I’m back

For some reason yesterday I was feeling quite discouraged, and unable to write here.  Today, suddenly, I am again energized.

I want to be consistent in things, but either because of my disabilities, or because it is someone else’s will, not mine, I live on an amusement park ride in which some days I can do things, and some days I can’t, and I can never predict which it will be.

Learning to live like this has been challenging, but the results have been wonderful.  I am a happier person, better able to accept and appreciate whatever life throws at me.  My life may look pretty pathetic to some outsiders, but that is their lack of vision, not my loss.  Sometimes, on really bad days, my life looks sad to me, too.  Then I just need to remind myself of all that is wonderful in my life.  If it is a sunny day, like today, I start with the sun shining in my window.  I love the morning sun like nothing else.

Just some photos:

The Husband:

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Haifa Center חיפה מ:

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Azrieli Towers, or Azrieli Centre, as seen from the Tel Aviv – Azrieli station platform.  Not your usual view.

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Will you look at the front of that train?  It looks very odd to me, coming from an era of bullet trains and streamlining:

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בנימין – ‘Benjamin’  Although I have no idea why?  Is it a company that makes train cars, or paints them?

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If anyone has an answer to that last question, I would love to hear/read it.  Thanks.

 

Still staying home, but enjoying the view anyway.  w/c mom

Friday I went to a chocolate festival

The trip up was completely smooth.  It appears that our reservations for help to get the wheelchair on and off the trains were not forwarded to the individual train stations, but since we arrived quite early for the first train, and the station master phoned ahead to the TA – mercaz station it was all seamless.  I took the time to use the A++ wheelchair accessible bathroom at Sderot.  I wasn’t even bothered by the hand drying options.  Sometimes it is good to have nothing to complain about.  (I would insert a proper smiley here if I knew how).

It was another Friday day trip, this time my daughter Havva, and two sons, oldest and youngest, along with a family of friends – mom, pre-schooler and infant, took the 9:02 train from Sderot to the Tel Aviv – Mercaz (central) train station.  It was good for me that I finally got to see the TA – mercaz station, it is a really big one, and quite exciting with escalators and elevators all over the place and a variety of entrances and exits one of which – the one Havva said we wanted – was completely inaccessible by wheelchair.

Not to worry, though, we ended up going out the entrance which was only half a football field away and reaching the busses with relative ease (no curb cuts).  Riding on the busses was quite exciting.  There is a space reserved for a wheelchair which has a seat belt that you can only use if the wheelchair user is facing backwards.  How neat is that?  Also a padded cushion for your head to snap pack on when the bus suddenly hits the brakes – as it does.  Unfortunately the forcefulness of the busses starts, stops and turns is such that the wheelchair doesn’t *stay* in the designated space.  On one particularly special lurch two of my wheels actually left the surface of the bus.  Also the chair kept sliding outward so forcefully that my oldest son had to stand in such a way as to prevent the wheelchair, with his body, from taking off into the main aisle of the bus.  This was with the brakes on, and my brakes are good.

I’ve been told that Israeli bus drivers were originally tank drivers. I don’t know if it is true, I don’t know if it explains their driving habits, but I don’t need to ride any roller coasters here, just the busses.  🙂

In any event the chocolate festival was being held in an old train station in south Tel Aviv/Yaffo.  I didn’t, unfortunately, get any photos of the train station, but I did get of some of the chocolate sculptures, which were quite impressive.  I can’t get them posted today, hopefully tomorrow.  The old train station was a bit of a nightmare for navigating in the wheelchair, and several times one of the kids (whoever was maneuvering the w/c) had to drag it, and me, backwards across a surface that kept trapping the front wheels.

The chocolate was great.  *very big grin*

There was a free chocolate with each entry ticket purchased, very yummy, and chocolate vendors selling almost anything you could imagine, including chocolate flavoured beer.  I didn’t taste the chocolate flavoured beer myself, but I admit to a strong curiosity.

