Remember my Name

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ImageI have always had a bad memory for names and it’s even worse now I live somewhere where the names are not familiar and have no point of reference for me.  Following a visit to Israel I telephoned the house that my Husband-To-Be was staying at and spoke to one of my now very good friends, I had met her and spent time with her only a week earlier but I called her Hagar, her name is Gali.  No they are not similar in any way but the week I had been visiting Israel I had met a lot of H-T-B’s friend’s girlfriends and there was Hadas, Hagar, Gali, Tali, Michal and Michal.  It was very confusing for someone who knew a host of Clares, Rachels, Sarahs and Helens.  You would have thought 10 years on I would have got better.  Not so.  Of course I no longer call my friends by the wrong name but a couple of weeks I made what the French would call a faux pas, the Israelis call a fedeekha and what us Brits would call a balls up.

I was on my daily power walk (yes I am old and I don’t jog) and my phone rang. The name Noa came up.  Noa is a very popular girls name here – not to be confused with Noah with a kh sound at the end which is a boy’s name.  I don’t know anyone called Noa but she was saved in my phone and when I spoke to her it turned out she was one of the Mothers from the twins’ nursery inviting us all over for dinner.  How lovely.  I said great, made a note of the date and kept walking.  A few day’s before the date I asked her to pick the twins from the nursery and I would get there as soon as poss with no. 1 son because I had double booked something.  All good so far, she was sweet enough to deal with my two 3 year olds plus hers and a baby alone for half an hour.  One hour in to our date I received a text message ‘are you on your way?’.  I was so confused.  I am here.  What on earth.  Oh bugger.  I am at the wrong house with all my children and now how do I explain inviting ourselves over, asking for the favour and who on earth really invited us?  Uh oh. I wondered why there was no sign of dinner.

To cut a very confusing story short Noa is the name of the girl whose house we had all invaded and the mother who had invited us was also Noa.  Oops. I eventually explained the predicament and  went to dinner at the other Noa’s house (whose daughter has the same name as my daughter) and all was well. Must remember people’s names, must remember people’s names.

Luckily my name also causes problems for Israelis.  There is no ay sound in the Hebrew language so Katie is often pronounced Ketie or Kitty.  As I am sure I have mentioned before, the Israelis love coffee shops.  The local coffee shop is to an Israeli what the local pub is to a Brit.  Many of the coffee shop chains have a name system whereby they call your name over the microphone when your order is ready.  I have been called Hattie, Kaley, Kitty, Ettie and my personal favourite Titty.  Yes someone called me Titty once.  Go figure. Thank goodness for Katy Perry, I now say Katie, as in Perry.

At a meeting in the early days here a receptionist asked me (in English) who she should say was here and I said, its Katie.  She promptly picked up the phone and said Skatie is here.  My Brit friends still call me Skatie to this day. So you see it’s not just me mispronouncing, messing up, not remembering names but if everyone had pronounceable Anglo name I am sure I would fare a lot better – Chen is an old school friend of my husbands, pronounced Khhhhhhkhhhen.  I really don’t stand a chance.

Is this just me or do any of you have the same problem?

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They’re Back

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As the days heat up, the sun begins to really burn and the nights become stuffy we once again welcome the critters that dwell in these parts.  I say welcome but actually what I really mean is dread.

Since this time last year and my post When the Night Comes Falling there have been some changes in my garden, namely the chopping down of too many ficking ficus bushes and a very short haircut for the banana plant.  All in the name of keeping them roaches away.  Duh.  Nothing keeps them away.  Although we haven’t had a repeat performance of the infestation we have previously experienced (yet) there is a certain amount of unmistakable rustling in the leaves come nightfall and we have had some visitors to the house.  7 to be exact.  I think someone may have been feeding them kriptonite as they are getting bigger.

In the months of quiet we have had a couple of hedgehogs hanging out in the back garden, a few preying mantis and a lot of bats.  These I can handle.  Even welcome.  The roaches, no, just no.  When they manage to squeeze under the screen door and make a dash across the floor in front of where I am sitting, when they jump out of the kids towel at bath time and scuttle behind the toilet and worst of all when they run across the bedroom floor I am not ashamed to admit that my deep throated yelp of shock is as forthcoming as ever.

