Monday, August 22, 2016

The big move, day one

Just a preface -- I am planning to write something more sentimental but first I have to catch up on the last 36 hours.

The bottom line is that I am accompanying Maddie as she settles in to her new digs in Israel so this trip is a vacation of sorts but also chock full of errands and bittersweet non-chocolate based moments.

Our flight was Sunday afternoon, at 1:30 so we headed out to Newark. Security was mostly uneventful though Maddie was pulled aside as the TSA agent was concerned about some piece of metal built into her shoe. He interrogated said shoe and let us continue, convinced that neither we, nor the show, was up to no good.

The flight was OK. I recall El Al flights from my youth -- massive planes with 500 people jockeying for overhead space and blocking aisles. There was a lot less of that. Granted, overhead space was at a premium (my seat didn't actually have an overhead bin so I had to find another spot but no one then seemed to be stuck because I took his space) but it all worked out. The 777-2000ER configuration is mostly 9 people per row, 3-3-3 but row 34 is 2-3-2 and the middle seat in the 3 part was supposedly unsold so each of us was hoping for an aisle seat and 1 neighbor. When we boarded, we found that the middle seat did sell to an older woman who was then moved so that a young man in another row didn't have to sit next to a woman. Instead he sat next to me which God said is better. I'm unconvinced. Maddie sat next to an unaccompanied 11 year old Israeli girl who viewed the possibility hat I would sit next to her with fear and disgust. So there's that.

The seats were designed by people who did lengthy study into the positions in which the human body can fall asleep and who made sure that the seats did not lend themselves to any of those positions. The seat goes back but not enough. The arm rests are not quite wide enough for arm resting and the width is too narrow. So sleep didn't much happen despite the benadryl, lack of sleep the night before, sugar and wine. I was tired and loopy, but up. So I ate everything. Everything. In my row, a gentleman had ordered the mega ultra kosher meal (as opposed to my run of the mill kosher meal) but his wife packed him a set of meals so he kindly asked me to eat his food and I complied.

I did a Thursday, 2 Friday, 2 Saturday and a Sunday crossword puzzle, read a short story, watched 5 episodes of Nir V'Gali and looked at the clock 8 billion times. The plane is smaller that others on which I have taken this flight so when the huddled masses assembled to pray there was no breathing room and I feared that someone, in religious fervor, would accidentally open the plane's door and we would all die. Very spiritual moments they were. The movie selection was an interesting combination of newer movies I didn't want to see and older movies I have never wanted to see. There were also episodes of TV shows I don't watch and games I don't play.

The bathroom was right behind our row. This was convenient for approximately 3 minutes out of the flight. The rest of the time, the cycle of "light, flush, light" was less welcome. There was also a large number of the two worst kinds of people to fly with -- kids and adults, so it was a noisy flight full of people who chose not to give me their food.

We landed at 7am local time and deplaned quickly. At the baggage claim, 2 of our bags came out quickly but the bag karma kicked in and the other 2 waited until the last moment to make an appearance. Customs and such were straightforward and within an hour, we emerged into the ridiculous heat. Our options for getting to Jerusalem were a bus (nope...) a cab (over 60 dollars but convenient) and a sheirut, a shared mini bus -- 15 dollars each but less convenient. We did that because it seemed that we would be dropped off first. We weren't. First, they had to find exactly 8 other people to fill the mini bus. Then we had to change seats so that religious woman didn't have to sit next to the big. He sat next to me and the AC wasn't quite on enough to help me in my jet lagged glory deal with that. If one can be said to pass out while still being completely awake, I did that. We toured all around Jerusalem dropping most everyone off while the driver used mock sincerity to deal with his lot in life ("Sure I can drop you of there...I will drop you off ANY WHERE you want...just say so, I live to serve you...ya jerk...whatever you say.")

A note about Jerusalem. It is a city of neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are no where near each other even as they are contiguous. It is spread out like Philadelphia, but is a series of small mountains so "next neighborhood" means "up and down and all around, just to go 200 feet." Imagine trying to get a sense of Manhattan while driving in a bus in the smallest streets in Greenwich village and then to Chinatown, but put both on separate hills and add in a bunch of speed bumps and heat. I have been in Jerusalem for almost 24 hours and still (no joke) haven't even see the old city from a distance. I have no idea how, but every neighborhood we have been through has taken us in the wrong direction and yet we are still in the same city. The is a city designed by uncivil engineers. Everything is made of blocks of stone configured for maximum "hey, do I look like a wall to you?" If there was a wall, instead of knocking it down, just add another. And why pave that parking lot? You have to learn to drive on rocks sometime, right? The twists and turns make Boston's street alignment look reasonable (and I mean downtown, not the Back Bay).

