Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Goodness Grows in North Carolina

North Carolina is an interesting place. It is a dynamic region that for the past 50 years has been moving from a manufacturing and agricultural based economy to - well, something else. North Carolina for many years has been the home of farms (tobacco, soy beans, sweet potatoes, cotton, and hogs) and mills (textiles and furniture). Now, however, banking, technology, pharmaceuticals, industrial research and development, and the service industry make up the majority of North Carolina's economic life. (NC is home to Bank of America and Wachovia, Dell's newest and largest manufacturing/distribution facility, the largest IBM installation outside of NY, GlaxoSmithKline...)

Even with all of these economic changes, agriculture remains a part of NC culture. One of the largest agribusinesses in NC is tree farming. Primarily tree farming in NC is dedicated to producing Christmas trees. This year, as in many years past, the White House Christmas tree came from North Carolina. It was grown in a tiny place called Laurel Springs. There's a star on the map below to give you an idea of where that is exactly. It's near the "e" and "s" of "States". Click here for more info on tree farming in North Carolina.

One holiday tradition that my family had while I was growing up was to go and pick out a Christmas tree from a tree farm. We'd normally go the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Here's a tree farm in the mountains of NC.

Another shot...in the summertime

The idea is that you go out and pick a tree that you like. Then a guy comes and cuts it down for you with a chain saw. They carry the tree to a machine that wraps the tree with twine or a net and then it's ready to take home. In this picture the bailing machine is the red thing in the center. You can also see a light dusting of snow in the background under the trees.

My family and friends "back home" are getting ready for Christmas - making plans, decorating, attending parties, shopping. Even though I do love humus and falafel, I've got to admit I miss being in the US at this time of year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Friends Star Makes Aliyah


Doesn't the girl on the bottom row, far left look like Lisa Kudrow? You might have to click on the picture a couple of times to make it big enough to see.

Aliyah is the process of immigration to Israel.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Classroom Giggles (Two)


Scenes like this are part of the reason I quit teaching. This was NOT my class by the way.

Click for Classroom Giggles (One).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Classroom Giggles (One)

Long, long ago in a land far, far away, I was a Kindergarten and First Grade teacher. I have some stories that I'd like to share and I am going to post them in a series called Classroom Giggles.

This first story didn't happen to me, but to my good friend Robin. Hi Robin!

Robin taught second grade and had a divided portion of her day as literacy centers. This was a time where children could move rather freely around the classroom and participate in small group or individual literacy-building activities. One of the centers was a matching game where children would match pictures of a common object (like a ball) with the initial consonant sound ( /b/). Robin would move from center to center observing the children, solving problems, and guiding instruction. A girl sat at the matching center with a frustrated expression and held in her hand a picture of a pipe. Robin sat down with her to help and asked the child to say the first sound and then the whole word that matched the item in the picture. The girl said, "W, W, weed."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hasta la vista, Weather Pixie

I first saw a weather pixie on my friend Lisa's blog. I thought that it was cute. Since my blog started as a way for me to share Jerusalem life with my family in the U.S., I thought it would be fun to add a weather pixie too. That way they'd get a "feeling" for the weather conditions here. They don't have a Jerusalem-based pixie, so I used the information from Tel Aviv.

In so many ways, Tel Aviv IS NOT Jerusalem. Lately I've been staring bitterly at my weather pixie with shorts on appropriate for Tel Aviv weather while I am wrapped up in winter clothes in Jerusalem.

So until the weather changes and it's nice and warm here again or they get a real Jerusalem weather pixie, I am taking it off my page. Now I just have to find that darn code...

(I'll leave it up there for a few more days for you to see what I am talking about.)

Up a Tree

Can you find the cat in this photo? Look in the center. You can click on the image to make it larger.

Did you find it?

The cat is sitting on the green power line! These pictures were taken this morning from my kitchen window. Even without this new cat, the green birds haven't been around for months.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

All Talk

My ulpan class has about 20 students. There are just two male students - me and another guy from South Carolina of all places!

I am interested in the dynamics of educational environments. One of the things I have been observing in ulpan is how much the women in the class talk compared to the two men. I haven't been keeping an exact record, just informal observations. I don't have the data to prove my hunch, but I think that the percentage of time that men are speaking in class is not proportionate to the number of men. The male students speak more than 10% of the time dedicated to class discussion. There are some female students that never speak in class unless called on.

Many researchers have considered the reasons for this - that men are more socialized from an early age to speak out and that women are taught to be quiet, men make eye contact with the teacher and are more likely to be called on whereas women don't, men and women have different learning styles and it's reflected in classroom behavior, boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails - it goes on and on.

