Before I discuss what we have done so far, I want to mention something about this city -- it confuses me. Maybe, if I were to live here for any length of time, I could get the hang of it, but so far, nope. We took a cab this morning and afternoon and I feel like we never went on the same road twice. Also, because Jerusalem (a "city of neighborhoods") is a series of hills, I can't get a sense of how far anything is from anything else. We wound around hill after hill, making rights and lefts, and I saw some miserable driving out there. But everything ultimately seemed close. We paid about 10 bucks for each cab ride no matter where we went. In general, the cabbies have asked us if we want a flat rate quoted, or want to rely on the meter. We have been told that if they quote a rate, it will be slightly more than is necessary but if one is going out near rush hour, the meter might end up costing more. So we have been instructed to make an offer first, at a rate we are willing to pay, and haggle accordingly. That blows my mind. We don't just haggle -- we have to tell them their business. The buses take much longer and aren't as convenient. So 4 people at 6.90 NIS each (about 27.60 NIS or $6.90) in a 35 minute bus ride (plus the walk to and from the bus) or 4 people in a 50 NIS ($12.50) 10 minute cab ride (door to door). While we try to make sure we use reputable cab companies, for that convenience, we have taken without vetting more than once.
The first half of the day was reserved for visiting Maddie's school and meeting some of her friends and teachers. I will save the snark for later because the school has done right by her and, though I was reduced to drinking instant coffee in a country where people bleed espresso, I think that the school and her peers are doing alright. Not much more to report on that front -- some rooms had more heat, some had less. I sat in on a class and resisted the temptation to be difficult (it is such a natural thing, especially as a teacher, to try and take over a class and do it better). We also packed a small bag of clothing that Maddie didn't want any more and exchanged it with the stuff we brought from home that she suddenly decided she couldn't live without. The next step was to run and catch a bus to the mall.
After sitting through a class we ran to catch a bus 33 to go to the mall. First stop, food court. Four people, four restaurants. Talia went to McDonalds because she could. She got a Texas burger and enjoyed it, even remembering the Alamo sauce. OK, that's not exactly true but how often do I get to make that joke? Some of you, no doubt, said "one time too many." You're welcome. A kosher food court is as overwhelming as it was last time I was here. I feel like I could just live ini the mall and eat. Eventually, I had to choose one place and so I sighed and walked in a random direction, driven only by the promise of dead cow. I had a philly steak sammich at New Deli (though in Hebrew, the name is "Sandwich, Sandwich") and batata (sweet potato) fries. Julie and Maddie got dairy stuff. Maddie's thing is a bagel with sweet potato and butter on it. I don't get it. Julie stuck with pizza but she was completely tired and feeling sick so I don't think she enjoyed it so much. My proof? When I asked what was on it, she replied (and this is true) "Poop."
Then we started wandering around the mall. I remember now why I hate the mall, and even though this mall is in Israel and has the heightened levels of holiness, it is still a mall. Tiring and over priced. Do I really need a $10 pack of Post-It notes? They really did cost 10 dollars. We went into a music store and Talia wanted to buy a vinyl album for her friend. Now I like music and appreciate vinyl, but is $30 necessary for a copy of a Pink Floyd album that I used to own but got rid of already? The girls did get some shoes ($16 a pair!) and we got out before we all became too, too cranky, so there's that. We cabbed back to the apartment, and Julie went for a nap. Maddie left to go to the Lone Soldier center for a Hebrew lesson and we will regroup and reassess the evening's possibilities shortly.
I remain humbly yours in food.