It turns out I’m not supposed to take pictures of GZ’s gan, but I managed to snap a couple before I was informed, first in broken English and then in Hebrew as it became clear that even though I didn’t know the rule, I did know enough Hebrew to understand it now and would be sure not to take more pictures in future.
(It was kind of a nice milestone, in fact: the first time, in negotiating the language barrier, that the three Hebrew speakers in the room realized that my Hebrew was better than their collective English, so they just dropped the effort and started speaking Hebrew.)
I am actually pretty pleased with the gan so far. It’s not huge, the teachers seem reasonably warm and nurturing (as compared to the mainly-punitive itinerant music teacher who – after she informed me of the taking-pictures rule, resumed snapping at the kids to go back to their places and stop bugging each other), and the kids seem happy. The rooms themselves, with their charmingly miniature furniture, are spotlessly clean and the playground outside, though the kids haven’t been there yet according to GZ, is quite nice, with a big shady tree.
The school isn’t Montessori by any means, but when I left this morning, GZ was working very seriously at a peg board and when I came back and asked him what he’d played, he said they didn’t play at all. I love that attitude: I don’t know if it’s the school or just his innate seriousness, but I think the activities there are treated, as with the Montessori way, as the “work” of the children, and handled with respect and set procedures. Like I said, charming.
Yet I did somehow think he’d be in gan with kids named Shmuel or Yaakov or Moshe or … I dunno… Yair and Tzur or whatever and not… um, Almansh and Bekalo? But I did the default and cheapest thing and registered him in the gan of the merkaz klitah, which – until GZ came along – was 100% Ethiopian.
Still, they’re cute kids and they haven’t beaten him up yet, so there’s a plus.
Another interesting, but unrelated, plus of living in a mainly-Ethiopian building is that the women dress very modestly, even the ones who don’t seem like they’re typically observant: long sleeves, skirts, headscarves. Except for the teenagers, none of the girls would dream of wearing pants.
They are not all religious – some men wear kippahs, some kids attend secular schools, etc – but they all seem very close-knit from up here, and very far from us, culturally, a distance I suspect we will never really begin to traverse.