Sunday, December 28, 2008

Morality Improvement or Deterioration?

A news item caught my attention a few days ago. It was about a father who killed the mother and then committed suicide leaving 7 orphans, the oldest being 20 years old. The item was followed by an interview with a mother of a foster family with 7 other children, orphaned in some other tragic event. She was asked about the way the extended family of the children copes with the situation and she explained how she keeps the family ties between the children and the other family members.

Why doesn't the extended family take care of the orphans? Some families do, they even 'fight' for the right of raising the orphans. Why doesn't the oldest sibling assume the role of head of the family and act as mother or father of the young ones?

In the not so distant past, about 60-70 years ago, it wasn't unheard of that a mother died, say during the childbirth of her 8th child and the father abandoned the children to start a new family or brought a step mother for the young children who treated the first wife's children badly. This was the life story of my husband's grandmother. Her mother died at the age of 44 in a disease and the father abandoned them to start a new family. She (the oldest sibling) assumed parental responsibility and raised her ten younger brothers and sisters, then got married and raised her own three children.

Nowadays, fathers in the Western world are much more involved in raising their children as the boundaries between the traditional parental roles are blurred. They take an active part in pregnancy and childbirth, feed the baby, change diapers, wash them, play with the children, tell them bed time stories and spend quality time with them. They are equal parents and sometimes beyond. When widowed, they don't feel as helpless as their grandfathers or great grandfathers. They are attached to their children and try to do what's best for them, physically and mentally. Society and second wife candidates condemn abandoning fathers. Improved morality indeed.

But young people in their twenties faced by such tragedies don't rush to give up their dreams, change plans and 'get stuck' or 'ruin their lives' by raising younger siblings. While it is true that life is more complicated now and you need to prepare for them longer, I suspect this is not the sole reason for such selfish behavior. Perhaps their parents spoiled them and did not ask them to take any responsibility. They are here to enjoy life and reach self-fulfillment (the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid.) They don't seem to be grateful for peaceful life and never contemplate sudden changes brought by illness, accidents or war, as I frequently do.

Another relative of ours, a father of two, who lost his wife to cancer and raised his children single handedly, became ill with cancer a few years ago. Naturally, he was worried about the future of his children if treatment fails. I had no doubt about raising to the challenge, being fully aware about the consequences on my own life and the life of my family. Thanks to modern medicine and his endless willpower, he was cured and so my choice was not put to test. There are moments you simply 'have to do the right thing', whatever the cost, in family life, public affairs, or in the battlefield.

Sadly, I am revisiting my previous post about the next generation. Yes, they are smarter, more sophisticated than our generation, but more selfish. Not all of them, of course. Keep posing good examples and they won't be.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter of Our Discontent

Living in Israel's coastal plane defines winter as a rainy 15C. Not really cold compared to the winters of my childhood, but the feeling is equally cold. The two sure signs that winter is here is taking out the goose down comforters (and using flannel bedding) and positioning my winter clothing at the easily accessible front side of the closet. I did both about a week ago.

During winter nothing new seems to happen, nature hibernates. Even ideas. This was my impression from the theater play we saw last week. I love theater, especially when after the play I am left with food for thought, in addition to the aesthetic experience itself. But the new Israeli play "French Movie" by Reshef and Regev Levy had no message, other than reaffirming known truisms, such as couples need love and communication. The play is about two couples: one bonded by common possessions and children but no love, while the love of the other couple is being challenged by the inability to communicate after their child's death.

Winter also means Hanukkah, which in addition to its traditional symbolics brings such culinary disaters as doughnuts and pancakes. Consuming one doughnut made me sick of guilt. Also spent a huge deal of time in traffic jams in rain, as people were taking their children to traditional Hanukkah musicals.

Today the sun came out. Next week will definitely be better.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The economic depression causing psychological depression led us to spend a few days in a geographical depression.
The Dead Sea lays a few hundred meters below sea level in the Great Rift Valley, a geological depression in southwest Asia and eastern Africa that stretches from northern Syria along the valley of the Jordan River to Mozambique. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. More than a third of its water is salt. That's why you stay afloat.

The hotels on its Israeli side offer heated sea water pools, which is nice because at this time of the year the sea water is a bit cold for bathing. Unless one wants to tour the surroundings, it's the best place to rest because there is absolutely nothing to do there, except enjoying the sea and spa. That's what we did for 3 days. I'm not much of a beach person myself, but my husband is, so we went.

From Arad, the nearest city, the road curves and turns through a former seabed landscape, feeling like expectation for a imminent buldozer to come and level the soft rubble and boulder hills.

