Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Notes in the middle of the conference

Workshop is winding down.  I’m starting to fall asleep, so I’m going to try to stay awake by writing. I’m sitting in a circular room with a round table in the front, then circular tables surrounding.  The people presenting in each session sit in front, with the rest of us in comfortable chairs behind the tables.  It’s a very, very nice room for presentations.  Light from below and above—very nice. 
A real variety of people attending, although all Israeli but me.  Almost all of the senior scholars are male.  The junior scholars are much more female.  So the presentations are 9 women and 6 men (actually 10 women, but two presented together, so maybe ½ each).  The commenters are the reverse—2 women and six men.  Men also moderate—only one of moderators was a woman.  And the opening and closing program, too, is almost entirely male. Different levels of observance.  A man who spoke on the different meanings of laying t’fillin is wearing a kippan and tzitzit. A number of man are wearing kippot and one woman has her head covered with a token scarf. 
I begin the day by attempting to follow the Hebrew, with some success, although not enough to write home about.  By this time, I’m just trying to keep my eyes open.  The Hebrew goes by like a lullaby—the rhythms and words become a soothing background. I can tell that everyone else is enjoying it—but I am listening to sounds, like music, and watching faces and bodies.  Very interesting, but quite isolating.  Erez, my translator, is taking notes and filling me in on the sessions during the breaks.  So I get the social dynamics and people, then the content in a delayed way.
I read a paper as part of my work on the place of Hebrew and the way it acts to connect or distance.  I’m feeling both at the moment.  I can’t understand enough, but I’m not feeling excluded exactly, largely because everyone has been so nice. 

Later...I'm falling asleep, so more tomorrow...


cielledee said...

The "there, but peripheral" is how much of being brain-damaged is like when in groups in real-time. But then so is being a child, or a visitor, or any non-initiate. The questions of welcoming vs. some initiation threshhold of group insularity have been concerning me when I can see blockades keeping people who want to be involved or should want to participate excluded (not just me. It arises in every group I am a part of.

Andy's family spoke English to one another while we were there - it was so polite, so inclusive, and considerate...and I felt such a fool for not speaking Swiss-German. In some ways, it is t
o bad the conference was not at the end of your stay when you would have been more fluent.

WanderingJew said...

See the next post for details. It was very interesting--and yes, I do kind of wish it had been at the end of my stay here. On the other hand, I've now made connections to people I'll see at the next conference. So not all bad.
People were very considerate about speaking English to me personally--they made a point of doing so. But it wouldn't have made sense for the workshop language to have been English. That said, I felt very warmly welcomed by everyone.