Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Year's End

2015 is almost over.
I am deliriously happy because it has been raining! Let it rain let it rain let it rain.
At this moment in time I am so enjoying not having to go to work, but today I met a friend at the gym who had gone to see someone in North Richmond and I am reminded that I really do need to write about the children and the struggles their families face. It is so easy to ignore, or to forget amidst the consumer bombardment at this time of the year.And so, I am not big for New Year's resolutions, but I do resolve to go back to my writing.
A really close friend in South Africa has suffered an embolism, so prayers for her recovery. Prayers for all those who are sick in body and in soul. Prayers for the world we live in. Let's continue to care about our fellow travellers.
And - speaking of travel, I am off to India on Xmas day and will be back in 2016!
So happy holidays and a peaceful and healthy new year to one and all.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


What a title!

I am terrorised by Donald Trump.

When he first began his reign of terror people I know and respect found him amusing. From the beginning I saw him for what he is - a demagogue who is sewing the seeds of hatred and playing upon peoples' fears by scapegoating anyone who is not like him (as if he is an ideal because he has made money).

I am having a hard time differentiating between what is labeled an act of terror here in the States versus the all too frequent horrendous mass shootings. What are they if not acts of terror? I just don't understand why people are not terrified of people being able to buy weapons. Something in the American psyche is very off, and this man personifies it.

Wouldn't it be nice if people began to see the fear and hatred they have projected on to him comes from them.

I have unfortunately lived through different bouts of terrorism. When I lived on the kibbutz there was a spate of terrorists coming over the Lebanese border and killing people in their homes, on buses, and children on a school outing. I remember sitting on night duty in the childrens' houses talking to the woman who was on duty with me. What would we do, we wondered, if a terrorist came into the childrens' houses? They would know where to come because we sat in the only rooms with the lights on all night. We wondered whether we could jump out of the window into the bushes, but first we would have to cover the children with blankets and make it look like they weren't there. These were not idle thoughts. The terrorists did come to places where people congregated. The other thing we fantasized about is whether we could invite them in for coffee and maybe talk to them. To hear what they wanted. We wanted to know their thoughts and desires, and to understand their point of view. Mostly we wanted to hear about what they thought they would achieve by killing innocent people they didn't know. But not once did we think about destroying them.

I am scared of the present atmosphere.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I did begin a new post after I quit my job. and had surgery the day after.
Yes, what a way to begin retirement, or something new, we know not yet what! I was going to explain my comment in my previous post about work ending with a bang, but ..... guess what, I have no desire to write about it. It is over!
I had surgery the day after I finished to remove a digital mucous cyst from my left index finger. I had made grandiose plans for the days after surgery, but when I awoke in the middle of the night in really bad pain I realized I would not be doing anything for a while.
Three weeks later and I am much much better, the 'thing' is gone, and I have movement in my finger and am knitting again, so all is well with the world. (! - my immediate little world)
I do find myself wondering how the kids are faring in their new programs, and even pick up the phone to call their parents, but then I put it down again. I must let go.  The same thing when I drive to Richmond to see the doctor, or to pick up yarn. My car wants to veer off on its own accord to their homes!
So yes, I am entering a new phase of life. The change is enormous, and it will take quite a while to find my new way and to feel OK with not working. I realize that in this society  we are defined by what we do, when we are in actual fact, far more than that.
So for now, while I think about 'what next' I am content with my art classes, reading, watching movies, working out,  meeting up with friends, knitting, enjoying the season to hibernate and ....... thinking 'what next.?'

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

That's It

Yesterday, October 12 2015 (Columbus Day) I handed in my notice.