At the hotel, you feel relaxed in an instant as you enter and see the people walking slowly in their soft white terry robes. Coming back from the beach to get our 'keys' (archaic term for magnetic cards) we saw a row of beach facing rooms, each with its own little lawn, marble coffee table, deck chairs and parasol, just like our room in the Maldives. To our pleasant surprise, we got one of those. But when you are depressed, you somehow manage to see the half empty glass. Most robe wearers appeared to be noisy retirees, busily making sandwiches at breakfast (for the lunch they didn't pay for).
Next morning I decided to enjoy some quiet time and read a book in the deck chair in front of my room. Just as I found a good spot in the shade, a lawn-mower truck appeared and started working, shortly followed by a man with a hand held mower so now the noise came in stereo.
Getting off the ride of my life, resting and then getting back on, energized, seemed like a good idea, but while resting I realized that my daily routine contains good things, such as less and healthier eating and phgysical exercise at the gym. Not keeping these at the hotel for different pretexts made me feel guilty, miserable and more depressed.
Back at work, there was a lot of tension because of the firing going on at many firms around us. So far, my company decided to cut on vacation days and not fire. The husband of a friend of mine who got fired, asked me for help establishing a firm to sell here services provided by Indian workers. This would mean that even more people will lose their jobs on the altar of quick profit. Instead of help, I gave him the Zionist speach of his life. I know I can't stop globalization and such things happen daily on a grand scale, but I must act according to my own conscience. Does he secretly refer to me now as the righteous bitch?
The relief came with the sudden realization that being away from our loved ones has a positive aspect. We don't take their presence for granted and we experience feelings, such as longing and missing. The bad helps us appreciate the good. Relativity and dosage are the secret.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow are my kids' birthdays (4 years and one day apart - no planning!). Actually, they are not children anymore, but young adults, which is pretty hard to get used to. And they are so different.
Dan, my firstborn, raised by the book, a frequent mistake commited by first time parents, had to cope alone with the world (he didn't have an older brother to follow). He has high hopes for himself and wants to better the world. He has a plan for the next 10 years, culminating in diplomacy and ambassadorship. Or anything that needs a suite and tie.
He volunteers a lot and his milieu is a heterogenuous bunch: an ashkenazi economist, a fat bright Russian guy suffering from a mental condition, an army shirker turned into a fashion store manager, a Yemenite post person, another Yemenite wannabe, an epileptic Persian, a gifted computer science student, a Moroccan news editor and some new ones I don't know. He has an expensive taste and likes fancy meals and places. He invited his friends to Moses (fancy hamburger chain resturant). He did not ask for any birthday present because his self-designed new furniture are enough.
A few days ago, I looked into my cookbooks and picked a nice, rich chocolate cake for the joint birthday, but knowing my 'customer', I asked for his approval. 'No, I'll pick another one', he said, 'something special, out of the ordinary, something with mango or exotic fruits'. Never mind his brother Tom probably prefers a chocolate or nut cake. He looked and looked and just got more confused until there was no time to buy ingredients and bake so I bought a ready made one. Chocolate mouse.
Tom came to the world directly into the role of the spoilt and pampered 'little one', brought up with more love and closeness and less theory from manuals. He had his brother's footsteps to follow or turn away from, a reference in any case. He complains we have less photos of him as a child.
He likes the outdoors and playing soccer with friends. His two best friends are a dark skinned soldier, son of a taxi driver and houswife running a messy household, and a penthouse dweller Persian student, son of an investement banker and a city hall clerk. He also has lots of groups of friends he belongs to: from his former schools, his extreme trips, and the current boarding school.
He doesn't volunteer, but is empathic to all creatures, especially animals and children. He likes plain things, home cooking and a homy athmosphere. I asked him what cake he'd like for his birthday. 'Nothing or dad's chocolate yiest cake'. He got a nice watch for his 18th birthday. He decided he desn't want a party, he'll invite his friends into our new empty apartment (when we get the key) to sit on the floor and order pizzas.
He is non-judgmental. He tends to forget things, to mix up places and tasks. He doesn't have a plan for the future.
They are both thankful in their own way for the help and advice we give them. I know they will try to please us even long after we'll be gone. And although I find people's attempt to control things after their death quite pathetic (by writing complicated conditioned wills, for example), I'd like my two children to keep in close touch throughout their lives, whatever happens. I know they will. Maybe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Last week I got a fine. A painful one. I deserved it because I really did something forbidden followed by something stupid. I drove against traffic, if you really need to know. No, not on a busy multi-lane highway, just a small dirt road, but still. Why did I do that? I plead guilty with an explanation, even a confession.

I am orientation challenged - the politically correct term for a person who cannot find her way out of a paper bag. It is difficult for me to navigate, especially in the dark. Every time I have a feeling I have to turn left, I should actually turn right. Even ways to places I drove to several times before, confuse me. The smallest deviation from directions and I'm lost. Here, I did it, I'm out of the orientation closet. You can now laugh or applause.
I was invited to dinner in a nearby town, to a restaurant on a street I know, I've been there many times before. It's the first street to the left, piece of cake, no need for directions. When I'm about to turn left I notice there is no left turn there anymore, I keep driving straight. I decide to keep going until I can make a U turn, return to the same junction, and turn right. Why? Because it seems safer than making 3 lefts and get lost in the dark. Back at the same junction I discover there is no right either, it's a one-way street! I drive straight again, towards the exit from the town. Despaired, I get a flashback about having the same surprise a few months back and the way I solved it: by driving a few meters into a one-way dirt road, against traffic. Relieved, I do the same (forbidden), but this time I continue beyond the first few meters in the false hope of finding a parking spot (stupid). What I find instead is a police officer who requests my driver's license.
Is this problem of mine (and of many other men and women) a genetic deficiency? A particular type of dyslexia? A side effect of my cotton-wool upbringing? Can it be ameliorated by practice? I don't know.

The fine, however, is about half the price of a GPS.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


For some odd reason, movies I watch have to be light and fun, like romantic comedies, but theater plays have to convey a message, leave me with food for thought. Last week I broke this rule twice and watched "The Lives of Others" and "Edith Piaf" on satellite.
While I can recognize Edith Piaf's voice, I knew nothing about her tragic life until I saw this excellent movie I categorize as a learning experience. But "The Lives of Others" caused me nightmares and revealed memories repressed for the last twenty something years of my former life in a like regime.
While some 'bad things" I knew back then, some I understood later on when I grew older and wiser, and some I learned from "Red Horizons", this movie led me to new insights about evil regimes' impact on people's lives and personalities.
The scene featuring the cloth with the scent of the interrogee collected from the chair and closed in a jar for future hunt down by dogs haunts me to this day reminding me there is no limit to evil. Hundreds of thousands reported on their colleagues, neighbors and even spouses. Microphones were implanted all over and human rights trampled by the day, hour and minute.
Our parents still remebered life before communism and my generation outlived it, but the more generations born into and die during the regime, the greater the impact. People who grew up during communism are fearsome of authority (such as police), lack entreprenuership and I dare say that even their moral judgement is impaired to an extent. Things you experience in your daily life seem normal after a while, even though you feel and know they are not right.
Healing occurrs after a while spent in freedom, depending on the age one was set free. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Missing Ceremony

Last wek we were invited to a Brith (Jewish ritual circumcision) 'party'. When you are invited to a Brith or wedding 'party', it means that the ceremony was performed before the event and all we have to do is just party.
When we entered the hall of the beachfront northern hotel, we congratulated the parents and grandparents of the newborn and proceeded to the reception area, full of appetizers from sushi to hummus. The salads, main and side dishes, as well as the dessert were already layed out on self-service tables in the main hall. Guests came, took their seats, chatted with friends, eat anynchronously and left. The venue, food and athmosphere were good, but something was missing.
We all complain about boring ceremonies, speeches and proceedings we'd rather skip, but I felt someone should have stood up and tell us why we were there and had more than usual food for this Friday lunch. The speech did not have to be religious, explaining the meaning of brith based on acient sources, but rather something light, enlightening and even entertaining.
Do we still need ceremonies in modern days or are they anachronistic activities performed by distant tribes?
Traditional or new age, ceremonies give us a sense of order, succession and belonging to traditions longer than our own lives.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Third Generation Friendship

The Helds are our best friends. The late Eva Held and my late mother in law were good friends since their childhood. Their friendship with its many turns is a story in itself. Second generation Andrei, Eva's third child, and my husband Peter are also best friends and third generation Held twin sisters Tali and Ronit and my children, Dan and Tom, are also good friends.

