Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Test - I'm Done!

Today we were told to come to Ulpan at 12:45 ON TIME to be ready to begin the test at 1:15.

We arrived at 12:45.  The gate was locked.  

Never you mind, we are very resourceful olim, and we found a way into the building courtyard and waited for the teachers to come and unlock the doors.  

As we gathered we noticed a table of very tough, surly, and unfriendly looking men.  We wondered who they were.  Someone whispered, "The proctors!"

Yes, these burly, muscled dudes were there to make sure none of us cheated.  They had the aviator sunglasses, dour, serious look, and well toned build of Mossad agents.  

We couldn't help but giggle at the sight of these guys supposedly hired to make sure we stayed in line.  Here we are, a bunch of worn out olim, with way too much Hebrew in our heads to do anything more than babble incoherently, and we needed guarding.

When the teachers arrived with the key, we noticed that one of the men had a sealed envelope with him.  Yup, they brought the tests in sealed envelopes.

The seal had to be broken while there was a witness and there was a whole series of procedures before we could start - show your teudat zehut, sign things, prove you are who you say you are.  We had been told before about the rules of the test:

1.  No talking
2.  No eating or drinking
3.  No bathroom breaks 
4.  Bring plenty of pencils
5.  No leaving the room for any reason

So we were prepared.  

Then our guard wrote the schedule on the board.  Our teacher was around and wished us luck and even wrote a lovely note on the board.  Then she came around with a bag of candy and gave each of us one  - what a sweetheart.

OK, here it comes, Part I - three stories, each progressively harder, and questions to answer.  I don't know how I did, but I can tell you some pretty darn interesting facts about the origins of coffee, the decline in the tastiness of tomatoes, and whether people who are friends with overweight people have a greater tendency to become overweight themselves.  Yessirree, some pretty interesting reading there.

OK, done!  Break, compare answers, get a drink. 

Part II - DIKDUK.  OY.

We all took the test with trembling hands.  

An hour later we were done.  I had gone over the questions three times and added in so many Yuds that I'm sure I messed it up completely.  I kept thinking, "Surely this word needs an additional Yud!  surely this one does too!"  I think I over-Yudded.  And changing from passive to active - don't ask.  I think I made the sentence sound like: "The men went on strike because their sister was a nurse and they were late to the airport:" or something like that.

There was a whole section that I had to work on and I didn't know the two main words.  I guessed.  Either there was a lot of traffic in Tel Aviv because of a protest or there was a new apartment in Tel Aviv because of the rain.

Then we had to write a note to our Savta on the celebration of her 70th birthday.  Now, we had been told not to embellish too much lest we make mistakes.  So here was my note:

         Dear Savta: Happy Birthday!  I send you blessings on your birthday.  love, Susan

Savta is not going to be too happy with me.  Seems that all of my fellow students wished her 'ad meah v'esrim' and I didn't.  

The last part was an essay.  I picked the topic of (this will not surprise you) - the Ulpan test and what I think about it.  Oh, baby, let me at 'em.  I could have written a book on that topic.   

After three rounds of review I handed the test in.  We all gathered outside to compare notes which is when I realized I hadn't been too nice to Savta.

And at that point we were officially welcomed into Israeli society - one of the guards came out to ask us to lower our voices and proceeded to lecture us on how stupid America is because it has the death penalty.  He was very angry and kept pointing his cigarette at us and shouting.  But he was really a nice guy.

Welcome to Israel!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Test - I'm Toast

Ulpan test is this Thursday, so teacher #2 (tough one) decided, even though we thought we all agreed NOT to do any more practice tests, to do a practice test today.

She succeeded in taking the tiny bit of self confidence we have gained in 5 months, holding it up for ridicule, throwing it on the floor and performing a Mexican hat dance on it.  Needless to say, we all walked out of class with heads held low and grumbling  - in English.

This is what I have to say about my Hebrew:

--If someone on the street stops me and asks me to change a passive sentence to an active one, "or else" - I'm else.

