30 January 2011

Who Would Do Such a Crazy Thing?

Who would do such a crazy thing! Fly 1600 miles across an ocean to an empty apartment with no furniture?

Leave your home, family, friends, go to a new country, a new neighborhood, and especially a new apartment that you only saw pictures of on the internet? It had a fridge and stove but no furniture meant no beds.

The taxi was bringing us from the airport to the address in my Brownline. The driver started talking to us in Ivrit and I was answering him in Ivrit. I was shocked. It was over 27 years ago that I had gone to ulpan (Hebrew classes). I was atonished how my mind took control over my emotions. Or was it the other way?

When we arrived at the building on Abarbanel, waiting for us was the owner of our rental apartment. He was young, smiling and by default our second welcoming committee. My husband joined him dragging the suitcases up three flights of stairs into our empty apt.

However to my surprise, it wasn't so empty. It was full. Two men walking around, buckets, shmattas, brooms, ladders, and some toxic smelling fumes in the air.

My husband was zonked from the time differential, begging for a place to lay down. I was exclaiming my disappointment about the workers and the mess. After all, "you told me that you had two weeks to prepare for us, so why this?"

Just then, in walks a friend and her intended, she takes one look at everything and lets out a commanding appraisal that put it all into perspective. A brief back and forth and the whole thing got settled. Two days knocked off the lease and reduction in the first month's rent payment. So much for a powerful diminutive former real estate sales bargainer who knows how to get what Rachel wants. Out came the Lease. After weeks of emailing and reading and commenting, I was in no frame of mind to concentrate on all the details again. Getting my husband to hold the pen was another gargantuan task, but sign we did.

We left the owner watching our luggage and the workers while we all jumped into Avi's tiny car to transport one reluctant practically horizontal loudly kvetchy husband to a resting place before he flattened out on the ground.
The first and most important next stop was for a cell phone. Pay as you go was good enough for me. I didn't want to accumulate contracts and fees before my first good nights sleep.

From there we flew to the address in my Brownline to the one store I was told had American HiRise beds. I looked over the set and then pulled out the plastic. "Ok, when can this be delivered?" "Well, I have to check on where my guy is and what his schedule ..."

"I need these beds before nitefall, we just landed from the States, my husband and I are exhausted and we must have something to sleep on other than a dirty floor!"

My diminutive friend sized everything up, applied her persuasive dulcet tones, and the deal was done. Rachel to the rescue again.

We were promised the beds, installed and set up in the room of our choice by 7 pm. "Oh, thank you so much. You have no idea how happy you have made one exhausted husband, and his relieved wife." (Typical American polite and always thankful response.)

"You know, that's unheard of here. You could have waited a couple days." My gut feeling to Rachel's warning was that the owner is also American, and understands ... The person who told me about him said he was nice. And he sure was, because it took two weeks before the credit card arrangements finally took hold (tashlumim, or payment plan), and the whole time he accepted each of my explanations without a whimper. B"H for small things.

From there we bounced over to Rami Levi (suppposedly the cheapest food store around) for some essentials for the fridge that was stark naked. Again, my American plastic really was a life saver. Accepted in every store. Never appreciated it this way before.

All this B"H within a few hours after landing. Thank the Alm-ghty for things big and small.

Back to the apt. The workers were gone and Ari, the owner, was also ready to depart. Ari wished us a smoothe settling in and if there was anything we needed help with to feel free to call him.

Well, what now? as I looked at Rachel. "Oh my gosh, my husband!" We almost forgot about him. Again Rachel had it all planned. "Let's pick him up, come to my place and I'll make you a nice dinner." "But what about the delivery?" "Don't worry, I told them to call you when they're on the way, and Avi will drive you back in time, we're just a few streets away."