Hygene extremist Zoe (aka Dr. Held) loves to buy stuff, especially books (of which they have thousands) and CDs and loves to cook, bake and eat. Electrical engineer Andrei loves to sit comfortably, smoke his pipe and drink his espresso, next to a fishing rod, if possible. They both love to work around the house. They invest in their home, we spend on holidays.
I love the hardworking, honest Helds with all my heart. They can't forget we brought them home when arriving to Israel, hosted them for a couple of days in our tiny apartment and accompanied them to the absorption center in Karmiel, where they started their new Israeli life. Years later, we included them in our will as the custodians of our kids, should anything bad happen to us.

So here we are, invited at the Helds, who live in a spacious cottage in the North. No special occasion, just a simple get-together-talk-and-eat. Belle, the resident labrador, moves among us, friendly and hunting for attention. The time we spend together is always pleasant. We talk about Zoe's hard work at the Sick Fund, Andrei's new boss at the Electrical Company and about common friends and acquaintances. The food is always great as Zoe is an excellent cook (and so is Ronit). After lunch, Zoe and I take Belle for a walk and have a short girls' talk on the way, while the 'boys' discuss the latest fishing gear and plans.

A few days before the meeting, the Held parents were busy arranging their daughters in new places as the twins will soon start studying medicine in Jerusalem (Ronit) and business administration in Herzliya (Tali). I know them since they were born, but now for the first time, I look at them as young adults. Lighthearted Tali and serious Ronit are ready to start a new and exciting chapter in their lives, filled with dreams, difficulties, studies, fun, friendships, insights and disappointments. They still need us, parents, but much less than before. They want to prove to themselves they can be independent, even if not completely, for the time being. Will they return home after graduation? Doubtfully. The Held parents will have to adapt their routine and travel a lot more to visit the girls.

I leave full of thoughts about what all this means for me, wondering whether we are still relevant, whether the youngsters taking their first steps will better the world we will bearly understand.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Chickpea is a popular Mediterranian ingredient. Its high protein content make it 'the meat of the poor'. Chickpea is the main ingedient of hummus (seasoned chickpea paste) and falafel (deep fried chickpea balls), two Mediterranian staples. Both go well with [pocket-like] pita bread, tahini (sesame paste) and overweight people with tahini dripping from their pita, via their chin onto their prominent bellies.

'Connoisseurs' travel long distances to get their favorite 'best' hummus or falafel, usually served in tiny bad-neighborhood stands. Last week I had really good hummus in the famous Abu Shukri restaurant in Abu Gosh, Israel's hummus center, because I was in the neighborhood with my son, Dan, who insisted there is no such thing as being in Abu Gosh and not having hummus. But usually, bourgeois like myself buy hummus in a supermarket or even make it at home.

Knowing we'll be in remote Pardes Hannah around lunchtime the other day, we looked up a nice fish and seafood restaurant in the area. But when we finshed our meeting with Motty, a smiley Kurdish Jew and owner a busy carpentry workshop at the edge of Pardes Hannah, Peter, my husband, decided it is best to ask the 'natives' for culinary directions in the area. (This way you are supposed to find cheap authentic food, not the fancy type advertized on websites.) After making sure we are OK with simple food like hummus, Motty recommended the Blue Bus, a nearby hummus joint frequented by both local and far away customers for its renown hummus.
The Blue Bus consists of a decades old bus wreck, loosely combined with leftover construction materials, plastic tables and chairs, plastic tablecloths and glasses, stupid handwritten limericks on the 'walls' and hummus as the only item on the non-existing menu. The place was packed and looked promising. The hummus came topped with coarsly chopped yellowish parsley and sprinkled with an unreconginizable condiment. The promise vanished with the first bite. After the rest of the bites, came the concrete ball feeling in my stomach and fatigue that neutralized us for a couple of hours.
So friends, when in an unknown place in a not too adventerous mood, do your stomachs a favor and leave the sound-good-in-principle authentic food to others.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Music in My Life

I love singing ever since I know myself. I sang in the kindergarden choir, school choir and the choir of the Jewish community in Oradea. I have a basic musical ear and musicians among my ancestors, but my basic talent has not been properly developed.

In 1970 I inherited my cousins' piano and took lessons from 3 piano teachers. The first one, Lazar Herman, tought me popular songs that my grandma sang along, but no sheet music. The others tought me more pedagogicaly, but I shirked practice and my parents gave up on me. Petty.

In 1979 I enrolled in the classical singing program of the Popular School of Art in Oradea, in this beautiful building, that mainly serves as the county library. "You sing like a bird", my teacher, Rea Silvia Pop D. Popa used to say, meaning I don't have enough volume for the opera-like pieces. The two years I spent on this program were truly magical for me. I remember leaving each lesson totally uplifted.

When I came to Israel, I was busy learning Hebrew, earning a living, raising my children and getting higher education, so music was not part of my life for too many years.

After finishing my MBA, I was ready to devote time for my soul. The trigger came at our silver anniversary, where the organizers surprised me with the 'Ve'al Kulam' duet I sang with Yossi Adler, the former cantor of the Zion Temple in Oradea (where I got married). Yossi, dressed in festive white, used to do the Yom Kippur singing from downstairs and I used to peek from the window on the right of the pipe organ while singing my solo part.

Coworker-friend-Enghlish teacher-playwright-musician Jeff Meshel advised me to join a choir. A good way to find something is tell everybody you know you are looking. So I spread the word and another friend, Sandy Noymer, forwarded me an ad from Alex Eshed, the conductor of Barberina. I joined Barberina about two and a half years ago as a lead singer. This is where I learned about the barbershop genre. You can see and listen to what we sing here.

(Then I found out that another friend of mine, Rely, who lives in the UK, is also a lead singer at Phoenix, a much larger award winning barbershop choir that will soon perform in Hawaii.)

The pictures on the left were taken at our last performance at the Abu Gosh festival.

