Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why would I consciously decide to take myself to a mentally bad place?

It's interesting to see the way this blog has evolved. In the beginning, I wrote extensively about current events, throwing in the occasional personal (or at least non-political) anecdote mostly when my former blog partner cajoled me into doing so. I reveled in writing serious, controversial posts, going on about the topic du jour whether it was politics, disengagement issues, railroad issues, etc. My posts ranged from serious to humorous, with healthy doses of sarcasm and cynicism thrown in for good (or bad) measure. Living in Israel provides enormous amounts of fodder for blogging, and it's often just a matter of picking which of today's news stories you want to write about the most. Some days have so many noteworthy events taking place that you just can't decide which one to choose. Other days, you "make do", so to speak, with a personal piece.

As many of my faithful readers have probably noticed, for the past few months, my writing has overwhelmingly taken a turn towards the personal and away from the political. There's a part of me that's disappointed in that, as I'd never really intended to change the focus, but to be honest, lately, I seem to have lost my passion for current events issues. The war this past summer sapped a lot of my energy, and I think I haven't completely recovered. It took a huge emotional toll in so many different ways. It affected my relationships, often forcing me to accept certain, difficult, truths about people in my life. Some rifts were reparable while others were not. It affected my feelings about this country, especially those in power. Feelings of great anger intermingled with feelings of frustration, fear and disappointment, all directed in so many different directions. I felt weak on so many levels, weak and disenchanted.

Since the end of the war, we've been forced to deal not only with our failures vis a vis Lebanon, but also the gross dysfunctionality (is that even word? I don't care – it works for me) of our government and our society. Between the many politicians in various stages of investigation (whether it be fraud, accepting bribes, shady real estate deals, sex-related charges, etc), to military and political leaders failing to take responsibility for their actions, to escaped violent sex offenders, to public-sector strikes, life is just too depressing, and quite frankly, I simply don't have the energy to write about it. Our beloved country is slowly but surely falling apart on so many different levels; it is rotting from the top down, and I often find myself utterly astonished by just how badly things are going for us lately. The people in power seem to be more concerned with saving their own asses than with saving the country, and like many other people I know, I'm tired of watching their pathetic games and power plays.

What is perhaps even sadder than being witness to these political antics is having to admit that as disillusioned as we are by our current leaders, there is absolutely no one out there who can replace them, no one who can set us back on the right track. We are, in a sense, stuck with what we've got, and there are no viable alternatives. Judging by how quickly our society is unraveling, I have very little hope for our future. Life goes from bad to worse on a daily basis, and when you think it can't get any worse, somehow, we manage to go even further downhill, sort of like a snowball that goes faster and faster, gathering speed and size as it hurls towards the bottom, only to crash and fall apart.

These days, I don't really have anything good to say about what's happening in my country, which is why, I suppose, I have chosen to say almost nothing about it at all. I'm burned out, and cannot be bothered to tackle so much negativity. There are just so many critical posts I can write without starting to sound redundant, or without depressing myself even more about our current state of affairs, and why would I want to do that? Why would I consciously decide to take myself to a mentally bad place? I want to enjoy my writing, not feel as though it's a chore, that my heart's not in it. What would be the point? I mean, I'm glad you're all out there, but when it comes down to it, I'm writing for me, and doing what makes me feel good. So for now, whether I intended for it to happen or not, my focus seems to be shifting.

Of course, that could all change tomorrow or next week. We'll just have to wait and see now, won't we?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Test results...

No time for a "real" post, though I do have one brewing. Perhaps I'll manage to write it up during the next few days. In the meantime, some test results I'm rather proud of...

You are 62% Bittch!

Wow! You really are becoming a real Bittch! Has anyone ever told you that? I think you need to calm it down! Before you can't turn back from being a big Bittch! Being Cruel isn't that fun!

