Slow learners

I said to Sholmit that Israelis speak better English than I speak Hebrew. Her pink, cat tongue pushed through her Bette Davis lips, she would make a fine Baby Jane, if anyone is thinking of a remake, and said, uncharitably, that they had private tutors.

After little more than a week, I was settling into the ulpan, enjoying having somewhere to go every day, and people to talk to. It was hard, oy vey, was it ever, but that was ok.

We’d all written every new word Shlomit had given us in our notebooks phonetically. This is bullshit, she tells the class, we will have proper books soon, but we continue anyway: lishon, to sleep, peyrot, fruit. If anyone questions anything, she says, The academy makes the rules, and the matter is closed. But who is the academy, who put them in charge?

I started writing the words in Hebrew, and slowly, (le-utלאט), they trickle in, although they don’t trickle out as easily. My mind was blown when we learned that in Hebrew there is only one past tense.

Aaron beckoned me over. He smiled, called me dude, and bumped my fist. He’s eighteen, and knows more about how to get on with people than I ever will.

Katryna is a quiet redhead from Siberia, via New York, engaged to a big, bearded Israeli. During the first break I watched Alberto chat her up, not without pain. For such a charming fellow, for an Italian, he’s clueless, in a way he isn’t when he’s talking to anyone he doesn’t want to kiss. He asks her how she is, then how she’s getting on, then a pause, then if she’s ok. She smiled politely, and gave one-word answers. He looked around, for clues, maybe, on how to continue this conversation, then sat down again, with his back to her, his face flushed, looking for all the world like he was studying his notes.

Every morning, Vera, from the Ukraine, arrives late and dressed to kill, in tight clothes made from floaty fabrics. Sometimes she wears a very short skirt made from leather. If you were going to draw her you would mostly use circles. She’s in her early twenties, wears a lot of make up, and I should think boys like her a lot.

We were learning the verb to want – lehrtzot, לרצות, and one by one people were saying what they wanted; coffee, chocolate, cake, and so on. It is still only our first week. People aren’t very imaginative, and we don’t know many nouns, so first one, then several said, ani rotzeh kesefI want money. Vera said, for everyone to hear, Jews want money, of course, and laughed. Shlomit glared at her and said, quite sharply, Not all Jews, then told us again about her life as a free spirit.

I know Vera didn’t understand what she was saying, she meant it as a joke, but we’re here, at least partly, not to hear that sort of thing.

Today’s word: ohff- nuh – fashion – אופנה

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