Thursday, February 3, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #186 - Where we came from, where we’re going, and how we'll get there.

I know, I know, it’s been a while.

What can I say? Between chasing after Peetoosh who scrambles up the marble staircase at every opportunity (fun visual: I am trying to teach her to 'tushy-skootch' down), camel rides and negotiating with shuk vendors (read: lots of visitors this month), and (alas) finally uploading a year and a half’s worth of aliyah photos to Snapfish, I’ve been spending an hour each day in riveting conversation in Hebrew.

As we toggle between persons and tenses, I struggle to break away from caveman mode, where I speak in the plural infinitive – We must to buy. We must to speak. We must to eat. We must to order. – which has worked for me so far but limits me (and my imaginary friends) to the here and now. And so I sit in ulpan for an hour each day in the hopes of linking to my past and anticipating my future.

With conversations like:
On what do you recommend?
I recommend on the manly salmon.
(How else would I remember salmon is masculine?) He tastes good. But you should not take the manly soup. (ominous!) He tastes bad!

Of course, in Hebrew it makes perfect sense (to recommend on him).

It’s a small group of us sitting around the teacher’s dining room table so it’s extremely informal and the conversations lend themselves to analysis of the Israeli psyche.

You prefer to wait for the shoes in your size? But we have a sale today! Echad PLOOS echad! (one plus one).

What ideas do you have for after your studies?
I have the idea that someday I will do something. Maybe something in environmentalism or maybe something in music.
You really have no ideas of substance, do you?

Lech lecha! Go for yourself! (But don't drive or fly)
Israeli’s have a lot of words for travel. So far we’ve covered l’tayel – to travel for pleasure, linsoah – to travel (for any reason) but specifically by vehicle, l’tos – to travel by plane, l’lechet – simply ‘to go’ (by foot or by camel but which you would never use to say “I am going on vacation” since vacation demands l’tayel!) and (not exactly traveling but related): l'ratz (to run, literally, not the kind of running involved in errands).

Everything in Hebrew is about the shoresh – the root source of the word. Which can be pretty confusing. For example, the word for errands (siddurim) is the same as the word for prayer books (siddurim).

The prayer book, a siddur, is organized according to a seder, (order), as proscribed by the great rabbis of earlier generations. Errands are my tasks, presumably enumerated in some seder (ha!) on my ‘to do’ list, as proscribed by me. The root source of both words is ‘seder’. I totally get it.

Up to a point. That point being when you tell me about your errands which include going to the Jewish book store.

The root source of people is also important
In Yiddish when you want to know who someone is related to, you ask about their ‘yichus’. Basically, what important people are in your lineage? In Hebrew the word for relatedness is ‘yachas’. No surprise here. But then when you want to explain to your friend why you prefer the small store with good service to the big store with better prices (because the people treat you better), you explain it in terms of ‘yachas’. Literally, ‘they relate to me better’.

After an hour of giggles and throat clearing I do try my best to work at least one correctly conjugated verb in the correct tense into my conversation at least once before the day’s end. As I travel (sometimes by vehicle, sometimes by foot), according to my list of errands, to small stores where I pay more but they relate to me better and then make my way back to my marble steps, and stalled Snapfish uploads.

And once I figure out the word for travel via 'tushy skootch', I can tell you all about it in Hebrew. Something to look forward to.

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