How much of a B*tch Are you?
Create MySpace Quizzes

Monday, November 20, 2006

Crossing the language barrier

As you all know, we have recently been entertaining the American grandparents, who came to Israel for a brief visit with the progeny. I think one of the hardest aspects of raising a child in a distant culture is that my son is missing out on getting to know the American side of his family. At age two-and-a-half, he has had five extended visits with his grandparents – three here in Israel and two in the United States. We have pictures of them around the house, and talk to them on the telephone every week. We look at the photos of family and friends from far away and practice their names – I want him to understand that even though we don't see these people everyday, they are still an important part of our lives.

It's not easy explaining to a two-year old why he can't see his grandparents more frequently, especially given the fact that we live in a society where extended family plays such a significant role in day-to-day life. Here in Israel, it is not uncommon for families to live relatively close to one another, or for grandparents to pop in for an afternoon visit or to babysit. Over the fifteen years that I've been living here, I've grown accustomed to seeing friends and family abroad only once or twice a year (if that much), and to missing out on special or sad events. It hasn't been easy, but it's something I've learned to live with. The old wounds were opened anew with the birth of our son, however, knowing that I was depriving his grandparents of the chance to watch him grow, wishing they could be there more often, instead of having to rely on photos and scattered moments on the telephone, when he randomly decides whether or not he feels like talking.

When he does decide to talk, we never know what language will come out of his mouth. Earlier on, his primary language was English. As he grows older, however, more and more Hebrew creeps into his daily chitchat. He understands perfectly when addressed in English, but will often respond in a baffling combination of the two languages, at times using English sentence structure and Hebrew words. Eventually, his language issues will sort themselves out, and it is fascinating to watch our son develop his language skills. For the time being, however, it can sometimes be rather challenging as we translate his speeches into whatever language happens to be required by his audience. This was often the case while my parents were visiting, and as a result, we now find ourselves actively working on the issue of bilingualism, trying to make him realize that he speaks and understands two distinct languages, and starting to teach him the to distinguish between the two. We have introduced the concept of "English", and when he says something in Hebrew, we will often ask him what the word would be in "English". So far, it seems to be working. On the flip side, when we ask him in English to say something to someone else ("please", "thank you", and so on), if the other person is Israeli, he will carry out the request by translating and responding in Hebrew. Sometimes, when he says something in English and receives no response, he switches to Hebrew, so clearly, he seems to realize that there are two sets of words.

When our son was born, I started an internet forum for bilingual families in Israel. I was concerned about the language issues, and wanted to hear how other parents had approached the hurdles we were facing. I queried people in the forum, I queried friends who were in similar situations. I came across the words of supposed experts, who claimed that it was essential that each parent speak to the child only in his or her respective language, and I assumed that this would be the route we'd be taking as well. My husband's English is quite good, and I liked the idea that we would both speak to our child in English, but felt that I would be asking a lot by requesting that my husband speak to our son in a language that was not naturally his own. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when he suggested that we both use English, believing that it would help to ensure that our son felt equally comfortable in both languages, that he would be totally bilingual. Occasionally, we are both guilty of lapsing into Hebrew when speaking to our son, but for the most part, we address him in English. We read to him primarily in English, teach him children's songs in English, and encourage him to choose videos and television shows in English. He loves "Dora the Explorer", watching videos of the American version that switches between English and Spanish as well as the more relevant Israeli version, which switches between Hebrew and English and shows him that it is natural to speak in both languages. Of course, it's still early days yet, but so far, our "hard work" seems to be paying off. He may be an Israeli little boy, but his immersion into the English language can only work to his benefit, allowing him to connect with friends and family across the ocean and enabling him to be a citizen of the world.

*This post cross-posted to Brio.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I'm a good neighbour!

Because I've got far too much free time on my hands that I simply don't know what to do with (note the witty sarcasm), I've decided to join the growing list of excellent contributors over at Good Neighbours, a site that is "dedicated to increasing dialogue and understanding between Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Sudanese, and Syrians on a cross-country level, as well as to increase understanding, respect and dialogue among the various strata of society within our individual countries."

This site is Yael's brainchild, and quite frankly, my hat's off to her (metaphorically speaking, of course, as I don't actually own any hats). This woman does more in one day than I do in a whole month, and for the life of me, I can't understand how she always seems to have the energy to take on even more. I'm honored that she asked me to join the Good Neighbours community, and look forward to following the channels of dialog that develop between the contributors and the readers. Just doing my bit for world peace...