My husband didn't want to wake up, to put it mildly. After some gentle coaxing we got him into the car. "Where are we going, where are we, I want to sleep." Slowly we cajoled him up the 30 steps, promising a delicious salmon dinner, hot veggies and broiled potatoes, and a sweet dessert. B"H it worked, his hunger overcame his confusion. The hour long dinner was delicious and really made us feel warm and fuzzy, ready to fall asleep.

My pocket started vibrating then ringing. B"H it was the beds! "Yes, we'll be there in 20 minutes."

Shortly after that, back at our new (empty) home, the doorbell announced our first piece of furniture. I must say these guys were great, everything done in unison, quickly and efficiently.

"Where do you want them?" "Oh, just leave them here." (in the living room, the bedrooms didn't look like they could handle 2 beds.) It was already dark outside and everything did look kinda strange to us. I felt we should stay in the biggest room for our first nite. It was hot and steamy and I wasn't eager to sleep in what seemed like a closet.

The guys left. Rachel and Avi left. From the suitcases I pulled out a set of sheets and my pillow. We were all set. Quickly we dressed the beds and soon we were drifting. It was the middle of the summer, hot but with a cool breeze. I was already in heaven.

I can't explain how awkward we felt the next morning. A strange place, nothing that felt homey, although I heard birds singing. My husband was grouchy. He had to daven. We had an appointment. What to eat? How do we do this? I think I filed away the emotions of our first morning in that dark corner of one's inner recesses to be forgotten.

Coffee to the rescue. The aroma was soothing to my emotions. My husband however, did not find it so easy. Unfortunately he doesn't drink coffee. He began a very difficult phase of culture shock. It took several months of establishing a routine to be able to manage some type of comfort and acceptance. Finding a shul to pray 3 times every day was an adventure. Creating his appetite was insurmountable. Dialogue was painful. What was I to do? Nothing prepared me for this, even over 20 years of marriage.

I found a little natural take out, and then we were afloat in salads, brown rice, eggs and soups. The first couple months I wasn't even thinking about cooking yet. Hot water for coffee however was a must.

Slowly the summer moved into the Yom Tovim, I bought dishes, pots, silver, tablecloths and even invited a single girl and Rachel and Avi for Rosh HaShana meals. It was great fun. The days came and went, and my only solace was the sunshine that bathed me in warmth. My husband was still having those intermittent bouts of homesickness. I however felt at home and kept reminding myself that it was for really for real. Actually, that feeling immediately returned as soon as I saw the Tel Aviv landscape as El Al was descending for our landing. The joy was pouring out of me by the buckets full.

Thank the Alm-ghty, we are now here 6 months. A very difficult but immense milestone. During all this time, as new residents we needed to comply with certain legal requirements, fulfill some basic logistics, and only after that were we able to relax. I was operating in 'efficiency mode' making appointments, arriving at meetings, making lists, checking bank accounts, initializing utilities and setting our new life into motion. B"H we had divine assistance and things were falling into place.

But my husband is still so homesick for his hevra in the Lakewood Minyan on 16th Avenue, the 'always open' Shomer Shabbos minyan factory on 13th Avenue, our friends, and the familiarity and ease of shopping in Boro Park, Brooklyn. Nothing I could say or do seemed to phase him. Those are the emotions of a dedicated davener, one religious Jew attached to his way of life communing with Hashem in his corner of the world.

The sunshine continues to flood us with vitamins C and D, put color into our faces, strengthens our bones, and energizes us both, releasing a feeling of appreciation not experienced ever before. We realize that all beginnings are difficult, as they say, but we look for the positive in every day and the Hand of Hashem in what comes our way.

Today, now as February approaches, we continue to bless the bright skies and the skies covered with clouds, raining down the blessing of water to nourish the Land, feed the flowers, fruits and veggies. Hopefully filling the Kinneret, and bringing added strength to a weary nation.

We are now part of this regeneration on the stage of history's timeline. A Holy People, on a Holy Land, guided by our Holy Torah.

There's nothing crazy about any of this, it's part of a divine plan.

Bless the Holy One, forever and ever.

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