Sunday, May 22, 2011

Social Skills

There were two interesting ideas in the Friday newspaper. Columnist Yair Lapid righfully said we (Israelis) are much better in making others listen to our ideas than listening to others. Columnist Dana Spector said if we don't learn from our mistakes the first time, we should at least realize there is a pattern when the same situation happens again, and use the opportunity for soul searching on why we act the way we do.

How is this related to me?
Recurring pattern 1: too much information
I suppose I'm not a great listener myself, but with a twist. Instead of being judgmental and pushing my own agenda, I am first to admit that different things are not necessarily good or bad, they are simply different, but I feel an urge to offer advice or help. It's hard for me to get the idea of people telling me their problems or difficulties just to vent and get my empathy, I always jump in with some [uncalled for] advice. Even with the best of my intentions, people are not interested to hear my advice.

Recurring pattern 2: barriers
I know I am also distant, don't open up easily to new people in my life, unless I trust they will stay and our relationship will become meaningful with time. But how can it become more meaningful if I can't overcome my barriers and give them a chance?

To put it succinctly, I am simply unable of saying the right thing at the right time. I wonder when did I lose my social skills or is this a sign of aging? Do I need professional help?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Am My Own Best Doctor

Turns out I was right when I asked my GP for the blood tests mentioned in a previous post. Some test results were way outside the norm, so I made an appointment to hear my GP's opinion on changing a drug dosage to address the problem.

He is usually overbooked and spends less than 10 minutes per patient, but had enough time (out of my 10 alloted minutes) to discuss the rightfulness of the doctors' strike and show me his wife's payslip (she is also a doctor) to prove his point (As an aside, last time he ran for city council). My lab test results were less important, how I feel was completely unimportant, his only advice being to keep a stricter diet. I asked for a second opinion (luckily I have a doctor friend) and got completely different advice. Then I set my own dosage and started to feel better within a week.

Coming to think of it, in more than 10 years I am this GP's patient, he examined me maybe a handful of times, out of which twice he took my blood pressure (always perfect BTW) to comply with a health fund regulation. He either looks at papers I bring or at the monitor. He is very helpful with paperwork, though, unless it costs the fund an extra buck.

Monday, May 9, 2011

'Perfect Balcony' Project

The house of my childhood had a fairly large garden, dominated by a majestic nut tree and populated by lots of flowers, peaches, gooseberries, grapes, strawberries, table with benches, resting chairs, cats, dog and occasional chicken.

I never had a balcony before, so planning our perfect balcony was one of my challenges after moving into the new apartment 2 years ago. My wishlist inventory included an Armenian coffee table (lower that eyebrow, I'll explain) with 2 wooden resting chairs complete with footstools and matching cushions, a small herb 'garden', a griller, a climber, a mini-citrus and wind chimes. I started with much enthusiasm, decided to report successful completion in a blogpost, and even took pictures along the way.

A colleague of mine and proud owner of an ample collection of Armenian ceramics, introduced me to this world. You'd think Armenian ceramics are to be found in Armenia. Wrong. Turns out there are none there (I can attest the weirdness), and the best place to buy them is ... Jerusalem. If you still don't believe me, just google it up! The few rival Armenian ceramic artist families in Jerusalem claim their pieces are hand made, while the others' are mass produced. I just trusted my colleague's judgement and went to visit Arman Darian's shop on 12 Shlomtzion Hamalka st., Jerusalem. The shop was crammed with lots of pieces, one more beautiful than the other. I couldn't decide which way to look, it felt like being in Hansel and Gretel of Armenian ceramics.

There was progress and there was regression. The herb garden was nice, then some herbs died. The wooden resting chairs and matching cushions are in place, but without footstools. The Armenian table by Arman featuring the seven biblical kinds [of crops in the land of Israel] was beautiful, then the varnish popped and 2 tiles cracked. The griller is there and works well and much. Never got to the climber, mini-citrus and wind chimes, but have a small olive tree in a pot.

After more than a year later, I realized I won't achieve perfection (how stupid of me to even assume I would), as the balcony project is more an ongoing process than a task with a distinct endpoint. Today it's time to decorate the balcony with flags for Independence Day. Happy birthday, Israel!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Market Dilemmas

For months we are complaining about the rising vegetable and fruit prices in the supermarket. Unfortunately, there is no market in Holon, the closest being the Carmel in Tel Aviv. As a new emigrant, this long and crowded noisy-smelly strip of oriental mess appealed to me, but I haven't been there for many, many years.

A friend who buys there often and knows the worthy stands, offered me a guided shopping tour. Armed with a short shopping list and 2 empty bags for the catch, I met him there early in the morning, to avoid the Friday crowds.

(1) Turns out that early was not early enough to find a parking spot along the sidewalk, but too early for fresh merchandise, that just started to be unpacked.

(2) The prices are better than the supermarket, but the difference is 'eaten up' by the parking fee, especially if the quantities you buy are for less than a regiment of hungry soldiers.

(3) On one hand the place is an anti-hygienic forest of tin huts, on the other hand the mess of underwear, carrots, baked goods, fish and beads living in charming proximity makes is authentic. Your shopping experience depends on they way you decide to perceive it.

(4) You can shop efficiently, visiting your regular stands owned by the merchants you befriended during the years, or wander aimlessly and experience sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Or combine the two. Whatever you chose to do, my friendly advice is stop checking the prices of items you bought, for sure the nectarines are being sold for 2 shekkels less per kilo 3 stands away. Well, actually the ones you bought seem slightly larger now...

And my bonus for today's market visit was watching the surprise flyover rehearsal for Independence Day.