Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Cruelty of the Calendar

Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the month of Pesach. For my entire life, it has also meant birthday. Both Big Brother and I were born in April, so Pesach and Nissan were inextricably linked with birthday presents and pesadik birthday cake (usually sponge cake with strawberries). Pesach has always been my favorite chag.

Last year changed all of that. My darling Liz died last Pesach. And no matter which calendar I use, the anniversary of my birth and her death are only days apart. She died the 17th of Nissan, and I was born on the 20th. My secular birthdate is April 24th, and she died on the 26th. It's something that I just can't escape.

The closer those dates come, the more aware I am just how raw my grief still is. I can't think of her without my throat closing up and burning with tears that I often have to keep inside. A month ago, I dreamt of her and woke up crying, feeling like someone had rammed their fist directly into my heart.

I hate my birthday now. I don't know how to celebrate being another year older when it also means that another year has passed since I lost someone I loved so much. How can I go out and pretend to be happy about the fact that I was given another year in this world and that someone so much more deserving than me was taken out of it? The thought of celebrating literally makes me nauseous. On the other hand, how can I not celebrate my life, when the alternative has been so starkly laid before me? Of course I am grateful to Hashem that I'm still here. But I'm also still resentful and bewildered because Liz is not.

So I've made a very simple, easy decision. For those of you in the habit of getting me birthday presents- Don't. I don't want them. Unless you can find the cure to cancer and also own a working time machine, there's no birthday wish that you can fulfill. Instead, take whatever you would have spent on me, whether it would have been dinner or drinks or books or DVDs or a pony, and donate it to Liz's memorial fund. Send it to Washington University, Elizabeth S. Schmerling Endowed Scholarship Fund, Campus Box 1082, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.

I don't need to know that people remember my birthday and are thinking of me even a miniscule fraction of how much I need to know that they remember and are thinking about Liz.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ein Od Makom

It's Friday evening at the Kotel. The sky is clear, and there's a little bit of a bite to the air. It's enough after shkiya that you can hear some of the men davening maariv, but still early enough that others are singing and dancing during kabbalat shabbat. The Kotel is completely packed, on both the men's side and the women's.

I'm standing right behind the women's section, waiting to meet my dinner hosts. I've already davened, but I stand and quietly hum along with the large group of girls singing Lecha Dodi. I'm really just watching the other women daven, something I don't often have a chance to do.

In the middle of the women's section, a small group of five girls begins to sing and dance. A few more girls join in. Then a few more. I also join in. Now there are two circles, one inside the other. Soon there are three circles.

Someone reaches out to take my hand. It's a soldier, her gun strapped to her back. She smiles at me. I smile back.

Some girls are wearing blue jeans and sweatshirts. Some are dressed like me. Some are solders in uniforms. Some are married women in snoods or sheitels. Some are young. Some are young at heart. All are singing and all are dancing, holding hands.

Ein od makom...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Week In Review

* I moved out of the Happiness Hotel. Yay!!!
* I was accepted to UW-Seattle. Not going to go there, but it's still worth a Yay!!
* I met new people. I may even see some of them again. Yay!!
* I spent shabbos in my own apartment for the first time in my life. Yay!!
* I've been moved back up to the Arigah (embroidery) workshop for at least two days a week. Yay!!

Life is good.

There're only two thoughts that get me down:
1) I can't vote here. I'm only a psuedo-Israeli, and nothing hammers that point home like the upcoming elections.
2) It's almost April. I don't like April because a)it means that it's almost May and that my time here is over and, b) it means that Liz's first yahrzeit is almost here and I'm not ready to deal with that yet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Should I Be Worried?

The move is over, and I have taken everything I own out of the Happiness Hotel...including my balsamic vinegar. Back when I'd first moved in, we'd all agreed to share common, household staples (sugar, milk, coffee, paper towels, etc) but anything else we bought would be for our consumption alone. So I was more than a little taken aback when I would see Frenchie reach into the cabinet and pull out my balsamic vinegar. Especially when she once scolded me for taking some popcorn that her boyfriend told me I could have.

But, those days are behind me. The vinegar, my other edible items, and all of the kitchen items that no one paid me back for are now out. And so am I.

