Monday, November 24, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes

Here are just some random comments that my kids have said in the past few days....

Jonah: Mommy, when are we going to forget our English?

Me to Shu on the phone: Well, I'm on the bus but I am literally on the bottom step next to the door.
Shu: Just tell them you're pregnant and they should let you sit down.
Me: Even if I could say something, there isn't room to get to the seats.
Jonah in background: Tell Mommy to say "Yaish Lee Tenoket Babeten" and to let you sit down.
Me: Thanks Jonah for translating that. :)

Jonah: What is today called, tomorrow?
Me: Yesterday?
Jonah: Oh yah, yesterday. Well tomorrow I will tell Daddy that yesterday you read me 6 books!

(Doesn't seem like he is forgetting his English anytime soon)

As far as Sammy goes, well he says words in English but I think he has picked 2 Hebrew words up at Gan. The first is "DIE". Keep in mind, this is NOT English. In Hebrew "Die" means "Stop". He may have learned that one from his brother. And the second one which I noticed this evening after giving him some cheese, he asked for "Od" which means "More". YAY!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Out of touch

I spoke with my grandmother briefly yesterday who informed me that my aunt (who lives in Israel) told her that no one hears from me. This didn't surprise me and in fact, I had even told Shauli that I bet my aunt was telling my grandmother that I don't call. That's how it was all the other times I have been here.
Well, this time I asked my grandmother - has my aunt called me? No......
I am the one who just made Aliyah, pregnant, with my husband and 2 young children. She has been here for something like 25 years or more.
I am the one trying to deal with the medical system (both for myself and for Sammy who has constantly been sick since we arrived), the educational and childcare system, a foreign language (yes, I can have a simple conversation in Hebrew but ask me to read and understand forms, bills, and Jonah's letters from Gan - forget it!). We've been the ones without all our stuff for the past 2 months, attempting to live normally. Now that our stuff has arrived, we are trying to put our apartment into some kind of order. Kudos to Shu for that one because I don't know that I have unpacked a single box - aside from kid's clothes!
So, I want to know - how come she hasn't called to ask ME how I am doing???
The truth is, I don't expect much different. I will definitely call when I have a chance and hope to visit her and my cousins (who I haven't spoken to yet). When I see them we get along fine. But I feel like I am always the one who makes the effort.

Even though I sound bitter about it, I do feel badly. I feel badly that I just don't have the time to make phone calls. I feel like I am not only neglecting that family that is here but I haven't been well enough in touch with my family and FRIENDS back in the States. And I was the one who reassured them that sure, I'll have an American number, we can talk all the time. We just have to make the effort. Even if we don't have time for a loooong phone conversation, we just have to call and say Hey. But I haven't fulfilled my end of the bargain.

However, yesterday was an example of why I really did not even have a minute to sit down and make a simple phone call.

After being up constantly through the night because of a bad cough, and waking up a bunch of times with Jonah, because of his bad cough, I finally was woken for good by my kids shortly after 6am. Yesterday was a little different because Jonah ended up staying at home but normally, they wake me between 6 and 7am and we get up, play, get dressed, eat breakfast, and get ready for school. Then Shu and I each walk a kid to their respective schools (or sometimes Shu takes both). That's by about 8am or so. I get back, drink a Shoko in a bag for breakfast and settle in for a long day of work. I work from about 8:30am - 4:30pm, give or take an hour. Sammy comes home at 4pm and proceeds to cling to me and cry. Then I attempt to make dinner (with Sammy clinging to me) and often give up and Shu either takes over the kid or the dinner. After dinner, I either head off to Ulpan (until 9pm) or am at home getting the kids ready for bed and attempting to put them to sleep. I say attempting because while Jonah has been pretty good about going to sleep (after books and songs), Sammy has stopped going to sleep. I mean it. He just doesn't go to sleep anymore. And he's our good sleeper!!!
Last night, we thought he was out for the night at a normal hour. So I attempted to make a phone call. I left a message on a friend's machine and then called Grandma. She has a packed schedule so it's hard to reach her but I guess it was early enough in the morning that I caught her at home. We spoke long enough for her to tell me about my aunt and then Sammy started screaming. So we wrapped up that conversation and Sammy was awake until close to midnight.