--If I go into a store and ask for something and use the hiphil conjugation and the sales person asks - "Was that with two 'yuds' or one?" - I will not, ever, know.

--If someone hands me a flashcard with a sentence that begins "Ilu" and wants me to change it to future tense, starting with the word "im" - this I cannot do.

--If you ask me, say, in a job interview, what the active form of each passive form is, and how to put it into future tense for plural - say bye bye to the job.

You get the idea.

And in true Israeli tough love fashion, this same teacher, as we hang our heads after she berates us for the errors we keep making ("How can you WRITE THIS? I taught it to you LAST WEEK?"), tries to comfort us, telling us how much we've improved.

So basically we are all dazed and confused, and have totally abandoned ship as far as succeeding on the test.  We have a "whatever" attitude that has turned into something of a class joke.  At least we can lean on each other for support.

As I've said before, though, don't worry if you plan to make aliyah and are fearful of the Hebrew learning process.  EVERYONE says the same thing.  After I mentioned to friends that I am OK with sounding like a blithering idiot for the rest of my life, people who've been here twenty or thirty years shrug and say, "Oh yeah, we feel the same way."

So maybe I'll wear my imperfect (OK, let's face it, pretty elementary) Hebrew as a badge of courage.  I came, I sat in class for 5 months, I did not conquer, but I'm staying.

Israelis will have to get used to me making errors, and I'm pretty sure I won't bring the country to its knees on this score.  I will also get MUCH better at - saying English words with an Israeli accent.  It works, people, trust me.  You can't say, "Yesh lachem Cocoa Krispies" with your usual American accent - instead you have to say, "Yesh lachem Kokoh Kreespeez?" - and then they get it.  It's like magic.

So test or no test, I'm here to stay and I em verry heppee.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Real First

My parents, a"h - Mary and Jack Weintraub, decked out
in their  butcher shop finery

I just lit the yahrzeit candle for my father, a"h.  His yahrzeit is 4 Av, and it's been 17 years since he passed away.  This is the first time I've commemorated the yahrzeit of one of my parents as an Israeli.

I am surprised how strongly I felt when I lit the candle.  All I could think of was one scene with him.  It was the morning of the 1960 elections.  We all were rooting for Kennedy, of course.  I came downstairs to my parents' store (which was located in the basement of our house in the Pimlico neighborhood of Baltimore) - see in the picture below - where the "A" is was the entrance to the store.

Each morning we'd walk downstairs and say goodbye to our parents in the store.  On this day, my father looked at me and said, "If Nixon wins, we are moving to Israel."

I'll never forget the look in his eyes or the seriousness of his voice.  He meant it.  And there I was, all of 6 years old, and all I could think of was the adventure of moving to a new country!  Boy, did I wish Nixon luck that day.

As I got older, and formed my own opinions of things, I still never forgot my father's deep and abiding love of Israel.  When I was deciding on colleges in 1971 or so, I announced that I wanted to attend Bar Ilan.  My father glowed with pride, and my mother said, "If you go, you'll never come back.  So no."  She was just being a mother, which I fully understand now.

My parents came to Israel with a tour group in 1972, their first real vacation ever of more than a day or two, and came back glowing with excitement and pride.

I wasn't an easy child, and I was an even worse teenager - I needed a cause to defend and until I found NCSY I gave my parents plenty of sleepless nights.  But my father always was kind of proud of my feistiness, I think.  I don't know if I imagined it, but I think there was always a twinkle in his eye when I participated in various protests and proclaimed this and that.

So I hope he would be proud that we have made it here and are living as Israelis, that we are part of the country, loving the land, and doing our small bit to strengthen it.  

Dad, so much of what I have done is for you.  I miss you.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A/C, Ivrit, Kotel, Oranges

Here are some of the latest happenings here in our household:

1.  Air conditioning repair:  Our a/c was in need of a performance review and it was deemed that one of the "returns" had never been installed.  So the a/c guy came one day to create one.  How did he do this, you ask?  With precision tools and state of the art measuring equipment?  Absolutely!  

