Home > Hebrew, Israel > Less Is More

Less Is More

I finally gave up yesterday.  I was clinging by my fingernails in the “advanced-beginners” ulpan class, but on the morning of the third day, it was obvious that I just didn’t belong.  I interrupted  the teacher and tried to say (in Hebrew), “I understand very, very little.  Is this alef-plus?”  She looked at me like I was standing on my head wearing pink pajamas. This is what I was trying to say:

אני מוינ הרבה הרבה קצת. זה א פלס?

I just ran this through the Google translator and it claims that the meaning is:

“Do I Make over a long, long while. It’s a spirit level?”

After babbling along for a few more minutes speaking both broken-Hebrew and English and using the other students as partial translators, we finally decided that I should be in a lower class level.  So, just like that, I packed my things and left.

Last week, after speaking with my wife about her class, I realized that I should not be in an advanced class. She was learning things that I didn’t know.  I spoke to the clerks and the manager and we all agreed that I should just start in a basic beginners class. However, I was specifically told that I could not join my wife’s class since it was closed. Instead, I needed to come on Sunday and join a new class.

On Sunday morning, all the new students were directed to a big auditorium to get sorted into classes. I’m not talking about a few students; there must have been 150 students in the auditorium. One at a time, each teacher would stand on one side of the room while the manager called the names of the students in that class.  My name was called in the fourth class.  As soon as my name was called, the manager looks at me, talks to a few other people, and tells me that I’m not in this class and that I’ll be in a different class.  Later, my name was called again for the last class and that’s the class that I joined.  It seems obvious to me that they added my name to a beginner’s class, but didn’t remove my name from the advanced class.

After leaving the advanced class, I went back to the office and said it was too difficult and that I needed to join a beginner’s class.  Fine.  I was taken down the hall and brought into a new classroom.  There was an exchange in Hebrew with the teacher and I was told to sit.  The fascinating thing about this snafu is that my new class is also my wife’s class.

This class has been in session for over a week and they had already covered a bit of material. I made a great first impression.  The only open seat was right in the front next to a women from Venezuela (i.e., she speaks Spanish). The class was divided into groups of two (me and Ms. Venezuela were together) and each group was given a random photograph. We were suppose to create a story about the photograph using all the words that we learned. I figured we were just supposed to tell a story to each other, so me and Ms. Venezuela created a story with each other.  Meanwhile, everyone else in the class (behind me) was writing down the story knowing that they would have to stand in front of the class and tell it.  Ooops. The morah (teacher) started in the back of the room and had each group come to the front. The all did a really great job.  My wife was awesome. My group was the last. We went to the front and my extremely limited vocabulary suddenly plummeted to a level of a four-year old chimp. What a disaster. I forgot the story and I could not create a new one because I couldn’t remember any words. I think my wife is now more popular in the class because she married someone with a mental handicap.

Regardless, I can say that this is a much better class for me.  I am actually learning something.  Check this out:

עכשיו, אני לומד עברית ברעננה וגם אני גר ברעננה


Today, after class, my wife and I had a bunch or errands (this happens every day). Since this is a socialist country, the government gives money to everyone who has children.  It is a small, monthly payment paid directly into your bank account based on the number of children in the home. The catch is that the government has to be aware that you have children.

We received a letter (written in Hebrew) from some government ministry that listed our children. We figured it was related to the child allowance and we used it as a reminder to sign up. The ministry in our region is located in the town of כפר–סבא (K’far-Saba) which is a neighboring city. I didn’t know exactly where it was located and I couldn’t really read the letter, so I looked up the address on the Internet.

We drove to the location and discovered that parking in K’far-Saba is just as bad as it is in Ra’anana, i.e., you basically cannot do it.  We were in traffic trying to figure out what to do when a car pulled out in front of us from the curb. Great! My wife (who was driving) tried to jump into the spot, but couldn’t really get the angle right because of the car behind us. The car behind us also wanted the spot and wouldn’t back up. After a few minutes, the car behind us gives up, and double parks a bit in front of us. The driver jumped out of the car with some garbage bags and raced into a store. Fine. We parked!

I got out of the car to find the actual office location. I was looking for address number 39. On one block, the addresses ran 32-38, then there was a huge building under construction, followed by a block with addresses starting at 42. Hmmm. After a bit of confusion, my wife asked someone in a store and was told that the address was behind the building under construction.

Eventually we found the access to this building-behind-the-construction-area and the clerk at the desk told us that the ministry was no longer located there. Apparently it moved a while ago and the web site was not updated. However, he showed me the correct address on the letter that we received in the mail. I was able to find the correct address on my iPhone map. This whole process must have taken half an hour. During that time, my wife and daughter left to look for a snack.  When I returned to the car, I discovered that the car was gone, but the other car was still double-parked and blocking traffic in one lane. Unbelievable! Eventually, I hooked up with my wife and we headed for the new address.

The ministry was actually a nice office located in a mall. There were two security checks. The first was just a quick check of bags. The second included a metal detector and a more detailed examination of bags. This was a serious inspection. I had to go through the metal detector three times (it found my phone and then my coins). I also had a wand waved over me and they went through all of the zippers in my backpack. They managed to find my laptop and a small screwdriver and I was then informed that neither were allowed. However, they could watch my laptop (and screwdriver) at the desk. I was given a hand receipt and we moved into the office. My laptop was literally sitting on the desk. My daughter decided that she would stand by the desk and watch to make sure nothing happened to my things.

My wife and I came together to this office under the assumption that we both needed to be present. We didn’t really know if it was necessary, but it would just be to annoying to come alone and discover that both parties were required. We spoke to a very pleasant lady who explained the letter, made a phone call, and then explained that we were already signed up and didn’t need to do anything. Apparently, the health insurance company notified the government for us and the letter that we received was a notice that we were already signed up. So, although we assumed that both of us needed to be present, in reality, neither of us needed to come!

Categories: Hebrew, Israel Tags: , , ,
  1. AF
    2010-09-16 at 3:32 am

    When we first got here, we had to go to Misrad Haklita in Kfar Saba. We tried asking for Rechov Ha’Taas on the bus, and someone said (we thought) that she would get us to the office. Instead, she took us to the Manpower office at Tzomet Ra’anana. I had to get directions to take a bus back to Rechov Ha’Taas, and then we spent 45 minutes walking around looking for the address. We finally got there almost an hour late, but the guy was nice about it and took care of everything we needed.

  2. Karen
    2010-09-16 at 7:28 am

    Great sentence. Really. Google translate often makes absolutely no sense – did you ever put the translation back in and translate it back to Hebrew? It’s like playing telephone. Sometimes you can actually read the page, more or less, but just because you’re also not making perfect sense doesn’t mean that you’re as bad as you think.

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