Off once again

Sukkot is over. The newest baby is born and named. And now, on to China!

I haven’t been to China for 3 years and am very excited about going now. I am less excited about my journey on Aerosvit Airlines (and no, that’s not a typo). I will be spending 4 hours in Kiev, a place I would like to visit, but I have been told that 4 hours is not enough to get into town, to see something, and to get back in time for my next flight. I guess Kiev will have to wait for another trip.

I am expecting to have internet access at some of the hotels we are staying at. So, you can watch my other blog: for updates on my whereabouts and adventures.

Bye all!

I wonder

I was brought up to be a rich girl.

When I was four years old, my mother sent me to dancing school where I was taught by a personal friend of Anna Pavlova. I danced a toe solo at five and a half at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the summer, we would go to Atlantic City, renting a home there for the entire summer and taking the maid with us.

By the time I was in my teens, I had not a room of my own, but a floor of my own in the house. I had a bedroom, a study area, a sitting room and a bath. My clothes were as expensive as the clothes I buy today– in 1960! I was taught to appreciate the finer things in life like fancy restaurants and new cars.

My mother dressed in clothes that were high fashion. She was always ahead of the trends and many times I went with her as she took her new dress or suit with her to the milliner to have exactly the right hat made to match it, often taking some material from the garment to draw the outfit together.

That privileged stance was in direct opposition to my experience at high school. There I was the outcast, not having moved into the same neighborhood as the other Jewish girls in our school. We Jewish girls were a real minority at our high school, the first of a vanguard breaking into the formerly pristine suburbs. In our class of 675, we were probably fewer than 20. Antisemitism was not encouraged by the school, but its subtle and not-so-subtle appearance among the other students was ignored. Being rejected by the small minority of Jewish girls was very painful.

I had most of my social needs met by my friends in Hebrew high school, and later Hebrew college. With them I was on an equal footing and their unaffected manner and their acceptance of me, the misfit, allowed me to feel normal for the first time.

It was probably through them that I acquired my values. They were kind, unselfish, open, accepting, and full of fun. By spending time with them, I began to realize that my discomfort with my upbringing was well-founded.

Shedding the privilege I had been given was liberating. Instead of disdaining the world as not meeting my expectations, I could appreciate it and even love it. Suddenly I could enjoy new things, new experiences, and new people.

Recently, I have been to the Galapagos Islands three times. It was interesting to see how different people responded to the experience.

Mother sea lion and newborn infant

Mother sea lion and newborn infant

I was overcome with emotion, actually each time I visited. I was astounded by the beauty of raw, unspoiled nature. I loved watching the birds and the sea lions and the iguanas and the land tortoises. Unthreatened by humans, they had no fear and allowed themselves to be photographed, even posing for us, it seemed sometimes. There I was with G-d’s creation. What could be more awe-inspiring!

Nazca booby

Nazca booby

Most of the people I was with reacted that way.

But some did not.
“Where are the flamingos?” “Why aren’t they here?”
“Why aren’t there more animals?”
“Why can’t I walk around alone instead of having to go with a naturalist?”
“I already saw a blue-footed booby; what’s next?”
“OK, so I have seen the albatross babies. Enough already!”

At first these reactions made me feel angry. What do they want! But then I just began to feel sad for these people. Their privilege was blinding them to the beauty of the world. They were unable to share the awe of seeing a newborn sea lion nuzzling its mother. They couldn’t enjoy seeing the boobies protecting their young. They couldn’t share the excitement of seeing the magnificent frigates puffing out their red pouches.

Blue footed booby feeding her baby

Blue footed booby feeding her baby

I am grateful that that veil has been lifted from me and that I can look beyond myself and share the wonder of the universe. I hope someday that our privileged travelers will be able to do the same thing.

Watercolors and water, part 2

About a month after I returned from Peru, I left once again on a similar tour. I could hardly wait to get to the market in Pisac. Pisac is a small city located in the Sacred Valley along the Urubamba River. Here is a picture of the nearby terrain.

Sacred Valley, Peru

Sacred Valley, Peru

In fact, when we finally pulled up the market, some of the people were not interested in seeing it and said they would stay on the bus rather than wander around the market. Fortunately, most said they would get off the bus and in the end, all of them did.