I have worked as an occupational therapist in home health and in early intervention for the past 23 years!!!!!!!!!!!!! In my prior posts I have laid out the reasons for quitting. Of course I informed my so-called supervisor, human resources etc. True to form I have not heard from them, not a word! I have heard from two people in administration, about filling in forms, etc. And so it all ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. (forgive the misquote)

Last week I was out of town, so I didn't see the children.  I returned Saturday. On Sunday I went to the mall in Emeryville, and was standing in front of the parking ticket machine when the woman in front of me turned around and smiled. "Hola" she said. It was the parents of a boy I am presently working with. For a minute I did not recognize the mom as she had on makeup and was dressed rather differently from the way she is dressed in the home. I was delighted to see them. We walked together to the elevator. The father held the boy I work with and the mother pushed her older son in a pram. The elevator was crowded and the mom asked her son "quien es?" and at first he just looked blankly at me together with all the other unknown faces. Then I saw a look of recognition in his lovely brown eyes. He smiled at me and said "eta" - his version of my name, then he reached out and hugged me.
That hug alone makes the work gratifying.
After I handed in my notice I opened up a shoebox I have that contains photos of all the families, past and present, and thank you cards from the parents, in english and spanish. I went through them, smiling with recognition of each child. This definitely softens the blow of - I am not sure how to put it - dismissal? lack of the most basic of courtesies? ignorance? disrespect? - from those 'on high.'
I have nothing but admiration and respect for each and every one of the families I have worked with. I feel honored to have been on them in their difficult journeys as parents of special needs children. I have laughed with them and cried with them, and rejoiced in each developmental milestone. I feel privileged to have been allowed into their homes and families. They are all in my heart, and I will honor them by writing about them and our work together, and their precious little ones.

Friday, September 4, 2015


How does it happen that tender jade green leaves of the watsonia are rising through the  dry brown remains of the spring flowering?
How does it happen that the leaves on my tomato plant are starting to brown and shrivel?
How does it happen that when I leave my yoga class at 8 p.m.  I have to turn on the headlights in my car?
How does it happen that I find a New Year's gift from Israel outside my front door?
How does it happen that it is a year since my visit to South Africa?
How does it happen that the street is full of parents dropping off their kids at school?
How and when did this all happen? It is already September, and I have only recently got used to writing 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The New Dimension

The evening was innocent enough.
 A friend invited me to dinner at a hip new restaurant on Folsom Street, in San Francisco. The city is changing, and along with it, so is Folsom Street. There are now ultra hip restaurants and new green lofts alongside the leather and chain joints and stores.
We ate at what I would term a modern diner. Delicious American food - a clientele of mixed  ages, colors, and genders.
Before we left I went to the bathroom. Or at least, I thought that was where I was going. I walked to the kitchen and was redirected. The friendly hostess came up to me, pointed toward a door on the side, and said the code is 0699, or something similar. I punched in the code, a green light flashed and I entered an entirely different dimension. Pitch dark, flashing strobe lights, mirrors lining the walls, earsplitting pulsating music. I remained stock still gaping, unsure of what universe I had entered. The DJ busy with switches and what have yous happened to look up and pointed towards the back of the room - I think it was the room and I think it was the back. I stumbled my way along, unsure of whether to dance, skip or walk. In the vibrating dark I felt my way right, left, right, and saw a door with  the welcome word, restroom. Inside a sign bore instructions to inform someone if you didn't like what you saw or if you felt harassed - I think it meant outside the restroom.
I then fumbled and tripped my way back. My only guiding light was the on again off again glimpse of the DJ  amongst the strobe lights and the loud insistent music and the mirrors.  Will I ever get back to the world I had exited, I wondered. I opened a door and there I was, back in the relative quiet of the decently lit diner.
I warned my friend who returned as surprised as I had been, even though he had been forewarned. I felt like Harry Potter opening an innocent door to an entirely new universe.
Things have changed in San Francisco, especially south of Market, and they weren't exactly sane before!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cherries and memories

