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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cultural disconnect: the Bissli light and an unveiling.

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Did I mention we don’t have a home phone?

Part of the deal with keeping our Toronto phone number is that we don’t have a landline here.  Between our cellphones and the Toronto phone, I just figured it was enough.  (In a pinch, there’s also Skype, where I have credit to place outgoing phone calls.)

However… there are some good reasons to have a home phone, it turns out.  Like if there’s an Internet outage.

The other night, just as our daughter was getting ready to get on a plane in Toronto, just as I was talking to her on our very stable voice-over-IP phone line – her voice cut out.  There was no click, just silence.  At first, I thought she was miffed; she must have hung up.

But no, there was no phone.  So I checked the plug, made sure everything was working… and sure enough, there was no Internet, either.

We’d broken the Internet.  I unplugged and replugged everything electronic.  No luck.  Rebooted the router.  No luck.

So finally, darn, darn, darn – I called our Internet provider.

Held for ten minutes.

And then, in some kind of miracle, the guy spoke passable, even very good English (must be based in Tel Aviv, not up here in the Krayot).  I explained the problem and he started walking me through the troubleshooting process.

At one point, he had me plug in the modem and tell him what lights were on.  I did that, and we were ticking along nicely through his checklist when he suddenly said,

“There is a light with a Bissli beside it.  Is the Bissli light on?”

Huh? 

In case you have never been to Israel, or anywhere Jewish, THIS is Bissli.  It’s a crunchy snack.

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And THIS is our modem.  Nothing remotely Bissli-esque about it.

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Or is there?

It turns out that there is a symbol, teeny-tiny, next to one of the lower blue lights:

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See it here?  It’s the second from the bottom.

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The Bissli light.

Anyway, it turned out the problem wasn’t the lights on our modem or anything at our end at all – they were doing some repairs in the area.  He promised the Internet would be back by 6am – too late to say goodbye to my daughter! – and I thanked him politely.

Without Internet service, I actually pulled off another first.  Kind of stupid:  I have been wondering in the back of my mind how to place international calls on my cellphone.  I didn’t even know if it was possible.

It turns out it is.  You have to choose a service provider – 012, 013, 014, etc, which each represent a different company’s long distance plan – and then dial out of the country using their “extension,” ie 012-1-416-555-1212 or whatever.

So after a year and a month of living in Israel, emailing, facebooking, skyping, WhatsApping and chatting regularly with folks back in Canada… I placed my first long-distance call to say goodbye to my daughter and wish her a safe flight (to here).

It was kind of fun, actually.  When my mother heard that we were using an actual phone line, she went into that screamy “TALK FAST; IT’S LONG DISTANCE!!!” mode that I remember from the 70s and 80s.

They say new olim are spoiled. 

Vatikim (long-time olim) remember having to wait up to six months for a phone line, and now we are connected instantly with a free SIM card handed at the airport with your first sal klitah (immigrant assistance) payment in cash.

I agree.  We are totally spoiled. 

Just yesterday, I went to Yerushalayim and came home with actual surimi (fake crab).  It’s one of those crazy baal teshuvah things that FFBs often don’t understand… but it’s also utterly delicious, and now available in Israel.

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Vatikim will tell you that you didn’t used to be able to buy tuna, or chocolate chips, or decent toilet paper.  Let alone surimi.  Let alone the three boxes of American breakfast cereals I also shlepped home from the holy city.

Yup, we new olim are utterly spoiled, beyond belief.

But if knowing they will be connected no matter what – and in more ways than ever – makes it easier for a single oleh to make the decision to come here, so be it.  It’s all part of Hashem’s plan, which is to get us here, no matter what.  Even us weaklings who enjoy being able to talk to our families regularly and use toilet paper that doesn’t scratch.

Finding familiar foods (if you hunt, and pay a little more), cooking familiar dishes, attending your brother’s unveiling virtually from across the ocean, as I did on Sunday – these things may sound trivial (First World Problems!), but they can all help establish a new life in a perplexing new land.

(some views of our Skype unveiling in Toronto…)

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(my mother and son speaking…)

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There are still enough nisyonot (trials) here that it’s not exactly a free ride. 

Like having to sit and watch from the sidelines as your family carries on without you.  Or stumbling around in the middle of the night squinting frantically, hoping desperately to find something that resembles a Bissli light.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


4 comments:

  1. We have HOT. We don't have a Bissli light. :( We also have Orange for our cell phone and got 500 minutes a month to call the US. We never even come close to that number of minutes, but it's nice to know we can. We also purchased a US phone number from Skype so our family and friends can call us at no cost. Of course, if the Internet is out then no Skype calls.

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    1. It's true that the internet is sometimes out. But the truth is that in Toronto, our landline in our 80-year-old house was waaaay flakier than our internet-based line ever has been. And if you have a landline but a cordless phone, it doesn't work in a power cut anyway. :-/
      There is no failure-proof way of communicating, but we have it pretty good these days, don't we?

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  2. OH - BISSLI light????that's what the technician was asking me when my internet died??? He then asked about the "Xs".... never put 2 and 2 together!!! LOL, thanks for clarifying! Sylvie

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    1. You should have seen us. I was so frantic, asking my husband, "do you see anything on here that looks like a Bissli???" Crazy stuff. It should be in the manual they give you at the airport. :-)

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