Monday, September 26, 2011
More fun with Lungis
Some longtime readers may recall an earlier post I wrote about man-skirts, er, I mean Lungis.
For those who didn't read that post (and who can't be bothered to go read it now), I have become a big fan of the Indian wrap-around cotton garment known as a Lungi. I don't wear it out of the house, mind you... I just find it incredibly comfortable for sleeping and for puttering around the house on hot days.
While I was in India over the past two weeks, I availed myself of the excellent selection of Lungis and added to my small collection.
They come as a 2 (or 2.5) meter piece of colorful cotton fabric, and you have to take it to a roadside stand where a guy with a foot-treadle-operated sewing machine will stitch the ends together so you end up with a nice neat loop of fabric.
[Cute aside: One morning while I was in India, the hotel maid came to make up my room while I was still there. I answered the door wearing a Lungi and she nearly squealed with delight. She said she'd never seen a foreigner wearing a Lungi before, and that she never understood why everyone in the world didn't adopt this sensible mode of dress. I have a feeling that within seconds of her leaving my room, the entire staff had heard the story.]
When I got home on Friday, the first thing I did (after kissing my wife and kids, of course) was to get into one of my new Lungis.
Later that day, a close friend wandered over to drop off something he'd borrowed, and upon seeing my Lungi, asked "What is that?". I explained the concept, origin and background.. and he was intrigued. So much so, that he immediately asked why I hadn't brought him back one.
As you may know, I'm a giver. So I gave him one of mine... and he immediately stripped down and put it on.
When I asked him why he hadn't waited until he got home to try it on, he gave an answer that warmed my heart: He said, "because my daughter is waiting out in the car, and this is going to embarrass the hell out of her!".
There's a reason we're friends. :-)
Sunday, September 18, 2011
About 45 minutes ago north east India experienced a strong earthquake that is being reported as 6.8 on the Richter Scale. I'm just posting to say I'm fine and that I was closer to where the quake took place last week, but am safely on the opposite side of the country (in Mumbai) now.
No clear reports on injuries or damage yet as electricity and communication in the area of the epicenter have been knocked out.
Thoughts and prayers to those in the affected areas.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Know your audience
Right after Shabbat ended, I decided to go downstairs (after being stuck in my room on the 29th floor all afternoon), to listen to the piano player in the lobby (he's been with the hotel for years and is one of the highlights of my India trips).
On the way down, the elevator stopped, and a middle aged couple got on; the husband wearing a Saudi style white robe and red checkered headdress, and the wife wearing a full burka. The mesh over the woman's eyes was so thick that I couldn't tell if she noticed me, but the man gave my Kippah a good long stare before pointing his thick mustache resolutely towards the floor indicator on the front wall of the elevator.
The doors closed and we descended another few floors before we again stopped to take on passengers. This time it was a pretty, bejeweled woman wearing an elegant evening Saree (not an unusual sight at a 5 star hotel in India's largest, and most cosmopolitan city). She smiled at all of us as she swept into the elevator, and as far as I could tell, wasn't the least bit surprised at the multicultural nature of her fellow passengers.
I, on the other hand, was on the verge of wetting myself with the giggles.
The doors closed and we did that silent elevator thing where everyone tries not to breath too loudly, and looks studiously at the number indicator to try and make it go faster.
The elevator purred softly down another couple of floors and stopped again.
I wish I could tell you what possessed me, but I honestly don't know. Before the doors opened, I blurted out (it actually sounded like shouting in the confines of the stopped elevator), "I swear, if a priest gets in next, we totally have to take a group picture because nobody back home will ever believe me!"
Needless to say, nobody laughed at my idiotic joke... not even a polite smile. Okay, I have no proof that Burka lady hadn't cracked a smile, but I'm a pretty good judge of body language, and even in her linen body bag I could tell she hadn't so much as twitched her nose.
The doors opened and an older Asian gentleman in a business suit got on (he must have wandered in from another joke), and found a place for himself in the now, unbelievably uncomfortable silence of the elevator interior... and remarkably, I didn't explode into flames from sheer embarrassment before we reached the lobby.
[sigh] I really need to count to ten before giving in to the temptation to grace strangers with my warped sense of humor. Or at very least, I need to learn to read an audience better.
[I was originally going to call this post 'Bombing in Bombay', but decided that going for a witty title wasn't worth giving my wife a heart attack.]
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I know it wasn't the best planning that finds me sending anniversary wishes from half way around the world... and that dealing with Yonah's stomach bug couldn't have been much fun for you after your own international jaunt.
But I love you and miss you... and totally owe you one for dealing with a jet-lagged, cranky, almost-eight-year-old who was spewing unspeakable stuff out of both ends of his poor little body.
Happy 20th anniversary sweetie! Gotta run... happy hour starts soon at the hotel bar, and it's free drinks, snacks and a full sized pool table. :-)
[ducks and runs for cover]
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Thanks... I hadn't thought of that [glare]
As I was leaving the office this afternoon, a coworker asked conversationally where I was off to so early. I explained that I had an evening flight to Mumbai to catch, and had some errands to run before my taxi picked me up.
Without missing a beat, this guys says, "Wow, you must be brave; flying on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 ... to Mumbai!"
I honestly hadn't made either of those mental connections before he mentioned them, and it was all I could do to keep from saying something truly inappropriate. I mean seriously, how does he know I'm not terrified of flying on normal days... to destinations that have never experienced a terror attack?
After an awkward pause I simply replied, "kfotz li" [rough translation: 'bite me!'] and walked away.