When we got to Maddie's street we discovered that she doesn't live at #1, but at #3. This means that all the forms we filled out giving her address were wrong. The biggest problem, we assumed, would be with the expected furniture delivery. We spent two weeks ordering things from Ikea and arranging with the out sourced delivery to ensure that the stuff would be here on the day of our arrival so we could spend day one setting up. When we found the address was wrong we felt it meet to call them and make sure they had the right address. Maddie called and found that the voice mailbox was full. She sent an email but we worried. She called Ikea directly and waited on hold for 45 minutes before a surly man insisted that he couldn't help her but would be sure "pass the message along." My sister called back and made more headway. The woman she spoke with said 2 things: 1. They were all backed up and hadn't even bought the furniture yet and 2. Why would anyone think they were going to deliver today? My sister explained that we had spoken with the woman 2 weeks earlier and confirmed this. The woman checked and agreed that, actually, yes, that conversation had happened but so what. Nomi insisted that they make this right and they countered with "we'll get right on that." So, still no furniture, but now they are actively not delivering it to the correct address. Baby steps.

There is another subplot related to phone contact information, but I will save it for some other time when I have properly forgotten about it.

Maddie and I (after she did some light unpacking and we explored the apartment with a cousin or two) walked over to Zol Stock and Max Stock. These are not siblings, but two "everything" stores. Parking in Israel is tough to come by. When the state was founded in 1948, brave men and women took all the good spots and have built cities around their parking jobs. So now there is a bustling metropolis with cars which are not going anywhere, so people have to walk everywhere. The walk (uphill, both ways, in the heat) wasn't horrible but we had to carry everything back -- storage bins, laundry baskets, garbage cans, aluminum foil, shampoo etc. I'm not really physically fit so between the jet lag, the heat and the carrying things, I decided that abandoning lucid thought was my safest course.

Next, a #15 bus to Talpiyot to look at mattress toppers (for a mattress that had not ben delivered) and hardware to fix the clothes cabinet. Note - if you want to save money, don't shop in a store with the word "American" in the name. That's code for "Overpriced, entitled and with no one to vote for." We looked at back packs (90 liters), sleeping bags, towels, a drum kit (I was bored...) and eventually we found a pillow top and a nice guy who under charged us and volunteered to deliver it as soon as it arrived. And we have had such success with orders and delivery, that how could we say "no"? The hardware store was a madhouse. I have enough of a challenge trying to get across "yes, I'd like fries with that" In Hebrew. Trying to say "no, I want the larger diameter curtain rod, the bolt with the expanded threads and a ratchet set" to a moving target pushed me to my limits. So we bought a few of the rong thing (so that we wouldn't look foolish), Maddie got her house key copied (in Israel, they don't use a key copying machine. The guy uses sarcasm to cut the key down to size repeatedly) and we walked through the indoor mall (much louder than an American mall, with more stores with the name "American" in them.)

We searched and searched for the Emanuel store. The address is #6. Two entire, separate buildings are #4 and next to one there is a private residence, #8. We kept circling, looking for the tear in the space-time continuum that would open the portal to the other dimension where the number 6 exists. A man took pity on us and asked (he really did, in Hebrew), "Have you found what you are looking for? I noticed that you have been walking around for 45 minutes." It turns out that in Israel, if you take 3 lefts, that isn't the same as taking a right. Three lefts means "up." Or something like that. The Emanuel store (after all that) had nothing but solid AC. So we hung around there for a few minutes.

On the way to the bus stop, we saw a woman get hit by a car. It was actually a beautiful moment as an Israeli Jew spoke with an Arab Christian in English about not getting the police involved. Truly heartwarming. We hung out at David and Nomi's until Maddie went to go shower. I headed back to her apartment so we could order Pizza Hut (it was delivered soon, but the flip side is that it wasn't very good), argue about garbage disposal, fail at setting up her television, and say our good nights. I returned to pass out and wake up at 4AM local time, complete confused about what day it is.

More updates as events warrant.

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