21 – Terrorism continues and Language Class ends
I hope this post’s journey doesn’t leave you with whiplash…sharp turns ahead, from worldwide to cultural reflections to personal success and failure. Videos and photos are included for flavor.
This https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCvlhYCKruQ&app=desktop amazing documentary/personal story is the sort of thing that inspires me towards courage and releases me to do the next best thing, even if others can’t “see” it yet
And since nothing is new under the sun, Islam’s celebration of Ramadan has again brought terror and mourning around the world. It’s not fun to know, but crucial to have the accurate information or you’ll fall prey to propaganda! One of these is sure to catch your interest… pray, care, be a voice!
Breaking the “Rules”: I’m the one in my neighborhood to first say ‘good morning’, ‘hello’ or whatever, in Hebrew of course. It’s clearly not expected and sometimes I startle people, although that’s not my intention. Most often, I receive a partial smile or puzzled expression, sometimes a verbal greeting in return. The workers – construction, trash collection, school bus drivers, personal aids to elderly neighbors – quickly respond and initiate or wait for my greeting as our routines brings familiarity. I wonder whether they feel invisible at times, no one greeting them ever. I do.
For many weeks, the little girls waiting near my apartment for the school bus each morning didn’t respond to my singsongy “good morning.” Finally they seemed to be watching for me to come around the corner and, I like to think, counting on my “good morning”. Of course, I’m careful to not try to start up a conversation with them, or even slow my pace, lest my friendliness be misconstrued as too near the “don’t talk with strangers” boundary. After several months of my one-sided greeting, one April morning I gratefully received a mumbled “good morning”.
We continued our one-sided routine until one particularly difficult morning several weeks ago. I was dragging my sorry-self to language class (more about that later) and before I uttered my routine greeting, the oldest of the girls gave me a most amazing gift: she said “good morning” before I did. It was like winning the lottery of real stuff. And maybe that is the best way to tell you why I do it.
Who knows what struggles others have, or how long it’s been since someone has offered a simple gesture. No ‘good morning’ solves a problem, and of course there are safety issues about talking with strangers, and yes, it’s hugely breaking the social norm, but a smile and friendly word is a gift, so why not? They’ll always know I’m “not from these parts” so why not be different in this good way?
Life is learning, and is a lot of work. I’ve certainly made a lifetime worth of false starts and continuations. Have you heard about the BDS movement on college campuses? Do you have a clue about how WRONG it is? College campus’ and other organizations boycotting Israel attempt to strangle the only democracy in the region, the one offering the most education and opportunity and freedoms for the Arabs working and living here, the one with freedoms and real education (not terrorist indoctrination) for women and children. Boycott (BDS) followers gullibly support those who plan terrorism here and around the world –I can only hope the U.S. is hearing about what terrorism is – the brutality, rapes, beheadings, and profound dishonor and that things will change. Be educated with these two nongraphic, but fascinating links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTuTL8aCx6k
I’ve meet with an Israeli woman for 1-2 hours each Friday morning — to improve her English and my Hebrew. This match made-in-Heaven is working and we’re both improving dramatically. She’s beginning to self-correct her own English-is-impossible! grammar errors (why does disappointed end with ed, in both the present and past tense? And how do you know when to use gone and leave and leaving and left…)
We maintain conversation in Hebrew for incrementally longer periods of clarity, since I now, with a patient listener, construct intelligible sentences. As long as she slows her pace and “dumbs down” her vocabulary, I am understanding more of what she says. Like a child finally reading simple words, I have far to go. Still, it’s so fun to see progress! An added plus: she’s a great cook and invited me to meet her family over a wonderful Shabbat meal.
Invitations like that are not rare. The Shabbat-centered hospitality here includes a slightly sharpened eye towards those of us alone. I’ve had more dinner/lunch invitations here in 7 months than I’ve had in 25 years. I overheard the clerk in a nearby store asking a neighbor (also a single woman) whether she had an invitation for Shabbat. While it’s not mandatory, or implying one is a social parana if one finds herself with nowhere to go on a Shabbat or other holiday, the effort is obvious. Not co-dependent, but deliberate. On the other side, I’ve been invited to a few homes just once, and may always wonder whether a Hebrew-wrong word, clueless social/cultural mistakes, or some more personal unlikeability generated no second invitation. Somethings are the same everywhere, right? I always want the audience to stand for an encore.
Don’t Try This At Home
Speaking of encore, check out these videos – what do young people do at your neighborhood park?
So what about language school? It’s finished. The last day was June 25th. Oddly, the only session I missed was that last day. A testament of the mind-body connection, I woke that last morning with a high fever and achy joints – “flu” symptoms that abated the following morning. I was obviously “done” and slept the entire day, disappointed it happened just one day too soon for the Class calendar.
