Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Negev Desert Trip

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. After class I tried to go down to the Old City to be blessed with the ashes. Didn't happen, services weren't for another three hours and I had my final for Hebrew the following day. It was a disappointment, but I did try. I find it exciting that I can experience certain religious days while in Jerusalem. Makes me proud of what I do believe in, and the fact I'm walking the same streets as Jesus was. Last Thursday we had our final. Didn't go so well, but I'm working on it...I'm really going to miss our Ulpan class. There are a few kids that are in my Hebrew class now, but there were two people that came to Jerusalem just for the four weeks. Stephen is a neurologist in Philly-his wife is here doing her masters. I'll miss him interrupting class if he couldn't hear, or something was blocking his vision of the board. Ha. Then there was Joseph who was from Romania, he is working on his masters. He liked to tell you the answers before you even had a chance to think about it...ugh. But we had a great time for the four weeks.

We left early Friday morning for the Negev. It is in the Southern part of Israel in towards the Dead Sea. We were on the bus for about three hours maybe. I had a horrible headache as the night before we had a huge party celebrating the end of Ulpan. We made chocolate covered strawberries, pretzels, apricots, and bananas. A lot of champagne too. Opps. I totally felt like Ina Garten heating up the chocolate getting it to the right consistency. It was a lot of fun. So while on the bus I tried to sleep. When we finally got to the beginning of our hike we all got of the bus and were like where are the bathrooms? (Efo ha sherutem- in Hebrew) The counselors looked as us and laughed and then pointed to the mountains. Boy that was fun. So we started hiking and we had a great guide. Very knowledgeable, made us stop and drink water every five minutes practically. It was so amazing though as we were walking and you could see all the layers from hundreds of years ago. We then started to begin the walk down in the river beds. You were walking in what used to be a river which I think ran into the Dead Sea, or I'm assuming, as that is where our hike ended. The mountains were huge on either side, I'd say five story buildings at some points.

There was a ton of limestone, both soft and hard, and a ton of flint. I took some small rocks. Once we would climb up to the top of the mountain, and we did climb, praying for dear life the person in front didn't slip, or the rocks didn't move. Seeing from above what you climbed was so amazing. The mountains went on for miles and the physical characteristics of each range was different. Some would be very dry and rocky, with a peak, and others were more rolling with a plateau. You just looked to the next person asking them if this was really happening. I'm so glad that I've been able to see so much of Israel, not just the cities. I enjoy exploring the entire country.

We stayed at this nice hostel, very secure. The food was fantastic! We had a TV, watched Lizzy McGuire before bed which I haven't seen in years and also Dancing with Wolves. What are the odds. Ha. But I kinda made a kosher slip though :( So for breakfast they don't usually serve the typically eggs and pancakes. It was more salads, bread, some fish, and cheeses. There was cereal though, phew. But they also had some puddings. So I had one at breakfast and wanted to take another back to the room for later. So when dinner came around, I decided I would have the pudding for desert. So we sit down for dinner and my friend Morey asked me to take it off of the table. I understood that you can't have meat and dairy in the same meal, so out of respect I took it off the table, but I still was going to eat it as I'm not Jewish. So after dinner, I open the pudding and start to eat. Then I hear Morey and Jake start talking and then Jake told me that I need to stop eating or not to let them see me eating it as I was using a meat utensil for a dairy product. He then tells me that they could lose their Kosher license if they catch me. I immediately stop and just go and throw the fork and pudding out. I know right, what a slip up. I felt really bad, but it didn't even occur to me that I was using a different utensil for the meat. Whoops.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend in Tzfat!

