Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coming "home"

We arrived home yesterday at 4am from Greece, after two weeks of family visits in Paris, Prague, and Zilina, Slovakia, capped by a few nights in Greece.  We missed the September holidays here, a time that locals say is very quiet around town.  We discovered why – we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the opportunity to go on vacation.  Greece is for Israeli's like Florida or the Caribbean is for Americans. 
Coming "home" felt interesting.  Our stuff is here, but it doesn't quite feel like home yet.  I'm struggling to recapture the little Hebrew I learned so far, and of course, daily activities are still a challenge. 
For instance, I went to the grocery store yesterday, Chetsi Chinam (literally translates to "Half Free"), and it took me over 2 hours.  Dairy is managable, as I can read the types of cheese (g'vina)because they use universal names like "edam" and "mozarella" written in hebrew.  And flavored yogurts are obvious (thanks to the pictures of fruit on the packaging). But I wasn't sure about plain yogurt vs. the wide variety of soft cheeses, like cream cheese, in the same types of containers, so I skipped that. 
They have great selections, but much of the good dairy, meat, and fish is behind counters with staff, which requires discussion.  They don't like to slice thin (I wouldn't even know how to ask for it anyway), and they don't like to provide small quantities.  I did fumble through at the lunch meat counter by pointing and asking for "mea" which means 100 (grams were inferred).  That's another thing I'm adjusting to - translating in my head the quantities I want in grams and kilos.  I didn't have to pay a lot of attention to the visual representation of weight for foods at home, as everything is pre-packaged and priced by the package, even the produce, meats and dairy.  Here they have the whole cheese wheel and the price per kilo.  When you read 119 shekels per kilo for parmesan, you have to divide by 3.6-3.9 depending on the exchange rate ($33/kilo), then divide by 2.2 to find out the $/lb price, which gives me a reference compared to what I'm used to paying in the U.S.  ($15/lb).  I came up with a few tricks to help - for instance, when I see something posted for 9.99 shekels per kilo (common price for tomatoes), that works out to about $1.20/lb.  Feel free to use this as a real life math lesson for those of you with kids in school this fall.  You can skype me to the homework table if you'd like. 
I also had an interesting interaction at the fish counter, where I pointed at the salmon filets (the only fish they had pre-prepared.  Most of the fish you order whole, then tell them how you want it prepared, get a sticker, and come back in 15 minutes when they've gutted and sliced it accordingly).  I pointed a piece that was about 0.4 kilo.  He picked it up, said something that was lost in translation, then handed me a different one that he said was "beseder gamur."  My general sense was that he was trying to tell me that the one he was suggesting was better.  It was a bit over half a kilo (i.e. slightly more than I wanted), but I decided to go with his recommendation.  It turned out ok, as it had no fishy smell and tasted excellent last night.
We're still waiting for the guy to bring the cabinets we ordered and hang the ones we already have on the wall.  Once that's done, I can finally clean up our kitchen, bathrooms, and office space.  I've always been an organizer, but it takes some skill to fit a 3,000 sq ft home into an 1,800 sq ft apartment.   

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