Friday, April 9, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #128 - 9 months later…

My Hebrew is still terrible but slightly less terrible.
I can say important things like Ani sareecha leshalem – I need to pay – and yesh elegefen? – do you have grape leaves?

Most of my communication in Hebrew consists of short phrases that indicate my question – kemach meleh? (whole wheat?),
matanot? (gifts?)
or longer phrases that circumvent the gaping holes in my vocabulary –
ba’ali lo rotzeh matanot beshviel li (this is my standard answered to Cellcom when they call my cell phone offering me ‘gifts’ – for which I will OF COURSE have to pay -
‘my husband doesn’t want me to have gifts’ and
‘efshar la’asot kah-kah? ('it’s possible to do like this?' – insert improvisational hand movements demonstrating what it is you want to do - anything - exit a parking lot, serve yourself from a buffet line, change your baby in the corner of a small shop...).

Then there’s my receptive language – essentially my fake understanding. I ask prices and then nod as a stall tactic while I try to figure out what number they just told me. I repeat the number as a further stall tactic while I try to figure out what that number is in English. At this point I am usually embarrassed to stall any further (although i really should shout 'Mapitone?!' - 'what are you talking about?!' but I do not) so I make a split second decision to either pay or flee and only then do I make the final calculation – of shekels into dollars to see if I paid a fair price. It goes down something like this:

Cama Zeh Oleh? (how much does this cost)
Shmonim ve chamesh tishim (eighty five ninety)
Shmona ve ….mah? (eight….what?)
Shmonim ve chamesh tishim
(In my brain): Ok it’s either thirty-nine or eighty. Or fifty-nine. Or maybe it’s ninety.
I’ll take it! (I pay with way more than it could possibly cost - a 200 shekel bill just to be safe).
And as I put back my change I count it discreetly to figure out the answer to my original question, Cama Zeh Oleh?

This doesn’t make me Israeli – I mean EVERYONE loves sachlab (or they should)!
I used to crave tasti-d-lite. Now I crave sachlab A thick, sweet, hot, milky drink with cinnamon and nuts. Which you can get in the shuk. Usually. But if not, there's always dried pomello peel.

Maybe this is evidence of me getting there…sort of
I cringe at the sound of water running. I shut the water when I brush my teeth, lather my shampoo, scrub my dishes. Of course my washing machine is running non-stop…

My kids will holler “YOU’RE WASTING WATER!” at whoever is letting water run. Often times I am in the middle of rinsing the baby and someone will pop in to reprimand me. As I explain bathing the baby is not wasting water I am rebutted with stories about classmates who bathe…well, less frequently.

I think I will have to agree to disagree. With the supermarket.
It struck me today that I really can’t get used to the culture of the supermarket – I’m talking about the bigger meaner makolet. It really has its own strange culture of non-service, obscure sales, and a survival of the fittest bent. I’m not even talking about the bag it yourself (and FAST) business. I am midway through bagging. She is done ringing and she announces the good news. I have spent enough to earn matanot (gifts) – well I have to pay but only 1 shekel each. My choices are orange drink or pizza.
I’ll take the pizza.
Where is it?
In the freezer.
The freezer in this particular store is in the furthest point imaginable from the register. I survey the situation. Baby is awake in her carseat. Rosie is spinning (think: Dead show spinning girls) in the entrance-way of the store. There are about 7 people lined up behind me. Since I accidentally used the express lane for my gift-worthy order, all 7 people are holding their groceries. In their hands. I look at Becky. My only hope – 6 year old Becky.

Becky – can you go to the freezer and get – what’s the name of the pizza?
She tells me a name.
I finish bagging while Becky goes to look.
Of course there are two pizzas with this name, only one of which is on sale, neither of which is identified as the sale item and Becky is stumped in the freezer section for five of the longest minutes ever.

I pay, pull Rosie out of the way of wagon traffic and push the baby to the side – within eyesight of a friend of mine waiting in another line. I leave them there and run to Becky (!!), we bring both pizzas to the clerk, she points to the one that’s on sale, Becky goes back and gets another and we leave. My teeth are clenched. My heart is racing.

Am I still so spoiled or is this system just backwards? I think of the book I’m reading – My Life by Golda Meir – and about the socialist roots of the modern state of Israel. I’m working on a theory connecting supermarket culture with the goals of social equality for the proletariat…but maybe it’s not that complicated.

Maybe it was that American-style service on our Dead Sea vacation that spoiled me…

An aside –
One night during dinner a ton of people were (ultra-civilized) waiting in line for lamb for maybe 25 minutes. Someone commented that we’re such a patient and orderly group. How American, they said. (Funny – I thought they all must be British. In Brooklyn people didn’t wait so patiently and orderly in line for lamb.)

Contrast that with a trip to the bathroom. All the stalls were full. An Israeli lady came in and asked me if all the stalls were taken. I nodded yes. She waited about 10 seconds and then started knocking on each door to make sure. And to hurry everyone along, I suspect.

For the record, I’m still a hybrid
My kids take Israeli showers but they take them every day. And then they put on clean clothes. I wait for the lamb and for the bathroom but I have no more patience for supermarket sales. I can’t drink enough sachlab except when they don’t have it but I know how to comfort myself with an impulse purchase of dried pomello peel. No matter what the price.

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