December 05, 2004

You're A Blockhead Rachel Ann!

I just don't understand. I'm not listening. ERMPPPPPPPHHHHHHH!

At least according to the Artist, that is the problem. I just don't get it, and she is right.

The party is today and we are talking over the games that are played; potato race, pass the bag, various games. I say, "We'll divide the girls into two teams..."


"We'll divide the girls into two teams; how else can you play with thirty girls?"

"Listen, Ima, two girls race. And then the girl that wins the race gets the prize."

"Two girls? But what do the other's do?"

"They watch." (Duh!)

"They just watch?"

"And then you pick two more girls. Whoever wants to play."

"But honey, that means if all the girls come from your class we have to give out 15 prizes." (Mom is trying to calculate that in her head. Are all the games like this?)

"Not everyone wants to play. And not everyone gets picked."

"Not everyone gets picked?"

"Look Ima" (frustration builds) "Everyone puts their fingers in the air like this" (she puts up one finger, the Israeli version of raising one's hand "And you pick two girls..."

"But you only pick two girls?"

"Well, after the two girls race, you pick two more"

"But what do the other girls do?"

"ERRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGG. They watch. Or they play other games."

"They just watch? They play other games at the same time?" (mom is trying to figure out how three or four games could be going on in the room at the same time and how she is suppose to monitor more than one and, even though the presents are only a few shek each, 15 gifts for each game? Mom is feeling a bit batty)

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH! Never mind! You don't understand! You aren't listening!"

And we go through the whole thing with just a few minor changes over and over again. But only two at a time? That means 15 gifts. What do the other girls do?

(Now mom knows she is being dense but just can't wrap her little mind around this. It isn't that she isn't listening, or has trouble comprehending basic English.. But hte concept itself---The girls just watch? Not every girl plays every game, not because she chooses not to do so but because she doesn't get picked? That can't be right.

That isn't how it is done in the states. In the states you have a few games. Everyone plays. One person wins. That's all. Won't the girls be upset if they don't get picked? Won't they be angry? Won't they be hurt? This can't be right. It doesn't make sense.

But, after a quick call to one of the girls in her class who speaks both Hebrew and English, she is right. In her party every game was played twice; two winners, not 15. And to take care of the disappointment, there was the pass the present game where everyone passed a present around and won something small (a candy, a hair thingy) and the last person won something big.

That is the way it is done here. Culture shock. I'm still sort of scratching my head over this one (better this than lice!)

Culture shock. Not everyone can win, okay, but not everyone can have a chance to win? Not everyone can play at all?

Birthday parties are different here. Not everyone will bring a gift. Not everyone invited will come, and they aren't even likely to call. Any birthday gift given is likely to be bought by the girls themselves and likely to be small; a couple of girls get together and buy a cheap necklace, or a hair thingiess, or something similar. What child has more than a few shek to spend on something? With thirty girls in the class, no one expects to get their hearts desire from their friends.

Culture shock. This isn't the way I grew up. This isn't how it worked for my older children. The basic fairness and common courtesy that I was raised with and that my older children were raised with just isn't there---and it is hard to throw it out the door.

Not everyone will show up, and you won't know till the girls come trooping through the door whether there will be six girls or ten girls or the whole class. Not everyone will play every game even though they might wish to do so. You play every game a few times and move on to the next. Not every girl will come with a present. Some may, some may give presents later in the week, some not at all.

That's the culture here. Not better, not worse, just the way it is. Culture shock.
A small thing I know, but it is the small thing that we build our lives upon; courtesies, habits, manners, expected behavior--- and when they vary from how we have grown up, even in small ways, we can feel rudderless. At least I do.

How does this work? How can it work? It doesn't feel right.

But it is right, for here.

Welcome to Israel; I keep getting welcomed, sometimes with a joyful message, sometimes not. But just when I think I've found my center, I get rocked.

But I'm glad I'm here.

Posted by Rachel Ann at December 5, 2004 07:11 AM

Well, if the kids know going in that that's the way it's done, then I suppose they're somewhat prepared for not getting picked for a game. Still, it's gotta be disappointing to just sit and watch the party games.

I like these culture-shock posts. I remember the one some time ago where you mentioned how people would walk an hours walk to a friends house unannounced, and, if they weren't home at the time, just shrug and turn around and walk all the way back home. "Ah, well. They weren't home..."

Wierdly enchanting to witness a culture difference like that, eh?

Posted by: Tuning Spork at December 6, 2004 02:52 AM

Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! to the Artist! :D

Posted by: Tuning Spork at December 6, 2004 02:57 AM
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