From the early days of my roach encounters I have figured out a way to stun them or at least slow them before they run and hide (and I ain’t going to bed with a known roach monster lurking in my boudoir).  My trick?  Hairspray.  In fact it is the same hairspray can that I have had for around 10 years, because lets face it who uses hairspray? (except my mum).  This handy tin gets sprayed at the offending critter who either a) falls on its back and therefore is easy to bat with a flip flop (flip flops are the method of choice because they are malleable and make a good crack as you whack) b) the smell/stickiness slows the high speed hiding and once again make them easier prey for the flip flop.  So far this year I have killed 3.  Husband wins the tally with 4, he also has to clean up the bodies.  I do wish he’d stop flushing them down the toilet though because they don’t always flush away, think about it….ugh.

I think we have to get the roach killer back to spray the house to ensure a less stressful summer but the idea of poisoning us in order to poison them isn’t ideal.  Someone told me recently that the answer is a cat.  They like to play with them, paw at them and ultimately crunch on them.  Sounds ideal.  There are plenty of cats to take our pick from, Israel like many Mediterranean countries is inundated with street cats.  The problem is that I hate cats only a little less than I hate roaches.  Sorry cat lovers but the moggies just don’t like me and as a result I don’t like them.  Even the most gentle, friendliest cat will attack me.  Once a cat pounced on me as I walked down the street (unprovoked I might add) and clung to my leg with its very sharp claws as I tried to run away (yes people were pointing and laughing but I didn’t find it very funny).  Cats now know I am scared of them and in their spooky, intelligent, sly way they pretend to be mates by purring and nudging my hand with their heads only to out the claws or go for a quick bite.  I now have to decide which is worse, the odd cockroach or a permanent house cat.

Hmmm, which makes a better housemate?

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Here are some snaps from the garden.

 

Last Night

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I have a new best friend, in my dreams.  In my dream he is rich and famous, enormously (suprisingly) talented.  He lives in New Orleans (surely that should be Memphis) and he wants to be my best friend.  In my dream he is Justin Timberlake.  Oh woe is me.  I have a teenage crush at 41.  Last night I joined an assorted crowd of JT fans in a park in Tel Aviv to see my new best friend in concert.  At the end of the concert I was shocked by the talent and professionalism.  I had enjoyed bobbing up and down to the music, I even raised my hands above my head at certain moments.  He can sing, play guitar, play piano, dance and lets face it he is easy on the eye.  He wasn’t however my new best friend.

Then I went home to sleep.

By 7am he was my best friend.  I was enjoying myself so much, hanging out in a cafe with him, introducing him to my family, being introduced to his friends that I asked my 3 year old to let me sleep a little more rather than admire the art work she had done for me and wanted to be stuck on the wall,  This surely is a mid life crisis.  I am already looking forward to going to sleep tonight so I can hang out with him again.

In very recent years the major acts are starting to add Tel Aviv to the concert circuit.  Slowly, slowly they are returning after the 2000 intifada and the fear of being accused of political/religious bias kept them away.  Now the instagrams of stars at the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock or floating in the Dead Sea are appearing on a weekly basis. Rihanna liked the Dead Sea so much she was still floating in it when she should have been on stage.

 

My first job in Israel back in 2005 was for a music promoter.  I was in charge of looking after the ‘stars’ from the moment they landed their private jets until we breathed a sigh of relief when they climbed back on.  It was still too soon for the really big names to come so unfortunately I didn’t meet the Madonnas and Elton Johns of the world.  My first band was Faithless who were actually very nice.  Their lead singer was a little demanding but by the time they left I was quite a fan.  The other bands were famous but I had to look them up before they arrived (I ain’t no music officinado).  Some were more demanding than others, ‘I want the tent dressing room to be swathed in white silk and filled with white lilies’ – the “star” in question was one of many acts at a festival, had a 3 song set and was in the ‘dressing room’ for precisely half an hour.  When she left I picked up the lilies which had been thrown on the floor and trodden on.

These backstage riders are actually negotiated before the arrival of the acts.  The promoter and the manager thrash out whether the stars will get French champagne cooled to a certain temperature or not.  In true Israeli fashion we agreed to everything and then provided a version of the requests.