So what's next? Lately, I've been having thoughts about taking piano lessons again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jewish Holidays

This is my own secular perspective and I have very little religious training and knowledge. However, I appreciate tradition and its importance in binding together for 2000 years the Jews dispersed all over the world. Preserving a common identity without sharing a geographical territory (before globalization and virtual communities) while making many important contributions to humanity in different fields of science and arts, and building a modern state on the biblical lands (i.e. sand) after loosing 6 million souls during WWII is no small achievement. Tradition shapes our identity, help us belong.

Some holidays remind us of important events in Jewish history (a subset, such as Hanukkah and Purim, falling into the 1-2-3 category, where 1 = They tried to kill us, 2= We survived, 3=Let's eat) and some are connected to agriculturally meaningful times and even taxes. Although tempted to categorize the holidays accordingly, I am leaving this task to knowledgable scholars. What I want to discuss is the theme of taking things for granted, which so much caracterizes our modern lives.

The things we take for granted are usually the needs situated on the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid.

Passover teaches us not to take food for granted, by forbidding bread, the most basic food, for an entire week. But most importantly it teaches us that freedom is worth believeing in. I would parallel that to Maslow's self-esteem layer.

Giving up the security of our home during Sukkot to live in a booth teaches us not to take shelter for granted. The hospitality tradition touches on higher social needs. We can expand the notion of physical security to all sorts of other securities, including the financial one.

Before Yom Kippur, Jews seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against fellow men. If your 'fellow men' don't forgive you, neither will God, fast or no fast. This is about mantainance of relashionships, the 'Love and Belongingness' layer of Maslow. Do not take the love and friendship of those who surround you for granted.
According to the arameic saying in the Talmud, "me'igra rama ad bira amikta", falling from the greatest heights until the lowest depths can happen pretty fast. Extreme changes can happen suddenly. So is there anything we can or should take for granted? The only thing that comes to my mind is that the sun will continue heating the Earth for the next few million years. If an astroid won't change our orbit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Special Wedding

This is Felix Slamovics, my first boyfriend, at the age of about 9. Well, without the mustache and beard, but with a lot more hair.

We were the only Jewish kids in Elementary School No. 8 in Oradea, Romania, where teacher Duma Marta tought us for 4 years (1969-1973). We used to live on the same street for a few years and my parents also knew each other from the Jewish Community. His mother, a good, patient person, my future mother in law and two other women played rummykub weekly. His father, a fearsome limping man, used to beat him up, a 'pedagogic' method frequently used at the time.
Since Felix was a weak pupil, I used to go to his backyard apartment to help him out with homework. We also sang in the choir of the Jewish Community and hung out around the synagogue and canteen. His 'academic' achievemens at the time led me to believe nothing will ever come out of him. After the 4th grade, I moved to another school and our ways parted. I got married, came to Israel, had two kids. I heard he also came with his parents, lived in the North and then his parents died.
A few years ago, I saw his picture in my favortive Friday paper, along with an (Hebrew) article about him. I immediatley mailed him and we got back in touch. The once weak pupil found his call. He grew up to be a top alpinist, communicative, fun to be with, optimistic person. He lived and lives his life to the full, always doing what he wants, surrounded by his numerous friends and fans.
Confined to a wheelchair and using a breathing machine, as well as a special device designed especially for him, he continues to climb in order to raise awareness to ALS, the terribile, incurable disease he suffers from. He attempted to climb El Capitan in Yosimite National Park and the Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv.
His only regret was not having a family of his own, wife and children. I promise to revisit this blogspot and add pictures taken at his wedding I just returned from. Started shortly after sunset in a Tel Aviv Port restaurant, the ceremony was conducted by TV star Avri Gilad. One of the guests was Israel Prize winner and fellow ALS sufferer Dov Lautman. Before leaving, I asked Felix to invite me to his Silver Anniversary. "It's a deal", he said.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I was wondering the other day wether the multitude of communication means we have really improves the quantity and quality of our relashionships.

We can call on a landline or mobile phone, we can send letters by snail mail, electronic mail or fax, we can chat and exchange files using a myriad of instant messaging applications and combine text, voice and video using free computer programs. The combinations are endless: we can get our voice messages by email, using a PDA in the middle of the desert, listen to hundreds of online radio stations on Internet radio or track past collegues and friends on social networking apps.

Before we had mobile phones, we set meetings by determining a fixed date, time and location. Once we left the proximity of a landline phone, we could no longer change the meeting details. Nowadays, the deifinitions are fuzzier, we don't bother to set things in stone as we know there is always a possibility to change later. We commit less.

We send automatic electronic greeting cards to our friends and bulk Happy New Year wishes by SMS or email. The mass production concept kidnapped our personal communications. We say more, but mean less.

Finding a lost kindergarden buddy? Joining a virtual support group for your diet? Just google and find more details in seconds than you'll ever need. No doubt, all this infrastructure makes it easeir to keep in touch. Do we? Yes, but... Being able to say 'I love you' or 'I'm sorry' in a dozen different ways does not make us actually say it. We still have to invest in our relationships, work at them to make them last.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Freedom is even more complicated

I touched on the subject of freedom in a previous post. But what about those critical decisions that affect our lives for the coming years? We try to do our best but can never KNOW for sure wether the alternative path, the one we didn't take, would have been better. There is no "what if" scenario to run on a simulator and parallel realities exist only in movies.

We can try weighing each option and input the probabilities into formulas, apply the scientific method. Will our choice be better? Yes, if we have to make the same choice many times. Then, the averages of the scientific method will work out. But in real life, every decision might be different, unique. How many times we need to decide what to study (for a future career), whom to marry, which work offer to accept, which house to buy? Even if we change many partners, workplaces and houses, it is still not enough for meaningful averages.

Are we doomed to the uncertainty of not having the EXACT knowledge? Yes, and we should accept uncertainties to attain peace of mind. We can minimze them, though. Planning ahead is one possibility. Should we plan everything ahead? Probably not, beacuse it makes us blind to opportunities. Should we plan at all? Yes, we need a general direction, even if we don't follow it religiously. Changing directions is mostly possible, but usually comes with a price tag attached.

Some believe in fate or providence. If life took us there, we are meant to be there. There is an underlying purpose, which we cannot understand. This theory is not my cup of tea, but I realize it helps some people live in peace with what's happenning in their lives. Can we affect fate? To some extent, we do. We continuously transmit messages to our environment about our preferences and abilities, which in turn affect the way it relates to us, the opportunities it offers. It's up to us to take or reject them.

