I am not a person who objects to shopping. Usually.
Food shopping can be great, especially at a place like a farmers’ market or the shuk, where the food looks beautiful and smells intoxicating.
Clothes shopping can be fun if done without small tag-a-long people. Since that is so not my life right now, I’ve relied a lot on e-tailers. Thank goodness for them.
Shoe shopping? Necessarily evil. Seriously, Taxman makes me do it. I don’t like it.
Shopping for other things? Well, it’s a rare event. We bought most of our furniture nine years ago, when we had money from wedding gifts to spend and no children, lots of internet access, and starry-eyed, newlywedded patience. We bought our appliances five years ago, when we bought our apartment and renovated the kitchen; we relied heavily on Consumer Reports and readily took Miss M, the tiny nursling with the occasional blowout poops, along for the ride.
But now we are faced with purchasing a lot of furniture and appliances all at once. In a currency we’re just getting used to and in a language I don’t understand all that well (and cannot speak back to save my life). And about half the time we’ve had two rambunctious, snack-demanding tyrants with us.*
The furniture shopping was agonizingly slow because it was one piece here, one piece here, once piece here. We’re still not done. But at least by the end of next week we should have mattresses for everyone–and whole beds for the kids! (Note to self: must buy sheets in Israeli sizes.) Oh yes, the next-day delivery from mattress stores or 3-day delivery from furniture stores? Whoops, wrong country. I mean we don’t have a shortage of beds to sleep in, but they are not in our apartment but rather in Jerusalem or Haifa or the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
We have been attempting to divide and conquer at the appliance stores, wherein Taxman deals with the negotiations (read: haggling. This is the Middle East and you never know when you have reached the “final price,” unless you a) walk away and never come back or b) put down a deposit) and I attempt to keep the small people from breaking the merchandise/touching the wall of flatscreen TVs. This involves keeping their MP3 players charged and their mouths full of snack. And sometimes waiting too long to force AM to go to the bathroom and having him pee a little on my shirt. But I digress. (It was gross, although I was already sweaty and disgusting, so what’s a touch of pee? It was the principle, in that it was SO grotesquely obvious that he needed to pee, but had been refusing to go for 30 minutes and finally when I laid down the law he admitted it was about 15 minutes past due and almost could not stop it. Vey iz mir.)
No two appliances chains have the exact same models, a la trying to comparison shop for mattresses in the United States. Sometimes prices at the same chain differ from city to city. The brands are largely unfamiliar. We know of LG and Siemens, but Bellers, Bauchknecht, and Beko? No. (Two of the last three are made in Turkey.) The salespeople are either completely disinterested or so aggressive we might have to change our cellphone number. Seriously, if a woman named Yaffa calls for us? We haven’t made a decision, we’re not home right now, and we might be moving to Botswana next week.
So we still do not have a fridge or a stove or a washing machine. But really, really, really we have to decide–it’s just a lot of money. At some point we were thinking of buying second hand, which we might do for some furniture, but we don’t want to get older appliances (5+ years) because they improve efficiency all the time and for the newer second hand by the time you pay to move it to your place and pay to have it installed by a professional it could easily be almost the price of buying new. If you get a good deal when buying new, that is, and that is hard to do when you feel like you are constantly being harangued or fleeced.
But we had a true Israeli moment today. Taxman pulled the car into a gas station. Unsure of which side the gas tank was on, he stopped short of the self-serve island and we peered out of the car to try to guess. We were immediately approached by a gas station attendant. Rather than attempting to get us to come to the full serve island (more expensive, natch), he tried to get us to buy a kumkum–an electric kettle that is a mainstay of pretty much every household. “Giveret, giveret!” (Miss, miss!) he kept calling to me, extolling the virtues of said kumkum (good brand, good price). It was a good price and a brand I recognized, but somehow I just couldn’t buy a small kitchen electric at a gas station. Maybe once I’ve been here for more than six days. We did, however, meet our 30 liter minimum to qualify for a free 1.5 liter bottle of water. If we fill up again Friday I think we get either a free newspaper or a free challah (!). New stuff around every corner.
Many thanks to Gila from Aliyah by Accident, who rescued us from a noontime meltdown in the playground (yes, it was 33 degrees, but now we have health insurance because Taxman was able to fill out the forms without preschool company) and fed us lunch and refilled the water glasses all around! Sorry Taxman fell asleep on your couch! We’ll call it jet lag.
* My in-laws have been really great about babysitting at all times of the day and night, but from time to time they have their own obligations. And we’ve been using them more for when we have to make trips to government offices and the like, where one of us can’t just disappear for 20 minutes at a time.