My personal favourite moment was when Phil Collins arrived.  We had a police escort to the

hotel from the airport (why?) which was very exciting.  We weren’t allowed to address ‘Mr Collins’ directly and there were to be no tip offs to the press and no unauthorised photographs.  When the cavalcade arrived at the hotel the entrance was packed with the paparazzi (I was confidently assured that they had been tipped off to boost ticket sales).  The hotel manager came to greet Mr. Collins and the hotel photographer was summoned to take the official hand shake photo.  Collin’s manager was turning puce. The piece de resistance was the cake the hotel had prepared and presented to Mr Collins so he could cut it – again, why?  The cake was decorated with a life size sugar paper photocopy of Phil Collins’ face which he then proceed to stick a large knife into.  Classy.  Collin’s manager then demanded that the whole band, techies, entourage, et al be moved to another hotel.

So back to my bezzie mate.  I have tried to online stalk him just so I know where he stayed and I have wondered what was on his rider.  As I know him so well I think he would just ask for water – he’s no diva.  The one surprise is the fact that my crush is purely platonic.  That’s what age does to you.  I wasn’t the oldest at the concert I am happy to report but my friend’s 9 year old shattered my idea that I was doing something vaguely young and cool by asking,’who is Justin Timberlake?’.  Even Justin is too old for da kids.  Back to dreaming then.

 

WTF?

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20140523-112458-41098568.jpgTen years on and there are many things in Israel, quirks shall we say, that I didn’t think I would ever get used to. In fact on arrival many of them struck me at the least strange and at the worst absurd.  Here are my favourites;

1. Cottage.  No not a small quaint house in the countryside but cottage cheese.  Yes cottage cheese is called cottage and when I told the childers that we were going to stay in a cottage they thought it was hilarious.

2. Breakfast of salad (with onion) and the ubiquitous, cottage.  Just. No.

3. Young men going out in the evening for a coffee.  In fact many go out for coffee and cake.  In touch with their feminine sides or just not lager louts like the Brits?

4. 1 day weekends.  I believe I have complained about this before.  Kids go to school, some people work.  The weekend starts on Friday afternoon and ends as the sun goes down on Saturday. Too darned short.

5. Shabbat.  I have also talked about this delicious day before.  When the roads are quiet, the stores are closed and you don’t feel you should be doing something other than hanging out with the family or relaxing at the beach.

6. What we in the UK would call cheek nay rudeness – chutzpah.  ‘How much do you earn?’, How much do you pay for your mortgage/rent/weekly shop?’. ‘Why don’t you have more/less children?’ etc etc.

7. Handball.  Its a game where grown men run around a pitch hitting a ball with the palm of their hand to each other.  What? (along the lines curling in its absurdity)

8. Going out at midnight.  I like to sleep.  I liked to sleep when I was still young enough to go out at night.  To rest until 11pm and then get up to go out is just plain weird.

9. Throw away cups, crockery, cutlery and soft drinks.  Go to any event, wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah or political meeting and you will find these arranged on the table.  There is a genuine reason behind it – the laws of kashrut for those who keep kosher – but it always strikes me as odd to arrive at an event and see orange squash and plastic utensils laid on the table.

10. Buy 2 get 1 free.  I only want one.  Where’s my discount?

Just add matches

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It’s that time of year again when the air smells of wood smoke, children are spotted pushing shopping trolleys of wood and the fire service are on high alert.  Yes, it’s Lag Ba’Omer which is which is I suppose the Israeli equivalent to bonfire night, minus the fireworks.  You can read all about the historical significance here and you may remember I have talked about this occasion in the past.

A few years ago I used to quite enjoy this holiday but now with the childers it is slightly more stressful.  On Thursday evening there were around 150 under sixes and a number of unmanned bonfires. Perhaps I am a little over sensitive but  trying to keep an eye on our three small childers (especially when one is a runner) in amongst the smoke and burning piles adds to a high level of stress. Add some skewers of charred boiling marshmallow and minus any kind of alcohol for the parents and I needed a lie down by 9pm.