In the early stage of our lives, before we have formed a general direction, we should take the opportunities that seem to reflect our preferences or abilities. In later stages, we should take the opportunities that are in sync with our general direction or those that are not, but we'd regret if we'd reject, and are ready to pay the direction change fee.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Blogging: Interim Summary

I started blogging to tell the story of my recent trip to Romania, but apparently I fell in love with blogging (I never knew I can write this genre) and the pictures from the trip are still waiting for the continuation posts.

So how does it feel blogging? Like singing on the stage of a huge but mostly empty concert hall. Despite of what you may think, it doesn't feel frustrating at all.

In the early enthusiastic stage, I much enjoyed planning new posts (still do). The subject comes to me naturally and I plan the posts in my head. After I sort out about 75% of what I want to say in my head, I start writing and let the rest fall into pieces during the process. I also enjoy matching the picture to the text. I write, change, delete, rewrite until I am happy with the output.

As a side effect, I came up with two ideas for articles for our internal company newsletter, which recently changed its format and now includes a feature article. Just provide the right stage, and the performers will arrive. And the Internet is the largest stage of all! For some reason I hear "Sittin' on top of the world" playing in my head.

Since I'm writing, I also understand and appreciate writers more than I did before. Putting text to paper (or PC) is much more difficult than I've imagined. I've also discovered Sharon's writing spot and fell in love with her witty "I’ve graduated from widowhood 101, 2, 3, and 4. [...] I change my own light-bulbs, kill my own cockroaches and do my own garbage". Sharon just joined my Barbershop choir a short while ago. Contrary to Sharon, when I see a cockroach, I shout until one of the men of the house comes running armed with a spray or shoe to rescue me. Venus, our cute housecat and family love magnet runs there as well to snatch the juicy protein treat. One cat's meat is another catowner's nightmare.

Many friends have called and emailed me to say how much they enjoy reading my blog and encouraged me to continue. Thanks and hope to live up to your expectations. To make it easier, I bought myself a new laptop as a birthday gift and this post is its debut. For now, it sits next to my husband's work laptop. For him, laptop symbolizes slavery (work any time anywhere), while for me it's pleasure. One man's meat is another man's poison.

What Is This Blog Not About

A few days ago, I fiddled with my blog settings and, among others, I added the subtitle 'Erika's Point of View about Anything and Everything'. Well, almost. I hate 'cool' marketing blogs, written by companies (I actually know someone who makes a living out of this) and blogs that are meant to showcase an individual for marketing purposes (same idea). I am not marketing anything, just expressing my own thoughts.

Being an Israeli, I am almost expected to take [political] sides and do Israel advocacy or bashing. Won't do either. I leave politics to politicians (that's what I pay them for). Israel advocacy is done by many, more experienced and talented, individuals and organizations. Israel bashing I won't do not because everything here is perfect, but because one doesn't wash her dirty laundry in public. I love Israel because of my zionist upbringing and I am thankful for giving me the opportunity for a better life (by paying ransome among other things). My thanks are materialized by being an honest tax paying citizen and raising my children in the same spirit. But as I said, loving Israel does not mean I'm blind to its flaws.
With all the difficulties I went through when moving here and starting anew (not even knowing the alphabet and feeling illiterate, to give just one small example), I would not renounce -for anything in the world- the experience of being part of such an amazing people, for good and bad. I cannot possibly imagine myself being born in a small Scottish village (for eaxample), living there my entire life and dying. Then, some 6000 years later, some archeologist finding my bones and determining I was related to a person currently living in the same village.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A New Relationship?

Do you know people who have relashionships with their food? Until about a week ago I thought of them as a pittiful bunch. Now I'm wondering whether I joined this non secret cult. My culinary childhood includes lots of goose liver sandwiches, a mom who loved all sweets and did not eat anything raw, and a dad killed by greasy food.

My mom's craving for sweets started early in her life, the chestnut episode being one of the frequently told tales in our family. Chestnut puree is a well known Hungarian dessert, served with lots of whipped cream. She prepared it during a cooking class in school, but there was no time to eat what she'd prepared, as usual, so in her fear to miss the feast, she filled both pockets of her white apron with the brownish pleasure, the large stubborn staines becoming the silent memorial of the episode.

In communist Romania, food was scarce and one just eat whatever could be found in the stores and markets. Meat was missing, but not on our table, thanks to the weekly kosher meat supply to the members of the Jewish community. In my own cooking, I preserved my grandmothers' traditional dishes, with the carb- and fat-rich ones slowly being exiled into disgrace.

About a week ago I got an offer from Weight Watchers, their group conveniantly located at my workplace. What could be more tempting than something that does not require moving my car out of the underground parking, driving into sweatty Tel Aviv and haunting for a parking place or paying a small fortune for one? To my surprise, Peter, my husband thought it's a good idea and so I decided to try, the worst scenario being that the 4 extra kilograms stubbornly clinging to my stomach will refuse to leave.

Armed with my credit card and lots of motivation, I pass the first weighting, listen to the boring opening lecture and leave with a new type of ammunition: the points system. I have to write down everything I eat and drink and fit it all into 20 daily points. The first crisis hits me soon enough, just after dinner. How am I supposed to point a few bites of this or that? What about all the food types missing from the list I got? I seek long time weight watcher's advice, but no relief comes. "You have to estimate" they tell me. Their local website, just like the booklet I got, is not helpful at all. Most of it is marketing material filled with lots of 'before' and 'after' stories and pictures of people wearing smiles and new outfits. Power to them.

I wonder wether the frustrating point counting system is supposed to take my appetite away. Second and third day I'm over budget. I find myself constantly thinking about food, hunger, points, still not capable of refusing a slice of cake left in the office kitchenette and feeling guilty during and after cosuming it. Psychosomatically (or is this my pre-diabetes?), my stomach feels bloated when eating forbidden food, punishing me for hours and days.
Still, I can't bear the the thought of eating anything with the words 'diet' or 'light' label on the package. I'd rather eat less of the real stuff. Huge powers prevent me from resting my fork at the first sign of satiation.

The first few days I just register and summarize what I've eaten, but now I'm also trying to choose food types with less points. I find this easier to implement when eating just after the first sign of hunger. Will I succeed to move the next step?
For now, the keywords for success seem to be awareness and perseverence.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Relationships 101: Mind the Gap

What makes some relationships work while others fail miserably? I'm far from being a psychologist, but in light of my 28th anniversary I developed the gap theory for relationships. Its essence is :

  • Identifying initial gaps for selecting the right partner
  • Preventing new gaps from being born
  • Filling newly formed narrow gaps to stop their development into large gaps [that are more difficult to handle].

