Lost in Translation: Israel Part I

After my run in with the Greek officials (see previous post), we safely arrived back in Santorini, my favorite of the Greek isles. This time around, instead of staying at the lovely Anny Studios, we opted for cheaper accommodations at Anna’s Youth Hostel, where for 5 Euros a night, you too could sleep in a hot, smelly basement in bunkbeds, with 25 strangers who snore..loudly. Actually, if you sleep with ear plugs, an eye mask, don’t breathe thru your nose, wear flip flops in the shower and stash enough of your own toilet paper to get by, it’s not too bad. Thankfully, we only stayed there for 5 nights before Karen headed off to Ios for more partying and I headed to Israel, where my journey would take a more spiritual turn. I would be staying in Tel Aviv with my very good friend Meital who I hadn’t seen in 2 years since she left NY. Meital hadn’t changed a bit, although 4 months meditating in India did make her even more buddha-like than she was before. (my very own personal guru). Spending these last few days with Meital has reminded me of all of the wonderful philosophical and spiritual conversations that we used to have when she lived in NY, that I missed so much in the states. In fact, she has inspired me to sign up for Vipassana Meditation, a 10 day silent meditation retreat. Now that should be interesting. Anyway, I had my very first solo adventure here in Tel Aviv- a trip to the supermarket. Armed with my Visa card and what I learned in Hebrew school (not much), I headed to the store. As I approached the entrance and the security guard half-heartedly searched through my bag (guess I don’t look too suspicious), I said ‘Toda’, which means ‘thank you’ in Hebrew, and gave a big smile, cause when you don’t know the language, you can’t go wrong with a big smile (except in Greece). So after I thanked him, he continued talking to me in Hebrew. Sadly, I had no idea what he was saying so I finally broke it to him, ‘Sorry pal, all I got is Shalom and Toda’. As I walked away from the disappointed security guard, I began collecting all the items on my shopping list. I soon realized that I could not find the eggs. Ok, I thought, this gentleman over here looks nice. I’ll ask him. He must speak English, after all, doesn’t everybody? “Shalom. Do you know where the eggs are?” Blank stare. “Um. EGGS??”, I yelled louder. Hand to his heart, looking devastated that he couldn’t help out this pathetic looking tourist, he pointed to a woman at the meat counter and said, “English”. Ah, perfect. “Thank you”. ‘Your welcome’. Huh? okie dokie. “Shalom”, I said to the supposedly English speaking butcher. “Can you tell me where the eggs are”. “Egg?” Oy vey. “Yes eggs, you know, round, they come from chickens. You know, chicken, bac bac (animated chicken gestures and chicken noises…) “Ah, eggs, yes, aisle 2”. So, I collected my eggs and my pride, and I made it through my first Israeli food shopping adventure. The next day we went to Jerusalem where we stayed with Meital’s friend Dana. In the morning, Dana took us on a tour of the city. When she pointed out the Prime Minister’s house, I, of course, took out my phone to snap a photo (camera wasn’t working), and as I aimed, I suddenly noticed a man dressed in uniform running towards me. No, actually I noticed the big machine gun that he was carrying first, then I noticed the man, and realized he was yelling something to me in Hebrew. I became a bit nervous- man with gun, running towards you, yelling something in foreign language…- and said, “I’m sorry, I speak English. Don’t shoot?” (Big smile). Apparently that didn’t work, because he kept yelling something in Hebrew. I finally looked over to Meital and Dana who were a few meters in front of me and mouthed, ‘Help’. They exchanged words and Dana translated. “He wants to know if you took a photo”. Still in shock, I opened my mouth to answer, but nothing came out. Thankfully Dana intercepted and gracefully lied, “No, she wasn’t taking a photo, she was just trying to get a signal”. Phew, that was close. Thanks Dana! Lesson # 17: When uniformed men with machine gun chases after you and screams something in a foriegn language, just stay calm, play dumb and smile.


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