Now that I have noticed this am I obligated to alter my behavior to open "conversation space" for the women in the class? Should I shut up more - even if there is silence in the classroom - to give time for women to contribute? Don't get me wrong; I am definitely not blabbing away all of the time and jumping ahead of everyone to offer my thoughts. One of my issues is that having been a teacher, I feel compelled to contribute when the teacher poses a question to the class - I can't just let her die up there as the angel of silence floats over the classroom. Sometimes a brave soul may be needed to break the ice and start the conversation. But should it be a male voice?

Monday, November 21, 2005

I Learned To Breathe From Yoga

I learn a lot in ulpan. But there are some topics we just don't cover. I mentioned that I've joined a new yoga class. (It's great, btw! If you live in Jrslm and want to join in the fun, send me an email.) The teacher teaches the class in a mix of Hebrew and English. After about 3 years of yoga practice, I finally learned "to breathe" - in Hebrew.

לנשום (linshom): to breathe

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I Heart Fat Cat


Isn't he cute?! I took this photo of him in the garden from our balcony.

Friday, November 18, 2005

All Smiles


This is me with my friend Lisa. Isn't this the cutest picture ever?! Thanks to Dave for taking the picture. (I think that this is the beginning of a joke - three bloggers meet in Jerusalem...)


This is me with my new friend Antonio in the Old City. Antonio was visiting Jordan and made a stop over in Jerusalem.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chicken What?

One of the great things about going to ulpan is that you get to talk to other people that are having similar experiences. Yesterday in ulpan we were sharing some funny Hebrew horror stories. Listen to this one!

So this girl is at the supermarket and needs to buy chicken. She goes to the meat counter and when it's her turn she asks for "hazia ohf" (חזיה עוף). The guy at the counter just looks a her like she's crazy and says in Hebrew, "What? What do you want?" She repeats herself but this time in a little louder voice. The guy starts chuckling. Another woman in line turns to her and asks if she speaks English - which she does. The woman tells her, "Um, you just asked for chicken bras, not chicken breast." Chicken breast is "haze ohf" (חזה עוף).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So Israeli!

I subscribe to a listserv called Janglo. It's a way for English speaking people in the Jerusalem area to connect with each other - ask/offer advice, sell things, announcements, etc. Every once in a while there is a post that make me laugh out loud or go hmmmm. The following one - well, just read it.

Message: 17 Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 05:14:19 -0000 From: >Subject: ADVICE; Yesterday (Sunday) Bank Leumi was closed, does anybody knowif it is a strike and if it continues today?Thank you

Coming from NC, one of the least unionized states in the U.S., it's hard for me to wrap my head around strikes. I think pushing for worker's rights is a good thing, but I find myself a raging capitalist if the bank or post office is closed when I need something.

I Want It Now or אין לי סבלנות

(This post was originally written Nov. 9.)

Remember that 90s song Mr. Vain? The chorus goes something like: "I know what I want and I want it now." Well, that part of the song has been running through my head today. Who knew life was going to be so much work?! I know what I want (ok - maybe not exactly, but it's becoming more clear) and I DO want it now! I am running out of patience!

Seriously, ulpan this morning kicked my ass. I am going to type a song we read as a blog post soon to help prove my point. I am going to begin typing in Hebrew and need the practice. Every time I start a new round of ulpan class I am motivated for about five minutes to do some extra work outside of class. I feel like if I want to live fully here that I need to master Hebrew. I know lots of folks here that get along just fine without much or any Hebrew. They've lived here lots of years. They seem to be perfectly happy. But for me to somehow have a career and feel comfortable making Israeli friends I need to know Hebrew inside and out. I have received lots of compliments on my Hebrew skills, but it just seems like the more I learn, the more I need to know.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I'm Nobody, I Promise!

Y has to have a high level of security clearance for his work. I just learned that part of that process includes interviewing me - little, young me! I now have an appointment in December to spill my guts. I wonder what they will ask? They already know what side of the bed I sleep on.

