full health, we welcomed our first child. By this time I was working back in television where I had worked for many years in the UK. Things were on the up. We had a bigger apartment and a wider network of friends including my gorgeous British girlfriends who continue to provide me with laughter and wine and a shoulder to cry on.

By 2010 we were a family of 5. The arrival of twins sent us packing to the suburbs and a child friendly home which is where we reside now. The TV career took a back seat as I faced the challenges of motherhood and three very small people. So now what?

As 2014 comes to a close and I look back on this year and the ten years I have spent here I see that we are on the edge of a new chapter. What that will be, we still don’t know but it seems a fitting time to take stock and count our blessings; our friends, our children, our health and our love for each other that has carried us through the upheaval of moving countries and facing the challenges that a life in Israel brings.

Thank you for your loyal following of my ramblings through 2014 and I’ll see you on the other side, hungover and ready to begin the next stage of the journey.

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The Great Escape

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When I left Israel at the end of July, I left  sirens and explosions, booms and rattling windows. Now I am back. The sirens have stopped, normal life resumes.
I lived in a bubble for 5 weeks, little or no news, only sporadic social media use, a promise to myself not to read the hate or get involved in the arguments about right and wrong in this age old, never ending fight.

Luckily my bubble was full of parental love, family support, old great friends, gin & tonic at 5.30pm and a bedtime of 11pm. Scattered liberally with picnics, chocolate biscuits, fish and chips, roast dinners and ice cream for the kids every single day. Yes it was a bubble but it was a great big happy bubble (with only a few meltdowns on everyone’s behalf – myself included).

 
IMG_2804I re-discovered a friendship, watched as my kid’s started to converse with one another in English and kept busy, really really busy. As I look back I am amazed by the many incredible experiences my childers had. I could write a guide book to keeping small children amused in Cheshire. Bruntwood Park, Lyme Park, Tatton Park, Torkington Park, Bramhall Park. Styal Mill, Walk Mill, not one but two country shows complete with fairground rides and a pony ride. One trip to North Wales to visit relatives and crab off the jetty, a trout fishing expedition resulting in fresh trout for dinner and a ride on a steam train. A hideous trip to Legoland Discovery (the kids loved it), a walk IMG_2876around Salford Quays, a visit to Jodrell Bank and the Manchester Science Museum and number one son went on a night time bat walk (there are more bats in our garden than he saw). Phew. Where did we find the time? And that’s before we mention the camping trip where they pedalloed and kayaked and slept under stormy canvas, over excitement with the cousins, treasure hunts in the garden after tea, building woodland dens and damning streams.

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All this under the shadow of the situation back home that only the adults were aware of.
This wasn’t real life. It was a holiday, an extra long, extra fun holiday – perhaps I was over compensating for my perceived notion of their fear back home. In reality they had no fear, they don’t understand and even when number 1 son saw a rocket being exploded above his head a day before we flew it was my hands that were shaking, not his. His words, ‘why is it a real rocket?’

The coming back is hard.  Coming back is always hard from any holiday – who doesn’t want to escape reality for a prolonged period? The goodbyes are getting harder and harder.  For a moment at the airport I almost said to my mum, ‘I don’t want to go, don’t make me go’, but the truth is that she wasn’t making me go and I am not a child anymore.  My children and my husband need me to act like an adult and accept real life.  If I want to stay in the UK then not getting on a plane after an extended holiday is not the best way to go about it. But what a great holiday, thanks Mum and Pops x

 

 

I was looking at all the life

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About 2 and a half hours south of Tel Aviv you will find yourself in the Arava.  The desert plains of Israel.  A thin strip of seeming nothingness but rocks and sand, jutting cliffs and mountains that appear to have been swept in on the last wind.

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Every Passover my family and friends go to the desert to make the most of the holiday, spend time with the childers and discover another little part of Israel. Spring is in full bloom in the desert, in fact in another week or so the evidence of the little rain we had in Israel this winter will dry up in the water holes and the plants and trees with the short roots will wither and dry until the desert is drenched again next year. If you look closely what on first glance appears to be miles and miles of rocks and sand actually reveals so much life.

