This country is bugging me

19 06 2011


Mosquitoes are amazing creatures. No really, they fascinate me. Here is an insect that is perfectly adapted for what it does. Both male and female mosquitoes live on nectar, but in the case of the female, she needs the extra protein and nutrients in blood to produce eggs. Even this I find fascinating. No, I haven’t developed a soft spot for vampires. For that I wear a garlic necklace to bed each night. This keeps the vampires away — I know because I have yet to be bitten by one.

But, garlic doesn’t work against mosquitoes, and this country has its share of them. And, so did our house.

Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide and octenol we and other animals produce. They also have a preference for victims, which explains the observation made by my well-bitten daughter that “they like me more than you!” Yes, sweetie, you are mosquito bait because you probably make more octenol than me or your mother. But, don’t feel too badly, we also are well-bitten. Each morning we would awaken with new itchy little red welts, and then suffer through the day.

Stop Tush

While scouring store shelves for a solution to keep the mosquitoes out of our sleeping chambers I came across this curious product. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, only in Israel would you find an anti-mosquito cream called: STOP TUSH.

I’m not making this up. The photo on the left is for real.

Some explaining. The Hebrew word for mosquito is yatush. With all due apologies to Hebraicists, here is my half-baked theory for this word’s origins. It is onomatopoeic, imitating the sound the ancient Israelites made when one of these bugs bit into their desert wandering derrieres. “Ya TUSH! Another one got me!”

I did not buy Stop Tush. With such a name, I just don’t see myself putting this stuff on my skin.

So, we sought and found another solution: chemical warfare. We got a plug-in device that heats up and emits some kind of repellant. This works very well, but I can only imagine what nasty chemical concoction we are breathing in. I don’t like this at all, but I like mosquito bites even less. So, we are still searching for a non-toxic way of keeping these yaTUSHim away. If anybody has some good ideas please drop them in the suggestion box (i.e. hit the “reply” button.)

Then there is the common housefly. Here at Hannaton they probabHouseflyly spend much of their time at our refet (cow shed) and then visit our house looking for all sorts of treats they can’t find among the cow pies. The Hebrew word is zvoov, which really is onomatopoeic. They come in three different sizes: small, medium and large, and they bite! Adopting a zero tolerance policy we found a device that will bring out the inner sadist even in the most dedicated pacifist. It looks like a tennis racket, but the Fly zappernetting is made of metal charged by two batteries. Even as I type this, there is a miserable, no good, demonic, useless, dirty, ugly, filthy, despicable, contemptible, wicked, evil, vile, loathsome, hideous, repulsive zvoov buzzing around my head.

Wait for it… wait for it. BzzZAAAP! I love this thing!

Mosquitoes, flies, and spiders are nothing compared to what I met one warm evening in May. It was already past sunset when I stepped out my front door. As I turned around to lock the house, out of the corner of my eye I saw something that made me want to scream. In fact, I did scream! Crawling down the wall was a 4 inch scorpion moving pretty fast toward my be-sandalled open-toed feet. Have you heard about the fight or flight reflex? Trust me, its true. In my case, flight.

“Whaa?!?!” I screeched jumping backwards. Then, slightly more composed, I found the 6 inch scorpion curiously interesting in a morbid kind of way. So, I whipped out my iPhone, snapped a pic of this 8 inch scorpion for posterity, and not wanting a 10 inch scorpion near my house, let alone in it, the fight instinct took over with one swift kick that dispatched the 12 inch scorpion to the next world with my aforementioned open-toed sandal. The mixture of “crunch” and “splat” still gives me the willies.

So, that’s the report from Hannaton today. I gotta go now, there’s another fly zvooving around me. Tennis anyone?


Duct tape nation?

11 02 2011

Israel has more companies on the tech-oriented NASDAQ
stock exchange than any country outside the US – more than all of Europe, India, and China combined. Nor is Israeli innovation limited to computers, security, and communications; the Jewish state leads the world in medical device patents, and is a strong global player in cleantech and biotech. (Excerpt from Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle)

For the last twenty-one years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Silicon Valley.  Our neighbors were Apple, Google, Facebook, Maxtor, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Intel, Cisco, Pixar…

As could be expected, when Start Up Nation hit the bookshelves it was all the buzz in “The Valley.”  And why not? An estimated 40,000 Israelis live there, and most of them are in high tech as entrepreneurs, engineers or v.c.  So, here in the start up nation itself — where innovation, invention, and out of the box thinking reigns — a lesson in improvisation was just learned.

Israel is a small country where space is at a premium. Our laundry room is no exception: a side-by-side washer/dryer is not possible.  What to do?  What to do? Go vertical, middle-aged man!

One problem, though.  The dryer has wheels and nothing to lock it into the washer.  No brackets, no screws, no nothin’.  It positively teetered.  What to do?  What to do? Aha!  The Owners Manual, which instructed:

“Do not stack the tumble dryer on top of other appliances without the correct stacking kit.”

Stacking kit?  What stacking kit?  What to do?  What to do? Why, call customer service, of course.  Purposefully, that is exactly what Anat did.  And, here is how the conversation went:

Anat: We bought a dryer yesterday and Asi the sales person helped us.  So, I asked him what kind of dryer I should get and where do you install it in our small laundry room?  He said, ‘Just put it on top of the washer.’  I asked him, ‘What if it doesn’t fit the washer?’  He said, ‘All the dryers fit on top of the washers.’  So, after it was delivered we put it on the washer, but it looks very unstable.  What do I do?

Customer Service Representative: Oh, it fits, don’t worry.

Anat: Are you sure?  It doesn’t look stable, it has wheels on the back.

Customer Service Representative: Lady, I have the same thing in my house.  It’ll be fine.  Don’t worry.

Anat: But Asi didn’t even ask what kind of a washing machine we have.  What if it falls down?

Customer Service Representative: It won’t fall down.

Anat: But the instructions say, ‘Don’t stack the dryer.’

Customer Service Representative: It doesn’t matter. Most homes in Israel have the dryers on the washers.

Anat: What if it moves?

Customer Service Representative: Just put a towel under it.

Anat: What? Put a towel?

Customer Service Representative: Of course! I put a towel between mine and its just fine!

Taking this as our cue, here is our solution…

What is the “take away” from this episode?  We just aren’t in America anymore.  Making aliyah is more than just changing geographical location, it is a very big cultural shift.  We new immigrants have to reorient our expectations.  In the U.S. a customer service representative would never tell you to stabilize your stacked dryer with a towel.  Instead, they would help you find the correct stacking kit.  Here, however, the culture is: If it doesn’t work, make it work.

And that, my friends, is what makes this country tick.

Shabbat shalom!  !שבת שלום

The sales person at the store told us, “Of course it goes on top of the washer.  No problem!”

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