Getting used to a new country, with a new language (even the alphabet is different, and words read right to left!), new culture, new rules of the road – well, it’s all part of the grand adventure! And to be successful – and not break out in tears – I’ve chosen to write it all down and laugh, laugh, laugh at everything. It really helps to have a sense of humor to get through some very long days.
The second week I was here, the weather was very cold, and I decided to make a nice, hot Yemenite beef and onion soup. So, I went to the grocer to get some beef bones for the stock. I knew the word for bones (atzlahmote), and confidently went to the butcher speaking in Hebrew. I asked for akhraymote (sounds similar, no?), and was very surprised at the puzzled look on his face. Akraymote! Fresh akhraymote!! You know, for soup! All in Hebrew. He was pretty confused, and I couldn’t figure out why. I was asking for fresh after-death… oy va voy!! I explained I was a two week new immigrant. He got it, and we both laughed hysterically when he told me the right word. After welcoming me to the country, he threw in a kilo (2.2 pounds) of freshly ground Angus no charge, the best I’ve seen. Sometimes it helps to be a greenstick.
So, we are now in Ulpan, a very intense Hebrew class. 5 1/2 hours a day!! John, Max and I have been split up into different levels, different classes, different teachers. Max is at the highest level, I’m in the next highest, and John is just beginning. There are 36 “kids” in their 20s-30s in my class. I’m the only English speaker. The rest are Russian/Ukrainian, so it’s quite the challenge. I have one wonderful teacher Sunday- Tuesday who speaks English, and another on Wednesday/Thursday who only speaks Hebrew and Russian. This leads to very difficult – and hysterical- situatzia. I figure just take your noun and put an “atria” on the end, and they’ll figure it out: operatzia, circumstnzia, situtzia…The Russians and the teacher are always talking about sushi. Sushi this and sushi that. Needless to say, I’m pretty confused because we are not discussing food whatsoever. I finally found out that “Su-shi” is the Russian word for noun. Go figure. Last week there was quite a buzz in class about the coming of the Controlchick. Of course, I thought some hip-high- boot-wearing, whip-toting lady was coming to inspect the ranks and our progress. So when the big exam to test all that we’ve done was presented on Thursday, I was quite taken aback. Aha!! A controlchick is the Russian word for test. Yikes! I guess that’s better than an inspection in some instances. So now, I’m learning two languages.
Today, it reached 106*F. Summer is finally here (now that all our winter clothes and blankets have arrived, LOL)! This morning, Olga, the girl sitting next to me in class, kept whispering “Nasty! Nasty!!!!” in my direction. Let’s see: I remembered to brush my teeth and put on deodorant; my fingers were not reeking of garlic from last night’s cooking. “Nasty!! Nasty! Nasty!!!” OK, my hair? My clothes??? What was the problem?? This went on continually for about 5 minutes. “Nasty!” I was ready to cry. Turns out the girl sitting at the adjacent desk is Anastasia. There you go: Nasty for short. Can you spell relief – and hysterically funny? Later today, we were learning the word “khoog.” Still don’t know what it means. Not a class, not a club – tried my google translate. Fail. Think I twaddled its brain. Asked several people including the teacher. The closest Olga could come was a Coterie. So now I can do a Wes Anderson screenplay in Hebrew using the great, unknown word, khoog. A midnight khoog of sinister intruders.
I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. My doctor’s appointment. Yup: you guessed right: the doc only speaks Hebrew – and Russit! To make the appointment, I had to call and “order a line.” That’s the idiom used here for to make an appointment or to make a restaurant reservation. Also, you can call and invite a pizza into your home. No joke. You invite a pizza, and order a line – is there any way my dear husband is not always confused over his eyeballs? But a sense of humor – and a cheat sheet, which I’ll be doing next – is definitely in order for this one.
Talking about embarrassment. I went to Jerusalem a couple weeks ago. Was supposed to meet a friend for dinner at a restaurant on Pines St. Seems pretty straightforward, right? So I’m lost, and it’s now dark, and I’m by myself trying to ask for directions. This Pines St. is right around the corner. I know it!!! So I walk up and ask an Ultra Orthodox couple where Pines St. is. They’ve never heard of it. Then an Ultra Orthodox man (it was a Haredi neighborhood) with no luck. My map quest just isn’t picking it up, so I ask a young man walking towards me. I show him the address. No!! No!! It’s not pronounced the American Pines, but the man’s private part. Don’t think I’ll be asking directions again for a while. It was pretty funny, though…
We still can’t get over the fact that to say “Enough already!!” in Hebrew is diyeynu. For those of you familiar with the popular Passover song – it would have been enough – diyeynu. But in Israel, the command is a shortened form of the verb. So, you can sometimes see mothers pointing to young, misbehaving children, and saying “Die! Die, Moshe, Die!!”It always takes us aback, as we are expecting to see the equivalent of Social Services rush in and do an intervention. Not to worry, however. Just part of everyday life here.
A few weeks ago we had our internet connected. Yay! There are two internet providers here: Hot and Big. We went with Hot, as it had the most affordable rates and great service. So John and Max went to Ulpan, and I sat around waiting for the Hot Guy to come. Truly. My girlfriend called and asked what I was doing. Waiting for the Hot Guy. Both of us knew, and exploded in peals of laughter. It works every time…
Thank goodness there’s an IKEA twenty minutes away in Haifa. We needed to get several things, and speaking with the clerks is another great way to practice the language. Whenever I get to a word I don’t know, I whip out my handy-dandy mini notebook and write down the word in Hebrew, its English transliteration, and the meaning. The girl saw my letters and started laughing at the way I drew two of my letters. You had to be there. The whole episode from start to finish was really funny, and soon there were three girls helping me speak Hebrew. I had to give my internet address,but they didn’t understand the “at” as part of the address. @ is called “Strudel” here. I guess to them it kind of looks like a pastry, so it would be Yossicohenstrudelgolan.net. Cute.
I love the radio station, Galgalatz. It’s the official army radio station, and pretty darn sababa (Awesome), but you just never know what you’ll hear next. All part of the grand adventure. Last Sunday evening, I listened to Neil Young, followed by Idan Raichel (the best!!!!), Petula Clark singing “Downtown” – go figure – then an hour long Ella Fitzgerald concert special. It was fabulous. After Ella, they played Mumford and Sons followed by the BeeGees and another hopping Israeli pop song: “I’m Your Golden Boy.” So at 11pm this Hebrew-speaking Ethiopian DJ comes on with a thick Jamaican Hebrew accent. I know, right??? This is quite the diverse place. He starts playing an hour long Reggae set, which is wonderful. A Bob Marley tune comes on: ” Let’s give thanks and praise to the Lord…” The DJ pipes up in English: “Those are OUR words, Achi (Bro)!!” It was so funny. You just never know what you’ll hear next.
It’s all part of the fun. Take it tongue in cheek and keep going. Just when you get the Hebrew down, they take away all the vowels – most things are written vowel-less. My husband’s favorite phrase is “Ayn lo moosag!” I have noon idea! And everyone here just smiles and says, “Ayn baayah.” No problem. Hakuna matata. So, it’s off to the Russian/Hebrew doctor tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve already ordered my line – hey, and does anyone out there know what to do with a kohlrabi????