The butterflies as ever did not aid my amateur photography skills, I did however find this little fella baking in the sun and he obliged by staying still.

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It made me wonder at how this little caterpillar and probably all his friends, found one of the few flowering plants, albeit a prickly home.  Nature is indeed a mystery.

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Deeper into the Arava heading towards a water hole the road ran alongside a riverbed.  Of course the water had long since gone but the evidence of its path was obvious.

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And what beauties I found here.  I drove the childers mad by stopping the car every few minutes as I spotted another colour, another shape, the chance of the elusive butterfly picture.

Perhaps my interest had been piqued by the book I am reading at the moment, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (which by the way is fantastic). The central character of the book is a botanist so my fascination with how things grow and where they grow was possibly slightly higher than usual. I am only sorry I have never learnt how to photograph my findings better – the yellow flowers are so terribly out of focus that I can only apologise but to get a full idea of the colours I have included it.

I have always had a slight fear of the desert.  On my first trip to the Negev in the days before I lived here my future husband decided to take us off roading, trekking and exploring and when night fell he pulled out a sleeping bag and we slept in a huge open valley with only the stars and the sand for company.  I say slept but I think I finally dropped off as the sun was rising and I could see where the scuttling noises were coming from.  The sheer enormity of open space, open air, nothingness was overwhelming and the thought of snakes, scorpions, spiders and other desert freak creepy crawlies added an edge of Indiana Jones.

Luckily on  this trip I didn’t see any snakes, although one of our friends almost ran his stroller over one as he pounded the dirt tracks to encourage his baby twins to sleep.  I did spot a grasshopper20140423-090935.jpg

and by a water hole, a frog (can you spot him?)

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Of course it being the desert we saw the camels – pregnant or feeding their young, the goats eating the scraps from the pepper farmers and I won’t shame myself with the dots in the sky photos of the massive preying birds.

So have I changed your view of a desert?  Not so barren after all. The desert in the spring is brimming with life, the sun burns but the heat not so intense, it’s dry but you can find water and where there is water there is movement and life and colour.  Try it, you might like it, I do.

What I have learnt this Christmas

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IMG_30521.  People are grumpy.

In recent months I have been adding a little extra to the family coffers by working in customer services for online stores in the States.  Usually at about 2 or 3 hours a day this has added a little pocket-money during the quieter months of my new business venture.  During the run up to Christmas people went wild  with their credit cards and my hours grew tenfold, literally meaning I was spending more time with American shoppers than my own family.  Luckily there is no Christmas in Israel (at least not in my part) so my own Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and even on Christmas morning was stress free.  Not so much the onliners.  Oh. my. goodness.  Talk about first world problems.

“My dogs special Christmas biscuits haven’t arrived yet and I ordered them a week ago” “I’m sorry the postal service is delayed due to the season” ” You have ruined our Christmas, what do I give the dog now?” A bone?  Purlease.

“I am really tired of dealing with you, your labels don’t print out straight and I need to return the water bottle I bought from you.  I wanted blue and you sent me green, I HATE green”

“I bought this [can of spicy salsa] from you and I don’t like it, it’s too spicy.  Can I return it?” Umm, you opened it?  Ate from it? Then NO.

“If my order was broken in transit why should I use my printer ink to print your [prepaid] return labels?  I am not wasting my ink or electricity printing, you need to send them by mail immediately”

“Call this a skateboard?  I have been skateboarding for 8 years and I have never come across such a s**t board.  I carn’t [sic] do my trix [sic].  It’s too heavy.  Send me money back now”

I could go on, and on, and on, and on.  The word I seldom came across was ‘please’.  The punctuation and grammar, never mind the spelling and most of all the anger has been just, well, shocking.  Why do people get so upset about such tiny things.  One man who did write a very rude and angry message to me did apologise after I was super nice and kind to him in my reply.  He told me his wife had just been laid off and he’d had forced early retirement.  Now that’s a real problem (albeit not mine so why are you YELLING AT ME).  The colour of your water bottle, that, is not.