I quickly oriented myself and headed straight to the pace where I had bought the watercolor pictures. I found the woman who painted them with very little trouble. I asked to see some pictures and she had some, but none was even close in quality to the ones I had bought the first time. Since I was there, she had focused in painting larger pictures with faces of individuals on them. They were nice, but they were not what I wanted.

So, it seems that the two paintings I bought in June will be the ones that hang on my wall, paint drips and all.

Oh, and the market? Still magical.

A small part of the market at Pisac

A small part of the market at Pisac

Watercolors and water

A few weeks ago when I was in Peru, we stopped at a market in the town of Pisac (also spelled Pisaq) located in the Sacred Valley, not far from Cusco, where there is a beautiful market that sells locally made handicrafts. I was lucky enough to find two paintings that I found enchanting. They were watercolors and the colors came from local plants. They were delicate and beautiful and I was thrilled to be bringing home two such lovely paintings. They were put in a tube and looked just as good when I got home as they did when I purchased them.

A week or so ago, I took them to our local frame shop and found frames that were perfect. I spent the time waiting for them to be finished thinking about where I would hang them–as anyone who has visited can attest, I have no more wall space!

Two days ago I picked them up. They were gorgeous. I was elated. It was a nice day and I had a pretty dusty, gritty car and so decided to go to the car wash. They did a great job. It was only later, when I opened the trunk to take out the paintings that I noticed that both of them had gotten wet from the water that had seeped into the trunk while the car was being washed.

I immediately took them back to the frame shop where one painting was in good condition, really none the worse for wear, but the second, after an evening of drying had telltale drips that showed the water damage. They are reframing both and I am hoping eventually to replace the damaged painting– assuming that we visit Pisac again in a couple of weeks when I return to Peru.

DrSavta’s helpful hint for the day: If you are going to wash your car, don’t do it with watercolor paintings in the trunk.

Added: OK, here are the two pictures for those who were curious. The first picture is fine. I took the picture with the plastic wrapping around the frame still on and so that is what is at the ends and the light shining on it is my kitchen light.
Picture 002

The second picture is the one where you can see the dripping paint flowing from where it was put to where it wasn’t. It’s still pleasant to look at, but I am thrilled that we are going back to Pisac and so I might have a chance to replace it. But for now, here it is:

Picture 001

Hello again, hello

After a completely amazing tour to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru, I am finally back home. Of course the normal jet lag one would feel having traveled through 7 times zones was assisted by our brief, but annoying sojourn in Madrid– a city that seems to want me to stay. In January, I was delayed in Madrid two days. This time it was about 16 hours, but still no fun, especially when it seemed that I was so close to home.

In the coming days we have guests coming and going and coming and going. We have tenants leaving and new ones coming in. Two of the family will be having surgery, and I will be preparing for yet another tour in South America. We also will be celebrating out 44th wedding anniversary.

Hopefully, I’ll start writing again soon.

Rachel Rona Barcelona

A while back, my daughter Rachel suggested that she and I might go away for a mother/daughter vacation. Not only do I love traveling, but I love traveling with people who are fun and interesting and she fills the bill. Rachel did all of the leg work including finding us a good travel deal. For those of you who do not live in Israel, one of the unexpected perks of living in Israel is that there are fantastic travel packages available to Israelis- which is one reason why on a typical day in any European city of interest, you will see more Israeli tourists on the streets than American tourists. Rachel chose a trip to Barcelona.

And what a adventure! Her husband also had quite an adventure. He held down the fort while she was away– meaning he had to contend with the rearing of six children on his own. He’s a very generous (and brave) man.

Our first challenge was the lava cloud that closed the Barcelona Airport the night before we were to take off. Fortunately, the airport opened and we were able to take off close to on time. We flew Sun D’Or which is an El Al subsidiary and both flights were pleasant with the crew doing as much as they could to make us comfortable. Upon arrival in Barcelona, we opted to not take the transfer to the hotel that came with our package because we thought it would delay us. Instead, we bought a multi-ride pass and took the train to town.

Airport train to Barcelona

Airport train to Barcelona

As you can see, the train was clean and modern. Each stop appeared on a screen that estimated arrival time and showed us what the next few stops would be.

But the incredible surprise came when we emerged from the subway about 2 blocks from our hotel. As we came up the stairs and turned right, this is what we saw

Our Barcelona welcome

Our Barcelona welcome

A little closer

A little closer

Even more detail

Even more detail

The top!

