Wednesday, August 30, 2017

When the Levee Breaks

When the Levee Breaks

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
When the levee breaks I'll have no place to stay

Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan

This song was written originally about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 which triggered large migrations to the Mid West among the mostly African-American population in the region affected by the devastation.

The flood featured in many Blues songs of the period, planting the image of the all important life and death determining levee in popular culture.

As Israelis the image of a rainstorm of such biblical proportions is particularly evocative and sobering at this time of year when our thoughts start to turn to the coming rainy season and the Days of Awe, including the prayer for rain, may it be for a blessing and not a curse, may it fall at the right time and in the right proportion.

We are only too aware that the rainy season balances on a a knife edge between drought and flood, each with its own potential for devastation.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Houston.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A little felafel story

Today was the only time DH was able to take off work during the month of August so we needed to fit in a whole summer holiday's worth of family fun in one day. The morning was spent in a cute little petting zoo where the kids got to hold parakeets, milk a goat and marvel at butterflies. Then we split up, little kids went off to a park and to visit their great-aunt and big kids had hours of adventure at The Citadel Museum in Jerusalem's Old City. And a good time was had by all.

As the activities wound down though our brood realised they were utterly famished, despite eating copious amounts of DH's aunt's patented amazing fishcakes and assorted fruit and crackers. There would be no getting this lot back in the car until they were fed. Again.

So we decided to do something radical. We took the kids out for felafel tonight. We rarely ever eat out so this was a big deal for all concerned. It seemed like the perfect place, Ajami's, a veteran little hole in the wall felafel and shwarma place on a quietish sidestreet next to a large open area of pavement with space for kids to play away from the crowds of busier city centre eateries.

Outdoor on the terrace a large French family occupying a huge long table was just finishing up their dinner. At one of the few indoor tables a uniformed security guard, clearly a regular, was tucking in to a tray of kubbeh, salad and lemonade brought to him with a smile by the owner. It looked like the right kind of place.

I managed to get everyone seated, two oldest outside with me, DH inside with the other three little people while I stood at the counter to quickly order the starving masses their fodder. Well as quickly as one can trying to take in to account the preferences of five ravenous but opinionated children who may just have been hungry enough to eat the furniture while they were waiting.

The staff were incredibly efficient and the kids were soon tucking in to fresh hot food, well, except for a twin who just wanted to take his brothers' chips and grab/play with an (unplugged) fan switch.

The utterly exhausted overtired big two who'd spent the afternoon schlepping around ruins and learning to fight like knights were eating happily but still kind of kicking each other under the table in a mostly playful fashion.

One kid decided to take apart their pita so they could eat all the parts individually because it's more fun than you know table manners or anything like that. The paper their food was wrapped was soon littered with torn hummous tehina smeared laffa and falafel balls while they picked out the cucumber tomato and pickles - their favourite parts - to eat first. With their hands. Which of course were now also smeared with hummous and tehina.

By now two kids had finished wolfing down their meal and were playing a game of tag around the (mostly empty) outdoor terrace, wide stone steps and public square. It was evening, the street was far from crowded and truth be told there was plenty of space for them to play without disturbing anyone but still, DH and I don't usually allow this kind of behaviour in a public thoroughfare.

Then the twins who'd been sitting indoors noticed a cat sitting on a wall and dashed out of the dinky diner with delighted shrieks of "Tul! Tul!" (short for hatul, Hebrew for cat). They plonked themselves down on the step below the wall and contented themselves with pointing at the surprisingly chilled feline, watching them coolly from her perch.

At this point the owner came over striding briskly and I was so ready for the comment, a comment, something negative, someone is making a mess or misbehaving. Instead she stops right in front of me and beams: "Oh, are the kids at both these tables all yours? Such sweet kids, love how they are all smiling and enjoying their food and full of life with a bit of mischief thrown in. Next time you come you're welcome to leave them here for a bit, I'd be happy to babysit. Make sure you get them all some lemonade for dessert. On the house of course."

Friday, August 11, 2017

August Adventures at the A & E

I began the day around 6am being slapped around by a nice looking young man who wanted to give me drugs.

Well, OK, he was a nurse at Terem urgent care and was trying to find a vein for an IV. He stabbed me four time before the (female) nurse from the next shift came on and calmly and painlessly found a vein and pumped me full of antibiotics to treat what the on duty doctor believed was an acute infection.

