i think it’s time to write about the characters in my class. first and most memorable is alicia, the gangly russian girl that always smells and doesn’t moves her lips when she speaks. sometimes she breaks into fits of hysterical unabated laughter and her eyes get expressive and with her 1920’s haircut she actually looks pretty…until you notice her teeth, that is. In any event, each class day, i move one more seat away from her. i started out sitting next to her and was entertained when she was called on by the teacher to respond in Hebrew to something and from the angle i had from the side, the girl doesn’t move her lips! i thought for sure the teacher would say “hey! pipe up!” until i got further away and realized that you can actually hear her better the further away you sit. Then there is the sweet 16-year-old brazilian chickie, barbara. up until i met her, i had no idea that rio di genaro was in brazil and that portugeuse is the language there. She speaks very slow and deliberate and pronounces her name ‘bah HAH bara’. She speaks English like an American and has a very young family. She has a 6-month old sister. She gives me candy from brazil and is always offering mentos to the class; usually mint, sometimes strawberry. She is mentos queen! she has attracted the attention of the wise ass of the class, albert, but obviously is not interested; even going so far as to casually switch seats so I’m in the middle of them and i have more respect for her because of that. She is here without her friends and without her boyfriend. 16 is such a hurtful age to make such a big move! she seems pretty lonely. She will start high school in september and then go to the army.
Albert is 20 years old and going to class is optional for him. He never does his homework, smokes pot during breaks and sometimes doesn’t even bring his books at all. His most valuable asset is that he is the sole translator between English and Russian and so the teacher has some patience with him. he’s from Latvia (which i think has something to do with lithuania) and until he made aliyah, he was under house arrest for drugs. He endures devil looks from liz, the class bitch. everyone has their turn at being bitched at from her. although i respect her for coming here as a tourist from Switzerland, i think she doesn’t treat people fairly. She has a very large religious extended family here in Israel, never wears make up and lives on campus. She has red hair, blue eyes and freckles and always sits alone. Sometimes she gets into a 30 second to full minute tirade about how ‘if you don’t want to learn, leave!” no one looks at her for fear of being shot at. When class first started i really wanted to get to know her but then i heard her bitch at Albert outside during break and thought she was just too intense. She wears black sandals, pulls her hair back with sunglasses and has a boyfriend in Switzerland called benny.
inneke from Holland used to sit next to her until a few days ago when she returned back to Holland inneke was a smiling older woman. smiles Holland-like at everyone and everything. i never talked to her. Jesse is from Florida He’s 18 and acts every bit of it! he draws pictures really big so that the teacher will see. one of them was ‘boredum’ and after he offended the teacher, i leaned over and told him that he even spelled it wrong. i think something is clinically wrong with him ~ he’s the kind of American that when he starts to speak, you groan and want to either disown your birthplace or make excuses for him. He has nervous habits like tapping his pen, tapping his foot, whining to himself and giving out these long sighs that make me want to throw a cactus at him. i make mike sit next to him (much the same Barbara makes me sit next to Albert But i can handle Albert though. “GET your elbow off my desk.” “NO, i don’t want to smoke your pot at break.”
Mike is 25 years old and made aliyah with his wife, gavi. They both lived in staten island. gavi knows Hebrew very well and mike relies on her alot. In the beginning, Barbara and i would see his eyes glaze over from not understanding something in class and his foot a-tappin and we’d try to calm him by telling him that it’s OK when he didn’t get something. But now that we are all in the thick of this very foreign language, it’s every wo/man for her/himself. There are four Russians that sequester themselves together. They don’t speak English at all and are hard to want to know…. and so… that is our happy Hebrew family in kitah aleph.
this past week has been wonderful. We ordered custom shelves in black, went to a home supply store and bought some things that make the luv shack more of a home. We both love home stores and we spent over an hour just walking through the aisles. At home, tsafi rewired electrical wires, got my computer working (then he broke it and then he fixed it again) and he hung the shelves with a loud drill while i held a small bucket under the hole to collect the mess. most of the walls in the luv shack are concrete so alot of work was put into each hole. i decorated and organized everything giving the home not just a woman’s touch but a faerie’s kiss. i lit nag champa incense and philosophized to myself where candles should go while he focused on the practical.
