Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Learning Hebrew and Customer Service

The last two days have been a little bit of a rough ride. I have found myself in a number of stores trying to get by on my inadequate Hebrew. I found myself in a hardware store trying to return one item, keeping the stuff I thought I was going to return and paying for my new purchases. My guide had left me alone for a few moments. I had three employees speaking to me in Hebrew and it was clear that they had a slightly different understanding of the situation. I wasn't sure if we were in agreement of what was to happen, or if I had agreed not to return the broken item. My guide returned and we eventually left sorted everything else.

Today was the final move of our stuff from our host's home. I was taking a taxi back with all of our stuff to our apartment. The driver complained from the time he arrived that there was too much stuff. I wasn't sure how full I could stock the trunk, so I tossed the rest on the back seat. Instead of helping me, he complained to the hostess about the amount of stuff. As we left he called his dispatcher to complain about the stuff and comfirm a price. Normally the standard rate would be 19 NIS. The dispatcher would set a price then he would complain about the amount of stuff or the distance. Eventually she said the price should be 24NIS. "Ze Lo Daber Evrit" (He doesn't speak English), "28 NIS". He then called another dispatcher with the same complaint (without mentioning the language barrirer). They agreed to set the price at 30 NIS. I agreed before he hassled me some more and raised the price again. Charging a premium to Anglos is illeagal. Our hostess called the company to complaing and got the second dispatcher. He said the conversation about the language surcharge never happened. However, due to the number of bags they could have started at 50 - 60 NIS.

Ulpan started today. Apparently 5 hours/day 5 days/ week actually means 8:30 - 1:00 4 days a week. Who knew? I stopped taking French class after grade 10 because I could do what was required of me, but I couldn't understand the questions on the test or the instructions from the teachers. In Ulpan, they only speak Hebrew (although I believe they know English as well). I took the first placement. I had to write about my first day in Israel. It was tough considering my limited vocabulary. I managed to squeeze out over 1/4 of a page. The teacher looked at what I wrote and suggested taking the second test. I understood some of what was going on but I could not connect the reading with the questions to be able to provide answer. I find out tommorrow that I have been placed in the bottom class.

The day finished on an up note. Someone came highly recommended to take of setting up our phone line/VOIP/DSL. He wasn't making himself available to answer questions. I left a harsh message that I was upset with him for not letting me know what was going on. Today he called that he was upset and wanting to call off the deal. I manage to talk him down. Instead of having to go to Jerusalem, he would be over to our place in 45 minutes with a modem. He set everything up and we are very happy. We are on kosher internet (becuase it was cheaper) getting 54.0 Mbps with excellent signal strenght. It was a rough ride but I am happy with the end results.

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