Friday, August 31, 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Israel

Hello! I decided I should blog once more before moving into my apartment tomorrow night! I know it's Shabbat, but still using electricity…definitely not doing the Shomer Shabbat thing right now, but would love to try it at one point or another while I'm here.

Thursday was definitely a long and slow day, unfortunately. We started the morning with a lesson the history and establishment of the state of Israel. While the professor was very interesting to listen to, it was all the same stuff I learned at Milken and in my Jewish studies classes at IU, so it was unfortunately not that interesting to sit through. He did have us do some group work, and that definitely help. Before lunch, we had an hour or so with Yaron, the overseas director, having us do very silly creative thinking activities to get our minds going and realize that we can't always plan for what we want to teach - and in fact, it's often better to not plan anything so you have fresh ideas going into the classroom. Post-lunch we had a break involving the typical lying on the grass and using wifi, followed by discussions about the socio-economic gaps in Israel and the laws of Israel. I definitely found the second discussion more interesting, because it wasn't something I had much knowledge about. At night there was a pool party, and while I was hesitant to go in at first, it turned out to be a blast! They also brought us fresh fruit, something we've had very little of so far, so we were all like wild animals trying to take as much as possible. Totally worth it, though! It was great fun, and I'm so glad it gave us all another opportunity to hang out. The group is so awesome, and I'm so excited to be spending the next 10 months with them!

Today is my first Shabbat in Israel! It was a stressful morning and afternoon leading up to Shabbat. The theme of the day? Our living situation. It was so much craziness trying to figure out how 27 of us would divide into groups of 9 for 3 apartments and our food situation. I wound up with a good group of people for housemates, and although it wasn't ideal for me to be in a triple, I'm in one! My roommates are Aleah and Jennifer, and I'm definitely now more excited for the year to come. I'm very excited to try a new style of living! After that was sorted out, we played another get-to-know-you game, and then Ofir read us an Israeli children's book called "Room for Rent" that was similar to the chaos we went through to do our apartment picking. We talked about what Shabbat meant to us, and it made me remember that while I don't always celebrate Shabbat, and when I do it's usually at camp, it's such a meaningful part of the week to relax, reflect, and appreciate everything in our lives and what is around us.

We then had a much needed long break, in which I spent quickly checking wifi, talking to my chetzi who will be only 10 minutes away from me starting tomorrow, and chilling out with my roommates at Givat Haviva. We got ready for Kabbalat Shabbat, and it was really nice to have sort of that camp feeling again of getting ready for services. It was an Orthodox service, so it was definitely not the type of service I'm used to, but I always love getting to experience a new way to celebrate Shabbat. Unfortunately, they chose to do it right outside the dining hall, so it was VERY distracting. I finally had my first schnitzel of the year for dinner, and then we have been free for the rest of the night. 

While I do love spending time with everyone, and while "wifi-land" is quite distracting in some regards, it really does give me some time to rest from the rest of the group. It's always good to have some me-time, and I think Shabbat is the perfect time for that. It's always nice to spend time not socializing 24/7.Since I will be living with 8 other people in an apartment starting tomorrow, I really want to make sure I have time for myself.

I cannot believe that this time tomorrow, I will be in Rehovot. It is like we have been stuck in a bubble all week. I'm in Israel, but I'm not really experiencing Israel. I can't wait to see what comes next in this incredible journey.

Shabbat Shalom! <3

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Day, Another Blog

Good evening (or morning to some) readers!

We started off the morning with some very interesting discussions. We had a talk about the Israeli education system, and how it is similar and different to the school system in the US. It's actually pretty interesting to see how the similarities and differences play out. Although for me it was even more interesting just because I went to private school, and that is something not seen much in Israel. After that, we broke into our ITF group and had a discussion about our role as an educator. We shared stories of how we felt like we did good and bad jobs teaching others. Lunch was followed by another much needed long break. The only bummer is that these breaks are around 1:00-2:00pm, and very few people are up at home at those hours. Hopefully once I'm in Rehovot I'll be able to be better about talking to people (especially my family!) and can set up weekly Skype time with people. After lunch we had a talk with the partnership development of Ma'ase, and then had a really interesting talk about the values of an educator and how we all had educators in our life that have really influenced us. After dinner, we had an awesome street drumming session, and now it's 9:00 and we are done for the night! I have a meeting in a bit with our supervisor, but if anyone is reading this (it's around 11:00 PST) and wants to actually talk, I'll be around :)

Much more later! Just trying to keep this updated!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Can't Believe I'm in Israel!

My first blog post in Israel! Sorry it's multiple days combined...I tried writing some every day, but wasn't able to find enough time to whip out my computer until now!

Mom & Dad drove me to the airport Saturday morning, and I had an 11:00am flight to JFK on American Airlines. Of course, the second I get through security, I head straight to Starbucks for my final iced soy caramel macciato upside-down for 10 months. Let's just say that while I will miss my Starbucks immensely, I'm so excited for all the Aroma I want. Flight went well…they showed "The Lucky One," but I thought it was super cheesy and was just overall to anxious about my second flight to really focus. So instead, I bought some wifi and distracted myself with it for most of the flight, as well as tried reading a little bit more of my Kindle (currently reading Crossed by Ally Condie, for all those interested).