Came time to measure and cut the hole. They look around.  "Surely," I think, "they are wondering where they put their measuring tools."  Then, guy not-on-the-ladder walks over to the toy box I keep in my living room.  He picks up the top of a game box.  He looks at it, and hands it to guy-on-the-ladder and tells him to use this precision tool to measure the hole.

2. Ivrit:  I realized this week that the Israeli mouth and the American mouth must be made differently.  Because I cannot for the life of me say certain words.  Take, for instance, hitpatchut = development.  For some reason, I cannot pronounce this word.  I try, I practice, I look really, really hard at it. I say "hitpachtut" which must mean "killer jelly fish" or something because the teacher always looks at me weird when I say it.

I went this week to buy gifts for our Ulpan teachers.  We all decided this was important to do.  I knew I wanted to buy picture frames, which is to me a great gift for anyone in any situation.  So did I look up the word for picture frame before I went to the store?  Of course not!  And on top of that, I went in to the store and my mouth totally betrayed me.  I got as far as "Ani rotza..." (I want...and yay I got the conjugation right!) except that in a store you are supposed to use another word that means more like "I am looking for..."  Great start.

I ended up sounding like a two year old.  Blabbering the word for picture, and then making hand motions in the shape of a square.  Hand motions??? Seriously??? After 5 months of Ulpan?  That's all I got?

Then the woman looked at me weird and I got that "Oy" feeling in my stomach.  Then she said, "Oh, you want a picture frame?"  In English.

3. Friends:  We are meeting some really great people. mostly (ok, all) Anglos who live here.  We have lots in common - for example:

We miss solid white tuna
We feel guilty about leaving our kids who don't live in Israel
We realize we will sound like immigrants forever
We dream about trips to Target
We compare air conditioning systems
We can't find Baco Bits

4. Doing "Israel stuff" - So, when you live here, and aren't here for a visit, there is WAY less thought put into doing Israel type stuff.  I mean, you have to work, go food shopping, sweep, go to Ulpan, sweep, you get the idea.

So....we are very proud that this past week we did two Israel things.  On Monday we went to the Kotel for a family Bar Mitzvah.  It first time I was at the Kotel since we arrived.

On Friday we went with one of our daughters to Shvil Hatapuzim, an orange grove that also houses a very nice kids' entertainment place.  It was HOT, but lots of shade and water activities.  It was fun driving north and seeing signs for Caesaria, etc.  It sort of reminds us where we are.  The best part for me was some kind of water shooting gallery where my grandson Tani decided that I was his favorite target.  We had a good old fashioned shootout.  He won.  He is 5.  Stop laughing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Compare and Contrast

Remember in school when you got those assignments [which you hated - oh, was that just me?] asking you to "compare and contrast" things?  Well, that's what we've been doing in Ulpan, and some of the discussions have been eye-opening - for our teacher. 

We started with a yawn yawn compare/contrast of the Dead Sea and the Kineret - you know, one salty, one not, one below sea level, one above, one filled with flowers, wildlife, one not, yada yada yada.  

Then our teacher handed out a sheet of about 10 topics relating to life in Israel as opposed to life in our birthplaces.  Topics such as the character of the people, the quality of the education, the standard of living, etc.  At first I don't think any of us was too interested but boy did we get into some good discussions.

The most fascinating part of this was teaching our teacher about life in America. 

For example here are some of her reactions:

1. Health care - you have to pay WHAT?  How often?  No, can't be.  You are exaggerating!  But it includes medicine, right?  NO?  Come on! 

2. Military service - you mean almost no Jews are in the armed services?  Really?  But don't you HAVE to do SOMETHING for the military?  Nothing?

3. Character of the people - People wait patiently in line? Drivers [she laughed at this] let someone pull in front of them and then the other person WAVES THANK YOU???  There are places where you can't HONK?  People in Russia are so polite that they speak to you in the third peson?  People in the US do not tell you (even - or especially - if they don't know you ) what they think about your life and what you should do with it?  How strange.....

