Against my better judgement, I did not learn a ton (that is putting it generously) of Hebrew before we moved here. I wanted to. I like learning languages. I signed up for a five month intensive Hebrew class starting next month, but I wanted to start immediately. We bought books, and “methods.” We had visions of a utopian summer where we read all the books we had been meaning to read for years AND learned enough Hebrew to get by in our first few weeks here. The placelessness of this summer really jostled these plans into the ether, however.
To get to Tel Aviv, we left LA in mid-June. We drove up the coast to Santa Rosa, Mendocino, Arcata, Eugene, Portland (a few day trips), Seattle, and back to Eugene before flying to Boston to stay in Plymouth, with side trips to New York (me) and Chicago (Will), and finally drove to and flew out of Newark. We left for Tel Aviv in early August. Until we went to Seattle we had two dogs with us (Finnegan, and my grandmother’s dog, Ella), and then from then on we had just Finn with us. It was a very long moving process. Something about not having a space or a routine really eclipsed our efforts to learn Hebrew and we just didn’t.
While we can get by with English here for most things, I hate it. I hate immediately being a stereotypical American who does not speak the language and cockily assumes she can get by just speaking English. I hate calling places and cheerily but with a desperate edge chiming “Shalom! Inglit?” I hate laughing awkwardly as people try to make conversation in the street, and then hearing them say, “oh, you don’t speak Hebrew?” Yesterday, I hated when Finnegan surprised both of us by pooping in someone’s walkway…as a resident of that building was walking up the path. I hated being yelled at and not being able to understand, and not being able to profusely apologize and explain that it was unanticipated for me and the dog. So far, I like this city, and I would like to be able to speak its language.
Bureaucracy here is hard and different from what I’m used to, but it’s much more difficult not speaking the language of the country (obviously). I just spent probably an hour on the phone (split between two phone calls) trying to get a license for owning a dog (a requirement here), and to get Finnegan registered with the city. The woman I spoke with was patient, and helpful, but I really wished I could speak Hebrew. Or at least spell my dog’s name in Hebrew for her, without having to pause for an awkward 30 seconds between each letter while I confirmed that was how I would spell it. Not speaking Hebrew also led to the following back and forth:
“Does he have rabies?”
“Okay he will need a vaccine.”
“He was vaccinated in May.”
“Okay, does he have balls?”
“Balls. You get a discount if he doesn’t have balls.”
“He doesn’t have balls.”
Spay and neuter your pets, people. You get a discount if your dog doesn’t have balls.
And because this post was just text, here’s a picture of a really cool, zebra print bird I’ve seen around that I’m increasingly obsessed with: