Sara Over There-a

Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Im tirtzu, ein zo agadah: If you will it, it is no dream.

Sadly, I did not get to go clean up and tour Talpiot. I got to the tayelet, where the group was supposed to be meeting in the parking lot, but I couldn't find the parking lot! The tayelet itself is beautiful. In English, it's translated as a "promenade," which I sort of need another English translation of, but anyhow, its a beautful green area with old stone walls and an amazing view of Jerusalem. I didn't realize it at first, but as soon as I got to the scenic view part, I recognized that on my NFTY trip in high school, they took us to the tayelet on our first full day in Israel. I remember because I was staring out of the bus window at the amazing view of the old city, and then they made us close the window shades, and I started getting really mad! Then they blindfolded us and walked us to the spot, and told us to take off our blindfolds and behold! the beautiful Jerusalem. It was cool, but would have been less anticlimactic if I hadn't already seen the view from the bus. So, I never found the group, but I got to rediscover a wonderful spot, 10 minutes from my house, where I can go to relax and ponder the meaning of life an all of that. On the walk back home, I saw that there is also a shopping center that is called the tayelet, and that shopping center has a parking lot, and I'm pretty sure that's where I went wrong. To console myself, I stopped by the health food store near my apartment and bought a bottle of eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner (shout out to Green Clean!) and came home and cleaned my apartment. In the afternoon, I finished kashering the kitchen. I learned in the process that if you put metal tongs into a pot of boiling water, they get hot. Also, my hands have finally returned to normal after the cleaner that I used on the oven. On Thursday, they were shiny and slightly orange, and they spent all of Friday peeling! Wear gloves. It is nice, however, to be able to check another thing off of the "getting settled" list. I had a very Jerusalem moment at synagogue Saturday morning. The city has a tendency to be very small and interconnected. When I got out of services, I saw that also in attendance were a few fellow Pardes students and one of my teachers, the head of admissions from rabbinical school, and my landlord! There are a million places to pray on Saturday morning, but in Jerusalem, it just isn't weird for things like that to happen. Saturday night, Deborah and I went to see Fun with Dick and Jane. It was nice to go to a movie theater, and do something that reminded us of home. There is, however, one aspect of going to the movies in Israel that I might almost move here for! An intermission! I can't list how many movies I would have enjoyed more if I only had a bathroom break. In Israel, that dream is a reality. Theodore Herzl knew what he was talking about.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What an Ethiopian Boy and a Personal Trainer Have in Common

It's Friday! I think I must finally be in a routine, because the weeks have started to fly by. Yesterday was my first day going to the tutoring program. The bad news is that my girl did not show up, so I'll have to wait until next week to meet her. But, the good news is that a father was there with his two boys, and I'm still not sure exactly how it went down, but I more or less ended up babysitting his 3 and 4 year old sons for an hour, along with two of the other tutors whose kids did not show up. It was challenging, because I'm used to speaking in Hebrew to people who know some English also, if I get stuck. This, however, was not the case with them! The nice part is that kids speak more slowly, and you don't have to say anything too deep. For me, the funniest part was that Lior wanted me to read him a story. I didn't really know how to read all of the words, or what exactly they said. He couldn't read either, but he knew when I pronounced a word incorrectly, and he was not shy about telling me the right way! I'm not sure who learned more yesterday afternoon, but I suspect it was me. After tutoring, I went to the gym, for my free introductory training session, where the nice training lady gives me a program and shows me the machines and all of that. While I had been speaking in English to the person at the desk that scheduled the appointment, she somehow decided to put me with a trainer that only spoke Hebrew. So that was fun, even though I felt bad that I had to ask Michal to repeat herself a lot. People talk about speaking in a language versus just thinking in a language, but I guess now I can say that I work out in Hebrew! I guess if after a few weeks my body starts looking really weird, then I must have misunderstood what she said. I'm off now to go on a cleaning up tour. There is a group that takes a different neighborhood in Jerusalem every week, to take English speakers on a tour, while at the same time leading a clean up effort. The neighborhood this week is Talpiot, which is where I stayed my first week here and where Pardes is located. Have a wonderful weekend, and while I don't even know who is in the superbowl, may the best commercial win!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Like Spinning Plates

