Monday, October 21, 2013

Carmel Market in Three Scenes: Adventures in Broken Hebrew

The following conversations took place this morning, in Tel Aviv's open-air Carmel Market, in Hebrew.  

Scene I: Juice

Juice guy: Good morning.
Me: Good morning.  Carrot juice, please.  Do you have ginger?
Juice guy: Ginger, no.  But blah blah blah blah blah lemon.
Me: OK.  (Trying to suppress blank stare)

Juice guy gets a pomegranate out of the cooler, cuts it in half and puts it on the press.  Then another. Then some green things that I guess are maybe a kind of lemon?

So, this is what I got instead of carrot juice:

It was delicious.

Epilogue: turns out that the word he was saying was "rimon", not "limon"- which, you guessed it, means pomegranate.

Scene II: Vegetables

I grab two red peppers from the pile and hand them to the seller.
Vegetable guy: 2 shekels.
I hand him a 50-shekel note, which is all I have.
Vegetable guy: Blah blah blah blah?
Me: No.
Vegetable guy counts out a bunch of coins and bills and hands them to a different customer.
Vegetable guy, turning back to me: 2 shekels.
Me: I already paid you.
Lady standing next to me: He asked you, and you said no. 
Me: I’m sorry, my Hebrew’s not very pretty (sic).  I thought he was asking if I had anything smaller than a 50.
Vegetable guy: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  You understand?
Me: Yes, I understand.

Scene III: Bread

I browse the crusty golden loaves and wonder whether the black things are olives or raisins.  But since I don’t know the word for raisins, I choose a seeded loaf with no black things.

Me: Good morning.
Bread guy: Good morning.  Blah blah blah?
Me: (Thinking he’s asking if I want it in a bag) Yes, please.
Bread guy puts the loaf on a machine and slices it.
Bread guy: 12 shekels.
Me: Thanks.

So, the sum total of my lousy Hebrew and stubborn unwillingness to admit I’m a tourist: I got pomegranate juice instead of carrot, a sliced loaf instead of a whole one, and I almost gave 48 shekels (about $14) to an elderly Israeli lady.  All in all, not a bad gamble.  The stakes were low, and what’s an adventure without a few wrong turns?

But if there’s an air raid, I’m switching to English.