We were only there for about an hour.  For people like us, country people who are used to seeing a handful of other people a day in a general way, the crowds were quite a lot to take and we were very happy to get away from the noise after a while.  There was a little shuk outside of the festival where we were able to get something to eat and/or drink, I bought some ribbon for knitting or crocheting baskets, and youngest son E got to watch what sounds like a really good juggling display.  The descriptions were very impressive.  I may have made a new friend, as well.  We’ll see about that.

The trip home was an adventure in it’s entirety.  In the first place three tour busses had pulled up to the curb by the bus stop such that the bus couldn’t get next to the sidewalk.  This meant bumping me down into the street, and then the pull-down ramp from the bus having to reach the street level, being so steep it too a great deal of effort to get the w/c with me in it onto the bus.  The ride back to the train station was no less exciting, and complicated by a more crowded bus and us having more bags a packages then on the outward journey.  Of course we’d all bought a lot of chocolate, what else?

We did, however, arrive safely at the train station where we were able to get back inside with a minimum of fuss.  Going home it was just my family group and we were all feeling tired and maybe a bit ready to be away from each other as well.  Unfortunately, arriving a mere twenty minutes before the train was due, I didn’t dare to try and find and use the bathroom/washroom/toilets (choose your noun of preference).  Not knowing where they were, knowing the likelihood of a w/c accessible w/c being locked and or otherwise unavailable, I simply couldn’t risk it with a mere twenty minutes.  I commented to Havva that able-bodied don’t have to worry about running into such things, and she replied that they do, but infrequently, it isn’t a near certainty in ordinary travel.

We waited on the platform, me with a full bladder getting ever more insistent.  We discussed the various really bad results of having to hold on for too long.  Not in too much detail, we know too well for that.  We waited and wondered when the station personnel would come with the lift, or portable ramp.  They never did.

Of course, the train that arrived was one of those with three steep steps and the door level of the car being more than a foot below the platform.  It was bad.  My bladder was bursting.  In one of those rare miracles that people are capable of in crisis situations, I somehow managed to drag myself up the stairs, leaving the wheel chair to follow me as quickly as possible so that I didn’t fall, thank goodness.  Then another stressful scene, it was one of the ‘good’ w/c cars, but some fellow with a bicycle had parked his bicycle right in from of the w/c-water closet.  The toilet – bathroom – services – what-have-you.  I stressed.  I yelled.  Havva went down to talk to the fellow about moving his bike, but before she got there he seemed to have gotten the general flavour of the situation and moved elsewhere.  Thank goodness.

I actually managed to roll in, close the door, and transfer to the toilet without incident.  And then, well, if anyone remembers the scene in A League of Their Own, it was like that.  Pretty amazing, really, I didn’t have any idea I’d that sort of capacity.  Once or twice I though I might be done, but, I was wrong.  Not only that but suddenly I felt so much better.  I became a nicer person.  I smiled and gasped at what a difference an empty bladder made.  Fun for everyone – okay that was sarcasm – but it *is* rather funny in a way.

Then we had at least two talks with train personnel on the issue of no help having been available at the train platform.  It appears that there was a mistake made and apologies were tendered.  It was a truly unusual experience in that, in the normal way of things, no Israeli apologizes or admits fault without first exclaiming, declaiming responsibility, implying that it is somehow the injured party’s fault, and otherwise acting as if they were kindergarteners yelling ‘Not Me!’  An upfront apology and admission of responsibility almost made the rest worthwhile.  Okay, not.  But it was a nice touch.

We were met at the Sderot platform with a lift on time.  It really would be to everyone’s benefit to simply build trains that a wheelchair can roll onto.  What if I hadn’t manage to lift myself up the stairs in Tel Aviv?  It was the last train to Sderot for the whole weekend.  What if I’d fallen?  It just isn’t reasonable, sensible, logical to make each person in a wheel chair require special assistance when the trains are available with lifts built in, when the trains are accessible by people on scooters, bicycles, people with dogs ride without any special arrangements…  Israel is a small enough country that a standard could be set for platform height and for accessible cars that would be met throughout the country.

