Sunday, July 29, 2007

Last day with family

On Sunday, I agreed to go with Dad to visit Yehuda and Avital in Kyrat Ata, a small town near Haifa. It's quite a long drive, but Dad wanted to see their place and, I suppose, pay a formal call. I didn't have anything better to do and I wanted to see their place too, so I went. B2 also agreed to come. His youngest daughter, Ahuva, had gone home with them on Saturday night, so we could also bring her home.

I woke up quite early, unfortunately, and decided to go to the nearby coffee shop and get some writing done. (I posted two entries that morning.) By happy chance, I picked up some free wifi in the neighborhood. I sat there for about an hour and a half.

When I got back to the place, Dad and B1 were gone. Dad was running errands and B1 went to Tel Aviv for the day to have some business meetings. Susan was still there and we chatted until she had to go meet a friend. Dad was supposed to come home in time to drive her--and it turns out they met on her way out. When Dad got back, we went to pick up B2. Ora and her new husband had already been by for breakfast and praying. For some reason, her new husband wanted to make the 8:30 minyan, and the nearest one was in her folks' neighborhood. I guess he's just that devout.

We said hello to Tikvah then headed out. The drive was long but we only took one wrong turn, due to B2's poor map reading. I took over navigating from the back seat and we made it the rest of the way with no problem. I recognized some of the drive because I'd been over most of it with Spesh last year.

We drove on highway "6," which is a private toll road. It's interesting for a few reasons. It runs through Arab lands but has no exits to Arab villages. In fact, it parallels the wall in some places. The real wall--there are watchtowers and everything. It also charges a toll by taking a picture of your license plate and mailing you a bill. It's expensive--about $10 each way, but much faster than the other options. Last, the northern most point of the road is where Spesh's kibbutz is. He avoids the road if possible but did use it to drive me to the airport last year. (This year we'll leave from Tel Aviv, so we won't face this moral quandary.)

B2's cell phone died on our way there, which meant that we wouldn't be able to call for directions. Luckily, B2 remembered enough to get us there and, with one question of pedestrians to confirm we were going in the right direction, we found the place.

The apartment pleasantly surprised me. It was neat as a pin, clean, and comfortable. Two bedrooms, large living/dining room and medium-sized kitchen. They seemed very happy to see us and Avital was more relaxed than I'd ever seen her. Dad wanted to get them something for the house and they discussed possibilities--a toaster oven, a dryer, a window a/c unit for one of the bedrooms…in the end, Yehuda said that Avital really wanted a camera. We left B2 with the baby and Dad, Yehuda, Avital, Ahuva and I piled in the car and drove to the nearest strip mall to check out the electronics store.

What I loved was the process by which we actually got the camera. First, Yehuda told the guy which camera they wanted. The guy gave him a little piece of paper. Dad took the paper and handed it to a woman sitting at a computer. She and four other female colleagues sat at similar computers all in a row. She took the paper, Dad paid, and she printed out two copies of a receipt on regular sized pieces of paper. Dad then took that paper to another counter and handed it to a guy. The guy went in the back and got the camera. He opened the box and showed the parts to Avital and explained what each of the cables was for. Then he asked her to sign--she deferred that task to Dad.

The only other system I've seen like this was in Russia when I traveled there with school in the last Soviet days. I'm almost certain Russians ran this store. My experience went something like this: I wanted to buy a pen. I stood at a glass-topped counter displaying pens. I pointed to the one I wanted. The clerk handed me a piece of paper. I took it to the cash register and paid. I got another piece of paper. I took it back to the counter and was handed the pen. I used that pen twice before it broke. All that for a pen that broke immediately and didn't even cost a dollar! Let's hope the camera fares better.

Also, frustratingly, the manual included with the camera was not in Hebrew. Dad and I noticed and Yehuda complained. The clerk said they'd get a manual from another store in a couple of days and they could come and pick it up.

When we got home, I gave Avital some tips for using the camera. Ahuva helped translate, but, to my surprise, Avital understood quite a lot of what I told her. She does have some English, but is very shy about using it. I was pleased to have actually had something like a real conversation with her. It helped that it was one-on-one and I spoke slowly.

On the drive home, Dad said he was concerned that Ahuva's English wasn't approving. He's been paying for lessons for the last year and a half and would like to see some progress. I actually think her English is stronger than the last time I saw her but Dad didn't agree. She was asleep for much of the drive but when she woke up, Dad asked her how much speaking she did during the lessons. She couldn't really answer but said they had conversations. I decided we'd have a conversation right then and I started asking her open-ended questions. B2 chimed in but he kept asking yes or no questions so I told him to stop.

Ahuva described her bus trip the night before, arriving in Kyrat Ata, and how she spent the morning there.

Jamy: When did you get up in the morning?
Ahuva: When the baby fell out of bed. He cried.
Jamy: What?
Ahuva: He was sleeping with Avital and fell out of bed!
Jamy: Did she wake up too?
Ahuva: Yes.
Jamy: Did he hit his head?
Ahuva: Yes, but he was ok.

We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Dad retold the story several times and laughed.

The evening was another feast for the bride and groom. It was hot as anything making it hard to eat. It was also my last evening with the family. I was sad to say goodbye but also relieved to get back to the "real" world--or at least the world where I'm comfortable. And where I can wear short sleeved-shirts and slacks. Lord have mercy.

Grateful for: the secular world.

Tel Aviv: 8/1/2007

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