The mildew here smells different. That’s not to say better.
Noah is such a good boy, but was unusually aggressive (for him) this week. Luckily, he is also exceptionally verbal and could explain that he was nervous about school starting in the morning. We were able to talk about it and by the time we tucked him in last night, he was excited to get to sleep so that he could start school today. We think also that he likes the structure of school and camp and that this big transition combined with several empty days was unsettling. He was ready to go back.
Today was the big day Noah began kindergarten [Hebrew: gan]. At the last minute, we decided Sarah didn’t need to come with us, since it’s on the Technion campus. By last minute, I mean after walking part way from the apartment to the bus stop without figuring out where on campus the gan is located, since Sarah had been there and could presumably find it again.
When you get to campus, a soldier gets on the bus by the driver, checks things out, gives his okay, and exits. The campus is large and has many bus stops. After the first stop, Noah thinks he has seen a playground, so we get off. We are not near a playground, and although there are plenty of wayfinding signs on campus, we encounter no “You Are Here” type maps, so we wander around asking people “Eyfo ha gan?” ["Where is the preschool?"] and then, once they start answering, admitting that we don’t understand Hebrew. We get many contradictory answers, but eventually find it.
Noah’s teacher gives him a sticker with his name on it (נח), and shows him into the classroom. The preschool director suggests I call in an hour and half to see how he’s doing, and that I pick him up at 1pm instead of 4, since it might be a rough day. When I call, the director’s assistant assures me that “He’s not crying” which I take to mean he’s adjusting well. When I pick him up at 1, I see his teacher in the hall. She says he’s doing “fantastic” and that he’s playing with the kids as if he’s known them his whole life. I go into the classroom, where he’s finishing his lunch. He gives me a big smile and tells me the food’s really good, and tells me to try it: noodles with butter. He also had soup! As we’re leaving he tells me he made two friends, but can’t remember their names.
A good first day.
(In between I found my office, got a key, met some people in the math department, went to a good seminar, got a very good cup of tea for only 3 shekels, got a passport photo, but nothing as excited as buttered noodles.)
When I was in DC in July for the Fulbright orientation, I met two women who will also be in Haifa this year. The 3 of us hit it off. One of them, Julia, has been here for 6 weeks already, has a 4-yr-old son who will be at Noah’s school, and is doing her postdoc at the Technion. We met her family at the beach last night. It was a 10 min. bus ride. From the mountains to the beach in 10 mins. Haifa is small!
The beach was glorious! The sea was as warm as a bath and so shallow for so far out that we could wade far from shore into the waves. Noah was nervous about the waves, so Roy & I took turns playing in the sand with him until he was ready. But, eventually, he joined the rest of the wave jumpers.
The beach was full of families having dinner, capoeira practitioners, and zumba-ers. Its the international exercise craze that is sweeping the world! There was also Israeli dancing on the promenade at sunset. When I told Noah that there was going to be Israeli dancing on the boardwalk, he asked, “Do they have to be careful about splinters?” knowing only of the wooden planks of the Coney Island boardwalk. This was more of a brick-path promenade lined with restaurants and food stalls. Mmm, fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice!
We live in the neighborhood of Ramat Hen, which is a 4 min. bus ride to the Technion and a 10 min. bus ride to U. of Haifa. It is a new sub-division, less than 10 yrs. old, of small apartment buildings with large apts. It is very near the top of the mountain. Our building is very near the entrance to the development off of the main road, Derech Hankin, so it was not until Sat. that we finally had a chance to explore the rest of the neighborhood. Less than a 2 min. walk in the other direction we found paths leading to a playground. Who knew? (And does anyone know what this sign says?) Ramat Hen is built into a the mountain, so the farther from the entrance we went, the higher up we went. We could see the Grand Kanyon in the valley below, but there is no direct way to get there because of the topography. I suppose we could learn to rappel.
For the first time since arriving I heard what sounded like Israeli pop music coming from the PA in an Ace Hardware at the Grand Canyon Mall (hardware store in a mall? weird, I know) followed by a Hebrew message simple enough for me to decode: “Chag Sameach m’Ace.” The holiday season in Israel seems to start a few weeks early here: Rosh Hashanah is not until September 9th.
A few minutes later, in a department store, I heard some familiar music. Want a hint? It contains the lyric “nodedot” (yes dey do!). That’s right, it was Bashanah Haba’ah. I am in Israel for real!
When Sarah and Noah were out running errands today, as they left each store they were wished “Shabbat Shalom”. Sarah asked Noah if he knew why. He responded that “It’s because we’re in the land of the Jews!”
I have seen some bikes around our apartment complex but not one on the street. Sarah says she saw them all over Technion in May. Given the streets, I can see why, but this is disheartening.
Today we ventured out on public transportation. Considering that we do not own a car in Brooklyn, this should be trivial. However, apparently there is no official Haifa bus map. Nothing produced by the city or by Egged (the bus company). So says the woman at the tourist information center downtown. Given that challenge, I’d say we did pretty well today. Our apartment is just off of a major thoroughfare, Derech Hankin. Not so good for a pleasant walk, but excellent for catching several bus lines. Today we caught one bus to Carmel center to admire the view from halfway up Mount Carmel (we live near the top) overlooking the Mediterranean Sea below. Then we walked down past the Bahai Gardens & Temple to the German Colony with its pretty red, tiled roofs. We stopped for lunch at an excellent arab restaurant where the host of my workshop when I was here in May took us. Without any prompting from us, Noah ordered the date juice. After lunch we caught a different bus to the “Grand Canyon” mall, just behind the neighborhood where we live. Its name is a pun because Kanyon means mall in Hebrew. I don’t know if Grand is the right word to describe it, but we did pick up a few kitchen things we needed, some pillows, a water gun for Noah (that’s what he asked for) and Na’ot sandals for Roy. He wants to fit right in. Then we caught the bus back home again.
Most people we have spoken with here seem to think that we need a car. We certainly will if we want to travel on the weekends because public transportation shuts down for Shabbat, but we are wondering whether we have to buy or can get by with renting just for travel. In one direction we have a regular Shufersal grocery store & in the other direction the organic grocery, so on a day-to-day basis, it might not be necessary. Haifa is not that big, but the way it is laid out because it is built on a mountain makes it difficult to travel anywhere directly. We will see how our commutes go for a few days before we make any decisions. I can catch a bus to the University of Haifa just a block away and the Technion is walking distance, although Roy will be slowed down by walking with Noah. We did bring his scooter.
is the reason that Noah would not take one. more. step. on our 1st outing to our neighborhood grocery store. We arrived at the apt. in the Ramat Chen neighborhood of Haifa on Tues. afternoon and decided to cope with our jet lag by taking a walk and seeing what our new neighborhood was like. We found a cute little organic grocery that is just a 10 min. walk away, unless you are with an exhausted and confused 5-yr-old. Then time stands still as he complains about wanting to go home the entire way. I was awake with him Tues. night (Wed. morning) from 1-3am and then we slept until 11:30. Apparently we slept through the national siren drill at 11:00am, but did hear the phone ring when Deborah called at 11:30. Progress by Wed. night when Noah only called me twice and went back to bed soon after I went in each time. Maybe that means he’ll sleep through the night tonight?