Tag Archives: Hebrew

Another Week Gone

1 Nov

Well, another week has zipped by me. It’s been a good but productive week. I’m amazed by how much Hebrew I’m picking up just being surrounded by it. This week alone I’ve learned (& been using!) the Hebrew words for – excuse me, I’m alright, yes, no and latte (super important!). I keep a running list of words I’ve learned on the notepad on my iPhone so I can refer to them as needed. I’m slowly improving. Each trip to the store or shuk is getting easier. I was overwhelmed my first time at the grocery store but I’m learning my way through the store, learning which employees will begrudingly (at times) speak English to me, etc. I’m feeling okay. Though I had a hilarious encounter at the pharmacy trying to ask if they had flat irons. I was reduced to charades and repeatedly clamping my hair with my hands in an effort to mimic the iron. It was quite the scene. I try to pepper my English with the little Hebrew I do know. I’m a very enthusiastic thanker, I’ll have you know! Ha ha! Slowly but surely…

Between being surrounded by Hebrew, taking intensive German and sitting in on a Yiddish class — my English is suffering. Due to having so many non-native English speakers in our classes I’ve already slowed down my rhythm of speech and automatically switch to less slang and simpler words. I’ve even caught myself doing the classic…”Uhhh…how do you say…?” thing that is nearly universal with all non-native speakers trying to remember vocabulary. You are required to snap your fingers too as you say this, in an effort to engage your brain. I know everyone who works in International Education is familiar with this concept (and have probably done it themselves!). Too bad, I find myself doing this the most when I’m speaking ENGLISH! So all this to say – no making fun of my English.

On Facebook, I mentioned how last week one of our Israeli classmates made homemade hummus and brought it to class. This week, another classmate brought in fresh chocolate chip banana bread (delicious!) and another brought in fresh picked avocados from his kibbutz. We are slowly being spoiled by our Israeli friends! Dinner invitations and holiday plans are being issued left and right. Our local friends are incredibly kind enough to include us in their planning – especially those of us living on campus. We are lucky and we know it.

I had a good chuckle early in the week when one classmate invited me to dinner with her son who is 23. She told me she wanted to invite the younger girls in the group to dinner with him. So I listed out the three girls who recently graduated from college. “And you too since you are young too,” she said. I laughed and said she should invite Victoria too (who only 3 years older than me) if she was being so generous about who was considered young. “No! I want young girls!” When I pointed out that the other three girls were a full decade younger than me and I was closer in age to Vicky – she was stunned. “No! But you have no wrinkles for being so old! You look so young!” I had to show her my passport for proof of my age. For the rest of class, she kept daring the Israelis to guess my age. Guess I don’t need to invest in wrinkle cream yet.

As we have “struggled” through various situations since we’ve been in Haifa my friend, Victoria and I keep finding ourselves saying in jest, “That’s just the Israeli way.” Things just take more time here – even simple stuff like standing in line to check out at the grocery store to more complex stuff like waiting for our financial aid disbursement. This morning, our friend, Nathalie took us to the main bus station to get an annual student bus pass after we were told the bus center on campus isn’t able to issue passes to students. It took over two hours to get our passe, several trips back and forth between the pass office and the main cashier booth, and getting passed through no less than four employees in the pass center. It was a mess but we eventually succeeded in our goal which we could have never accomplished without our ally and fluent Hebrew speaker, Nathalie. At one point, even she was getting frustrated with the hassle of no one knowing what to do with us. Finally, she said, “Aww, that’s Israelity for you!” We have a new term for “That’s just the Israeli way” – Israelity – it’s totally their own version of reality. This concept describes things perfectly! I love it and will use it from now on!

On Wednesday in our Research Forum we had an amazing guest speaker who talked about how her family saved many Jews by hiding them during the war. Her family had 12 members who took part in the Resistance in Holland but they never spoke about it until the 1980s and even then they were very resistant to speak. Each of them had no idea the others were also involved. They have all been honored as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem. Her parents alone took in a Russian family of three and a local dentist and hid them for five years. Keep in mind, they were also feeding six children of their own at the time! Her father was eventually arrested and died on the day of liberation from Auschwitz. One of her aunts took in several children and helped passed them through an underground network to get them to safety. Unfortunately, she only had two hours to tell us stories – I would have listened for as long as she wanted to tell us stories. She and her family were so fascinating. I really enjoyed having her visit us.

Finally, I am headed to Tel Aviv for the weekend to go visit my friend, David who lives there. I’m excited to catch up with an old friend and it’s nice to know that someone from home is so close by. I’m looking forward to getting an insider’s view of Tel Aviv too! I promise to post lots of pictures and tell you all about it.


Enquiring Minds Want to Know!

5 Oct

Rainbow over Haifa, as viewed from campus

My departure date is just around the corner and I have been getting lots of questions. I thought this would be a good time to answer some of the more common questions I have been getting. A lot of questions were answered in the original list of Q & As I did when I started the blog. If you have questions that I haven’t answered yet – feel free to leave them in the comments.

Q: When do you leave Reno?

A: I fly out early October 17th. I will arrive in Israel the afternoon of October 18th.

Q: When do you come back?

A: I know my Israeli health insurance runs out September 13th, 2013 so I’m guessing I will return sometime around that date.

Q: Where will you live?

A: I will live in a dorm on campus. I will have my own room with an en-suite bathroom. I will share a common area and kitchen with five other women.

Q: Do you have to dress conservatively?

A: No, unless I’m visiting a holy site (must cover shoulders and legs, if exposed) or walking through a very conservative and/or Orthodox neighborhood.  Imagine a major dose of American style with a dash of European flair and you have Israeli style. It’s very much the same as the US. I’ve heard Israeli girls dress very…freely…when going out on the town. Flip flops are common everywhere (more than one person has told me to wave bye to my closed toe shoes) even in the most formal settings. I’ve even heard that Crocs are super popular there but I really can’t see myself caving to that trend!

Q: Will your classes be in Hebrew?

A: No, they will be in English and I will be taking intensive German (so I can read original documents for my research). Hebrew is the primary language in Israel, however, a large portion of the population also speaks English. I’ve got Hebrew  basics down – please, thank you, how much does this cost? I have no doubt that I will learn a lot more just by being surrounded by it.

Q: How many bags are you bringing?

A: I’m aiming for just a suitcase and a hiking backpack to be checked and a small carry on with my laptop and other essentials. The same that I took to New Zealand.

Q: Isn’t Israel really dangerous?

A: I am an avid news watcher and I read the Jerusalem Post every day. I am well aware of the security situation in the Middle East. However, despite what the American news may lead you to believe, Israel is safe these days. Security checkpoints abound, soldiers are a common sight (they still have compulsory military service there) and people look out for one another. The main threat is from outside of Israel’s borders. The University of Haifa has very stringent crisis plans in place and I will register at the American consulate in Haifa. I promise, I will be well looked after.

Q: Are you getting excited/scared/overwhelmed?

A: Yes. I am getting excited about this fantastic new challenge and all the new experiences ahead of me. I’m anxious to meet the other students on my program and dive into a topic I’ve been interested in for a very long time. I can’t wait to explore my new city and country. I’m looking forward to carving out my own place in such an interesting setting. I’m sad about leaving my loved ones and friends – I will miss them dearly.

Q: Do you have any goals with this blog?

A: Yes, I hope to help you get to know Israel and the Middle East while telling you what I’m up to at the same time.