Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Simplicity, Beauty, and Accuracy

On Sunday we went to the library to check out children's books to help me with my Hebrew (as well as give me something to do while I wait a few more days for school to start...)

Yesterday, I (with the help of Matan) read through my first book!

It's called: 

הכי טוב לדג
(It's Best for the Fish)

In the library I chose it because skimming through I recognized enough of the words that I could potentially connect the dots with the ones I didn't know, there are nice illustrations with only a sentence to accompany each one, and there's repetition of a phrase.

I found this book to be quite beautiful, so here are some of my favorite pages.

It's best for the fish to swim within the water.

It's best for lips to smile and to laugh.

It's best for the table to dance with the chair.

It's best for letters to put together words.

It's best for waves to tickle the beach.

It's best for the sun when spring arrives.

It's best for the moon to have stars around.

That's straight poetry if I ever heard it.

I googled the book and found a really interesting interview with the author, אפרת בנק (Efrat Bank).  The webpage http://www.tipa.co.il/articlePage.asp?articleId=2136 is in Hebrew so I used the option to translate it, and below are the twice translated responses (first by google from Hebrew to English, and then by me, translating google's poor English to a more natural English) to the questions:

"What is the idea behind the book?"

 "By "best" I mean "L'hci [most] natural". For me, if all of us do precisely what is most natural for us, what we would most like even if there is no explanation for why, even if what we want to do sounds to others "unrealistic" or "childish", it will be best, happiest, & most true."

"How come you became a doctoral student in mathematics and then a writer of children's books? Is this something that was always there?"

"Since I can remember I've been writing and I loved messing with numbers and shapes. Although the relationship between math and writing may seem odd, to me it is completely natural. Also, in writing and math I recognize the same desire for simplicity, beauty and accuracy. Two seemingly different disciplines, it is striving to "truth", it will express an idea in a new way and serve it best."

Wow. By writing about this 'milestone' of mine, what I found already to be innately beautiful has just become that much more gorgeous.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words (& may confuse the hell out of you)

To feel a sense of isolation in social situations is a profound sense of loneliness. Being at home or wandering around the city by myself doesn't bother me, it's only when I have to interact with people that I feel like an outsider. Which makes sense. I anticipated it. But one can only grasp the scope with experience.

Little things like going to the supermarket can be terrifying. Do you know how hard it is to find deals when you can't read??? 

I enjoy the challenge of learning a new alphabet and a language that doesn't have Latin or Germanic roots and is written&read right to left and capital letters don't exist....
but damn, it's difficult to make deductions. Seeing and hearing are two different things and I've decided that Hebrew is as tricky as English in this manner. Example: the English word "lead". 

You could have read that as a verb, the opposite of follow, or as a noun, an element of the periodic table.

I've come to recognize that "יציאה" must mean "exit", but without phonetic indicators I can make at least 2 educated guesses as to how it's pronounced; whereas Spanish is phonetically straight forward - knowing the alphabet a non-native speaker can almost perfectly pronounce any word - neither Hebrew nor English have that luxury. 

Israelis are creative people with creative advertising that at times just confuses me in my deduction of the language. I was in line to buy groceries when the cashier lady put up a plastic sign. My Hebrew is good enough to know that the largest word on this sign meant "open". But the rest of the words combined with the picture of a Visa card sharpening a knife (or a knife cutting a card? or a card being scanned on a knife?) completely threw me for a loop. 

Do they not take cards in this line? Or do they only take cards? Or do they only take a specific card!?

In America I've only seen a sign like this for one purpose:

So here I am with a wallet full of shekels and a basket full of products whose labels I can not read and my own cultural memory is clashing with my knowledge of the language.

Asking for help can yield very different responses: empathetic understanding or rolled eyes and sighs of exasperation. This particular moment in the space-time continuum produced the latter.

"You not understand Hebrew?" The white-haired cashier lady said.

Though not completely representative of the truth, I chose the simplest answer: "no".

