MIAMI (Can your parrot sing Hava Nagila?)

MIAMI

Diana Lerner (Levy) from the Class of ’86 says she learned a lot with Carlos Padilla, though she never understood the process by which she was placed in the lower, excuse me, basic level. Apparently one day I asked the students in her primary class, “Who has travelled to Miami?” The people who raised their hands got to go to the advanced level. Diana had not been to Miami yet, and she ended up in the basic level. She went home and told her parents that they needed to go to Miami! (Don’t worry Diana. I don’t understand that process either.)

VACACIONES MARMOL

Miami. Ohh Miami. Miami was definitely the place to go in the 80’s, and eventually became the place to live. Some might think that the Colegio Colombo Hebreo would eventually move to Miami itself. It might have been an interesting plan, but Rabbi Goldschmidt never went to stay, so it is still in Bogota. (What would the CCH be without our rabbi?)

When I lived in New York before coming to Colombia, in the days of “A Really Great Show” with Jackie Gleason in Miami Beach, Miami was known as the Jewish Heaven, where the Jewish community from New York would go to weather during the winter.

For Latinos in the 80’s, and specifically Colombians from the Jewish community, there was talk of “Vacaciones Marmol”: Por la mañana Mar, y por la tarde Mall. I even heard stories of ladies who would buy an elegant dress to go to a wedding, and then return it to the store the next day. No, that can’t be true. I shouldn’t even think such negative thoughts.

Can your parrot sing Hava Nagila?

I visited Miami for my first time in the summer of 1986, just before my trip to Israel, when Ami and Doris Finder invited me to stay with them for a few days after they had moved from Bogota to Miami. Ami was an Israeli living in Colombia, married to Doris an American, and they sent their kids Avi and Tammy to the Nueva Granada. Ami was a natural singer and entertainer. He even taught his parrot to sing “Hava Nagila”! I am sure I recorded it on my phone once upon a time. For the Israeli embassy’s Yom Haatzmaut coctail, Ami would take his electronic beat box and start singing Israel songs during the ceremony, with or without permission.

I had hired Doris to teach English at the Hebreo in primary. She was not quite used to the Hebreo discipline, so she took a whistle to class and would blow the whistle whenever the kids would get out of line. Apparently it worked.

Just in case you are interested, I also had a parrot during the 80’s whose name was Pedro. He couldn’t sing Hava Nagila, but since he was evangelical, the lady who started our mission taught him to say, “Gloria a Dios! Aleluia!” Sadly, Pedro was martyred by my dog, a Bouvier de Flanders named Murphy. Murphy looked like a bear barreling down the walk when somebody would come to the gate at our place in Yerbabuena. Nobody dared trespass, except when Murphy was sleeping in my room.

People said that I had lost my sense of smell, because Murphy spent most of her time in my room and she passed gas at a lethal level. Then, after I returned from my trip to Israel, my room was full of fleas. OUT! I decreed, and Murphy was banished from the house and forced to live in the great outdoors. Maybe that’s why she murdered my parrot. Revenge is sweet!

My next parrot was “Moti”. At the Hebreo we had an Israeli family, Shulman. Ahuva Shulman taught Hebrew at the school. Her four children were Amijai (Class of ’86), Mijal (Class of ’88), Gidi (Class of ’90) and Yoav (Class of I don’t remember). Yoav was famous as a four or five year old because he didn’t stay in class. But he could outrun the best of them when the Phys Ed teacher made the students run around the school for their endurance evaluation. Was that Chacho? The other famous pre-schooler who didn’t stay in class was Arieh Bibliowicz. He loved visiting classes all over the campus.

Ahuva Shulman asked me to teach her kids English at home and in return, she would teach me Hebrew. The Shulmans had two parrots, Moti and Rebecca. Rebecca died, and Moti became a widower. Moti would go crazy with the kids around talking to him, so he learned to say, “Boker tov! Makara?” and would dance around in his cage. When the Shulmans went back to Israel, they gave Moti to me to replace Pedro. But Moti never learned English. Maybe it was age. He also started to confuse his Hebrew words: “Bokera! Makar tov!”

Yet the one word Moti said clearly was “Cuatro”! So we could have a good conversation. “Moti, que horas son?” “Cuatro”. “Moti, cual es tu gaseosa favorita?” “Cuatro”! “Cuantas galletas quieres comer?” “Cuatro!” It was intelligence worth remembering.

EASTERN

I believe it was the same year 1986, on my way to Miami, that I had a strange experience with Eastern Airlines. You see, I have accustomed myself to saying a little prayer before flying: “Lord, if there is any reason that this plane should stay a on the ground, keep it on the ground.”

So you can imagine, in the month of June, when all the mothers and kids were on the plane headed off for summer vacation (and the dads would follow later), with a scheduled departure of 10 AM, the announcement comes: “We will be taking off in 20 minutes.” Then, at 10:20, “We are checking something and will be leaving in another 20 minutes.” Then, at 10:40, “In another 20 minutes we will get back to you.”

They gave us lunch ON the plane, while still sitting on the tarmac. Sandra Reines was sitting a few rows ahead of me. Then they showed us a movie! (REmember the days when everybody got to see the same movie?!) Then at 4 pm they let us off the plane, still in Bogota, and gave us a ticket for a free dinner at Wimpy’s.

There had been motor problems and we were not able to take off, thank God. Eastern brought another plane from Miami and we took off at midnight, arriving in Miami at 4 in the morning. Needless to say, some people lost their connections.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but you have to believe me. The next year, 1987, the EXACT same thing happened! Eastern. Scheduled to leave at 10 in the morning. Mothers and crying kids waiting to leave for vacation. They gave us lunch on the plane. I guess a movie too. They didn’t want to take us off the plane because of security for the Pope’s visit. But they let us off at 5. At midnight they put us back on the SAME plane! But halfway down the runway, the pilot aborted takeoff! ARGHH. They put us on a new plane at one in the morning.

Do you understand why Eastern went out of business?

Pictures coming.