Monday, January 1, 2018

Gettin' Social

A few quick photos of friends and family we've seen recently:

NEHA reunion with Morah Esther



and then with Morah  Chaya

Crazy amazing Shabbos dinner family reunion with Michael and nieces Mia, Cloe and Saige (note Grandma Barbara on Facetime in the middle!).  I do not have the words to say how great that evening was, or how thankful I am that we had it.


And, lastly, we went to the wedding of Temima's sister, Mazal (famous in our house for spending a lot of time making a heartfelt sign welcoming us when we made aliyah, and then coming to meet us with her siblings at the airport).  It was so kind of them to include us in the wedding, and we had a great time (ceremony was an A+, in all of our opinions.  Probably the best I have ever been to).


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Penina writes a Petek

Today's ulpan lesson for blog readers: the word petek means a note, ie the kind written to a child's teacher (or, in our case, some sort of odd variant of this).

To give a little background to "Penina Writes a Petek": I didn't realize when I walked into ulpan this September that my same teacher from last semester was now teaching dalet, a higher level course (which isn't even usually offered in our city); I had planned to take gimel one more time.  The course is almost over and they haven't sent me back to gimel yet, but I work really (REALLY) hard to even remotely keep up with the class.

So here is what a typical evening looks like in our home: between dropping off/picking up the girls at various extracurricular activities, I do my ulpan homework.  And pretty much every night we go through the same routine:
Me: "after I bring you home from dance, I need to focus on my homework"
Beloved Daughter: "You work too hard on that.  You don't need to do it even!  Just skip it."
Me: "I can't skip it.  I need to do it so that I can understand better what on earth we're doing in class"
Beloved Daughter: "She gives you WAY too much homework!  It's not like there's even a test.  Just skip it!"
Me: "The test is every time I open my mouth to say anything.  Now shush.  I'm trying to do my homework.  By the way, do you know what this word means?"

The other night I was *really* struggling with workbook page after workbook page (to the point that Shalom Shachne kindly took a long dinner break to be my personal tutor, after I almost threw in the towel and called a paid tutor to come help me).  When I finally finished over two hours later, Penina decided she'd had enough: "THAT'S IT!  I'm writing a petek to your teacher.  This is a ridiculous amount of work she expects you to do each night".  And she took a paper and wrote:

"To Morah (Teacher) Irit:
I would like to request that you not give so much homework to my mother.  It takes her too much time--hours sometimes.  It also makes her cranky when there is a lot of homework.
Thank you,
--Penina (age 15)
daughter of Ellen
p.s. this is also permission for her not to do all her homework"

Well, Irit had a good laugh over it .  And then (as perhaps could have been foreseen) corrected it.  Penina got a ✔➕, with some suggestions for grammatical upgrades.  Irit kept the note to share with the head of the ulpan.


And on class break (or "recess", as Ilana calls it), Irit wrote back to Penina:
"Dear Penina--Hello to you,

Your letter was very nice and caused me to smile a lot.  
Homework is not against your mother!  I want everyone to make progress and your mother is a serious student.  

How fun for your mother that she has a daughter like you!

--Morah Irit
Who gives a lot of homework"

At the end of class, Irit announced, "With apologies to Ellen's daughter, here is your homework for tonight" and gave us several workbook pages and the challenge of translating a page of text into our native language and then coming prepared to re-translate live in class and read it out loud in Hebrew.

Gotta go do my homework....








Monday, December 11, 2017

Take Two of Batsheva's Blog Post....

Hello Dear Readers,
I am doing the heretofore never-done and republishing a blog post, since Batsheva's photos didn't make it in the first time (the tech support elves here have worked hard to fix the problem and would like to take full responsibility for the techno-goof.  And the photo of her first day at Microsoft--the mix of excitement and nervousness in her eyes--is just too good to miss).  --Ellen

Hi everyone! Batsheva here with a special Seattle edition of We Made Aliyah

As many of you know, I moved to Seattle just over 2 weeks ago to work at Microsoft as a program manager (aka technical product manager). I'm working on their developer documentation, docs.microsoft.com, which recently underwent a huge transformation to become an awesome modern open-source platform backed by Github . (If none of that made sense to you, just replace it with "everything is shiny and nice now".) I'm specifically working on the user experience and user interface of the site, which is really exciting because it gives me a chance to use my visual creativity and design skills. 

Me on the first day of work. Orientation started at 7:30 AM! 

I've had a really busy 2 weeks since starting. After a half day orientation, I had a little bit of time to start setting up before jumping into a 2.5 day team training on how to use customer interviews to build and refine products. Then this past week was quarterly planning, which meant that the part of the team based in Shanghai flew in for a solid week of meetings trying to figure out what we're going to do for the next 3 months. 

In between all the meetings I have had some time to do "real work". I've written 2 small specs so far (detailed documents that specify how a feature should be built) and am gearing up to start work on some really big and cool things soon. :) 

I'm also still adjusting to working at such a big company (my previous company was about 300 people [which already felt "too big" to me], Microsoft is 124,000!). The Redmond campus right outside Seattle where I work is 500 acres. 


