Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"SaharaSorbonne" Couscous

It was because of a bad neighbour that I came to believe there might be some grain of truth in the saying: " you can take a man out of the desert, you cannot take the desert out of the man". The neighbor, Mr. A, was born in a small town on the fringes of the moroccan Sahara , which like some other towns and villages in that area served as a gateway to the vast desert.

[This region of Morocco is nowadays a very popular and highly exciting tourist attraction. Towns like Marrakesh, Quarzarzate , Merzouga , Zagora have become famous as starting points for treks in the Sahara desert. Here is the place where all the arrangements are made to ensure that tourists get a one-time experience which includes riding camels, feeling the dunes of sand, watching the nomads and palm grooves, sleeping in tents, and listening to the the unique stillness of the desert].

It so happened that when this neighbor was about 10 years old, a french movie producer spotted his elder sister and found her fit for the role of a native girl who could ride a camel and speak the local dialect. When the film shooting was over, he took her with him to Paris. The moroccon family followed her and settled there permanently . After graduating from Sorbonne (philosophy ?!) Mr. A couldn't 'find himself' in France, so he came to Israel, where he 'found us' and made our life a misery.

It started with the little garden which was common to both appartments: his and ours. Whatever my mother planted, he destroyed. She kept planting flowers and trees , he kept destroying them and levelling the earth. It went on to the water issue. He warned us not to"waste" water on the garden, but he shamelessly used the garden water pipe to wash his car, and there were many other things that made us unhappy, to say the least. My mother didn't want to file a complaint against him. We were afraid , he had "friends" who were apparently close to the philosophy of Sicily not to that of Sorbonne.

It was only when he started demolishing walls in his appartment, and changing his cars as often as one would change one's socks - that my mother finally understood the situation was hopeless. " It seems the man has the desert in his blood and veins" she said bitterly. "He doesn't want a garden but an arid plot, he 's restless in his appartment, he'll feel at ease only close to earth, perhaps in a tent, cars don't seem to suit him well, probably only camels will do." "But Mom, he's got a diploma from the Sorbonne university in Paris, I saw it with my own eyes." "Well , education has its limits ; it probably cannot always, if at all, change the essence of a person, only the outer layers, and in his case not even this," she said.

After her 'discovery', we felt that the only thing to do was to pray to God to help us get rid of him by way of making him consider moving to another place. God heard and accepted our prayers. . At the end of that year, Mr. A finally got tired and bored of constantly demolishing and remodelling the walls which seemed to strangle him, and moved to another building, in the center of the town. I knew where he lived so I kept away from that area to avoid bumping into him.

One day, a friend of mine wanted us to meet in a small coffee shop located in that "red zone". Although I wasn't sure the 'philosopher' was still around, I was reluctant to meet her there, but she insisted. We sat at a table outside the cafe. After we had our chat and coffee, we asked the waitress for the bill. "It has been taken care of'' she said . "What do you mean, by whom?" She looked me into the eyes and said :"By Mr. A, my boss, who wants you to feel welcome here." So, he was the owner of the coffee shop. I kind of panicked, I didn't want to see him, and didn't want his free coffee.

My friend decided to do something about it. She felt guilty for insisting on coming here, so she went into the coffee shop, thanked him, using all her arsenal of charming french words , paid the bill , brought the receipt for me to see it and calm down. When I rose from my seat intending to leave the cafe, a heavy hand pushed me back into it and a known voice in a french accent said : "You're not going anywhere without eating my couscous first"; a bowl of hot couscous ( moroccon specialty based on granules made from semolina flour) was placed in front of me.

I forgot to mention that the only good thing I remember about my former neighbor was his ability to prepare the best couscous imaginable. Well, I could never resist the temptation of eating good couscous.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What a place...to die !

Someone has recently emailed me a little something with a sort of surprise ending. Here it is:

"Two women talking in heaven"

1st woman: Hi , Wanda

2nd woman: Hi , Sylvia. How'd you die?

1st woman: I froze to death

2nd woman: How horrible!

1st woman : It wasn't so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold I began to get warm and sleepy, and finally died a peaceful death. What about you?

2nd woman: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating on me, so I came home early to catch him in the act. But instead I found him all by himself in the den watching TV.

1st woman: So what happened?

2nd woman: I was so sure that there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking for her. I ran up into the attic and searched, and then down into the basement. Then I went through every closet and checked under all beds. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere, and finally I became so exhausted I just kneeled over with a heart attack and died.

1st woman: Too bad you didn't look in the freezer - - - we'd both still be alive.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Chernobyl Curse

graffity seen in Prypiat

She looks like a shadow, moves like a shadow; it's only when you place your head into her hands and she gently starts washing it, massaging the scalp, and then styling your hair - only then does she look and sound human, a lively female creature full of energy and humor.
Ina (short for Irina) is a Chernobyl survivor.

Yes, Chernobyl- that dreadful region in Ukraine where on 26 April 1986 early morning , the most devastating nuclear disaster of all times occurred. They said the explosion in the nuclear plant, located close to the town of Prypiat at the border with the Belarus republic, was the result of faulty design of one of the reactors and mistakes done by workers.

[There will always be mistakes, ( " to err is human...") so what does that mean to us? It means that the end of the world is not utopy; all you need to make it happen , is some 'mistake' at a nuclear plant] .

Almost twenty-four years later, the affected area is still a 'dead zone' with deserted towns and villages, decaying ghost houses and high radiation which will remain high for hundreds if not thousands of years. At first, there was talk of a 30 km 'dead zone' around the plant, but as the years went by , it became clear that it was much larger, 300 km at least.
(I strongly recommend reading about it on the website elenaefimova.com It's a must).