I thought for a minute about making up some fantastic story. But then I decided that the truth was pretty interesting itself.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Queen's English and Hebrew

I am following a murder trial (so uplifting!) back in Durham, NC. My friend Christa is keeping us all updated on her blog. I was reading an article about the trial in the Durham Herald-Sun and was struck by the following passage (the red highlighting was my touch):

One of the day's prosecution witnesses was Roy McNeil of Asheville, who said he handles a "cadaver dog" that found the scent of human remains in the trunk of Petrick's car and in the bedroom of his home. Since Sutphen's body showed no bullet or knife wounds and no marks on the neck, police contend she was fatally smothered with a pillow in an upstairs master bedroom. "The dog shown an aggressive alert on a bed pillow and bed linens," McNeil testified. "The whole upstairs area was basically a big scent area of decomposing human remains. "The dog, a Doberman named Kaiser, also "done a confirmed hit on the trunk of the car," McNeil said. "What I mean by a confirmed hit, he actually smells decomposing human remains. There was the scent of human remains coming from this trunk area. ... It indicated to me there had been decomposing human remains in the car at some time or other recently." McNeil said the dog was specially trained to detect only human remains, and not to be fooled by the carcasses of rabbits, squirrels, deer or "other critters." "I have to trust what my dog done," McNeil added. "The dog done exactly what he needed to do."

I don't want to take lightly the fact that this testimony is about a woman that was murdered. That's not what I am going for here. If you've ever seen Deliverance, I think that you can kind of imagine the kind of accent this guy is using. Now before you start calling me a snob and elitist, remember that I am from rural NC. Although, when people first meet me that often can't tell that I am Southern - well, at least not in the first 5 minutes.

My point here is - don't you think the dog handler discredits himself via his bad grammar and word choice? I hope the prosecution has some other "experts" to testify.

I am learning the difference between good Hebrew and bad Hebrew. I'm not just talking about the way Hebrew is spoken - fast and all slurred together. I am learning which phrases are slang and which ones should be used in more formal settings. But I'm pretty sure that Hebrew doesn't have an "ain't" equivalent.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Woops!

A couple of days ago I was clicking around on the blogger preferences menus - and I guess I clicked the box that moderates comments. I have no idea how to work this thing! I was beginning to wonder where everyone was. I now know that I was hoarding your comments. Sorry! It's all better now! People DO love me!

Updates:
I STILL haven't bought a bag. I am going to Tel Aviv tomorrow on a mission!
I am feeling better. I have devised a plan for taking over the world and I am feeling a little motivated to actually do something about it.
I was in the Old City all day today and got a sunburn on my face. Yes, beautiful, sunny day. November. (Chilly but nice.)
Yaacov and I haven't killed each other this week and we're even thinking about getting a dog!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fall

This morning I had a tough session with my therapist. I am working on lots of big life issues right now. I am actually planning to share about some of them in upcoming posts.

To pick myself up a little, I thought that it might be fun to share some fall pictures from North Carolina. It's officially fall here in Jerusalem - it's cold and rainy - but not like fall in NC.

These folks are having fun on the American Tobacco Trail in Durham. I used to ride my bike here. It's a lovely refuge in the middle of the city.



This is a photo of the Linn Cove Viaduct. It's part of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of NC.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Nice to Meet You

Today was my first day of kitah (class) Dalet in ulpan. As a refresher, ulpan is intensive Hebrew school. The goal is to teach Hebrew and Israeli culture at the same time. We read Israeli authors and talk about the immigrant experience. The classes are leveled. You begin with Aleph, then the work gets more complicated in Bet, Gimel, and now Dalet. Everything is in Hebrew from day one. It forces you to learn the language. Aleph through Gimel met four days a week. Dalet is meeting twice a week.

Anyway, we spent the first part of the class today listening to the teacher describe the course and then we introduced ourselves. The class is a mixed bunch. There are some people from the U.S. that moved to Israel recently (within the past two years or so). Two women are from South Korea. One student is from South Africa and another is from Japan. I already know many of the students from my previous classes which will make it more fun. The teacher is the same one from kitah Gimel. So she knows exactly where we left off - and my weaknesses in Hebrew.

The teacher wants us to read an article from the newspaper each week and bring it to the class to share with a partner. She thinks that this is a good way for us to develop our own vocabulary and not just the words we learn from the textbook. I agree that it's more fun to learn about subjects that you're interested in. After describing the assignment she went around the class to show the diversity of interests and half-told/half-asked each student what they might share. It was fascinating to me that from the 30 second introduction each person gave that she felt reasonably comfortable pegging them with a particular interest. The guy from South Carolina got sports. The girl from Texas picked food and the religious woman that lives in a settlement got politics. The girl from Japan picked fashion. I got archaeology.

It's amazing how powerful first impressions can be. I guess that's the scary part of meeting people for the first time - the power of the first impression. I think that all of the people in my class have interesting stories to share. I hope that with open minds and through our developing Hebrew we will be able to move past our first impressions.

