Tuesday, August 11, 2009

swirling thoughts #6 - more new things

How to distinguish the novice from the native? It’s all about the resh.

When my friend Michal made aliya four years ago I remember her calling me up one November day so very excited (and proud!) that her then four year old son Ari was pronouncing his resh’s like a real Israeli. His arba (four) was a very gutteral “aghrba”. Even his “resh” was a “ghresh”. The significance of this event was lost on me until now. For a month I’ve been rattling off my phone number (by heart, in Hebrew) to whoever asks for it. I say it so good and so fast that the person asking then starts speaking to me in Hebrew (as opposed to when I ask a question in Hebrew and they answer me in English). As you may guess, there are no arba’s in my phone number. I had some occasion to distinguish my kids school (Orot Etzion) from the “other school” in Efrat three different times today. I knew I was wasting everyone’s time each time I answered Orot (instead of Oghrot) because the native Israeli ear simply doesn’t process the “r” without the “gh”.

Tomorrow we move into house number four on a street called Zerubavel. In English, 4 Zerubavel. In Hebrew, Zeghrubavel Aghrba. I live in Efrat. Efghrat. When they called me today about scheduling my mineral water delivery I had to give the address. Which city? Efrat. Again? Efrat. Ef-what? Efghrat. Ah! Efghrat! Nachon (correct). What is the house number? Arba. Silence. Arba… I mean Aghrba. Ah! Aghrba! Nachon. And the street? Zerubavel (emphasis on the ooo). Silence. Zeghrubavel (note the resh is correct but my emphasis is still on the ooo). Ah! ZeghrubaVEL! Apparently the mineral water lady knew how to pronounce my street name and she wanted to let ME know how to pronounce it. There is some kind of law in Israel that a native speaker MUST correct the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of anyone less than a native speaker – at any time and in any circumstance without exception. Yesterday my husband was having a shouting match with a woman in the local Bituah Leumi office – something like social security – and in the middle of the argument he said a word incorrectly. Without missing a beat, she corrected his word and went right on shouting.

22 NIS per roll of VIVA! paper towels. indulgence redifined.

In BJ’s I remember wondering if the checkout workers were given a crash course in maximum space utilization – I would bring a teetering shopping cart to the aisle, unpack it onto the belt and they would, without fail, repack my items in a way that just made sense, no teetering involved. Even in the supermarket packing groceries was an art form – dairy together, cans together, heavy things on bottom, eggs on top. In Israel there is quite a different system – superstore or makolet, you bag yourself. And it’s not just that. There is a rhythm. I am still so used to gabbing on the cell phone while being rung up or staring at the prices on the screen as items are scanned it doesn’t occur to me until after I’ve given the credit card (tashlum echad!), waited for it to authorize and signed the receipt that I should have at least started bagging my groceries. At that point, the checkout clerk is already ringing the next customer. My items are usually sitting on top of the stack of plastic bags and the items of the person behind me are now intermixing with mine. Every time this happens I tell myself ‘Must start bagging once she starts ringing! Bag as she rings!’ I have yet to master the rhythm of the checkout line but I aspire to do as part of my Israelification.

Moon shadow.
I notice the phases of the moon here. I have never in 37 years noticed them before. And it’s not like the moon doesn’t shine in the US. It’s the strangest thing. I’m so tuned in to the landscape, the horizon and the sky – my kids know already to ooh and ahh and to give a cursory lift of their eyes from their DS when I point out a textured hilltop or a tree-lined curving road as we drive throughout the country. Even my friend Natalie had to admit – she said, “Lisa – you really love the land – I’ll give you that – you notice every fruit tree, and every this and every that.” So maybe paying attention to all the ‘this’ and all the ‘that’ lends itself to noticing the moon (which appears in broad daylight every afternoon) and just how much of it is showing compared with the day before.

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