Ina had been exposed to moderate radiation. When she arrived in Israel in 1991 she was diagnosed with two types of cancer. She claims that she's clean now of malignancy due to some unique treatment (combined conventional and alternative means) administered to her by a russian doctor living in Germany and specializing in radiation victims.

Anyway, on the day of my appointment with her, after she had finished 'upgrading' my hair , and I was above to leave the tiny hairdresser 's unit attached to her appartment, I said to Ina the following : "the person who has recommended you, told me that you are too good to be true, and I agree with every word".
"Oh , it's not me , it's my obsessive behaviour about hair", she said in surprising honesty.

It appears that as a result of her long periods of Hair Loss, side-effect of chemotherapic treatments, she has developed an obsessive need to touch and work with women's hair in its live, natural place- on the head. She's very skilled and her hairstyling is considered of high quality. Once a month she volunteers her services as a hairdresser to hospitals and aged people's homes in her area.

On that evening, I attended a festive event. A friend complimented me about the way my hair looked and asked who did it. "I'm afraid it's not Who, it's What - apparently, a 'neurobehavioral' disorder did it" said I , and told her about Ina and her confession.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tough Question

The other day I went to do some shopping at the Azrieli Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. The large mall is located in the circular tower , the tallest of the three towers composing the Complex, the other two being the square tower and the triangular tower. I hate towers , but since I was looking for a specific item and I couldn't find it anywhere else, this place was my last resort, and so I found myself standing in line for the security check at the entrance.

Nearby, a bunch of girls were giggling and trying to get the attention of a young soldier. They were repeatedly , between the giggles , humming a line from an english song:"...what a looker he was...". I was familiar with the line and the melody, but I couldn't ,at that instance, associate it with any known song or singer.

The soldier 'played it' completely indifferent, but not so the young checker who was throwing furtive glances at the girls instead of concentrating entirely on the bag content of each visitor; which made me think that under the circumstances, a smart terrorist could have had no much difficulty introducing a little cute bomb into the building . Just like in the movies, using the distraction element. But, I was wrong, a security man appeared from nowhere, approached the girls and removed them from the spot.

Anyway, when I got home it suddenly struck me: the line "...what a mover/ looker/groover" belonged to a hit song performed by the british disco singer Tina Charles. I turned to Youtube to find out stuff on her, and I was pleasantly surprised by videos from her breakthrough concert in 1976 and from her performance thirty years later.

In the mid 70's she was a young, fresh ,sweet singer, but a bit plump, voice a bit too high-pitched, hair and dress lacking any particular style. Thirty years later she is mature, but looks cool, sounds cool, displays a stylish haircut, moves graciously in a black fashionable outfit .

Who do you prefer? Tina 'a' or Tina 'b'? Tough question. That's why I vote for the orchestra conductor , "..what a mover" (LOL)...,and for the songs ("Dance little lady dance", "I love to love") which make you wish to dance regardless of where you are or what you're doing at that particular moment.

Do watch the two videos; you'll greatly enjoy it.

Tina 'a'

Tina 'b'

Saturday, January 2, 2010

No Hope at "Cape of Good Hope"

At the beginning of a New Year , along with the new plans and hopes, I tend to go back in time to review small and big happenings in my past that fall into the category of 'unfulfilled expectations' . This gives me a realistic perspective for the new year and provides me once again with an opportunity to test the saying of ' Dissapointments that don't kill you, strenghten you.'

I met Ethan (fictitious name) - a compatriot - in Cape Town, the cosmopolitan city of South Africa , the gateway to the huge african continent.
He said he was a doctor, at the beginning of his medical career, but when I tried to make conversation on the nature of his work, he changed the subject.

He was not what one would call good- looking, but there was something magnetic about him, especially about the way he spoke and moved his hands. Hands are the first thing I notice in a man, and his, were big with long, slim fingers like those of an accomplished pianist. He caught my eyes looking at them so I said, trying to sound funny, " Do you practice a lot on the piano?" "I practice a lot on dead bodies" he replied,"I'm a forensic doctor".

This came as a big shock to me, and for a few moments I felt sick. So that was it, that was the reason for his reluctance to talk about his work; Later on, he would say that he didn't mind talking about it, but he noticed I was sensitive and vulnerable ( I liked that, coming from him) and he wanted to spare me the unpleasant aspects of his profession.

During our conversation, I made an effort to look composed and behave naturally, trying to take off my mind from corpses and autopsies.. We discussed the two famous landmarks of Capetown: the Table Mountain with its flat top and sloppy sides, overlooking the city, and The Cape of Good Hope which had been named so, to mark the opening of a new hope - a sea route to India and the East.

He offered to take me the following day on a tour to these two attractions ; "no visit in the area is complete", he said, "without seeing from the top of the mountain, the spectacular views of the city and the cape peninsula with its Cape Point tip , the stunning cliffs and the rugged stretches of rock of the Cape of Good Hope, the mingling of the two oceans: Atlantic and Indian".

I accepted the offer although the weather was not friendly, and I could well imagine that it was probably windy and cold, up there on the mountain. Frankly, I was in a romantic mood, ready to get involved in a relationship with Ethan, so the weather and the anticipated wonderful scenery came second into my thoughts.

Soon after we had reached the spot , a young man approached us, and Ethan greeted him with such a big, warm hug that I stood there watching them with unbelieving eyes and a widely open mouth. Then he turned to me and said in his irresistible low voice something like: 'Meet my boyfriend and home mate ; he'll be our guide as he knows the place perfectly'.

'There goes my Romance, here comes the end of my Hope', I thought to myself, and plunged into the breathtaking beauty of the Cape surroundings.