But I won’t get caught up in that endless rant.  It is endless because regardless of how sane and sensible it is to build for accessibility, it goes against the ingrained mindset of humanity.

And, after all of that, I went home and collapsed, not to leave my bed until after I’d been visited by professionals on Sunday.  And that is an entirely different rant.

w/c mom

So much to do, so little time

I’ve had so much I wanted to write here, but my life got hijacked by a wedding (my middle son is getting married in a few weeks) and various normal viscissitudes of life so here it is, another week and so many things still sitting waiting to get put up here.

Tomorrow I’m going on another short train outing, getting off at Tel Aviv Mercaz, the one station I haven’t been off on yet in Tel Aviv.  There is a chocolate festival which my daughter Havva let me know about and much of our family will be riding there.  Excitement all ’round.  The Husband isn’t coming, neither is daughter Simcha.

Our first month of free train riding expires for most of us tomorrow, so TH, Simcha and youngest son Eliyahu, and I will be recharging our ‘rav-kav’ cards along with going on  the tiyul.  Always something new around here.

And for tonight, before I dash off for the next thing I was supposed to get done at the beginning of the week, a few photos from some previous train trips.

Train pulling in to the station

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One thing I find fascinating is the windows on the lower level only just showing above the platform.  An ant’s eye view.

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And the doors opening below the level of the platform.  One of the design decisions that makes wheelchair users require assistance to board the trains

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This is Eliyahu, enjoying a spot of sunlight during our week-long train vacation

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And The Husband.  Don’t ask how long it took to grow the beard.  🙂  It’s okay, everyone does.

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More after our next trip.

w/c mom

HaShalom station, heading north

Signs at Tel Aviv: HaShalom station.  The mixed Hebrew and English can sometimes be challenging, but it is helpful for tourists and those whose Hebrew isn’t up to the job.  🙂

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A rail bed.  Nothing special, but I like how the shot turned out.

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Bicycle and wheelchair access car.  The box seen just inside the doors is a wheelchair lift, but it is not used because “not all the crew at all the stations know how to use them, so we don’t use them to avoid confusion.”  …  You can’t make these up.IMG_0736

This car is designated for bicycles but not wheelchairs.  I was put into a couple of these over the week.IMG_0737

Train entering the station.  You can sort of see the driver in the front car.

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Unfortunately my strength ran out this week, and I didn’t get out again for another train trip.  Planning on one next week and in the meantime I have more photos.

w/c mom

Friday, finished

So there we were, Friday, racing back to Sderot with all due speed.  We didn’t need to change trains, and everyone one the train wanted to get home, too.  At Sderot the lift was waiting for us and they were hurrying us out of the station with all due speed.  Very friendly, but firm.  Everyone wants to get home Friday afternoon.

I did use the water closet on that last train, and may I say it was a delight?  Plenty of room, grab bars, room to roll in the wheelchair to the sink, everything at a good height.  Okay, it wasn’t exactly clean and fresh smelling, but it was at the end of the journey at the end of the day.  The button that opens the door outside doesn’t correspond with the buttons on the wall that open, close and lock the door.  I didn’t lock the door, not even knowing how to close the door, leave alone lock it.  TH showed me afterward.  I did managed to do it all by myself, a treat for me – for those who might not appreciate it.  Why can’t they all be built like this?

We had been able to find out that the last train out of Rosh HaAyin would arrive at Ashkelon about forty-five minutes after we reached Sderot.  Time for a mad dash.  TH drove us all home to our tiny little moshav in the middle of nowhere.  He and my oldest son would do all of the last minute shabbot preparations and get the food on while I drove to Ashkelon to pick up S.  (Shhh! don’t tell, I don’t have a license.)  Since I can’t do any of the cleaning and preparations at home and I *can* drive, it was the best allocation of resources.  As a general rule I don’t drive since they took my license away.  I didn’t lose it for any reasons that preclude me driving, the office of licensing (my best attempt at translation) took it after I failed to get several doctors to fill out reports in one month during the chagim (High Holidays) last year.  In the process of rectifying that now and generally I don’t drive but this was something of a special case.

