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If you can’t take the heat…

  • BenitaLevin
We were warned by many that the summer school holidays here would be incredibly hot. We weren’t phased - after all, how bad can it be when you’ve grown up in the coastal city of Durban, known for its high humidity?
by BENITA LEVIN | Sep 28, 2017

How wrong we were. The high temperatures continued to escalate in the July and August vacation time - with no smidgen of a sign of rain. It’s a popular topic of conversation here, but locals seemed to know something we didn’t.

Whenever we commented on the need to have a second shower by the afternoon, people would smile: “Wait, this is nothing… it’s going to get hotter.”

Swim, shower, sprinklers - you find a way to cool down.

If you are walking along Ahuza Street - the main road in Raanana - you can easily find yourself browsing in a hardware shop, just because the place has an air-conditioner. The country is well equipped for this weather - all malls, office blocks, shops and restaurants, are cool inside.

Outdoor water drinking fountains are interspersed throughout the city and children are often found cooling off at various park fountains.

An unofficial personal snap survey saw many residents agreeing that the air-conditioner or fan business would be a foolproof career move! If your air-conditioner at home breaks down, you are in for an uncomfortable wait of at least a few days. Best, though, that the heat doesn’t affect your sense of humour, because it may just be tested, as we found in this unusual interaction:

A man came to our flat to service our broken air-conditioner. It took a few days for him to get to us, because - as the unofficial survey suggests - it’s a busy business during the unbearable heat.

He spent around 15 minutes attending to the machine. When he was about to leave, I pointed out that it was still leaking. (I wondered if some of our interaction had been lost in translation.)

“Are you sure it’s going to work”? I asked in Hebrew, pointing to the dripping water to illustrate my concern? He shrugged and put his hands up in the air, pointing to the heavens, and replied: “Be’ezrat Hashem...” “With the help of G-d”!

Service with a smile

It wasn’t the first time in the few months we’ve been in our new home country, that I’d been left surprised by certain responses in the “service industry”. It takes getting used to, especially when you’re used to the over-polite South African culture. Small talk and niceties aren’t hugely obvious here.

But with time, one realises there is something refreshingly honest and blunt about a shop assistant who tells you not to buy a certain item because the quality isn’t great. A cashier sent a friend back to the aisles in the supermarket, because she hadn’t chosen the “better” brand, for the same price!

One shopkeeper also advised us not to buy the milk we wanted, because - as he pointed out - it was set to expire the next day. He suggested we come back when the fresh cartons had arrived.

But the biggest service surprise award goes to an incident at a small hair-dressing salon. I’d never been there before, and had just walked in off the street for a quick last-minute appointment.

As the friendly Israeli hair-stylist chatted away, I noticed he was trying to make my hair curl. I explained - as best I could - that I would prefer him to leave it straight. “Loh (no)” he replied, and continued creating unwanted flicks and curls.

I was confused, and used my hands to show him that I’d prefer my hair to be straight. Again, he said no.

Then came the explanation that could only happen in this country: “No, it is my salon and I don’t want you to have your hair straight - I will not let you be boring!”

So, it’s not exactly a case of “service with a smile”. It’s not simply strange behaviour one can blame on the heat. It’s more a case of service with a splash of brutal honesty, like it or not.

Whether you find it offensive, bizarre or refreshingly honest, depends on you.

Food find of the week

Sabich - pita filled with brinjal, eggs, humus and tahina.

Phrase of the week

Chai Be-Seret - “living in a movie” - seems to be used by young people who are loving life.

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