So much for phone calls.

So, for all you dear and loved ones out there, I know I haven't called. Or certainly haven't called enough. But at the moment, it's just because I literally don't even have 2 minutes to sit down and breathe. it's not cuz I don't think about you and miss you and wish you were here! I look forward to hopefully the near future when Shu has a job (so I don't feel the pressure of the only income) and Sammy is adjusted and our house is somewhat in order.

Aside from that, all is well and good here. :)
By the way, if you don't have our number - drop me a line and I will send it to you!!! Then you can call me and say sit down, let's chat. :)

All the best and all my love from the Holy Land. I'll try to post pics soon! But you may want to check Shu's Facebook for that. He's better about it.....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Complaint to Omega

What do you think of this letter?

Dear Alon,

I am writing this letter to inform you of my complete and total dissatisfaction and disappointment in your service and your company. I do not ever remember dealing with a company who is handling such an important service for us, who claim to be professionals, and whose total incompetence was clear every step of the way.

When we first began dealing with you, we made constant attempts to reach either you or Tali or anyone that could assist us and failed. You did not call back, you did not e-mail back with answers to our questions, and the very few times we were able to reach you, you always had to "check on the matter" or "look into it" and get back to us. Never happened. Tali even told us that you don't check phone messages so don't bother leaving them. I remember after we paid our 25% deposit, debating canceling with your company because you were so completely unprofessional. Looking back, we should have taken the loss and switched to another company.

I imagine that someone in your position has learned something about Customer Service, despite that it's not clear in the way you handle matters. Perhaps you should go back to business school and take some of these courses. You may have heard the saying that a happy customer tells 1 friend, but an unhappy customer tells 10 friends. Experts have researched that and agree. However, these days the Internet has changed all that. Now, the unhappy customer can post intimate details about their bad experiences on blogs and message boards that reach millions of people everyday and can live on forever. I, for one, plan on not only telling at the very least 10 people, but also posting on a variety of Internet sites, Yahoo groups, Facebook groups, wherever I can reach anyone who is planning on making Aliyah. You may be aware that Olim Chadashim do a lot of networking, a lot of sharing experiances, and a lot of talking. And while yes, people want to know that someone had a good experience with a company they won't necessarily believe the good things written on the web or certainly not the "Testimonials" on your website. Those can easily be made up and "good" experiences easily posted by someone working in or for the company. But let me tell you, everyone believes the bad experiences. Why shouldn't they?

As far as Customer Service goes, I have worked in this area for a number of years and dealt with my fair share of unhappy customers. I worked in retail and people always find something to complain about. I found an important article that you should take a minute to read and try to absorb what it says:

Seeing as you don't want to take any blame for the way our case was handled, I imagine you ignored that article. But I will reiterate a few points made. The article says that sometimes it's difficult to maintain your composure when a customer is angry. But let them vent and don't interrupt. Listen carefully and with empathy. Try to rephrase the problem for clarity and ask for confirmation from the customer. Then, look for a resolution.
When my husband spoke to you last week, he was frustrated. He was tired of no one informing us of what was going on with our lift, or where it was, when it was coming, and even how do we get it??? When he spoke to you, you only seemed to be making it harder and harder for us to get our lift, as opposed to finding a solution. Yes, he lost his temper but it was not unjustified.
When I called back to ask a separate question, I was appalled at how you spoke to me!!! You spent the entire phone call ranting and raving about how angry you were that my husband spoke to you that way and how now you really didn't want to help us get our lift because of that. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. If you are upset about the way an unhappy customer talks to you, take it home with you and complain to your own wife, not to the customer's wife. I was calling so I could attempt to resolve the problem not so I could hear that your feelings were hurt. And certainly not to hear that "now you really don't want to help us". Once again, a sign of the unprofessional way that you dealt with us.

I know my husband already sent you a letter expressing his complaints. But to reiterate, our complaints are as follows:

1. It is almost impossible to reach you and has been from the beginning. You rarely answer your phone calls, don't respond to phone messages, and may occasionally "reply" to our e-mails but not with answers to the questions we asked.