For quite some time now I have been ruminating about the very subjective nature of memory . I was discussing this with my sister who lives in Israel. She is six years younger than me and so we have different memories of growing up in the same house.
For some reason, recently my auntie Rebecca came to mind. Ah, I know the reason. Someone in South Africa is working on a history of the Jewish families in South Africa, and my sister is in contact with this person. My sister is really the family archivist.  So we were discussing memory, and a wonderful memory bubbled to the surface of my mind. Sunday mornings in Berea with Auntie Becky. She was the mother of my dad's cousins, and about once a month we would go as a family to visit. her. I remember her flat with a long corridor along which my brother, sister, and myself would run. Auntie Becky had twinkly eyes and curly (possibly permed) grey hair. She always served us tea and these wonderful things she called 'heisenblozen' - like fried dough dipped into icing sugar. Whatever they were, she made them, and they were divine. You bit into the dough and it cracked on your tongue and you licked the icing sugar and it made everything sweet. My sister and I both remembered those things, and the taste of them. What she doesn't remember are Auntie Becky's cherries. Before we left she would take a bottle of brandy out from a closet - apparently she put cherries into this bottle. She would judiciously give each one of us children a cherry, and my parents would get two each. My memory after eating the little bomb is of sugar and fire and laughter and a warm feeling that overtook me
Why do I remember this? At this moment I have boiled together sugar, water, cardamon seeds, lemon juice and brandy and I have poured it over cherries (organic of course) which I pitted.
I cannot wait for them to be ready!

Sunday, July 5, 2015


OK - so I have not been writing a blog a week, (a promise quite recently made to me by me, and only now have I dared to put it on paper.) In my head of course, I have composed entries, but as you may have noticed, they don't get out of my head. However, I have not given up on creativity entirely. Below are examples of my artwork in chronological order. I began taking a class last year, the medium is acrylics.
These are my very first attempts at any artwork. I only discovered this new joy a year ago, and this is just one of the reasons there is not a weekly post. Hah.

Friday, June 5, 2015

So Proud

I am totally intimidated by anything to do with electricity. More than intimidated, scared.
Many many years ago in South Africa I inserted a plug into a socket, and suddenly felt something moving through my hand and fingers, a strong internal current went up my arm. Whatever it was it was not pleasant, it hurt, and I didn't know what was happening. As the current buzzed it dawned upon me that it is to do with the cord in my hands.  I released it and the buzzing stopped, but pain continued, flowing in tunnels up my arm. I haven't touched an electric cord since.
One night in South Africa my brother called me to his bedroom. He had made an exciting discovery he wanted me to see - he licked his forefinger and touched it on the burning lightbulb next to his bead - we heard a sizzling sound and saw a tiny puff of steam. This was great, he then dipped his finger into a glass of water and touched it to the bulb - sizzle, a loud bang, sounds of glass breaking, then darkness. The lightbulb had exploded, luckily neither of us was hurt.
Out of necessity I replace light bulbs and put cords into sockets, but that is it.
The other night I came home and turned on TV - nothing, just a dark blue screen with the words 'no signal' flashing. I turned it off and tried again, same thing. I held down the power button on the cable box for 10 seconds, nothing. When I called AT&T I went through the normal lengthy frustrating process of answering the machines questions, pressing appropriate buttons etc. until eventually a human voice (sort of) took over from the robotic voice. This voice asked my name and then proceeded to say Nesta after almost every word that came out of his mouth. After trying this and that he said my box (transformer? transponder? - whatever it is called) is kaput. "That is technology, Nesta."
He then said they would send me a new box and said I would have to install it myself. He's got to be kidding, I thought, I can't set up this box - I don't know an in from an out cable, and I won't touch anything with electrical cords.   He said, "Nesta, it is easy to do.  When you get the box, Nesta, log on to AT&TUVerse/fix blah blah, Nesta. Otherwise you have to pay  for installation."
He  said he would have the box sent, Nesta, and then- I paid no attention as I was no longer listening .
When the box arrived the afternoon of the beginning of the Warriors final play off games I had every intention of running out into the driveway of my home and calling out for some young child to come and help me. But everyone was in school. My male neighbors were not home either.
I opened the cardboard container and pulled out the box and different cables. At the bottom were some written instructions.
I pulled them out and scrupulously followed each and every diagram , and read every written word.
I removed and replaced the coaxial (???) and did the same with the power cord and input cord.Then I pointed the remote at the TV and ........... yahooooooooooooooooooo, it worked!!!
I am inordinately proud of myself and feel like this is one of my crowning achievements!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Far Away

