Finding myself in the Middle East

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things are Seldom what They Seem

I was sitting in the back corner of the room, attempting to decorate the little bag that was sitting in front of me for my daughter with puff paints that were either clogged or explosive, while at the same time trying to hear what the Morah was saying.

I failed at both tasks. The little bag looked like it had been done by paint balloon tossing chimpanzees, and I did not understand a word that the Morah was saying.

Well, a word. Or two. Just enough to frustrate the uncomfortable shaitel right off my head. Now I will talk about the schedule, she said, smiling. And then she switched towhat i can only assume was a kind of hebrew that is only spoken in mystical mountain-top caves. I divided my attention between her and the bag, willing myself to comprehend what she was saying. I could not make out a single word. Was my mind on screen saver? Did I have a little mini nervous breakdown and my word comprehension is now compromised forever? That would totally stink. I sunk into a depression and added a black flower on the bag. It is very important, she added twenty minutes later, and I jerked my head up from the ruins of the little bag, relieved that she had decided to switch back to conventional hebrew. It is very important to--Then she lapsed back into gibberish.

I sat there in my six year-old daughter's tiny little chair and listened to a woman speak in a completely foreign language. My hebrew is pretty stinky, but this was a nightmare. I had no idea if she said anything important. I have no idea if she sat there for three hours and made fun of all my blood relatives and called me fat and imcompetent.

This is ridiculous, I though furiously as I stabbed a puff paint in the general direction of the little bag. First grade is hard enough. How I am I going to do this? How can I have a daughter in a classroom and have no idea how to communicate with the teacher? For that matter, how can I do this is in this foreign country that thinks it's okay to put forty girls in one classroom and forces me to dress in a way that makes me feel like I'm choking?

I glared at all of the cute pictures decorating the walls and shot daggers of death at the paint slobbered bag on the desk. I couldn't do this. Why did I think that i could do this? I couldn't.

I would pack, I thought, and get tickets. We could live near my parents and I would finish school. My kids would speak English and I could communicate with their teachers. I wouldn't feel like a moron with my neighbors and I would be able to express myself if someone cut me in line instead of what i do here, namely, open my mouth and it keep it that way, like a dying fish.

I began to sweat, and I scratched angrily at my shaitel. I hate shaitels. There is no reason I should have to wear one.

When it was finally all over, I walked on shaky legs out the door, glad to put some distance between me and the work of art I left on the desk. An American Israeli friend of mine had a car, and offered me a ride. I accepted. She smiled at me. "Can you kind of summarize," I blurted to her on the way to her parking spot, "what the morah said? I didn't really--"

She rolled her eyes. "Oh gosh, the morah talks a mile a minute. I hope she slows down for the girls. I'm a fluent Hebrew speaker, and I didn't understand a word that she said."


nmf #7 said...

That was perfect- thank you for giving me hope when my daughter reaches that age. said...

I'm getting there! Realizing it's not a personal war against me. :)


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