Weeks go by and I do not write a word. I am on Facebook with alarming regularity and yet I do not even "like" the comments or reactions I get from my followers. First rule of blogging - do it everyday. Well that didn't go so well.
When we first moved to Tel Aviv a close friend who had been living here for 25 years said, "Just living in Israel is a full time job". And he was right. Everything takes longer. More red tape, more forms, more misunderstandings, more holidays, more mysterious disappearances of services. So it is not entirely surprising that it has taken us two and half months to move. Not two and a half months to arrange the move, but two and half months of moving.
It all started quite innocently. Every walk we took together in Neve Tzedek ended up with my longing for a walled house. I would stare jealously through the gate of a private house and yearn to sit down at their table in the courtyard. I coveted the trees planted in the ground and not in pots.
When Ken wasn't in Tel Aviv last year I contacted a real estate agent and for six months I went from place to place never finding what I was looking for. The gentrification of Williamsburg in the nineties is a pale comparison to what is happening here. The old houses are disappearing. Neve Tzedek, the original settlement outside of the Jaffa walls which eventually became Tel Aviv is being transformed into a chic neighborhood of Paris. Properties are purchases and as much of the original structure is preserved but embedded in a super-modern Milanese style. Minimalism meets Jerusalem stone. Very cool and very, very much not what I yearned for.
Finally, one rainy afternoon I saw a little house on a little street. Such a little street (like Piglet) that it does not show up on Waze. The current house did not date to the turn of the 19th century but it did still contain some of the original walls of the original structure. It wasn't pristine and that made it perfect.
The front entrance is fashioned in a way I have never seen anywhere else. The door is Moroccan - not imported but made by the same people who made them in Morocco when they lived there. But the door is not housed in a wall. It is freestanding with a frame that includes a little roof of its own. The vendor is located a block away on Shabazi. (Sadly, he passed just a few months ago).
But fewer and fewer houses have these doors. And I was so happy to find one. Better yet, the door opens onto a tile floor. The same tile floors that have been in houses and businesses and entrances to Bauhaus buildings for a very long time.
I fell in love with the house. No one else did. We saw it five times over the course of 3 months. I thought the real estate agent was going to boot us. He really wanted us to take a newly renovated place with all the highrise amenities and a bathroom as big as a bedroom. I wasn't interested.
סוף, סוף after a few months we met with the owners. Then , back and forth for 3 weeks with the lawyer, the landlords and the real estate agency. We finally signed. Breathing a sigh of relief we announced to our friends that we were moving. Next day it struck us hard that we were now responsible for packing and moving everything that we had brought to Israel over the course of 4 years. All the containers, all the new stuff, all the old stuff and all the stuff we had been storing in the מחסים ("warehouses" - but does really describe it) since we'd arrived.
This of course doesn't sound too ominous, but any job and arranging for any service in Israel is an unpredictable and long process. Plus we had negotiated with the landlord that we could install a bathtub - a standard feature in America, but at one time a great luxury in Israel.
So we had to get a קבלן (contractor) who comes with his שיפוצניקים (workers, laborers). We needed tiles and the tub and the fixtures (price 900% higher if you get them to choose for you and then you never know what you'll get). We had to go to בני ברק (Bnei Brak) - home of Haredi, Manischewitz imports, strange lawyer offices and building supplies.
We bought a tub (which I tested by lying down in the models in the showroom). We bought a stainless steel stink because of course, we didn't like what was already in place and that resulted in Ken seriously injuring himself and requiring hand surgery (a story for another day).
We didn't like the tiles at the showroom. We decided to go and visit the family business that makes the old style concrete colored tiles that are in the courtyard. Long story short, the wait was 6 weeks minimum and we had to design the pattern. Another set of decisions, no thanks. But on the second trip to the bathtub place where we picked out the faucets etc. and actually paid, we passed a big tile store. After already spending too much money on a bathroom in a house we don't own, we were in the mood for a quick, inexpensive solution.
Not a chance. We left feeling seduced by handmade, way too expensive tiles from Morocco. Of course we decided to go this route - but.....at least we settled on only one wall. I can't say I regret it.
It is a thing of beauty and it makes having a bath exactly the sort of retreat I was craving. The קבלן (contractor) did a great job on the installation - except now the lights in the room don't work.
At the same time that all this is happening I decided that the kitchen needed to be painted. Years ago it was "countrified" - distressed paint, chicken wire glass, terra cotta tiles. Lovely, but....
I liked the blue in the Moroccan tile wall. I decided the kitchen should look the same. Not so easy. So we bought blue paint - which turned out to be electric blue - and then I got too exhausted to continue the project. We recruited Avi's partner Manolis to finish the job. We bought new paint and set him to work.
Then we went to IKEA and bought the biggest island we could create to house the excessive amount of dishes and tools I own.
No experience in the world can compare to a trip to IKEA in Israel. It is the goto place for Haredi when there is a school break and they have nowhere to occupy their broods. Hundreds, thousands of religious kids in every type of dress, jumping on the beds, eating at massive tables that seat all 25 relatives they came with and generally wreaking havoc with the scooters, the strollers and the shopping carts. Of course we had to go at פסח (Passover). We had a deadline.
Bathtub underway, kitchen being painted, packing started. Now it is time to contact the mover for a quote. Ken calls the crew that moved all his heavy equipment from the ship to the studio. Strong men. They come to give an estimate and everything is cool, except the plants. They aren't comfortable moving the plants and they think the trees with break the מנוף (crane).
Ken tells me I have to dig out all the dirt from the trees and they will move the trees and the pots separately. Also we should consider moving the plants piecemeal across Shabazi and down two blocks to the new house. We had no choice. We did it.
Moving day comes. We are not ready. The good dishes and glasses and all of the food are still in the cupboards. Ken's office is 3/4 dismantled but not packed. The Russian movers come with their rolls of saran wrap tape and they just cocoon everything. A whole life wrapped in plastic.
The movers were amazing.
Half of our belongings stay on the street while they move the first load over to the house. Avi stands guard and then has to leave. Ken nabs an acquaintance and asked him to guard our stuff for a couple of hours (Met the guy at the hand surgeon. He was next in line).
A week later the boxes are still everywhere but slowly, slowly, we start putting things away. We set up the bed and spend the first night in our room.
The kitchen island counter is now clear - not for long. We made it two blocks down the street. It took a month or so and we are both very tired but very happy to be in a house with a fountain and a garden and a clean counter top.