Thanks so much to everyone who read the entry Back. It is difficult, I know, but not so hard as actually being detained there!
Why far away ?  I am now so far away from Israel.
It never ceases to be deeply unsettling, that feeling of being here and there simultaneously, and yet, as soon as I board the plane, the realization of the actual physical distance.
I have not been in Israel in springtime since I left, so very long ago. I always go back in the fall - Rosh Hashanah, when the countryside is brown and parched. I forgot the beautiful spring, especially this year after the winter's rains. Everything is green and lush. Every little patch of earth  is covered in flowers - in whites, oranges, reds, deep pinks, purples. To me if feels as if nature is compensating for the war of last year, and too many years past. She reminds us that there is beauty on this planet.
As always, it is so  comfortable to be with family and friends - everything familiar, and yet always different, always more ... more construction, more people, more roads...
I have not been on kibbutz for Remembrance Day since I left.  I find it very hard to put into words the feeling of being surrounded by warmth and love and belonging -  of  shared  memories, of a past that no one here in America can fathom.
And now, here I am, back with that ever constant ambivalence and dissonance. The holy trinity, Africa, Israel, America - and so it shall be.

Friday, May 8, 2015


I am back, from where? some may ask.
I went back to Israel for 3 weeks. I shall write about my visit in an upcoming blog.
What I now want to write about, most urgently, is my one day visit to Holot - a detention center somewhere in the Negev desert - a two and a half hour bus ride from Tel Aviv.
When I posted pictures from Holot on Facebook, many asked about Holot. I posted a link to a website

Please go to this site where you will read about the refugees from Sudan and Eritrea in Israel. They also have a Facebook page where you can keep up with all that is happening, including the most recent demonstrations against discrimination in Israel - this most recent round is discrimination against Ethiopian Jews.
In other words, my friends, discrimination against people of color.
This detention camp is in the middle of the desert, opposite a large military base., and a prison where some refugees have been imprisoned.  There is no protection from the brutal sun, cold desert nights, harsh sand-filled winds, even rain which has left slippery clay-like pools.
The people detained there are refugees, men who fled violence and genocide. The word in Hebrew to describe them is no longer refugees - they are known as infiltrators, obviously a loaded word.
We went down there to show solidarity, to let them know they are not forgotten, and to listen to their stories.
Nearly all citizens of Israel have fled persecution and discrimination - how is it possible that this blight is allowed in our midst?
There are valiant volunteers from Israel who do as much as they can; teaching, offering legal aid, medical services, and so on. They are not just from Israel - on our bus were NGO workers from France, the Netherlands, volunteers from America,  and various other countries.
My niece has been volunteering with these refugees for a long time now and introduced me to her friends. How these people have maintained their humanity, humor, dignity, and compassion is beyond me. Each and everyone deserves our respect and care, in whichever way we are able to offer this.
The very least we can do is be aware of their plight.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Straight from the fabled Akashic Records, (Shhhhhhh):

Time and Space is where you chase things you pretend you don't have - love, friends, and abundance - while worrying about things you pretend you do have - problems, challenges, and issues. Until one day, you happen to notice the prophetic powers of pretending.

In case that helps any.

