Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bagong


As a child, I was hand fed Bago'ong by my grandmother. As she would try to feed me other foods, I would shake my blonde head and say "no, no Nanay, I want the fish with the eyes". She would then take a jar out of the fridge and spoon out tiny (as in the size of your thumbnail) salted fish, wrap them in a ball of rice and pop them into my hungry mouth.
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Bago'ong comes in many forms, as a purple shrimp/fish paste, and in Bolinao, the village of my mother, in the form of baby fish packed for months in salt and transferred by the barrel. When I went home for the holidays, I was disappointed to tell my mom that, post conversion- I wouldn't be able to eat my childhood chocolate.
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"But susi, my mom answered, these baby fish grow into fish with scales."
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This is when my Kosher learning comes into practice. If a fish that has scales grows into a fish which loses it- it is not kosher. What about the opposite? Are fish Kosher if they grow up to have scales but don't have them in the form we eat them?
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After many weeks of playing stump the Rabbi, I have come to find that- indeed I will not have to hesitate to eat my guilty pleasure. For Bagong is Kosher. Will my mother be as excited as I?
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Happy Thursday homies.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Yechud


My tutor and I finished up the laws of Yechud last night. For my non-Jewish friends, these laws serve as a chastity belt for the Jewish woman. I understand the logic: keep temptation at a distance and you will not be tempted. Apparently Orthodox Judaism didn't include the fact that us women have an imagination that supersedes any logic, rationalism, or religion. It was interesting to see our polarized views.
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My tutor sees the man as the tempter, who can convince a women to do things against her will. As she explains the logic- I bite my lip, "You don't agree." she states as she looks up from the book we are reviewing. "I can only speak for myself." I reply, "A man I do not want attention from cannot and has never "convinced" me to act with regret. I see it opposite actually, that women have the capacity to get what they want instead of vice versa."
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The Orthodox world is interesting. You have men being taught, that the smooth skin of a women who is not your conservative wife is Lilith in the flesh. And we have women being taught that those hairy beasts we call men only turn into a trustworthy prince when he breaks glass with you. I understand their logic- but it takes the creamy middle of the fact away- of course men and women can be... OK.. I'm gonna say it- Friends. Like I said- culturally, I accept their rationale, it makes sense. And most of the laws naturally are in effect for me, at least in the last 3 weeks, it's not hard to not touch a man or hang out with one, they're so hairy- who would want to? Especially when you're as boring as I. Because no one seems interested in baking cupcakes and learning Latin on Tuesdays.
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I have two Goldfish, they have a lot of personality.
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So aside from learning I can never touch a man again until I'm 33, I was also relieved to find the Asian sauces I brought from the U.S to cook with have their Hechsher. I also realized that I can hear myself blink when I wear earplugs. What an absolutely fascinating week it's been.
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There are also some things I would like to mention for no reason at all (you know the whole Kabballah thing about being careful with your words because it creates a reality?- connecting the spiritual with the mortal life we live and all?): What I would give to come home from a long day and have dinner waiting for me when I put my briefcase down. Preferably, entrecote and a nice salad. Secondly, I must see the Old 97's play live. I'll settle for The Killers or Arcade fire, but my gold is the Old 97's. I just thought I'd throw that out, in case someone who happens to come from a cattle family wants to lend me their private jet to California. It would make a good story- and everyone knows i like a good story.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Band Pics


Bry used to booby trap his room when we were kids so i didn't read his comic books. He used his knowledge from his advanced science camp to make these booby traps more effective. You think my face is full of freckles? No. Chemical reactions to the plethora of unknown liquids that would combust in front my once blue eyes. it's nice to know we have gotten past that. Bry is possibly one of the greatest people I have ever known. Despite the issues i have developed from being wrapped up in sleeping bags and left immobile in dark closets while hearing his giggles outside of the door.






Saturday, January 27, 2007

investigation

I don't make a habit of visiting graves. As someone who is obviously capable of being quite emotional, I wait until my heart tugs before take a visit to the military part of the Maskeret Batya cemetary.