The top!

What a beginning to a most fantastic trip!

The architecture in Barcelona is not to be believed. Everywhere we looked there was beauty.

And I haven’t even mentioned the shopping! Rachel is a shopping superstar. And we did, literally, shop ’til I dropped.

But we didn’t miss seeing a great deal of Barcelona- from the tourist areas, to the parks, to lots of places that I will post about next time.

Best of all, I had a great time being with my daughter. She is terrific!!!

Hello People!*

There actually has been a lot going on…

I had had a little minor surgery for a bump on my nose a few weeks ago. I had shown it to my dermatologist and he had filled out a referral to the plastic surgery clinic at the hospital. When the lab results came back, they suggested I return because the biopsy contained only fragments and there could be more of the nasty cells around. Before the surgery I had read of a surgical technique called “Moh’s Surgery” that involved removing some cells, staining and freezing them, looking under a microscope, and then determining if there was anything more to be removed and then continuing the surgery at the suspicious area until they were sure everything looked clean. I had asked the surgeon and he didn’t actually know what I was talking about.

So, when I arrived to have the procedure done a second time, I had two concerns 1. that they wouldn’t get everything this time either and 2. that they would cut me more than necessary. The surgeon looked at me and said that he didn’t think he could do the surgery. He called his associate. They both agreed that because they couldn’t see anything at all that needed to be removed, they could not do the operation. They said I needed a technique called “Moh’s.”

They sent me to the dermatology clinic and they in turn gave me the name of one of the three doctors in all of Israel who is trained in the procedure. I thought I was pretty relaxed prior to my appointment with him, but at one point, on the way to his office, we sat down on a park bench and I could feel my heart beating rapidly. I took my pulse and it was at 120. I was nervous.

We waited well beyond our appointment time, but the doctor who greeted us seemed competent and was easy to talk to. He told us that the dermatologist should not have referred me to a plastic surgeon in the first place. He also told me that the first surgeon should not have operated. We made an appointment and late in June, I will have the Moh’s surgery done. Having set up the appointment for the surgery, I became much more relaxed.

Other things this week…

On Sunday we bid farewell to our shabbat guests. All three of our sons and their families (combined, that yields 19 children) came to Modi’in to take part in the bat and bar mitzvah celebration of our older daughter’s children, the oldest of our boy/girl twin grandchildren. It was a fabulous shabbat. Our daughter and her husband set up their garden to accommodate feeding the assembled masses of people and that included putting in lighting for Shabbat evening and making sure there was adequate shade for shabbat during the day. Aside from three older boys who stayed with friends of ours, we had everyone in our family who was visiting staying at our house and amazingly enough, we were able to give everyone a soft place to sleep.

The garden looked lovely, the food was good, the singing was beautiful, and having a shabbat with the whole family in a place where the noise did not reverberate was amazing. After all, when you have more than 25 children, most of them 12 and under, there is some noise.

We were very proud of both Matan and Lilach for their accomplishments and for being terrific young people. Lilach did research on how women feel about lighting shabbat candles and together with her mother, wrote a book that also contains pictures of candles and pictures of her family. It is fabulous! Matan read his haftarah beautifully. Kol HaKavod to both of them.

Sunday morning we took our car in for its annual test. Talk about nerves! The day we were at the doctor, we had the car serviced at the Toyota dealer in preparation for the test. On Sunday we took our registration (fee paid at the post office) and our compulsory insurance card (fee paid at the post office) and went off to Lod to have the car inspected. At the end of the inspection process the woman who I paid for the inspection said that there was a problem and if I wanted to know what it was I could ask the inspector. I went to ask the inspector. He said, “do you want to become a car mechanic?” I said that I only wanted to know what was wrong with the car. He said, “I can give you the name of a school that teaches you to be a car mechanic.” When I returned to my husband who was having a new back license plate made for the car (the reflective qualities had diminished over the last 11 years) the man waiting on him asked me why I was upset. I repeated what the inspector had told me. He said, “Come with me to my boss.” I didn’t go. There were two reasons. 1. I am really bad at remembering faces and can’t be sure which of the men it was who said it and 2. I didn’t think it was wise to lodge a complaint against someone who could make sure we failed the inspection again when we returned from getting the car repaired.

