Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome to the Food Desert--Do You Know Where You Are?

OK, so, you say, "Balabusta, you're being ridiculous. El Cerrito is not a food desert."

This is true. We are not, by any stretch, 'a poor urban area where residents cannot access nourishing food', or whatever the formal definition is. We're not even a mile from the nearest giant supermarket. I know all of this. But I'm still in kind of a bind, because the Safeway closed.

The Safeway was two blocks from our house, and it was extremely convenient, and then they closed it. Our current sources of food are:

1. The new Safeway, which is gigantic and beautiful, and only three-quarters of a mile north of us.

2. The Lucky's and Trader Joe's at the Plaza, once again, a little less than a mile to the south of us.

3. Giovanni's, the adorable little family-owned place, about half a mile from the house.

No problem, except that we still have no working vehicle. So, taking the bus to the store, or walking, taking the bus back, or lugging, or going to Giovanni's which has cheap, gorgeous local produce, but prices everything else through the roof. Perfection.

We're going to order delivery from Safeway, and just do the best we can...but this is reminding me once again that I'm going on a decade of being determined to get a car and learn to drive, or maybe vice versa.

I feel a fool for not having done this, but there things going on, and also financial problems all along. But something's got to give. I cannot live carless in the burbs, and I can't afford to move back into San Francisco. So there it is.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Getting ready for Monday

On Monday, my new pair of classes start. I'm taking Psychopathology and Counseling Children. I'm hoping for an interesting session.

I'm still waiting on a financial aid check, eight months after enrolling in this program. I think we're almost there, which is good, because, ladies and gentlemen, I am beyond flat broke. I though, I swear, that it was a good idea to enroll in school when I escaped from the soul-killing job from hell because I figured a little financial aid would see us through.

That was eight months ago, so far not a penny.


I like being in school, but I still need a job, and I'm having trouble finding one. I've passed up a couple of possibilities--not job offers, but things I could have pursued further--simply because I could tell that it was not going to be a good situation. I am still emotionally raw and bleeding from the fall, and I am NOT going to put myself back in a situation like that again.

I'm trying to take this slow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Retrieving the Madonna

I got Basya to go and get the statue of the Virgin back out of my old classroom for me. Yes, this was nutty as hell, but it had to happen.

Brief explanation: last year, a friend was kind enough to make me a long-term loan of a statue of Mary from his late mother's collection of such things, to put into my classroom. I installed her lovingly, imagining all kinds of things that did not happen, because as you may recall, this past fall was a nightmare from hell.

When I bailed, I left her there, mostly because it felt weird to take her out of the classroom in the middle of the year. But as this summer wore to an end, I knew I had to get the statue back.

Why? Well, I've been freaking out again about that last job, and how it ended. I am dreaming about it, and thinking about it, and generally not in such a good place, emotionally. I felt that I'd already given that school plenty, and this particular beautiful thing wasn't going to be a part of it.

Problem was, in my present mental state, I didn't dare set foot inside the damn building. So I called on Basya, my bridesmaid and general mainstay of existence, and because she is awesome, she came over and collected Mary from the office at St. Attracta's.

Basya ended up spending the night, due to the 580 being closed, and today we went to Target to get her some camping gear. We're walking along, me and Basya and the Husband, and lo and behold, who do I see coming but the Mom From Hell, my worst parent from this fall, and her darling boy.

There was a long sort of pass by when I couldn't figure out if they were going to recognize me at all, and then we spotted each other, and I smiled, and was gracious. She smiled, but when I said, "Well, fancy meeting you here?" she kept going, and then said, "What?"

And then I had to steer the whole party around to avoid running into them again, in school supplies.

I want St. Attracta's out of my life and out of my system, and it's not easy. I feel wrong in my skin these days, too apologetic, and too tentative for a woman in her late thirties. I feel as though I've failed, and should apologize for everything, all the time, at least until I have a job where I'm succeeding at such a high level that even I can't find fault with myself--a situation which is probably impossible, so maybe I should find an alternate route right now.

This last fall messed me up. This coming fall had better be better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harriet Sherwood and the Russians

Remember Harriet Sherwood? The one with the felafel issues? She's back, and over at CIF, they're commenting on a piece she wrote for the Guardian about how the Russians are ruining Israel.

CIF points out, correctly, that Sherwood and her readers would probably be infuriated (and rightly so, in my eyes) at a journalist who broadly slurred a group of immigrants to Britain as damaging the country. Indeed, I've spent some time online myself, since the London riots, dealing with people who blame the whole thing on the West Indians, or the Muslims, or...well, mostly one of those two.