i stepped on another snail last night. This time the head popped off. i screamed like i was being murdered and washed it off with tsafi’s dirty gray sock.
a word about purpleation….on the last full moon we drank wine with gil and anat and made up this word “purpleation” it can be used for anything…in any context…
yesterday i sat outside our cute little house in the sun doing homework waiting for my shipment from home to come with the moving men. i walked to the street when i heard a truck stop. On the back of the truck was a big box that said “korn” and ‘strand’ (my moving company) i told them “yup! that’s me!” and i ran into the house to get my video camera. They filled up the whole living room with boxes. tsafi walked in just as they began and with each box his eyes grew more and more scared. “how will all this stuff fit?!” from 3pm until 1am we unpacked boxes. He would pull out a silver angel wing and give me a look. He pulled out a jar of glitter and i guess “accidentally” hee hee opened up all over him and now he’s permanently covered with it! it’s all over the floor and walls and the cats and i love it! i smeared it on the netting on the windows and when our landlady looked in she laughed. Her daughter who is 12 years old, stared in through the window at all the things i brought and she seemed confused. so i explained to her that when you move across the world, be sure to bring all the important things. and i showed her my pink glitter ball, various small musical instruments like my thumb piano and kaleidoscope. very essential things!
tsafi and i had so much fun unpacking! we made a tower of bubble wrap and soft stuff and then we threw gabe into it! he sank like a comet and then all you saw was this hyper rustling deep in the center of it…it’s all on video! loki just sniffed everything and remained in the closet most of the night. She didn’t even beg for food! other funny things were that this huge green bug flew into the house and circled the bare lightbulb. We raved under it to the doors’ “love street” like in bjorks human behavior video.
The casualties of the move were an ice bucket, the glitter and the sombrero chips and dips plate. not bad!
yesterday gil and anat picked us up and we drove to a mcdonalds near jerusalem that just opened up. religious freaks in the thousands (THOUSANDS!) had been protesting earlier in the morning because it was Saturday, the sabbath, and they didn’t want it open. by the time we got there all we saw were a few police and a few fanatics. We ate our supersized fries in relative peace. friends of gil and anat’s met us there. They have a one-year old daughter. i really liked them. The husband was very direct and funny. “so..you’re from new york? why the fuck are you here???!” he said and tsafi and i laughed nervously.
Later the four of us went to beach again. The wind was still way strong and the water not too warm. All four of us laid on a blanket they’d bought in peru. It was small but we managed to make a geometric pretzel of ourselves. tsafi was sick; he has a cold and so we just laid real close and kissed and i rubbed his head. We left soon after we arrived and i got in a mad female cleaning fit. i tucked tsafi in bed as i did laundry and watched CNN about the bomb. tsafi called out of work and we cleaned the house, rearranged the furniture and cuddled until midnight watching a movie.
i was in class struggling over a word and my cell phone rang. It was shoshe, tsafi’s mom who doesn’t speak much English”shaireel, tsafi iz OK,” she said. i ran out of class “WHAT HAPPENED?” i asked her and apparently there was a suicide bomber at the mall where tsafi was working today! 5 people died… i don’t know much more about it. I’m on the bus heading over to tsafi’s parents’ apartment. his brother stole our car again and he couldn’t pick me up. tsafi said he just…fell on the floor. It was 30 feet away from him. i can’t believe i live here…
4:30pm – tsafi picked me up from the bus stop. He told me that he calmed down all the waitresses by bringing them into the kitchen and having them sit on the floor. people were hysterical and screaming. The mall filled with smoke. CNN said that the man was wearing a blue overcoat concealing the bombs strapped to him. On the news they showed images of our street!! and under it was a black line saying “netanya is 10 miles from the west bank.” My heart sank to my knees and i laid on the couch at tsafi’s parents house while tsafi and i slowly ate strawberries.