Like any theory, the gap theory is not perfect. In real life, there probably are many exceptions that work, too.

Choosing a Suitable Partner

I like to watch romantic Hollywood comedies, even though I disagree with the underlying message that there is only one person in the entire world who is meant to be your partner for life. The truth is that we can partner with many people, especially when we are young and flexible. But there should be some common ground. In a movie I recently saw, a young Swiss woman marries a muscular Masai tribeman. Did they have a real chance for a lasting relationship? Yes, a tiny one. Here comes the first gap to avoid: large differences [of any kind]. Love cannot possibly bridge all differences, even though it may seem so in the beginning.

How do you know your new relationship is on the right track for the long term? Although 'it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future', as Yogi Berra pointed out, a good sign is the positive tendency of your relationship: the more you konw your partner, the more you like and love him/her. Your initial blindness turns into heart-and-mind love. The heart part is what you see in movies, the mind one is more difficult. It makes you respect and appreciate your partner, potentially longer lasting features.

With the initial blindness dissipating, you will be able to see your partner in a more realistic light, with [all] his/her flaws. If you can't accept your partner's flaws, move on. Don't expect to change him/her. Issues that annoy you now tend to accentuate over time. It's amazing how many people ignore these early warnings. I know women who got slapped by their boyfriend, followed by apologies, married the guy and became beated women.

Minding New Gaps

Preventive maintenance of relationships lies in communication and sharing. Don't outsource your communication. I got a beautiful greeting card from my husband for our 28th anniversary. He spent hours looking for the right one, with the perfectly worded text. So what's my problem? I prefer a less perfect text that comes from his own heart rather than from a [talented] copywriter. Unlike house cleaning, communication is way too important to outsource to a paid service provider. Keeping it genuine takes the same amount of time and effort, but yields a completely different result.

Spend quality time together and take short breaks to add color spots to your gray routine. Discuss your experience at work, activities and friends over a cup of coffee, keep your partner up to date with your life and thoughts. Sparing negative or worrisome details will result in a widening gap. This happened to a friend of mine and surprisingly [or not] for the 'right' reason. His wife became ill and he wanted to spare her the daily worries to prevent deteriorating her health. With time she stopped being his partner and their long marriage ended up with a divorce.

Once a new gap popped up its ugly little head, don't ignore or drag it. Resolve differences the same day, adviced my aunt Rozsi before my marriage. Gaps became too large to cope with? If you seek improvement, take professional advice.

Have I conducted my own life according to these guidelines? How could I? They just recently crystalized in my head.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Secrets of the Drawer

My grandmother's life (burried next to my father) was very different. Born in 1895 in Arad (1 out of 5 children) in a secular Jewish family owning a declining China porcelain business, with almost no dowry, she was forced to mary the much older Austro-Hungarian officer who occupied one of their rooms during WWI. Her impecable education of an Austro-Hungarian lady destined her to a better life she could only wish for. As after that war Transylvania (including Arad) became part of Romania, the former officer could no longer serve in the army, the only profession he knew and apparently liked. He entered the timber wholesale business and tried others, mostly unsuccessfuly. Their roller-coaster like household pendulated between extremes of living-in servants and furniture forclosures. She never worked outside her household, a child-like economic dependence in Eva's view. She made an impact on both Eva's and my education, me sharing a room with her since I was born till she died in 1981 at the age of 86.

In that very room, there were 2 mahogany-marble-glass cupboards from her small dowry, manufactured in 1860, in Vienna. The larger one features a wide drawer under the marble plate, that contained documents and used to be locked, which made it extra interesting for me to discover.

One thing I discovered was a beautifully caligraphed application of my grandfather to the Austro-Hungarian authorities to change his name from the Jewish Stern to the Hungarian Sebestyen. My cousin Eva changed Sebestyen to the Romanian Sebastian. Then she married to Bucur, divorced and became Sebastian again. Before you get to the judgemental "the more we want to be like them, the more they hate us", you should know she wasn't the only one in our family to change her name. My grandmother's youngest sister, Rozi, the Budapest pianist who helped them financially after the frequent furniture forclosures, got fictively married to the gentile Ferenczy, which turned her into Ferenczy Albertne, a name that saved her from the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
I also discovered in the drawer different documents with the name Scheer Ana on them and this is how I found out my mother was previously married to the hunchback Scheer and got divorced. I can envision how this arty-lazy womanizer who could not earn a decent living exasperated my practical mother. They had no children. What makes a relationship work, I ask myself 2 days before our 28th anniversary and promise to dedicate a special blogpost to my insights on the subject.
There was also a bunch of letters sent by my father to my mother when he courted her. I felt uncomfortable reading them, so I made do with the first row. Beautiful romantic music to my ears.

After the drawer disclosed its secrets and before we immigrated to Israel, we sold both closets to my friend's parents. I am really happy they didn't go to strangers, but to the nice Vlaicu couple, the parents of Rely (my friend who lives in the UK) and her sister Dora (who made these pictures and some other beautiful ones to come).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oradea: My Father's Memory

The first thing we did in Oradea was visiting the cemetery. I always say that you can remember a lost loved one anywhere, not necessarily in the cemetery, where you actually see and touch the physical evidence of the person's death. Well, when it comes to my father, this theory doesn't really work. He was and remained very special to me and to all around him. Most of his life is still a mystery to me, as I don't remember many of the stories he told me about his life before I was born.

He was born in 1917 in a traditional Jewish family (1 out of 8 children) in the little village of Szentjob (Bihor county). His family, as many other Jewish families in other little villages in the area, owned the village shop and later a soda water filling station. He absorbed trade as a small child, while helping around the shop. One story I remember was how he was sent, as a child, alone on a horse carriage to the big city of Oradea to one of the rich suppliers in town to bring goods for the shop. He loved to tell me the part where the supplier ordered his servants around to treat him as a VIP, bring him breakfast and anything else he needed. This must have made a big impression on him.

His entire family was deported to Auschwitz (just one sister came back), while he was in a forced labor or prisoner camp in Ukraine. There he learned to be a tailor.

What made him with his 7-grade education and above history the exceptional person loved and respected by everybody around him? Must be the unique combination of his personal integrity and beliefs, his sharp mind, his kindness, willingness to help and endless generosity. I hoped to meet someone who knew him and could attest his qualities for Dan.

