Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Photo Blog

I finally uploaded some pictures I've taken with my cell-phone-camera over the last few weeks. Behold! Scenes from Jerusalem:

A few weeks ago, Liza and I heard a ruckus from the street below, the sounds of Jewish music being played incredibly loudly, people singing, and people talking.

Oh! I exclaimed. Maybe it's a hachnasat Torah, a ceremony in which a synagogue has procured a new Torah scroll, and accompanies it in a sort of parade through the streets and into its new home in the sanctuary.

I'd once seen a "Torah Truck" in my neighborhood designated for this purpose, with the loud music and incredibly tacky lights. Could it be . . . ?

Yes! Here they come, and here they go, right under our porch window . . .

Next, here we have a blurry photo of some cupcakes my roommate made:

I realize that in the photo they look like poo, but in reality they were delicious cupcakes with an amazing, chocolate-mousse-flavored buttercream frosting! She'd been experimenting with various recipes for buttercream over the course of about two weeks, which meant I ate a lot of homemade cupcakes . . . yes, having a roommate has definite advantages. This particular buttercream, her fourth attempt, was my favorite, though she prefers the fifth incarnation.

Now we go on to Sukkot pictures. In the weeks leading up to the holiday of Sukkot, a business that sells sukkah set up -- of course -- a sukkah on Emek Refaim Street, where they took orders. And next to it was the most adorable little sukkah playhouse for children, complete with plastic schach, and the same mesh windows and embedded decorations as the adult models:

Isn't that so cute?

Up the street is my favorite video store, Ozen Hashlishi ("The Third Ear"). The employees there are young, art-student types. It's a funky place. One of the employees went to the trouble of creating a model of a sukkah, about a foot high and maybe a foot-and-a-half long, out of cut-up movie posters, abandoned computer parts, plastina and empty vodka bottles. It was sitting on a table of movie-related books, next to the checkout line.

Here is the exterior:

Here, a view of the interior. The detailed decorations -- such as the teeny, tiny paper chain -- were amazing:

And an aerial view (clearly, this is not a kosher succah, since enough schach was left out to allow people to get a bird's-eye view inside):

Finally, a photo I took just this afternoon, of a perfect arc-shaped rainbow that appeared fleetingly over Emek Refaim Street:


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Odds and Ends

* My roommate has started a new blog, a pictorial guide to things people wear on their heads in Jerusalem. She just started it but there are a few posts up. Click here to see.

*Over Sukkot my roommate and I each hosted a friend: she had her friend Elizabeth over for a couple of weeks, and my friend Lisa came in from New York and stayed with us for 3 nights. So we had a Liza, a Liz, and a Lisa. Very confusing, but fun.

* It's gotten cold and rainy here. I have to close my windows even during the day or my room gets too cold to function. At night I'm using two blankets. Today I'm wearing a sweater and boots and I needed an umbrella. We went to daylight savings before Yom Kippur, so it suddenly - BAM! - gets dark at about 4:45 pm. Quite gloomy.

* Can I just say that I know I'm supposed to be grateful for rain, and be glad that we have the blessing of water, but in my heart of hearts I'm not and I'm not? I mean, I know we need the water. I know. But . . . really? Truly? I don't like rain.

Please don't hate me for saying that.

* Lately I've pitched stories to: Glamour, Real Simple, Written By, Hadassah, The Jewish Week, and First. Awaiting answers. Pitched to, and was rejected by, O, Writer's Digest, and NYTimes Magazine. Coming up this week, pitches to the New York Times, Destination Weddings, Reader's Digest. Wish me success. Due to the recent downturn of the dollar against the shekel, and a few other things, I've become what is known in some circles as a Poor Girl. New work would be great.

*It's confirmed, this Spring I'll once again be teaching part-time (2 sections of 11th-grade English) in this program. I'm really looking forward to it. For the first time in my life I can re-use lesson plans from a previous year! Woo hooooooo!

*Liz is back in the Holy Land -- I'll let her announce herself where she's living, since that is a story and a half in itself -- I've convinced her to start blogging! We're taking the advice of one of you good readers and having her simply guest blog here at Chayyei Sarah. If she likes it and starts blogging a lot, then she'll start hosting her own blog. If it's an irregular thing, you'll be able to read her stuff here. More to come when she sends me something!