Well, what an interesting weekend. So it started off on Friday morning as we left Jerusalem at 5:30 am. The bus ride was okay for the first part, but once we got up into the mountains it was like a snake road that kept winding allllll the way up the mountains. Northern Israel is beautiful. I could spend an entire day just sitting on a ledge and staring. It is really weird as one mountain is olive trees, one is spruce trees, one is rocks, one is grass, one is grass with rocks sticking out, and then in between you will find random houses. And these houses have no electricity or water running to them. It was so different to see that there were a few houses living in a cluster in the middle or on the sides of these mountains. Around 8am we stopped at this tiny park to have breakfast. There were two other schools that met us there, Ben Gurion University and Tel Aviv University were in the buses behind us. So we get off, have an orange, "shocko" (really good chocolate milk, but nothing can beat Wicked Good Chocolate Milk) and some rogalah. Rogalah is pretty much mini chocolate croissants. But don't say that to an Israeli. So we are all standing around and talking to people and a lot of people are excited to see their friends from the other schools. And you know how I said that I would never see anyone in Israel that I knew?!?! Well guess who was standing right in front of me! This girl that I went to St. Paul's with...her name was Samara and she was really good friends with Sarah. No joke, we just looked at each other and were like OH MY GOD what on earth are you doing here?! Like, words couldn't come out of my mouth as I was in such shock that I knew someone, but that it was someone from St. Paul's. Even more creepy, I was wearing my St. Paul's sweatpants. Ha! So after we talked for a few minutes, we got back on the buses, and we saw each other for the rest of the night and stuff, we headed to go ATV-ing. We had to pass this little test to see which kind of ATV we could drive. I got a check dash (orrrr as the guys told me it was a check minus) ha. Anyways, I wasn't the best at the ATV's but I was still good enough. So my parter was a grad student from Ben Gurion. He has his own bike at home and was a good driver. We went through mud puddles, up rocks, on the roads, it was insane. I sat on the back just taking a ton of pictures. The rocks were so sharp that I was surprised the tires didn't pop. Once the rest of the group was at the top of this mountain we were there and took a lot of pictures. The tour guide was showing us where Syria and Lebanon were. We were about two miles south of Lebanon.

On the way back down, I got to drive! The tour guide kept looking back and telling me to slow down. Opps :) It was so cool though just be on a dirt road swerving everywhere. After we returned, we had lunch and then headed to the caves. So these though the lemon squeeze at the Flume was bad?!?! So we had to first climb down about three stories just to get to the entrance of the cave we would be climbing in. It was so moist that the rocks were really slippery that I just sat and slid down. You really had to hold on tight to these rocks as it was so dark you couldn't see. The flashlight I had was running on half a battery. Oy. Once we were in the caves the guide told us stories about how people had died in there and blah blah blah. But they entire time we were listening we had to have our lights off and I was clinging onto the ten year old next to me because I was so scared. Ha. It was really creepy though. After we finally made it back alive, we then got to swing from the top of the cave into the entrance. It was so much fun! I was really scared before, I kept telling the guy to make sure my harness was strapped on correctly and then everything was sealed tight, and I just stood there shaking as he then just pushed me off and I went flying. Boy did I scream. It was so cool just go be flying towards the cave, and then getting so close to the rocks above you. It is really hard to explain, but it was just great. When I got back on the ground I just stood there for a second holding onto the guy because my legs were jello.

So we had to rush back to the bus as the sun was almost setting and we needed to be ready for dinner as Shabbot was starting. So this was my first Shabbot weekend and it was very interesting. I had a great time doing all the activities but the religious aspect was too spiritual/mystical/Kaballah for me. Tzfat is one of the holiest cities in Judaism and it is a strictly Jewish town. It is more like an artists colony. But we make it back to the hotel and I am staying with three other girls who are Jewish. Some more orthodox than the others. But they all wanted to be showered in ready within a half hour as you are not supposed to be doing work once the sun has set. So they got ready and then I got ready last. We kept the bathroom light on and shut everything else off and it would stay like that all day on Saturday. You couldn't turn on or off switches. When they weren't in the room, I turned the TV on and watched some of the olympics. Once we were ready we went down to dinner. Before dinner there was about 45 minutes of prayers out on the deck. I sat in the back and just observed. Then once we ate there were more songs and prayers that went along with the whole ceremony. And Friday night dinners are different than all the other dinners, but this was big as it was the beginning of Shabbot.

After dinner, we stayed up for a little, had snacks, and most of the people just sat around and sang songs. I only knew one of them. They were all in Hebrew and everyone knew that from going to camp. I'm pretty sure that out of the 100 students that were there, I might have been the only non-Jew. Don't get me wrong, I am very glad I experienced a Shabbot weekend, but it wasn't the most exciting thing. I felt uncomfortable during some of the prayers/song singing as it is completely different from going to Sunday school and Church. Saturday morning comes and the other girls get up to go to morning services, I slept in and it was fantastic. This was when I watched TV as they were out of the room. We then had a tour of the town, but I wasn't allowed to bring my camera as you can't use electronics on Saturday. It was almost pointless to have a tour as nothing was open. It was worse that Jerusalem. However, for those Jewish people that are more Orthodox and do believe in all the spirituality, this town was the place to be. After experiencing this past weekend, I can see how those that have been raised in a household without religion would think that most religions are some sort of cult. It was just a confusing weekend as you don't find just a Jewish person that fits into this category. I realized that Judaism is more of a way of life, more than a religion. These people fit their lives according to what the Torah or Talmud says. Each person I encountered had different beliefs and traditions that they were raised with. It is very confusing and I still question it. I did enjoy the weekend, but I wish I had experienced a Shabbot weekend before experiencing an Orthodox Shabbot weekend. And when I throw all these terms around, Orthodox and conservative and reformed mean different things to different Jews. It's weird and hard to explain. Once Shabbot ended we packed up and headed back to Jerusalem. I tried to do some homework, but got a little sick. We followed the Sea of Galilee for a while and then finally made it back to the Student Village. I was very excited.

