Friday, November 25, 2011


Eyal and I always knew that it would be difficult building a family from two different countries. It is just now, however, that we have to really put that into practice. In about 7 weeks we leave Israel and fly back to Australia to live. Shiloh has only ever known Israel, and she is very close with her family here.

We don't know when we will be back. The idea of taking her away from the world she knows and loves here is difficult. But, of course, on the other hand, there is so much to show her in Australia. She will meet my mother! She will get to spend time with all of my friends and family. Eat the food we eat, run around in the Australian countryside. But it is hard not to realise that we are trading moments, and we will never actually bring those two worlds together, except within the walls of our own little house.

I suppose all families experience this to some degree. The breaking off from one's family home and becoming your own little unit. At the moment it feels especially painful. It also feels important to not be anticipating arriving in Australia too much. Instead we are working hard on savouring the time we have left here. All the moments that bring us closer to saying "goodbye" here and to rushing into my family's arms there are bittersweet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Baby talk

Wow, has it been over a year since I last posted?! That was quick...

I am enjoying so much watching my daughter learn to speak. My husband, and pretty much everyone else she encounters, speaks to her in Hebrew. I speak to her in English.

Just now she is having a real explosion of talking, babbling, singing, mimicking sound and generally trying out her voice (she is 20 months old). She talks to herself, her toys and her books, almost constantly. Often when I manage to tune in to what she is saying (sometimes it seems all babble and I can't understand), I hear her making commentary on things as they happen. She uses almost all Hebrew words. For example, she might be pushing herself along on her three-wheeler, she sees her bike helmet:

"Ananananananannnnn (engine noises in Hebrew!)
"Me, bike, shoes"
"Me helmet, bike, mummy" (all of this, except "mummy' in Hebrew).

She is used to riding on the back of my bike with her little helmet on, and so she associates her helmet with me, and the bike. Almost all of the words, especially news words are used in association with something else. She likes to give commentary on who is associated with what. For example, "mummy shoes", "daddy shoes", "me nose", "teddy milk" (then she gives him some milk) etc.

Recently I realised we would soon be back in Australia and rather than trying to practice Hebrew with her, I should be speaking only English so she will feel good about communicating with my family when we arrive.

Her first words were English, and to begin with almost all her nouns were English, and all her verbs were Hebrew. Hebrew baby talk is very sweet, and it involves using the infinitive form of the verb (kind of as an imperative). The stress in Hebrew is on the second (usually last) syllable of the word. The first part of the infinitive verb is always 'la' or 'le' and the second part, the stressed part of the word is the "root" which occurs in the finite forms.

So what happens is that babies end up repeating the second syllable of the verb, and thus even though they hear mostly the infinitive, she are learning the root! Very tricky! And very easy (much easier than how they teach us in the intensive Hebrew class I am learning!). Although now she is able to articulate a little better she says the entire verb:

e.g. "to come down rain" להוריד גשם
'lehorid geshem' 'It's raining'

My Hebrew is really coming along after four months of classes. I found it much harder to learn than Spanish, I think mostly because the written language is so hard to decipher (usually there is no indication of the vowels in the word, only consonant like letters). I think I learn very visually, I like to know the spelling of a word to be able to remember it. Also, because I was a sleep starved new mother, it was a double whammy of new cultural experiences.

I am enjoying pushing past the point of knowing the grammatical rules of Hebrew and being able to speak fluently. It is so exciting when some further part of your brain takes over, even if for a moment, and you feel yourself speaking fluently and understanding what people are saying to you.

It has been interesting for me to experience having the less prestigious language in social situations. Although of course I value English, for while at least, I placed higher value on Hebrew. I felt like my daughter needed to hear it and know it to function well in the society we found ourselves in. All this time I have never understood how immigrants to a new country could speak a different language, other than their mother tongue, to their child. How could they just let go of their history and culture? Not to mention their own linguistic comfort zone. I can see now, when your own language feels less relevant it is much harder to give it priority.

It's nice to sit down and write again. I will try and do it again soon!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in the saddle...

Whew! Its been a while! Over a year in fact since I last wrote here. I have been meaning to get back to it for a while, but each time I try I feel overwhelmed with how much there is to write and catch upon. In brief three months ago I moved to Israel with my husband and our 4 month old daughter (now already 7 months old!). He is working fulltime, and since submitting my PhD back in December I am a lady of leisure, no strike that, I am a fulltime mum.

