Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Meaningful Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur in Israel is nothing I had ever experienced before. I have always found Yom Kippur to be a very spiritual holiday, but being in Israel for one of the holiest days of the year left me in awe.

Yom Kippur began Tuesday at Sundown (5:11, to be exact), so leading up to that day everyone was trying to do their last minute food shopping for break the fast, as well as last minute eating. I went down to the Co-Op (the corner grocery store by our apartment) with Aleah, Sabrina and Rebecca to buy some items for our ITF break fast. While there, Aleah and I found the baking aisle, and decided to use a box recipe and make chocolate balls (similar to cake pops, I guess). We realized while making them, that there was no way that the instructions we followed were going to hold formed balls, so we did some experimenting and added some butter and milk to the recipe, and it worked! We also bought some fun colored sprinkles to dip them in, and they were in the freezer ready to go before 5:11!

Also, a little bit before the fast began, while we were all eating our last meals, we decided it would be cool to turn on the TV and see the switch being made from broadcasted shows to getting blacked out. In Israel, EVERYTHING shuts down. The radio and TV stations go dark, no one drives, and no stores are open. Well, the TV stations were already blacked out, but it was weird finding one channel that was airing stuff (turns out it was a children's channel based in Asia). Another thing is that everyone wears white. It might not be all white, but mostly everyone you see walking around will have some white on to symbolize purity. It's very unique to see this complete change occur.

5:11 came, and the fast begun. Around 6:00, Aleah, Sabrina and I decided we wanted to go on a walk and see what it was like when everything shut down. Let me just say I was blown away. The only cars you see driving in the road are emergency vehicles. Kids were everywhere riding their bikes, scooters, and other cool toy cars I wish I had. Instead of the streets being filled with cars, they were filled with people. It was a really cool thing to experience. I also didn't realize how many kids lived in Rehovot, so that was shocking to me. I guess it does make sense though, since we are helping out so many schools this year. It was really cool to sit on Herzl and just watch everyone on the streets.

We eventually made our way back to the apartment, and when we got back were told that some of the Israelis were going to be on Herzl around 9:20 and wanted us to meet them there. I was definitely down to do the walk again, so around 9:00 we gathered a huge group (pretty much everyone who was in town for the holiday) and walked over to Herzl. I was still expecting all the children out in the streets, but you could see they were slowly going to bed, and now the streets were filling up with teenagers and young adults like us. Herzl was even more packed with people our age. We got to one of the bars, and just sat in the middle of the road for a while. It's not every day you can say you sat in the middle of a main road of the city you live in, without having to worry about cars coming by. Mostly everyone had their white shirts or clothes on, which was also an awesome sight to see. Eventually, Sylvie and I decided to split from the group and go on a walk down towards the mall, because while sitting around and talking is fun and all, I definitely wanted to talk advantage of this. When we walked back to the group, a few people were still there, and eventually Sylvie, Jilli and I made our way back home. We got back, and our apartment was watching Jungle Book, but I am not a fan of that movie (sorry, don't hate me!) and settled in my room, reading my book. It's been awesome having all this time to read - I finished the book I was reading (The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway), and am close to being halfway done with my new book (One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf).

On Wednesday, I woke up briefly at 8:30 in the morning, but was able to get myself back to bed until around 11:00 or so, which was definitely a treat. I read a lot, and lounged around missing food. Around 2:45, a group of us went over to the local community center, which was holding Yom Kippur services. It was definitely nothing like services at Temple Isaiah. I knew it was an orthodox service, so the men and women were separated by a mechitza, which is a division in between the room to separate the two genders. I did like the fact that the Torah was passed through the women, and not just the men. It was very hard to follow along, since there was not a single word in English in the prayer book, but I'm glad I was able to have that experience. I stayed for around an hour, and then walked back with Sylvie, since we wanted to work on some final cooking before break the fast at our apartment. We sautéed eggplant and onions, and roasted some potatoes. Soon enough, it was 6:07, the apartment was home, and we all had food in our mouths. We hosted the group break the fast, and had a delicious meal at 6:30 with lots of salads, bagels, tahini, veggies, and desserts. After the break fast, a bunch of people were going to watch a movie, but I needed to get out and move around after sitting around so much - so Sabrina, Jonah and I took a walk down Begin up to the Metro Mall. We had smoothies at Lawnder's (my new fave), and had some "real talk" before making the walk back up Herzl. It was really weird, because I kept wanting to walk in the middle of the street, but by 6:07 the cars were back on the road.