The above is the message I received today from the universe, interesting in the light of my conundrum

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Why does one decide to walk on a different side of the street on a particular day, at a particular time, for no apparent reason?
Today I did just that, I walked by people eating on the pavement outside a cafe  - I glanced at two men eating, walked by, did a double take, and walked back toward them.
Yet again, someone I haven't seen for a long time, not someone from a distant land, but from a distant time in the here and now. A time of drinking and good food.
After I posted the last entry I received an e-mail from a friend who had read it.
Firstly, I am so happy someone looks at my entries. I only rarely get any comments, so it is like sending out posts into a vast void. I sent out that post over the baffling constructs of space and time, and not so long after I received an e-mail from someone in Jerusalem wondering if I remember that time when . . .
And yes, of course I remember.
Many years ago, in another lifetime, I lived in Jerusalem. My neighbour was from America and we spent many hours over coffee and cigarettes. listening to music, and chatting, and he told me about New York, and its boroughs. I had never been to America, and never expected to go there. But I loved to imagine all the areas he spoke about.
Cut to quite a few years later.  I lived in New York and spent weeks and months walking the streets, remembering all he had described. One day, after having been there at least 7 months, I sat down in a cafe in Greenwich Village and wrote him a long letter telling him about all my new experiences that were somehow familiar to me because of him. I went to the post office and bought an airmail stamp and posted that letter just before I got on the subway to West 4. I exited at West 4 and climbed the steps to the exit. I looked up and saw a pair of legs descending the stairs and the gait looked strangely familiar. My gaze moved from the sneakers up, and there he was, my Jerusalem neighbor!
The universe and all the creatures in it are nothing but a bunch of sub atomic particles which move around, bump into each other, and continue moving around again.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How Strange

How strange and wondrous life is. I leave for Israel in a couple of weeks.
On a ridiculously clear and warm winter's day a week ago a friend and myself strolled in a park in Point Richmond. My friend asked me whether I would be going to the kibbutz when I am there.

"Of course," I replied. I always go. I then added that what is always strange for me is how, when I am there, my other realities simply fade away. I know the people so well, and have known them for so long - Kibbutz Ein Dor was my home for eight very important years of my life, and I visit it every time I am in Israel.
So I affirmed "yes, I will be visiting." I looked around at the bay and the shorebirds and the ducks. A gentle breeze came off the water - the land is speckled with yellow, mustard flowers and invasive oxalis. I noticed a woman walking toward us who seemed to be looking very intently in my direction, not our direction. As she came closer she smiled - I looked at a vaguely familiar face, but these days all faces seem vaguely familiar to me. I smiled in acknowledgment of her smile. She looked intently again and then said in accented english
"Excuse me, are you Nesta? from Kibbutz Ein Dor?"
As soon as she said that all those years came flooding back - yes, of course I knew who she was. I knew her now deceased father, and mother, and older sister and was familiar with her younger sister. I remembered their stories. I remembered she was a musician, and someone I have not seen for 40 years.
We stood rooted to the dusty path, both of us astonished. She lives in Point Richmond, and I live in Albany. We have never seen each other.
Questions bubbled forth - 'do you remember? .... how is ?....... have you seen? how often do you go there? ... What are you doing? ....
Even stranger, I asked her whether she remembered a brother and sister from the kibbutz. Yes, of course she did, their stepmother had been pivotal in her life and instilled in her a love of music -
I told her they lived on streets parallel to the street on which I live, in Albany!
That night my dreams were of kibbutz and everyone there. We are getting together soon, and when I return from Israel all of us will get together for a kabbalat shabbat.
And now I am so excited to tell everyone on kibbutz how we met up here.
The friend I was with in Point Richmond and myself visited South Africa last year. After our reunion in Johannesburg I left for the Cape and bade her farewell until we next see each other in California.
On my last day in the Cape I went with my cousin and a friend to Kirstenbosch Gardens on a Saturday afternoon. There must have been thousands of visitors there. I stood marveling at a host of magnificent king proteas when I looked up and saw a woman with a down coat draped over her arm. She turned around and we gaped at each other - how did we met here? at this moment, in crowded Kirstenbosch gardens, when we knew that the next time we would see each other would be back in California?
These synchronistic events happen to me all the time; in London, in New York, on the Costa Del Sol, in India, in the Bahamas, and yet each and every time I am struck afresh by the wonder of it all.
It informs me that there are invisible threads which connect us all, and our reality is multi-layered, and it helps me when sometimes I feel so alone in the universe.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Addendum to Endgame

