*Literal translation: What a country!
Free translation: This you call a country?
Definition: An exclamation; a comment on an event, place, object, or behavior. It connotes irony, pride, wonder, delight, shame, disgust, or all of these together.
Instead of continuing a chronological narration of my move to Israel, I hope to share with you as many of my Ayzeh Mehdeenah experiences as I can remember, the ones starting from August 29, 1988, the day I landed in Israel as an olah chadasha (new immigrant). Because my memory-retrieval engine works much slower than Google's, I will post these experiences as they bubble up from the depths of my personal memory base, and, occasionally, even before they get stored there. For example, from last week...
4 cucumbers.....NIS 1.96
4 tomatoes........NIS 3.29
4 avocados........NIS 5.01
Total................US $3.55 March, 2005
The First Day
On August 30, 1988, my first morning as an immigrant, I had one appointment and two errands: a welcome meeting with the "house mother" of the temporary immigrant dorm/studio apartment building, a visit to the local bank to open an account, and a visit to the local supermarket to buy groceries. This post is about groceries.
My studio apt. was in the middle of a small shopping area in Ramat Aviv, so finding the supermarket was pretty easy. It was at the end of my street. Buying food was a bit more problematic: most food packages were text-heavy, so I decided to buy only fresh vegetables and fruit, or packages I could see through (like cheese and frozen chicken), or packages with relevant pictures on them (like canned beans or spaghetti sauce). After all, it was my first day and I had plenty of time ahead to be adventurous. While waiting in line to check out, I observed that customers bagged their own groceries. OK, I could live with that. When I got home and unpacked what I'd bought, my work began: for two hours I sat, armed with calculator, alphabet diagram, and Hebrew dictionary, and translated the register-printed receipt.
Numbers are (almost) the same - hurray!
I started with the easy stuff: converting the prices from shekels to dollars, and the weighed items from grams to pounds and ounces. I was to learn later that handwritten numbers are not so easily recognized. The ones have heads, the sevens have tails, and the fours? Don't ask.
Letters are very different
I laboriously transliterated the letters when I was able to recognize them. To this day there are Hebrew letters I find difficult to distinguish from one another. In this way I looked up the English-Hebrew dictionary and browsed until I found a printed Hebrew word that could possible correspond to what I had on my cash-register receipt. It was a relief to learn that a few items were sounded familiar, like "banana."
Where are the graphics?
A marked lack of graphic cues culture-shocked me in 1988. I reflected on the history of American advertising , and realized that it had not been exported (yet). The literacy statistics in Israel are impressive...there is certainly a connection, for which I am at a disadvantage compared to an Israeli in the USA. I must "climb up" to really understand this place. I decide my aliyah must include becoming Hebrew-literate. As of 2005, I greet the "advances" in Israeli graphic communication with ambivalence. It makes it easier for me and others to navigate the culture, but it reduces the motivation to become Hebrew-literate.