I didn't make it to class on Sunday, I hadn't done my homework, I was really tired, just needed an extra day. It was fine, we are given two days to miss if we want. I was nervous that I would miss a lot of Hebrew, but I was fine. Today being Monday I made it to class and we were learning about the infinitives. Ugh. Ulpan ends on Thursday and we need to start getting ready for our final. It was gorgeous today, about 90 degrees Fahrenheit! :) So the week ahead looks like a lot of studying and then on Friday we have a trip to the Negev desert. Wish me luck on my final!

Old City Tour

Last Wednesday (the 10th) I went on an organized tour of the Old City through my school. We left after Ulpan and had a delicious lunch in the Muslim Quarter. We had a security guard with us who had two guns with him. I think the larger one is called an ouzo? Not really sure, looked like an M-16 to me. But we walked around for about five hours going to each quarter. And what I learned about the Armenian quarter is that it is closed off to people for most of the day except for the daily mass. So if I want to check out that area then I'll head to mass one of these days. I really enjoyed this trip to the Old City because our tour guide knew of all the small streets that took us up onto the roofs so we could have a better view. He explained to us that near the Wailing Wall they were excavating an area of land that was from the Roman period. They had found coins from the Romans just a few years ago. Then as we were walking through the Jewish quarter we saw the remains of the original Old City wall, which means that I saw the oldest wall in the world. (So he said) We also saw columns from the Roman period where they had their main road and their "mall." Each time we went to a new section or different street I was asking the tour guide how old the stones we were walking on were. They ranged from 1,500 years old, to about 500 years old. I find the stones that are still there and supporting so many of the buildings to be the most fascinating thing about the Old City.

After the Old City tour we returned around 5 pm and I went to Yoel's house for a party. Little did he tell me that it was his birthday that he had invited me over for! Ugh, I wish he had have told me because then I would have brought a bottle of wine for him. I really enjoy spending time with him and his family as it's nice to break away from the people I'm seeing everyday and experience what life is really like in Israel. There were about twenty of his friends, all English speak, most from the States and had gone on the same program I am on now and decided to stay. But something really funny was this big snow storm we just had, I guess there was a snowball fight in Dupont Circle in DC and one of the guys sons was the one that organized it! I guess he was on the front page of the Times, Journal, and Post. I keep forgetting to mention it to Papa to see if he saw it in the paper. The food was great, it was really nice to meet his children, his daughter is a few years older than me. I probably should have stayed in as I had a test the next day, but whatever. The frustrating part about Ulpan is that is so intense after class you have a lot of homework to do that it leaves no time to explore the city as much as I'd like. I hope once classes start next week that it will be better.

That Thursday (the 11th) after Ulpan I met Yoel and his wife for lunch downtown. We went to this place that had a great view of the Old City walls and was probably a block and half away. It was a gorgeous day and the food was fantastic. I talked with Yoel a lot about the classes I'm taking and the internships. I got an e-mail from one of the Professor's that I would like to do research for this past weekend. I have an interview on Thursday. I'm crossing my fingers. But we also talked about other opportunities in case this doesn't go through. After lunch he dropped me off at the Student Village and then I actually went back down to the Old City with my friends for some dinner. It was great to walk around at night, most of the prices are dropped as the owners just want to close shop. I bought two scarves, a t-shirt, and some batteries. We had great falafel at this small restaurant and just took our time. It's really funny how most of my friends here are always running into someone they know. When we were there, Jake ran into two people that he had known. I'll never run into someone I know in Israel!!!!!

