Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting out, getting around, getting immersed

Consider this part 2 of my "Brunch at the Ambassador's House" post.  Besides the "Embassy Wives Club," there are several other clubs that overlap members quite a bit.  The International Women's Club is one of them.  Their purpose is to "promote friendship among local and international women."

I attended a meet and greet for their fall membership recruitment last Tuesday morning in Herzilya Pituach.  This town, while 15 minutes north of Tel Aviv, is actually more expensive.  It's the Weston, MA/ Birmingham, MI of Israel. This is the town where all the Embassy employees live.  The American School is up there as well, creating a little slice of Americana here in Israel.  Literally.  Many of the residents have not learned Hebrew.  They are busy planning Halloween, Christmas and Easter parties for their neighborhood, and fundraisers for the school.  They are going on organized tours in order to get out in Tel Aviv.  Today, I heard one complain that they were at a restaurant recently and the waitress couldn't tell her the word for "beans" (in English).  I nearly asked her, "Well, did you know the word for it in Hebrew?"  Another said she doesn't buy meat here because she can't figure out how to ask for it at the store.  I understand the trepidation these women feel when interacting in this unknown culture, with an unknown language.  And to be fair, the women who made these comments have only been here a few months.  I have felt that way too.  And it's that fear that forces me to go out and conquer it. 

In an effort to interact locally, I used that same afternoon to go shopping for summer dresses in the tiny shops along Bograshov St., at the suggestion of an Israeli friend who said this is the month for all the end of season clearance sales.  I went alone, which I generally prefer (if I have to go shopping at all).  When I walked in, I used Hebrew.  And I got Hebrew in response!  While I didn't get much further without English, my attempts to continue with Hebrew were met with appreciation, curiousity, friendliness, and assistance.  And the sales were good.  Sticker prices of 199 shekels became 79.  I got 4 dresses for 210 shekels - $58.  Who knew there were such deals in this otherwise expensive city! 

I am beginning to experience the benefits of immersion.  I can confidently say, it's worth the struggle.  I'm still undecided about committing to IWC membership.  I want to explore more of what Israel has to offer, and I am not convinced that the IWC is representative of that purpose.

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