Monthly Archives: January 2015

An Empty Cleaning Cart

I cleaned out a cleaning cart at work today. Nothing was particularly special about this cart itself but it was still a hard task I chose to do alone after the staff left.

I have never worked in housekeeping before this job aside from the training I chose to take on just to understand what was done by other staff. I always have preferred the front-of-house positions in the Hospitality industry. The interactions with guests from all walks and backgrounds. The ability to have large chunks of down time on the clock without being questioned of work ethic. The amazing jokes that are passed around for months after those ‘special’ guests come through the doors. But being a new immigrant, I have to first finish learning my new language to move back into that arena. And so, 5 months ago I found myself the housekeeping supervisor of a small guest house on a small kibbutz. It isn’t a particularly glamorous job: I scrub toilets, take out trash, wash other peoples dishes, and am on the very bottom of the work totem pole. But the volunteers and gap-year students I have worked with make the job worth it. They have also helped me realize why I always heard the housekeeping staff fighting over the walkie-talkies about carts and ‘stolen’ cleaning supplies in my past hotels. When you do the same, repetitive, thankless job day in and day out, you get into a pattern. And the center of that pattern is your cleaning cart. Once you have your cart, you can spot which one is yours from a group of 5 identical looking carts standing 10 feet away.

And today, I had to clean out my very first volunteers’ cart. She is a South African who first came to volunteer for 3 months but ended up staying 5. She was stubborn (“Yuval! Don’t start a war with maintenance over this. Just move on!”), she was focused (“No, we aren’t going to do it that way – it is the half-assed way. If you want to do it, do it right man.”), she was obnoxious when needed (“Take these pills now, take those in the morning, drink lots of hot tea, and down this liter of water now.” when I was sick), a friend and support when I wanted to quit and leave, an amazing listener when I had family problems that I just couldn’t share with too many people, and above all else, she was the embodiment our department motto: To Be Without Reproach.

Today, her last day at work, she requested the whole staff dress in certain colors. Then she brought in glitter and face jewelry and made us all up. She certainly made her mark on us, and on this guest house so it was the least we could do. But it was also typical of the positive light and energy she emulated throughout her time here. So when it came time to clean out her cart, with no one else around, it finally hit that she wouldn’t be here to keep my ass in check. No more comforting hugs or verbal kicks in the mouth when my temper gets the best of me. That was her cart, and now it is empty. I could have used it for the next volunteer starting on Sunday, but that would cheapen things for both of them. Lara’s cart was the way she wanted it and we ALL hate it when someone uses our cart. And the new volunteer deserves a clean slate – to not be measured in someone else’s shadow. But to be honest, the new volunteer and every volunteer after has very big shoes to fill. That bar has been set and there is no going back. Who knew an empty cleaning cart could be so challenging for those around it?

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Long over due update

Hello anyone who might actually still read this.  It has been far too long since I posted last – my apologies.  I suppose, in a way, it is because I have settled in quite nicely here and no longer view this as some new adventure.  I have a routine life and go about living it here on Lotan.  I am still very excited to be living in Israel on the whole and here on the kibbutz specifically, but I have lost the wonder-struck I had months ago.

So this update is more for the future me and family who want to look back and see what was going on with me now.  Just heads up, the end isn’t going to be fun to read (Mom, that means don’t read this.  Some family/medical stuff that you shouldn’t read online).

About what I’m up to:  I still live and work on Kibbutz Lotan as the housekeeping supervisor.  I have an amazing current team made up of Lara from South Africa, Guido from Italy (and yes, he really is an Italian named Guido), and Annie from London.  We are still the work group that is pulled in every direction and shit on whenever possible.  But we have fun most days and we really have made a huge difference in the rooms.