Later that night, I had a horrible migraine. I think just being out all day, then being around the cigarette and hookah smoke made it worse. I wanted to sleep but I had to pack for my trip to Tzfat for the weekend. We were going to be leaving at 5:30 am. Ugh. I packed a lot of things I knew would get dirty as we were going to be going ATV-ing, cave climbing, and then rope swinging. I also had to pack a 'conservative' outfit for Shabbot services on Saturday. So that meant, skirt below the knees, legs covered, elbows covered, and color bones covered. I wanted to make sure I look appropriate as I didn't want to offend anyone while I was there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not sure for a title

So on Sunday I had my meeting with my advisor about my classes. She has approved me for them, but I'm still not sure what I want to take as I don't know if I got the internship or not. I should be finding out later this week. After class I did some homework and then a group of us went to the shook (the open air market) and we got a lot of fresh veggies and such. It is incredible how fresh everything is and how cheap it is. I got a kilo of strawberries for two bucks! It's weird though, I'm not a fan of these strawberries, the ones from the grocery store that are injected with preservatives taste much better. I got some celery, hummus :), and carrots. Now the truth comes out that the grocery store that I have been shopping at for two and a half weeks is the most expensive. Every time I would leave and be spending eighty dollars I would look and be like what did I buy, so there is another store down a few blocks more. I'll check it out this week probably. Also on Sunday I finally watched tv online! It wasn't even my trash shows either! I got to watch an episode of Burn Notice. A lot of my friends are always watching it, but I can never figure it out on my own, I need helping knowing which links to click so it will let me watch it internationally.

We had a quiz last week that I didn't do so well on. It is just really hard to see a "letter" in block, then switch it into script, then try and figure out the sound, then try and figure out what the word sounds like and then have to know the Hebrew word! All in about two seconds. It is slowly coming, but it is just so discouraging to be in a class with other kids that have had Hebrew before and then they yell out answers before you have any idea what the question is. I just feel like someone that has a learning disorder in this class. And it's not like there is just one letter that makes the sound "a", there are three, so then when you are writing the word, you have to guess which one it is. Seriously, this language is just memorization and the shrugging your shoulders just assuming you got it right. Ulpan ends next Thursday, which I'm excited about, but then once the semester starts I have ten hours a week of Hebrew spread out over three days. I'm just really hoping that I'll be in a class that has more people that have never spoken this language, or even been exposed to it. Man oh man do I have a lot to say once they give us the reviews.

Yesterday was pretty low key. I took a nice nap after class and then we went to my friend Jonathan's for dinner. We have a rotation down where each night someone cooks at their place and then we switch. Aviva and I are Tuesdays as of right now. Tonight we are making beef stew! I'm really excited, I just got done cleaning the kitchen to make sure we have enough stuff to use. That's another thing that stinks about the apartments, you really have to keep up on the dishes because everyone needs something all the time. I have no problem doing the dishes at all because I know that I will really wash them in hot water. I just don't like the idea that four people are just using the same utensils over and over again if someone didn't wash them properly. I tell everyone I have no problem doing it because we are all switching weeks of being sick. Maybe this whole "I don't mind cleaning" thing will fade soon. Ha! Oh! I made my decision about where I'm going this weekend, I'll be going up to Haifa to go skiing! Woo hoo!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

One is the loneliest number...

I lost a sock in the wash today :( (hence the title of the blog) I really liked that pair too. Darn. So yesterday was lazy. Had a great shabbot dinner though. Aviva cooked this chicken. So good. I did the clean up! We have a great system! Ha! Today we walked around campus and took some pictures. Just chilled and watched Jerusalem. It was really neat because we heard the bells of the churches and then after that we heard the call of the prayer from the mosques. When I first heard it I was in class and though it was a lawnmower, and then the next time I thought they were cows. It is very interesting to hear. It is weird to see everyone's statuses on Facebook talk about how they are excited for Saturday night...but here, we are just getting ready to start class at 9:30am tomorrow. It's hard to adjust to having class on Sundays. I did laundry tonight, pretty expensive...I think like three bucks a load. Ugh. The washers smelled like cats! So gross, I moved my stuff. I swear I attract cats and cigarette smoke. My clothes are always smelling.

Dandruff situation is getting better with the head and shoulders. Haha. So all the dairy products here are very weird. The milk, cheese, yogurt, it's all very runny. And that would be great for me, not to have any lumps in my yogurt but its even worse I think! I know hard to believe. But it tastes very funny. And then the lumps are very tiny, but in a weird way. Not really a fan of it. And I am dying for some extra sharp Cabot cheddar cheese. The cheddar here is so weak. I have my meeting with my advisor tomorrow afternoon to discuss my classes. I'm still trying to figure out how I can get photos up here. Maybe a few more days.

