Finding myself in the Middle East

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shalom, Shmee D. Mah Shlomaich?

I reached for the phone and dialed a number. After being on hold for eleventy hours, a woman picked up.

My head pounded. My stomach lurched. But I took a deep breath and faced my fears. "Shalom," I began.

I never thought it would be this way, with my Hebrew. I never thought that after living here for nearly 8 years, the language would still be such a problem for me. Words were always my thing. I revelled in expressing myself using them.

But maybe it's because of the dependability of English words that I have a hard time putting myself out there using ones that I am not super comfortable with.I am not used to taking risks and having people laugh at me. I am eloquent, dernit! I do not sound like my Polish grandmother!

But here I am, panicking, with a list of phone numbers in front of me. I am trying to:

A-get Coco-pop into a special gan with physical therapy and speech therapy and every other kind of therapy that her teacher says she needs. So this involves calling the neurologist to make an appointment. I call. I stumble, but get the words out--I want to make an appointment for my daughter. Because her morah says.

There is genuine relish is in the woman's voice on the other end of the line as she informs in Hebrew faster than a speeding bullet that "Well! It's not quite so easy! First you must get a hearing test done. Then you must get her eyes checked. Then you must fill out these forms that we will tell you we sent to you months ago every time you call but really we didn't because we love when that little squeaky note of hysteria enters your voice but you can't even say anything because your Hebrew makes small children hide under their blankets. Then there are more appointment to make but we will not tell you about that until after it is too late to get in. Okay? B'seder? Yala, bye."

B-Find us another apartment. I cannot continue talking about that. Because I will cry and it will be the kind with a runny nose, and it will not be pretty.

I went to ulpan. I have Israeli neighbors. It's a made up language with so few words! What is so daunting about it? Why does it make me cry?


Malka said...

Hugs. What can I do but echo your neighbor, and say, "Ze kashe"? If I offer you a treat from the makolet will you smile a little or will you explode? I don't want you to explode. I like you.

Princess Lea said...

You actually are in a better position than most, because you are aware that your Hebrew isn't perfect. Some people shriek the four words they know loudly and demand that others understand them; it is quite embarrassing.

I am impossible with languages; I grew up in a trilingual household and I only know English. Some have a penchant, which I greatly envy; I already have an image of being a grandmother in Israel and the einiklach won't understand me, the way I never understood my grandparents.

It's not so much about the language in Israel, though; so many know English! It's about the attitude.

Throw back your shoulders, bark into the phone, demand! Snarl! "Can I speak to your manager?"

JerusalemStoned said...

Malka, I like you too, and I LOVE treats from the makolet. Offer away with no fears of spontaneous combustion. I think.

Princess, that is my nisayon exactly. I just can't help but think that we lose something precious when we learn to act like that...but maybe I'm just excusing myself. I need to man up!

sporadicintelligence said...

I was once that woman (or girl then), screaming the four words I knew, expecting people to understand me - actually I was speaking English, small words, very loud. I could't understand why they didn't understand me, they looked so normal.

And that's one reason I'm not moving to Israel, I like being articulate and having an extensive lexicon of words to express myself with (and possibly intimidate other people). I'm a vocabulary snob, and it's too much of me to give up.

Big points for you for trying!

Gila Rose said...

Where do I begin with the likes?

Since I also consider myself to be a writey word person, sounding like a bumbling idiot is hard for me. I would like to wear a sandwich board that says (in Hebrew), I AM ACTUALLY INTELLIGENT AND ARTICULATEN!

ROFL at your description of what happens when try to get specialist appointments.

The racing heartbeat before I have to introduce my stammering self to yet another Israeli on the phone.

I should print this post out and hang it on my wall.

Anonymous said...

just try to do your best. thats what you did. make sure you get all the info, even if you need to ask the lady 3x. rachelli

JerusalemStoned said...

sporatic--it is definitely one of the hardest things about living here, at least for me. I think of PTA in English as CHEATING.

Gila Rose--hi! welcome to my humble abode! I knew you would understand me! Sniffle! Thing is...wearing a sandwich board might counteract the intelligent thing. You know? (as you can see, I have thought of this.)

Rachelli--ten times. :)

Gila Rose said...

You make a fair point re the sandwich board. Also, I spelled articulate wrong. That would not go far in convincing people of my supposed non-ineptitude-ness.

JerusalemStoned said...

Oh--I thought it was written in the German. Articulaten!

colloquiallyspeaking said...

can you backtrack to the gan safa issue please? what's up? i went through this last year - the outcome was surprising - and i also have the names of english speaking people you can call for this. e-mail me if you want the info.


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