His name was Boris. If it wasn't for him, I would have never learned to speak any Hebrew. He was 17 years old and had just immigrated from Russia to Israel. There was a group of us from all over the world that lived in a dormitory on kibbutz.
Kibbutzim (plural) are Israeli collective communities that are generally based on agriculture.
Our entire group would work somewhere on the kibbutz for all or part of the day. And then we took Ulpan classes where we learned Hebrew.
He and I were both assigned to the kitchen so we spent a lot of time working together.
Because our only shared language was Hebrew, we had a very odd way of communicating. Sometimes he'd try to tell me something for 15-20 minutes and I just wouldn't understand.
Other times, we'd be acting things out and cracking up while baring saying a word. The older Israeli women would openly roll their eyes at us. We didn't care.
I was prideful when it came to learning Hebrew. I didn't practice as much as I should have with native Israeli speakers. But with Boris, I didn't feel stupid. We were both learning at the same rate and had no other way of talking.
He was really into boxing so I had to hear a lot of Mike Tyson stories. You can imagine his improvisational skills for that (for you young ones, he pretended to rip an ear!). He loved Sylvester Stallone and Mike Tyson. He thought America sounded awesome and wished his family moved to the U.S. instead of Israel.
Thanks to him that I managed to store long-term memory of the Hebrew language at a fairly young age. I'm not great at it but I can get around.
Some days, Boris would be quiet and sullen like any teenage boy. Other days, he'd be so goofy and animated, he'd pull me out of my grumpy mood and make me laugh.
The last time I saw him was in Jerusalem around 1996/97? I had a going away party when I was leaving at the end of my travel year. I hadn't seen him in a few months since I left kibbutz and moved in with my cousin.
He had a crush on me that he was very open about. I'd been through so much at that point, and felt so old and jaded. I just saw him as a little brother.
When he came to the party, he handed me this huge bouquet of red roses. It was so so sweet. But I felt so bad. His parents were poor immigrants from Russia. I still shudder to think of what he spent on fresh red roses in the Middle East.
It's been so long since I went through a lot of these old photos! I thought, maybe if I post a photo, Facebook recognition would find him. I'm curious to see what he thinks about everything that's happening in the world now. He must be around 40 years old now! Ha, I can't imagine.
Anyway, I don't know why I felt compelled to tell the story of Boris tonight. So here I am.
I can't think of anyone else that I developed a strange made-up language with. Or maybe it's because he cheered me up during a really rough time in my life. I don't know. My younger friends don't understand what it's like to "lose" someone. But for us, it's kind of wonderful to track down an old friend.
Thanks again to everyone that worked their ass off to save our healthcare system!!!!!!!!! Appreciate it so much. I'm so tired. But so relieved.