I wasn’t able to meet the train, but I got to Ashkelon with enough time to stop at a 24hour convenience store for a few bags of milk, and to dash to Netivot to pick up middle son and his fiancee.  That was the way we had figured things out but, of course, it didn’t work that way.  Several phone calls and text messages later, and *after* I had missed the turn had I been heading home, middle son texted S to say he’d gotten a ride to the moshav.  *very big sigh*

It was stressful, and manic, and a bit insane, and we drove for a long while before we could turn around, but S and I made it home in time to relax a little bit and change before lighting the candles.  The pitot that S had rescued became pita pizzas that night, and the challah was of course for all of shabbot.

The critters that prefer to sleep with me, Kitten and Chamudah (short-legged black lab cross)((dog)), were ecstatic but unbelieving.  Kitten is still clinging to me given any opportunity.  It is good to be loved.  😉

I’ve got loads more photos, and S advises me not to post to many in a single post, so those will be coming in the next few days at least.  And – I’m hoping to take another short trip at the end of this week.  Oh, the excitement!  This wheelchair mom is finally getting out of the house!  🙂

More on all that later.  Thanks for reading.

w/c mom

Unfinished Friday travels

And so I got home Thursday night, and had a wonderful night, going to bed with the excited expectation of getting up and getting back on a train the next morning.  Which we did.  Some notes that I wrote:

Sitting in the train at Sderot – it feels entirely different going for a day trip – not so much excitement, and no fear.

Watching a giggle of girls at the foyer of the car desperately hpoing they go up.  It’s a double-decker train with the wheelchairs and bicycles downstairs.

9:02 train leaving.  The firls are upstairs thank goodness – we can still hear them perfectly clearly.  We have the whole lower level to ourselves now.

It is still winter but starting to warm up a touch.  Fields in all different shades of green and freshly ploughed fields the colour of terra cotta, or brown.  We just passed Yad Mordecai.  The scenery cannot compare with the most gorgeous places on earth, or even in Israel, but it is home and it is beautiful.

Slowing down for Ashkelon literally hundreds and possibly thousands of cars parked in rows and reflecting the sun.  There is an old house with crumbling roof that is the old station house from British Mandate times.  I hope I can go see it properly sometime.

Still between fields but now iwth the occasional factory or warehouse.  Heading for kvish (highway) 4.  — And there it is on our right.

Just pulled in to Yavne – Maarav (Yavne west) station.  Realizing with a huge sense of relief we don’t have to change trains!  Yeaaa!!!  Can’t see much from the Yavne station platorm.  Maybe another time.

Takana Rishon L’tzion Mosha Dayan appears to be underground but I think it is just the massive amounts of concrete everywhere.  Yup, not underground – they built the actual station right over the tracks.  I wonder why?

Bat Yam Commiyut likewise appears underground.  Holon Wolfson has tall concrete walls but bright sunshine shining down anyway.  Very nice looking station.

Long stop at Tel Aviv Mercaz.  The only station in Tel Aviv we didn’t manage to get out and take a look at.  It looks like a train station.  🙂

***

That’s the end of my notes, but the day was filled with fun and excitement.  My youngest daughter Simcha joined us on that trip so there were four of us.  We got off at the Rosh HaAyin train station, which is nestled in a corner of a meeting of highways.  Years ago we lived just down the road, effectively, from Rosh HaAyin, and had been to the station and the shuk there more times than I can count so it wasn’t new ground.  Still, the wheelchair made a difference as did not having a car.  Leaving the station we found a taxi driver and asked for a ride to the shuk, haggling the price down from 38 to 30 shekels.  Not any kind of a big deal, except that T(he) H(usband) despite almost ten years in Israel can’t haggle to save his life.  Really he can’t.