Stupid should hurt!
Friday, September 09, 2011
Am I imagining it, or are inept Parkour practioners responsible for 95% of the "oh man, that had to have hurt" videos circulating on the web these days?
Seriously people... aside from seriously grossing me out, most of you are gonna end up selecting yourselves right out of the gene pool of you don't stop doing that!
[Don't know what I'm talking about? Go to YouTube and search for 'parkour fail'. If you don't end up whimpering in the fetal position after watching a few of these idiots, you are made of stronger stuff than I am.]
Parkour (sometimes abbreviated PK) is a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. Originally developed in France, the main purpose of the discipline is to teach participants how to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. Traceurs (parkour practitioners) train to be able to identify and utilize alternate or the more efficient paths. Parkour can be practiced anywhere, but areas dense with obstacles offer many different training opportunities.
Thursday, September 08, 2011
A little boy's dream
Zahava and Yonah recently flew to the US for a family simcha.
Now, Zahava's a fairly seasoned traveler. But how Yonah will handle any long journey is a crap shoot; sometimes he's great... and other times, not so much.
Zahava needn't have worried. Thanks in part to his iPad full of games, books and music, Yonah was the perfect travel companion. So much so, that he was able to completely charm his fellow travelers, as well as the flight crew.
Since 9/11, it is a relative rarity for the flight crew to extend an invitation to anyone to visit the cockpit during the flight. But apparently they were so taken with Yonah that mid-flight he was escorted up to the cockpit and was allowed to watch the pilots in action.
Zahava said that it might have been her imagination, but she sensed a bit of nostalgia on the part of the pilots for the days when they could routinely oblige the dreams of kids by giving them a glimpse of the flight deck and the people manning it. I guess when the stars align, they still occasionally like to connect with a child, and by doing so, rediscover the wonder and miraculous nature of their job.
[Before anyone asks, I am not going to divulge the airline or destination... just in case the flight crew broke any rules or laws]
Sunday, September 04, 2011
A message to our children in Poland
As I mentioned last week, both of our older children are in Poland at the moment with their spectate high school classes.
Both schools asked the parents to write a letter to their children... and asked that the existence of the letter be kept a secret so that they could be passed out on Shabbat - the midpoint of their trip - to help them through the remainder of their time in Poland.
Strangely, I was completely at a loss for words. The enormity of what I wanted to tell them completely silenced me.
Fortunately, my eloquent wife was equal to the task, and penned the following to Ariella and Gilad (the awkward references to 'your sibling' are my way of presenting a letter that was modified for each of them).
As this site is as much a repository of family lore as it is a public blog, I am including it here:
My Dearest Child:
I am writing this letter for both Abba and me. You have now completed more than half of your trip to Poland. I have no doubt that by this point, you have shed many tears and been appalled by what you have seen. This letter is intended to replace the huge hugs, the cascade of kisses, and the personal comfort we wish we could offer you at this time…..
Abba and I are both so terribly proud of you. You and your sibling have accomplished so very much in the past 8 years. You have embraced and learned a new language, a new culture, and have begun to navigate life in the world as Jewish adults. Your decision to take the Heritage trip with your school to Poland reflects maturity, and it makes us both very proud. Many of the great men and women of history have rightly pointed out that the lessons of the past are valuable tools in ensuring a better future.
Part of our decision to make aliyah was influenced by the Polish ancestry on both sides of our families. Though none of our immediate family were victim to the horrors of the third Reich or the cowardice of the countries and people they conquered, we none-the-less grew up in the shadows of this horrific chapter of world history. Both Abba and I were lucky enough to know and love some of the heroes who served in the US armed forces, and who bore witness to the genocide, and whose lives were forever altered by their experience.
Growing up, Israel – her valiant struggle to exist; her fierce courage in the face of overwhelming odds; her tenacious vitality – was a hero of mythical proportions. I can’t even imagine a world where learning about the Shoah did not end with the rebirth of our nation. It is a thought too horrible to contemplate.
Your “return” to Poland as free, proud, intelligent, and strong Israelis is a moving way to honor the memories of the six million Jews who were murdered by the Germans and their supporters. But it is your willingness and eagerness to accept the responsibilities of being an Israeli citizen that honor the present and prepare the path for a brighter future. The fact that you and your sibling – at such a young age – understand and (even more importantly) value your role as a link in the historical chain of the Jewish people – makes our hearts swell love and with pride.
We know that you have already crossed the border of childhood into young adulthood, and that you no longer need for us to shelter you completely from the scarier realities of this mortal world. This trip in and of itself represents the very worst of mankind. Both Abba and I hope that you will be able to put the purpose and lessons of this trip into the proper context of your life. We know that the trip is intended to instill a sense of responsibility and pride into the next generation of Israelis. But we also know that you already fully grasp this idea.
We hope that you use Shabbat and the remainder of the trip to reflect on the many small-but-wondrous stories of “miracle” that with some survived the atrocities. That so many survivors came out of the Shoah with hope, faith and the ability to retain their own humanity – this too is vital.
Those sparks of hope and faith – they may at the moment seem small and futile against the magnitude of what you have seen. But remember that even the tiniest speck of light is far more powerful than the dark -- even the tiniest speck of light illuminates, while the tiniest speck of dark can only dim rather than extinguish.
As you enter the glow of Shabbat, remember that you are our light. You are our hope and our love. We are with you in spirit, hugging you, loving you, and offering you understanding and support.
We miss you.
All our love,
Ima and Abba