This was parked outside my building one morning. I asked the driver about it and he said he'd always wanted one, so he went out and bought one. :) Never let it be said that Microsoft doesn't pay well.

There's a ton of amenities on campus, including a makerspace with all sorts of tools and machines, a shopping mall, shuttles between buildings and to the city, arcade machines, restaurants, sports fields, and more. The coolest thing of all though, is…a treehouse! (3 of them, to be exact.) My team went and visited one this past week as a fun activity after our meetings. 





Outside of work, I'm still looking for a place to live along with my friend and future roommate. We're investigating the Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill areas and will probably wind up in Capitol Hill, which is an area very much like where I was living in Chicago. Hopefully we will find somewhere next week! Despite what "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" led me to believe, living in a hotel isn't that much fun.

I've also been repeatedly blown away by how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. I had never visited before my interview in October, and the first thing I thought after landing at SeaTac was that I had never seen so many trees before. The city is on the small side, but there's plenty of cool things to see and do. And the rain isn't that bad. :) (It's actually been pretty sunny the last few days!)





So far, I really love my job and the Seattle area. I'm looking forward to getting settled here!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Guest Post by Batsheva ;)

Hi everyone! Batsheva here with a special Seattle edition of We Made Aliyah

As many of you know, I moved to Seattle just over 2 weeks ago to work at Microsoft as a program manager (aka technical product manager). I'm working on their developer documentation, docs.microsoft.com, which recently underwent a huge transformation to become an awesome modern open-source platform backed by Github . (If none of that made sense to you, just replace it with "everything is shiny and nice now".) I'm specifically working on the user experience and user interface of the site, which is really exciting because it gives me a chance to use my visual creativity and design skills. 

IMG_20171127_074321.jpgMe on the first day of work. Orientation started at 7:30 AM! 7:30 AM

I've had a really busy 2 weeks since starting. After a half day orientation, I had a little bit of time to start setting up before jumping into a 2.5 day team training on how to use customer interviews to build and refine products. Then this past week was quarterly planning, which meant that the part of the team based in Shanghai flew in for a solid week of meetings trying to figure out what we're going to do for the next 3 months. 

In between all the meetings I have had some time to do "real work". I've written 2 small specs so far (detailed documents that specify how a feature should be built) and am gearing up to start work on some really big and cool things soon. :) 

I'm also still adjusting to working at such a big company (my previous company was about 300 people [which already felt "too big" to me], Microsoft is 124,000!). The Redmond campus right outside Seattle where I work is 500 acres. 

IMG_20171204_081145.jpg
This was parked outside my building one morning. I asked the driver about it and he said he'd always wanted one, so he went out and bought one. :) Never let it be said that Microsoft doesn't pay well.

There's a ton of amenities on campus, including a makerspace with all sorts of tools and machines, a shopping mall, shuttles between buildings and to the city, arcade machines, restaurants, sports fields, and more. The coolest thing of all though, is…a treehouse! (3 of them, to be exact.) My team went and visited one this past week as a fun activity after our meetings. 



IMG_20171206_164316.jpg
IMG_20171206_163717.jpg

Outside of work, I'm still looking for a place to live along with my friend and future roommate. We're investigating the Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill areas and will probably wind up in Capitol Hill, which is an area very much like where I was living in Chicago. Hopefully we will find somewhere next week! Despite what "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" led me to believe, living in a hotel isn't that much fun.

I've also been repeatedly blown away by how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. I had never visited before my interview in October, and the first thing I thought after landing at SeaTac was that I had never seen so many trees before. The city is on the small side, but there's plenty of cool things to see and do. And the rain isn't that bad. :) (It's actually been pretty sunny the last few days!)

IMG_20171126_141235.jpg
IMG_20171130_213649.jpgIMG_20171130_220953.jpg

So far, I really love my job and the Seattle area. I'm looking forward to getting settled here!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What's Cooking? A post (loosely) related to baking

Well, we already celebrated "Franksgiving" a few weeks ago, when my publicity-shy sister and brother-in-law were here (I think I'm allowed to say it was a GREAT visit, as long as I don't post photos [apologies to cousin Gil, who always says that there are not enough photos in my blog....]).

I had an interesting morning yesterday, when I got up early to cook for the Lone Soldier's Thanksgiving Dinner.  1000 soldiers who are here without family (and able to get the afternoon off, which evidently disqualified another 6000 soldiers) will be joining together for the meal.  It's quite impressive to see the loooong Google doc get slowly filled in as the weeks go by and more and more people sign up to bring parts of the meal.  50 people signed up to bring cooked whole turkeys!  I, perhaps not unsurprisingly, was not one of them.  I did, however, make two of the 25 pans of rice (much more my speed) and brownies.  Thanks to having a car this year, I am helping out two neighbors and taking their cookies and sweet potatoes up.  Teamwork!