The kibbutz was officially privatized on 01 January.  I naively thought that, as a paid worker, I would not be affected by the change over.  Well, 3 days before the change-over, my boss called me in to inform me that we had to renegotiate my contract and have the new one signed by the 1st.  My original contract was from August 2014 until August 2015.  I was paid a shekel more than minimum wage but had my meals paid for in the community dining room.  Under the new contract, a food plan wasn’t even an option.  A multi day, tense (to put it VERY mildly) negotiation ensued.  On the morning of the 1st, we had narrowed the gap to just 1 shekel.  But I was not willing to go down to my boss’s number and he was not willing to come up to mine.  So I had to tell him that I would not be working for the rest of that day as I had to travel to Eilat to speak with a lawyer and would be pursuing a breach-of-contract lawsuit.  And that to do so, I would be pulling the official numbers from the kibbutz accounts office meaning everyone on the kibbutz would know what was happening.  As I turned to walk out, he met me at my number.

I’m not proud that I had to take it as far as I did but if you knew the number I was fighting for, you would understand.  As it was, I was already having my total monthly compensation cut by about 33%. That 1 shekel difference was a very real number when added up over the year and was needed in my already frugal budget. He was obviously not happy for some time by we are back on good terms now.

I am doing a little bit better with my Hebrew.  If it is a work related topic, we only use Hebrew.  This is helping my confidence a lot.  And I am also taking a class once a week with one of the local people to help reinforce what I learned at the first-level Hebrew program.  Next month the second-level Hebrew program starts and I will be on my way to being able to work with any Hebrew speaking public (which comes upon completion of third-level program).

Love life…. well, still non existent if I’m honest.  But I did have a rather confusing – and fun – experience this last weekend.  I was sound asleep in my bed on Shabbat night.  At about 3am, I was woken up by someone in my bed!  (I, along with almost everyone else here, don’t lock doors.) After the initial terror and fists and what not, I woke up and realized I knew said person.  The rest isn’t for you to know but that intro was one for the story books for sure!

So now for the not so great part (Mom, this is your cue to stop reading):  Family health is not so great.  I think it is pretty safe to say it is downright dismal.  My mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.  She was operated on to remove the cancer growths and is now almost done with her radiation treatments.  Apparently there is heavy bruising or burning and she was prescribed special creams more than the ‘usual’ cancer patient undergoing radiation.  My father’s cancer also came back and “slipped” into somewhere new.  For whatever reason, I can’t remember for the life of me which kind it is.  I know the one he had 10 years ago was supposed to be a death-sentence.  He can’t really eat meat anymore.  Something in the bottom of his stomach area.  Pancreatic?  I just don’t remember right now.  But that isn’t even the end of his ordeals.  The doctor wanted to go in to do more exploratory and possibly remove more of his innards, but during the EKG test, they found something wrong with his heart.  So now he had to have a stint put in there.  The cancer doctor can’t do anything until the heart doctor says he is strong enough.  And all this for the guy was beat a death-sentence cancer 10 years ago using over the counter medications and weed (he couldn’t afford the prescriptions, so he found the active ingredients and matched those up to what he needed over the counter…. plus that weed thing.) and was then blinded a couple of years ago from cataracts and now has better vision than 20/20.

But wait, there’s more!  Turns out that my uncle had a stroke last week because of his unknown (or maybe he did know and just didn’t treat it) diabetes.  He is fine now but probably won’t walk right again.  And, the cherry on top:  My 12 year-old, spoiled, brat of a cousin tried to kill herself.  Why you may ask?  She was grounded from her phone.  It wasn’t a “serious” attempt (the whole story is also not for the internet – just take my word that I’m not making fun of suicide or her situation), but I think her mother has finally (if not too late) realized that the serious lack of discipline and the spoiling most single-child children get is not a good way to raise a child.

So…. I think that is about it?  I feel like I should be loosing my mind right now with everything that has been going on.  But to be honest, I’m not.  I’m not even that sad about anything except my parents situations.  Maybe in shock?  Maybe I’m just a heartless asshole?  Lol, who knows – probably somewhere between the two.

Anyway, I’ll be flying to the US in May.  Hopefully everything will be calm by then.

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