My first contribution can be found here.

Yael, you rock!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Does she have her own blog yet?

There are a number of blogs that I read daily. One of the main ones is Anglosaxy, written by my dear friend and former blogging partner. He's the one who got me into blogging in the first place, and I'm really glad he pushed me to into it (most days, anyway!).

Over the past few days, I noticed that his blog had gotten rather quiet, and he hasn't appeared online on either of our mutual chat applications. Most unlike him, so I figured that something must be up. According to the SMS I received less than an hour ago, something has definitely been up. The message reads:

"I'm a Dad again!!! She's a cutie!"

He writes that mother and daughter are doing well. The question remains - does she have her own blog yet?

Congratulations to all the Anglosaxies, especially the newest member of the family! The something something family can't wait to meet her. Do we have a boy for her...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Scenes from a visit with the parents

The parents have been and gone, and despite the whirlwind nature of their visit, we managed to take in quite a few interesting activities. Here are some of the highlights - in photographic form, along with some fabulously scintillating commentary...

The picture below was taken at an Arabian horse show, held on the grounds of an agricultural boarding school in the south. Something about this scene just grabbed me, so I decided to play photographer. Coincidentally, this is also the boarding school where Husband and I met, when he was a counselor to a group of rather unruly 11th graders, and I was an American volunteer. Husband and progeny are in the background...

Lots of animals at the school. Not terribly unexpected for an agricultural school. I've always had a fondness for cows (though I'm not terribly keen when it comes to eating them), and am teaching the Little One to follow in my footsteps. He enjoyed the petting, but seemed rather put out once the young calf began to lick him. I, on the other hand, couldn't care less, having been licked by many a young calf while living on a moshav many years ago.

I love penguins. Is it me, or do they always look like they're watching television? Here's a tip. If you're ever in the London Zoo during penguin feeding time, stand well clear of the pool area. The penguins swimming around to catch a meal are cute. The birds that circle overhead are not cute. Especially when you notice that one of them has left a little souvenir on your arm (bless your little wet wipes for cleaning me off, nrg!). This shot and the other animal shots below were taken at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. If you're ever in the area, it's definitely worth a trip. Amazing!

We were all charmed by this lion couple, who seem rather satisfied with their lot. I don't know if these are the same lions, but when I saw them, I couldn't help recalling a story I'd read several years ago about a lion at this zoo named Liza, who was having fertility problems. I was both amused and alarmed, given that I was going through something rather similar, as I alluded to in this post. Just one of those "too close for comfort" moments, I suppose...

"One, two! Tell me who are you! The Bears..." Gold stars to the first person who can tell me what that quote is from.

You pick little bits off my back, and I'll pick little bits off yours. Gotta love those primates! I've always liked monkeys, and even had a remarkably life-like monkey puppet in college named Sherman. Don't ask... The Little One was rather enamored of Sherman, until I inadvertently left him in Ben Gurion Airport's domestic terminal.

We had a wonderful time at the zoo. Grandma's time at the zoo was marginally less wonderful upon discovering that one of the local birds had left her a rather large souvenir on the side of her jacket (we're not quite sure how it happened, since none of us actually saw the bird, only the, erm, package). Grandpa and the Little One diligently wiped down all the markings, and when they were finished we asked the Little One "who made doodie on Grandma". His response? "Daddy".

On Friday, we drove up north. We took a long and winding road to the Druze village of Kifra Samea (and I'm not quite sure why the link refers to Kisra, but it's the same place), heading straight for the village's olive press. It's olive harvest season, and we stood by watching as the residents brought in their bags of olives, poured them into the press, and watched as they were turned into oil. We left with a five-liter container of fresh olive oil and a large jar of olives.

We made our way through a series of twists and turns, ups and downs, and found ourselves at the Rock Park, where the Little One ran around the rocks, skipped through small caves, and generally presented us with many photo opportunities. I'd never heard of this place before, but it was well worth the trip. The shot below shows the view from the Rock Park.