For me, it's always a whole scenario, there's always some song playing on the airwaves that jerks a tear from my eyes, and I start remembering the smallest of details, not necessarily to do with Tsiki, but remnants of who I remember myself to be during that time. I thought a lot about bicycles, about humidity, and mangoes. Man, I love mangoes. Fellow Peace Corps volunteers would bring them to me as presents when it was hard to find them in a market. They would wrap them like a gift and I would excitingly open them as such, putting them in the fridge until they cooled and would scoop them heartedly into my mouth.

I'm sitting there. With my fingers twisting through my scalp, looking at the graves around me. I take off my hat and lay it next to me. And wait- within moments the innocent tears of sorrow need no invitation to fill my eyes and my back hunches to create a shadow over his grave. I hear a bike stroll up and am too embarrassed to show I'm crying, this stranger will see the date on the headstone and wonder why a young woman could still cry like this. Soon enough, Amos- Tsiki's brother in law sits next to me, his shoulders leaning against mine. He places his palms on the marble and greets Tsiki's grave.

"How do you think his Hayal Amit feels? The one who's bullet hit him?" I ask Amos as I clean away my tears.
"I couldn't say sooz, I couldn't say." as he gets up and looks at the other graves. "Ah, two new ones". "Actually" I correct him", one new one, the other one was a few months after Tsiki, it's been here for a year."

"They never did an investigation." Amos starts. "If they did, a commander would have gone to court, some justice would have been made from this freak accident. That guy over there, from the Lebanon war, died for nothing.. for nothing. Nothing has come out of these deaths except pain and sorrow." He tells me with frustration.

I never thought of Tsiki's death as needing an investigation, then again- I've never been part of this world, for me- i don't know if any justice could be made, nothing mends a broken heart except time. I wonder why I never needed justice to be served- I supposed at the end of the day, I don't care about justice or right or wrong, selfishly- i want it to be someone Else's loss.

Amos and I start reminiscing of 2004. "It was the best year of my life" I start. "I had my cakes and ate them thrice, that year-I knew the true essence of the raw beauty of life, and I ate it hungrily ,insatiably." Amos, stands there- leaning against his mountain bike. "It was Tsiki's best year as well, it's what pure love is made of- unadulterated romanticism, it's a rare form Susi, dating these days has become quite shallow, all stuffed into a box- passion is often lost with logic, based on jobs and going out."

Ah 2004! the pinnacle of the essence of everything that I was. The single year that would define the rest of my life- my introduction to Israel, where I am now. Relationships are obviously heavily on my mind, I think about myself, my friends, my Israeli friends and their loves, I had a long talk with Tsiki's best friend last night. And when he talks about the love in his life, it's beautiful, even when he voices his worries. The connection they have, that has spanned 3 years from different continents, it's undoubtedly product of fate. Many aspects of their relationships mirror the drive that brought me to Israel, and whenever I think of them- I pray that they'll keep that passion and romanticism for each other. That passion alone can move a mountain. The possibilities of those two make me surprisingly excited and happy, if my story hasn't ended as a fairytale, perhaps their's will.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tulsa

We bore easily. but this takes our minds off of springtime cow tipping.


http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/01/23/buried.car.ap/index.html

Monday, January 22, 2007

Changing


There are a plethora of lifechanging experiences to be had. In the form of puberty, highschool, university, peace corps, conversions, deaths, and the general rowdyness in between. Some are slow, running like mud through your fingertips, you only see the fruit of such experiences until you burp it up years later. I like to think of those types of experiences as the ones where you call up your former grade school teacher and tell her she's the whole reason you ever decided to become President (of course, after you win the election).

I don't know what i'm really trying to say here. but sometimes I wish I would just shutup. Times like this, I really wish I played the guitar- then i'd lie against my bed all evening long, strumming a tune and trying to let my emotions come out in a poetic melody. I don't know what my poetry right now is, and in that I find myself guilty of not being able to recognize myself.