So, last night, I bought new groceries and put them into our brand-new refridgerator. Among those groceries was a celebrational 'First Meal In My Apartment" beer. I put it in the fridge to chill, and made myself that first meal.

When everything was just about done, I opened the fridge door and BAM! The celebrational beer fell out and shattered on the floor. So instead of drinking it, I got to mop it up instead. Now I'm wondering if maybe that was a bad omen. Or maybe the beer gods are just upset that I bought Goldstar instead of something imported.

I have a replacement beer. This one will have to be a celebrational 'The Bottle Didn't Break' beer.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Check Out Time

I'm officially checking out of the Happiness Hotel. I signed a lease this morning for the next month and a half for a room in Talbieh. It's a very cute, very 1950's two-bedroom apartment, and my flatmate is an American named Jackie who I haven't met yet. I've already started moving my clothes in, and should be fully moved by the time I go to bed on Sunday.

This move can't come soon enough for me. Last night, right after I came back from viewing the apartment in Talbieh, the doorbell rang at the Happiness Hotel, and turned out to be yet another person claiming to be the landlord. This one seems to be the real landlord, though, and the first one was actually his agent. His agent, that is, who never bothered informing the landlord about all of the craziness with Cousin Ganif. So we had to go through the entire story all over again. The real landlord now wants to break the lease with Cousin Ganif, and is willing to discuss a new lease with us, but needs to check out what's been happening with the agent first. He says we'd know by Wednesday at the latest what the story is about the lease.

No thank you. I want out. So I signed my own lease at a totally different apartment. I'll move more clothes over motzei shabbat, and then move the last of it Sunday after work. My stay at the Happiness Hotel is almost over. Baruch Hashem.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You Know You're A Psuedo-Israeli When...

* You can go into the bank and have an entire argument with the teller in Hebrew
* You actually get to celebrate Shushan Purim
* You accidently drop part of your Purim costume in a jar of schug
* You have no idea how to spell 'schug' in English

I'm getting good at this...

My Problem After All

It's Shushan Purim here in the walled city of Yerushalayim. I slept in and woke up thinking, "Yay! Another day of chag!" I walk out of the bedroom and wish Frenchie a boker tov and chag sameach. She returns the greeting. Then she tells me, "I want to be out of this apartment by the beginning of April. I can't deal with Cousin Ganif anymore."

Now, I had stopped looking for another place because I thought we'd be staying here at least until May. So now I have half as much time to find a new place, either for all of us, or for just me. Frenchie did say that she had already spoken to a girl in her hiur program, and that there was room for me in that apartment as well. But O Canada is in Paris right now, so we can't make any decisions until we get ahold of her.

I'm really sick of this. To be completely honest, it makes me wonder if I should just go back to America early. At least then I could be with my family for Pesach. But then I think about having to leave Yerushalayim, and my heart just breaks. So I have no idea what I should do.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Someone Else's Problem

O Canada and Frenchie met with the manager of the Happiness Hotel this morning to discuss Cousin Ganif's recent display of hospitality and the possibility of a new lease. Apparently, the current lease can't be broken, but we don't have to check out just yet. We're also not getting a new lock on the door, so O Canada made it clear that if Cousin Ganif decides to let himself in while we're not home, she'll call the police.

Strangely, I don't care all that much. I don't have to move out by April 1, and probably won't have to move out before May. And, as we all know, I was planning on checking out by then anyway. So even if O Canada and Frenchie have to move in May or June, it doesn't affect me in the slightest.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Week Two With the Kashishim

After two days of embroidering with Orit, Anat, Esther and the Miryams, I was moved downstairs to the rehabilitation workshop, where I was told that the madricha needed more help. The Shikum also does sewing, but the people working there are more mentally and physically challenged. It's a better fit for my intended career as a geriatric social worker, except for one thing...the madricha doesn't seem to need my help.

I've spent Tuesday, Wednesay, Thursday, and this morning sitting in the Shikum and working on my embroidered mezzuzah (which, btw, I've learned is an Ethiopian design). I sit next to an Israeli named Odel. She's from a chassidic family, butnever married, mostly due to her health complications. She has severe diabetes, and is in a motorized wheelchair. She loves to talk and sing and make jokes, and we have a great time. There's another Esther who sits at our table, who has decided that she wants to marry me off to her son.