2. Your failure to communicate with us. You work in a field dealing with people moving across the world. Most people have never done this before and therefore are unaware of the process. Not only that but they are in the middle of uprooting their lives, their families, and leaving everything that is familiar to them. YOU are the professional here. You are the one who knows how it all works. And you should be aware and sensitive to that. If you really do put customers first and you work around the clock, as quoted from your e-mail, then I imagine we would have been dealt with very differently. We were only aware of what was happening with our lift because of our constant phone calls to VASM here in Israel. Every time we called, it seemed another problem or delay arose.

3. Our shipping delay. As far as we are concerned, the last we heard from Tali was on September 9th which said she was attaching our shipment information - with nothing attached. I do not blame you for the strike here or for the "400 files that customs had to clear". What I do not understand is why didn't our container leave America until 6 weeks after the scheduled shipping date? How could you possibly not keep us informed of the status of our container? You should let us know when it leaves, when it is expected to arrive, let us know that it is delayed, and certainly let us know once it has arrived!!! How else are we supposed to know? This is YOUR job!

4. We were certainly aware of our open balance and had no problem paying it. You may have noticed that once we finally got in touch with you we wanted to pay immediately and the fastest way possible. All we asked for was our current balance which you had failed to provide for us until that point. I don't understand why you make it so hard to pay you ?!?! I would think you want your money and if you see an open balance, you would contact the customer to inform them. We didn't even know where our lift was, let alone when we were to receive it. If you place a hold on someone's lift, you should inform the customer of that hold. All it takes is a simple phone call or e-mail stating, your lift is on hold until you pay your balance of X amount. I was not withholding money from you. But for such a large balance, I have to withdraw from other funds and I prefer to do that at one time for the correct amount.

5. Regarding our payment, I would like my $152 returned to me for your "Credit Card Authorization fee". We requested of Liat, the accountant who one would think would be familiar with such a charge, to send us your policy on credit card payments. She seemed to be unfamiliar with this and said you would send us that policy. We are still waiting . Alon, please send that to me. We paid the first payment on credit card and that did not seem to be a problem at all. When we wanted to pay our balance, you told us about this 3% charge all of a sudden. I did some research into whether that was allowed or not and it seems that charging a 3% credit card transaction fee violates your merchant agreement. I would like my money refunded to me. And I plan on lodging a complaint against your company for this bogus charge.

6. When our lift finally arrived here in Ariel and they opened the doors, I was shocked to see 10-15 meters (according to the moving company) of unused space. Empty space that I paid for. Your initial assessment at our house claimed that we would need a 20 ft lift with all our belongings. Not only was that wrong, we brought presents and items for other people on our lift. Our total amount of things maybe would have taken half of a 20 foot lift. And since we had extra space, we would have sent some items that we were told "won't fit because our lift is completely full." We would have sent beds, our dining room table, and other items we left behind in Detroit. I cannot begin to express how furious I am regarding that. We paid thousands and thousands of dollars for that space and your screw-ups had us paying for empty space. Alon, this is unacceptable!

Once again, I am completely disappointed in Omega Shipping and especially in you, Alon Aviani. I am certain you will lose many potential customers because of your incompetence and unprofessional actions.

Natalie Zacks

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I think I titled this post "Processing" because as much as this blog is a way to inform friends and family about what's going on with us - it also helps me sort things out in my head.
What I'm thinking, feeling, what's going on. I wish I were able to just send my thoughts to the blog as I am walking somewhere or for example, tonight as I was driving home from Petach Tikvah. Thinking thoughts. :) I'll try to convey them now.

Well, one thing that I have started feeling more and more is that I really love it here in Ariel and I hope that things work out and we stay. What does that mean you wonder? If you love it, then stay. But it's not so easy. For one thing, my family has to be happy here. And for another, there are a few things that we really hope will happen in order for us to really want to stay.
We need a few more Anglo's. Young couples, maybe a couple kids, people in the same stage as we are. And most important - people that will live in our area! There were quite a few Olim Chadashim to Ariel this summer and some that already live here. And whether they are in the same stage in life as us or not isn't as much of the issue. The problem is that we Anglo's are being spread all over Ariel. Not that the place is huge. But there are in fact, 3 neighborhoods and if your kids don't go to the same Gan or we don't go to the same shul, we don't see each other. And the fact that we don't see each makes it feel like we are much more spread apart.
Now, I am not quite in agreement with Shauli who wants an Anglo ghetto. Or says he does. But I wouldn't mind just a few more Anglo's in a similar position as we are, that live closer to us.