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Endorsement by Chayyei Sarah

Ha! I bet you thought this would be an endorsement for Obama. Well, you were wrong.

I'm posting today to endorse an independent ticket called Hitorerut Yerushalmim (loosely: Wake Up Jerusalemites), who are running for the Jerusalem City Council (not mayor) in the upcoming municipal elections on November 11.

Please note: One may cast a vote for the mayor of one's choice AND vote for HY for City Council. It is two separate ballots.

HY (on the ballots, they are listed as such - heh yud) is a group of independent residents of Jerusalem -- both native Israelis and immigrants from around the world -- who have between them varied histories in city politics, business, environmental lobbyism, and law. I know two of them personally: Rachel Azaria used to be the Executive Director of Mavoi Satum, which provides legal and social counsel to women whose husbands refuse to give them a Jewish divorce (and before that she did environmental work); and Jean-Marc Lilling, a French immigrant who works as a lawyer at the Justice Ministry. In both cases I gladly vouch for their integrity, intelligence, and sincere care for the city and its people. These are not folks who play politics or take bribes. They are young, sincere, and very, very smart.

For me, the important thing in this municipal race is not how charedi or not-charedi the city will be, which is what most candidates are focusing on. What I, Sarah, care about is the fact that are not enough jobs for all the young people who want to live here, and that housing prices are so high -- and rising so rapidly -- that families cannot afford to stay here. The rate of apartments being bought by foreigners and staying empty is alarming to me, as is the seeming lack of long-term economic plans. I also care about cleaning the air, cleaning the litter, and improving public education. And I'd like the upcoming light-rail system to be expanded so that it serves more areas.

Here is my (incomplete) translation of the little brochure they were handing out yesterday on Emek Refaim Street. Notice that there is nothing here about religion. It's just about improving quality of life in the city for anyone who happens to live here. Will they have to play politics? Of course. But at least with them we'd be starting with a responsible, truly caring slate of representatives.

On 11/11 a new generation is taking responsibility


We take responsibility for reasonable housing prices: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will advance [something I don't understand about residences] and fight against the phenomenon of ghost-like apartments

We take responsibility for industry in the city: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will [verb] the activities of small businesses, high-tech factories, [something else] and the arts

We take responsibility for quality education: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will increase the budgets for state and state-religious schools and kindergartens.

We take responsibility for improved public transportation: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will advance a public transportation infrastructure that integrates buses, service taxis and the light rail.

We take responsibility for enlivened and compelling culture: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will work to increase the municipal care for culture centers in Jerusalem and to awaken local creativity.

On 11/11 put one ballot for mayor and a second for Hitorerut Yerushalmim.
Hitorerut Yerushalmim for City Council

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Hi, everyone, and chag sameach (happy holiday) to my Jewish readers.

I know, I'm way past due for an update. Here's what's been going on:

1) I cannot sleep. First of all, I'm about one thousand percent sure that I have sleep apnea, and that I've had for the last, oh, three gazillion years. Which means that I have not had a decent night's rest for a long time. Months ago I went to my doctor about it, and I went to a sleep specialist about it, and I got a referral to spend a night at a sleep clinic. But the thing is, in Israel you can't just take your referral and make an appointment at the sleep clinic. You first have to take your referral (hafnaya) to your insurance provider (kupah) and have them give you a hitchayvut - a statement that yes, they will pay for this.

I took my hafnaya to my kupah, telling them that my sleep specialist wants me to go to the clinic at Shaarei Tzedek, which is where he works - and which is known as an excellent clinic. Unfortunately it's also more expensive. So Meuchedet, my kupah, told me that I have to go to their clinic. I got a huge runaround, and I tried being Israeli and insisting and nudging them until they got sick of me and gave in -- especially since the sleep specialist said that ALL his patients go to Shaarei Tzedek, and Meuchedet DOES cover it -- to no avail. I became disheartened and dropped it for a while. Meanwhile the sleep doctor said "fine, just go where they send you, the important thing is to go." But now I don't know if his referral is still valid, since so much time has past.

So, I'm working on that.