We have a really chill week coming up. Sukkot starts on Sunday, and of course I have Shabbat off starting tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. I'm still not sure what my plans are, but hopefully it will involve seeing friends from camp or spending time with my friends here. Either way, I'm feeling rejuvenated after Yom Kippur. I had a rough day before Yom Kippur, but after spending the past 25 hours reflecting and reminding myself on why I am here in Israel, I'm excited for the time to come. Plus, why wouldn't I be excited about more time off to explore this great country?

Laila tov readers, and hope everyone had a meaningful Yom Kippur!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Great Shabbat in Rehovot

I have had such a good Shabbat, that I can't help but not share with you all! On Friday, a group of us decided to go hang out at the beach in Tel Aviv for a while…and it was absolutely fantastic. I initially went with Aleah, Sabrina, Jonah, Matt, Alex, Kari and Jesse. We took the train to Tel Aviv, and then a sheirut to the Carmel Shuk. A sheirut is a shared taxi, where there are 10 seats and people come and go as they please along a route for a flat rate. The shuk is an open-air market where people sell food, clothing, jewelry, etc…and it is PACKED before Shabbat. It was such a cool experience walking through it though…and the falafel I got for 10 shekels (around $2.50 in the US) was so worth it. I had an absolutely amazing sitting at the beach and enjoying the gorgeous water. Eventually Noah and Ruthie met up with us there, which of course was great. I might be sunburned (ok, I'm really sunburned), but it was definitely worth it. We stayed until around 4:00pm, meaning that the trains and buses would no longer be working for Shabbat and we had to take a sheirut back to Rehovot. It got a little crazy, but we did it! 

We got back with around 2 hours before Shabbat, and was lucky enough to have Chen and her friend stop by after their afternoon run with Chen's sister's dog, who she is watching while her sister is on her honeymoon. It was obviously great to see Chen and meet one of her friends, and we all fell in love with the dog. Unfortunately the visit wasn't too long, but totally made my day even better! 

Aleah and I went to a family's house just down the road from us for Shabbat. They were an American family who were connected to Noam, one of the Israelis in our program. They were very welcoming, and guided us through the pre-Shabbat dinner prayers and rituals. It was a great experience, but we cut the dinner a bit short due to Aleah not feeling 100%. They were completely understanding, and it's so nice to see that families not related to our program want to welcome us into their homes. After we came back, we had people over for a power hour. I have only participated in one power hour, and it ended quite badly (thank you, Little 5), so I was a spectator of the event. Plus, I was just too exhausted!

I was able to sleep in until 11:00am today (minus some noise early that woke me up, but I ignored it and fell back asleep). Since then, I have sat around and watched movies all day - The Muppets (in Hebrew), She's the Man, Moneyball, Toy Story 3 (in Hebrew), and now people are watching The Princess Bride. I might be skyping with my mom in a little bit, and then tonight a group of us are going to go play pool for a bit at HaBirzia. It'll be an early night, because I have to be at my elementary school tomorrow morning at 8:00am for another day of observations, but I still want to go out and end the weekend on a bright note :)

This week will be an easy week…more on that when I update this next! Shavua tov, and hope everyone has a great week!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shana Tova!

Shana Tova to all my readers!

Rosh Hashanah in Israel is something completely new for me, so I wanted to make sure to go in with an open mind about it. I knew that it wasn't likely I would be attending services, and if I were to attend, it would be something I wasn't going to be familiar with at all. This is a year all about exploring and trying new things, and sometimes that means sacrificing traditions you are used to from home in order to fully experience a new thing.

I spent Erev Rosh Hashanah at my Chetzi's house, and it consisted of a HUGE dinner. We did the prayers for the meal, but that was the extent of my praying for Rosh Hashanah. Am I disappointed? No, not at all. Yes, I'm definitely used to spending Erev Rosh Hashanah and the following day at services, but I knew not to expect that. Things are definitely different in Israel. My friend and her family is not religious, so no one was even mentioning going to services. Instead, Chetzi and I went out to Atmos (on Herzl) after dinner and met up with her friends. Let's just say I had one too many vodka red bulls, and was definitely feeling it the next day (also feeling it because I forgot to bring my meds with me, but that's a whole other issue.)

