Lessons Learned on a Bus

Last week, I had my first vacation from the ulpan: five whole days to myself without studying or working.

It was the weirdest thing. The first day, I was sitting outside the ulpan office visiting with some friends at a picnic table in the sunshine, but I had the uneasy feeling that I ought to have been doing something else. It was a little nagging feeling that told me I must have an appointment somewhere, that I should be studying, that I should be in class — maybe the bell rang and I missed it! — or maybe they came to pick us up from work and I missed the ride…. Oh, no!

And then I stopped myself.

“You are on vacation,” I told myself.

“Being on vacation feels weird,” Me told I.

Sigh. “I know….” I agreed, “Let’s make the best of it, shall we?”  

And make the best of it we did.

On Monday 14, we traveled by bus to Karmiel to spend the Pesach Seder with our friends from Mexico who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Oh, what an adventure that was. As a prelude to this anecdote, I wish to inform you that I am beginning to understand the phrase that someone says when asked if he is fluent in a language:

“I know just enough of X language to get me into trouble.”

So, here I am, three months into the ulpan, amazed that, as of 2 weeks ago, I can suddenly understand more and more of people’s conversations, when off my sister and I go to Karmiel to go a-visitng. I employed the help of the ladies in the office in order to determine which bus line would take us to Karmiel and at what time they passed our stop. To make sure I got it right, I even asked a friend from work to confirm the information. Armed with this knowledge and excited to be making our first overnight trip away from our little ulpan home, we set off. Sitting at the bus stop, I was overhearing a conversation between two men, one of which needed to get to Tzfat (a town near Karmiel) and was wondering what time the right bus would pass. So, Rebekah — ever the one to pipe up and say something — informs the native Israeli man which bus line he should take to Tzfat and at what time the bus passes. He in turn replies that he is most familiar with the buses since he travels to Tzfat very often, thank you very much.

This conversation, by the way, took place in most rudimentary Hebrew on my part and very speedy Hebrew on his part. Therefore, let us agree that from now on that what I am relating here is what I think he said and that, most likely, I was not understanding everything.

He in turn asked me to where we were traveling. Upon discovering that we were all traveling in the same general direction, he pointedly told me that there were no buses that ran directly to Karmiel from that stop. He took it upon himself to explain to me how to arrive to Karmiel by taking a certain bus, getting off at a certain junction, and catching another bus.

Ani esbir lach — I will explain to you. Bo’i!– Come!” he said, as the bus he was taking approached. “Bo’i!”

And what did Rebekah do? In the rush and pressure of the bus arriving and the man’s urging, she cast away all of the researching and confirmed information she had and obediently followed him.

I know, I know. You can say it: What the heck is wrong with you, child?

I would like, here, to thank my sister for being ever supportive of me and backing me up in everything I do, no matter how stupid I am. Never does she blindly follow me, but she is always there. She is more like a loving mother who looks on as her child tries something new while at the same time is on the look out for any truly potential danger, and only then does she interfere. Jabniah, you are the best. I love you.

I also realize that if I had not understood the general idea of what they were saying, I would never had got us into this mess.

Once settled into our seats on the bus, I realized the stupidly impulsive thing I had just done, and began to have misgivings about the whole arrangement. The growing apprehension in my chest caused me to conquer my reluctance to ask the man next to me (again, in Hebrew) if this bus arrived in Karmiel.

No, it did not.

The dismay and consternation must have been evident on my face as I explained to my fellow passenger — a middle-aged man who was going home for Pesach  — where I need to get to, what the man at the bus stop had told me, and how I had impulsively followed him onto the bus.

Al tidagi — don’t worry” he reassured me, as he pulled out his phone and began to search for the next junction where we could get off and take the correct bus to Karmiel (thank God for 3G internet!). As he searched, I sat and mentally kicked myself for having been so stupid, until I realized that doing so would get me nowhere. My Hebrew teacher Tzipi always tells us not to be afraid to make mistakes because “Kacha lomdim” — this is the way we learn.

“Kacha lomdim, Rebekah” Me told I.

By the end of the day, lamadeti (I learned) the following:

  • Stick to the plan. I had good information from reliable sources, but instead I followed the unfounded advice of a stranger who I thought I could understand.
  • Don’t let the pressure of a situation get to you. This helps in sticking to the plan. I really have a problem with getting caught up in the pressure and flurry of a situation and going with whatever comes to me first, instead of taking deliberate, thoughtful steps.
  • Keep calm and don’t stress. Just because you get on the wrong bus doesn’t mean its the end of the world. Instead of kicking yourself for making a mistake, get your head on straight, find out how to fix the situation, and fix it.

Sitting safely and contently in our friends home that evening after a delicious Pesach dinner, I realized that if I had not done what I did, I would have never learned this lesson, nor would I have found a new friend in Asaf, my fellow passenger who kindly helped a little Mexican girl who knew just enough Hebrew to get her into trouble.


Stay tuned for more “Pesach Vacation Adventures.”






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