So, I went to ulpan here for the first time today. Ulpan, if you just made it here, is an intensive language immersion class designed to teach students to speak Hebrew and integrate into the culture/country as quickly as possible.
It was originally instituted as a program for new immigrants in the 40s, especially after 1948. The first ulpan established was Ulpan Etzion (pronounced eht-tsee-yohn), in Jerusalem. This is the ulpan that I will be attending in January, and baruch hashem (thank god) that, aside from the students' notorious partying habits, I have heard nothing but excellent things about the school.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
My temporary ulpan is called Ulpan Moresh (or Morasha, I've not been able to get a definitive answer on this) and is situated basically in the center of Jerusalem.
Every morning, because Har Gilo is a settlement and a twenty to ninety minute drive to Jerusalem depending on the traffic, I take a bus to the city at 7am. This morning was my first morning riding this bus, so naturally, especially being new to the country, I didn't have much idea of the route or where to get off. About an hour into the trip, I recognized where we were, saw that it would soon be close to where I needed to disembark (or 'go down', as it's said in Hebrew), so I pushed the stop button....about a minute too late. To my great dismay, the bus didn't stop anywhere near from where I needed to go but instead went all the way to the central station without stopping once. This left me with about ten minutes to get to my class, which is about 2 or 3 miles from the station.
So...I started to run. I ran two blocks before I realized that I would never make it in time (and what kind of a putz walks in late on the first day...not me), even if I could run fast. To make a boring story short, I hopped on a bus going in the general direction....and again got off one stop too late.
Eventually, I did make it on time (baruch hashem) and found a great seat up front.
So...since this is a post about ulpan and not me trying to figure out the Jerusalem city bus system, let me tell you a little about the class.
There were about 25 to 30 students in the class, all ages and genders included (er...both genders, I mean). The woman sitting next to me, named Alice was a nice lady, a 50-some-year old new immigrant from Pennsylvania. She knew no Hebrew whatsoever. This was a little frustrating when we were assigned partner/group work, but hopefully it will change in the future.
The teachers (there are two - one for morning and one for afternoon, and they switch each day) are awesome. Very Israeli. Very in-your-face. Spicy like a jalapeno and sweet like brown sugar at the same time. They are much like drill sargents, if you can imagine that in a language class. The class is designed to help you speak quickly. It isn't really geared towards grammatical minutiae, which is how I have studied ancient Hebrew and Hebrew in general up to this point.
I am a little bored (surprise) and wish we could go faster. But there were people today who were asking her to slow down. Her response? "You need to go faster, you know. This is an intensive Hebrew course. It will pick up". No sympathy. I have some for them, but I want to go faster and faster.
So, we will see how it progresses. I have promised to give it two weeks. If it's still too slow, I will speak with the teacher. Too bad they don't have an honors program or something....
In the end I am so thankful and excited to finally be learning Hebrew. It's really a blessing; that's the most important thing right now.