It was so interesting to see that while everything is to shut down during Rosh Hashanah, the local pubs and even a few convenience stores were still open. It definitely shows how there is a huge gap between the religious and the secular Jews in Israel. It's hard to be in that middle here.

Another thing I have noticed from both personal experience and hearing stories from my other friends on the program is how warm and opening people in Israel are. I know there's this stereotype that Israelis are rude, and they definitely can be when they want to be, just like we are in the US. But with Shabbat and especially Rosh Hashanah, you can see how Israelis are more than willing to open up their homes to those of us who are not from Israel, and need a place to call home for the holidays. 

The rest of the Rosh Hashanah vacation was so relaxing. Very little was done, which was fine by me! I was able to sleep a lot, even when getting up early to Skype Abby (which was totally worth it) and lots of hanging out around the apartment. Last night (Tuesday) a group of us went out to dinner at Igens for Jordan's birthday, which is at the Metro Mall. The Metro Mall was a great place during Rosh Hashanah, because the grocery store, pharmacy, and some cafes were open there. It'll be great during the other holidays if they are open as well.

This morning, we all went to our schools to meet the teachers and students we are working with this year. Noa and I walked 30 minutes to our school, and met up with Keren, who lives right next door. The school is called Ramat Alon, and is an elementary school in the neighborhood of Denya. It was great finally seeing where I would be this upcoming year, and although we didn't get the chance to sit on any classes, we will be able to on Sunday. The students seemed very eager to meet us at recess, and it will be very interesting to see how this all pans out. After spending an hour or so there, we went over to Keren's house before Noa and I started walking back to Herzl, where we were meeting at the Weizman Institute to get campus passes. Unfortunately, we learned less than 5 minutes away from getting there that the person in charge was sick, but it gave us more free time! I went with a group of people to check out a local gym, and hopefully I will be signing up for it very shortly! We had an apartment meeting with Ofir this afternoon, and I'm planning on spending the rest of my day relaxing.

It's definitely hard to get back in the mindset of teaching and working after so many days off for Rosh Hashanah - especially since it's already Shabbat on Friday, and Yom Kippur is Tuesday and Wednesday. As of now, I'll be staying in Rehovot, but you never know if my plans will change. I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in Rehovot, and hopefully having all this free time will make me feel even better. I've started doing things I would've never imagined doing, and I hope this only continues!

Until next time…hope everyone is having a sweet new year! <3

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ending the Year, Here's to a Great One to Come

I was very excited for a relaxing Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah…and that's exactly what I got! Friday night, those of us in my apartment who were around had a lovely dinner of rotisserie chicken, roasted potatoes and roasted eggplant. Perfect Shabbat dinner, especially since it seemed so typical of camp and other Shabbats I've had. I also got to Skype for a few minutes with my mom, which is always so nice. After dinner, I went to a local bar (I think called Hebrezia?) with Sabrina, Jonah and Orrie to play some pool and have some beer. I might be still learning when it comes to pool, but it was still fun! We also ran into Tal there, which was super nice. Seeing the Israelis from our program out and about, as well as other Israelis we all know, makes me love being in Rehovot. It's a small enough city where you can usually see someone you know, but big enough to still have a lot of fun. It made me really love being in such a welcoming and friendly place. After 2 games, we headed back home. It was super nice to get home around midnight, and not at 3:00am like the night before.

I was able to sleep in until 9:00 or 9:30 on Saturday morning, which felt great. We decided to turn on our TV this morning, and Finding Nemo was on…IN HEBREW. Let's just say we didn't get anything done because we were too enthralled! It was a super chill day, and I did close to nothing. Around dinner time we had some guests over for Hebrew practicing and Ulpan homework, and eventually Rebecca, Sabrina and I left for dinner. We went to an Asian restaurant for dinner and all got some delicious and cheap sushi. I really wanted froyo (obviously, when do I not want?) so we walked to the froyo place I had seen, Yogurla. It was really good! We came back and everyone is just hanging out for now. I'm definitely staying in tonight, because I can feel how tired I am. (BTW, I'm up for skyping/facetiming anyone...just saying.)