The taxi driver turned in to the parking lot by the shuk where the handicapped parking is, thinking he would drop us there and leave, but there was an attendant at the entrance who argued with him – I guess the attendant was afraid the taxi would park there or something?  *I* don’t know.  It was in Hebrew and a typical Israeli interaction which left TH and the kids and I getting out of the taxi at the entrance to the parking lot furthest from the shuk.  The taxi driver wasn’t happy about it, the attendant wasn’t happy about it, but we figured we could walk along the sidewalk and get there so why fuss about it.

Visiting the shuk was wonderful, both for the memories, and because we were there with no constraints, no list of produce we had to buy and get home in time to prepare for shabbot.  We just wandered where we could – I took it as a sign if too many people were blocking a ‘street’ (the aisles between the stalls/shops) that we should go some other way.  We listened to music, ate pastry, I found shoes I can slip on without help that fit and don’t hurt my injured toe.  That is a long story, the injured toe, and not worth the telling.  We bought a bunch of fruit and some veg and challah and pita and we found some packages of American bagels (that’s what the package says) and bought trays and trays of fried chicken and egg rolls and potato borekes and other things I don’t know the name of that contained chopped turkey and onion rings and chicken fingers.  I’m sure there were other things but that’s a good representative sample.

We bought iced drinks, lemonana and coffee.  Lemonana is lemonade with the herb nana, which is a mint.  Very tasty.

We walked up towards the entrance to Rosh HaAyin trying to find a taxi back to the train station.  Never found a taxi, but we found a bus stop and a bus to the train station was arriving shortly, so there we waited.  The bus was more of a very large van.  It was ‘handicapped accessible’ in that there was a piece of the floor which could be lifted on hinges and laid down to form a ramp.  The person in the wheelchair has to sit backwards to use the seatbelts.  I chose to sit forwards which required some extra maneuvering of the wheelchair but gave me a less unpleasant ride, even though I couldn’t face any of my family members who were riding behind me.

At the train station we took our chicken and eggrolls and borekes and, … and found a nice place to sit in the sun and have a picnic.  The fried chicken is really excellent and is a reason to go to the shuk all by itself.  My taste buds may be a bit effected by living almost ten years in Israel, but I have to tell you that fried chicken is not something that is easy to find here and so finding good fried chicken is no small thing.

We cleaned up after ourselves, entered the train station and boarded the train, heading towards home.  We hadn’t been more than a few minutes along our way when an extremely upset train conductor came up to us asking if we had left bags behind at the Rosh HaAyin station.  Forgetting your bags in Israel is extremely serious.  There is too much history here of people finding bombs in wallets, bags, and even bread left lying around in places like busses and train stations.  Son E was holding the bags with the picnic and the bread and had forgotten to take them in the dash to get me on the train.

Add to that we were on the last train to Sderot, and it was late enough on a Friday that we couldn’t just go to another bakery to buy the challah and pitot (pita, plural), and it was really a bit of a pickle.  I thought quickly and asked daughter S if she would get off the train at the next stop, go back up to Rosh HaAyin to get the bags, and take the next (last) train from Rosh HaAyin.  We had no idea how far that last train went or how we would pick her up.  The train conductor’s brow cleared at that.  The forgotten bags were no longer a problem, for him.

TH and E and I continued the ride back to Sderot with no further excitement but that of trying to figure out how we would manage with one car and very little time before sundown and my middle son wanting to be picked up from Netivot and TH and the food that we had needing to get home to have some time to prepare for shabbot and somehow having to be able to get S from wherever she was going to end up.

***

And I’ll have to finish this another day, as it is time to study Hebrew.  L’hitra’ot,

w/c mom

‘Accessible’ bathroom on a train

Riding north on the very first day:

Not very exciting, a toilet on a train.

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And here’s the sink, oh boy.

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So here’s the interesting part – getting the w/c user from the wheelchair to the toilet…  I suppose if you were very thin…IMG_0520

The automatic door to the water closet

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The button opens, but doesn’t close, the door

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