Punctures and Suchlike Pandemonium: Vignettes From Abroad

By Matt Furtek

Sometimes blogs are like buses, you wait an age and then two come along at once. Ok, perhaps not a blog, but the sentiment still stands.

My last blog essentially tailed off and split into two parts, and I realised that they were pretty clearly two separate subjects. So I thought I would keep this part as a separate blog, which has next to nothing to do with coaching, and is just essentially things going wrong in a comedy of errors due to either misunderstandings through the language barrier, Jamie’s good-hearted nature being abused or my ability to drift off and digress. The funny thing about digressing is that it can often lead to some creative ideas and solutions, through which most of my blog content is actually borne from… But anyway, I get off track. Here’s a small collection of some of those stories.

The Puncture

There are several things deemed by society you must accomplish on the right of passage to manhood. One of these things is to change a tyre on a car. Now I’ll admit I’ve never done this, and I was about to attempt it for the first time unaided, on a petrol forecourt, in Israel. And to make matters worse, I was also very hungry.

This situation came about when a student at one of the schools had very kindly offered to drop us home, first stopping off at our pre-paid takeaway during our stay here, Mozalika.  We found a place to park, and I pointed to a suitable spot for us to pull in to. In doing so, we also rolled up on the curb, puncturing the tyre in the process. Jamie is alerted first, by a man running over waving his arms frantically at us to back up. At first the damage didn’t look too bad, and there was hope remaining that it could be fixed with some air. Jamie and I split ways; Jamie heading to get lunch, whilst I went to the station. A short journey round to the petrol station, and the previous hopes were quickly dashed as the tyre was completely deflated. It was time to get to a garage.


To make do in the meantime, I suggested it would be a good idea to inflate the tyres for the short journey. Which would have been fine, had the machine not been broken. So to plan B, a portable pump which the station should have. Did have. The pump had been stolen. Talk about going from bad to worse, and to top it all off, my hunger had increased. I feel my chips are not only going cold, but quite possibly vanishing under Jamie’s watchful eyes.

With Jamie returning, and after offering all the help we could, we bumped into another friend (Akko is a very small town) who offered to take us home. We offered to stay, but she insisted we go and enjoy our lunch, which Jamie had surprisingly brought back in its entirety.

We bumped into our helpful student a week later at the school, to find out that she had a very kind man demonstrate how to change the tyre, and then left her to get on with it. We are yet to buy her a Thank you/I’m sorry/We owe you present.

An unfortunate challenge that Jamie and I had to attempt at a school

Corners From Afar

I think it would be fair to say that a few of our sessions have been somewhat tumultuous. Arguments and disagreements can break out over something as trivial as a throw-in or which colour bib suits them best. The kids here can be pugnacious and passionate to say the least.  

In the course of one particular session, we had several kids just switch teams, some started shooting on their own goal, and one child was so engrossed in the match that he took a corner across from the other pitch. Despite me glaring disbelievingly at him, he remained oblivious and determined, and delivered the corner with gusto.

The best and most chaotic moments are probably with the youngest groups, when they indulge in what I like to call ‘Follow the ball’. One child will kick the ball and chase after it, along with all the other children on the pitch. This is not only hectic but directionless, and usually leads to the swarm of ball-crazy kids ending up on the other pitch. Jamie and I have been witness to the spectacle of this happening on both pitches at once, resulting in our groups swapping over in a frantic yet seamless transition. There’s nothing left for us to do at this point, other than to look at each other with a look of ‘Well, what can you do?!’

Lost In Translation

Living abroad will always throw up challenges, one of the main ones being the language barrier. Fortunately, most people we have come across in Israel speak fairly good English. But of course there will always be the odd exception, which for us and our brilliant luck, has usually been at important times, such as directions and payments in a taxi, or getting in and out of security.

There seems to be a norm here of if you don’t speak the language, you will usually be charged double as you probably don’t know any better. We of course know better now, although not being able to negotiate still results in an extortionate price. To add insult to injury, the drivers have attempted to drop us off in the wrong place a few times.

Just as important as arriving in the correct place, is food. After having food ordered for us from Mozalika for a while, we decided to attempt it ourselves with our limited Hebrew, which almost inevitably results in us reverting to slow-spoken English. I think it would be fair to say we’ve had a mixture of things turn up that have been surprises.

Now for the main place you don’t want any breakdown in communication, is security. One of our first visits to a mall in Akko, we were tasked with passing through a metal detector, which is expected. I had not however expected questioning from the guard, to which I responded in basic Hebrew. My answer and accent possibly led him to believe I was fluent, as he proceeded to talk further in Hebrew. Back to default mode: slowly-spoken-English. I soon grasped from his gestures of reaching back round for his own gun then pointing to my shirt, he wanted to know whether I was carrying a weapon. Now, I had just made clear that I was English, which I thought may have been a pass in itself. Anyhow, a quick lift of the shirt and a twirl got me out of this one, and not for the first time!

But the best is for last, of course. We had our Sunday evening session at the naval officer’s base, and it was the first time going on our own without our usual student present. We were dropped off outside in the rain by the taxi (of course he charged us double) to be faced with a new security guard. With the guards English being as limited as our Hebrew was, the result was that of Gandalf to the Belrog, and we went no further. We were held captive in the guard shack until further notice. After a few telephone calls and long silences later, things were sorted and we were on our way to the session.