I think that's probably the biggest issue. There are other things that we wouldn't mind being different but I think we will get that in any city.
As far as the positives, there are many. The community and people here are FAN-TASTIC. They have been so generous and helpful and we have made a lot of Israeli friends as well as making friends with the Anglo's. I love the feeling of Ariel. That we live on a mountain and are 2 minutes from a beautiful overlook. In fact, I have part of that view just sitting here at my desk, looking out the window.
I love that this is a big enough city that we have a couple bigger grocery stores (not just Makolets) and a City Center and not everyone knows your business. But not so big that I feel lost. I love that it is a 5 minute walk from Jonah's Gan and a 12 minute walk from Sammy's daycare. Which is right across from our Kupat Cholim (health care clinic). It's a 7 minute walk to Shul and if we want to make the BIG trek to town, that's about 25 minutes.
I love that I feel safe and secure in this city and that we have guards at the gate and a security fence. That they are keeping an eye on everyone that enters the city. But I love that I can leave the city and see people riding donkeys to go harvest their olive trees. I don't know why but I get SUCH a kick out of that! Donkeys, strolling down the highway.
I love that we are not too far from the other major cities. Half hour to Jerusalem (but then factor in a half hour of traffic and getting lost IN Jerusalem), 20 minutes to Petach Tikvah, 45 minutes to Modiin, 45 minutes to Netanya, 2 hours from Maalot. We're right in the middle. Granted, I may change the way I feel once we return our rental car. :)

As far as adjusting.....the adjustment is HUGE!!!!! It's not easy. I won't lie. And interestingly enough, I would say Jonah is adjusting the best. By far!! He's amazing. He had a really rough few weeks in the beginning. Probably about the first 3 weeks. And that was hard to deal with. It made me keep wondering, OMG, what did we do? But now - he's doing great! He never fails to impress me. He's making friends right and left. He already has his close buddies, his English (and Hebrew) speaking friends - Leah and Gili Shira. And his Hebrew speaking friends (NO English at all), Shachar, Yedidya, and Mevaseret. And possibly, Elimelech Avraham. I say possibly because Jonah talks about him a lot but I have never actually seen them play together. Jonah has gotten so much more comfortable with his Gan, with the language, with his friends - he has become so much more confident! A couple weeks ago, I wanted to write him a Mitzvah note to put on the Mitzvah Rimon (pomegranate). But he insisted that we don't write it. English, Hebrew, nothing. When I dropped him off, I mentioned it to his teacher and she said he was probably embarresed. Because when the kids bring in mitzvah notes, the teacher makes a BIG deal and calls them up to the front of the class and talks about what they did. Well, this Shabbat (Shabbas) Jonah was really making an effort to make Brachot on the foods he ate. Apparently , the Gan Rabbi (Harav Dadi) told them it's very important to make a lot of Brachot. It was very impressive so I asked if he wanted a mitzvah note (expecting a big NO WAY). He quickly agreed but did inform me that I would have to write it in Hebrew. AND that it would need to take up the entire page that I was writing on. :) He comes home everyday with a new Hebrew word or Hebrew song. And he adores the Gan Rabbi and never wants to be late and possibly miss "HaRav".

Sammy is having a little bit of a harder time. He finally attended his first full week of daycare last week. He cries when we get there and he cries when we pick him up. But they claim he does well during the day. They say he eats nicely, sleeps nicely, plays nicely. I was so happy when I went to pick him up today. He came to me with a biiiiig smile on his face. Instead of bursting into tears! I was so happy, I figured he must have had such a great day and he was finally getting used to being there. I picked him up and gave him a big hug, and the teacher promptly informed me that today he was biting kids ALLLLLL day long! Oh NOOOOOO! They mentioned this a different day and asked me to make sure to talk about it with him at home. But he doesn't do it at home. He pinches, if anything. But he doesn't generally bite! So how I am supposed to have a heart to heart with an 18 month old? The teachers tell me it's his age and it's because he's frustrated that he doesn't understand (they speak NO English). But I'm worried they are going to kick him out!
On the medical side of things, we took him back to the doc who declared him healthy except for the month and a half of diarrhea. His stool culture came back negative (I think) and he doesn't have a parasite. I bought a powdered Pro-Biotic and that actually got him back to normal within about a day of starting him on it. But when we skipped a day, it came back!! We see the doc tomorrow for a "Well-Baby" check up. And we'll see what he says.