Old Bag

For the past year I have been carrying around a bag that I got for free from the gas company. It's falling apart. I am now on the lookout for a new one. Here are two of my favorites. I just don't know if I can pull them off. Maybe I should just go with black. Thoughts?


What a Web We Weave

Shalom Israel was recently highlighted here and here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hello

For a long time after I got here, I wouldn't answer the phone unless I knew who was on the other end of the line. If the caller ID read "unknown" or "blocked", I just would let the call go to voice mail. The same thing is true of my cell phone. If I don't know who it is, I am not going to answer.

Well, Yaacov got a job at the Supreme Court and when he calls from the office it's a blocked number. Now I have to answer. I don't have to, but I do. My Hebrew has improved and I am more confident picking up the phone and having a new Hebrew experience.

Yesterday the police called. Yep, I answered the phone and the female voice asked for Yaacov. I told her that he wasn't here, but at work. She asked for another number. I hesitated for a moment and she said that she was calling from the police. (All of this is happening in Hebrew, btw.) At this point my "they're going to steal personal information and ruin your credit" American mind clicked on and I wondered if she was really calling from the police. I mean, in the US, I am surprised when there's an operator available when I call 911 - nevermind the police just calling me out of the blue. I gave her Yaacov's cell number and then waited a while to call Yaacov to see what she wanted.

Turns out that she was actually calling from the police. We live near the President's house (not to be confused with the Prime Minister's house which is just around the block) and Yaacov had parked across the road from the entrance to the house (which is part of our neighborhood parking zone). They had gotten our phone number after looking up our license plate on the computer and learning that we had reported a lost/stolen license plate once. She was calling to make sure the car parked outside the President's house was our car.

I find it both comforting and creepy that they know all of this information and actually follow up on our little red car. It's nice to know that people are keeping tabs on everything, but it also raises questions for me about my privacy and how much I want the government to know about me. I am sure all of the information that I have given to the interviewer at the Interior Ministry for my visa gets typed into some database somewhere - accessible to the police and others who "need to know". I am not sure if I want the police to know which side of the bed I sleep on. (Yes, an actual question put to me from the kind folks at the Interior Ministry.)

Native Israelis and people who've been here longer don't seem to give it much thought. They're used to being asked invasive questions and everyone knowing all of their business (and being advised on it). There's a saying that goes something like the reason Israelis don't have sex in the road is that they don't want any advice on how they're doing it. Anyway, Israelis seem to have already come to terms with the sacrificing privacy to gain some degree of security. Another thing I am getting used to.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pilates Kicks My Abs

For the past eight weeks or so, Yaacov and I have been going to a private pilates lesson once a week. It's just the two of us with the instructor. It took us a while to find our "groove" in the exercises, but now we're really "feeling it". Last night I discovered ab muscles that I never knew that I had.

I start a new yoga class next week. It's a beginner class. I am taking it even though I have been practicing yoga for about three years. I want to re-focus on the basic asanas.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Halloween from Jerusalem!

My first year here I decided that I wouldn't force myself to re-create American holidays here in Jerusalem. I thought that now that I am living in Israel, well, I'll try to be an Israeli. Turns out that I am not Israeli. I am a non-Jewish American living in Israel. I missed the holidays. The past year felt like one long month without the traditional markers that help me know that a year has past.

For Halloween I decided to make some stew and invite a couple of people over for some jack-o-lantern carving fun. The day before yesterday, after finding a recipe for a beef stew that I though we might enjoy, I headed to the shuk for the ingredients. The whole way to the shuk I was practicing Hebrew phrases that I would need to use: "Red meat cut into cubes for stew." People probably thought that I was crazy mumbling to myself. I found everything that I needed for the stew.

While at the shuk, I looked for a pumpkin to use for a jack-o-lantern. I've seen large baking pumpkins there before and was hoping to find one. No luck though. Plus the idea of getting it home wasn't sounding too fun either - a cause for a cab ride splurge.

Yesterday morning I started the stew. There is something so comforting to me about making food for for others. It's like an act of love. Then I was out again to find a pumpkin...

Here are my friends Matt and Demetri hanging out after eating their fill of beef stew.

Then came jack-o-lantern carving time. As you can see, I never did find a pumpkin. But a watermelon was an excellent substitute. I did miss the pumpkin smell and being kind of grossed out by scooping out the pumpkin meat. The red insides of the watermelon helped make our jack-o-lantern extra scary.

Here's Yaacov holding our cute little jack-o-lantern.

BOO!