Thursday, December 31, 2009

Other Things about Where I Am

I've only gotten lost twice. Three times if you count missing the same place a 2nd time. The first time I was in the wrong lane in Jerusalem and just couldn't get over in time to go straight. I had to turn left instead. You can't actually get too lost in Jerusalem, and I figured as long as I stayed on streets large enough for a bus, I'd be ok. And then, lo and behold, I found myself exactly where I needed to be. I'm still not quite sure how, but it usually works out.

The other time was finding this lovely hotel formerly known as ETAP. With only the word "Hotel" on the outside, I passed it once on the way north, and then again looking for it heading back south. Obviously I found it eventually.

Yesterday I drove north on the Bik'a. It's one of my favorite roads. Except that it was raining, which meant that I had to drive a bit slower than I generally like. And I don't have a working radio in the car. That's actually not true. The radio works but there is no antenna. Which generally doesn't matter anyway on the Bik'a, but it was just me, myself and I on the drive up.

The drive was made a bit more interesting by seeing a dead cow on the side of the road. You might ask why I think he (or she, I didn't actually get that close) was dead. I've just never seen a cow lie down with it's legs in the air, so I figured it was safe to assume that an uncomfortable position like that wasn't going to be used by a live cow. I also saw two (live) horses on the side of the road. There were no people nearby that I could tell and they weren't fenced in. I did not see any wild boar.

The Hotel formerly known as ETAP

Last night and tonight I'm staying at a hotel called "Savyonei HaGalil". If you've never heard of it, don't worry. Nobody has. It's a non-descript building on the side of the road with a big sign on the side that simply says "Hotel". Which is why I drove by it. Twice.

What it would have been helpful to know is that this is the former ETAP Hotel. I'd never been to ETAP, but it was a noted landmark on the drive up North. Plus, it's a weird name so we all knew it.

The hotel formerly known as ETAP is interesting. There's a decent lobby, but the restaurant is two doors down in the strip mall. The rooms have a bed and a small dresser, but no chair. And the dresser is actually two small drawers with a refrigerator underneath. So maybe calling it a dresser isn't quite accurate.... And there are two wardrobes, one with a mirror on the door that is stuck in a corner between the wall and the small dresser so that you can't actually use the mirror or open the wardrobe door, and another that is between the side of the bed and the wall but has doors so wide that you can't actually open them fully or they hit the side of the bed. Not that I need to hang anything up.

I'm pretty sure that the soap dispenser in the shower is filled with water and a few drops of detergent - like what you'd blow bubbles with if you had a small plastic bottle and a wand. I didn't bring a wand or a small plastic bottle. I did not forget soap.

The biggest problem isn't the lack of actual soap in the shower, so little counterspace around the sink that there's nowhere for even my toothbrush or even that there's no elevator. It's not even that the only coffee they put out this morning was instant and decaf. It's the bed.

There are two pillows on the bed. Both have been stuffed with fluff. Lumpy fluff. I'm sure the manager of the hotel formerly known as ETAP has never slept at the hotel. Or if he did, he did not use their pillows. It's like sleeping on a really big bag of (defrosted) frozen peas. And, there is no fitted sheet. Again, this wouldn't be a problem if the sheet was large enough to actually cover the mattress. But it's not. And the space they did not cover is at the head of the bed, not the foot where I might not have even noticed. (Let's be honest, I would have noticed.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Nigerians are Back!

I checked into the Shalom Hotel yesterday afternoon and noticed that I had arrived in the middle of high-Nigerian season. There were people everywhere in matching clothes, although this time there appeared to be three different fabrics used (not all at once!). One was a red and white pattern, one is a blue and white pattern, and another seems to be a patternless light green. I'm not sure if they split the group on to their respective buses based on pattern or not, but it would certainly make knowing who is and is not in the group much easier in a crowded plaza.

This morning, I had a staff meeting at 7:45am. I was up early and figured I go to breakfast early and then be able to take notes at breakfast while everyone else ate. I was wrong. Why? Because I got there right as the Nigerians were also entering the dining hall. Needless to say, it was obvious that I wasn't with their group, and not just because I was wearing a non-patterned shirt and pants.

I should have known I would get there at a busy time. I stayed on the 15th floor. There are only 16 in the building. When I got on the elevator, there was a tall, older man in a light green robe and pants and matching hat (like a fez without the tassel). When we got to the third floor (dining room), he said, "Thank Gd!". I'm not sure how many days they were staying at the Shalom Hotel, but I think he still didn't believe that the doors would always open when they were supposed to or that he'd arrive on the floor he'd pressed the button for.

There is good news about the Shalom Hotel, and I really never expected to see this change in my lifetime. My bed had a fitted sheet on it. In all the years and nights I've stayed at this hotel, they have NEVER had a fitted sheet on the bed, much less a sheet that actually covered the whole mattress. It made sleeping there just that much scarier. I should add that I'm staying there for 8 nights next week and this was one particular thing I was already prepared to be annoyed by. There is a new manager, and maybe he tried sleeping there one night? I don't know, I don't care.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Food

I like holiday foods. I usually like them enough to think we should eat them year-round.

Like apples and honey. Why don't we eat that combination more often? It's tasty, relatively healthy, and easy. But we tend not to eat them until Rosh HaShanah begins and we don't really think about eating them after Sukkot ends. I just don't understand why.

Or latkes. Who doesn't love fried potatoes? I know it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but would it kill us to have latkes a few more times a year?

I think most people would agree that fried matza (or matza brie) is also something they enjoy and would eat more often. I think the problem there is that most people don't have matza in the house save for the seven or eight days of Passover.

Now I have to admit, as much as I love a good hamentasch, I don't need to eat them year-round. Sufganiyot (jelly donuts) fall into the same category. Having an excuse to eat them once a year is great, but they aren't a culinary necessity.

I also feel this way about Thanksgiving foods. Yes, in combination all on the fourth Thursday in November is traditional, but I'm not sure why we don't have stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes (with or without marshmallows) or green bean casserole (with fried onions) at other times also. They're good, so why not enjoy them more often?

Mainly, I think there's something programmed in our brains that just doesn't allow us to even consider these foods at other times. I have apples in the house now, in fact I bought them today. But it wouldn't occur to me to drizzle honey on them. Why would I? Rosh HaShanah is over!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Bad Read

Last night I finished The Cheater, by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg. Don't read it. Or, if you do, don't bother with the last chapter. It's like she had an got tired of writing and just decided to end the book. And it's not like she set it up for a sequel that anyone will care about, she just left a lot of loose ends.

I felt the same way about the end of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Really, he thinks that is an appropriate way to end a book a reader has just invested hours in?! For the record, it's not.

I finished a James Patterson book earlier in the week. He writes chapters that are maybe 8 paragraphs long. Maybe. But at least he ends his books in a way that ties up loose ends and doesn't make it seem like he finished writing in order to get to a dentist's appointment. (And in case Rachel is reading, I know. I know.)