Sunday, 7 September 2014

Lines and Wines

Or - 'The One Where I Start to Dislike Humanity and Visibly Show It'.

This week has been exciting in ways different to last; you'll be happy to know that this week, I have not suffered any animal bites, and the ones I do have have scarred over nicely (I have two little teeth marks engraved on my knuckles for a good few years yet), and due to the 'open ended ceasefire' dealy, it seems that there will be no further azakot for the time being, unless I venture up north, where there are rocket attacks from Syria and Lebanon.

I've started working 4pm-9pm at the MASA offices, answering calls about Israel programs and other hullaballoo. So far, so good, but I've been here since 12 and had to speak to my fair share of Americans who can't understand a word I'm saying. But, it's a half-Hebrew, half-English speaking environment, and everyone seems lovely, so I'm quite happy. 

Anyhoo. This week has seen hellos and goodbyes once more, aswell as a trip beyond the Green Line. By the way, did you know that the 'Green Line' name comes from the green ink used to draw the line on the map during talks? As in, it's nothing more symbolic than that, as some have suggested? This country never ceases to amaze me.

So. Last week, my Ulpan class said goodbye to one of our two teachers (for some reason, we have one teacher 2 days a week an another for the remaining 3. The other teacher goes to teach the class below. As they say in Israel: 'lama?(why)'- 'kacha!(because)'). Amira is a very sweet, docile older religious lady, who was actually really funny - she has a great sense of humour (barring some slightly random racist outbursts by way of demonstrative examples), speaks pretty good English and has the patience of an absolute saint.

It must be bloody difficult teaching adults, and not just that - a cross-section of olim chadashim, all of whom speak vastly different first languages - in my class, mostly Russian and French, but also Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. The class is all taught in Hebrew, but occasionally we slip into our defacto second language of English. Matters are further complicated as some of the class don't speak English. So, when something potentially confusing happens, such as the class doesn't understand some vocabulary, people start shouting across the room, at the teacher etc in every sodding language under the sun. Some voices are impressively (and irritatingly) louder than others, and it becomes difficult to concentrate.

I found teaching Jewish children a nightmare, but we're all adults - (mostly) Jewish adults. Whether or not this means we are amplifications of the worst aspects I saw in my Jewish pupils - assumptions of superiority, general egocentricity and apathy - or not, it definitely does not bode well for the teacher, making her job even more difficult than mine ever was.

What most of us have is motivation (even me, when I don't give up completely). We need to learn this language in order to survive here. And we are learning - even though I'm still a bit shy to speak, in class and in real life contexts, I understand directions, words and more every day.

But I digress. Last week, ladies and gentleman, I learned not only Hebrew, but about human nature. It's a bit like ulpan is a petri dish , and I am presented with many wonderful opportunities to study the life and habits within.

It all began with a trip to beautiful Oranit, courtesy of David HaRomani (who you may recall from a previous post), who put me and 9 other people up for Shabbat. Oranit is kind of near Tel Aviv-Hod HaSharon (indeed I passed my kibbutz on the way there, and it has the sweltering humidity of TLV and surrounding environs). What I didn't know was that it's beyond the 'Green Line', but infront of the separation barrier.

It was interesting lesson in politics too - the 'Green Line' demarcates Israel's pre-1967 borders, separating the West Bank from the rest of Israel. The separation barrier is there to...well, I don't really know any more. Especially when David's brother drove us to it and explained how the Palestinian Arabs behind the fence regularly - and illegally - cross over to Israeli Arab villages to work, as they get better pay and healthcare etc if they work here and not there. I did not know any of this. Like I said - a messed up but fascinating country.

But I digress once more. David had been kind enough to offer us full reign of his house ('Italian style') for the weekend and a fabulous time was mostly had by all. The one (or two) thing(s) detracting from this was the selfishness and unwillingness of those around me.

Now, I'm in no way suggesting this was an issue with everyone. Oh no, no, no. But what I observed was that some people are natural 'givers' in life (such as our gracious host), helping in whatever way they can, giving generously (although sometimes too generously, as it's not reciprocated or appreciated) and contributing to the group in whatever way - be this meal preparation, washing up or otherwise.

Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of 'taking' - people inviting themselves along, without having been asked beforehand, waiting for everyone else, usually the same people, to clear up after them; do their washing up etc. Maybe I've just been well brought up, but I found it disgusting. I had a real Holden Caulfield moment of misanthropy.

Even more so when, at about 2am, I was made to leave my bed (where I was just drifting off to sleep!!!) for another person to use. I ended up sleeping outside on the ground, resulting in not only a bad back, a lack of sleep but also numerous painful and infected-looking mosquito bites running all the way up my legs.But it gets worse. I went back to the room in the morning to retrieve my stuff, which was still in there, noticing an empty bed on the way down, only to find an 'opportunist', to use the polite euphemism (because there are oh so many disgusting and terrible words I could use to reflect my disgust and rage) had joined someone in the room.

I'll let you make of that what you will. Moving on to the other area of latent disgust I've acquired for our dear species, last week was the Jerusalem Wine Festival, a calendar highlight.

The way it works is you pay a certain amount, get a free glass at the entrance and are then free to taste as many (and there are MANY) wines as you like. You're then free to buy the wines you taste, or just to keep drinking more.

The price is kind of worth it, but a little on the pricey side - 85 schmekels, but, had shit not gone down, it would've been totally worth every last drop. Twice.

The night all started well. The ulpan took us on a trip to the Israel Museum during the day - the same place which was hosting the wine festival later. Because we'd been out since the afternoon, not many of us had adequately eaten beforehand. You can see where this is going, can't you?

The Israel Museum is fascinating, if not a little overwhelming - think along the lines of the British Museum, or the New York Metropolitan. I felt a little bit drunk just walking around there, if I'm honest - there was just too much amazing stuff to see.

But, off we all went, 'wine tasting'. It was incredibly fun. That is, until some twattish people could not handle their drink and managed to completely and utterly ruin the evening for everyone involved, including yours truly.

But, that has been dealt with now, and all respective parties have either been, as my darling grandfather would say, 'sawted aaahhht' ('sorted out', which usually means punched) and shouted at. And lessons have therefore been learned by us all.

And so... I feel like things are finally starting to settle for me here. I feel better now that I'm a bit more busy and, most importantly of all, I've discovered that Israel has Dorothy Perkins, my most favourite shop ever in the entire world other than Gap. It's a massive schlep - near Oranit, but one day I shall make a pilgrimage there. This discovery was perfectly timed, as I was ready to buy out almost all of their current collection in my size and have it shipped to the Holy Land.

As I have emerged from the past week feeling so optimistic, I may even make extend this approach towards my ulpan classes, and may even make it to a few of them. Note the conditional tense, and that I mentioned no word about homework.

Have a great week, people.

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