Good morning! I am waking up after my second night of sleeping in my own bed! My landlord finally came to deliver the second bed on Sunday night. Not that Deborah and I didn't enjoy the closeness, but, my own bed is nice too. And...we have plates and soup bowls! I'm proud of this one - I left Pardes during lunch yesterday, around 1:45, and was starting to walk towards the store, when I saw a group of vendors. I went over to check it out, and as I walked down, I suddenly found myself in the middle of a huge shuk! Apparently, they set up there every Monday, with everything from shoes and clothing to toys, judaica, and kitchen stuff! I managed to bargain and get 8 plates and 7 bowls for 92 shekels, which is about $20. I'm guessing they don't bounce when you drop them on the floor. I didn't want to bring them all the way back up to Pardes, so I decided to walk them home. I am a 15 minute walk, I left at 2 and had to be back at 2:30 for class, so it counted as my workout for the day. In fact, when I made it back for class, right on time, my teacher asked me if I had been at the gym! I joined a gym, by the way. It's cool, I feel like a real person, not a tourist. It's an all women's gym, with machines, spinning, aerobics, belly dancing, and all of that cool stuff. No tap dance, I'll have to pursue that elsewhere. Shabbat was cool, I forgot to write about that. One highlight was Saturday morning, we went to a synagogue called Yakar, which has really beautiful singing. After the service ended, they announced that a group of people would be going to visit the sick. Deborah and I went along, and a group of us went to a hospital for elderly people who cannot take care of themselves, and don't really seem to know what is going on. We wished them Shabbat Shalom and sang songs and did a lot of smiling, because they didn't all speak English or even Hebrew, but it was really nice. Not much else to report right now, I guess I'll post again when we find a can opener and salt & pepper shakers!

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Post Not About the Elections

Shalom! I'm sorry it's been a couple of days, the wireless that we get in our apt from some unknown location is not working. But I'm here at "The Coffee Shop" sipping a yummy coffee and dropping an update. I am really feeling like I'm settling into a routine and getting to know people and all of that. My classes are going wonderfully - I'm learning everything from the useful, the fascinating, the fascinating but useless, and the confusing and relatively useless but with good intentions in mind. Yesterday, I went to the shuk (open market) for the first time. I bought a kilo of kumquats for 10 shekels, and the person that I asked in Hebrew if they were good, and how to eat them, wasn't lying when she said that they are quite tasty and you can eat the peel! I hadn't been downtown since my trip to Israel in 2000, but Ben Yehuda street was as lively as I remember. I can't believe they let us loose there as 15 year olds, but I suppose we all made it back to the bus. I took the bus back, and it was a nice, shaky stop and go ride that I got to take standing up. I think the highlight was when we stopped short and my cellphone slipped out of my hand into the lap of the seated couple that I was sitting next to. I could see "stupid American" written all over their faces, but they were quite nice. Yesterday afternoon I met the coordinator of the place where I will be doing my community service project. It's a community center about 10 minutes from school that offers a lot of services and programs for the low-income neighborhood. I am going to be working one on one each week with a student (the same each week), helping him or her with English homework. Michal, the coordinator, is going to try to find me someone a bit older, whose English will be better, so that I don't have to rely solely on my Hebrew to communicate. Other Pardes students who volunteer there say it is lots of fun, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Last night, the Pardes students who are going on the trip to Poland did a sushi dinner fundraiser. Someone who had lived in Japan gave a talk about proper chopstick ettiquite. DO NOT stick your chopstick upright in your is an offering to the dead. That one is crucial, the others were more minor, if you are really curious than I can send you the list. Apartment-wise, Deborah and I spent a disgusting amount of time today buying kitchen stuff. We were having a hard time selling plates, but we found out that plates are out of season right now, and that more won't be ordered until before Passover, when people buy an extra set to use so that they don't have to make their regular dishes kosher. Who knew there was a dish season? I really like Fridays here, everyone is chill, even though all of the stores are very busy. The atmosphere is just different. Even people who don't observe Shabbat strictly get things done on Fridays and just sort of chill out. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, January 23, 2006

What do the Rabbis say about jaywalking and cereal?

While I'm waiting for the water to heat up so that I can bathe, I thought I'd check in. The week is going well so far, just as I predicted and as all of you told me, I can concentrate on class much better now that I have a permanent place to live. The days are still really long and tiring, but I've heard that you build stamina and get used to it. One of the great things about college is not having class all day, but Pardes is 8:30 - 5:00, with optional prayer at 7:15 am and optional classes after 5:00! I'm searching for the balance between trying to get involved and get the "whole experience" and knowing my limits and pacing myself. The classes themselves are challenging. I was not entirely prepared for how difficult they would be, because it's a different kind of learning than I have ever done before. Knowing that something will be difficult is one thing, but actually trying it and getting lost and confused right off the bat and then trying to make sense of it is when you actually feel how hard it is. Anyhow, the challenge and newness (did I make that word up, and have I forgotten English already?) keep my mind constantly working and occupied, and I'm really enjoying all of my classes. In other news, I'm trying to quit jaywalking. Now I know how smokers feel. In Israel, of all places, where nobody has any patience for anything, I crossed the street because absolutely no cars were coming, even though there was a "red standing man light," and not a "green walking man light," and I noticed that the people on the sidewalk next to me did not cross. I thought it was strange, but that maybe they were daydreaming or something. The incident, however, was not isolated, I began to notice that people were waiting to cross until the light was green, even when the coast was clear. Finally, I asked someone, and it turns out that the police actively give jaywalking tickets. How else would Israelis resist crossing a clear street because the light told them not to, when they don't even drive in their lane? Part of me values all of the time I'm saving by jaywalking more than the shekels, but then again, I don't know how many shekels the ticket is, and I'm not really trying to get in trouble with the cops. So, I'm trying with all of my might to wait for the green light...I'll let you know how I do. If anyone hears of a gum or patch to help me out, I'd be very appreciative. Finally, I lied for the first time about my Hebrew speaking ability. I was in the grocery store, buying cereal, and I saw that the kind I wanted was on a shelf above my head (if you can imagine) and was stacked very precariously. I took a box, and thought it was clear, but three boxes fell. Only one hit me in the head, so that was cool. I took the time to put them back, and just as I was putting on the last one, a guy from the store came up and started telling me something in Hebrew. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but I decided that since I had fixed the cereal situation, it couldn't really matter much what he had to say to me. He could tell that I had no clue, so he asked what language I spoke. I really just didn't want to talk about the cereal anymore, so I told him that i speak Hebrew and English, and kept acting like I knew what he was saying. The crowning moment was when he took the box down because he didn't like the way that I had stacked it (which was prob. what he had been saying in Hebrew) and when he fixed it, it fell down again. Haha. I think the moral of the story is to take cereal from the bottom shelf, but then again, I'm not sure. I promise I will put up pictures soon, but I have not been home in the daylight this week, so as soon as that happens I can show you my home!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chillin' on the Kibbutz