Shu is doing ok. You should probably read his blog for more info on that. He's still job hunting and starting to actually get bored of sitting home all day with nothing to do. I am not sure if I should be happy for our lift to come because it will give him something to do or if I should be worried that he may be playing X-box all day instead of unpacking to keep himself busy.

I'm doing ok also. I am feeling more pregnant everyday and I think the easy part of pregnancy is over for me. I got a reprieve so I could function and make the BIG move. And now I am feeling it. Maybe twice as much. I can't believe I have another 3 months to go. On the other hand, thank G-d, I still have 3 months. Because I am TERRIFIED!!! Terrified of giving birth here, dreading another C-section, and scared to death of attempting to take care of 3 kids!! I feel my hands are full with 2. What am I going to do with a 3rd? And right now I am lucky - Shu is home with me! I don't want to think about what will happen Post-Baby and Post-Shu getting a job.

I went to the new OB today because I was seriously unimpressed with the one here. The one here was certainly more convenient!!! 12 minutes walking as opposed to 35 driving plus ?? parking! I got a recommendation for this one in Petach Tikvah. She was ok but I think Israeli doctors are just different. Really really really different. I don't see her for another 6 weeks so I guess it's not so crucial but man, oh man, do I miss Women's Health Consultants and Providence Hospital. I know the "program" there. Here I am just lost. And I won't even meet the person who will do my C-section until the day of. Let's just HOPE they speak English.
I'm having some bad back-aches (most likely pregnancy related) and am tired a lot (pregnancy or life-related). And I am just so busy. I feel like I don't have any time to myself and barely have time to breathe. The kids wake me up between 6:30-7:00 (sometimes even earlier, rarely any later). Then they need to be dressed, fed breakfast, and off to their respective schools. Usually Shu takes one kid and I take the other. It's a lot more traumatic for me to take Sammy though because he still doesn't like going. Jonah is practically ready to walk him self there! (Don't worry - it's not happening). Then I get home and start working (medical billing). I generally try to start by 8:30. I work work work and Jonah gets picked up at 1:30. Then I try to work, work, work some more. Sammy gets picked up at 4:00. He then attempts to attach himself to me for the rest of the evening. Our evening consists of trying to make dinner (with said Sammy attached), trying to get everyone to eat the dinner. And then either me or Shauli going to Ulpan from 6:00-9:00 three times a week. We just found out we will be having a Sheirut Leumi girl come to babysit on Sunday from 5:45 - 7:45 so we can both attend half a class together. :) They days it's my turn to go to Ulpan, I go and am there until 9:00. And the days that I don't go, I am home and go through the circus of putting the kids to bed. And after all that, I just want to fall over. So that explains why you in American haven't been getting too many phone calls from me. At the end of the day, I am just DONE! Heck, by the middle of the day, I am DONE!

So that's life. All in all, we're doing well. I may not have conveyed that well though. It's been frustrating not having our lift. I'm impressed with how the kids have handled not having toys. They've done well. We borrowed some train tracks from R&V so they mostly play with that. And we got them each a toy before Yom Kippur (to keep them busy) so they have a Parking Lot for matchbox cars and a big car carrier. And Jonah has a bag of dinosaurs. They've got a few books, some art supplies, and that's it for the most part.
We should be getting our lift tomorrow morning so that's exciting. And then we can officially lodge or post our complaints against our horrible, incompetent, unprofessional, shipping company.
I look forward to a few months from now. I look forward to being settled in, to getting used to how things work here (medically and otherwise), to learning the language better!!! To not feeling like such an Olah Chadasha. :) I look forward to feeling HOME.