2) Meanwhile, I have a terrible cough, which has been keeping me up at night and wearing me out during the day. I've discovered that a combination of cough suppressent w/codeine at night, and Acamol (paracetamol) during the day, helps me rest when appropriate and work when appropriate. So I'll just keep doing that, and drinking hot tea, until this goes away.

3) I've decided to change to a new primary care physician. I've been going to the same person for all the five years I've lived in Israel, and until recently I thought she was OK. But back when I first told her that I suspect that I have sleep apnea, she said "Sleep apnea isn't important. You don't have to be concerned about it." I said "My understanding is that sleep apnea can be very dangerous." And she said "no, it's not important." I said "But . . . I'm tired all the time. That can't be good." And she said "If you are concerned about it, go to a sleep specialist."

Well, that didn't sit well with me. And when I mentioned it to other health professionals, they all said "Are you kidding? Sleep apnea is terrible. It causes depression, it causes metabolic problems . . . maybe you misunderstood her?"

So I went back a few days ago and told her how I'd understood what she said. She apologized for making me feel that my concerns were being dismissed. But she reiterated that sleep apnea "has no negative health effects."

So now I'm wondering what other concerns I've gone to her about in the last five years, that she dismissed as unimportant, that may have been important. It's really a bummer.

4) First day of Sukkot was nice. I went to Beth and Simcha's house, as usual. But this time I couldn't actually sleep in their house, because another family from their yishuv had just had a baby that day, at home, and the whole family was also staying with Beth and Simcha so that they wouldn't have to worry about food or anything and could just hang out and sleep. Which is all great, and mazal tov, and I didn't mind at all sleeping in the guest room of another family across the street . . . except that their neighbors have roosters. You see where this is going . . . .

So, basically, I'm OK but quite tired!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Good Rule of Thumb

So much makes sense now!

My roommate taught me a neat trick, which she learned from a book called Thief of Happiness, for identifying music from the 17th-19th centuries:

If it sounds like people bowing formally to each other, it's baroque.

If it sounds like people sitting in a cafe eating fabulous pastries, it's classical.

If it sounds like people falling in love or joining the army, it's romantic.

Try it. History of Music made easy!

(And I bet you thought this blog was only about dating and Israel!)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Quick pre-Shabbat update

1- Guess who got to go to the ER again? Yup. My roommate's back gave out (an 8-year-old fracture in her vertebra has been acting up), and I went with her to the ER at Hadassah Ein Karem. We were in and out pretty fast, so though it took up a morning, it didn't turn into an overnight saga or anything. Unfortunately, she's still in a lot of pain, and neither the percocet nor the codeine she's been prescribed are helping enough. I feel really bad for her.

2- Rosh Hashanah at the Solomonts was amazing as always. The prayer services (in the social hall of their synagogue) were meaningful, just slow enough to think about what you are saying but not so slow that it "shleps" out. The fact that in Israel, there are no "Rosh Hashanah appeals," no long sermon, and no bidding on aliyot really helped. Both days, shofar blowing was around 10:50 am (after a half-hour break so people could go home and have something to eat), and we were home for lunch by -- I don't know -- I think 12:30 or so. Maybe 1 o'clock, latest.

What I really loved was the singing at the meals -- with 4 and 5 part harmonies -- 6 part harmonies! -- and Sarah Beth's "questions of the meal." That, combined with the freedom they give guests to "just chill," helped me have a truly meaningful experience, with lots of time to reflect.

Sarah Beth cooked so much food, I think I'm going to explode. And that's including the fact that both lunches were dairy . . . it doesn't really make things "lighter" if "dairy" means fettucini alfredo and a chocolate mousse cake. Oh my God.

3- Shabbat plans: tonight I'm going to my next-door neighbors for a meal for the first time. We've been on friendly terms but this is the first time they are having us over. Liza is invited too but doesn't know how long she can sit up. Tomorrow: Relax around the house with Liza's home-made challah and my tuna patties, stir-fried veggies, and egg salad. We're keeping things very simple because both of us are still recovering from the four-in-a-row feast experience of Rosh Hashanah.

4- I've been pitching stories to some highly competitive magazines. Wish me luck (and give me work!)

Shabbat shalom.