THIS IS A STORY about study abroad.
This is not a story about riding a bicycle through the Italian countryside, traversing the streets of Paris wearing a floral-print skirt, carrying a picnic basket filled with baguettes and artisan cheese.
This isn’t even a story about a Jewish girl going to Israel, discovering her deep Jewish roots, embracing the natural curl of her hair, and eventually crying it out with some meshugana babushkas.
But it is a story about a Jewish girl in Israel.
She was sweaty, most of the time. It was hot. It was late spring in the Middle East, so give her a break. She didn’t discover any particularly deep roots, or even cry it out with anyone, except that one night she drank too much vodka and threw up on a parked car.
But she tried to be that bohemian, culturally sensitive, adventurous girl you see on the study abroad catalogs. She took her hungover ass on the bus at least once a week after morning Hebrew class and wandered around the market — or, as she in her culturally aware persona would have said, “the shuk.”
You must italicize it in your speech.
She purchased dried kiwi and snacked on it as she shopped, buying carrots and apples for an amount in shekels she couldn’t quite translate to dollars fast enough, but she was sure it was dirt-cheap. (It probably wasn’t.) She bought fresh bread covered in zataar and may or may not have spent half the day walking around with the green spice all over her chin.
She then wandered up to a juice stand, where she was going to courageously place her order in Hebrew. After months of seeing fit, tan, glistening Israelis drinking freshly squeezed juice, she was finally feeling brave (and proficient in Hebrew) enough to order some herself.
“Mitz gever, bevakasha?” she asked. The man, a large, burly Israeli, said in perfect English, “What? Carrot?”
The girl took her juice and left the stand, feeling proud of herself for trying, even while she reflected that the carrot juice wasn’t quite as refreshing as she’d hoped and that she probably should have learned the word for “grapefruit” instead.
And then it dawned on her. The word for “carrot” was “gezer” — she was supposed to ask for “Mitz gezer.”
“Gever” was the word for “man.”
She had asked, in her simultaneously shaky and proud American accent, for “man juice.”
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Rachel Miller is a recovering Literature major living in Washington, DC. She wishes she could travel the world with her cat in a backpack. For now, all she needs is a good book, a glass of wine, and a healthy serving of sriracha. You can read about her misadventures at Rachel Writes Again.