Being a prominent leader of Oradea's Jewish Community, he planted zionism in me and the memories of Jewish tradition. His first heart attack, at the age of 60, just 2 weeks after he retired full of plans to turn our garden into a "garden of Eden", left us suddenly with a huge hole in our lives and souls, changing them irreversibly.

Although my mother hired someone to pray Kadish for the transcendence of his soul for an entire year, I remember the masked sadness in his voice when mentioning, in his lifetime, not having a son to do that for him. So here I stand, in front of his grave with my son Dan, prayer book in his hand, hoping Apu is pleased and can rest in peace. My mind wonders around the hypotethical question of how he and Dan would have got along and about the huge forces that make us try to please our parents even after their death. "He would have been very proud of your achievements" says Eva and I wordlesly thank her for saying the right thing.
In a previous conversation she told me how happy my mother's entire family was to have him with them. My second cousin, Pop Ioan, told me a story I didn't know. He very much wanted to buy one of the first cars in Oradea when he was young and couldn't afford it. He turned to my father for advice (although he is related to my mother) and got the entire sum as a loan. No repay date, just a promise that he would occasionaly take him to visit the Jewish cemetery in Szentjob, where he arranged for a yearly payment to an ex-neighbor to take care of it.

Next day we are visiting the Zion neolog synagogue, where I got married in 1980. After being closed for many years following acts of vandalism, it is now somewhat renovated, although ripped off its past glory. An old man in charge shows us around, points at the places of the beautiful stolen chandeliers and asks for a donation. As we are about to leave, he asks me for my name. "Berger Erika" I say, "the daughter of Berger Jeno." "The tailor?" he enquires? "Yes". "I knew him. He helped me and gave me clothes 'cause I was poor."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Eva in Arad

We met Eva at Budapest airport, so we had the entire time in the car to tell and listen to family stories. The once slow border passthroguh beuraucracy, took us just a few minutes at Nadlac and after a few hours of driving we got to Arad, where Ioana, Eva's youngest daughter was waiting for us. Ioana is a bright young woman and if you happen to know Romanian, you can read her blog here.

The city of Arad has nothing interesting to offer to tourists, but if you are already there, walk alongside the Mures and enter into one of the many restaurants located in the 'strand'. The park, close to the market, features a hystoric monument and a piazza.

Now that we got the 'sites' out of the way, I can go into some personal details. My cousin Eva, a recently retired French teacher, lives opposite the synangogue in her parents' house with what she calls the zoo. It consists of the old and rather smelly dog called Max, a cat and her kittens. The house needs serious maintenance, but it has a nice little garden where she grows all sorts of spices. She told me stories about our family, stories that I was not aware of as they happened when I was a child or before I was born.

So, let's continue to our next station, Oradea, and see how some of these stories unfold.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Next Generation

Despite the negative picture some journalists are trying to draw in our minds and despite the lack of statistical evidence, my feeling is that the next generation (the teenagers of today) are much better than we are in many aspects.

They were raised in a much more challenging environment, with so many more possibilities to develop interests, hobbies, express themselves, research alone and make friends. The most amazing thing is how they grasp the reality, how they quickly understand underlying social mechanisms, even though they sit for hours in front of their computers. I guess it depends what they do with it.

Insights that took me years of life experience and studies to attain, they grasp in their twenties, they manage amazing projects and volunteer to better our world. They don't rush to start their work life early (as we were educated to do), they understand that work life is long and tiring, so they take their time and have fun as they go along.

They travel much more than we did, see places, have different experiences and constantly compare and analyze. They appreciate art and good humor and even fancy restaurants and gourme food.

I know there are shirkers, lazy and dumb teenagers, but luckily my world is filled with the other kind.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Romania: General Remarks

My remarks are based on my 2-week trip in Transylvania, during which I drove ~6500 km. One of the most frequent sites I saw was stray dogs. They come in every size, shape and color and usually beg for food.

Roads: Although I've been worned that the roads are bad, I was surprised to find out how bad they really are. Apart from a few major roads, most roads have one lane for each direction. Overtaking is dangerous and many times you find yourself behind a truck (of which there are many), driving at very low speeds, especially if the road goes uphill. Many roads are full of holes and you need to slalom between them to protect your car. Many roads are also under construction and you need to wait behind temporary traffic lights to pass through the only lane available. In urban localities, asphalt is scarce, many streets are not paved at all. When it rains, the dirt gets slippery and you need to take extra care where you park, to avoid digging in.

On the side of some roads, you can buy vegetables, fruits and dairy products, or local workmanship produces among a myriad of tastelss souvenirs. If you are interested in doilies and tablecloths, it's your heaven. They come in every shape, size and decoration. Unfortunately I have lots of these at home (I barely use 10% of what I have), so there was no point in indulging myself in browsing the endless selection.

Buildings: A new house painting fashion has developed lately, houses are painted in extremely bright, vivid colors. You can find electric pink houses next to orange houses, blue, green and yellow ones. At first this color overdose seems tastless, but my theory is that it's a communist era backlash, when buildings tended to be just gray. Perhaps the over-reaction will mild with time. Anyway, it's preferable to gray.

Villages: Roads pass through village (and city!) centers. Typically, the houses on the main street have 2 windows facing the road and tend to continue inwards, with the other windows facing the back or side. The impression is like they all croud up to get a precious place on the main road. There are no restaurants in villages, just basic food stores, sometimes with a few benches and tables in front of the store.

Cities: At the entrance of every city there is quarter of ugly, communist era blocks of flats and huge branches of chain stores and shopping malls. These stores are clean, western-level with a nice selection of products. The only problem I saw is that if you don't own a car, it's very complicated to reach them and take your goods home.

Service: Don't expect the somewhat phoney "have a nice day", but a lack of "thank you" and even a smile are evident.

Food: The most popular food you can find everywhere is ... pizza. I've been told that the reason for this is that the first wave of investors who came into Romania after the revolution were the Italians. There was one thing I didn't get about these pizzas though: what are you supposed to do with the extra sauce they offer on the menu?

