Today was one of those days when I felt like such an immigrant. In bad ways and good ways. It’s been a slow Hebrew time for the last month. But today I had to speak in my group in “psychological approaches to mediation and negotiation” class, and then after I stuttered and stumbled on about how competition is poor for negotiation, and how manipulation and control can be used for mediation in a good way, I was asked the usual questions: “How long have you been here?” “How did your Hebrew get so good?” “Where are you living?” and smiles, smiles, and then I kind of felt like the triumphant immigrant and spoke to myself in Hebrew the whole walk to the bus stop afterward.
Then on the way home on the 18 bus I got to be a part of something that I am not sure is exclusively Israeli, but certainly not American. I was asked by a 15ish year old out-of-town boy which stop is Gan Hapa’amon, and I thought for a second how to tell him and then I just replied, “I’ll tell you when we get there.” At first this typical response to directions used to freak me out – What if they forget to tell me? What is their interest in keeping me in mind? But I’ve learned that here, we all like to be in control of guiding other people or giving advice. It helps keep a balance, and it definitely helps maintain control.
After he departed at Gan Hapa’amon thanks to my instruction, I noticed the guy on the other side of me fidgeting with a leather band in his hand; he was trying to stitch it up to be a bracelet. After a minute he asked me how I think it was supposed to be done. I gave him directions and helped him through it.
Control and manipulation; instruction and direction… Israeli daily life is full of all of it, from feeling out of control in my linguistic skills from being able to give good instructions in a city I’ve come to know deeply.