A Travellerspoint blog

Happy Jerusalem Day

Today is Jerusalem Day. Below is a link to a very famous and beloved song called Jerusalem of Gold. Enjoy the song in Hebrew (English translation is on the screen too) with amazing pictures of Jerusalem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcRr3iWN1Y4

Posted by Sarah 2116 08:07 Comments (0)

Of Sour Milk and Construction Conversation

sunny 84 °F

I smell like sour milk. After spending the last three afternoons at the beach in Tel Aviv I have a wicked sun burn. Aloe and cold showers were helping but today during class I still felt like I was on fire. One of the Russians in my class who speaks a little English suggested I put yogurt on my skin because that is supposed to cool and provide healing moisture after burns. One of my Israeli friends suggested I do the same. So I went to the little corner market and bought 9% yogurt. I have no idea what percentage it is at home but 9% was the highest fat content available here. I was sure the yogurt was going to curdle when it hit my back and shoulders. So thanks to my yogurt bath I still smell like sour milk now. I even doused myself with aloe after rinsing all the yogurt off, but that hasn't helped get rid of the sour milk smell. I do admit the yogurt did help a lot so the odor is worth it. It also serves as a reminder to be careful in this Middle Eastern sun! Olga told me no more studying by the yahm (sea)!

On Sunday Carmella is teaching my class again. No English in class sure has forced me to pay close attention. I can usually understand Olga's instructions and examples now because she is so good about only using words that she has taught. It is still really overwhelming because sometimes although she does speak very slowly, sometimes it is not slowly enough for me to keep up. It is also frustrating because if she is explaining a particular tense or grammatical concept and any explanation or clarification is given, it is given in Russian. A new friend of mine loaned me the book Hebrew for Dummy's. It doesn't actually have any Hebrew in the book at all but it gives clear, basic grammar explanations so hopefully it can help fill in some missing grammar principles for me.

There are some construction workers renovating the apartment next to me. Today I sat in the bathroom by the window and listened to the construction workers decide how to replace the window after changing a wall. Sometimes I got lost in the conversation because I didn't understand enough words but it was good practice.

Posted by Sarah 2116 06:50 Comments (3)

Little By Little

sunny 84 °F

Olga had the day off on Sunday so Carmella filled in. If I close my eyes I can hear my good friend Mimi (one of my favorite Israeli's) in Carmella's voice. Same expressions! Same Israeli attitude! Her pace is quite a bit faster than Olga's. Carmella also speaks quite a bit more English than Olga although still not as much as I was hoping but I am pretty used to guessing my way through class now. Carmella's exercises and tests were harder than Olga's which was a good challenge. Carmella didn't sing but she had her own ways of making class fun. She held up newspaper cuttings of famous people from around the world and we had to answer questions about them in Hebrew. For example, she held up the picture and asked what language they spoke, where they were originally from, where they currently live, their title, what work they do, etc.

The last few days of classes have flown by. We have increasingly more homework. I feel like I am finally getting the hang of understanding the Hebrew language but speaking the words myself is a whole different matter. I now eavesdrop on every conversation I can to listen for the (very few) words I know. I think I work very hard at speaking but I must have a very strong American accent. TWICE today I asked people questions in Hebrew while I was at the beach and they answered me in English!!! I guess they could tell that I am a beginner and figured that there is a good chance I would only have understood 10% of their answer if they answered it in Hebrew. So I guess they saved us both time but still I felt insulted that my Hebrew was ignored! I guess that just means I need more practice.

Posted by Sarah 2116 10:20 Comments (1)

Random Observations

...the good, the bad and the totally ugly

sunny 91 °F

I am now going into my third week of being in Israel. Of course, Ulpan is not the only place I learn new, interesting things. The whole country is my classroom. Some notable points of interest that come to mind from over the past two weeks include:

- I have noticed sunglasses are not just an optional accessory here. I see why! The sun is unbelievably bright here.