I also baked for neighbors who had had a death in the family.  Walking down the street, I saw this taped to the wall:
This is how deaths are announced here (additionally, sometimes a car with a loudspeaker on top drives slowly around town announcing funeral details, as funerals happen here usually on the same day and many people are not on the internet either at all, or as much as their US counterparts.  Of course, I have also seen funerals announced on Facebook and via the city list-serv).

I don't really know these neighbors at all, and they are sitting shiva in another city, so I sent a cake over.  While baking, I thought to share this photo, as I find it hard to believe that this is how baking ingredients are sold here:
I have never seen boxes of baking soda (the ad campaign to pour it down your sink has not yet arrived here), and both baking soda and baking powder are sold in tiny packets.  The middle product is powdered sugar.  You need something like 1000 of them to frost a cake (to her credit, Penina pulled it off recently, when she made a cake for a girl in her school [love the school's program--when it's a girl's birthday, someone else in class makes a cake for her, rather than *her* bringing in a cake to share)
Anyway, while a kilo of white sugar is certainly not a small amount of a dangerous substance, there is nothing bigger--no "let's buy a 5 lb bag of sugar so all that Thanksgiving baking will be easily accomplished".  I also need to say that the idea of sugar in paper bags (that often leak) in a warm country is, while great for the environment, probably nicer to the local ant population than it needs to be.

A final note regarding food issues: while at a routine appointment at Hadassah Hospital yesterday, I wandered into the new mini market that had just opened.  I was surprised to see something I truly cannot imagine seeing in a US hospital:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fill 'Er Up

This blog post has taken two years to write....

In the US, I took gassing up the car for granted; it was a simple little errand that I usually did at one of the 5 or 6 gas stations that were within a mile of our house.  Self-serve and keep on driving.  Then we moved across the world and I discovered that things are not always so easy when done in a new language and in a new culture.

To begin with, there are no gas stations in our neighborhood.  The nearest gas station is either about 7 minutes away in a direction I rarely need to go in, or about 12 minutes away in the main city that my neighborhood is part of.  Okaaaay.  At least I can usually figure out an errand or two to do in the main part of town, to make it worth driving almost half an hour round-trip.

Self-service is quite different here.  Don't know your car's license plate number?  Walk around and take a look because you'll need to input it to pay at the pump.  Once you've done that, put in your national identity number.  Don't know enough Hebrew to understand the words displaying on the pump?  Head on inside to (try to) pay at the cashier.  Don't know how to say "fill it" in Hebrew?  Yeah, you need one of those phrase books from the 80s.  You may never need to say, "my friend and I are making a small dinner party and were wondering if you'd like to attend?" (my favorite phrase), but you DO need something other than waving your hands around while looking panicked and finally saying, " umm, everything on (pump) number 4" and then saying "yes" when the cashier says some sort of questioning words that you take as confirmation that she's saying "fill it?".  Invariably, the cashier then asks if you'd like to buy headphones, an electric nose hair trimmer, or a small espresso maker from the display on the counter.  Since the cashier usually points while saying this, you are able to figure out what she's talking about and politely decline.  These experiences often leave one on the verge of tears (not that I'm, erm, speaking about myself here.  Oh noooo). 

What about full-serve?  That's actually a very nice experience here--they even clean your front- and back windshields, which I haven't seen in the US since I was a kid.  Except that even full-serve has incomprehensible questions, like "Do you want the number of your license plate printed on your receipt?"  ("What?  Can you repeat that?  Say it slower, please--I don't understand why anyone would want that?!".  A gas station employee who spoke English finally tipped me off that it's in case people want to use the receipt for reimbursement or tax purposes.  This in itself was a very inspiring-yet-humbling moment--the Russian guy who works at the gas station speaks English better than I speak Hebrew.  Sigh).  The next question is something like, "Would you like to buy a package of baby wipes or an espresso maker from the display outside?"  (Israelis drink a LOT of coffee and those espresso makers seem to be everywhere).

Anyway, yesterday I gassed up at the lovely new gas station that's *halfway* to the big city.  It felt so near (and yet, frankly, still rather far to go just to get gas)!  And I did self-serve and I understood all the questions and got them all correct!  Yay!  Give the lady a full tank of gas and get her back on the road!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Choir

Short post:

Penina and Ilana are in the choir for what I'm pretty sure is the biggest English-language play production in the country.  The Zir Chemed/Regal Productions musical happens in January and sells out the 600-seat Jerusalem Theater for each of its 6 shows.  This is also the biggest yearly fundraiser for Zir Chemed a non-profit that helps couples with fertility issues.  As such, each cast and choir member is required to fundraise a page of ads for the adbook. 

Thanks to my brother-in-law Stephen's cleverness, no one need pay $50/line to join with us in wishing the girls well on all their hard work (and it has been hard work--this week the choir will be meeting at 4 a.m. to catch sunrise for a video of one of their songs!), you can just email me with your message and the amount you'd like to donate.  Don't have my private email address?  Then please ignore this message--this post is only for friends and family ;)