4. Climate - (I mean what can you say.  Especially in mid-July our teacher was not going to defend Israel's climate.  She did, however, look quite wistful when the student who grew up in California described the year-round moderate temperatures there...).  We did all agree, though, that nothing is quite as gorgeous as Israel in the spring (I guess because winter is so lousy).

5. Level of education - people pay WHAT for religious education?! For college?  Is that figure in shekel or dollar?

6. Attitude toward immigrants - people in the US need laws forcing them to accept immigrants into the country?  They assume all immigrants are potential criminals and at the very least job-stealers?  They DON'T give new immigrants money to help them adjust? How rude!
Needless to say, Israel comes out looking pretty darn good in most categories.

And all of us students were happy to talk about the good and bad of our birthplaces and how life in Israel compares. 

In the end, though, the biggest difference for each of us was in the area of the life of a Jew.  Although the students from Russia and South Africa had the scary and sad stories, even those of us from the US talked about the stark difference of living there and living in Israel.

I mean, come on, we're home.  There is no place like it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Store of Wonder

There is a little store hidden under some other stores (there's a lot of that here - in Baltimore you don't often hear, "You know, the store underneath the supermarket," just like you also don't hear, "that great restaurant in the gas station.").

It's called Shum Pilpel v'Shemen Zayit - and it's a store full of wonder.

First of all, they have cool baking supplies that you can't get anywhere else.  But EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY they have American products.  You often see olim standing wistfully in front of the freezer case where they hide the Entenmann's donuts, or paying homage to the Solid White Tuna section (I still haven't gotten used to Israeli - catfood - tuna).

Today I went there in search of a gourmet food item - Baco Bits.  I am addicted to putting them in salads.  I haven't seen them anywhere and this week I got it into my head that I had lived long enough without them and I need them for Shabbos.  As you can see I need get a life.

I had so much fun wandering through this little bitty store - on my right was French's mustard, on my left was Ken's salad dressing.   Amazing.

I took my time to make sure I didn't miss anything.  I even asked one of the workers about the Baco Bits - yes they have them sometimes, but not today.  But then the guy picked up a can of something and said to me, "Kazeh?"  I decided to smile and walk away - Baco Bits definitely do not come in a can.  Someone on Facebook kindly sent me a link where I could buy these bits of deliciousness on Ebay but that somehow seemed a little TOO obsessive.

So, alas, no Baco Bits for my salad.  But I did find something else - are you ready?  You people who see this all the time will be very nonchalant, but I found CHEESE CURLS!  Yes, Herr's Cheese Curls.

OK, I hear you.  I mean, those things should not even be considered "food" but in a country where Bamba is considered one of the essential food groups, I mean, how bad is it to eat the occasional cheese curl?

And then, a miracle - real milchig cream of mushroom soup!  I can make tuna casserole!  I felt like dancing!

I know that I wrote a long time ago (when I was a naive new olah, not like I am now, after 6 months) about getting used to Israeli food, and I was really doing ok.  So maybe I shouldn't have gone into that store, but when I saw the ShopRite cream of mushroom soup I felt so happy.  Weird, no?

Anyway, I came home and I am not ashamed (well, I am a little ashamed) to admit that I tore into that bag of Cheese Curls like nobody's business.  You know what?  They are pretty delicious.  But after a few, your mouth feels all weird and your fingers have that fake yellow powder on them and that's when you feel like maybe you need to go to a 12-step program for Cheese Curl-aholics.

So I closed the bag and put it away.  No, I did NOT throw it away, I mean I may need a fix later on.   Or maybe I'll call my sponsor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Tackle Orange

You are probably imagining us in some orchard in the Negev trying to get fruit off the tree.  Not that Orange.  Orange is the name of our cellphone company.

When we arrived, our wonderful son in law Donny trooped over with us to the Orange store to help us pick out phones and a plan.  He spent literally hours with us translating what the salesperson was saying, and we picked out a rather expensive plan, mostly because we weren't sure what we'd need.

Fast forward a few months.  There is a huge war going on here with cellphone companies.  You'd better sit down for this one.  The supermarkets are now offering cellphone plans.  And the home improvement stores.  And the guy selling newspapers on the corner.  OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but only that last one.

