Tales Out of Ramat Beit Shemesh
I returned 45 minutes ago from my daily Ulpan (Hebrew class - Sunday through Thursday 8:30 AM till 12:45 PM), sat down at the kitchen table and ate my lunch (feta cheese and tomatoes) and am now sipping botz (mud is an apt English translation, also called Café Turki or Turkish coffee)– that uniquely middle eastern coffee which is 65% water, 25% finely ground coffee and 10% sweetener and whose residue at the bottom of the glass appears as mud and tastes similarly if one is not sufficiently careful when sipping it. An 8 oz serving of Pepsi contains 25mg of caffeine, where as an 8 oz serving of Pepsi Max contains 46mg. Botz probably contains 200 mg caffeine!
I have exactly one hour before my grandkids come home from school. School here is six days each week, Sunday through Friday, from 8:10 AM till 1:20 PM. Once they arrive home, clarity in composing one’s thoughts becomes significantly more difficult.
Today in Ulpan we acquired another 20 words. I now have a list of 565 Hebrew words since Ulpan started 4 weeks ago. Toward the end of class, we read a skit about a person ordering food at a restaurant. Then, suddenly, I was paired with this lady from France, a gentleman from France and another American to act out a skit, in our own (Hebrew) words about being greeted by the maître de, being asked whether we prefer an inside or outside table, smoking or no smoking, and then, after sitting down, having a dialogue with the waiter to order our dinner. That is the reason I ate lunch as soon as I arrived home…….the cheese and tomatoes were not as satisfying as the steak kabobs and cheeps (French fries) I "ate" at the Ulpan, but I was hungry!
Entering our second month of our 3 month extended stay in Ramat Beit Shemesh, the continuous daily routine has transformed what was for us in the past an idyllic vacation lifestyle into a more authentic Israeli experience. The striking landscapes of the Judaean Hills, the unique Jerusalem stone building façades, local architecture, the idyllic imagery I formulated walking through the streets seems to have melted into a sea of reality. The streets here are not as clean as one would like; rain does not cleanse but merely increases the amount of soil which liter the streets; 5 continuous days of rain may be a blessing here, but 5 days of damp, chill inside stone houses does not result in cheerful dispositions nor cure a week-long common cold. This evening we turned the heat on for the first time this season – on November 21 the temperature reached a new low of 53 degrees F (but forecasted to rise to 70 tomorrow). While this may not be cold according to Atlanta standards for this time of year, apartments and homes here are not insulated and constructed of stone. Even maintaining an indoor temperature of 65 degrees is toasty. Nonetheless, this is our second home and in many ways it is our first home. Owning real estate in Israel with the opportunity to occupy it is indeed the biggest blessing of all.