 I'm looking forward to a great Rosh Hashanah. It's definitely going to be weird not being at home and going to services, but I'm very excited to spend the holidays here! I want to wish everyone a Shana Tova, and a very sweet and healthy new year. It's definitely been a roller coaster of a year, but it was worth every minute of it. I'm so excited for all that is to come this year.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What a Long Week!

Shabbat Shalom (or almost)!

Sorry I've been slacking on the blog posts. Here's what's been happening since Monday night:

Tuesday: We went on a field trip to Nahal Taninim (the Crocodile River by Haifa), Zichron Ya'akov and Caesaria. It was a pretty bad field trip though, because it felt like we were on a Birthright trip, yet we were taken around to places that I had no interest in going to because they barely gave us any history of the places. I also had a rough afternoon with one the other fellows, but we were able to resolve our issues. It was nice to see the other Ma'ase Olam groups though, and was able to catch up with one of my roommates from Givat Haviva who is doing Israel Service Fellows in Acco.

Wednesday: We had training, but it wasn't at Achva College as it usually is. We started the morning by going to the Democratic School in Rehovot, which is a very free and open-minded learning environment. Pretty much, students are not forced to attend classes, and they are given complete freedom to choose their daily schedules. It was definitely an interesting and unique experience, and a school system I had never seen before. After spending an hour or so there, we were off to Jaffa for a MASA training with all of the other Israel Teaching Fellows groups, and not just the ones we have been with at Achva. Besides the free brunch, it was a very boring training and honestly, I didn't get anything out of it. Afterwards, I was hoping to see my Chetzi, but since it was my first time out of Rehovot, I had no bearing of the area or how to get to where she was. So instead of trying to figure out the bus system alone, I decided to stick with the group, and Rebecca, Jennifer, Ella, Jilli, and myself strolled around Jaffa for a bit before making our way back to Rehovot. Let's just say we had an interesting time with transportation, involving a SUPER long bus ride, missing a train by a minute, and then getting off at the wrong stop. We got back, and Rebecca and I walked to Aroma to grab some food, followed by a stop to get some much needed Goldstar, and then we chilled at the apartment before quickly falling asleep (or at least I did).

Thursday: Last official day at Achva for a while! It was really nice knowing that we are almost done with training, and can actually start teaching soon! There has been some fun parts of training, but at least this week I have felt so burnt out, that I was just ready for a break. After Achva, we had Ulpan…which was pretty pointless, because all we did was singing some Rosh Hashanah songs. I don't think I learned anything new, so whatever. I grabbed dinner with Sabrina and Jennifer after at a burger place on Herzl, which wasn't too bad. After some pre gaming and what not, a group of us went out to some bars called Simple and Flora, both which were fun bars in the Hamada neighborhood. IT was fun to hang out with some of the Israelis, and dancing was involved. It was overall an excellent night, and a great way to relax and let loose after such a long and exhausting week.

Friday: Today has been pretty relaxing for the most part. The bummer was the 9:00 group meeting we had this morning, and the fact that we were supposed to get our bank cards today, and the bank wasn't even open. That was definitely frustrating, but I still got to go out and groceries for the weekend. We also got our school assignments for teaching, which was super exciting! I'm working at an elementary school called Ramat Alon with Noa, and Keren is the Israeli working with us. It's going to really fun working with both of them, and finding out even the smallest information about where I'm working makes me even more excited about starting in the classroom in just a few weeks!

It's been really chill since coming back. Right now there are only 6 of us in the apartment for the majority of the weekend. Hopefully I can just relax a lot and also have some fun. I'm going to Chetzi's house for Rosh Hashanah on Sunday night, so I'm definitely excited for that. It's going to be a good LONG weekend :)

If I don't post before the new year (which I probably won't)…Shabbat Shalom, and Shana Tova! <3

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rough Day Reflecting

We all have our rough days and nights. Unfortunately, that was tonight for me. We were having a discussion tonight about the meaning of Rosh Hashanah, which is considered the holiest of days in the Jewish year. It has always been an incredibly meaningful holiday for me, since it closes this past year and gives us a chance to reflect and repent as we move on into the new Jewish year. It is also a time of family, and spending time with those who we love. Unfortunately, some people I was talking with didn't seem to take it as seriously, and it made me close up on my feelings much more than I should've. On top of that, there was already some issues that were bothering me, such as how little time we have had on our own, and how I still felt like I wasn't really living in Israel because of how constrained I was feeling. After our meeting, I just had to get out of the apartment and thankfully found Noah and Jennifer, and we were all expressing our concerns and really there for one another. 

