In this little country of a few million people, many of whom arrived as refugees or immigrants, it still comes in handy to know as many languages and cultural traditions as possible. Even then, there’s always room to learn more…
I may not have been in France – but to a middle aged woman who was flustered by the government bureaucracy and incompetent clerks across the counter, I spoke nearly fluent French – well enough, at any rate, to help her make sense of… the nonsense.
I may not have been in Spain – but to a little girl from Columbia who arrived for a tutoring lesson, I dredged up fragments of my already-diminishing Spanish.
I may not have been in Germany – but to a sweet older man (a great-uncle of sorts), I made an effort to patch together an almost incomprehensible smattering of German and Yiddish. Such a disaster! But thankfully he brushed me off with a smile…
I may not have been in Bangkok – but to a trio of young Asian-looking and Hebrew-speaking women gathered inside the Tel Aviv storefront called Siam, I shamelessly blurted out a greeting in Thai.
I may not have been on a beach in Bali – but to a brash young man who overstepped his boundaries (and mine) on Gordon Beach, and asked questions that I preferred not to answer, I retorted in fluent enough Indonesian to stun him into silence.
I may not have been in Addis Ababa – but after a filling snack of injera and shiro (wot)* this afternoon, I might as well have been in Ethiopia, because it was a culinary delight that surely equaled anything served in the African nation. I only wish I knew how to express my gratitude in Amharic!
*Shiro (wot) is a traditional Ethiopian dish; a mixture comprised of chopped onions, garlic, tomato sauce (sometimes meat or chicken) and a smattering of chick pea flour, its light orange color (an almost exact replica in color and texture of the processed cheese powder that is stuffed into every package of Kraft Dinner) an indication that berbere spices have been added.