I keep asking for advice from my friends. And they give it: softly, with reason, full of rational logic and wrapped in complete love. This is when I feel like a child, except not- i feel misunderstood. Sometimes there is no recipe. Something I cannot wear as a banner any longer (my grief) is still a key element of what brought me to Israel, what brought me into the current state of lack of relationship with someone dear to me and what brought on the confusion that breeds in places that I cannot be sure will be swept away with the seasons.

If what happened in my life was beyond my control, and without reason, and made no sense to anyone. And if I am the only one to have experienced it in my own recipe and live through it. Then how can I seek coping advice from those who have never experienced the aftermath of dealing with life after tragedy? Am I making any sense. G-d I hope so.

Sometimes I become a cruel child, i want things i don't want- say things i don't mean. And i know I brought a lot of things on myself, I laugh and act normal, so therefore I am treated as so. I kiss and dance like the next girl, so I am expected to be normal, no one notices the prosthetic I have around my heart so that I can run with the other kids on the playground. No one realizes that when I took my break outside in the sun today, I stared at the ground and remembered this time, 2005 in Haifa- there's a video of me laughing and flirting with the camera. Tsiki's voice is taunting me as I skip around him. and as if to silence that thought all I say to myself is: shit. I can't believe he's dead. I can't believe they both died.

Man oh man, it's such a fruitful life, and so painful as well- but so fucking beautiful at the same time, such a realization just adds to my confusion of how to keep my wings on glide gear: to give myself a soft landing and in return, do my best to give others their landing as well. But sometimes, I need to stop taking myself so seriously. and when he that is close to you says in frustration "sooz, this past year and a half with you hasn't been the easiest of things"- . I should simply reply- "i know what you mean, cuz baby..being me ain't easy" end it with a note from my Harmonica in C-Chord and let him glide on another nest, instead of trying to explain why he was such a beautiful part of my world.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's in a name?

What's in a name?
Another day of being the sickest i've ever been in 3 years, i am finding myself stir crazy and a bit irked at the world. To balance the table of the the nervousness the thought of the next couple months will bring, i have decided to entertain myself by having my readers help me pick out my Hebrew name.


I read the following in the Brandeis eZINE

  • A change of identity requires a change of name. When Abram came to the realization of monotheism, his name had to be changed: “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee.” (Genesis 17:5)
  • A traumatic lifestyle change is cause for a new name. Jacob's name came from the root word meaning “heel”—which so perfectly suited someone whose approach to the problems of life was always flight. Suddenly when he realized that there comes a time to fight rather than flee, the angel informed him: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with G-d and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:29)
So onto the project:

Tell me what you think I should change my name to and why.
I'll take the name into consideration, try it on for an evening, and respond to my experiences (if any) on this blog.

Let the project begin....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Burning down the house

I thought of that fire last week. How it's so interesting when things are made of stone, such as the homes in Israel. I come from a place where it's all wood, plaster, fiberglass- when a fire starts, the entire house burns down. In Israel, the stone keeps the fire maintained, no matter how ludicrous it rages.

Right now, my fire is burning in the form of the flu, a temperature, a scratchy throat- aches and pains and down right feeling sorry for myself.

But as I sit here, with my achy self- i kept thinking of that apartment fire, how it could be such a metaphor, especially with grief- especially how i saw myself in 2005 and through the healing process of 2006: a fire raging on this inside, with all the signs of catastrophe- yet a stable vessel to contain it: friends, family, the social workers of the IDF, Tsiki's family, Israel. If i went back to the U.S, it would have burnt everything down, like the homes in Tulsa. But because of the way that my world was built, it smoked for a while- (actually, it may smoke for a while longer), but that vessel contained me, and didn't result in tarnishing me as a regular ol' gal, trying to make her way in a world where catastrophe drives our societies.