Our group of 27 is a great one, but when it comes to things such as Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah, where I have from Friday afternoon until Tuesday night off to spend the holidays, it feels like I should be with my family. I still do not know what I'm doing, as I'm not sure what I feel best about doing. However, I realized tonight especially that there are people there who are in the same position as me, and that I'm not the only one feeling alone in such a new environment. I definitely don't want anyone to worry about me. I love being here, and I know things will only get better from here. It's always hard being in a new place, especially when you feel so confused about it all. Hopefully by the time Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah come around, I will be at a content place, and spending time with people I can call my family.

(I'll have an actual blog post soon!)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My First Real Shabbat in Israel

I was so excited for my first real Shabbat in Israel. That is not to say last week was not real, but being stuck in Givat Haviva the whole time didn't make it seem any different than a regular day. I couldn't wait to really experience Shabbat, and see the change from busy to empty, from noisy to quiet.

I attempted to sleep in on Friday morning, but was up at 9:00am (even though I went to bed at 3:00am)…thankfully, my apartment-mates were slowly waking up, so I didn't feel as bad. The wifi also really helped since it gave me something to do without being too noisy. A bunch of people were going to the beach with the Israelis in our group, but I decided not to go since I did not know when they would be back, and I had Shabbat plans of my own. I did get to spend a little time with them, and then eventually Jennifer and I walked down to Herzl Street. From there I pretty much did my own thing, as I needed to buy a thing or two at the grocery store, and really wanted to get to Aroma. Both were accomplished (and yummy!), and I walked back by myself. It made me feel really good being able to walk on my own to my apartment, as it makes me feel much more comfortable with the city. You could also begin to tell that things were starting to quiet down for Shabbat - less people out, less cars on the road, and stores beginning to close up shop for the day. I came home to an empty apartment, which was a first for me. I do love being around people, but I will say it is really nice to be able to have time alone - plus, no waiting for the bathroom ;) I took a shower, and when I got out Jennifer was back from her adventure. I really enjoyed how little I did, and eventually the rest  of our apartment who was staying here this weekend got back from the beach. Eventually my Chetzi picked me up with her uncle, and I was off to spend Shabbat with her family. The food was delicious, and it was awesome meeting her family. Most Jews in Israel don't go to services on Shabbat unless you are Orthodox, so I was definitely contempt with a nice evening at her house. Chetzi invited me to stay the night, and we stayed up until 3:00am playing Sims 3…obviously we lead an awesome life. We did sleep until around 1:00pm, which was absolutely fabulous. After some chilling out and more Sims 3, Chetzi drove me back to my apartment. The roommates besides those also who left were all here, and they had cleaned! I definitely feel bad I wasn't there to help, but next time for sure! Eve and Rebecca made a delicious veggie fried rice dinner for us, and then the apartment (minus Sylvie and Jordan, who weren't home yet) went on a group walk to Herzl for some ice cream. I got a sorbet (don't remember what the flavor was called) that might've been banana, but not entirely sure. Still good regardless! After coming home, I was able to Skype both my brother and my parents, which is always nice. Hopefully I can Skype & FaceTime more people soon - just let me know if you wanna talk, and we'll find a time :)

Off to bed, more training in the morning…here's to a new week full of adventures!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

So Much Catching Up to Do!

This next blog entry has a lot of days to cover…let's just say it's been a while since I've had wifi on my laptop!

Saturday was our final day at Givat Haviva! As great as it was being able to spend a week with everyone participating in Ma'ase Olam programs, it was starting to feel very confined and I was definitely ready to leave. Since it was still Shabbat, in good old Shabbat fashion (or maybe it was just a camp thing), we had a lazy day breakfast which was definitely needed, despite my early bedtime last night. It was followed by a short Torah study with the other Ma'ase programs, and we had a break until lunch, which I used to pack the few things I had unpacked this week. Breaks seemed to be the theme, because we had another break after lunch. I used it to take a nice but too short nap on the grass with a bunch of the fellows, which was quite refreshing. We then met one last time with Adam, the educational director, to do a little more study and an activity in which we chose photographs from a pile that had a significance to us - homelessness, burned Israeli flags, and the environment were among those themes. We wrapped up by giving Adam some feedback about the week, and that was our last component of orientation. Designated packing time came after, which for me was a joke because I had barely unpacked, and was just too anxious to leave already! We eventually left Givat Haviva around 8:00pm, and got to Rehovot around 9:30-10:00pm after having to make a stop for car sickness and getting lost in the neighborhood. I did learn a fun new word game, Contact, and that kept me and a few others occupied during the long bus ride. We got to our apartment, oohed and awed about how nice it was (despite the small size of the triple), and discussed what food to buy for our first grocery shopping trip. I was supposed to see my Chetzi aka Shir, but it was so late and all I wanted to do was sleep despite being so excited. A few of us in my apartment went on a walk around the block, and then settled in for the night.

