Sunday, January 31, 2010

Continuation of One!

So I think I ended with coming back from the Old City on Friday. We were in a cab on the way back from school and we were stopped in the middle of a demonstration. Kinda scary. It was a demonstration for the land that the Jewish people were building houses on. There were Arabs, Jews, Christians all for the protest against this tiny house. So we made it back to school and then we had a HUGE Shabbot dinner in my apartment. There were like twenty people here and we had a ton of food, great chicken and lots of wine. We had challah, wine, candles, and then people began singing Jewish songs. It was a ton of fun. Ew though, our floor was so gross after people left and we don't have a mop yet :(. I didn't do much after dinner, hung out with some people. My second Saturday was very low key during the day. I did some homework, organized my room, cleaned the apartment. Not too much. Later that night I went to the community of Pisgat Zeev for Tu-Besh-Vat. This is like Arbor Day in Israel. Wagner has a requirement for me to do community service for ten hours a week at this Jewish Community Center as the JCC on Staten Island is the sister JCC to Pisgat Zeev. I was met by Yoel, who is helping me with the transition between the JCC's. It was a lot of fun, and I am really excited to be going up there each week. It makes me feel as if I have a family already over here. I was introduced to many people in the community, and they were excited to finally meet me as they knew that a student would be arriving soon.

On the way back, we drove through the West Bank! Yes! The West Bank! We are so close to it. It was nothing like I expected. We drove right through the security without being stopped and then we went to see a Jewish settlement. I was a little nervous, but then we were back in Israel. It is so confusing though between what is Arab land and what is Jewish land. I really can't even begin to explain as I still don't fully know. I'll fill you all in though :) So finally I am up to Sunday, which is today! We had class today, really weird to have classes on Sunday. I keep catching myself staring out the window during class looking at the West Bank and the Mosques. Hmmm I think I should be paying attention, but it really is beautiful to just look out onto the desert. After class ended, we had our academic orientation for our classes. It sounds so unorganized and just not fun to register. Worse than WWAM! Iknow! I can't even imagine something worse than that. Oh well, I'll be registering sometime within the week. Not sure what my classes are, I have a meeting with my advisor this week as well.

I cooked my first dinner by myself tonight! I cooked ground chicken, with spices!!!!!! Thanks Ro! And then some spaghetti sauce with spaghetti. Really good. I was so proud of myself! :) Did a little homework, still trying to sound out all of the sounds and then trying to figure out what it actually means. Now I feel like downloading some pictures to Facebook and then they will be up here shortly! But I miss all of you! And I am so excited to have followers and I love that I can share this with you! Adios!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

First Post :)

Hi everyone! So I don't know blogging all that well, but everyone seems to be doing it, soooo why not. And yes, you might think that the title is strange, but for real- I am living in the safest room in the apartment. I have an extra door leading to my room (pictures of my apartment will follow), I have a red light which stays on at all times. Ugh, not fun trying to sleep with, and then my windows are a little different. I think that the shades could potentially be bullet proof. Who knows.

Okay, so I have been here for a week and two days. Lets start with the flight: I had to get a little extra screening on El Al Airlines (honestly because I am not Jewish, but it was fine, a little nerve racking however). The flight was long. They sat the entire group of about 55 of us in alphabetical order so I had the last row, which a wall was behind and I couldn't put my seat back. Total bummer. Food was good, movies were good. After the meals the men and young boys went to the exits and prayed. I guess that was my first look into how things would be in Israel. I sat in between two girls that have been to Israel multiple times. Oh and I was lucky enough to be sitting in the middle. Ugh. I was walking around a lot and standing and talking with other people from the program. I think once we saw daylight and then the beaches of Tel Aviv, I just remember I kept asking myself why on Earth am I studying in Israel!?!?!?!? We then take a bus to Jerusalem, find our roommates and then our apartments!

