Friday, February 29, 2008

Updates abound

Between scrubbing toilets, visting the wailing wall, becoming a zionist, and trying to remember to speak hebrew as much as possible this has been an instense week.
Things I need that are "light to send".....because some of you have been so nice to ask.....

- chicken ramen
-hot chocolate mix
-Cute underwear (size medium)
- Cute socks
- Fake eye lashes from CVS (the pieces not the whole) in medium and small)
.... but enough about me.... what do you want?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yom Chameshe-Yom Shabbat

My wicked weekend all started Thursday when my sister Anna got her boyfriend to call me.
“Do you want to go to mountain climbing?”
“Excuse me?”
“Mountain climbing tonight.”
“Ma haarr?” [Tomorrow]
“No I mean tonight”…..
Turns out the boyfriend knew of a crazy indoor rock climbing gym about an hour away. It was filled with mission impossible style rock climbs, trapezes and 1990 grunge music. I rock climbed and managed to learn how to control the ropes when Peri took a turn (which is good because he could have died otherwise).
The next night was Shabbat. I spent it with my Ulpan friend Allison. “He oh la chadasha” (she is making allyah). She has family here and the food was amazing! It felt good to be in someone’s house, on a couch where only a few/ no people had vomited, eating food that had flavor.
On Saturday I went off again with the boyfiend and two of his friends: Adi and Natalye. We went down south to see the poppy fields in bloom. On the way there we stopped on the Gaza border and watched as patrols drove by. The boyfriend was saddened that it was too early for any Arabs to be awake and bombing us. Once at the poppy fields we hiked and stopped for the most civilized picnic! The boyfriend whipped out some propane, tea leaves, and cookies his mom made. One of the most amazing tea parties I ever had.
For sure my Hebrew is improving. I always feel like I could be doing better but I can really communicate now which is cool.
Talk you up soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

my address....

Ulpan, Kibbutz Naan
76829, Israel

Tower of Babel

It is amazing the small things you are able to pick up when speaking isn’t an option. How studying a person talking, looking, walking, all be it in another nationality and language can tell you so much despite never having sat down with the person for coffee.
For example, here at the Ulpan there is a rash of French speaking Jews, constantly babbling away with the occasional Hebrew word thrown in there for good measure. Two of the French boys seem mentally competent… Well one of them anyway. Like you just know you could sit down and have a conversation with this person. He is a smart capable human being whose single disability is that you cannot say a word to him. It is both isolating and frustrating to not be able to communicate more then three words. I recall the first time I felt this way was when I was 14 and my mother and I first visited Paris. It was my first trip out of the country and we went to visit her old French family the Arlays. I can still vividly feel the bizarre sensation of being in the room with people who were normal, functioning humans with thoughts and dreams, with no way for them to be able to express it or vice versa. Without language the human connection isn’t dead, if anything it becomes more alarming, stripped naked from the clothing of words and left out in the open for all to see.
That being said I’m not big on being naked.
One of the boys here on the kibbutz is a handsome 18 year old named Yvonne from Paris. He is orthodox with a kippa, praying every morning in the tall grasses outside our dorm. The second he found out I was interested in furthering my religious education he became horrified and confused, like I’d left a mangled baby on his door step. He would relentlessly try to speak with me, argue with me- IN HEBREW or FRENCH- an argument neither side could win or fight fairly for that matter. I would tell him, when I speak Hebrew we can argue, till then let’s not bother. But that wasn’t good enough for him. He’d be up in arms calling me a Christian and talking trash about my Rabbi. My freakin Rabbi! Frustration overcame my sense of decorum and smarts. I ended up saying he had no balls and storming out.
Which we all know is the polite way to win a fight.
Where as Yvonne simply refuses to learn English, many local speakers do try to at least meet you half way. One local kibbutz boy named Dan will use French, Hebrew and English until what he’s trying to say comes to fruition. But despite this one look at Dan shows he’s not a fellow with a rich inner life. The way he walks, the tone of his voice, his wide confused eyes. Amazing how I can tell poor Dan isn’t all there without ever having a proper conversation with him.
Another example of a local speaking bits and pieces to communicate is a taxi driver I had recently. He saw I had a coke, made the hand gesture as if he wanted to share it and take a sip. I said no, and when he asked why I said “because”. This was not a good enough answer. So I said, “Because it’s gross”. The driver had no idea what gross was, which is good because I would have insulted him. Turns out he simply wanted to know why I wasn’t drinking my coke- not to share it.
Ultimately I can’t wait to speak Hebrew, if only to test if my human instinct about people’s nature and smarts is true. Ironic if you think how when I meet an Israeli I talk like a two year old, slowly and shy. Perhaps they all think I’m the dumb one!


