06 October 2007

Functional Literacy

As the majority of my friends head back to school tomorrow, I find myself still in a state of limbo. The Rabbinical Students begin their third year with a field trip to the Davidson Kotel (where, if you're in my program, the money from "Uncle Bill" pays "Uncle Bill"'s Israel bureau, so that you can daven at "Uncle Bill's Kotel" and take pictures that say "William Davidson."). I will probably sleep through their morning services, because, hey, Hebrew U doesn't start for like another week!

Currently, I'm feeling a functionally illiterate in Israel. As my friends are off to their place of higher learning (which, btw, is ALL in Hebrew), I sit at home, waiting patiently for my turn at being a student at Rothberg. I consistently score better than most at Scrabble, and I read so much as a child my friends from elementary school remind me of how I used to always read THROUGH lunch, only picking my face up from reading when there was an opportunity to talk about camp (true story). But all of this is/was in English. Hebrew eludes me...for now.

Until I start my classes, I continue to conduct myself through telegraphic conversations. I sincerely miss talking here the way I do in New York. Consider this vignette:

SBB in the States: Hello, cabbie. 63rd between Central Park West and Broadway. I would prefer it if you drove down Columbus from here, then merge into Broadway at 66th. At 64th, make a left, and then a right on CPW. My driveway is on 63rd, halfway down the block. You make a left and drive all the way through. That is my lobby. Thanks....Can I please get $7 back?

SBB in Israel: Shalom. Efshar l'Rechov HaTzfira. B'vakasha l'Rachel Immeinu, v'yemina l'rechov Ruth. S'mola l'HaTzfira. OK. Po. Lo, Sham. Sham. OK, Po. Todah.

Please to go to HaTzfira Street [At this point, I don't yet sound so stupid.] Please to Rachel Immeinu Street and right to Ruth Street. Left to HaTzfira. OK, here. No, there. There. OK, here. [At this point I give up and walk the rest of the way home.]

To be fair, most cabbies in NY understand my English even less than the taxi drivers in Israel understand my English. But as I embark on my (somewhat embarrasing) experiment of living in Israel, I'm annoyed that when I talk to cabbies, I cannot even give directions to the house where I live. And my accent? ForGET it. I have a knack for imitating patterns of speech to such a degree that I SOUND like I know what I'm saying, but the second the cabbie says, in Hebrew "So, do you want me to take this street or that street?" or "What is this lovely new bag that you are carrying? Did you buy it today?" I sit there like a slack-jawed yokel. Damn you, stupid accent-imitating talent.

I am really looking forward to the start of school. I need me some pretty basic Hebrew schools. Until then, I will haunt the hallowed halls of the Rothberg school and the Hebrew U library, reading what I can in English and signing up for classes.

Oh, and FYI -- Shabbat was nice. Really great meals and great hosts.

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