Sunday, January 28, 2007

A girlfriend for my son

For the past couple of months my son has been telling me he has a girlfriend. He is turning 15 next month and girls had never really been on his mind. Just computers and icq and soccer. But his teen mind is expanding and although I never met the girl formally (he never brought her home), he shows me messages they write each other, which I think is sweet.

But then he tells me she isn't that good-looking and there are prettier girls than this one.

"So why are you going out with her?"

"She ran after me. She's the one who wants to go out with me."

Oh, I see.

"What do you talk about when you go out?"



I guess talking isn't what he's into. They probably just walk alongside each other with nothing to say. I can see it. Two computer geeks have found each other.

He pointed her out to me in the supermarket last Friday.

"Right, she's not pretty?" he asked me.

I thought she was really pretty. Long dark hair, nice features but they didn't speak to each other, just a shy "hi" when they passed each other. Perhaps it was she was with her Argentinian father. Perhaps she's not ready to meet the folks of his yet either.

Later that evening, we teased him for being shy with her in the supermarket and the fact that they don't have these verbal conversations.

But I see him "chatting" away until the wee hours of the morning on ICQ. With her. She types and he types. And if they ever get married, they'll send each other typed messages and SMS's when they want to tell each other something - like pick up the kids this afternoon or buy some milk and bread when you come back from work.

But it looks like they won't be speaking much to each other soon.

Not those two computer geeks.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Palestinian-Israeli Comedy Night

I got an email two weeks ago about this small tour taking place and what enjoyable news it was for me. I had been toying with going plowing and planting with Palestinians, but sometimes that can be scary and stressful (not because of the Palestinians either), and because of the stress in my everyday life, I need something not-so-stressful. So when this item came up I immediately forwarded it to everyone I knew who was into peace activities.

The show I went to was last Thursday night at the beautiful American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem. The place was packed with many journalists there, curious as everyone else there, how this tour came about and who were these joksters anyways.

I went with my girlfriend because Hubby has been a troll of late and they don't like to laugh much. There was free wine and chips/pretzels at the entrance, and I thought if I had a couple of drinks (and probably the comedians thought so too), I'd loosen up and laugh a lot more.

Turns out I didn't need those drinks. The guys were so funny, my stomach hurt and my voice was hoarse from laughing for 2 hours straight.

There were 4 comedians - 3 Jewish, 1 Arab. Pretty much summed up the way the audience turned out as well. A smattering of Arabs and a whole bunch of Jews.

First up was Aaron Freeman, an African-American convert to Judaism, who had us in stitches about reactions to his converting - "Why? What they really want to say is "what's wrong wit' you!! You didn't have enough trouble? You want to be an extra credit target for the Ku Klux Klan?" He explained that Ethiopian Jews in Israel have no idea who Martin Luther King was, and after he explained everything to them - a bit of US history, slavery, the 1960s riots, the deep South, segregation, they were like 'Oh we see you Jews suffered too!" or something like that. Whatever. It's much funnier when you hear it live.

Then Charley Warady was explaining how it was for him to make aliyah - and when he passed a checkpoint, he thought it was a toll booth and threw a couple of coins in and drove through only to get shot at..."Gee they get so mad here when you don't have exact change.."

Ray Hanania, the sole Arab comedian, was up next. "I see you (the audience) as potential hostages!" and told us about his harrowing airport experiences because of his Arab heritage. "Are you on my flight?" is a question nervously asked of him by other passengers. And when he went to the bathroom on his flight into Israel, Alan Dershowitz met him on the way back to his seat to explain why there was someone else now sitting in his seat...

Yisrael Campbell, a ultra-orthodox-looking Jew, also a convert to Judaism, was explaining that he was the nephew of Jesus since his mother had been in a convent and it gets up great parking spaces in Jerusalem, like when he goes to the Church of Scotland he tells people - "I'm His nephew." "Oh sure, go right in". On his reasons for converting? "I was a vaguely Catholic but Catholic enough to know that I was going to hell, so I switched religions." He said that Jerusalem's clergy - Rabbis, Priests and Imams all got together to fight to Gay Pride Parade because they pleased "don't affect the peace of our city!" Huh? Where do they live? They don't get together when there are house demolitions in East Jerusalem or bus bombings in West Jerusalem - what brings them together?" He whispers - the Pride Parade.

I know, I should have written all that funny stuff up. But if YouTube works, I'll get it posted there.

After the show I introduced myself to Ray and told him I work in interfaith. He was very interested in interfaith work himself and years ago he said most groups were afraid it could get offensive, sensitive, or whatever, so he never pursued it.

Someone from CNN interviewed me afterwards, asking if I found any of this stuff offensive. I told her absolutely not - I had seen Borat and if I found THAT funny, this surely wouldn't be more offensive, and yes, I did understand Ray's jokes, I understand Moslem customs about multiple wives and burkas, etc. and that we should have more of this sort of intercultural stuff taking place here, but it breaks down barriers.

