Monday, May 28, 2012

Strange Flights

I am sitting in a quiet cabin here in Mendocino, surrounded by shades of green. Juncos, chickadees, towhees, allen hummingbirds, stellar jays, and sparrows flit back and forth to the feeder outside the window. Yesterday evening a skunk brazenly burrowed its snout into the fertile earth. It is so remarkably quiet here, that it seems to me quite unreal that in a very short while I will be on a flight to Israel. My nephew is getting married and it is an exciting occasion. The only problem is I have to get there! The technological wonders which virtually bridge distances can not, of course, shorten the physical distance. The flight from California to Tel Aviv is 20 hours. However, it is not the length of the flight that makes it so difficult for me, it is what happens on the flights themselves. From California to Newark the flight is uneventful, crowded, but quiet. I am not people friendly while flying, preferring to read rather than converse. The Israel experience begins when we transfer at Newark airport. Flights to Israel are situated at the far end of the concourse, in a separate area. This is for safety reasons and here we go through stricter than normal security. All this is par for the course. What makes this experience different are my fellow passengers. Hordes of men in black suits and felt hats, all bearded with curled payot (forelocks) swinging to and fro. The fringes of their prayer shawls peek out under their jackets. Women in sheitels (wigs) and long skirts, many of whom flash diamond jewelry, and all of whom are pregnant, push strollers with babies. A string of boisterous little ones follow each couple. The airline attendants announce that families of six or more children should board first. Onward they go, carrying hat containers, strollers, large wheeled bags, and stuffed handbags, way more than they should be taking on board. They push and shove ignoring seat numbers which have been called. It seems, as I stand alone, in comfortable sweats, that my fellow passengers from California have either dispersed, or metamorphosed in the restrooms, donning hats, beards, and sheitels, sort of like superman in reverse. On the plane is complete chaos as the men shove their belongings overhead and walk up and down the crowded aisles greeting each other, shaking hands, looking around. Some stand in their seats, prayer books in hand. All ignore the pilot's repeated requests for everyone to be seated. Eventually in a cajoling tone peppered with threats the pilot begs for everyone to be seated. Already he has tried to insist they hand their baggage to the attendants to be put in the hold. No one heeds him. It is utter pandemonium. The harried attendants eventually get the men, women, and many many many children to sit and buckle their seat belts. The second the plane ascends and the seatbelt light is turned off, there is a mad dash for the toilets. I wonder whether there is perhaps a commandment that instructs all these people to spend most of the flight in the restrooms. When they are not using the restrooms they chat and move around even though this is a night flight and some of us have already flown a long way and would like to sleep. When I do nod off it is to be awakened by a rustling sound. I awake to the grey light of dawn filtering in and see the men all stand up, they congregate on one area of the plane facing east. They don their prayer shawls and wind the teffilin around their wrists and arms. I fear that, like a boat, the plane may overturn. The men daven, swaying back and forth, and sideways. The women stand in their seats, prayer books in hand. Once I was on such a flight, just before succot. Two women sat next to me undeterred by my open book and and unsmiling face. It turned out they were prayer warriors from North Carolina. A group of them were going to the holy land for the Feast of Tabernacles. One of the men carried a large curling ram's horn. They all wore thick gold chains with bejeweled star of david pendants. I was surrounded by a sea of insanity. Everyone had bibles and prayer books open, in Hebrew and English. I was the only one trying to read a novel, set in Los Angeles. At various intervals all got up to pray, the Hasidim on one side of the plane, and the prayer warriors, a concept I didn't get, not to be outdone, made a circle in the middle. As the flight began to descend into Ben Gurion airport an excited air of expectancy took over. The blazing heat and light of the sun filled the cabin and my two neighbors grabbed my arm, insisting that as a daughter of Israel it is my duty to return forever to the Holy Land. They gestured heavenward as the cabin filled with golden light that meant yet another heat seared day in Israel. "Even the Lord cannot contain his glory." She cried. For me, these flights have been fascinating anthropological experiences, which I no longer care to repeat. I have insisted that I leave on a Friday, when religious Jews do not travel. Evangelical Christians will hopefully, not be going at this time of the year, so I hope it will be a flight as quiet as it is here in the cabin in Mendocino.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Follow up

This is a follow up to my blogs on the weird brother and sister. "The Strange Two" as I dubbed them. The mother never did come to see the school, but she insisted she would like him to attend and stated that she didn't mind not seeing the program. The Regional Center Case Manager, myself, and the parents went to Cameron School for an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) and a transition meeting. At three years of age, which he will be in October, he will be part of the school system. All this was explained to the parents. We sat in a small, hot and stuffy office. Of course the weird two fidgeted and squirmed and fought, but in this case their behavior was understandable, as it was difficult to sit there quietly. At this meeting I noticed mother is pregnant. I have my own thoughts about this and they are not very charitable. I managed to keep my opinions to myself. After the meeting with the school district the Case Manager again told them about the program and again mother said she is fine with him coming there. We gave her the necessary paperwork to complete and I again explained that once he began at the program I wouldn't be coming to their home anymore. Per her request we agreed that I would go once more, on the following Friday. Twice she repeated Friday. I usually go on a Thursday but she had other appointments. I told her I would be there Friday at 11.30 and would take the paperwork back from her. It was arranged that he would begin in the program the following Monday. Transport was arranged and the Spanish speaking bus driver called the mother to arrange the pickup time. She left messages for her, but mother did not return her call. I had the name of the bus driver and took it with me. When I arrived at the apartment, after having climbed the steps in the burning sun, lugging the books he appeared to enjoy, and paper and a tin of crayons, and stacking blocks and a ball, no one was there. I called the mother who said 'we will be there in half an hour." I went to the 99c store and bought gifts for The Strange Two. After half an hour I returned, lugging everything with me. Still no one at home. I called mom, and she said "another half an hour." I told her I couldn't wait any longer. I gave her the bus driver's number which I also left in a written note on their door. The bus driver went there Monday morning - no one was in the apartment. It is now Wednesday and we have not heard from mother. It is no longer up to me, but I cannot help wondering what on earth happened. However, there is some balance in the universe. I have noticed that usually when I am at my wit's end, and about to quit, forever, never to return, I get referrals of a different nature. I now have two new referrals, one to a an infant boy who had a stroke in utero - this happens more often than anyone realises. He is a delight and his parents are very involved and interested in helping him. Mom actually does the things I tell her and within a couple of weeks he is making very good progress. The other referral is a 16 month old girl who was born extremely prematurely. This is also an involved family and she is coming along nicely. So, I am still here and still working!