2. Christmas is not for everyone.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the delicate balance between keeping Christmas in my life whilst bringing the children up in a Jewish country with a husband who has trouble being in the same room as a Christmas tree has its own challenges.  This year my husband explained his slow but sure acceptance of the holiday as part of my culture and therefore part of our children’s and for that I am extremely grateful.

Christmas is always a time of reflection and memories, something about the age-old family traditions; where the stockings are hung, what goes on the top of the tree, whether to finish all the chocolate coins before or after breakfast, brings back bygone Christmases and those no longer with us to share them.  Those hit by tragedy this past year in particular have had it tough and I have to tell you that if avoidance is your thing then Israel is the right place to come (and it’s sunny in December).

3. The best Christmas parties are when a group people get together with one aim to have fun.

We have been at two Christmas gatherings this holiday season.  The first at a friend’s house where, like last year, I was the only Christian but who doesn’t like an enormous dinner, sparkly lights and mulled wine right?  The second we had at our house with our Israeli friends who quite possibly didn’t know it was Christmas save for the small tree in the corner of the room (which by the way fell off its stand by the end of the evening).  Both gatherings were fantastic.  Fun for the kids, fun for the adults, fun for our stomachs.  If the message of Christmas is goodwill to all men no matter what their faith then we are on a winning streak.

4. Presents are nice

I love getting presents and the fact that I didn’t expect even one under the tree for myself this year meant I was stupendously pleased when a bumper bottle of Chanel arrived from Ma & Pa plus two bottles of gin and a much-needed winter coat from husband (I am off to Switzerland soon) were my loot.  I went shopping, uhum Santa went shopping, for the childers’ presents in a $ store and for the bargain price of 20 quid I filled their stockings with all the beads, toy cars, crayons and puzzles they could wish for.  Our lovely relatives from the UK provided the main presents and so far, 5 days later every single toy is being played with, every book read and every puzzle built, underlining my philosophy that a few of the right stuff, no matter the price goes a long way.

5. I miss Christmas but this year not as much

Perhaps because my sister was here, perhaps because I knew my parents were with my brother and his family, perhaps because I didn’t dwell too much and I was simply so busy this Christmas I had no sad moments longing for Christmas in the UK.  I miss my family and friends on a daily basis and although its more poignant during the festive season and I want to have a ‘proper’ Christmas again I think I can safely admit that this Christmas has been fun.

I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday season, whatever you celebrated or even if you didn’t.  I want to wish everyone a Happy 2014.  Thanks for reading and supporting my mutterings this year.  Onwards and upwards!

 

 

Red Sky at Night

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There are certain times of year when I am very happy that my home is in the Middle East.  November is one, February the other.  To me these were always the most depressing of months in the UK.  November with only a bonfire and fireworks to brighten the dull grey skies and chilly long nights.  The clocks are on winter time and the coats are out.

In Israel I finally pulled the duvets from their summer residence (the back of the cupboard) a week ago and to be fair we don’t really need them yet.  I have been sporting jeans rather than shorts but again, through want, not necessity (everyone else is in Autumn clothes so me too).  This morning is the first morning the childers requested a sweatshirt to go to nursery in.  It is in fact 24 degrees and sunny and tomorrow’s forecast is 29 degrees.  Am I gloating?  Yes, a little.  I think that it is small recompense for all the other crap I deal with from ‘choosing’ to live here.

We have spent the last three Saturdays at a beautiful beach just south of Haifa with assorted friends, buckets and spades, picnics and swimming costumes (the childers anyway, end of September signals the end of my desire to wear a bikini) and I am glad that I am not looking forward to the next ‘100 days of Arctic conditions’ in the UK.  I am happy that I am not leaning against a radiator that’s covered in drying socks, getting chilblains when returning home from work.  I do slightly miss the need for a winter coat and boots but hell, I can get over that and wear them anyway come January when (if) the thermometer dips below 16.