My friend and I went to the fireplace lounge to have a drink afterwards. The music was soft Arabic music and the waiters were elegant and genteel and made me feel like a princess. I was feeling so high. And I was sad on the other hand that there was so little of these types of evenings where we can just laugh all together at our government and religious customs. I went home by bus and heard two young men in the front of the bus speaking Arabic. It's quite unusual for Arabs to take "that" bus back from Jerusalem over the green line - they probably live in neighboring Azariya, which they did as they got off the bus just before the entrance of our suburban town. And no one hassled them on the bus, or gave a second glance, and I thought it should be like this all the time, shouldn't it. Just a cacaphony of Hebrew and Arabic all the time, everywhere.

Weekend update

Our housing crisis is nearly over. We finally bought an apartment, and it wasn't easy. We had driven the real estate agents bonkers, perused local real estate internet sites daily, called people up to see their homes, nearly made deals on a few of them and ended up buying from a builder. Hubby likes new. Though there were some good things about many of these apartments we saw, there were also not-so-good things. For instance:

"the toilets had been shit in by others before us"
"the house is build into the mountain"
"the bedroom has no windows"
"there's no cellphone connection here"
"it looks like we're living in the basement"
"it's too much of a walk-up"
"don't want to pay agent's fee"

etc. etc.

So we were called in to sign a contract last week. I took off work for about an hour to sign, fully knowing my "Miranda" boss from my office, would get highly upset at me leaving 1 hour beforehand (even though she was at meetings), but at this point having a place to live is more important than appeasing someone who can never be appeased.

Even the signing wasn't easy. Our lawyer trudged in and asked for a receipt when they deposit our checks.

Their sales agent was like "No way. We don't do that."

Our lawyer - "It's standard procedure."

Then they started hurling insults at each other and after 5 minutes of observing this, our lawyer got up and told us "We're not signing today."

Huh? After I put my job in jeopardy by leaving one hour earlier? But after haggling back and forth with their lawyers, we were called back to sign 2 hours later.

I signed about a thousand pages with trembling hands. This whole homeowner thing is so new and so traumatic at 50 when you've never had a home beforehand, and are used to living in other people's places. But I was so elated. No one can tell me to leave because they're selling their place, or blame me for damages to their place when there weren't any. And the kids might even be goaded into being proud of living in their own real home and begin to clean up - but that's a far shot, I know.

We took a look at our home this morning and walked up the 8 flights. The tiles I chose seemed too dark compared to what others had chosen. What to do now? The floors were still covered in sand - and the tiles hadn't been shipped yet to the site. Maybe there's still time to change. I'll be preoccupied with these types of decisions daily until we move in. My daughter walked into her room and said it smelled like shit. I suspect, but I didn't want to inspect up close, that the little dark, sand-covered 'stuff' was indeed shit, perhaps left by one construction worker who didn't want to go down 8 flights to use a port-a-potty. And it will be covered up by tile one day. Some people walk on air. We'll be walking on shit.

We went over to the other building where people already moved in and went up to the 8th floor and asked the owners if we could see how "our" apartment would look like fully furnished. This ain't New Yawk and the people welcomed us into their home and we saw it looked absolutely lovely, once the construction workers' shit is covered and tiles put on and bathrooms finished off. It really looks like a home.

And after 11 years in this country - I think we really could use a home right now. Next step - applying for a mortgage.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Moving – the curse of it all

We had to move homes on Wednesday to a temporary home for a few months, which put everyone in a horrible mood for most of the week up until Saturday – which weather-wise, was warm and beautifully sunny. The place we rented is a villa of sorts, in a neighborhood of private homes which was eerily quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of having lived on a main street for 5 years. There were lots wrong with our temporary housing but we had no choice.

1. No grocery store within easy walking distance
2. No central heating and we are freezing most nights – I had to borrow radiators which only warm up the immediate area
3. No gas for cooking – I had to call up the gas company and they said they'll come in 5 days
4. Ancient kitchen with broken knobs

I likened the place like Tara in Gone with the Wind – AFTER the civil war – when it wasn't the palace it was beforehand, but a worn-out home. Surely our place had also seen better days.

My 18-year-old Chronic Complainer, complained bitterly to the Arab movers on moving day.

"The only thing nice about this apartment is the front door." She cried.

"Great" I told her. "Because when I throw you out of the house, that's the part of the house you'll be seeing most of"

After the move, the movers complained bitterly of not getting enough "baksheesh" (tip) from me. I did give them something but not an enormous amount and don't know if their yelling and screaming was part of the culture or work ethic or what-have-you and Abdullah, my friend, who had hired them for me assured me that I had given enough. But I need to do this again in April/May so I really wanted to go more on the less-expensive side.

The next night Hubby and ex-Criminal daughter were fighting like cats and dogs, and my Son was frightened. I was busy shopping in the supermarket, getting stuff that can be baked or microwaved because I couldn't use the gas-top without gas.

"Mom, come home quickly. I think this house is cursed!!!"

"Honey, I've got a cart full of groceries. You think I want to come home quickly to a cursed house, full of anger and craziness? I'll sit with you when I get back home." I told him and shoved an extra chocolate treat for him in the cart.