We had lunch at the restaurant below - the originally named Rock Park Restaurant. Don't let the simple name fool you. The owner was utterly charming, the Tabbouleh among the best I've ever eaten, and thoughts of the Kubeh in yogurt can still make me drool. It's right across from the park. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with Israeli flags, photos of soldiers and pro-IDF slogans.

A sated father and son head towards the car...

Following a brief playground stop with views similar to those in the shot above, we drove to the village of Peki'in, which is populated by Druze, Christians and a small number of Jewish families. We stopped in a small bakery and bought this tray of Baklava, which is one of my all-time favorite desserts (along with the Belgian chocolate truffles from this restaurant, where Little One did his best impersonation of the famous Meg Ryan scene in When Harry Met Sally after taking a bite of one of the truffles). The tray was full when we bought it less than a week ago...

Here's a close-up shot. How yummy does that look? I had Knafeh too! Mmmm...

Lots of food and lots of animals - how could anyone possibly ask for anything more?

And now I leave you with one final Little One quote that my parents are undoubtedly sharing with all of their friends. When asked if he was heavy, he replied, "I'm not heavy. I'm little." It doesn't get much better than that folks. Out of the mouths of babes...

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to finish off the baklava now...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A victim speaks out

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about crazed mobs of Egyptian men who ran through certain streets in Cairo attacking any female who had the terrible misfortune of being in the area at the time.

Thanks (once again) to the Egyptian Sandmonkey for alerting his readers to the existence of a new blog written by one of the victims of these attacks. Wounded girl from Cairo shares her story with the world in a stark, no-nonsense way, describing in horrifying detail what she went through that night. Despite her anonymity, I think it takes a lot of courage to not only relive the experience, but also to open herself up to criticism from readers (and she's taken quite a bit of criticism from people who negate her assessment - which I believe to be accurate - that Islam played a role in what happened).

Definitely worth checking out...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shameless self-promotion

Sorry it's been so quiet around here. I've just got so much going on lately that I haven't been able to focus on one of the few enjoyable things - blogging. I've got quite a few ideas for entries swirling around in my head, and hopefully, I'll get myself sorted out enough to actually write them (lots of pictures too!). In the meantime, I'm going to leave you with a bit of shameless self-promotion.

A few months ago, I was contacted by the editor of an Italy-based publication - Here - Notes from the Present, which is published in both English and Italian, and comes out in a web-based format as well as a print format. He'd found my blog and wanted to know if he could include excerpts from some of the entries I'd written over the course of the summer. I agreed, and the edition in which the excerpts appear came out at the end of October. I'm expecting to receive print versions in the mail any day now (one for us and one for my parents - seems only fitting since Dad has always told me that I write well, and I never quite believed him), and the latest online version can be found in English here, and in Italian, it can be found here. If you want to find a little bit more about me than I've revealed on the blog, check out the Contributors section.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A most striking visit

Blogging may be lighter than usual during the next week, as we entertain my parents, or rather, the Little One entertains his grandparents while we watch and periodically translate from the sidelines.

They arrived safely, though not terribly soundly, given the strike at the airport that caused massive delays in luggage removal from planes in the best-case scenario, and a worst-case scenario where luggage was not actually removed from the planes prior to the planes taking off again, as happened to Adrian - our local Expat Egghead. By some miracle, Dad managed to come out into the Arrivals Hall, and by another miracle, I managed to spot him from one level up, race down the stairs, push through the crowds, scoot around the passengers' only area, and have a quick conversation with him, arguing with a security guard who tried to make him go back inside before we were done talking (I won). To make a long story short, we picked up my parents - sans luggage, drove through Thursday evening rush hour traffic to Azrieli Center to grab some dinner and kill a few hours, before making our way back to the airport to discover that contrary to what my parents were told, their luggage had not been taken off the plane within two to three hours. It was a total, chaotic nightmare. Passengers were not told about the strike (Mom even grabbed a luggage cart), and once they did find out, there was no one around to provide information, answer questions, etc. Upon returning to the airport, they were told that "no one knew when their luggage would be available", so we headed for home, opting to return the next afternoon, and finally retrieving their luggage.

