Monday, August 25, 2008

A bit about my ulpan

At my ulpan they try very hard to vary the activities so that we will be able to pay attention for the whole of class. We've watched movies, gone on a tour of campus, played games, gone to a computer lab, etc. Yesterday, we went to a language lab, where each of us sat in front of tape players and listened through headsets to exercises. We had to speak in response to the exercises and our responses were recorded. The teacher sat in the front and she was able to listen in on any of our recording sessions in real time, as we were stumbling through our answers. If we were having problems, all we had to do was press the "call teacher" button and the teacher could have a conversation with us from her headset to ours. The exercises were pretty boring, but it was good to get up and do something new. Today, we learned some songs. A teacher from some music institute in Jerusalem - I didn't catch the name of it as she was speaking Hebrew pretty fast - came in to teach us a few songs, and will apparently do this other times throughout the ulpan. We learned a song called "Dreaming in Spanish" about an immigrant who loves Hebrew and does everything in Hebrew but still dreams in Spanish, two Arik Einstein songs(one, two), a short ballad/love song about flying away like birds to build a new life together, Yo-Ya a very well known Israeli song, and others. It was not easy to learn the songs because I don't read as fast as the tempo of the songs - but I was excited to be singing such pretty songs anyway - and again it was nice to have a change of pace in the middle of a day full of conjugating verbs.
Yesterday one of our teachers left the room for a moment and the other teacher came in unexpectedly (she usually teaches another class on Sundays). She came in and without saying anything to any of us she ate part of the other teacher's apple, broke her pencil, wrote on the board, closed the window, tore a piece of paper and used a cigarette lighter to burn it. Then, without a word of explanation, she left the room. We were all sort of giggly and surprised, and didn't know what to make of it. The other teacher came in and said, "Who broke the pencil? The pencil is broken. Who closed the window? The window is closed." etc. And that's how we learned how to change verbs into adjectives: closed, broken, eaten, burnt, torn, etc. It certainly got our attention!
This afternoon as I was waiting for the bus to go home I ran into Alex, the friend I met on Birthright, who is right now taking his final exams at Hebrew University. He introduced me to his friends and we spoke in Hebrew - though I didn't understand most of the conversation and whenever anyone addressed me I had to ask them to repeat themselves, only slower. Alex showed me his dorm room, which is about the size of my room in the IRC at UVA. It was hard to talk to him and his friend because the friend doesn't know very much English and frankly I don't know very much Hebrew. I spoke to her in Hebrew, only not very well - and when I made mistakes they corrected me, and when I didn't know how to say a word I asked Alex. She spoke to me in Hebrew, but mostly Alex had to translate what she said into English for me. When he spoke, Alex spoke first in English and then translated it into Hebrew for his friend. It was all very muddled and talking took a long time, but it was lovely of both of them to be so patient.
It's been an exciting week for us, as we've been receiving packages left and right. Thanks to everyone for fabulous birthday gifts and for a very exciting care package.
Daniel's ulpan ends tomorrow and in a few days he'll be on vacation! Unfortunately as I won't be on vacation, he isn't going anywhere for long, but we're thinking about taking a weekend vacation to Tel Aviv. If anyone has recommendations of things to do in Tel Aviv, let us know.

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