Oh! So today when Aviva and I were walking on the outskirts of campus, we were on the east side looking into the West Bank. It was so beautiful today. Its justs mountains everyone. Desert mountains, but more rocky. Not sandy at all. They go on forever, I know Jordan is in the distance...not too sure how far out though. But it is so incredible to see the mountains and then a small town in the middle, and then miles down, another town. And you can tell they are all Muslim as you can see the towers for the mosques. It is crazy to just sit there and watch the West Bank. I mean I'm in the center of the world. For everything, religion, politics. And it really just looks so peaceful and serene. The view will never get old, something new is always popping up. I just can't wrap my head around how people are living in this area and there is so much controversy. They are truly just living their lives. It is just so different than what I thought before coming out here. It is weird to think that it looks peaceful in a way. Hmm.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So there was snow/hail today! I know, in Jerusalem! They cancelled all the activities for today and tomorrow because they were so freaked out. Which means the Old City tour is next week along with the Dead Sea trip....buttttt i signed up for a ski trip up in Haifa, and I don't know where I want to go! I think I'll do Haifa as it is an organized trip and I can do a trip to the Dead Sea with anyone. I had a great revelation yesterday: there are no squirrels in Israel! Seriously! It is so weird to be walking around and not seeing them! squirrels! lol. So the water here is obviously different but its making my hair just really weird texture. Really sucks, so dry. Random. I know.

Israel in the news: The other day I guess Hamas fisherman put barrels out into the sea that were full with explosives. Many theories as to what they were used for, some say it was to bomb the Navy's boats, others say the beaches. They have closed down the entire coast due to it. Also negotiations have stopped between Israel and Hamas with one of the Israeli soldiers that has been held for a few years now. (not sure why) and then Israel has warned Syria that if they were to start a war they would lose. Syria wants the Golan Heights back. Hebrew is just getting harder and harder and we had a quiz today. It is just so hard to read block letters, then translate them into script while trying to figure out the sound, and then having to make a word. And then once you make the word you stare at it because you barely know any Hebrew words. It's just really tough, and so frustrating because you feel so slow! Ugh. I enjoy learning it, but it's just very stressful. I was at the grocery store yesterday and this really old man who spoke very little English came up to me and asked me if I knew what Cheerio's were. He said that his wife eats them, but he doesn't know what they are. It was so cute, I was so happy that I could finally be helping someone in this country. He was surprised that it was cereal as he thought it was a type of vegetable. Ha! Today was such brutal weather, the wind and the cold. Tough walk to campus. It takes me about twenty minutes each day, I consider it my workout.

This weekend doesn't look too exciting, the weather is supposed to be bad and I just really want to concentrate on Hebrew. I'll have to get some laundry done sometime in there. Tata :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


So there are these creepy guys that live across from us that like to creep in our windows with binoculars. I caught them the other night, so weird. I think this blog thing is like ADD for me, I can't go to sleep because I keep thinking about all the things I need to write about. Ahhhh!!!! So cats are everywhere here. Really gross, it's like NYC's rat problem. And no one on campus, or the Student Village where I live seems to be able to walk their trash bags to the dumpster. Luckily, I live right next to them, but seriously people leave their bags (not even tied) right outside the main lobby doors! Hello people?!?! Walk your dirty crap to the dumpsters. So annoying, and it is always smelling. We have two girls moving into our apartment today and tomorrow. Adie is from the States, but has kinda lived in Israel off and on for six years. She goes to University of Michigan, and Aviva is from DC and goes to Temple. I'm really excited to finally have a full apartment with no boys.

So my hotdogs and beans was a failure last night. I bought turkey hot dogs, and then these beans that weren't cooked. Ugh, I was so upset. I'll head to the grocery store tomorrow to stock up on foods as Thursday we are going to the Old City and then Friday is the Dead Sea. So if I want food for the weekend, then I need to go tomorrow. Also, I have an internship interview tomorrow. I will be taking three classes and an internship while I'm here. A lot to work on later to get myself prepared.

I met with Yoel today (the one from Pisgat Zeev who is helping me with the transition and also is the coordinator with the JCC sister thingy) but we had lunch in the faculty lounge- as he used to be the Director of the school I'm attending now. I had beef stew for lunch! It was soooo soooo good :) He gave me a great tour of the school and I saw the Dead Sea and the hills of Jordan. This is just such an incredible place. You could spend hours just staring out over Mr. Scopus in any direction. The Old City is so close, you can see all the walls, its just so amazing. See you later :)