Monday, September 13, 2010

First Day of Ulpan

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Today was our first day having a real program after all these days off for the holidays. We took our first bus in Yafo (they have all been shut down for Rosh Hashanah and then Shabbat) to the central bus station, which seems to be bigger and more hectic than Port Authority. After some mishaps (oops) we found Benji (!) and our group, and headed over to the Bina building for more volunteering info with Avital. I found out from Benji that I was placed in the intermediate Hebrew group, instead of the intro group like I had expected. I was even more upset when I found out that Morgan, my number one twinsey, was also in that class. Morgan is pretty much conversationally fluent, and she is my translator when we go out. WHAT? So I asked Benji if, after today’s first class, I could downgrade a level if I need to. He said yes (after objecting to the word downgrade,) so that was slightly comforting. But still scary!

After more talking about volunteering placements (our visits start tomorrow!) we went home. I did some laundry and cleaned the apartment and we all helped settle in my 4th roommate Allyson, who just switched from the Tel Aviv track to ours! Yay! I’m very glad she’s going to be living with us. She’s sharing a room with Tiffany, which seems to be working out well so far. We’re all very happy to have her.

Then it was time for our first Ulpan class! (Ulpan is the word for Hebrew class – I don’t know what kind of Hebrew class it has to be to be classified as “ulpan,” but whatever, that’s what ours is called.) Half of our ulpan classes are in Tel Aviv and half are in Yafo; classrooms in Yafo are very expensive so they are held in our living rooms instead! Which is super convenient for us!

With great trepidation, I went into the intermediate class (in my very own living room!) Immediately, it was way over my head. He spoke only in very fast Hebrew, and I caught maybe 1 in 10 or 20 words. Usually the word “ani” which means I, or “ken” or “lo,” which are “yes” and “no.” By the end of the 4 hours, I was pretty frustrated. Then the teacher came over to me while we were doing an exercise in the book (the same book I used for my class at AJU, funnily enough) and said something like “why haven’t you finished it?” It was something where you had to read the sentence and fill in the missing pronoun, either “I,” “you (masculine or feminine),” “you guys (m. and f.)” or “them (m. and f).” I understood the pronouns, but it took me so long to work through the sentences since I don’t actually know any Hebrew, that it was taking me way longer. So he came over and started explaining the pronouns to me in a way that made it seem like he was frustrated with me. I tried to tell him that I know the pronouns, but I can’t get the context. He didn’t seem to be listening. Then he told me I should think about switching to the other class, and I told him I expected to. Then he seemed mad (????) and said they were starting from the absolute beginning and would be working on the alphabet for weeks. I told him only one person didn’t know the alphabet, and he was like “No, I read the tests myself.” And I was thinking: “Really, did you read my test where all I wrote was “I don’t speak Hebrew” in Hebrew?”

Then towards the end, Adam, who seemed to be only slightly above my level, started saying that he was frustrated and wasn’t getting anything. The other girls in the class tried to encourage him, but the teacher was strangely silent. Then he started saying that he thought we weren’t motivated enough, especially those of us who are here for only 5 months. Some people tried valiantly to respond, but it was just really weird.

After the class I talked to Hannah and Katie who were in the lower class, and I’m definitely going to switch. In this first class they covered basically everything I learned at AJU, so it should be perfect to jump in tomorrow. It’s not that I don’t want a challenge, or that I don’t want to push myself. But there is a difference between pushing yourself and being in a level that is far too difficult for you, where everything is over your head and you are struggling so hard to keep up that you aren’t understanding or retaining anything. That is not at all constructive, and I know the frustration I felt was impeding my learning, not enhancing it. I learned a long time ago that I learn best when I’m comfortable – I don’t excel in stressful situations. I know that the lower level class will be the best place for me, and will really push me to improve and to be at the top of the class, which is how I learn best.

I’m hoping there won’t be any tsuris about me switching classes – I’m planning to just tell Benji tomorrow morning at the placement tours and then show up to the lower class. I’m even going to do the homework she assigned so I’ll be an ideal pupil. She’s gonna love me! Plus, I get to be with Hannah, and a bunch of my other friends! Yay!

After the disastrous ulpan, I hung out downstairs on the patio for a while, and then got the best falafel of my LIFE. He cooked the falafel themselves right there for me, and it was super delish. Plus, I managed almost the whole thing in Hebrew (all I said was “falafel,” “ken,” “lo,” and “zayoo” (that’s all,) and “toda” (thank you), I think.) The best part is that it’s only 3 blocks from our apartment! SCORE! Then I hung out in the downstairs apartment for a while, which is always delightful, and now I am going to bed. I gotta wake up super early tomorrow to go see two placements before lunch, and then ulpan in the afternoon!


  1. Sounds like your ulpan guy today was a putz. Ask him if he knows that word.