Fast forward a few hours and I woke up from a nap with my upper face even more red and swollen. I was doing a brilliant impression of a Tajik nomad all incredibly high ruddy cheek bones and dark crescent shaped eyes, elongated nose. Seriously considered finding my Turkmen headress and necklace from my folk costume collection just to match the authenticity of my face. Asked DH if he might be able to import some yaks for me, or maybe at least yak butter.

Family doc said we had better rush to A & E, thank Hashem that morning I had told DH to arrange a babysitter for this afternoon beause I felt so awful. A friend's teen daughter graciously volunteered to watch the twins (other kids have long kaytana days this week, B"H).

An episode from House ensued at the hospital, trying to figure out the mystery of what had morphed my face in to someone else's, my eyes by now almost swollen completely shut. Staff were brilliant, kind, friendly, helpful, efficient and totally on the ball.

In the bed next to me there was a Palestinian security prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg irons, guarded by three burly heavily armed prison wardens.

In the bed on the other side there was an elderly Teimani man from one of the recent aliyot, his wife like a Time-Life photo from the 1950s, all traditional double headscarf, filigre Yemini jewellery and old school tunic over embroidered leggings. Fortunately they had a Hebrew speaking adult son with them as she was a little mixed up and kept going over and checking the dustbin or walking over to the hospital security guard and talking to him in a Teimani dialect he plainly didn't understand but very kindly tried to pretend he did, all gentle smiles and nods.

Finally my blood tests were back and the conclusion was that it wasn't cellulitis as a local GP had originally thought but for sure an allergic reaction (the admitting nurses' hunches which they discussed with me at length while trying to find a vein, again) Secondary infection in the skin from the weeping sores which we now know are part of a classic text book case of reacting to - mango sap!

So now you know, weird bump like, blisters that look like infected bites, but oddly clustered, eventually coming to resemble burns and you know you picked mango earlier in the week, you get some contact rashes on hands, but nothing really serious, and then a few days later your whole face blows up and your eyes swell shut - mango sap. Wear protection while picking the fruit just in case.

After IV antibiotics, steroids, antihistamine shots and fluids followed by waiting to see if there was any change in my condition and they eventually decided that while I still look awful, the inflamation is starting to abate. As at least two nurses put it "At kvar lo nireit kmo agvania!" (you no longer look like a tomato). I do still look like a Tajik nomad woman, a fact confirmed by the Kazakh lady wheeling in her elderly father.

While we were waiting a bevy of teens (maybe old enough to be doing national service, but very young looking) clad in painted on jeans and crop tops came through with an Ezer Mitzion cart of teas, coffees and cakes. An hour later a hassid in full Hassidish regalia came through with a cart full of snacks, sandwiches and juices, sponsored by a different charity organisation. He stopped on his rounds to help feed some elderly women who couldn't manage the sandwich packaging (after checking it was OK with nurses) So much kindness at work in A & E, everything given out free to patients and those accompanying them.

Finally after another careful study of my face the very concerned and sweet Dr Mahmud decided to discharge me with an alphabet soup of medications to take around the clock, stern warnings about what signs to watch for and come back to them with. As the very very nice and patient pharmacist said "zeh yekhabeh lakh et hasreifa" (this will put the fire out).

Meanwhile DH spent the afternoon finding babysitters to cover for us. Neighbours, folks from our shul, local cousins, vague friends we kind of know from kaytana - so many people pitched in to help or tried to find us someone, such tremendous gmilut hassadim (loving kindness). At one stage there were four teens at our home playing with the twins (two neighbours and two daughters of the lady who helped design our kitchen renovation last summer) No one would take payment.

Home now, finally managed to eat, took a bunch of medication (the before the meal, after the meal, the wait five hours between this and my regular stuff etc). Feeling lousy, but relieved we finally seem to know what's going on and treatment seems to be finally showing an improvement in my condition.

So there you have it, my August adventure.

So in today's trip to the hospital we had:

Orange is the New Black - prisoner in orange jumpsuit, handcuffs, legirons and three burly heavily armed prison guards sitting with us in the A&E.

House - several nurses and doctors study my symptoms, quizz me about anything different or unsusual I may have been exposed to in recent days and try to figure out what caused my allergic reaction.

National Geographic - fascinating traditional clothing from Yemen, Ethiopia, India, Israel's Bedouin, Hassidic eastern Europe and Uzbek guy in stunning kippa.

Dr Who - middle aged doctor examines me, comes back an hour later looking 20 years younger and with a different face. Different assistant too. Still introduces himself as "The Doctor".