Sunday began our official Israel Teaching Fellows training. The first day was at Talpiot College in Holon. It included all six Israel Teaching Fellows programs, and it was very cool to see so many people come together, participating in the same program. The morning was spent with some lecturers, and quickly moved into an early lunch. We only had a small amount of food in the apartment that our Israeli peers bought us, so it was a cucumber, tomato and cream cheese sandwich for me. The most exciting part about lunch, besides getting some wifi, was seeing an old Camp Newman friend, Amy, who is participating in ITF Be'er Sheva. Our programs will be attending the same orientation for the next week or so, and I'm excited I have one more friend in Israel! We spent the rest of the orientation learning about the basics of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and how to use phonics, vocabulary, and other basic skills in the classroom, as well as some technology ideas that we could apply in our classrooms. Even though it felt like a short day at orientation, I definitely took a short nap on the bus ride back to our apartments. We spent the rest of the day of Rehovot, and finally getting to unpack (something we were waiting to do for a week!) and have our first "house meeting" as an apartment. After a while, Sylvie and Noah left to go grocery shopping with the Israelis, and eventually some of the girls went to get dinner. We had to have at least one person stay back to wait for the electrician, so Sabrina and I volunteered as long as they brought us back food. It was definitely nice to have more time and room to unpack, and wanted to before seeing Chetzi (for those of you who are curious, Shir and I worked at Kalsman in 2010 and 2011 together, and "chetzi" is Hebrew for "half" - which was our thing during Kesher in 2010 with Finder and Zach). I was then finally reunited with my Chetzi, and we had a delicious late night dinner at a cute cafe called Lool on Herzl Street (the main street in Rehovot), followed by a drink at one of the local bars, Atmos. It was definitely a much needed break away from the group, as much as I love them all, but just so exciting to be reunited with one of my closest friends from Kalsman. I am so lucky to have people who live so close to me this coming year from camp, so I always have somewhere to go if I need it.

Monday was our first day of Israel Teaching Fellows training at Achva College, the college we will be going to from now on for our training. We were supposed to meet at 8:15 for the bus, and it turns out we were waiting at the wrong place for 30 minutes or so. We then went to pick up the group at Ashdod, which we had no clue about until we pulled up there. Pretty much, we got there at 10:45am when we were supposed to get there at 10:00am. Oops? We spent most of the day in one workshop focused on using children's stories as a way to teach reading. It was a really great workshop, and I got a lot out of it. I was also lucky for lunch, since I had a falafel sandwich from the night before, so it was quite delicious compared to my yucky sandwich the day before. We ended our day with talking about our school observations, which we're doing on Wednesday morning. It was a long bus ride back, but when we got back Ofir was there with all this food for us to eat. Our apartment hosted everyone, and we had a brief catch-up about the day. After everyone left, Sylvie, Jordan, and I took a walk to Herzl Street to explore, do a little shopping, and grab a drink. I took them back to Lool, which we all seemed to enjoy. We had great conversations, and it was super nice to just get away for bit and not have the whole group there. As we were paying our bills and getting ready to walk back to the apartment, I looked up and realized Chen was walking up to me…SO crazy! We wanted her to come out with us last night, but she had been in Be'er Sheva and  I thought she was still there! I was definitely in shock to see her, even though she lives in Rehovot so it was to be expected. I'm hoping that we will be able to get together sometime this week so we can actually catch up! After that awesome and crazy moment, we walked back to the apartment with a plan to make hummus and watch a movie - but as we were walking in, we saw Noah and Sabrina walking over to the other apartments to hang out with everyone and celebrate Melody's birthday. It was a fun night hanging out with everyone and not thinking about all the craziness going on with our program. 