To those who read my post Endgame, you will have noted that I have four children left.
Last year and this year I have felt that I am singing the song "10 Green Bottles."  I began last year with 10 children, and the number has steadily decreased. Yes 4 children left, and I won't take anymore, that is clear, but at the risk of being repetitious, here are some more of the reasons why.
When I returned from South Africa I had 5 children I returned to. One of them began a different program, so that was 4. When I went to visit a little girl I had been seeing every week at the same time for a year and a half, her grandmother informed me, when I arrived at the home, that she was not there. The entire family (other than the grandparents) had moved to another county, Santa Clara County, to be exact. They left without so much as a by- your -leave, or a goodbye, or a gracias!  I informed the case manager who said she would look into the matter, but of course that was the last I ever heard of it.
A few weeks later the case manager asked whether I would take another child and I agreed to this one so that I would still have 4 children. I began to see a one-year old girl who lived with her extended family in Richmond. I never met the dad, which is typical. Mom seemed sweet, rather young. She only speaks spanish and on the first visit she told me her 1 year old daughter does not do anything other than sit, if she is placed in sitting, or else she lies on her back.
I told her I like to work with kids on the floor, so she did put a blanket down for me when I got there. The living room was tiny and dominated by a large couch and TV, and within a couple of weeks, a large Xmas tree .The area I had to work in was tiny, but I was used to that.The girl does not like being handled, or placed in different positions. She screams and screams, in fact she screams blue murder, and it is tough to understand whether something really hurts her, or she is used to being picked up as soon as she screams. Mom would sit there and say, 'that is what she is like,'  she screams with everyone.
On my request she gave me the number of the Public Health Nurse seeing the family, and also that of another therapist who was seeing her. I called them and left my numbers, e-mail etc. but needless to say, never heard from anyone - of course not, so much for the village. The child had an appointment with her doctor and I told the mother what questions to ask the doctor and also gave the mom my card for the doctor. On my next visit I asked mom what the doctor  said. Mom never made it to the doctor, or rather, she arrived too late for the appointment which then had to be changed to another day. Another couple of weeks passed by. I knew the mother was not putting the child on the floor, or trying any of the suggestions I had made. She either did not understand, or did not want to be bothered - it was much easier to leave her sitting or lying, and mom kept on saying 'that is what she is like.' She did eventually make it to the doctor and told me that the doctor told her she would receive a call from Childrens' Hospital Neurology Dept. to make an appt. I was relieved to hear that, some progress was being made.
At the end of my session mom said to me "I am going to Mexico"
"When, and are you going with your daughter."
"In a day's time - yes with her."
"When will you be back?"
"I don't know yet, I will call you."
That was a month ago, and I haven't heard back, and probably won't. So much for the neurology appointment. If the parents are not overly concerned, there is really nothing I can do.
I did tell the Case Manager when I saw her at a family meeting a week ago. She had no recollection of the child or her family, none at all.
Then she told me that as of January 2015 eligibility requirements for the babies are easing up,  and they will be taking babies at risk again, that is, those born prematurely,  low birth weight, etc. In other words there should be way more referrals, but they have such a backlog that they are nowhere ready to begin with new evaluations!
A home therapist called me as her case load is perilously low again. The other therapist had called me with the same concern towards the end of last year.There is nothing I can do. They have to make ongoing work related decisions themselves, because we are on our own!

