Since my last entry I have rather given up on getting a job. Since my most successful job interview included lines like "do you have a degree?" (yes, it's all in my CV) "An Oxford degree? That nice, but Oriental studies... what are you planning to do with that?" (Unverbalised answer: work for you? That is, surely, why I am here having an interview at 7.30 in the morning?) She then spent about 30 minutes telling me how useless I was, and of how little value were my qualifications, and then offered me 30 shekels an hour (about £5) to be a classroom assistant. Since that was by far the best job I found, and it seemed rubbish, I decided to wait until I could speak Hebrew, so I could apply for a "real" job, or at least something less dependent on an English-speaking market.
In the meantime, I organised a wedding, started taking driving lessons (which were mostly hilarious - nobody here ever indicates, they beep before the traffic light's even turned green, they systematically stop beyond the stop lines, they don't respect car "personal space", the English part of the website to study for the theory test doesn't work and my driving instructor is *convinced* that the Americans faked the moon landings. Absolutely convinced. Just to illustrate the point, one week he asks us "if they really landed on the moon, why are there no photos of Earth from the moon? If I'd landed on the moon, I'd have taken one". Which is a fair question, so we went home, ran a google search and discovered that there are indeed pictures of the Earth taken from the moon. So, the following week we tell him that there are, in fact, pictures of the Earth taken from the moon. Do which he indignantly replies "How can they take a picture when they are on the moon? Cameras don't work there, there's no such thing. It was staged in the Nevada desert!" This would be slightly funnier if one of our fellow students hadn't chipped in "oh yes, we learned all about it at school". Really? At school? How the Americans faked the moon landings? Oh dear.
In any case, I suppose this illustrates the "frayer" mentality here. Nobody wants to be a "frayer" - which is the Israeli word for sucker, only it carries a stronger connotation. One really must not be a frayer. Which means that you must look out for yourself and assume that everyone is out to take advantage of you, and behave accordingly. For example, if you can be overcharged, then you deserve to overpay. If you are waiting politely on the pavement at a zebra crossing and have not yet put your foot on the road, well, you can just keep waiting. If you are standing at the bus stop before anyone else, but don't push your way on, you clearly do not deserve to get a seat. I have almost never seen an Israeli give up their seat for an old or pregnant person. So, to bring this back to the moon landing, I suppose our driving instructor just doesn't want to be the sucker who fell the the moon landing hoax. It belies a deep insecurity, and it breeds insecurity - it is hard, as a new immigrant, to approach everyone suspecting that they are out to profit from you.
Having said that, the lady next to me on the bus today did offer me a bit of her orange, and I suspect the only thing she wanted from me was a bit of conversation - so evidently there are good people out here too, who behave kindly without having (too much of) an ulterior motive.
Well, that's all for now.
Friday, 30 October 2009
So when I got here, I divided my life into two lists of things to do: wedding stuff on one side and absorption stuff on the other.
Absorption stuff is basically comprised of claiming our new immigrant benefits, finding a flat, getting some sort of employment, learning to drive, going to Ulpan and choosing What To Do Next. (All small tasks, then).
Though we'd planned to move to Jerusalem, it took about 5 minutes on israemploy (handy job-seeker site) to realise that almost all the work here is in high-tech and in tel aviv. There are a small number of English teaching positions available also, but mostly they require a teaching qualification. So I busily set about applying to all the jobs I could find that didn't require any specific qualifications besides good spoken English (strangely, nobody required a BA in Jewish Studies... I wonder why not?) and within days got several meetings - 2 jobs in kindergartens and 2 in (cringe) telesales. And 3/4 of them in the Tel Aviv region.
I was extremely excited about the kindergarten jobs, progressing in my fantasies so far as to imagine my mornings in school and afternoons learning Hebrew, masterfully resolving the last few wedding planning issues in my lunch breaks until next academic year, when I can again seek refuge from Real Life in university. (No, no. University *is* real life.)
However, the first job was located in a Tel Aviv suburb, a few suburbs away from the one in which I currently reside. The quickest way was to take 2 buses (making a massive detour via yet another suburb) and then pray for a taxi or a helpful passer by with a great knowledge of their hometown to direct me.
In the end, I gave up after the first bus. The second bus stood me up and I was left to wait in a strange bus-only road in the Israeli sun, which is a little more intimidating that the diet version we get in the UK. So, in order to hail a cab, I grudgingly gave up in my second bus (knowing that it would come the second I was far away from my bus stop to miss it when it came) and negotiated the monstrous Israeli traffic to get to the normal side of the road.
At which point I promptly missed about 18 taxis, and had to wait another 5-10 minutes for a taxi to come along. As luck would have it, he was the only cabbie in Israel to have no knowledge of the roads whatsoever (and none of them here have GPS) and hilariously kept stopping other drivers to ask them the way, honking every 30 seconds to communicate that he'd like to speak to them, or "thanks", or "I'd like to go faster" or "I feel like honking because I'm Israeli and it's warm".
Anyway, he eventually got me there (he even took pity on me and stopped the counter when it hit 30 shekels) in plenty of time for me to have an ice-coffee. An ice-coffee differs from a cold coffee in that it has blended ice, like a really sweet frappuccino, whereas the other is just a latter with ice cubes in.
After the "interview", which consisted of me holding a miserable baby, telling the kindergarten lady that looking after babies was my life ambition, failing to come up with any interesting questions (I got it - I have to change them, feed them, read to them, play with them) and trying to eat the crumbly, crumbly cake I was offered, I started my homeward expedition. No taxis, no buses. But on the plus side, quite a tempting shopping centre.
I waited for a friendly-looking adult to appear so I could ask for help - I had to wait for a minibus to take me to central TA, which would arrive in 40 minutes (!!!) and from there another bus home. Total journey time well over an hour, not counting the wait. The salary would barely have covered the buses, let alone my emergency taxis, so I called her to turn it down. It was a bit of a shame as her nursery was a very light, very calm place (maybe because most of the babies were napping) and she seemed very nice.
Never mind, I had the next interview to look forward to for a swanky international pre-school in Herzliyya that would surely pay very well and cater to the civilised, foreign children of diplomats and the like.
But I'll save that story for next time.
I have long resisted the temptation of laying out my life and thoughts on the internet for all to see, but 2 weeks ago I up and left the UK to emigrate to Israel. I have since spent many hours updating my family on my goings-on, and many hours plodding slowly through the many tasks that await a new immigrant (who also happens to be getting married in two months).
In the interests of not being too annoying to the few people I am in regular contact with, I have decided to chronicle my journey in this blog (imaginatively named for the many adventures I intend to have). It will also allow me to recount my many frustrating experiences without sounding like a "negative nelly" - though they sound like complaints I actually share them because they are, with hindsight, rather funny.
So, here goes.