Popsicle Technology, and Ulpan

We are slowly, but steadily, inching our way into Tel Aviv-resident-dom. We finally have cell phones (previously, we had been using prepaid Israeli burner phone, that really should have lead to more Israeli-based dramatic reenactments of The Wire). We finally have an apartment. We finally found where to buy face sunscreen. We still don’t have internet (shout-out to the personal hotspot I’m using right now from my incredibly cheap Israeli data plan!). We still don’t have enough hangers to fully unpack. We still don’t have any idea what the labels on the yogurt we have been buying say.

I think I am probably presenting myself as the sweatiest, most frantic person ever to most Israelis. One of the perks we get of moving here, is that we get free intensive Hebrew lessons. Last week we went to the Ministry of Absorption to get our Ulpan (Hebrew school) vouchers, along with a veritable bouquet of other paperwork. I had been fairly indecisive about which Ulpan to enroll in, factoring commute, class intensity, timing, etc. Before we went to the Ministry of Absorption, I had finally resolved to go with the large, well-known Ulpan that happens to be less than a ten minute walk from our new apartment. When our “personal absorption counselor” asked which Ulpan I had selected, she looked up.

“When are you going to register?” She stared at me. Hard.

“I was planning on going right after this meeting?” At this point, I was already sweaty, but this conversation was prompting just utter buckets of sweat to appear.

“Okay, you better. The French will be coming this week, and they will take all the spots at the school.”

The meeting could not end quickly enough. I had to get over to the Ulpan to get a spot before this ambiguous inundation of “the French” arrived. Ulpan voucher in hand, I left the Ministry, and full on sprinted to the Ulpan. Will went back to the Airbnb to collect Finnegan, while I stormed the Ulpan. Once I arrived, I hysterically looked for the nearest office, or anything resembling an office, so I could usurp the French, and claim an Ulpan seat.

There was an office not too far from the entrance. Three women were in there, laughing. I stood in the doorway, feverish. Finally, they turned to me.

“I’m here to register.” My voice had taken on a grave, foreboding quality, and the women stared at me.  After an excruciating pause, one of them beckoned me over to her desk.

Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed, sweaty, and possessed with an engulfing desire to get in the best intensive language class I can, I become completely unable to coherently answer questions. The woman asked me questions about my occupation, level of education, name, etc, and I flubbed every question on the first try. At one point, she asked me for my phone number and I just went “In Hebrew? It’s temporary.” Which were two separate thoughts, that made no sense stitched together. During this entire debacle, I was sweating sunscreen into my eyes, and continued to dab my eyes with the corner of a kleenex. Most likely, I looked as though I were crying, vanquished by my emotion at signing up for intensive Hebrew.

Towards the end of the meeting, the woman stood up.

“I have a present for you.” She walked around a filing cabinet. Turning around, she handed me a backpack. It actually seemed very well constructed, with a key fob, and a headphone hole. Still frantic and dabbing sunscreen out of my eyes, I reacted too much to this backpack.


The woman was, clearly, unsure how to respond to me.

“We give these to all new students.”

I tried to calibrate my reaction to the backpack. Instead, I ended up awkwardly clutching it, as the woman told me I was registered. I had beaten the incoming French; I had gained a spot.

To make this sweaty, frenetic experience worse, I then had to pace outside the Ulpan for about 25 minutes, waiting for Will and Finn to come meet me. I must have appeared to be unable to wait for classes to begin, well-constructed backpack in hand.

Since I have no pictures of me not crying while registering for Ulpan, here’s a picture of what I thought was a slightly pornographic granola tagline:


I also want to mention the popsicle methodology I’ve witnessed here. I’ll try to get a picture. As I’ve been walking around, I’ve not only noticed an astounding number of people eating popsicles, but they’ve all been holding them so that the stick is at the top, and the popsicle faces the sidewalk. I couldn’t understand this the first few times I saw it, then I realized. It’s so the popsicle juices do not slither onto their hands, and create a sticky mess. Israel, you are lightyears ahead of the US on your popsicle technology. Mazal tov. Seriously.

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