I am relying on that vessel before the upcoming months as I helplessly phone my friends in a whiny voice:

"what if they don't convert me?! what if they tell me no??"
"Susi, you're acting un-dude-like right now" says a friend. "How could they not?? you're more Jewish than I am!"

"but i've never made Challah. and i can't daven well-i still need people to point me in the right part when the Chazzan changes to a tune i am unfamiliar with, and I always say i'll get new Mezuzot for the house, but never can find the time/money to- i give up cuz i never know which one is good enough, and maybe one dish drying rack is technically OK, but c'mon- it's better to have two, and what if I can't be the stronger person I set out to become in choosing Israel and Judaism?!?!"

What if everything ends, but something won't begin? (but susi, you all say- Judaism is a life long process of learning, there is always something to begin) yes yes, i know that- but how many of us cease to internalize the beauty of things, how many people keep things because they're afraid not to vs. if they truly believe it spiritual? How many of us say "we're Frum," but aren't even sure if we believe the essence of it all? They just do it cuz they think "it's the right thing to do"- is that good enough?

What's good enough?
if i cover my tattoos, does it mean they aren't there?
should i deny i think about scandalous things?
When people know i'm a convert will they really believe to "kiss my feet" or deep down, will they be weary of me, especially when i become close to their sons/ grandsons?

See, it's all about the reality of communities generally. Kinda like be Asian in a white mans world (bixby, Oklahoma), i may look white, i may act American, but the kids still put their bikes in front of Bry and I and said "No chinks allowed on this street".

Oh silly fever.

Monday, January 15, 2007

hmmm.. as i tap my chin

There is a man that does his prayers in the abandoned orange orchard outside my office. The first few times i heard him, I frantically searched for a vulnerable old man, being attacked by good for nothings within my eyesight from my fourth floor window.

I learned what Hungarian sounded like when a man with a severe case of turret's or schizophrenia had a conversation with what i believed to be nothing, as i strolled from the beach over the weekend.

I saw the worst transvestite ever at the Tachana Merkozit (and i know Katoy's, i lived in Thailand after all. He was short and anorexic looking, wearing a short skirt and obviously hasn't completed his hormone injections, but walked like she did.

I witnessed my first apartment fire ever, right around the corner from my building. The elderly couple stared helplessly as the shingles on the shutters melted onto the street. With my shirt covering my nose, i felt angry at how helpless i felt, and even more frustrated to wait for the firemen to arrive.

I had a great Shabbat, thankful for being back in Israel and a bit shocked at how time has passed. Before I know it- it'll be Pesach.. for my third time. Before I know it, i am set to complete to most challenging thing I've ever done. and all this time, i am curious to know if it all was fate- because i don't know if i believe in it anymore. Well, i stated that this week anyway.

I danced with a kindred spirit after happy hour to red-red wine, and giggled the entire time as he spun me around and around. This weekend was filled with laughter. I like it, it's the salt in my soup.

I'll have another spoonful please.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Ginrod Story

The Fridge didn't have much to say for itself -even when she asked it for some sultry ideas for her hearty meal, it could only answer in taps of electrical humming.
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Suddenly, out of nowhere, a coconut monkey appeared onto her lily whites.
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"I do remember the Gorillaz song of the mountain called monkey" she exclaimed, cometh you from there??!" the Ginrod curiously asked as she held the little monkey into the light.

The coconut monkey didn't reply. It just held itself into the little coconut ball it was, curiously staring at the Ginrod's clavicles, making a sound like a hunger rumble from it's bottom lip.

.........

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Story of a Ginrod


The Beginning of a Ginrod Story...


Once upon a time, before the dreams of feathery, pastel, penguins and IDF wars. Before excel files and coffee breaks... even before zion and the afterlife- The Ginrod had a meal to cook, but not just ANY meal, a hearty meal. A meal with meat and made from the heart. She took her butcher knife to her kuehlschrank um etwas leckeres zu finden.

"What should I eat??"- the Ginrod deliberated as she placed her finger on her chin for the point to be pondered.