- It seems like everyone smokes in Israel. According to my Israeli friend that is partly due to culture and partly because people are constantly very tense here (for obvious reasons) and people start to use this habit as a way to calm their frazzled nerves. I actually looked online to compare the percentage of Americans that smoke with the percentage of Israelis that smoke and sadly it is exactly the same!

- The only wild life I have seen around town so far is a ton of stray cats, one flying insect and one pigeon. No raccoons, no squirrels, no mice!

- Not all toilets have a handle for flushing. Some have button flushers. And not just one but always two per toilet. In the case of handle flushers there are two handles on top of one another. For button flushing toilets there are two also. The purpose of the two is for different size flushes. There is a big handle for big flushes and a little handle for little flushes. Little flushes conserve water in this country where water can very quickly become scarce but sometimes a big flush is needed. I will leave it to your imagination to figure out what warrants a big flush.

- Most light switches are on the out side of the room not in the room itself.

- Milk comes 3% but it seems much thicker than that. I left a little of it in a cup overnight and it was as thick as yogurt the next morning! It is so rich I have to water it down to put with cereal although, now, actually, I broke down and bought soy milk because I just couldn't handle it.

- The litter here is ridiculous. It is painful to see beautiful landscape marred by wrappers, papers, bottles, and other random trash. From what I hear, this is not an Israeli way of treating their country. Most blame the Russian immigrants but who really knows.

Posted by Sarah 2116 12:18 Comments (2)

Ulpan Routine

sunny 79 °F

I am beginning to get into the routine of Ulpan. It is not so scary anymore! Every morning we begin with some practice dialogue to help our mouths grow accustomed to forming Hebrew words. Olga (the teacher) pairs us up and we have to stand in front of the whole class and talk to each other in our broken Hebrew. What good motivation to practice our vocabulary at home! Then Olga checks our homework.

For the next hour we take turns reading. This is probably the most painful part of the whole day especially for an outsider to listen in on. The majority of what we read are already words we have learned to hear; now we have the laborious task of decoding the foreign letters and trying to remember what it means; all at the same time. Usually we read a paragraph over and over again sometimes as a whole group; sometimes several people take turns reading it out loud while everyone else tries to follow along. If I don't use my finger to follow along it is very easy to get lost in the mess of still pretty unfamiliar letters.

After we read for awhile, Olga has a review exercise for us to do. Today she had us each come up to write our name in Hebrew on the board. Next, she wrote 20 vocabulary words on the board and we had to take turns coming up to the board to define one and write the plural version of that word. The exercise leads into a lengthy grammar lesson for the day with lots of new vocabulary sprinkled throughout. She also teaches us a new song every couple of days. I understood the one she taught us today. But the one we have been singing the last few days I can't tell if it is about heads and elbows or the sky and corners.

All this time Olga never stops smiling.

I am still having a hard time understanding a lot since the lessons are completely in Hebrew and explanations are given in Russian with an English word every now and then. Oh, I should probably mention that I am now the only American as the other two Americans dropped out after the first day. Olga is a wonderful teacher. She uses words she has already defined for us and speaks so clearly. It is still to quickly for me though. Usually, by the time I have figured out what the first half of her sentence is, she has moved on to a new thought.

I have also found note taking challenging. Remember, Hebrew is written right to left. Much of my notebook is becoming a dictionary so it has been interesting trying to keep Hebrew words (running right to left) and English explanations (running left to right) in a somewhat organized manner.

When Olga writes our homework assignment on the board in Hebrew, we know that our Ulpan for the day is almost over. She always explains the assignment with words from our current vocabulary and I copy it into my notebook meticulously. Olga told us today that our class will be taught by a different teacher on Sunday and she made a point of telling me that this teachers English is very good so I am looking forward to getting a few blank spots cleared up in my understanding so far.

Posted by Sarah 2116 04:56 Comments (4)

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