Thursday, January 29, 2015


I just received a greeting card from a friend which states that what I need is a totally out-of-control, deeply significant, all-consuming passion ..... other than my hair!
My hair has been described as 'hair of an angel' 'out of control' 'medusa-like' 'unkempt' and one I like most of all - 'boing-ey.'
In this particular entry I will not describe the tortured hair years of my childhood and teenage years - I shall leave that for a future entry.
I got married at the age of 25 and had been with my husband for several years before then. To the best of his knowledge, he married a woman with straight hair. After our wedding we travelled around Europe in a VW bus. A watershed moment occurred one cold and rainy night in a camping site in Amsterdam. I had washed my hair and wound it tightly around my head, clipping it down and waiting for it to almost dry, at which point I would unclip it and wind it in reverse, so to speak. This method had always worked and my dry hair hung as straight around my face as naturally curly hair can hang i.e. with kinks at the roots, and suspicious looking grooves, just waiting for a hint of moisture in the air to spring upward and outward, and spoil the entire painstakingly wrought straight facade. That particular night it was very cold and damp and after about two hours of my hair being clipped down I realized it was never going to dry and I may die of a cold instead. I unclipped it and combed it and went to bed. When I awoke my hair stood out in an afro, which, thankfully at that time, was all the rage. Imagine my husband's shock!
That was the last time I ever tried to straighten my hair. From then on I have paid no heed to the fashions of the moment, I just let it be. However, a new problem emerged - how to keep the curls looking ok and not a frizzy mess, looking like I have just stuck my fingers in the nearest electric socket!
My life has been spent in an eternal quest for the holy grail of hair products. I am deeply ashamed to admit that I have probably spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on mousses, gels, magic potions, pomades, oils from Morocco, shea butter from Africa, coconut oils from India, magic oils from Polynesia, olive oil, petroleum, non petroleum, phthalate free, silicone-full, silicone-free, and the designer 'curly' lines which have only appeared in the last few years. All to no avail, not one of them works as promised by brilliant advertisers. Nevertheless, I doggedly persist in trying everything in my pursuit of perfection. Inevitably after one or two pumps I give them away, recycle the bottles, or just throw it all away feeling terribly guilty for adding to the landfill and general pollution of our air and our waterways.
Have I learned anything on my life quest? have I become wiser in my advanced age? have I realized that this is as elusive a journey as is the quest for the meaning of life? the elixir of youth? the holy grail? -  of course not.
So, during the recent holiday season I attended a pop-up shop in Oakland. A beautiful african american woman with perfect, shiny, curly hair, was selling products for curly hair. She painstaking described each product to me - enticing mixtures of creams and oils and essential oils, all chemical free, hand made, not tested on animals, biodegradable. I looked at the array and settled on a product that she said was a shampoo and conditioner and curl enhancer all in one - I would not need anything else. The name of this product, on a cute hand painted label in soy based ink was "Dirt." That alone should have provided me with just a hint of what was to happen, but no, I plonked down my money, and put the bottle in my bag. Just before I walked away she said "oh, I must warn you to be careful when opening the bottle, because it grows."
"Grows" - what is she talking about, I smiled politely to pacify her and left.
The next day under the shower I opened my bottle of dirt. It positively exploded - a volcanic eruption of brown lava shot up like a fountain, on to the shower curtain and walls and bottom of the tub floor of the bathroom, and continued to spew forth, unabated for at least five minutes.
I wiped up globs of lava then put it in my hair and washed and rinsed it. It felt odd, like a mixture of seaweed, slime, and .. yes, dirt - mud in fact.  It was very difficult to comb out and then when it dried - not in Botticelli curls, it stuck out in strange spikes and coils and had very hard feel to it, almost like I could, if I so desired, begin to carve at it and sculpt it.
I decided I had not read the instructions properly. I read the now runny label - no particular expertise required, just to wash and rinse the hair. If you can believe it, I tried again, the next day, after the same lavic explosion had occurred.
I had a hair appointment the following day and I sat in the chair as my curly haired hairdresser tried to comb my hair.
"It feels strange," she said, "I can't get the comb through it Can I chisel it? I am going to wash and condition this before I do anything.