Yet, Harriet Sherwood – the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, who, no doubt, fancies herself a multiculturalist who is free of such narrow-minded anti-immigrant bias – saw fit in her most recent post, “Israel’s former Soviet immigrants transform adopted country“, Aug. 17, to blame Israeli immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) for moving the country in a dangerous direction.

Sherwood’s piece blames “The million-plus citizens of the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel in the past 20 years” for causing a housing crisis, being resistant to integrating into Israeli society, and bringing with them Russian political values inconsistent with democracy, tolerance and compromise.

Now, just imagine if something similar was written about the injurious effects of immigration to the UK on traditional British culture, and substitute the word “Muslims” for “Russians” to get a sense of the supreme moral hypocrisy at play here.

Luckily, we get a rejoinder, from Anastasia Couzminski, one of those unintegrated Russians, who has this to say:

Hello CiF watch,

As a regular reader of your blog and one of those annoying Russians that “integrated little” in Israel, I couldn’t let this article pass. This is personal.

I am beyond furious at [Harriet Sherwood's] article!

[What she says about Russians] couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

As an immigrant who’s been living here most of my life, I consider myself to be 110% ISRAELI and not Russian or Kazakh (I was born in the republic of Kazakhstan).

My mother is Jewish but I have many friends whose mother are in fact non-Jewish but are similarly supremely dedicated to this country.

It is absolute rubbish that immigrants integrated little and live mostly in “Russian enclaves”.

Many such “unintegrated Russians” are married to “Sabras” (Israelis who were born in Israel), give their kids Israeli names and many even refuse to speak Russian anymore.

This LIE [regarding the] lack of integration is evident everywhere.

I, as with most of the “unintegrated Russians”, have served in the army and, in fact, many of these “unintegrated Russian” young men go to become fighters and officers in the army and fight and DIE side by side with Israel-born soldiers!

We study all together in schools and universities and despite there being “Russian” hang-out places, it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE that [non-Russian] Israelis are NOT wanted there. The FIB that Russians created a housing problem is [also simply not true]. Russians did not come to parasite on this country. They finished “Ulpan” (Hebrew classes for immigrants) and right away began searching for jobs. They can now be found in every single workplace including hospitals, courts, and the media (NOT ONLY Russian media).

The fact that Harriet Sherwood makes a point of singling out Russians is a total double standard. And the following quote by the Russian-hating Israeli journalist, whom [Sherwood] must have had to dig out from some very dark place, which claims “…alienation between Russian immigrants and native-born Israelis [exist because] there is not much social interaction” is also simply not true.

Most of my friends are Israelis, many of my friends are married to Israelis, we party, travel and do everything together! And the older generation is the same.

In short, [Sherwood] evidently didn’t have anything to report about and found, in the much maligned Russian community, a convenient target and scapegoat.



Watching anti-Israel writers deal with the phenomenon of immigration to Israel from the FSU has been rather interesting. They see them as a single group, of course, and the information that not all of the Russians are Ashkenazi, or from Russia, often appears to baffle them. (Jews from Kazhakstan? Huh?) Mostly, though, they appreciate the Russians, even as they bash them, because the Russian olim reinforce what the anti-Israel crowd wants to see, in their own minds, that is. They see the Russians as 'white', and 'intolerant' because of their Soviet background. (Odd, from people who insisted, while it was still standing, that the USSR was a bastion of tolerance.) This saves them, once again, from having to examine the multicultural nature of Israeli society, or from examining other groups in the country too closely. The Mizrahim and Sephardim from Arab countries are a particular problem for the anti-Israel pundit, one they generally solve by being terribly concerned about racism within Israeli society, but not actually giving a damn about the opinions or political leanings of these poor, poor props of theirs.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Hours of Entertainment

The husband and I are petsitting for some friends (yes, this is the pair with the whippets that almost derailed our wedding four years ago. Since then they have acquired a cat as well.)

On the way back from lunch today, we stopped at a supermarket on the way to get cold drinks. Said supermarket turned out to be a delightful mix of Asian and Latino goods, to suit the neighborhood, which allowed us to wander through examining the wonderful things with wonderful packaging that you find on the shelves of a big Asian grocery store.

The coconut cubes, we learned, were 'fibrous', and promised 'hours of entertainment' as you ate them. There were TWO flavors of Hello Kitty soda. I bought some chestnuts that were 'roast with sugar and skin peeling off', and we bought some Sriracha sauce cheap.

The holy candles section, however, was a bit unnerving--there were some few standards, like San Jose and San Martin...also a giant selection dedicated to Santisima Muerte, and a section devoted to Jesus Malverde. And a lot of 'Law Stay Away', and 'Control' candles. Not my idea of a nice neighborhood's candle selection.

The food choices, though...awesome. Plus, they had the McCormick White Chicken Chili spice mix, which I have been trying to find for ages. Bought five packs.