The Madaan

I have the best job in the whole kibbutz! I work with in the Madaan, a packing house where Koi and goldfish are prepared for packaging, packaged, and finally shipped to the customer.

“How the heck do fish get packged?” you might ask. Ah, my friend, I will tell you.

First some background: I work with my fellow ulpanists Karlie and Igal. (An ulpanist is someone who studies Hebrew on a special program called an ulpan) Karlie is from New York state and Igal is from Andorra. What language do we speak in? English, of course. If there was a rule that we could only speak in Hebrew to each other at this point, I fear there would exist a severe state of silence. Igal and I will speak in Spanish to each other if Karlie is not present; he makes fun of my Mexican idioms and I laughingly imitate his Spainardly Spanish.

Our work schedule alternates every week: one week we will work in the morning from 6 am — 11:45 am, and the next week we work from 12 pm — 3:30 pm. Someone from work comes to pick us up from the ulpan office in the Maadan van, a rusty, white, 70s-looking van with the traces of the Maadan logo on it. I am proud to say that I can recognize the sound of its motor before I see the van almost every time they come for us. (Yeah, I know, who cares, right?)

When I  am not working, I am in class (but that is another story).

This week, I worked mornings.

At 5 am, I wake up to “Breathe Easy” by Matisyahu and then piddle around a bit on my iPod (because I  have discovered that the light from the screen helps me wake up). How can I convey to you the eagerness I feel to get to work? I dress as quickly and quietly as I can (don’t want to wake my rommies), check the time, dash my toothbrush across my teeth, see what time it is, throw my hair into a ponytail, snatch my phone and room key, jerk on my oversized sweater, and sneak a look at the time before I grab my Bible. In order to not disturb my roommates, I sit in the bathroom with the light on to read my Proverb for the day. Sitting on the toilet (with the lid down, of course!), I try hard to make myself focus on the Wisdom before me without looking at the clock every two minutes. Then, finally! It is 5:40! I put my Bible away, check my pockets to make sure I have my key, and leave the room, locking the door behind me. Hurrying down the stairs, I then run the 100 meters to the ulpan office, waving and smiling to the coming sun on my right. Sitting on the picnic table in front of the ulpan office, I thank God for the new day and watch the dawn wash away into daylight. Soon, I am joined by Karlie and Igal, and together we wait to watch four Philippine men ride by on their bikes on their way to work. These men make us think they belong to the KKK because they wear white rubber boots, hoods and neck warmers pulled up to their eyes, and they glide past on their bikes in creepy silence.

Um… yeah. Or maybe it’s just too early for us.

Once at work, the first thing we do is take a coffee break. Everyone sits in the cafeteria and sips coffee and stares off into space or looks through Facebook on their phone. At 6:20 or so, work begins. We never do the same thing in the same order everyday. One day, Karlie and I might start off doing the morning routine, which consists of cleaning the filters of one hundred 9-meter long fish tanks and pulling dead fish out of the same. Karlie usually cleans the filters and I check for mortalities. Some days we will inject fish with antibiotics, sort goldfish according to size, wash the equipment, drain and clean the long outdoor pools, or make the cardboard boxes that the fish are shipped in. And sometimes we do all of the above.

Yes. Fish are shipped in cardboard boxes. For example, an order comes in for, say, 250 4-5 Koi A fish. (Check out my jargon, there, y’all!) Translation: 250 of the highest-quality Koi fish ranging in size from 4-5 inches. We inject the fish with antibiotic to make sure they will be healthy, and we cull out any fish that has sores on it or that is deformed. Then we count out the fish and put them in a container. The fish are then placed in a cardboard box that is doubly-lined with nylon bags. Into the first bag go the fish with water. A package of some substance designed to absorb CO2 is stuck to the inside of the bag and all of the air is sucked out of the bag. The bag is then filled with pure oxygen, and the bag twisted closed and secured with a rubber band. Finally, the second bag is also twisted and tied closed and the box is taped closed. And, viola!, the fish are ready for flight. Packed like this, the fish can live for up to 30 hours in the box. Amazing, no?

I love going to work….

The general atmosphere is very cheerful. My coworkers are friendly and hardworking, focused and yet very playful. It is such a happy place 🙂






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