gil and anat picked us up in his car and the four of us laid on a white sheet on the beach while the wind blew sand on us. The wind was very strong today. anat and i wrapped ourselves in our respective boys and we were very quiet. While we were walking back to the car gil’s uncle from canada called and tsafi translated to me that so far 7 people are dead and 100 injured. ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE!? the whole city of netanya is a ghost town now. There was a car full of religious freaks with a loud speaker. They were telling everyone to light candles and pray to god to avenge the people who died.
i am actually getting the language! i understand everything in class so far!
we have a discussion for an hour about ‘current affairs’ with the director of the ulpan~ she quotes the previous director “peace begins in the heart”. a few people state passionate opinions about the middle east situation. The girl from Switzerland is a TV reporter. mike from America has done his media homework and says “it’s all about economics.” jesse from florida sounds like a typical ‘i-see-what-i-want-to-see” American guy. i said nothing~ i don’t want to form opinions. i think i can just do my part simply by writing what i see and feel here and take photographs of unexpected parts of Israel.
The opinions of people around me is that Israel is the usa of the middle east and that the arabs are just unintelligent. The surrounding 7 arab countries did not want to help the palestinians living in a displaced persons way. barak offered part of the west bank and arafat refused the offer. a heated woman from brazil (that brought her 3 children with her when she made aliyah 2 years ago) outright called arafat a dumb ass for doing this.
The director posed this question of ‘does the media influence us to think that there will never be peace in the middle east?’ and there were various opinions on this. What i took away from this conversation is that the only thing to do is to do our own personal part to influence people we know on what it is like to literally live in Israel.
today i found the #7 bus with no problem. last night i ruined all of tsafi’s white socks. i accidentally left a black something in our new washing machine. i was amazed at how gray a white sock can actually get! tsafi wasn’t amazed at all… to celebrate my first load of laundry we went to an irish pub with his friend, yossi, and drank merlot. they played the whole ‘pixies’ album!
i board the bus with gun-toting army soldiers in green uniform (men and women), school children with bright backpacks and strategically bleached hair, career women with polka dot shirts. i am in a foreign world. i still don’t have my footing on any of it. This morning when i awoke with a hangover i felt bad about tsafi’s socks and awoke him with kisses and told him I’m sorry… he kissed me and rubbed my back and sweetly whispered “shut up…”
yesterday was the introduction to ulpan akiva. The music teacher told us that in order to want to learn there, that we have to ‘open our minds and our hearts.’ I’m sitting on the bus now trying to do just that. cell phones scream. The bus speeds against the blue blue mediterranean. sand and volkswagons and purple flowers and army helicopters. alot of people smoke here. i am surprised there aren’t more Russians in my class (they are the most numerous of immigrants to Israel). there are 12 people total in my class..kitah aleph… 4 americans, 1 switzerland, 2 ukraine, 2 latvia, 1 from brazil, 1 from holland and i forgot where the other woman is from. i came to the ulpan too early yesterday so i was offered a private lesson. It has been 14 years since my last hebrew class but i was up for it. i really liked the tutor and am feeling bad that i cried. My mind got overwhelmed and just…shut down and when i felt the tears start, i knew i couldn’t stop them. they’ve been building up since my farewell party and i haven’t let them fall yet…. so i put the cap on my pen and tried to shrink down in my seat. But the thing with private tutoring is that all eyes are on you. She would later come to see if i was OK she was so nice. She liked my pink hair. spending 10 minutes saying ‘yaffeh!’ (beautiful). our real teacher told us that we’ll all be speaking Hebrew in 2 months!
11pm – i stepped on something squishy with my socks on and instinctively i stuck the afflicted foot out and turned on the light. It was a snail! i didn’t kill it. It just sorta laid there on its back slowly trying to turn over. i left it there right outside the bathroom and watched TV we remembered that we had our second attempt at laundry ready to hang up and while tsafi went to get it, i filmed the cats in the closet. then i stepped on the same snail with my bare feet and all kinds of screams ensued…this time i killed it. tsafi carried me around the house tonight. I’m forever scarred. faeries don’t kill snails! they are transport!