It's rather maddening and insane to see an entire airport held hostage by the whims of temporary workers (and may I emphasize the word "temporary", which is what these workers are?). As one of my office colleagues pointed out, in hi-tech, an employee can be fired from one day to the next, and he or she has almost no recourse. Can you imagine hi-tech workers going on strike because some of their colleagues were being fired? It is a travesty that these actions are repeatedly carried out in Israel, and it's frightening that the government is too wrapped up in itself to do anything. Why should port workers, electric company employees, and so on, be immune from such "routine" activities as redundancy, when no one else is? How can the government allow these workers to shut down essential airport passenger services for several days, causing total disruption and chaos, not to mention the effects that this will have on Israel's image, given the number of tourists who arrived in Israel for the first time were met with utter confusion and complete indifference to their plight. I can't help but wonder how many of them will be anxious to donate money to Israel in the future, and how stories for the folks back home will be clouded by not being able to retrieve their luggage before leaving the airport.

All of that aside, though, now that they are both fully kitted out with their own belongings, I believe that my parents are having a nice time, and have been completely charmed by their grandson. We've been to a horse show, visited family, and worked our way through Ikea, looking for a bed and closet for the Little One. I'm also pleased to mention that my mother is now addicted to cake from Roladin (sorry, the English link doesn't seem to work), pronouncing their cakes to be just as good as, if not better than, the cakes from Flakowitz, which, if you are at all in the know with regard to either NY or South Florida bakeries, know to be among the best there is.

The Little One ran up to them immediately at the airport, allowing both of his grandparents to cover him with hugs and kisses, and then making them (and everyone else watching) laugh as he wheeled their carry-on bag out to the parking lot. He babbles at them in both English and Hebrew, so we are doing quite a lot of translating. He also makes us watch his new Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder videos. Repeatedly. I should be grateful, given that these characters are infinitely more palpable than a certain big purple dinosaur who's popularity has risen dramatically in our household lately (would you believe that he's just as annoying in Hebrew as he is in English?), but if I hear "can we fix it?" one more time, I'm thinking the "it" in that sentence is going to be a certain Bob the Builder video.

There's not much more to share at this point, and given that I've got to run over to Roladin in order to get Mom her fix and feed her habit, I'm going to cut this short. Have a good week, y'all, and I'll try to pop in periodically to say hi. Regular blogging to resume next week, though one never knows. I might just surprise you somewhere along the way.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What a frightening world we live in...

I just read a horrifying post written by the Egyptian Sandmonkey. It seems that large mobs of men in Cairo, angered by the fact that they couldn't get into a sold-out film on the first day of Eid ul Fitr, went on a rampage, first destroying the movie theater's ticket booth, then running through the streets attacking women in a sexual frenzy. Apparently, no woman in the area was safe, and the police stood by and did nothing.

Sadly, this isn't the first time that a blind eye has been turned under such circumstances in Egypt. Earlier this summer, female activists and reporters were sexually harassed at the hands of government supporters, while again, the police did nothing. It's no wonder these men show no concern for possible consequences resulting from their actions.

A quick search of internet news sites for this hair-raising story produced no results, which I found rather shocking. How is it possible that such an event received no news coverage? For more on these attacks, please read this blog entry by Forsoothsayer.

Some of the comments I read regarding this incident placed the blame squarely on Islam, but I don't think that's the case. Many Americans will remember the incident that took place in Central Park following the 2000 Puerto Rican Day Parade, when mobs of men accosted and sexually harrassed women in the park, groping them, tearing their clothes off, and dousing them with water, beer, etc. I can't even begin to imagine what causes these men to act the way they do, how this crazed mob mentality manifests itself by turning people into such vicious sexual predators, separating them from their sanity. It is beyond frightening to think about hoards of males roaming the streets led solely by their penises, driven by their frustrated sexual appetites and callous indifference to their victims, treating these living, breathing human beings like objects to be touched and violated, and thinking that these acts are totally acceptable and unpunishable. And it seems, with regard to these last two, they wouldn't be so far off the mark.