So I decided to look at our cell phone usage and try to figure out if we have the best plan possible, since with all of this competition we could probably do better.  But I will not get my cellphone from the grocery store.  Something does not sound stable about that.  I mean if the price of milk drops, will my cellphone service go up?  Do I get an extra bag of Bamba if I go over my limit?

So one day a couple of weeks ago we bravely went to Orange to discuss changing our plan.  I mean, really, this took guts. 

Why?  Well, first of all, no one wants to be a "freier."

[Side note: For those of you who don't know, a "freier" is a sucker.  It's someone who someone else takes advantage of.  The WORST thing you can be called in Israel is a freier.  I can't say the word without thinking of my parents, the butchers, and a type of chicken they used to sell.]

Second of all, we were going to have to conduct this whole discussion in Hebrew.  It's bad enough worrying about someone trying to take advantage of you in English, but in Hebrew it's downright scary.

However, I'm proud to say that we walked out with a much cheaper plan, feeling pretty good about our bad selves (we kinda felt like Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in that movie strutting around saying, "We bad, we bad.")  In the back of my head, though, there was a little voice saying that we were still freiers, but I kept squashing it.

Then we get our first charge under the new plan.  Guess what?  You'll never guess!  They charged us the old fee!  Hahahahaha!  We ARE freiers!

So for a couple of weeks I have been planning to go in and fight the good fight.  We went yesterday, armed with our bill and our analysis of what we SHOULD have been paying and......their computers were out. 

Went back today.  Went to the little kiosk where you type in your phone number, and receive a little ticket giving you a number.  Then you sit and wait for about 3 weeks.  Then they call your number.
So I took a number but noticed that the number machine kept vomiting out number slips that were conveniently falling into a trashcan which had been placed in just the right spot to catch them.  Hmmmm....

After a few minutes, so as not to be a freier, I went up to the manager and asked if the ticket I received from the machine was OK.  NONONONONO he said, and gave me a handwritten piece of paper with a number on it.  HUH?  How was I supposed to know to do that.

Anyway, after a brief wait (surprise!) it's our turn.  The woman smiled at us and started speaking VERY quickly. In Hebrew.  I felt like Charlie Brown in those holiday shows where all he hears is "WAWAWAWAWA."  Hold on, sista, I'm an olah.

I said to her, in Hebrew - I am still in Ulpan, so please speak slowly.  She smiled and slowed down.  I'm just glad she didn't do like some people, and start to speak louder.  I'm not deaf, honey, just illiterate.

Then we proceeded to have a great conversation.  At the end she (of course) convinced me that our plan was OK (frankly I was so grateful that she slowed down that I didn't care what she was saying). 

But I did remember very new Ulpan words which came in handy-dandy. 

We walked out feeling pretty good.  But we probably signed up for an additional 5000 shekel per month of services we don't need.  I'll keep checking the bills.

For now the Battle of Orange is enjoying a ceasefire.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Metuscal- מתוסכל

That is my new favorite word.  It means frustrated.  That is me.

I know you are wondering about my Ulpan tests.  I passed the oral one, although I have no idea what grade I received.  Lucky us, the tester's daughter called her during the testing of the first student to announce that she'd just had a baby.  Mazal tov!  Go easy on us!  And that she did.  We were all a bit nervous about the possibility of her asking us what we would say in different "situatziyot" (situations) - like complaining about a noisy party, thanking someone for something, etc.  Well, she didn't, probably because she was distracted.

Then we had two written practice tests - one for levels aleph/bet/gimel and one for levels bet/gimel/daled.  The teachers were going to analyze our grades and also give us help for passing the real test.

So all of this is just fine, IF one is really concerned about passing the test.  Which 99% of us are not.  We want to learn Hebrew, and we know that we should take the test to get the holy and sanctified teudah, but we really aren't planning to put in all-nighters or anything preparing for it.