Tuesday was the first day since arriving since I actually got to sleep in…was able to sleep in until 9:45, which was super nice. After puttering around for a while, I finally went to the local grocery store with a few others. My shopping trip consisted of Goldstar (Israeli beer), Bamba (a yummy peanut butter puff snack) & pop rock chocolate - let's just say I love being in Israel. We had a lunch as a group, followed by a group meeting to discuss issues. We decided Shabbat here in Rehovot wasn't mandatory this week, which was a nice relief. I love everyone, but sometimes you just need some time away! Late afternoon, we all headed to our first Ulpan, also known as Hebrew intensive class. I got placed surprisingly in the intermediate/advanced class…let's just say it's been a few years since I've taken Hebrew at Indiana, so that'll be interesting. It sucked because right before I got to Ulpan, and during Ulpan, I was getting texts and calls from my Chetzi and Chen to come hang out with them, but I was stuck. We then took a long walk (blisters included) to have a bonfire with the Israelis in our program. It was really awesome to meet them all, and eat some homemade pita as well. After the bonfire, a group of us went to a bar in Rehovot called Angus (or something like that!) to celebrate Melody and Aleah's birthday. A bunch of the Israelis came with us, so all in all it was a lot of fun. 

Wednesday started off being great, but unfortunately did not end on a great note for me. We were split up into groups and sent to different schools we could possibly be working at this year for observations. I went with Aleah, Yitzhak, Lexi, Ruthie, and Zoe to Begin Elementary. We took the bus for the first time, and even got there early! The school was very nice. The teachers we met were so welcoming, and the children loved seeing us. They were an ITF participant school last year, so they were very much looking forward to being part of the partnership again. We were able to meet the head English teacher, and got to observe one of her classes. We also got to see recess, which was a blast - the school LOVES to dance, and we all got to learn some fun new dances. It really kept the kids going throughout the day. We got a tour of the school with the help of three students who are considered native English speakers, and all in all it was a great morning. We were done by 11:00am, and didn't have to be anywhere until 1:00pm, so we took the bus back to Herzl Street and went to a cafe for lunch and iced coffee. We had to be at the bank at 1:00pm to open our bank accounts…let's just say they were VERY slow, and I was one of the lucky ones who got to spend 2 1/2 hours there! It was exhausting, but at least there was wifi :D After 2 1/2 hours, I was pretty beat and wanted to slowly make my way to the apartment, so a few of us made a stop at the convenience store, the liquor store, and a shwarma stand before heading back the apartments. At that point of the day, I was just starting to feel pretty out of it…but a group of us went down to Herzl Street to find Aleah some shwarma for her birthday. When we got back, a group of people came over for birthday cake, and I just decided I needed some me time. It's definitely been hard to get that here, since I can't always rely on my friends who are in Israel when I need some time away from the group, and while I love my group, I'm someone who needs time away here and there. 

And FINALLY, I have reached the most current day of my blog (even though it's technically Friday morning now). Thursday was our last day of training for the week. Of course the bus was late again, and there was still confusion on where to go, but we were only 15 minutes late this time! On my way there, I got a text from Chen asking if we could hang out in the evening, so that was super nice to have started the day with plans for later. We started the morning with a grammar lecture, and then our main workshop was about course books and lesson plans. After lunch, we made "lap books," which are a great tool to help display information and concepts that are being taught throughout the year. We ended the day with a debrief about our school observations. After a long bus ride home, it was time for Ulpan. I was definitely surprised by how much I actually remembered in Hebrew, so hopefully that's a good sign since I'm in the intermediate/advanced class! The moment class ended, I went outside and met up with Chen, and we went to get some food at a cafe in Rehovot (blanking out on the name right now, think it was called Joe's). It was a great time seeing her and catching up on our lives, and eventually Chetzi and her close friend came and met us there for a while. It was so nice being around some great friends, full of laughs. Afterwards, Chen drove me back to the apartment and I got a quick tour before she left (jet lag problems!). A bunch of us from the program decided to go out, and we eventually made our way to a bar called "Ma" on Herzl. It was a lot of fun, but eventually time to head back!

And there you have it folks…probably the longest blog post I will ever write. This is what happens when you go almost a week without wifi. It's 2:30am here, and I'm ready for bed…more later! Night <3