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Next month when I am mourning the loss of Christmas and fairy lights I would do well to remind myself of the joy of being able to pick strawberries in November, wearing flip flops and sunning my shoulders.  If any one ever needs a time to come to visit, now is it, leave the cold and grey behind and feel the warm again.

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Ging gang gooley

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When Israelis go away for the weekend they stay in zimmers (or they camp but that’s a pretty dusty/sandy experience).   Zimmer comes from the German word and has been adopted by Israel, pronounced tsimmer in Israeli-speak and is a little self contained cottage usually set in a small garden in a rural community. Zimmers in Israel range from the most basic – bed, bathroom, small kitchen to the most decadent 5 star luxury with separate bedroom and living room, fully equipped kitchen, jacuzzi, state of the art sound system.  One thing they all have in common is that they are a fantastic escape and are fiendishly expensive, think London hotel prices.  Yet, like many luxuries in Israel people pay the price because there is no alternative.

In our family we refer to zimmers as wooden houses (bite me etz) as these little cottages would not look out of place on the set of Heidi.  In fact once we went to a zimmer with the kids and they were highly disappointed to discover it was stone built.

In the days before the childers the zimmer experience was a romantic getaway, candlelight, jacuzzis and complementary wine.  In a country with a shortage of water like Israel’s, a bath, let alone a jacuzzi has always struck me as a decadence that the country (and it’s residents) can ill afford but it is a luxury that most Israeli’s wouldn’t dream of having at home so a little treat on your hols seems acceptable.  Nowadays our holiday jacuzzi holds as many small children as we can fit to have one giant bath experience.  Woe betide the person who turns the jacuzzi on though as tears and shrieks of terror are sure to follow.

I have mentioned in previous posts about our twice yearly trips en masse with a few families, many childers and a large cheese and wine selection to a group of zimmers.  We book a place to fit all the families and no more, and have an experience not unlike the scout camps from youth; cooking together, eating together, sitting around the camp-fire, toasting marshmallows, singing tunelessly to hubby’s guitar.  During the day we take short trips, sightseeing, mini-trekking and return to our ‘camp’ with tired kids to dip in the pool, drink turkish coffee (botz) and generally put the world to rights.  Once the childers are safely bedded down, exhausted from fresh air and new experiences, more wine comes out, the guitar is open to requests and the hidden stash of choc is miraculously found.

We are incredibly lucky to have a great group of like-minded friends who we go with.  If the time ever comes that we were to leave Israel it is these trips with this bunch that I will miss the most.

view towards the Golan

view towards the Golan

This Succhot’s trip was to one of Israel’s most stunning areas, The foothills of the Golan, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  The small village we stayed in had a spectacular view across the water towards Tiberias.  We were moments away from the Gamla valley where Griffon Vultures make their home.  Armed with binoculars this is a trip a birdwatcher would salivate over.  In fact on my parent’s very first trip to Israel 9 years ago we took them to Gamla and my Dad still talks about it.  Convinced as he was that Israel was all sand and camels, the green of the Galilee  and Golan in April with the added bonus of these gigantic scavengers (their wing span is 280cm) has firmly remained in his mind as one of the most beautiful experiences.

image courtesy of wikipedia.com

image courtesy of wikipedia.com

Now I won’t tell you once again how beautiful the country is, you can read about it here, what I will say is that when life seems a little like groundhog day, when the grind of work, child rearing, housekeeping, decision making gets you down, a few days away can certainly remind you that a change is indeed as good as a rest.  You should try it, at home or perhaps in Israel.

Roll up for the mystery tour

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It’s that time again when I am about to expose myself, my lack of knowledge and my inability to retain information. It’s time to take a trip north with overseas visitors. These visitors are not 1st timers so I can’t use my usual trick of talking a lot and saying very little, they are also more likely to catch me out in a white lie. These visitors are my parents and next week we will be going back to their favourite part of Israel, the Galilee.IMG_0620

I can wholly rely on husband’s knowledge of all things geographical, historical and social on our trip but when we get to the Christian sites,of which there are a lot in that part of Israel, he always turns to me.