I did OK, let's not go any further than that. But of course one of the teachers, let's call her the more, um, up-tight one, insisted on going over our errors and asking us point-blank: "WHY DON'T YOU KNOW THIS?  I TAUGHT THIS TO YOU NOT TWO WEEKS AGO!"

See, that just does not help one's self-esteem.  What does one answer to that?  I tried, "Because I'm stupid" but she didn't appreciate my sense of humor.  She seemed personally insulted that we had not gotten the answers right.

OK, Listen, teach.  We have moved to a new country.  We have uprooted our former lives.  We are worried about money, about making friends, about how to get from here to there (and back), about money (did I mention that already?), about figuring out how to ask where the bus stop is.  We are doing way more than just learning a language, so CHILL OUT.  We'll be OK, even if we don't get top marks on the test.

For instance, one of the corrections was leaving out a "yud" in a word.  I know, I know, it means that the word is WRONG.  But think about it.  How often am I writing things here and what's really important?  When I go into a store in the mall am I going to say something in my already pathetic Hebrew and then mention to the salesperson that, "oh, by the way, there was a Yud in that word there that I just said." 

OK, enough about Ulpan.

Here's some good news.  We have a little grocery store in our neighborhood - like the little stores in most neighborhoods it is way overpriced but way convenient, so of course we go there.  The store has one of those clubs where, if you belong, you get a discount. 

Every time you check out they ask you if you belong to the club.  We always say no, and we always ask, "How can we join it?"  Every single time we've been told that they are not accepting new members.  OK, whatever.

Then two weeks ago the cashier said, "Oh, I know you, you are always in here, so I'll give you the members' discount."  OK, making progress. Next time we saw her - blank stare.

Today, once again, we went there to "pick up a few things" (read: drop 300 shekel or so) and as usual the cashier (I think this time it was the owner) asked if we were part of the club.  We said no, and as usual, we mumbled after that, "....But we'd like to be...."  And he looked at us and said, "Well, why haven't you joined?"  If I could have gotten away with laughing out loud I would have, but I was so astounded/excited at this new turn of events that I just said, "Can we?"

"Betach," (for sure) he answered.  And right there and then we signed up and got our card.  We laughed the whole way home.  This is something we've been trying to get and have been asking about for over 5 months.

In closing, a touching moment - tonight I was doing my Ulpan homework with my 9 year old granddaughter Ariella nearby.  I asked her to help me with a word.  She not only helped me with the word, but explained to me in Hebrew what it meant and what the sentence meant.  That is cool on so many levels.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sunny and Hot with a Chance of Sunny and Hotter

Hoo boy.  I grew up in Baltimore, Home of Humidity, so I know a thing or two about hot summers.  But living in Israel is a whole different kettle of gefilte fish.

I remember once when I was about 9 hearing someone say that if you schedule an outside event in Israel, you never have to worry that a sudden rainstorm will ruin your plans because it never rains in the summer.  I remember thinking how weird that was.

I mean, in Baltimore (and I don't have to remind my still-without-power friends and family there) there is always the threat of an afternoon thunderstorm. 

Here, it's like this.  Every. Single. Day. Is. Sunny. And. Hot.  I laugh at the weather report in the morning - I mean what's the point?  They could just play the same thing from April to October and no one would notice.

We started out the summer opening our windows wide every morning because we have a fantastic breeze in our apartment.  We'd leave them open all day. 

Then we noticed something.  Um....the breeze is sure breezy.  But it is also VERY HOT.  So the apartment was full of hot.  BAD.

When I told people about this, they (surprise surprise) laughed at me.  "NONONONONO," said my Ulpan teacher, "you CLOSE the windows in the morning to keep in the cool air from the night, and keep the trisim down all day as well.  Don't let any heat inside! Then in the evening when the sun goes down you can open them up."

Uh HUH, I thought.  DUH - we are really living in a desert, not just a hot place.  This is a totally diffeerent way of thinking about weather.  

Now let's discuss clothing for the desert.  We all remember Charleton Heston doing his Moses thing in the long white cotton robe.  Correct clothing!  I need to find me some of those.

