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!