Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Little Things

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 28 March 1999

Sometimes the way things are done here amazes and confuses me. Here is just a small sampling:

The person who delivers the mail (usually a man) doesn't wear a uniform. He also doesn't have a snazzy little jeep to drive around in. He either uses his own car or bicycle, or he walks.

Until a few years ago, when you went to the neighborhood market for milk, what you brought
home was a one liter plastic bag filled with milk. Everyone had a specially made jug at home. You slid the bag into the jug, snipped off a corner of the plastic bag, and poured your milk! Cartons and plastic jugs of milk are relatively new here.

People don't pay their bills by check. Your bills are either paid out automatically from your bank account (if you've signed an agreement to this procedure); you can call and pay automatically over the telephone; or you can go to the post office and pay your bills there, in cash.

Houses here are not built from wood. They are constructed with concrete blocks. This seemed very strange to me at first, and it still does. But I have to admit, in the hot summertime, our house is pretty cool, even without air conditioning.

By law, there are no electrical outlets in the bathrooms of private homes. The current here is 220, and it is considered far too hazardous to have an electrical source so close to water. Electrical wall outlets are placed almost 3 feet above the floor in houses. Here's the reason:

Most people wash their floors by pouring soapy water in a huge puddle, then swishing it around with what I think looks like a giant squeegee and a special rag for washing floors. This is a technique I still have trouble with!

Butter and margarine are sold in blocks of 100 or 200 grams. That, and the fact that the regular flour sold here is about the consistency of what is called cake flour in America (i.e. very finely ground) make baking a real challenge. At least I've finally learned that 350 degrees Farenheit is 180 degrees Celsius.

Your insurance company can deny you coverage from car theft if you do not install any anti-theft devices they deem necessary. We have both car alarms and something called an "immobilizer." You can't turn on the ignition if you don't have the proper key for the immobilizer.

Almost everyone has a cellular phone. It has become such a phenomena here that there is a law forbidding you from driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone. You must use a speaker attachment. A popular gift from a parent to his or her teenager is a phone which can receive calls, but can only call out to one phone number. One of my daughter's classmates (and remember, we're talking first grade here!) even has her own cell phone.

The way things are done in my daughter's public grammar school is grist for an entire essay of its own. I'm sure I'll get to that topic in the near future!

The differences I've noticed between life here and in America are many, but they don't always bother me. Sometimes it's just a matter of adjusting to a new culture, and a new mind set. And sometimes I just keep on doing things my own way. After all, I moved to Israel because of the way we do the big things here, not the little things.

(c) Amy Samin

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