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The childers have been coming home with instructions from their teachers, that you can’t light fires near trees, how you need to keep your distance from the fires and how you need to listen to the grown ups as fires are dangerous. I then saw this mini hot air balloonIMG_2236 being lit by a group of adults whilst surrounded by a group of children, whilst in amongst a crowded field of small people.  Even no. 1 son (age almost 6) commented on how dangerous it was.    I must admit it was lovely to watch it as it rose up into the evening sky but the previous 5 minutes of it falling onto the heads of the small children before it got going had me standing with my mouth open.  Let’s hope it didn’t come down over a dry forest.

 

Never Forget

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It’s a week of armies and war and soldiers and remembrance and the childer’s have reacted in a what I can only call a big muddle.

Their Dad is spending the week in the miluim which is the army service that all males do until around the age of 40 to 45.  He’s training which means in essence walking a lot, usually at night with a huge backpack.  To be honest I don’t know what he’s doing but I know he is carrying a gun and wearing army fatigues which in itself turns my blood cold.  The childers, sorry rephrase that, the male childers in our family think this is rather cool.  Daddy in uniform, with gun – yay.  Hmmm maybe not. Unfortunately for hubby he also turned 40 this week and what better way to spend a landmark birthday than tramping in the desert with a load of other nearing middle age sweaty men.

This week was also Holocaust Day in Israel where at sundown all stores, restaurants and places of entertainment close as a mark of respect for the millions of lives taken in the Holocaust.  The following morning businesses re-open but at 10am a minute siren is sounded throughout Israel and the country comes to a stop.  Everyone stands in silence, where ever they are.  Cars on highways pull over and drivers stand by their cars, buses stop, streets are silent.  It is a moving and awe-inspiring experience that I often believe should be replicated on war remembrance days around the world.

The government and Yad Vashem released new guidelines to teachers on how to answer children’s questions about the siren and what the Holocaust was and for the first time the recommendation was that State nurseries should also be included. So that is where my almost 6-year-old and twin 3-year-olds learnt a little about Hitler, Germany, anti Semitism and remembrance.

In reality when they came home and I asked them what they did at nursery this is snippets of the conversation we had:

Number 2 son (age 3) – we know about Eeeetlerrrr.  He drank poison and died.  He’s dead.

Daughter (age 3) – yes and he drank poison and he was a baddy and he was called Eeeetler.

son (age 3) – and and and and Joan (not her real name) the nursery teacher’s grandpa and grandma had to hide in the woods and he got shot in the leg and there was lots of blood.

daughter (age 3) and they didn’t have any plasters

son (age 3) – and they were on the roof

Me – who was on the roof?

son (age 3) – the soldier who shot him and they  tied his leg with material and they ran away

Me – and then what happened

both – he’s dead, he drank poison.  he was called Eetler.

other son (age 6) – who’s Eetler?

Yes indeed.  That is what happens when you try to tell history to children too young to even begin to understand.   I did  tell them that their teacher’s grandfather was not Hitler, at least I am presuming he wasn’t. I then let the subject drop rather than try to right the story.  I will wait for any questions to explain more.  Right now it seems like they think it’s an adventure story. There was no mention of remembrance or the siren, or paying our respects.

One day later number 1 son had been taught his teacher’s version of the government’s guidelines.  This is what he told  me:

‘Israel was at war with Germany and they used to be the baddies but now Israel is good friends with Germany. Germany put the Israeli’s in the prisons and some of them died and then the English decided to help and they opened the prisons so that the Israelis could go to Israel.  Some of them died and that’s why we have a siren and stand in silence so we can remember them.’

I have paraphrased as it was told to me in Hebrew but the particular use of Israelis and the English ‘deciding’ is word for word.

Since Holocaust day we have had 3 nights.  All 3 nights number 1 son has screamed out and shouted in his sleep – what he is dreaming about I don’t know.  He has told me he doesn’t want me to get old, he doesn’t want me to die, that he doesn’t want to grow up, that he loves his life and his family and he wants it to stay the same forever.  He has told me that when he finishes school he will have to go to the army and he wants to because soldiers have guns.  He also asked what do soldiers actually do and that there are bombs in the ground that blow tanks up. To say his brain is muddled is an understatement.  I think that Daddy is  a soldier at the moment added to the bits and pieces of what he learnt about Holocaust Day have merged and he is trying to make sense of it all.  Interestingly when he asked me why we need soldiers and an army I told him they were there to protect us and keep us safe and he said yes we need to defend ourselves from the baddies. “Who are the baddies?” I asked him (dreading the answer) and he looked at me like I was crazy and said “the other States who want to kill us and the robbers, the baddies” – duh silly Mummy.