stop sending me e-cards- my email is so slow I can't open them. I detest them. Do not waste your time. Instead send me REAL letters, REAL cards, REAL PICTURES (I can't print anything)



Friday, February 15, 2008

Atah medabear Angleet?

"Do you speak English?"
This is the phrase I've been using the most this past week. And some of the time I actually use the male/female versions correctly. But mostly I ask women if they speak using the male pronoun and vice versa. Luckily no one thinks I'm insulting them- just that I'm a yarr tourette, a tourist. One of the most unexpected things about coming to Israel is how much French is spoken. When my limited vocabulary ("yes""no""big") doesn't work the endless stream of Morrocan Jews seem to appear. The result is a bizarre mix of French, Hebrew and English. Amazing my brain is adapting at all!

Today I went to the mall by myself and was met with many people who did not indeed, medabear Angleet. The most certantly did indeed medabear Eevreet (Hebrew) and this seemed to cause all kinds of problems. Some things I've noticed- as a general rule Israelie stores NEVER have mirrors in the dressing rooms. You have to go outside in what may be a hidous outfit for the whole world to see. Not conducive to the shopping experience.
The only time people do speak english is in American stores like Aldo and Nine West.
I'm not paying $400 sheckels for a pair of shoes that would be like $20 in NY.
Although I was able to haggle with a vendor on the street. I got him to drop the price by 10 sheckels. It was probably lik 20 sheckels less but I'm not putting up a fight when all I can really say is "No big! No big!"

I shared a cab ride home with a bunch of young kids. This was not by design or choice. The taxi drivers here just stop, pick people up, and shove you in. A trip that should take 10 minutes turns into 30. AND EVERYONE wants to know where you're from. "NY? Can? LJGHIUHENBKJMNDCnm,n,msxnckncskmnk,j...." Well that's how it sounds to me anyway. The kids were very nice, looked like the kind of teeny bopper MTV teens you'd see from Long Island. They had balloons and hearts for the chaag Valentines Day. I was able to speak a little in Hebrew, they were able to speak a little in English, and we all parted feeling satisfied in our brilliance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's new at the Ulpan

Hi All,
Well My first week at the Kibbutz is behind me. The insane time change, scrubbing toilets, and a diet that a combination of whatever I can make out from the box cover STILL are not a deterent from enjoying it here.
Well maybe the toilet part.
Classes are very intense. 5 hours 6 days a week, and it's almost entirely in hebrew. But on the plus side I have managed to learn Hebrew script in a week, a feet I avoided for 20 years and now am kind of pleased to know. Also I'm slowly picking up the art of dropping v-w-ls. As for talking... well that is slow but still a 180 from where I was a week ago. My proudest moment was my first phone call on my cell phone. It was a wrong number and under the gun I was able to apologize and say I didn't speak Hebrew and the caller understood! Sounds small but it felt like a million bucks.

My roommate is from Belgum. She is ALSO INTO JAPAN!!!! Maybe more then me... dear god.

She has a massive Geisha tattoo and tons of Hello Kitty Clothes. Clearly I am a sham.

In Hebrew "Sham" means "over there"

Saturday, February 09, 2008