Once I got to JFK around 7:30, I was all set to take the AirTrain from terminal 8 to terminal 4…super easy, right? Well, not when the AirTrain is broken. We were instructed to go down to baggage claim and their was supposed to be a bus running to all the terminals. Little did we know it would take at least 20 minutes for a bus to come. I got so desperate and sick of waiting that I almost got a taxi with 2 other people trying to get to terminal 4. But of course, once we got in line for the taxi, the bus came. So all was well. Security at El Al was just fine, and with time to kill I grabbed some food at Panda Express, talked to my parents, and checked Facebook :) I eventually went a got a snack for the plane, and when I got back another girl from my program, Melody, found me and we hung out until the flight. I'm at least 15 rows in front of her, and the opposite side of the plane, so if we don't visit on the plane we'll meet up when we get off.

The second flight = SUPER LONG. 10 hours, to be exact. I thankfully slept for the first 6 hours or so, but with 4 hours left I was slowly going to go crazy just thinking that I'm almost in Israel. I did watch "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" on my computer, and was drifting off during it. There are 2 young sisters sitting next to me, and just my luck the one next to me threw up twice…oh boy *rolls eyes* so fun! We landed around 5:15 Israel time, and met up with Melody after we got off to make our way to customs and baggage. We couldn't find anyone in the group, so we went ahead and got our luggage, and decided to just walk outside in case they were there. We were the last flight, so we left as soon as everyone on our flight met up with the group. It was a nice bus ride, just after awhile we all went dead silent because of how tired we all were. We were greeted with the remains of dinner that night, and after a very brief introduction we all hung out a bit before heading to bed for the night. We are currently staying at Givat Haviva in the north, where a bunch of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers who either are not Jewish or made aliyah come for training. There are 4 of us from Ma'ase Olam (3 from my program, Israeli Teacher Fellows, and 1 from the Israeli Service Fellows program) in TINY room. Like, the room and bathroom combined might not even be as large as my room at home. It's a tight space, but we all are getting along great so that helps!

Monday was our first full day of Ma'ase Olam training. I luckily had my melatonin, so I had taken it Sunday night to fall asleep. Didn't wake up once! I feel bad for everyone who was up at 4:00am! After breakfast, the Israeli Teaching Fellows group met for a morning of getting to know each other and start learning more about the program. After lunch, we had more time with the group, and the founder and director of Maase, Mike Nevo, came to speak to us. He was a great speaker, but I feel so bad because I was definitely drifting to sleep during it. We pretty much did a lot bonding as a group yesterday, which will really help. After dinner we hung out around the dining hall for a while, and then watched the 2nd half of "Easy A." By 11 or so, I was definitely exhausted and ready for bed!

I didn't take my Melatonin last night, but I only woke up once during the night briefly. This morning we did an activity involving drawing maps of Israel, and then our group spent a lot of time discussing the year and details such as living arrangements, holidays, etc. It was really helpful, but still a lot of unanswered questions! We also learned a lot about the school year, and the ITF training that starts on Sunday. We also took a Hebrew placement exam for ulpan…let's just say I don't remember much, even with Milken and a few semesters at IU. This will definitely be a struggle! We were lucky and had a LONG break after lunch, which involved finding wifi, laying on the grass while others played frisbee, and walking around Givat Haviva. This afternoon we did outdoor group bonding, similar to what we did my summers at camp at the ropes course. It was long and hot, but we got to make our dinner which was pretty sweet! I helped make pita to go with cheese, tahini, Israeli salad, Indian eggs (an egg inside of a baked potato), and banana boats for desert! 

So far it's been a great experience…it's been so hard to answer people when they ask how everything is. It's weird because we've been at Givat Haviva all week, and will be here until Saturday…so we haven't seen much of Israel. I'm so excited to move into my apartment (more on that later) and start exploring Israel! I'm also glad I finally figured out how to call people in Israel properly so I can see my camp friends and what not :) It's definitely been overwhelming so far, but I'm so excited to keep going!

I promise pictures will come soon! Feel free to iMessage, Whatsapp, email, FB, etc! I don't have constant wifi this week, but I should starting Saturday night (and then I can actually FaceTime & Skype!).

Love & miss you all!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One Week

I can't believe that in a week, I will be in Israel. It is beyond unreal to think that an idea I had almost a year ago is actually becoming real in just a matter of days. 

For all of you who have just started looking at my blog (mainly because the only place I posted a link to it previously was on Facebook) - I made this blog a few months ago just so I knew I had a place to write while I was in Israel. I've never been great at keeping a journal, but this is something I am going to try really hard to update. I hope to keep in touch with many of my friends and family members while I'm gone through email, iMessage, Skype, Whatsapp, and any other awesome social media outlet, but this will always be something I can look back on (btw, if you want my email, Skype, phone number, let me know - I'll send it to you privately!).

Tomorrow will be the day I start to pack, in between lunch and dinner plans with friends. I was at a cousin's Bar Mitzvah this past weekend, so I've been using that as my excuse to hold off on the packing. Unfortunately, I can't procrastinate much hopefully I actually start doing it! This week will be a crazy and emotional one, as I'm saying goodbye to my friends and my family almost daily. It's a shame I can't see everyone, but I'm fortunate that technology is so awesome these days that it won't be much of a problem to communicate.

The next blog post I will write will be once I am in Israel, since who knows if I'll have time or remember to write anything this week. I just wanted to make sure I wrote something. My emotions are so crazy, as I'm excited yet nervous all at the same time. Not to mention stressed with all that has to be done, and making time for everyone I want to see!

So, for anyone who is reading this, please make sure I have any contact information so I can keep in touch - for those who I am not Facebook friends with - either add me or I'll make sure you get emails when I update this :) I love keeping touch with people, and I want to make sure I am able to do that while I'm gone!

Next week in Rehovot...oh boy!!!