Monday, August 1, 2011

Adventure on the Egged Bus System in Jerusalem

So, if you've been following our family's blogs at all, you know that we have not EVER taken a bus here.  We have walked virtually everywhere we needed to go locally.  When our trip was too far to walk, we took a taxi, since for the 4 of us to take a bus, it costs almost as much as a taxi to the same location.  Three times we rented a car to travel outside of Jerusalem.  More on car rental later.
It's not that we are afraid to take a bus because of terror attacks.  We are afraid to take a bus because we don't speak the language and don't know the city outside of our local area (read: walking distance) very well or at all.  So... why the adventure then?
Well, in Ulpan for Olim, Jonah became very friendly with a wonderful little boy named Chaim.  Chaim's family has lived in Florida and Israel and they speak English in the home.  As a matter of fact, Chaim's mom, Nitzah is South African with a delightful South African accent.  They are Chabad Orthodox, Chaim wears payot, kippah, and tzitzit on his tallit katan.  So, Jonah and Chaim became fast best friends at ulpan and had playdates together at our apartment, their apartment, and even the park as often as they could.  Then, sadly, Chaim and his family moved to Ramat Eshkol; Chaim missed the last two or three weeks of ulpan.  Jonah missed him very much.
Nitzah invited us to come visit there for a playdate.  One week, Chaim came to visit us here near his old apartment.  The following week, Jonah and I were scheduled to visit Chaim in Ramat Eshkol.  Ramat Eshkol is a 30 minute bus ride from our home.  Luckily, the number 4 goes directly from Emek Refaim to Sderot Levi Eshkol where Chaim lives.  Checking schedules on the website, I thought that we would have to transfer for our busride home.  But luckily, the number 4 also goes directly back from Sderot Levi Eshkol to Emek Refaim.  Hooray!  That made it much simpler.
It costs NIS 6.40 (6 shekels and 40 agurot) to ride the bus each way.  I had to scrounge and save our change so that we would have exact change for our bus fares each way.  This could have created an issue with our needing change for laundry, but luckily it didn't; we have had enough for both by raiding Micah and Jonah's allowance money and giving them bills for their coins.  So, for 12.80 each way, a total of 25.60, about $7.50, Jonah and I were able to travel to Ramat Eshkol and back.
Since I have never been to Ramat Eshkol before, I asked an English speaker on the bus if she would help me and show me where to get off.  She was also going to Ramat Eshkol so it was perfect and she told us exactly where our stop was.  On the way home, we knew where to get off because we are very very familiar with Emek Refaim, and we knew we were going to meet some long-ago friends of ours at Falafel Doron on Rachel Imenu.  The bus got crowded in both directions but not unbearably so.  Based on this one experience, the buses seem to be very clean and well air-conditioned, a special treat for this hot weather.  We ran into friends from Oakland on the first bus as well - the Schweig family from OHDS.  That was really fun for me!  They are living here for a while too and we hope to play with them before we leave August 16th. They were on their way to Machane Yehuda (the shuk).
It was a fabulous playdate.  The boys hung out together at Chaim's gorgeous apartment (with air conditioning!) for an hour or two and played together and played computer.  Then we all went to the park right behind their apartment building for some soccer in the sun.  It was really hot so the boys had to take turns being goalie in the shade at the bottom of the hill while the other kicked the ball from the sunny spot at the top of the hill.  Since it was right before dinner, I didn't want Jonah to have an ice cream or popsicle so Chaim and his three sisters had to wait until we left to get their treats.
I enjoyed chatting with Nitzah the whole time the boys were playing.  We have a very nice connection as well.  I truly believe (and know in my heart) that Jonah and Chaim will be friends forever and keep in touch even though they have only known each other for a short time like in the movie Beaches.  :-)
It wasn't bad, taking the bus. I'd be willing to do it again, as long as I don't have to transfer in a strange neighborhood where I'm not sure where to get off, which bus to pick up to get back on, etc.  If I had someone to hold my hand the first time through it, I might be willing to try.  Maybe Aliza will teach me?

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