Sometimes, I like to think of myself as my generation’s Ronald Reagan—the Great Communicator. I’ve never found myself in a situation where I was unable to get my thoughts across, and I’d say I’m a pretty chatty person when it comes down to it. In fifth grade, I awkwardly thought it was socially acceptable to wear a baby blue t-shirt that said “motor mouth” in painfully large letters (thanks for buying me that trendy, chic outfit, Mom). But in actuality, as a writer and journalist in the making, I’m always relying on words as my main source of expression. Unfortunately though, I apparently left my “Great Communicator” skills back in America…alongside my favorite Jelly Belly jellybeans.
Seeing as my Hebrew isn’t quite above par just yet, I’ve had a little trouble getting my point across to Israelis (even though a majority of them speak English and just pretend they don’t understand me). While there tends to be a little miscommunication here and there, for some reason, this week the language barrier was as thick as a cement wall.
Since Israel has yet to move out of the rainy season and fully embrace the sun, sudden downpours have become a normal aspect of my day. That being said, my friends and I were caught in casual hurricane one day after lunch. With the restaurant being too far away from our dorms to walk, but too close to justifiably spend money on a cab, we were stuck between a rock and a hard place (or in this case, the flu and a tight budget). But luckily, we were saved by a magical short, yellow van…or so we thought. The sherut, which is essentially a mix between a taxi and a bus that takes you from point A to point B for 7 shekels ($1.84), emerged out of the heavy raindrops just in time to rescue us from the cold. We excitedly told the driver the address of our dorms, handed him our money, and took a seat in the back. But of course, somethings are just too good to be true.
Within minutes of settling into our “cushy” seats, we drove by our building. From the back, we shouted our address to the driver, assuming that he would eventually slow down and stop the sherut (or as I called it the sherutim, which just so happens to mean bathroom in Hebrew—like I said, I’m not exactly fluent yet). When he kept driving even further down the street, we figured he was making a U-turn to drop us off right in front of the dorms. We we’re wrong, on all accounts.
After persistently pestering the driver about our whereabouts, the other passengers on the sherut(im) began laughing at the so-called “stupid American girls”—because we weren’t causing a scene or anything. Through our panic and intensified confusion, the driver continued to move forward while also simultaneously giving us death stares through his rearview mirror. Finally, between bursts of laughter, the Russian man in the van turned to his Israeli girlfriend and had her speak to the driver about our predicament.
As it turns out, we were bound for Dizingoff Street…no where near our dorms. Apparently the driver had no intentions on ever bringing us home, and instead decided to toss us off at a random sidewalk in the middle of a storm—such a gentleman! Abandoned in the middle of no-man’s land*, another sherut pulled up next to us, the shivering, pathetic American girls. Apprehensively, we boarded. At this point, we had nothing to lose but a little more dignity…and as a hypochondriac, I was under the impression that we had all already caught phenomia. I guess the second time around is really the charm because we finally were dropped off safely (and a little wet) in front of our dorms…an hour after leaving lunch 3 miles away from the dorms.
I’m still haven’t decide if this story is about inevitable miscommunication, or about a few American girls getting scammed for 7 shekels—you be the judge.
But on the other hand, the language barrier definitely has its upsides. For instance, bargaining with cab drivers is like a breeze. I’ve come to the conclusion that most Israeli cab drivers will accept my price solely to make me stop debating with them in my annoying, absurdly New Jersey/New York accent. And even better, some Israeli waiters just love to feed us. I’m not sure if they think Americans are malnourished, or if they’re just going with the whole idea that Americans are obese so “why not feed them more?” Either way, as a girl on a budget, I’ll take as much free food as I can get. So as a girl who’s always been one.
Chicken and two sides is 44 shekels ($11.60), but our waiter decided to throw in two more sides, pickles, and some pita.
On a completely different note, forecasts show 70+ degrees and sun for the upcoming weeks and I finally have weekends set for exploring. This week is Purim and a potential trip back to Jerusalem. The following week we’re traveling to Haifa, and the week after that we’re headed down south to the Negev for another teen tour with OSP. When it rains, it seems like no one (including natives) knows what to do, but now that we’re finally experiencing sunshine all the time, my weeks are about to get a whole lot busier.
*this is an exaggeration, I am in the city of Tel Aviv