I don’t know if his new fascination with death and old age is related to what he learnt.  I don’t know if the fascination with soldiers and armies and wars is due to the absence of his Dad or what he learnt.  I don’t know what he dreams about that makes him sit bolt upright shouting in his sleep.  I do know that it started this week and as a parent I have little or no control over what he has been taught or told in pre-school.  I hope what he told me is all he heard.  As for my babies I can categorically say that I think it is wrong that they were even taught about it at such a very young age.  I think personalizing it with tales from her own family was wrong of the teacher and the fact that they mixed her grandfather and Hitler rather suggests that it was too big a tale to tell.  At the very least the guidelines set down should have been adhered to more strictly and the same amount and type of information should have been given to all nursery aged children.

I didn’t grow up here, I am not Jewish so I have no point of reference by which to navigate the waters of Jewish history. I can only hope that I have dealt with their questions well. To remember and to respect and to never let the facts of the Holocaust be forgotten is incredibly important for everyone, Jewish or not. However, at the tender ages of 3 to 6 children’s imaginations are wild and the difference between fact and fiction isn’t clear.  As they grow they will develop the emotional intelligence to understand, for what purpose do they need to be taught about it now?

 

In remembrance of all those who perished in the Holocaust and during the Second World War.  We must never forget.

Holocaust Day

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this tricky subject.  Was the government unfair to the teachers? Are the children to young?

 

 

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.

Coat of Many Colours

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At the side of the main coastal highway, wedged between the railway tracks and the noisy traffic there is a field.

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Israel has donned its Spring time coat of many, many colours.

The red stretches as far as the eye can see.  The poppies in this field have not been in bloom for 3 years ( I know, I check every year after being blown away by its beauty 3 years ago), and then the earth, the climate, the time was right and they made a re-appearance in their full glory.

Mother Nature, not satisfied with one colour added a dash of yellow,

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a smattering of white,

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and a surprise clump of purple just for the hell of it

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IMG_1829Fluttering in amongst the blooms and resting on the dry earth were hundreds of butterflies.  We tried and failed to capture them with the iphone camera (no.1 son was convinced he could catch one) but failed dismally.  This is the best we could do. You just have to trust me that there were a lot and they were beautiful.  I don’t know what’s happened this year but the sky is swarming with butterflies.  At a red traffic light the other day I counted 28 fly past my windscreen and I don’t like to think how many my windscreen killed once the lights turned to green.

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In  corners of the field we found nature’s hedgerows in the form of enormous thistles and the prickly pear cactus. Ah! Here’s another butterfly.

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The colour overload continued even in the dirt paths skirting the edge of the field,

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so the view back towards our neighbourhood provided welcome green relief for our irises. (The field is avocado trees which you may be able to see are also in blossom)

IMG_1833One day, when I grow up, I will own and know how to use a proper camera and not rely on the snaps from my trusty phone to capture such images.  I apologise to all photographers. I know that I cannot even try to do the field justice but I wanted to share.  In the words of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber;
It was red and yellow and green and brown
And scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And red and yellow and green and brown and
Scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And blue

 

Sponja

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question

Don’t you know what sponja is?  Or maybe it’s sponga with a soft g. Who knows how you spell it, or do it for that matter.  Yes it’s something you do.  Any guesses?  Well I had no idea what so ever all those years ago when we moved into our first apartment in Tel Aviv.  I was faced with a lot of dust and boxes from shipping all our crap belongings, from the UK and once everything was unpacked I had to clean up.  There was no mop, neither at home nor in the shops.  Instead I had a cloth and a window washer on a long stick.  This is sponja.