The Class was a tough, very tough hill, and along the way I repeatedly fell into my own personal pits. The preparation, studying Hebrew in Denver, was worth every minute, thanks to Melissa for nudging me into Sheindy’s classes and the library’s Pimsleur Language training giving me vocabulary and the music (rhythms and sounds) of the language.
As this 5-month course evolved, I watched classmates decades younger than me, most with extensive previous training in Hebrew, immediately retain new words and grammar while I spent hours smushing the sounds and spellings into my brain in my apartment, alone. Some left class to be with families who speak Hebrew exclusively, or primarily, or with children who’ve mastered the language. OK, so I worked hard to keep up, acutely aware that if I didn’t “get” each day’s material I’d be in trouble as each session built upon the preceding. Working hard is fine. It’s worth it, and if my age or life experience increased the challenge, so be it. We all have our personal challenges.
Over time, though, the fast responses of classmates left no moment to think – only to echo their answers – and that diminished my level of participation since echoing is far from generating a response. As the months went by, the class became two separate wheels of students: one spinning fast and the other often silent, still learning and as engaged as possible, but seldom actually verbalizing with the drills. In elementary school we give the smart vs slower kids’ groups color names or something that doesn’t imply skill, but everyone knows which is which, and now you know which group I was in. They were not named, or separate, but (painfully) obvious nonetheless.
Having lost my confidence, I often froze when called upon, and so was called upon less often, or given super-easy questions, which all made it worse. I’d walk to class praying for the focus and calmness to think quickly enough to “find” the words I needed and not freeze. Weekly, I’d consider my options: take a break, study independently to get the newer material solidly implanted within, and then pick up where I left off with the next round of classes; try another language school to compliment the methods I’d learned; or go another week trying new study techniques.
Many years ago, I learned to ask myself something a wise counselor asked: When, previously, did I feel “this” way?
That question took me to a High School singing class. Having never sung before, I didn’t know soprano from alto, so the teacher told me to sing while he played a piano scale in front of the entire class. This frightened 14-year-old starting yet another new school produced a bleeting sound that I have always likened to a cow giving birth; it was decades before I even described the miserable moment to anyone. The teacher looked befuddled, and sat me with altos. I was too timid to ask to transfer out of the class, so held music sheets and mouthed words but never made another sound the entire semester. As some of you know, decades later I found myself welcomed and trained by the Sweet Adeline’s. Singing with them was one of the joys of my life.
I tell that story because participating in the Hebrew drills became reminiscent of that first “audition” at 14, rather than the opportunity to practice what I was learning. Why did I lose my balance, my perspective? Here’s an abbreviated list of my challenges since November:
- Dare to have a Big dream, after many dreamless/goal-less years
- Make extensive preparations and leave dear friends and an established life, home, and routines
- Move ½ way around the world
- Set up a home, try to make friends, and build a life in a foreign culture
- Navigate decisions and challenges per above in an unknown language
Ok, so I just didn’t have it – resilience – in me, for good reason.
Once I lost my “stage-loving self” I couldn’t quite get my feet under me again. I did ask the teachers for help, but because my homework was fine, they really didn’t understand. Serious note taking and listening-only became my recourse, since trying repeatedly with failure at 90% is not endurable day after day after day. For me, anyway. I was learning, just not in every dimension, which made the learning feel especially fractured within. Even so, my skill with the language has improved dramatically!
I detail this saga in hopes that you can relate at some level.
- How do we honestly process our “stuff” when we hit walls?
- Do you quit things that are hard, because they’re hard?
- How do you find and evaluate options?
- Do you really know, deeply, that guaranteed outcomes don’t come with this life?
It’s a life, not a movie or book, and your participation is crucial. Mostly I hope that you are courageous enough to look at each new day and to ask God’s direction and comfort.
I wish I could have been myself in the classroom through the entire course. My best self, rather than a weary woman swimming frantically to keep ahead of the wave. I was worn out, taking it “hour by hour”, without the energetic joy that fuels and blesses teachers. That’s my biggest regret – to not be up to that part of the challenge while trekking on. I’ll never know how taking a break would have worked out, will I?
Going forward, my conversation opportunities and language expansion will be through volunteering with children and at an Assisted Living/Retirement facility (all Hebrew speakers), engaging friendly shopkeepers and any willing Israeli, and practicing with several former classmates. Hours of daily Hebrew study at home are focused on the material I “learned” but didn’t absorb during class. I’m also preparing for my first visit back to the U.S. in August.
The next blog will revisit more Israel subjects, volunteerism, international concerns of course, and whatever else. This time, last year, Israel’s Iron Dome was (thankfully!) deflecting the barrage of 4,500+ rocket fire from Gaza during that 5 week war. What’s brewing now?
Now it’s your turn. What’s new?!?