Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm supposed to be grading papers...

...so of course I'm blogging instead.

Here's the lowdown:

1- The landlord announced his intentions today of raising our rent by 300 NIS per month. Given that we are already paying the high end of market rate, we are not happy. (Get this: he says he's raising the rent because his expenses are so high, because we keep breaking things. Like, um, the refrigerator engine melted because of us? What? And, oh yeah, the other thing that broke was a mezuza case because his movers broke it when he decided to replace a perfectly good closet. Seriously. What?) Liza and I discussed our options, and at the moment we feel the best option is to move out rather than keep bleeding out rent money. We're hoping to find a place together, but that would mean finding a decent place that we can afford, in a neighborhood that is close to Emek for me, and near certain bus lines for her. A little tricky. So the possibility also exists of splitting up, which might mean I'm going back to living alone. Not good. More updates when I know something.

2- I was hit in the head! Hard! I was getting out of a taxi, and reminded the driver that I've got stuff in the trunk. While I was getting my stuff, he started driving away! With the trunk open! And my stuff inside! I started yelling at him to wait, and he stopped, and I ran a few steps to the car and reached in to grab my bag, when the trunk door came down. On my head! Hurt like hell. I ended up sitting with ice on my head for an hour. It's a few days later and it still hurts. For a while I thought about going to the doctor about it, but since I can walk in a straight line, exert pressure with my hands, focus with my eyes, and remember my birthday and who is president (of two countries) I guess I'm alright.

3- There was a huge HUGE storm here on Saturday. Turns out the people upstairs from me left their windows open, and their apartment became a lake. Water gushed out from beneath their front door and down all the stairs, like a waterfall. It was quite dramatic. Also it created water marks in my ceiling (which the landlord would blame me for, if he could, I'm sure). Unfortunately, Liza's room also got a bit wet. She was away in Europe, so I mopped up for her, arranged her wet things in a way they would dry, and even vaccuumed her carpet for her, which was not easy because all I have is a hand-held dust-buster. Am I a great roommate, or what?

4- Overall, though, things are good. My sleeping situation is greatly improved, and my productivity has increased as a result, which is fantastic. I've been keeping up with my "to do" list, can you believe it? I can, hardly. I've also been exercising more. Overall, a great feeling.

5- Teaching continues to go well. My students are very nice kids, in both programs. My bosses have gotten few reports about me, and those they got were positive, which means none of the kids are complaining and a few have gone out of their way to say good things. This indicates that classes are just fine from their perspective as well (no news is good news). Baruch Hashem.

6- Journalism assignments continue apace.

7- Did you know that you can remove rust stains from a porcelain bathtub by sprinkling either a) table salt and a little lemon juice or b) hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar over it, allowing the paste to sit on the stain overnight, and then wiping it all away? Worked like magic (both ways). The internet is amazing.

Yes, my life is that exciting.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Art of the Argument

I believe I've written in the past (though now I can't find the post) about the Israeli style of arguing, which is to yell and scream and hurl accusations at each other, vent every feeling of frustration you have down to your guts, and when it's all over and you've said everything you want to say, to stop feeling angry, wish each other a hearty Shalom-have-a-good-day, and go about your business.

The advantage of this style is that once it's over, it's over. Israelis don't often bear grudges for long.

The disadvantage, as I have discussed, is that Americans who observe this behavior think the argument will erupt into World War III. Americans don't often yell at each other like that -- not in public anyway. Decorum is more important to us than not feeling angry anymore.

Lately I've discovered another disadvantage. What I'm about to say about Israelis may not sound very nice, but this is my blog about my life in Israel, and it wouldn't be true to myself or my readers if I pretended that Israel was a perfect place.

What I've realized is that the reason Israelis can drop their grudge is that arguments, to them, do not have the goal of solving problems. The goal is to say everything you wanted to say, to get everything off your chest, without ever once admitting that you yourself did anything wrong. Once you have finished talking and you have the sense the other person isn't going to argue back, you are done and can walk away, regardless of whether anyone has learned anything.

I've noticed that when an American and an Israeli get into an argument, the American will often keep trying to make the Israeli understand their point of view. All the American wants is some indication that they have been heard and understood. The Israeli then feels that, since you are not accepting all the blame, they must start all over again and restate their case, because clearly you did not hear them the first time. If you have not admitted defeat by shutting up, then they have not done their job properly.

The far better approach, if you have the nerves for it, is simply to let the Israeli talk until they are done and then say "O.K." After that, peace and quiet returns.

The nifty trick that Israelis play is that if they are on the "losing" end -- if they are the first to give up and stop yelling because they are tired of arguing -- they will then tell themselves that, though they lost the argument, they have the higher moral ground, because the other guy had lost his head and has no patience. By admitting defeat, you also show that you are the calmer, less confrontational one. The argument's winner thinks you are a frier, but you can see yourself as infinitely more patient. Everyone wins.

And nothing changes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Me, Today

I'm feeling physically and emotionally 99% better. Thanks, everyone, for your support!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Me, this week

Well, let's see. I voted. In the rain. For Likud. Yes, David and Robert, I voted for Likud. Not as far-left as you think I am, huh?

I don't mind publicizing who I voted for, because as it turns out, whoever forms a coalition will have to do it with far-right parties whose platforms I find offensive. So whatever happens, it's not exactly my fault. We're all to blame. (I'm so optimistic, as you can see, about Israel's future.)

I've also been sick this week. I even canceled my classes yesterday, and was so knocked out that I slept through a surprise visit from the landlord.

I know, just know, in my gut, that the man will not renew our lease. He thinks we are annoying and that we don't take proper care of the apartment. He's wrong, and controlling, and absolutely infuriating, but it doesn't matter because it's his property and his right to decide whether to renew. I've even contacted my lawyer and indeed there is nothing we can do but hope that a few weeks from now, when it's time to start talking about renewal, he wakes up and realizes that we are good tenants.

Currently, there are several men in my life who are infuriating or disappointing me, in different ways: Doctor #1, Doctor #2, the Landlord, and the guy I asked on a date who never gave me an answer. If I had a therapist (see disappointment with Doctor #2) I'd be sitting on a couch talking about how men seem to ignore me all the time, or that I can never live up to their expectations. But I currently do not have a therapist, so I guess instead I will stew in bad vibes and generally feel bad about the world in general and men in particular. Because that's healthy, right?

I'm kidding. Sort of.

Oh, also, I have 43 tenth-grade papers to grade, all on the same topic. How thrilling. Thank God they are literate, so it's not so bad.

My saving grace: I'm getting REALLY good at higher-level crossword puzzles. Very exciting.

Well, small pleasures are important!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


My students seem like nice, motivated kids so far.

Most photocopying has worked out great. However my kids for today were not able to access all the internet sites with their homework readings. Hm. Must figure, in the next few hours, how to move on in a way that is fair and helps them keep learning (and I must photocopy whatever I need to make up for the situation). Urgh. Things happen.

I've always had a few kids with ADD and ADHD. This year for the first time I have two students with serious reading comprehension problems (dyslexia and such). If they want to keep up with the readings they will probably need a tutor. I can't sit with them and help them with that much homework -- and I wouldn't know how to help them, anyway, because their problems require very specific types of accomadations. I hope they work it out somehow. I feel bad that they have such debilitating problems.

I'm quite overwhelmed with everything on my plate. Papers to grade already from one program, lessons to plan for the other program, a grant proposal to write for one client and five articles for other clients. Do laundry, wash floors, pick up prescriptions, etc etc etc.

Better than being unemployed and bored, I guess!

Gotta run.