As in most hot countries there is no carpet so all the rooms need to have their floors washed and the way to do this – I have since learnt – is to throw a bucket of warm soapy water on the floor, swill it around with the squidgy on a stick and then push the dirty water out to the balcony or down the hole in the bathroom floor, shine the tiles with the cloth which is then wrapped around the squidgy thing and voila; shiny clean floors.  Or not.  In fact I just had pools of dirty water collected and never quite had the foresight to pick everything up off the floor – rugs, furniture, shoes etc. etc.  As the years went by and the homes changed (to the one we live in now where there is no hole in the floor and with a step to the garden and no balcony) sponja for me became pushing rag around with soapy water and hoping for the best.

For those of you not from the UK you may well be thinking I am somewhat of a dunce.  Who doesn’t know how to clean tile floors?  Ummm, people who live in the UK and have carpet and vacuum cleaners? This was before the fashion for laminate floors and cleaning wooden floorboards by throwing a bucket of water and swilling it around was not a good option.

IMG_1777Luckily yesterday my life changed with the arrival chez nous of a Shark steam cleaner.  You may have read a previous post and are already familiar with my love of my Shark floor sweeper.  Now I have the electric mop too.  Ah yes I can swivel the steam around and clean the floors in no time.  No grimy water, no toxic smelling floor cleaner, no slippy patches and forgotten grey puddles.  I feel like I am writing copy for an ad but believe me it has, just like it’s sister, changed my life. I have already washed my floors twice in 2 days – a first in my house. I am now wondering if I can somehow use it to clean the rug, sofas, cupboard doors and bless me I even considered using it to wash the outside patio.

Was I just an undomesticated anti-goddess (my husband could sponja the floor successfully in minutes) or is it another culture thing?  English – can’t sponja, Israeli – can.  I know a lot of my readers aren’t from the UK so tell me, was it just me?

 

NB: Israeli readers, the Shark steam lite is on special offer in Home Center until mid April!

 

Ten things I didn’t expect when I moved here

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1. 1 day weekends.  Yes you heard right.  Weekends start on Friday afternoon and end on Saturday evenings.  Kids go to school, many people go to work and you only get one lie in a week (if you don’t have small childers and consider 7am a lie in)

2. Shabbat.  You know, the day of rest.  The Sunday that was, when you were young. Closed shops, quiet roads, visiting friends and relations.  In some of the religious parts the roads are closed completely on Saturday here.  For the secular, Saturday means mass exodus to the countryside, beaches or desert for some quality time.  Shame it ends abruptly when the sun goes down.

3. Salaries.  In Israel the cost of living is on a par with the UK, food costs apart from fresh produce are higher and clothing, electronics, household goods are much, much more expensive. Taxes are high and house (read apartment) prices are the same as London.  So how people manage on such low salaries is beyond me.

4. Year round sunshine.  I have mentioned it a billion times before but its worth mentioning again.  Israel rarely sees bad weather which means outdoor living, lots of sunblock (am sporting a burnt forehead as I type) and bikinis from March to December (if you are brave or under 40)

5. School til lunchtime.  This to me is just weird.  I have talked (complained) about it at length here.  As we all struggle to pay the household bills on the crappy salaries we also need to fork out for childcare from 1pm.

6. Everyone has an opinion about Israel.  Everyone.  Before I moved here Tel Aviv sounded exotic and Israel sounded dangerous.  I  am aware of people’s reaction when I say I live here and have learnt not to argue.

7. Food.  Street food is better than most restaurant food in middle England.  Vegetables are fresh and plentiful.  Home cooking is the norm and convenience food few and far between.

8. Israel is tiny.  Teeny tiny and most people live in a teensy portion of the tinyness – few brave living in the desert.  Israel’s population is smaller than the population of Greater London.  No wonder you always bump into someone you know and sometimes it can stifle.

9. Shouting.  Everyone does it. Blame the fiery temperaments, the stress of living in a conflicted region, or the heat and humidity but tempers here are short and it takes some getting used to.

10. Everything is everyone’s business.  “How much do you earn?”,  “How much do you weigh?”, “How much is your mortgage/rent?” to “Why don’t you have/have more children?”, “What did your parents do for a living?”.  All questions I would consider (from a stranger) at best none of their business and at worst downright rude are just plain simple questions here.  My favourite was a few years back when an old man in the park asked me how old I was and then asked why I didn’t have children yet, “because you are too old to start having children now”.  Nice.