Saturday, July 19, 2003

an exercise in chutzpah

Chutzpah is the first hebrew/yiddish word I recognized in Israel. It's one of the many words that has made its way into the english language. But somehow it sounds much more effective in hebrew, especially when somebody says 'eyzey khutspah', meaning what gall or what nerve. Chutzpah is derived from the late Hebrew usage by way of Yiddish. I frequently encounter it here, usually said in a tone of disbelief. I indulged in an exercise in chutzpah with surprising results at the Russian embassy a couple of days back. I previously wrote about my efforts in trying to get a visa to Russia over here, and this is the follow-up. I went to the embassy in Tel-Aviv on wednesday. I knew I had to get a number to take my place in the eternel line the next day. So I walk up to the door of the building. There's this huge crowd waiting for something, most of them look like they are of Russian origin. I walk up to the security guard in order to ask him where to get the number, but he's busy talking to someone, and presumably because I'm speaking in English, he doesn't pay any attention to me. I try a couple of times, but simply cannot get his attention. So i just walk past him, but surprisingly he doesn't make any effort to stop me. Well. So far so good. So I climb the stairs to the embassy. The door is closed, and ther's no crowd waiting there. I try to attract the attention of another security guard who's hanging about there, a guy I recognize from the last round, but he doesn't even look at me. So I wait till the door opens, letting somebody out and I slip inside. Then I look for somebody to ask if I can get a number, and one guy-an embassy employee who speaks only russian- finally caught on that something was odd. Since I can't communicate to him, I just wave the official invitation (that I have) in front of his eyes, and suddenly he points me to the line I have to stand in to apply for the visa. He doesn't realise that I don't have an all powerful number. Amazing. It should have taken me two days and thousands of hours of waiting if I had played by the rules but it went so fast thanks to chutzpah. I couldn't believe my luck. I finally succeeded in submitting the form, and now have to pick up the visa in a week.