Thursday, December 24, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #98 – parallel thoughts

Bob noticed I haven’t posted for a while (lack of sleep, not lack of inspiration) and offered to write a guest post. Turns out we had similar thoughts swirling in our heads that day…

Lisa on My Standing as “immigrant”:
In all our aliyah planning I never contemplated the fact that upon moving here I’d suddenly become illiterate, speak with an accent, depend on strangers to help me understand the specials in the grocery store, rely on my children to read the mail, not be able to communicate with their teachers, and be scared of official sounding messages of any type.

Bob on The Illiterate Professionals:
I obtained my Juris Doctor and Lisa is a step away from a PhD but when it comes to certain things we feel like fifth graders in an adult world. I just came from the bank to deposit 2 checks and it took me 45 minutes to fill out the deposit slip (with help from 2 nice people).

Lisa: It can be overwhelming on a day when a page-long handwritten note comes home from a teacher just after I’ve figured out that the reason there are 3 letters from Bituah Leumi is because they needed information before a certain date (long past) in order for us to receive certain benefits. And when I didn’t respond the first time they sent a second letter. And a third.

Bob: On the way back from the bank, I stopped for petrol (gas) and wanted to buy windshield wiper fluid but I could not read which bottle in the display was washer fluid nor do I know how to say "wiper fluid" in Hebrew.

Lisa: It’s not that I don’t want or need our Bituach Leumi benefits – it’s that I need to go there to set it up. Which sounds so easy. But I need to be up to the task – an exercise in precision timing, Zen-like patience, and ultimately, futility if I find out that the stack of papers I’ve brought is missing the one paper they insist they need. What I really need to do is to send Bob.

Bob: Speaking of cars, we were supposed to do the annual car inspection 2 months ago. There are 3 government offices involved in this process. I am still trying to figure out which of the 3 different governmental offices to visit first because each will undoubtedly tell me I need to go to one of the others before I can start at their office.

Lisa’s happy ending:
My illiteracy is temporary. Strangers are happy to help. My children are proud they can read. Their teachers are patient. For the most part, those official sounding messages can be deciphered after enough repetitions. And one day, before the benefits expire, we will make it to Bituach Leumi. My accent will be here forever but my kids won’t have one.

Bob’s happy ending:
We have come pretty far in less than 6 months. We order gas balloons. Lisa does this in Hebrew. We don’t get frustrated with workmen (we expect a mess) or their prices (sometimes we negotiate, mostly we just pay). We shop. We ‘get’ the metric system (Celcius, kilos, meters). We understand doctor hours and kupat cholim hours. I even learned how to give my kids quick strep tests at home. We’re not close to the doctorate level in terms of functioning like Israelis but we are probably on track for promotion to the sixth grade.

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