We live in a small town south of Tel Aviv in a lovely old house that belongs to my Husband's family (in fact his father grew up here).

So I will consider this a "bringing things up to speed" post and now continue with small stories about little details and big dreams...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Five things I am proud of

I am going to follow yo-yo no more 's lead and try a little positive thinking...

Ok so five things I am proud of this week:

1. I got it together to go to the gym a few times, even though it is cold and I was grumpy. It was a good way to feel better in a non-guilty way (i.e. I wasn't thinking at the same time... I really should get back to working on my thesis...).

2. I really did work on my thesis! Including a presentation on cultural scripts using NSM semantics (I haven't done that for years!). On the other side of the coin, I hung in there with the LFG classes, and gained a preliminary understanding of how LFG works.

3. I forgave myself yet again for not meeting the deadlines I had set, beating myself up about it just paralyzes me into inaction.

4. I learned how to knit, (I soon hope to be knitting something that can be worn).

5. I spelled out, kind of 'read', an entire email in Hebrew, and with help from Eyal, wrote back entirely in Hebrew.

Yeah! This is a cool idea! It made me think about lots of things I have done in the last week, thoughts that weren't recriminations!

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Armidale days

The friendlies of Armidale.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Seeing through hearing

On the weekend a friend and I visited the art gallery. There was an exhibition of Brett Whiteley's works - bold and evocative and beautiful. As we stood and looked and thought, admiring detail, noticing new perspectives or symbolism, two women walked in. They were middle-aged with their arms linked together and I could hear them talking about the paintings. After a minute I realised one of the women was (at least partially) blind. She was carrying a cane with a ball and had a bandaged patch over one eye. From their conversation I could tell she couldn't hear all that well either.

I was so intrigued I couldn't help myself from eavesdropping as they stood in front of various paintings. The sighted woman would start with the title of the painting, then something about its dimensions, then she seemed to pick the most salient point (some of the paintings are so abstract there wasn't an overall 'theme' I suppose) and describe it. She described the colour and the contours, and sometimes the movement, as though she were describing it being created. She would stand in front of each painting and talk softly and continually and then after a while move to the next and start again. The other woman stood as though lost in thought, she didn't ask questions (except sometimes asking for a repeat), she just stood facing the picture listening intently.

There was something so poignant and beautiful about these two people experiencing the paintings together. And I felt inspired and curious, were they art lovers from a long time back? Did the blind woman already 'know' some of the paintings? Why choose to visit an art gallery with your blind friend? It seemed very normal and simple to them both, as though perhaps they did this every week and it wasn't a big deal.

As we left I felt inspired by people in the world and a new wonder at the power of language to provide images for people to savour and interpret.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The small moments

So a bit over two and half years ago Eyal was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In a way it is what precipitated our relationship in the real world (nothing like fear of death to make you get things done!). He had a tumour the size of a fist in his chest and a smaller one in his liver. After three months chemo he had recovered completely (I don't like the term "in remission" it seems to imply you still have the disease, and that it is just resting).

Thereafter he has had tests every three months (at first), followed by every six months. Every single one of these tests is a reminder to stick your head up and reassess- for a few moments or a few days or weeks you prepare for the possibility that the cancer is back. A parallel life starts to be conceived where our lives instantly relocate to Israel for treatment, we pull back from other tasks in our lives and start to focus intensely on fighting the cancer. In this parallel life we have to consider the possibility of death or of continued sickness. I get a feeling of resolve, and a kind of fluidity about what in my current life I would keep, and what is superfluous. It is the kind of brilliant and cruel exercise that helps keep your house in order, it helps you get ready to mobilise and let go of the non-essential parts of your life.

Today was different to the last times - just a blood test (no PET CT), Eyal knows how to read the results, and he just looks them up on the internet. We were both pretty casual about it, did our best to 'forget'. So this time there was just a couple of minutes while he looked the results up on the internet for us both to mentally prepare. A small moment - an aperture to another life opens - and then closes. The results were normal. We are back on track...
another small celebration,
another landmark,
then off to bed.