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

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