I broke down and confessed to her that I had washed my hair in dirt. She shrugged and clucked sympathetically, as a naturally curly haired woman she too understands the lifelong search. After she commiserated she assured me it is ok to throw away the bottle of dirt.
I came home with my hair looking soft and shiny, full of free flowing curls and ringlets, and threw away my bottle of Dirt.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Whew, I have my evenings back.
The telenovela (or should I say miniseries) I have been glued to since my return from South Africa in October (!) had its grand finale last Monday night, January 12th 2015.
I was channel surfing one night last year when I saw the name, Pablo Escobar el Patron de Mal on KSFS. That was it, I was hooked from the moment I clicked on - every monday to friday at 9 p.m.  I put off writing, phone conversations, dates - I recorded it if I couldn't, for some outstanding reason, watch. The only productive thing I did do was knit while I watched. I knitted a baby blanket for the soon to be arrival of my nephew's baby - I knitted baby hats and finished scarves.
This miniseries was made in Colombia - where Pablo Escobar, the notorious narco trafficker, terrorized Colombians during the 80's and 90's. It was without subtitles. The spanish was Colombian - different from the spanish I am familiar with. Furthermore, it was spanish spoken by gangsters from Medellin, but somehow I followed the whole thing and soon added many new words to my repertoire: words for hitmen, bodyguards, kidnappings, extradition, "plata o plomo' - (money or lead/bullets) used by these charming people to bribe everyone from judges to journalists, police etc.
It is very violent, quite often causing me to gasp at the coldblooded manner in which they killed people, anyone - women, children, old people, judges, journalists, policemen, their colleagues whom they double crossed or tired of, brought down planes.  That is how they remained in power for so long, but I am not here to write a critique of the series, no, I am here to say that I am inordinately proud that I watched and understood.
Growing up in south africa we barely knew there was such thing as a spanish language.
I learned spanish when I began my work in healthcare, first with homebound adults, then in early intervention.
This was way before the use of apps for absolutely anything and everything. I now rely on s-translate.
I had Pimsleur learning cassettes in my car. At that time I drove long distances, to Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood - way out in East Contra Costa County. I spent so much time in my car repeating words and phrases in spanish, that within a couple of months I deemed myself ready to advance from beginners to intermediate spanish. I also attended classes in conversational spanish at Centro Latino in Berkeley.
I carried a notebook with all my other paperwork and wrote down new words. It is very interesting to scan over them now, because I can tell what subjects I was talking about with the families and caregivers. Food and recipes dominated many of our conversations, then when I began to work with the babies I quickly learned words like farts, diarrhea, constipation, diapers, pacifiers, bottles, nursing, and so on.
I remained living in the here and now for a long time. If I wanted to indicate something in the future I pointed ahead of me and for the past I gestured behind me. When I reached this juncture I decided to go to adult school to learn grammar, but quickly I understood that this is not the way in which I learn. For many people it is fine, but I simply cannot learn by reciting verbs and their exceptions, I learn through immersion, and that is how I have been learning every since, up to the point where I can follow Pablo Escobar, El Patron de Mal.
TV is a wonderful way to learn - most of the latino families - (all of them, in fact) seem to have TV on all day, a permanent background fixture. In this way I began to watch "Casos de la Vida Real" in the mornings at 11. I arranged my schedule so that I would be at a house to watch it without having to leave in the middle of the show. These were enactments of events in women's lives - mostly heartbreaking, involving domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, desperation,  somehow all very familiar and universal.
That lasted for years, but has since been replaced by "Rosa de Guadalupe" - more heartening events occasioned by the miraculous interventions of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The problem with this is I now only see a few children, just one day a week. The little girl I see at the time when Rosa de Guadalupe comes on is watched over by her father who insists on watching football!
I am not yet staying home to watch on the mornings I am not working - I have managed to stay away from spanish TV and still lead a life, attending the gym, art classes, and such, and hope I can continue to stay away - with the help of the intervention of the Virgin!