Shalom everybody - I hope you are all having a nice weekend. Mine was really nice. We left Friday to go north to a religious kibbutz. On the way, we had a tour guide show us some historic places, so the trip was broken up into a few different segments. The first segment of the trip was "naptime." I liked that a lot. After that, we looked at a place that they called the "Gateway to the Garden of Eden." During the day we got to see fortresses, areas that were ruled by Romans, Ottomans, and Jews at different times, and some of the agricultural progress that Israel has made on the land. While some people feel very Zionist, or pro-Israel, when they do something religious in the land, for me, I feel very Zionist when I see the amazing things that the settling Israelis did with the land. It's just impossible to describe how greeen and beautiful these areas are, and so impressive how productive Israel is, especially since 70 years ago, much of the area was a wasteland, and the country itself is so young. I won't go on too much more about that, but it is really striking to me. When we got closer to the kibbutz, we got to tour their fish ponds. Now I can say I've done that. The kibbutz itself, Kibbutz Shluchot, is a very pretty place. It is one of the few kibbutzim remaining that are still socialist. Most have gone on to give salaries and things like that. We had Shabbat services with them. While I didn't like that the women were on a balcony, above the men, because it was difficult to hear what is going on, I don't think I'll ever get over being blown away by the unifying factor in Judaism of prayer. I love that if you know your way through a traditional prayer service, then anywhere you go in the world, you can find a service to participate in. Even if some things are different, for the most part things are the same. It's very powerful to be able to come to Jerusalem, and say prayers with new people for the first time, and have it be the same prayers that I would be saying at home. Even many of the tunes are the same. It's really beautiful. Saturday was relaxing, and very warm! The sun was shining, and some of us took a nap on the grass. We came home refreshed and ready for a new week! Shavua Tov, Have a Good Week!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sara Has an Address!

I don't know the zip...but it's a start! Deborah and I found an apartment from a former student at Pardes. It's basically perfect :-) It's in Baka, a cool neighborhood less than 15 min from Pardes, and less than 10 from Emek Refai'im, the street with all the cafes and some nice restaurants and stuff. It's off of a street called Derech Beit Lechem, which has lots of tiny stores. It has a very residential feel, but is so close to busy places, so it's the best of both worlds. Right on the corner is a fruit stand, with a makolet (tiny market) across the street and another fruit stand across the street. You can smell the strawberries and oranges and everything when you walk by, it's wonderful! The apartment itself has a nice sized kitchen, living room, bed room, bathroom and foyer. We are sharing the bedroom. It really is big, and this way we have a room for tv, studying, guests, etc. The apartment is fully furnished, with linens, towels, dishes, cable, internet and all that. We don't have a solar power water heater, so that add some expense. Basically, when we want to take a shower, we have to turn on the water heater about 1/2 an hour before. There's no central heating, which is also normal for Israel, so we have two space heaters. It will take some getting used to, but it's nice to try and be more energy efficient. And we have a washer and a clothesline, which I think is great! I received a lovely complement today, while I was at the mall looking for a phone card. An American man came up to me and asked me if I spoke English. I said yes, and he asked me where the movie theater was. I answered that I wasn't sure, and he thanked me anyway, and then said, "Your English is really good!" I thought he was kidding at first, because he could tell I was American, but I really don't think he was! We are going on a trip to a kibbutz this weekend, stopping for a hike on the way. It will be nice to see some different parts of Israel. It's hard to find other time to travel here, so it's nice when they build it into the program. I'll definitely take pictures this weekend and of my new place so you all can see! I'm going to get some rest before the trip, but have a great weekend everyone!