The conversation is generally better in the Shikum, but I felt more useful in the embroidery workshop. I keep asking the madricha if there's something she wants me to do. She always says yes, and that she'll be right back with something for me...and then it's 12:00 and I've been sitting with Odel doing my embroidery the whole time.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Shabbat in Efrat

Have I mentioned how gorgeous this part of the country is?

I'm sitting in the living room in Chez Treppenwitz, using Trep's laptop to both stay out of Mrs. Trep's hair and catch up on my blogging. The house smells amazing, mostly due to Trep's considerable skill with a grill. Well, it seems consdierable. We'll have to see if the hickory chicken tastes as good as it looks and smells. Even if it doesn't, I probably have to say nice things, because he reads my blog. (Just kidding). We're also going to be having sushi with shabbos dinner, and potatoes (or maybe they were sweet potatoes) roasted with bourbon. I'm already happy to be here, and that's not even taking the excellent coffee into account.

While Mrs. Trep is getting some work done, mini-Trep is going down for his nap, and Trep is doing his own pre-Shabbos preparations, I'm pretty much hanging out with the not-as-mini Treps. They're so much more fun than my roommates at the Happiness Hotel.

**Post-shabbos Update** As Trep has now heard me say approximately one gagillion times, I'm completely in love with Efrat. I want to move there and raise lots of mini-Caras. I think it's the most perfect spot in all of Israel.

For those of you wondering about shabbat itself, I had a delightful time. And yes, the chicken tasted as good as it smelled, and the sushi was great.

And The Plot Thickens

I went to look at an apartment in Rechavia on Wednesady night. It was a great place, but the timing isn't quite right. The room isn't available until March 24, and the lease goes until June 15. I want to move in sooner, and they're looking for someone who's staying a month longer. So we left it as a backup for each of us. If they can't find someone who can stay till mid-June, and I can't find a place before the end of March, we'll work something out.

I got back to my current apartment (hereby dubbed The Happiness Hotel) and heard O Canada saying, "Well, Cara just got home, so I need to get off the phone." She hangs up and says to me, "Ok, I have some bad news." I thought I was getting kicked out of the apartment. Instead, it turns out that all of us might have to move.

Frenchie's ganif cousin apparently came by while I was at work Wednesday afternoon. (Backstory- he subletted the apartment to us without informing the landlord, taking 2,000 Euros from Frenchie that he never gave to the landlord, to whom he owed four months rent and 1,000 shekalim for electricity, and kept telling the landlord that he was in Paris while he was really in J'lem) He told Frenchie and O Canada that he wanted to sublet the apartment to new people, and that we had to decide if we wanted to be out by April 1 or June 1. He also took his television and kitchen chairs.

O Canada and Frenchie will be meeting with the landlord on Monday morning while I'm embroidering my mezzuzah. Luckile, the landlord is a very decent man, and told us that he was willing to write a new lease with their names on it and get Cousin Ganif out of the picture. Of course, since Cousin Ganif doesn't own the apartment, he has no right to throw us out. I'm pretty sure we'll be able to stay. Besides, even if the landlord only lets us stay until May or June, it doesn't affect me too much. I'm leaving the Holy Land mid-May, and may go spend my last couple of weeks in Tel Aviv anyway.

In the meantime, this means that I can openly apartment hunt and not fear repercussions from the other inhabitants of the Happiness Hotel. O Canada will be leaving Tuesday morning for two weeks in Paris, and Frenchie's mooching boyfriend goes back to England in a week and a half. I think it will be a much more plessant place to live while half of the inhabitants are gone.

Answers to Previous Questions

1) I learned how to use that blasted can opener...with help from my ex-boyfriend in London. And if you think it's a little pathetic that I needed overseas assistance to open a can of mushrooms, you're absolutely right.
2) The ancient lady who lead exercises on Sunday is also named Miryam. I don't know how old she is though...I still think she's 92,000.
3) Embroidering a mezzuzah cover takes a really long time. I've been working on it for about 18 hours and I'm still not done. But I'm getting less bad at it.
4) I have not yet found another apartment. More on that in the next post.