Most restaurants have impressive menus, but they serve the same food all over. Same soupes, same main and side dishes, same deserts and same beverages. When we got tired of the selection, we were happy to find a chinese restaurant in Pitesti. The food wasn't really chinese, but when I pointed that out to the waitress (she asked me how it was), she was very upset. She claimed that both the chef and the owner were in China (not clear doing what). For some reason, Romanians believe that if you use local ingredients and methods, but drown the dish in an "ethnic" sauce, you have a genuine ethnic dish. Sorry do disappoint you guys, but Chinese food comes in bite sizes (not like the fried eggplant meetballs I got), since the Chinese use chopsticks to eat and no knives. In many restaurants, they charge you for items you don't order, such as bread. However, if you insist, they take it off the bill.

A great restuarant we found (it was in the guide) was Bella Musica in Brasov. It is very stylish, located in a nicely decorated basement. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was too early for dinner, so we just ordered coffee and desert. Needless to say, they were superb, and so was the service.

Museums and the like: There is an extra fee for taking stills and videos. However, once inside, they don't verify whether you have paid this fee, when you use your camera. And no, I haven't done that. Don't tell me it didn't cross you mind I did.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Interim thought: freedom is complicated

Being born and raised in a communist country I surely appreciate freedom. It's about the only thing that would make me demonstrate in the streets. Taking responsibility over your own choices, life and mistakes is, in principle, a good thing.
In real life though, sometimes it's a nuisance. Take for example the case of one's study fund. An avergae company works with about 5 different ones you can choose from, each with its own return history (which, BTW does not predict the future) and management fee. If you are not a capital market expert (even though I hold an MBA, I don't work in the financial field), you'd probably prefer an expert's opinion. Besides, you should follow it up every 1-2 years and hop from one fund to the more promising other. For remembering to follow it up once in, say, 2 years, you may need a PDA with your favorite calendar application. By the time you should receive the reminder, your PDA or application (or both) have been updated and the data transferred - or not. To consult an expert, you need recommendations, perhaps a meeting, phone calls and payment. Matters would be much simpler in a single study fund (or no fund) situation.
Religion makes many choices for the observant, prescribing DOs and DONTs, thus simplifying life. It also offers other benefits, such as belonging to a community. Seculars have an endless choice of communities they can belong to, but do they really? Some do, most don't. Is taking a prescribed path better than no path?
Gadgets come with options you don't use but pay for. Then you watch the flashing time display (don't tell me you don't posses at least one such electronic device). 15 years ago, when we bought the shelves for our walk-in closet, we decided to just place them on rails without screwing them in, until we decide their final position. They are still loose in their initial location, but we have the option of moving them.
Costly freedom of choice or no brainers? Your choice.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Side Story 1 - Language Choice

While you are eager to read on about my Romanian holiday, the question of the language of my blog probably crossed your mind. I speak 4 languages and English was the 3rd I encountered. How? When a was a 5th grader (Junior High) in the then 275-years old school called Liceul de Filologie si Istorie in Oradea, a new English teacher, Bucsa Corina (later Cotreantu after her husband), fresh out of univeristy, came to teach us. She was our classmaster too. I immediatley fell in love with English and decided to become an English teacher (which never happened). I still remember the cover of my first English textbook with the Big Ben on it (in communist gray).

Some of my friends and relatives speak Hungarian (my mother tongue), some only Romanian, and some, Hebrew. Most of them (especially the young) speak some level of English, which seems to be a common denominator.

Which language is spoken by the largest number of people on Earth? Not Chinese, as you would immagine, but Bad English. So this blog is also in [hopefully not so] Bad English. The problem is not the complex grammatical issues (such as present perfect or the many irregularities in English grammar), but a somewhat limited vocabulary.

Romanian vacation - trigger and preparations

Romania made a big impression on me this time. Haven't been there for a very long time (10-15 years?). The trigger was interesting, I think. It all started during lunch conversation at work. I've been asked about my relatives (of which I have very few). Why I have so few relatives is an issue for another blog post, so I won't get into that here, let's just say that WWII had a big part in it.

All my relatives are my immediate family (husband and 2 sons), 2 cousins (and their families) who live in Northern Israel (I live in the center) and another cousin, who lives in Romania. This cousin, Eva (her last name is another story for a short post in the future) and I are (or more precisely, used to be) very different. Beyond the 13 years of age difference (she is older), she has an interesting personality. So I was telling at lunch that we haven't been in touch for about 25 years. Then forgot all about this little conversation, but apparently, the topic had a mind of its own and kept lingering in the background of my brain.
A couple of weeks later, I found myself trying to look up her details on the net. Why this sudden urge to reconnect? I could have waited for her to make the first move (with the same result as in the past 25 years), but I wanted a different result. Found her phone number and simply called. She picked up the phone, was very happy to hear my voice (so was I) and we exchanged email addresses. From there on, we are back in each other's lives.
The explanation is that I figured a person with so few relatives like myself should really be in touch with them "all", otherwise it will soon be too late to do so, I'll get old and regret the years we could have been in touch but haven't. I am mature enough to cope with the personality differences between us, I can just accept her as is (and hope she can too). The time that passed made the once meaningful family issues fade away. To be truthful, I don't even remember most of them. A tall gray concrete wall grew between us and our lives parted. Different countries, different fortunes, hopes and daily struggles.
After a short debate around who is going to visit who, I've decided to travel to Romania, meet her and one of her daughters (the other one lives in the UK), pay a short visit to my father's (and our common grandmother's) tomb in the town I was born and raised in (so many words to avoid using 'my hometown'), and show my son Dan around. A 2-week vacation that included Arad (Eva's town), Oradea (mine) and its sorroundings, and the tourist places in Transylvania.
People worned me not to drive there because of the poor physical conditions and troubles that can happen, but I've decided to rent a car at Budapest airport and drive into Romania. The rental itself cost me a small fortune (the insurance is exorbitant, but most rental companies don't even allow you to take a car into Romania). Renting there is cheaper, but they don't have automatic cars, and I figured I don't need more hardships besides the unknown places and roads, not to mention that I haven't driven a shift stick car in the last 10 years.
Dan is a great navigator (in his words, GPS is an insult to his intelligence) and we are a good team together. I love spending quality time with him, he is knowledgebale, charming and hungry for new experiences. He loves planning vacation tours, spends days on researching the places on the net, reads travel guides, memorizes maps and finally comes out with a plan detailed up to the tiniest walks, interesting (and usually expensive) restaurants and nature spots.
His plan (modified by me - mostly cutting on the daily mileage) was then translated into a feasible budget. This is Peter's - my husband- speciality. Besides the tickets, maps and travel guides, I bought some presents (mostly around Israeli food and Dead Sea cosmetics), packed the cases and was ready for the adventure.