Literally, 'on the face', but used colloquially to define something as 'crap' - for example, 'How are you today?' with a reply of 'Al ha panim' means something akin to 'it's all crap', or 'how's the weather?', 'Al ha panim' - the weather is crap.
If I have become slightly late with blog updates, it's because I have been busy - not only with visiting the bank to unravel the mystery of my missing bank card (quite a few of the clerks now know me and my story very well), but because I have been on various other sorties, the sorts of which I can't document here, but which are sufficiently sobering enough to bring me back into the adult world, at least for a short amount of time anyway. I described one of these events - the two terror attacks in Jerusalem last week - in my Times of Israel blog, located here.
Things move quickly in ulpan. You're amongst people 24/7 who have also made aliya. It's sort of like being back in university with a side of summer camp. There's a common ground established by dint of being in the same situation, having made the same massive life decision, and also collective grumbles - the lunch queue; strange class/room mates etc.
For me, ironically, the classroom setting has regressed me about 10 or so years. Because there's not much going on otherwise, there's a lot of partying, drinking, hanging around late at night, eating strange things and having meaningful chats with people you've just properly spoken to in the first time in a month.
Shamefully, it seems I have not adjusted very well to returning to the classroom as a pupil. I'm ashamed to say that I'm using my phone in class when bored or frustrated, occasionally bunk classes (usually when I need to go to the bank, yet again), fail to do my homework and don't revise the new material. This is entirely different to both what I expected to happen, and also how I was during my actual school days. I always worked very hard for the teachers I liked or hated (the former is self-explanatory; the latter, borne out of a desire to refute negative assumptions towards me, or so I assumed) and consistently achieved highly.
I'm also slightly horrified that I've just spent the last half decade or so as a teacher - always with a fair few non-native speakers in the class, noch - and so really should know better than to act like this. I am a professional adult who has had first (and second, third, fourth...) hand experience of disruptive children, and therefore mamash should not seek to replicate such unworthy and undesirable behaviour myself. However, it seems that, instead, I've collated and acquired only the most subversive and clever disruptive behaviours from my previous pupils and finetuned them. So I'm either regressing into an alternate past-version of myself, or I'm just a lazy idiot lacking motivation.
And it is really difficult to be motivated at times. The class is taught all in Hebrew, which is actually a good thing. Most of the class are non-native English speakers, or speak no English at all. In my class, at any one time, conversations will be firing away in English, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, French and Hebrew, often while the teacher is attempting to teach. There is a lot of calling out, and 'silence' is not the most Israeli of concepts. It is incredibly difficult to concentrate most of the time, especially given that so much ground is covered in a lesson (sometimes); the grammar doesn't correlate to English and its just a pretty difficult language to learn.
On that note, I have noticed that my professional, native language of English is being corrupted by other languages. Sometimes, I'll be speaking, to either native or non- native speakers, and realise that I've either forgotten a word, or what I've just said isn't entirely in English. The other day, I forgot the English for 'washing machine', instead using the Hebrew ('mechinot cavisa'), and, when that didn't receive a response, said it in French instead ('machine a lavage'), before miming it. Oh dear. Most people in the ulpan - of whatever native language, have seen similar Hebrew infiltrations into their conversations, so at least we're all in this together.
I know I need to push myself more with the Hebrish, yet I honestly feel that I'd do this better if I was working. Working in Israel requires some use of Hebrew, which would force me to practise more, and would give me a routine. This is the first time I haven't had a job in over a decade and, once the shock wore off, it's left me feeling lost. It's also scary not to have a regular income. I've started applying to places, and will see how that goes.
In the meantime, things are ok - it's actually quite nice, being emotionally unstimulated, or bored but happy. It definitely makes a change from London, where - I can now say - despite having everything I could ever want or need, I was lacking something, and at times could be pretty miserable.
I finally feel like I'm whole again - even if this country is shocking, baffling and nonsensical by turns - and that's just from opening a bank account. The situation back in London, while not informing my decision to make aliya (and actually occurring concurrent to it) makes me even more certain of my choice.
I'm aware that ulpan is a'soft landing', and therefore I shall try to make the most of it. Some days will be 'al ha panim', and some 'chaval ul hazman' - something like 'the dog's b*llocks'. Either way, excitement and intrigue is always around the corner...it is Israel, after all.