I am not a religious person, if you had to put a label on it (me) I am Christian. I would like to think I am spiritual but I’m not convinced that I can even award myself that title. As a child I went to Sunday school at the local Methodist church because my Mum was religious and my Dad, a staunch agnostic, needed the peace on a Sunday morning. I have the children’s Bibles to prove I attended but can I remember more than a short smattering of the scriptures? Ummm no. In fact now that I live in the Holy Land it’s shamefully obvious how little I have remembered.

Back at the beginning of my life here I worked for a music promoter; when the bands from the States and the UK flew in, generally with a lot of very anti-Israel ideas, I was their whipping boy and one girl PR show for the positive Israel experience. I was the worst person for the PR role as I have my own love hate relationship with the country. Part of my role, when I wasn’t providing spoilt ‘rock stars’ with their every desire (my lips are sealed) was going on a lot of tours in mini buses with stoned/hungover/bored musicians. As you know from previous posts, Israel is an incredible place of natural beauty so it’s not difficult to impress but when we got to the religious sites I let my explorers down, luckily those who were awake/sober enough to listen were way more clued up than I.

Let’s just take for a moment the Christian sites, supposedly something I should IMG_0618have a vague clue about: I would take my Lonely Planet (not terribly informative religion wise) with me on all trips and surreptitiously read it on the bus. I deflected questions until we had our proper guide with us. Once I famously took a visitor to the many churches on the shores of The Sea of Galilee on Easter Sunday and couldn’t understand why they were all shut. Ignorance is too high a compliment. Maybe my goldfish sized memory is partly to blame. After so many tours and trips, having taken every visiting family member, friend, work colleague over an eight year period I should have ingested some of the knowledge. It’s in there somewhere.

So I have a weekend to get revising and try to link the places I know with the stories that I knew at 8. Site seeing is way more enjoyable if you actually have an idea what site you are looking at. If I don’t manage it I apologise in advance Ma and Pa, perhaps you should get googling.

The 3 legged camel

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On our recent Passover trip to the desert we stayed in a campsite. It was not the kind of campsite I am used to staying in, it was what I would term ‘glamping’ (glamour camping).  No we didn’t all don high heels and dressed for dinner (only the boys), but because the tents were huge domed affairs with tiled floors, mattresses and duvets and although we had communal bathrooms they were cleaner and way more spacious than my bathroom at home.  The real treat of this place was the view.  Perched on the edge of a canyon it overlooked the valley below and out towards the mountains of the Negev.

view of canyon

On our first evening, weary from a long car trip with small childers we all sat and watched as dusk fell and the light changed the canyon walls from pale yellow to pink.  From down the valley we saw a line of camels walking past.  Stopping occasionally to check out the sparse greenery they followed each other until they were out of sight.  Lagging behind somewhat came a second line, moving slower and in less order than their predecessors these camels had one leg bent at the knee and bound with bandages.  At first we thought the leader was injured but as more went by, we realised that these camels must be the runners as they were all tied, presumably to stop them escaping.  Bringing up the rear was a man with a stick.  Where they were going is unclear as they were moving away from the tiny village, perhaps they liked to sleep al fresco, far from man’s encroachment on their desert dwelling.

Apparently this is called hobbling and is not just to keep the camels from moving too far from their owner but is also used for the more aggressive camels to keep them in order and if need be, to attend to them when they are injured.  They were moving slowly but they didn’t seem too bothered by their hindrance, perhaps because they didn’t have a choice but to get on with it.  To our eyes it looked terribly cruel but the bedouins and the ancient tribes have been using this method throughout the centuries to train and control their camels.

