Some Things I’ve Learned

In the past year I have learned many, many things. Here are some of them:

  • Heat can be a physical force; a weight pushing down on you. Walking outside in the Kibbutz in June or July or August feels like how I imagine it must feel in an oven. Its dry and the air is still and its physically hard to move. Even sound moves slower. Its so hot, that one of my children got an actual burn on the bottom of her foot from walking barefoot on the sidewalk. Its so hot that during the summer there is no cold water coming out of the tap because the ground is so hot. And there’s nothing you can do about it…
  • I can make a cake, a pie, and bread – from scratch – in a toaster oven. Also, I can do shrinky dinks and clay necklace charms. I failed with the baked potatoes, though.
  • Sand – you think, “I know it gets every where, but I’ll sweep a lot, and we’ll take off our shoes before we walk around the house. I can handle it.” But you can’t. It shows up on the floor even when you don’t wear shoes in the house and you sweep a lot; it shows up in your bed even when you take a shower just before bed, it shows up in your hair, and on your couch. Its weird, too, because the kibbutz itself it so manicured that you kind of don’t notice that its all made of sand. All the sand is covered with grass and plants and buildings. But its there, its always there.
The lush environment outside my desert home
  • Be afraid of snakes here, they could be poisonous. Actually, a healthy fear of many of the bugs here is a good idea. I have been collecting stories about people waking up to find a scorpion in their bed room, bath room, shoe…
  • I hate air conditioning. Well, okay, its a love/hate relationship. I love that it keeps my house tolerable (mostly, although my living room air conditioner could use some attention…), but I hate that its loud, and the cold air blowing on me is annoying, and it makes me cold! There seems to be no in between, I’m either hot without it, or cold with it.
  • There are some certain characteristics about Israelis that are…unique. I’m sure I could make an argument about how history has forced them to be this way, or culture or religion. But I’m just reporting the facts: Israelis are extremely direct. They tell you what they think, what you should think, what you should do, how and when you should do it, and why it was wrong in the end. Sometimes this directness can come off as pushy, or overbearing or condescending or…rude. But it can be extremely helpful, too. You know where you stand. And once they have expressed their opinion, thats it, the issue is over. They don’t hold a grudge. This characteristic might be helpful when used in moderation in other parts of the world: you are very clear about what you think and want and then you don’t let aggressive feelings linger. I will try to use this skill in the future (beware).
  • Wearing a white shirt in the sun actually feels cooler than wearing a black shirt. The physics tells us this, and common sense tells us this, but, where I come from, you don’t really think about it or act on it. But, indeed, walking around in a white t-shirt actually feels significantly cooler. And, here, any little bit helps.
  • Israel is a country of immigrants. Today I spoke with people who’s primary languages include: Hebrew, English (from the US, England, South Africa and Australia), Arabic, German (from Germany and Switzerland), French (from Morocco and France), Russian, Hungarian, Thai, Filipino, and Spanish (from Spain and Columbia).
  • Actually, I enjoy cooking dinner for my family. This is probably easiest said from my unique vantage point of not HAVING to do this task every night. Further, I have discovered, this task is immensely more enjoyable when: 1) I have a glass of wine in hand; 2) there is something great to listen to on the radio; 3) the kids are otherwise occupied so I don’t have to manage them too; 4) I have the right tools: a stove (not a hot plate), an oven (not a toaster oven), a microwave, counter space, measuring cups, sharp knives… this list could go on for a LONG time, because most of it I don’t have here.
  • The Five Things to take on a field trip: 1) Water (at least 2 liters); 2) Hat; 3) Closed-Toed shoes; 4) Sun Block; 5) Small Bag. Every field trip, every walk outside, every group outing requires these 5 things. If you show up without them they will most likely be provided to you (see below for more on how it will probably all work out), but you can’t go without them.
  • Some thing I truly HATE about Israel: all of the litter everywhere. EVERYWHERE!!!! I was hiking in the nearby national park (Timna) with some friends who are not from Israel. There had been a little rain and consequently a little flooding a week prior. I kept commenting on how clean the trail was because the floods had washed away all the trash. Finally one of my friends looked at me and said: “This is clean?” He’s right. The trash strewn about everywhere – EVERYWHERE – is truly disgusting.
Trash strewn around the foot of the tree – its like this every where!
  • Something I truly love about Israel: it is a country of people who like to get out and hike. I have traveled all over this country (although don’t mistake me, I have a lot more to see), and the sheer numbers of people who get out on the trails on the weekends – and they bring dogs and babies and grandparents, and they bring huge picnics, and they all have the 5 items (see above for more on the 5 items), and its WONDERFUL. It means that there are trails all over the country to hike on, and it also means that people have opportunity to litter all over the country… (see above for more on littering).
  • After 12 ½ years of marriage, I still really love spending time with my husband. This year when he has been here with us, we have had Sundays to spend alone together while the kids were off at school. We have gone hiking all over the region, and eaten all over Eilat, and gone snorkeling, and gone to have the fish nibble on our toes for a pedicure, and really, really enjoyed each other’s company.
My fish pedicure – it was so weird!
  • Even when the weather is pretty much always the same, people always talk about the weather. They say things like: “Wow its REALLY hot today.” I have seen people who live here – have lived here for years – post the weather report on their facebook page, even when it just says what it almost always says: hot and sunny.
  • Israelis, as a culture, don’t follow directions…or wait their turn. I don’t know if its about history or culture, or if its some kind of macho “I need to prove myself” attitude or what, but holy cow! If the sign says “No swimming,” don’t swim there. If the email says “starts at 4:30”, be there and ready by 4:30. Pushing in front of me in the line to get food in the dinning hall won’t have any huge pay off, we both still get to eat! If we all wait in line and take turns we’ll all get dinner. You don’t have to shove in front of me at the bus line, or the security line, or any where else; we’ll all get there.
Look closely, this is a picture of people swimming in an ancient cistern – directly below a sign that says no swimming
  • In Israel probably, everything will be okay. I mean, things usually turn out all right, without even trying (usually its better if you didn’t try). I am a planner, a rule follower, and a preparer (as previous blog posts have revealed). Israelis, not so much. What I’m trying to say is, it seems like here, if you go out with the intention of doing something, probably it will get done. Whether you are on time or not, whether you have all the supplies or not. It just seems to usually come together.
  • When Israelis want to tell you to wait they don’t hold up one finger like Americans do, they hold all of their fingers pinched together. And they do it in all imaginable circumstances: conversations, presentations in front of an audience, jay-walking (to tell the cars not to run them over), when they have double parked you in (to tell you “I’ll move in a few minutes when I feel like it”)…
The Israeli gesture for wait (it means something else in some other countries)
  • And when they want to tell you “No” or “that’s wrong” Israelis do a very slight shake of the head and click their tongue once. And if you miss this small gesture they can get very annoyed.
  • My children are amazing and resilient and adaptive. Really, really amazing.