**disclaimer: I know that my readership comes from across the religious spectrum (not just the Jewish spectrum!), so, without my taking tons of time to hyperlink everything in case you want to find out more about it, etc, how about we do a "Ramona". One of my favorite children's book characters, when she is in elementary school tries to be like her father and read the evening paper (Beverly Cleary just dated herself with that reference more than when Ribsy the dog eats horse meat....). The scene goes something like, "Ramona read that zzzzz was going to vote on the amendment to zzzzzz". So, folks, if you come across an unfamiliar concept, just be like Ramona, say "zzzzz" and keep on going :) (Extra points to someone who can correct the errors in my remembering the scene. I'm counting on you here, Kelly!)**
-----------------------Pesach was really, really lovely. Some random thoughts:
--overall, I couldn't believe how EASY it was for me to figure out which products were kosher for Passover and which weren't. Totally different from last year, thankfully. I even helped an Israeli guy who looked like he was going to cry trying to figure out if the cottage cheese he wanted to buy was okay (because the possible designations are: kosher for passover, kosher for passover only for those who eat kitniyot, kosher for passover without any worry of kitniot [I really think they should make a different designation because last year, I assumed that anything with the word kitniot on it was not for us] and kosher for passover as long as it's bought before erev Pesach.)
--loved seeing some stores that had everything labeled. Like the pharmacy that had every product labeled, including all the shampoo shelves (can't benefit from anything containing chametz, even if you're not going to eat it)
--having a car made me so much more tuned-in (of course) to things like cleaning the car. My friend went to get her car cleaned a few weeks before Pesach, on a Tuesday. They told her a price and she said that it was much higher than her sister had paid just the day before. "Ah, but today is Rosh Chodesh. Now we're so close to the holiday that we have to charge more"!
--walking around on Pesach, Shalom Shachne and I at the same time noted that every car parked on the street was so clean and shiny. He said that he had actually had a brief thought of, "wow, a lot of people have bought new cars recently", until he realized that it was just that they were all cleaned during the same time period.
--I waited in SUCH a line to get my car cleaned, except all I could do was smile since most people were not overtly religious. What a country that "everyone" cleans their car before Pesach! When I finally inched to the front of the line, I asked if I could get the lower, normal rate since my car was already quite clean (ah, the joys of NOT commuting to/from school and work. In the US, my car was basically a large pile of crumbs from Trader Joe's snack foods with some wheels holding the whole thing up). The guy agreed that my car was quite clean, but, alas, told me everyone was paying the same price these days. Oh well.
In "other-than-car" news:
--when we finally returned to ulpan yesterday, I was a little surprised to hear how everyone's family loved having only one Seder. We all still miss the second Seder, although I am not complaining at how much less work it was in the kitchen to only have one. And how nice it was to have another day of Chol Hamoed
--Great trip we went on was to "Invitation to Silence", known locally as "The Deaf Museum". Really a fascinating experience and our (deaf) tour guide was very interesting. I see why this is rated 5 stars on TripAdvisor. The trip meshed especially nicely for Chana, who is taking a sign language class now (although ASL and Hebrew sign language are different).
--for the last Yontif day, our old friend from Philadelphia, Elisha, visited with his daughter Shira. We became friends with Elisha something like 23 years ago and we became religious at the same time. Our kids last saw each other when they came from Philly for Chana's bat mitzvah seven years ago (ie. they've all changed a lot since then!), but they made an instant and strong connection and had a great time together. There is truly nothing like an old friend.....Hoping they come back in the summer so that Anabel and I can see each other, too.
--Chana is leaving Sunday ;(. But it's been great having her around :). Now we all just need to figure out what she's doing next year. She will be in college in the US, but we're not sure if she'll stay where she is or transfer to a secular college. b''H, she got into some really good ones. Now we just need to figure out living situations and finances and, overall, where the best place for her is.