The camels became a symbol of our holiday for me.  Holidaying as we always do with a group of good friends and their children I often feel that I too am hobbled.  No, nobody ties me up (except the childers as they all demand simultaneous carrying, cuddling, play fighting), my hobble is due to my inability to fully speak the language.  Always one second (or 10 minutes) behind the conversation as my rusty computer whirrs the translation to English I find myself becoming more mute as time passes.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to keep up.  All our friends are amazing I should add and speak to me in English, they don’t ever intentionally ostracize me but the chat is obviously in their mother tongue and when plans are being made,  decisions being mulled I rely on my ever patient husband to translate when I lose the thread and oftentimes I stay out of it.  This is a big mistake and I fully accept that it is a problem of my making.  If you are in my situation you probably already know this, and if you don’t, take it from me, make sure you are involved as ignorance is certainly not bliss and inclusion as an expat is always the goal, in every situation.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being hobbled in everyday life in a foreign country.  When you are not used to the customs and culture or religion, when newspapers, magazines,  even signs are either illegible or take perseverance, when you don’t get the jokes and can’t join in the chat about pop culture because watching local TV and listening to local radio requires effort, remaining ignorant and therefore disabled in the short-term is the easiest option.  This however is a slippery slope and in the long run leads to isolation, frustration and eventually self-confidence takes a nose dive.

Like the camels we learn to live with it.  Like most situations in life, human beings have the ability to adapt and acclimate to just about anything.  The question  has to be though, when does it stop being so difficult, when does the penny finally drop and full absorption take place?  If it doesn’t, does that mean it’s time to pack up and go back to where we can fully understand the humour, the nuances, the slang?  I liked walking with 4 legs and when 1 is tied at the knee it’s hard sometimes not to just get tired and fall down.

 

We stayed at a wonderful place called Lev Ha Midbar (Heart of the Desert) http://www.levhamidbar.co.il/ in Tzukim about 90 minutes north of Eilat.

Smoke gets in your eyes

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image: Haaretz.com

We are just days away from the barbecue bonanza which is Independence Day in Israel.  When every spare piece of ground has a group of family and friends gathered, barbecuing the b’geesus out of their kebabs.  When I say every spare piece of ground I mean parks, beaches, roundabouts, grass verges, bus stops.  You think of a space and you will find a metal tray of burning charcoal  set up and a group of people talking loudly aka arguing close by.

It’s a site to behold if you drive anywhere on Israel’s Independence Day, the lines to get into the national parks and the jostling for prime spots on the beaches, the parties being held in the parking lots of blocks of flats and the gatherings set up on the side of the road.  This is a day when the air by 1pm is thick with smoke and the smell of roasting meat – not great if you’re a vegetarian.

Israelis like to bbq.  No city park is complete without designated bbq areas complete with permanent bbq stands and picnic tables.  Independence Day is just the day when EVERYBODY does it but in general every Saturday the secular masses take to the countryside and get cooking or at least eating. One of the things I would miss if I were to live anywhere else is the Saturday outings; when we go for walks or picnics or build bonfires or barbecues or all of that, out in one of the many beautiful national parks.

Why Saturday, why food, why the outings? Well:

1. A large proportion of people in Israel live in apartments. This is a tiny country, over half of which is desert, with many, many people living here, so every Saturday people make for the parks and outdoor spaces in their droves as the majority do not have gardens or even balconies to hang out in.

2.  Saturday is the only full weekend day here.  The weekend is Friday Saturday and on Friday children go to school in the morning and some people also work.  (For the people who keep Shabbat this means that they really only have the non religious holidays to go out and about. Saturday is the day of rest where they don’t drive, cook, even turn on the electricity.  It also means that all household chores, food shopping etc has to be done during the week – no mean feat if you are a working parent.)  Just so you are clear this also means Sunday is a work day which takes a bit of getting used to when you’re from the West and as your friends and family are tucking into their Sunday roast you are at the office.

3. There is so much nature to see here.  Nothing is that far away if you live in the centre of the country.  2 hours could get you to desert, the Dead Sea, the Galilee and in less than an hour you can be on the coast, in the Jerusalem mountains in the Carmel region.