We decided to take the car to a nearby garage. The man there looked at the car and told us that we actually didn’t have a problem. A little oil in one place made it look as if we had a leak, but we didn’t. That cost us 100 sheqels. Then we went back to the inspection station.

We waited in the shorter line and then they began to do the inspection. The man who made us the license plate came over and told them that we were fine and so they let us go through. We paid an additional 66 sheqels for a retest, but in the end, it was done. We have a year until the next test. It will take that long for me to feel relaxed again.

And this week… I am working on the information packet on the June tour (information about the locations we will be visiting) and of course preparing for a fabulous trip to BARCELONA with my older daughter!

*to understand the reference, you will have to see an amazing act of unparalleled talent performed my members of my family.

My Travels

I have been tagged for a meme by Rachel and how could I resist?

My travels

Rules: Fill in the following questions & tag 5 friends (try friends who travel a lot).

  • My best trip ever…
    My first trip to China. Astounding. A whole new world. All I could think was “I can’t believe I’ll never come back here.”
  • My worst trip ever…
    Undoubtedly the trip to the mikvah erev Hanuka one year that we lived at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was a 3.5 hour drive in each direction and on the way there my radiator started steaming and then the gas station attendant in Louisville couldn’t get th
  • Most important thing I ever lost on a trip…
    An earring on the train to Sapa
  • Most important thing I ever forgot to take on a trip…
    Can’t think of anything
  • Thing I miss most when I’m away…
    My family
  • Thing I miss least when I’m away…
    Chores around the house
  • Favorite travel partner…
    My husband
  • Place I hope to travel to someday…
    Maybe Japan or Singapore? Maybe Kiev and Odessa? I would go pretty much anywhere, but probably not to Dubai.

fill in this meme


I tag: Kelli, Bethami, & Vicki

and leave you with some pictures from my most recent trip (to the Galilee)

Taking a deep breath

Who said that when you get old you slow down? Well, maybe there are days when I am not physically running around, but ohmigosh… busy!! I have to say, though, I do love it! It’s great to have my children and grandchildren nearby and it’s great to have other interests as well.

Right now we are working on learning everything we can about our new travel destinations. We also are trying to learn survival Spanish. There are enough cognates of French and English that we often are able to read captions and descriptions, but passive vocabulary won’t get you 4 more tablespoons or enough bread to make sandwiches for 36 people. So it’s a wild and woolly time here cramming for a test of our Spanish that’s coming in only a few months and that we must pass.

To say that the tour to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru was fantastic, is such an understatement. Imagine for a moment that you were able to be present on earth on the 5th day of creation. There are the creeping things and the fish and the birds and all of the plant life, and the sea. Imagine all of it living together in harmony. Imagine how beautiful it would be. How pure. How utterly precious.

That is what you find when you step onto most of the Galapagos Islands.

There are no words.

But there are pictures. You can see them here.

Here’s a preview:

A blue-footed boobie

A blue-footed boobie

Feeling grumpy!

I am slowly recovering from my jet lag. We left Lima, Peru, at about 9 on Sunday night (Lima time), arrived in Madrid about 2 in the afternoon Monday (Madrid time) and took off again at about 11:50 pm, landing in Israel about 4:30 am on Tuesday– spending two nights on planes. So, I am a bit grumpy. And here’s what’s been really irking me:

Why is it that the woman in front of me on the last plane (the one that took off from Madrid at about midnight) who got onto the plane with her husband had to put on not only her own reading light, but the one beside her ALL NIGHT and proceed to blab with the 60 year old hippie guy with the earrings who stood in the aisle much of the trip talking to her and sounding like nothing so much as an overconfident teenager?

OK, I know there’s no good answer, but really people, isn’t it time that we grew up and started thinking about others? I mean, I understand that people want to do what they want to do, but at the expense of others? I mean I wouldn’t go and stand outside her window in the middle of the night and have a loud conversation. I wouldn’t take a flashlight and shine it in her face. Yes, I could. Yes, there’s no law against it. But is that the world you’d want to live in?

And while I’m grumping… Is it really necessary to push in front of everyone in order to get onto a plane? I seem to recall this thing called assigned seats. Best I can tell, if you have a boarding pass, chances are pretty good you’ve also got a seat. The first people onto the plane are not going to get to the destination any faster than the last ones.

And also, lines. People! Unless you’re having a health crisis, it probably isn’t going to kill you to wait your turn.

Yes, grumpy.