On Friday morning I went to the nearest neighborhood grocery store to check it out. The stuff there cost a fortune, but the high concentration of Americans living in the area was evident by what the store stocked – Campbell's Soup, English Muffins, Cadbury's and Hershey's Hot Chocolate and Chow Mein noodles and more and more and more. I saw some familiar faces – all US ex-pats who welcomed me into the area – we like to stick together - and felt immediately more at ease in the new 'hood. One woman whom I hadn't seen in years gave me a very warm "Oh HI!!" and when she heard that we just moved and will probably have to move again in a few months, exclaimed "Moving is such a curse. It is such a curse."

Don't I know it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And now for the weekend update

It was a harrowing weekend. We have to move on Wednesday into a temporary house for a few months and then God-knows-where-to, which has put everyone in our household in a funk. One nice thing was that we were invited to a dinner at our Messianic Jewish friends' home and I overlooked the fact that Mrs. Messianic Jew is a super-duper housekeeper. Daughter and I glanced at each other while she was cooking and something or other from the pot fell on the floor. It was immediately scooped up and thrown in the trash.

"If that happened in our house, we'd just leave it on the floor."

We giggled like female versions of Beavis and Butthead.

Her place was spotless even though she was cooking for 20 people with nary a dirty pot in sight, and the counters gleaming. I should hate her but I cannot hate anyone that feeds me and lets me take home tupperware-full of leftovers.

But the rest of the weekend should have gone in the trash together with the chicken bones.

Hubby went on and on how "this country fucks you up" and the kids were at war with one another the way teens do.

The 20 year old told on her 18 year old sister -
"MOM! She's using the dryer for only ONE SHIRT!!"

I was livid. It costs a fortune here to use the clothes drier and it is only used when it rains for 3 days straight and the indoor drying rack isn't fast enough.

18 year old took revenge by rushing down to the family computer and deleting everything in the 20-year old's file which included her resume and reference letters.

I was upstairs trying to watch Desperate Housewives and she was downstairs screaming and crying. They don't stop at 20 years of age. I yelled at the 18 year old to get out of the house immediately because an act of damage/destruction to another person's property is the most taboo you can get with me. Of course, she didn't listen and trudged up to her room only to come down later that evening in an outfit that made her look like a cheap hooker. And I really dislike my daughters looking cheap - at least look like an expensive one, dammit. But I knew she put on that outfit just to piss me off because she came down, smirked at me and admired herself in the mirror while I shook my head.

Friday, January 05, 2007

On builders, the messiah and Chinese food

"You really should be blogging this" - said a friend of mine after I updated her on our home purchase escpades.

I've been having blogger's block, I told her. I haven't blogged about anything. We've been negotiating back and forth between the lawyers of our builders and our lawyers and this has been going on for weeks with no result.

"It's like being in a bad relationship" explained my friend.

"Yep, but without the sex" I replied. But then I thought further.

"No wait a minute. There is sex! Why, the builder is fucking us!!" There. simple as that.

The only thing making me happy was the fact that our messianic Jewish friends invited us to their home for dinner. She is making "chinese" and I offered to bring along a big expensive bottle of sake. Not that sake is Chinese but in Israel it doesn't really matter and you can glump together Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese food all together - in Jerusalem they think it's the same thing.

My kids were invited as well as they are bringing other guests with kids around the same ages as mine. It's a plot I tell you. But - never mind. I told my daughter, the Complainer, this morning about our friends.

"They think differently about certain things than you and I", I tried to approach this delicately.

"What" she murmured.

"They believe that Jesus is the messiah and son of God and all that."

"So" she answered, aware that they were trying to entice my daughters with very cute guys, "why should I go out with someone who believes in Jesus."

Great question kid - so now I see you are ready to face these people and inform them of your very own savior and messiah which is, of course, the god of parties, discos, dj's, pubs, etc. And then you youngsters can hash it out for yourselves.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bedouin food - not

Abdullah was standing in front of my house, which surprised me while I walked up the stairs to my apartment. As usual, I expected no one there. And my boy was sleeping and didn't hear him ring. I haven't a clue how long Abdullah waited for me.

As is my style, I generally don't invite guests over during the week because of my hectic life, but as is the style of the Middle East, Abdullah doesn't wait for an invite. He's a single Bedouin man in his early thirties who joins up in various non-political peace activities and is thinking about setting up a Bedouin tent in the vicinity of Maaleh Adumim for camel rides, music, coffee, tea and dialogue.

I chatted with him while I made him Arabic coffee and prepared dinner for my family. I invited him to dine with us. We sat at the table and unfortunately for him this was not Bedouin fare. Not at all. I had served salad, hot dogs with home fries, noodles with veggies and tofu. No kebabs, mejedderah or lamb. He ate a couple of spoonfuls to be nice but the look on his face was miserable. I thought again of that hysterical scene in the Borat movie where Borat thinks the Jews are trying to poison him with their deli sandwich. I hope he wasn't thinking we were trying to poison him. Actually with serving hot dogs for dinner, perhaps we were only poisoning ourselves. But never mind.

If he only just calls a few hours before he shows up at my door, I might even make him the food he is accustomed to....