4.  People in Israel like to hike.  In my experience in the UK some people like to hike.  In Israel a large majority like to hike.  They also like to jog, do triathlons, mountain bike, road bike, climb, pothole, windsurf, kitesurf, surf surf, play basketball, football, handball (yes this is a game where you use your hand as a bat and whack a ball around a pitch – its true I have seen it in action).  Israel is the home of the fitness buff.  I’ll have to think hard on why that is… Anyway it stands to reason that come the weekend, when the whole family is together, the obvious choice is to merge the 2 favourite pastimes of an Israeli, exercise and eating.  Ah that’s the reason maybe, you can eat even more if you exercise first and in lieu of a back garden to go home to, you can bbq in the outdoor kitchen you set up in a park. Or if you are in my family, just skip the hike and go straight to the eating.

5.  Food is key here.  I have yet to meet someone here who does not cook, or go to friends or parents that cook. Food is a regular topic of conversation for all ages. Gathering over a meal is just about the single most important part of any holiday, weekend or just for the hell of it.  The restaurants are amazing (in the main), even stopping at a service station will be a culinary experience.  As everyone originates from a different part of the globe the choice is vast and each nationality has huge pride in their national food – don’t ever suggest to a Romanian that Turkish kebabs are better.

So back to Independence Day.  Keeping in mind that it’s a bonus day off for just about everyone (secular and religious alike), what better way to spend the day doing these favourite activities, except that as it’s also a day of celebration and parties, you can handily ditch the exercise bit, gather as many people as possible and just get eating.  Like most, we have a traditional gathering of the same group of people every year.  Before everyone’s childers the bbq was held on a tiny balcony or a city roof but these days we are all ‘of the age’ of suburban living so the families gather (what was 20 people is now at least 40 including the rug rats) at our friend’s garden to bbq prawns and kebabs, steak and sausages and drink beer and put the world to rights.  The kids run riot and I usually go home early evening with a hangover and an over inflated stomach.  Marvellous.

System Failure 651

Standard

As a self confessed luddite I thought nothing of it when my home internet went down last week.  Little did I know the knock on effect after 5 days internet free.  Handily at the same time no.2 son got hold of my iphone and dropped it, duly smashing the screen so I have been 100% disconnected.

My major upsets so far;

I miss my daily Facebook updates from friends and family overseas.  I may have mentioned before the importance of hearing the mundane from your home country when you live overseas.  Little Charlie went to the zoo today, John and Jill had pizza for dinner and Gareth doesn’t like his neighbours.  Important information I think.

I rely wholly on skype to chat to family and friends; no internet = no contact.  (obviously picking up the phone or texting is out of the question)

As a newly converted kindle fanatic I can’t buy new reading material without internet access. As my husband remarked as I was flicking through an old paperback “what’s that you’re holding?”

I am relying on Sky and BBC international TV for my news, not the numerous online newspapers I usually headline read – makes for an interesting outlook on world events

I found myself more than a little concerned that I couldn’t check out the Oscar winners and the fashion choices of the stars. (Does that make me shallow?)

My work is obviously suffering, I am well and truly behind on a deadline and my new business venture is being set back; trying to decide how a website looks through the cracked screen of an iphone is not terribly beneficial.

I feel cut off, a little jumpy, perhaps I am missing something, perhaps someone is looking for me.  Probably not.  When I choose to be offline I don’t miss it, but as this cyber exile is not self imposed it’s suprising the effect it’s having on me.

Luckily today the iphone is fixed and I am tapping away on a borrowed pc. I feel calmer and more in control.  Seriously, how did I manage before the internet, or rather look how addicted I have become to the internet.  Is this an addiction or just reliance and is it something I should try to work on along with the other 50 million self improvements I have been promising myself? Sod it.  Someone just help me fix the thing and let me get on with my cyber life. Please, I may go out and I need the internet to tell me what I should wear.