There are twelve buildings in the entire complex and I am in building four. We are on the third floor and I have a view of the dumpsters. Ha! I moved in with a girl named Sarah from MA, who goes to Bates. We were really excited that there were people living here and there were basic things as silverware and toilet paper here for us. At first there were two polish people living here who were working on their Masters, but they left yesterday. There is also another girl named sarah from CA who goes to UC Santa Barbara. She has been here all year, I have only seen her a few times as she is on her "Winter Break" now. Her boyfriend also is here for the year. So after arriving we had a few hours to unpack and then we went to the mall. We had to buy comforters, pillows, towels, slippers, lamps. Pretty much everything for your room. That wasn't the greatest feeling. I wish they had told us to really buy food as Friday is Shabbot and everything is closed for two days. People, when I say everything is closed for Friday and Saturday I really mean it. I think that was the biggest and still is the hardest adjustment. So we come back from the mall, finally get to sleep after being awake for 40 hours and then Friday arrives.

I went down the the "Shook" which is the open air market with a few people and it was INSANE!!!!!! It was incredible to see all the fresh produce but it was so busy as everyone was shopping for Shabbot dinner and Saturday meals. Its really hard to understand that after four o'clock on Fridays and before six o'clock on Saturdays you really are just resting. I mean they push it on you as you are in Jerusalem. I have heard that it isn't this bad in other parts of the country. So Friday I bought some hummus (which I live off of), some apricots, other stuff and then head back. It was so weird because you are all living in different buildings, people still barely know each other, yet you have to instantly bond so you don't drive yourself nuts. Friday night I went out with my roommate and a few other people to a bar in one of the Arab neighborhoods. Pretty chill, nothing too exciting. It was nice to get out though. The thing about being in Jerusalem and everything closing is that things are open, but they are in the Arab neighborhoods and its just whether you want to venture out there or not. I am living in an Arab neighborhood so there is like a falafel/tiny grocery store open around the corner. So its exciting to be in those neighborhoods and see life moving around.

Ok Saturday- I think I slept until like 3 in the afternoon, so nothing too great, haha. We all went out to like the American/tourist part of the city to a few bars. Then Sunday we had our orientation, and then classes started on Monday. Wow. Hebrew is beyond hard. My teacher was moving at such a fast pace and the other kids in the room had already learned the alphabet. After much convicing and crying I was moved to another class where the teacher actually wrote and sounded out the letters. This isn't easy people. I have been to the grocery store up the street a few times, but still wonder through the isles looking at everything having no idea what it is. One I rarely shop and cook on my own, and's all in Hebrew! Double fail. The week went on and I got to know so many more people. Kids from all over the States and the World. Its really exhilerating to see everyone wanting to study here.

So then on Thursday we had our like first little family meal I guess. Me and five friends all cooked together and then got ready to go out to the bars. Wow, Thursday nights in Jerusalem are the night to go out. So much fun. Except everyone smokes here, and inside everywhere. I'm always showering as I smell like smoke. It really sucks. Badly. After a fantastic night of Israeli bars and clubs I finally ventured into the Old City on Friday. I got up a little eary to go to the grocery store so I could have things to eat for the weekend, as it would be close later (once again). So we take the bus down to the Old City and enter in the Christian Quarter, walked around, saw great shops that had the statues of Jesus made out of Olive Wood. Really cool. You saw people of all races and religions walking around. We then made it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. When we walked in the side, I was really confused by it. It is actually pretty plain compared to Notre Dame or St. Patrick's but the actually history of it is fascinating. I want to take a tour of it so I can really know what everything is. But I did get to light candles for the living and the dead. It was very emotional and overwhelming. Next we went to the Arab quarter and were in there for a while. We had lunch at this great restaurant and then walked some more. Tons of shops and little "titsey's" to buy. We kinda went off the main road and were walking in some rural areas. It was fine though. We then started walking up these stairs and didn't realize the the Mosque and terrace were right in front of us. We were stopped by two soldiers with massive guns. Ummmm yeah. A little scary, they told us to come back another day, it was fine after that. Once coming back to reality and realizing that we were just stopped by M-16s we went to the Jewish quarter. We had to go through security and then made it to the Wailing Wall. First impression was that it was kinda small. Pictures made it look much larger. We walked closer and stopped at like an area for tourists to stand. the Wall is separated between men and women, but we could stand anywhere. One of the guys we were with is Jewish and he went up to the wall. It was neat to see people sticking their prayers inside the cracks. It started to get busy as it was Shabbot. Going to the Old City was so exciting but overwhelming. When I go back I want to take a tour of certain things so I really know what everything is.

So I hope this was good for a first blog?!?! :) Ummm I'll keep them coming and pictures will be up soon!