So here we are in our darkened apartment, windows closed, trisim down, ceiling fans swirling, trying to avoid putting on the air conditioning for as long as possible.  Each day we congratulate ourselves for how long we go without a/c - 3:00!  4:00!  4:30!  yay us!

On another note, today in Ulpan we took a practice written test to prepare us for the real one in a few weeks. The teacher gave us the test for levels alpeh/bet/gimel to see how we did.  On Sunday we'll take a practice test for bet/gimel/daled and then we can decide which level we want to take for the real thing.

How was it, you are probably asking me.  Well, you get three stories (one each for each level, so the stories get progressively more difficult).  The scary thing is that for the story for level bet I read the entire thing, knew it was about some sort of foodstuff, but could not for the life of me figure it out until I read it like 3 times.  And that is WITH the picture of the foodstuff itself on the page.  This does not inspire confidence.  (the foodstuff was parsley which is  פטרולוזיה in Hebrew - I mean, can't they just call it פרסלי?)

And the grammar section?  Um...can we talk about something else? World peace?  Anything?

You get the idea.  Oh, well, at least I can open and close my trisim like a pro.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Girls and Boys

Feminine and Masculine - the entire Hebrew vocabulary is based on knowing which words are which.  And forget rhyme or reason.  As soon as you think you've "got" the rules down, here comes 10,000 exceptions to it.

I mean, how am I to remember that when you use numbers, and you have a feminine noun, the number associated with it is [almost] always masculine?  I am not making this up, folks.

So a table is a boy, but a chair is a girl.  And some feminine nouns have masculine endings when they are pluralized - but their adjectives are still feminine.  Go figure that one out.

And you want to know a secret? Don't tell anyone but I still sing that little song to myself that I learned in 2nd grade of Hebrew school - "Hoo is he and hee is she and dodi is  my uncle."  Yup, still do it, kind of like "thirty days hath September" that I still do as well.

Today was the Ulpan oral exam and all I wanted, please please please was not to embarrass myself and my entire family and all my ancestors with my mistakes.  We were all pretty sure that the tester was going to run out of the building laughing hysterically after listening to us.  OR all of the teachers were going to gather at a bar afterwards and drown their sorrows over our failures. 

The tester asked me some simple questions.  Name?  Yes!  I know it!  Where do you live?  Got it, no problem!  THEN.....[cue the scary music]--how many children do you have?  Uh oh.

Now I have to remember whether two for daughters is shnay or shtay.  Don't worry, folks, I won't disappoint you, I messed it up.

Then she asked my profession.  Well, since we came here and I am not doing what I used to do, I really don't have a word for it, so I end up explaining the company I work for and that always confuses the heck out of everyone.  What? You write? You do research? What?  Ok, let's move on.

THEN I had to tell a story - anything I wanted.  I talked about our son and his family, and described the kids, etc.  I endured about 15 corrections during the telling of the story, but I did remember some pretty fancy shmancy vocabulary words so the tester actually raised her eyebrow a little at that.  Or maybe she raised her eyebrow because she was thinking to herself, "This woman has been in Ulpan for 5 months and she still talks like an imbecile."

Anyway, the oral test is over and now we all look forward with great anticipation to the written test.  It's 2.5 hours with a break in the middle.  

Now let's describe the conversation we had about WHY we take these tests.  You see, if you are looking for a job in Israel, the company MAY ask you if you took Ulpan and MAY want to see your certificate.  For this you need to take the test.  Otherwise, it's simply an opportunity to see how little Hebrew you actually know after dedicating hundreds of hours to sitting in class.  

I had a brief moment of excitement when one of the teachers mentioned that Nefesh b'Nefesh gives 2000 shekel to you when you get your certificate.  Wowee, then it's really worth it!  But, um, no, as I found out after calling NBN and hounding them until someone talked to me, that offer ended in 2011.

Like I said before, you have to have a positive attitude.  I WILL eventually remember everything.  No, I won't.  I just have to get used to that. But I have improved!  For instance at the mall just now I only had to correct a verb three times!  Not four!  Yay for me!