She points, "This - 'open'," then flips the sign around, "this - 'closed'," but doesn't actually pronounce the Hebrew equivalents, which would put me in the same boat as "יציאה", except that I actually can read and pronounce these words. Rosetta Stone is a beautiful program that rightfully deserves the awards it's received. 

Oh, and that sign: it was advertising an in-store credit card.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shalom, Y'all

It's been nearly 3 years since my last post. My, how things change. I last blogged about snow in South Carolina; I've returned to document and reflect on my new life in the Middle East.

Here I will attempt to update all you beautiful souls on some major points of the past 3 years:::

- December 31, 2010 was an amazing New Years Eve, spent with the tightest group of friends I'd ever been a part of.
                                                                                                             Unforgettable NYE with my BFFLs

- February 2011: After nearly 2 years in the professional pharmacy program at SCCP, I dropped out to pursue what I really love: plant biology y español. I would have kept it up had I not developed a strong moral stance against the American pharmaceutical system. Note: I have mad respect for my former SCCP class and some of the most amazing people I know are now pharmacists. 

- Changed my major, took the rest of that semester off, and starting working M - F at Cabo Fresh Taco with my BFFL and former roommate, Lauren.
                                                                                                        Wish I had a picture of us slingin' tacos

- May 22, 2011: Lauren failed to call me for my 22nd birthday. This was because she was severely sick with a heart infection (though no one knew it was that at the time).

- December 28, 2011: 2 (successful) heart-transplants later, Lauren died peacefully in her sleep from a blood clot after 6 months of being in and out of the hospital. Thus, dropping out was perhaps the best decision I ever made, if only for the fact that I was able to spend at least 5 days a week with her before she became ill, even if it was in the context of tacos.

- December 31, 2011: I gave my first eulogy at Lauren's funeral, and managed to make people laugh during it, perhaps my most proud moment. We buried her that day in Dana, North Carolina, among an apple orchard that is conveniently located across the street from a sweet thrift store.
                                                                                                                               Rebecca, Emily and me

- January 2012: I told Rebecca I would backpack Europe with her and Jill and started working 2 minimum wage jobs at 35 - 40+ hours a week to fund it.

- June 1, 2012: The 3 of us board a plane from JFK to Dublin.
                                                                                                                                   Jill behind the camera

- Friday the 13th of June 2012: We take a train from Koeln to Berlin. I thought I had the address of some warehouse clubs to go to, but I was confusing that with information about Amsterdam (which doesn't have warehouse clubs, anyway). I chose the train-stop we got off at, since I "had" the information (oops...at this point I didn't have the heart to tell the girls I was misinformed), we wandered around in the dark and found a bar where a kind waiter pointed us in the direction of Katerholzig, the type of club we had been looking for. It was truly amazing - the colors, the music, the international feel, open non-stop from Thursday night - Monday morning. I had a beer, danced, then went back to get another beer, which was quickly stolen over conversation by an English boy who I had talked to previously in the night, thus forcing me to get back in line to buy a replacement (where are your manners, boy?!)

- This is when I met Matan. I rummaged through my black-hole of a backpacker's purse and he asked, "What are you drinking?" to which I responded, "Berliner".
                                                                                               The morning we met; there's Jillian in the corner.

This synopsis is by no means complete but it answers the question as to how I am now residing in Tel Aviv, Israel:: meeting my olive, Matan. My personal equivalent of "my other half" or "my better half" is "my olive", inspired by the Spanish phrase "mi media naranja" (my orange half) and my heart-healthy obsession with olives (they contain the good fat! &, quite literally, the salt of life.)

I completed my BS in Biology with a minor in Spanish in May, 2013. I moved here a week ago, boarding my flight from Charlotte on June 19th and arriving here the 20th, approximately 15 hours after no sleep and some unexpectedly enjoyable movie watching.

That's perhaps my favorite thing about trans-Atlantic flights - watching the most random movies (often that I've never heard of) and finding some deep life-relevance in them. This time around it was "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Great and Powerful Oz". Don't judge me.