Gefilte Fish Out of Water

Too Cool for School
March 5, 2009, 1:52 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff, School


On Tuesday I stopped by the Goldstein-Goren “Ulpan.”  An Ulpan is an intensive Hebrew school for immigrants.  Morning beginners classes last 5 hours (Sun-Thurs), and evening classes last 3 hours (Sun-Thurs).  I met with the administrator in the office, who told me I was in luck – there was a new beginners level class that had just started on Sunday.  Today was its third day.  She asked me if I wanted to study in the evening or morning.  My boss had told me morning would be better, since I’d have to be available from 4-7pm Israel Time to communicate with New York for  business.  But the morning class wasn’t starting until April 19, so I said I would do evening and would come back tomorrow.  “Tomorrow?” she questioned.  “Go up now; they’re in session!”

<Gulp>, so I went up.  Class had already started, and it was the third day.  I knew I’d be interrupting and all eyes would be on me.  That was a hard action to take, walking through that door.  But I did it.  Teacher asked me a bunch of Hebrew, and I just handed her the note the administrator had given me, and said, “I’m Scott.  I’m an Oleh hadesh, who just arrived from New York yesterday.”  Most of the class smiled and welcome me.

I took a seat near a 20-something woman from Long Island named Jennifer.  She made Aliyah 7 months ago.  I was also near an Italian 20-something guy and a German 20-someting girl.  There were a few people in their 30’s & 40’s, too, but mostly 20-somethings.

So much of the class went over my head.  How could it not?  But I participated as best I could and recited phrases/questions when called upon to repeat them.  A lot of “I’m from Philadelphia, but I came to Israel from New York” type phrases (in Hebrew, of course).  I got some homework – Hebrew words to read that were easy to make sense of; all of them were reverse-transliterized from English, so I could recognize that they said by sounding them out (e.g. Coca-Cola = קוקה-קולה

When I got back my boss told me he really needed me available for work at the time when class met, and that I needed to drop it and take the morning one beginning April 19.  I didn’t want the teacher or class to think I flaked, so I went back the next night just to thank her for the lesson and homework and tell her how much I enjoyed class.  Also, I gave my email to the Long Island girl and a Scottish girl that seemed pretty cool so we could stay in touch.


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