She kicked up her dainty pink heels and....
(to be continued)


Monday, January 08, 2007

Penguins and doing stuff more


The stitches I used to hold my heart together in 2005 need replacing. I think they are soggy and used from my ever beating heart. I'm not sure if i don't need the stitches anymore, but I am finding the wheel inside my soul, the one that defines me- churning once again. I've gotten so used to the role of the convert- the grievess- the IneverKnewIsraelandHowDidIendUpHereAgain??- role that I can't be sure how to just become the "Hi I'm Susi and I live in Tel Aviv" girl after my conversion (which is much sooner than later).


Yesterday, I was catching up on my weekly readings of the Torah, that evening, my dreams were whimsical and feathery, full of these majestic, mythical... penguins. I've never dreamt of Penguins before. These penguins shed a lot, and their feathers would turn into pastel, ring-like bouquets that floated through the air and created a snowy blanket on the terrace we were in. They had flaws, they were sage-like, some carried the fur on their bodies like crowns and they had a lifespan of two weeks. The woman who took care of these penguins explained to me that never before has there been such an ancient animal that has been witnessed to take on practices of humans-And that must mean they were so ancient that there forefather's witnessed what our forefather's did.
The most challenging thing, she added- was that because their life was only two weeks before they dissipated into the universe, they had to explain to their next of kin all that they know in life and the history of their people in this short amount of time. Which they did, because they were such highly intelligent, mythical creatures.


I woke up just like a child that thought she met the tooth fairy, except- i dreamt of penguins?
I'm really hoping for this year to be full of beautiful surprises. I want to be more funny and a better cook. I'd like to bake more, sleep more- and have no reason to get out of bed on a Fri morning more. I want to wear heels more and be sneaky more. I want to cuddle more and read more. I want to be a better writer more and try to save the world more. I want to find out about myself and others more.
xx

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy 2007!


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With love, from the Tel Aviv family (minus a bunch of the other relatives)


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Oh Israel, let me count the ways I love you.

We all conveniently act like tourists here in Israel for two reasons: to save embarrassment for not knowing any better and to buy extra time to figure things out. For instance, before I left back to the U.S, P Bonez and I took a friendly drive down to the Dead Sea thanks to a temporary company car and some firewood saved up for a week.

After an enjoyable dinner consisting of rock hard potatoes and leftover soup heated up inside the fire, we retreat from the lights of Jordan back up the highway to Jerusalem. The Dead Sea drive is a common route for me, I always aim for a once a month journey for general soul balance and this time around, forget whether to take a left or a right when the highway comes into a Y. Tel Aviv or East Jerusalem, we think out loud. "geez, I mean, prolly Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem seems to make more sense, why can I not remember?" I ask. "Well, I suppose if we go to Palestine, somebody will stop us" replies P Bonez as he swings a left. Within seconds an Israeli policeman stops us and begins yelling at us where we think we're going. (American Tourist act kicks in) "eh- Yerushaliym?" I meekly answer. "Atem Koshveem ze po Yerushaliym????(You THINK This is Yerushaliym??)" He angrily replies in Hebrew. "well, technically...." I begin as homeboy turns the car around and we snicker.

Last night, the girls and I went to grab a bite at a no name restaurant we tend to call the 25 Shekel place. They have actually raised the prices and now I refer to it as the 35 Shekel place. As we call for our check, a police van Pulls in front of the restaurant (which is all glass) and announces through the loud speaker that there is an unidentified object across the street and to please retreat to the back of the restaurant until further notice. Many of the customers get up immediately but home girls and I don't, because we simply didn't hear and some of us didn't understand what was being said. "don't worry, this is Israel" a Israeli woman next to me whispers. I start to answer that some of us girls have lived here for a few years- or that this is my 7th unidentified object since I moved here and that I practically pay rent in food at this restaurant, but allow her to assume I'm just another tourist. I take this instance as the latter- I needed a bit of extra time to figure what was going on.

Funny this place is. But quite entertaining.