First Weekly Update

 Hello again! Since my last post things have really picked up over here. I am about 93% settled into my room and apartment. The clothes have been folded and put into the closet, a few pictures have been hung up  (I need to work on purchasing some Judaic artwork to spice up the white walls), and I did my first load of laundry! My roommates and I collectively purchased the necessary items and are figuring out if there is anything else we need. We also finally figured out how to work the a/c and heat. Everything is slowly falling into place and I am getting more adjusted each day (even to the cats and endless smoking). As I write this post I am sitting in aroma café (still working on the internet in the apartment) listening to the awesome Hebrew music playing in the background and chatting with my new friends while we all catch up on emails and the many social networks. Here is my update on the past few days:

 Friday afternoon I returned from a great trip from the desert. After my super easy test in Ulpan on Thursday we headed back to the apartment, grabbed our stuff, and boarded the bus for our 24- hour excursion to Mitzpe Ramon and Ein Ovdat. From the second we boarded the bus and I was yelled at for not having a hat (sorry, no room for hats with the 50lb limit), I felt like I was on another summer program. Between the schoomzing, endless games of Jewish geography, and just attempting to get comfortable with each other, the three -hour drive was just like the first few days of a USY on Wheels/ Pilgrimage program. I must say that it has helped having some great friends from IU and has made it easier to make to new friends.

 We arrived around 6pm to the hostel and I was instantly reminded of the time I stayed there while on Pilgrimage in 2010. We ate dinner and left for one of my FAVORITE hikes of all time. When I was in Israel with Pilgrimage we did a 24-hour desert experience and let me tell you…it was quite the experience. Anyways, we slept under stars that night and they were the absolute most beautiful stars I had ever seen. The image from that summer night has never left me and I was so lucky to see those stars during this trip. It was a little foggy in Israel on Thursday so I was worried we wouldn’t be able to see the stars shining so bright and so clear, but have no fear, they were there and as beautiful as ever. We walked for a little bit (in the Havarim Galley), laid down and star glazed (hilarious moment when the Israeli smelled someone smoking and told him he was going to put the cigarette out on his face if he didn’t do it himself- I got a kick out of this since I am learning to adjust to constantly walking around smelling like an ash tray from all the smoking). I still can’t describe how gorgeous the stars are in the desert and wish there was a way to photograph it for all of you to see.  

 Friday morning we woke up early (after only getting a few hours of sleep because the Israeli staff members were talking SUPER loud in the hallway that night until 3am…), ate breakfast, and boarded the bus for the second hike and a visit to David Ben Gurion’s grave. We hiked for about two hours and it was very nice, especially since it was not 100 degrees out. After the hike we came back to Jerusalem and got ready for Shabbat. I really wanted to go explore a synagogue before attending the Hebrew U Shabbat Dinner, but because of timing, I decided to rest a little and meet up with my new friends for Shabbat dinner. After dinner, my apartment hosted a small oneg so we all continued to schoomze for the rest of the evening. It was the perfect end to the first week!

 Once Shabbat ended a few friends and I headed into town for a night out with one of my friends from IU who is currently in cantorial school here. I have been anxiously awaiting our reunion and it was definitely a great night catching up and hearing everything she has to say about Jerusalem (she even gave me a business card for a manicure/pedicure place).  I plan to see her very frequently and we have already planned to meet up in the Old City this week.

 Sunday started my second week of Ulpan and it has completely thrown me off because a) I have had three- day weekends for a while and b) I never have class on Sunday. Luckily I registered for classes today and I do not have any Sunday classes. So here’s to continuing three- day weekends and a work week starting on Monday! After Ulpan, I went on a four hour walking tour of Jerusalem. We walked through little neighborhoods (and my favorite Yemin Moshe) and major streets. The tour guides just wanted to give us a taste of the city as well as show us how to get from place to place. Once the tour was over I went to a free BBQ, hung out with some friends, and then had a visit from one of my co- staff members from the summer who is an Israeli student at Hebrew University. I have been trying to take advantageous of the free events on campus this week to see if there are any I want to get involved in this semester. I am also making it a goal to get out of the “Rothberg bubble” and enter the city a few times a week. To say the least, I didn’t come here just to do homework and there are plenty of things to do and see.

 This week is an extra long week because I have Ulpan on Friday morning, but it is already flying by.  I have another two weeks of Ulpan and then classes FINALLY start. I am really looking forward to having a variety of subjects (instead of Hebrew for four hours a day) as well as an internship. Having two days a week with no class will hopefully allow plenty of time to do my work, travel, have some free time, and catch up with all of you.

 I hope you are all having a great week and staying warm! Until next time…xoxo

 

 

 

Forever Friends

This post is dedicated to my best friend of 19 years.

 

“Friends are guides at certain points in your life, standing next to you for certain, sometimes multiple, sometimes limitless chapters in your life”

 I recently read an article titled “Friendships Aren’t For Ever”. I thought the title was a very bold and daring statement and continued to read why the author believes friendships aren’t forever. The article went on to explain that there are a handful of people who were best friends in her past, and are no longer in her present. She does not describe these people as “ex- best friends” but rather as people who have had a role in her life for years, but for whatever reason, is not a friend that she keeps today. She tells how we grow up, we change, and the friends we thought we would never grow out of just simply don’t make sense in our lives any more.

 I don’t really agree with the author that friendships are not forever. It is not fair for me to judge her and her friends (or lack thereof), but I believe that just because someone does not play an active role in my life does not mean he or she is not a friend. For me, my friendships are one of the most treasured and special things in my life. No matter if it is my friend of 19 years or only a few months, I can’t imagine my life without these individuals. I have been very fortunate to make different friends from all over the country through many different experiences (as well as learn how to maintain them through the distance). Currently, I am making new friends, reuniting with friends I haven’t seen in months or even years, as well as creating more memories with friends who go to school with me. I know that when I return in May, I might lose touch with some of these people or never see them again, but I do know that they will have helped create my semester abroad.

 Some of you might be asking why I am sharing this with you in my blog. I feel that while I have some friends I speak to everyday or some only a few times a week or month, I am carrying a piece of each one of them here with me in Israel (along with many memories from my summer with Group 7 on USY Israel Poland/Pilgrimage). Yes, I have the many pictures as frequent reminders, but each friend has impacted my life and helped shape my experiences that one way or another that has played a role in leading me here. It might have been the contagious passion and love for Israel of some that has rubbed off on me, the sheer excitement that others had when I told them what I was doing for the semester, or just the love and support from the rest as I said my goodbyes.

 Today is the 21st birthday of my oldest and closest friend. Tons and tons of great memories from our friendship come from our birthday celebrations (remember the salad, L?). I wish I could be in the states to celebrate this one with her today. This is not the first birthday we have been apart, but as I have started my semester abroad and as I write this post, it is weird to think this is only like the second or third program I have participated in that she has not been by my side. This only makes me realize that as we create our own paths in life, no matter where we are, we will still be friends.

 While of course there are people who were once best friends of mine or even just friends that don’t play a role in my life today, I don’t think our friendship is over. If I have learned anything by being in Israel these past few days and after a few reunions of friends from my past (talk about running into a camp friend from years ago after I left Hebrew class the other day), people really do enter your life for a reason. Even if you lose touch, there is still time and space for them to reenter, if you allow it. Luckily, I know that my 21 -year old best friend is a lifetime friend. I am so fortunate and lucky to have her and her family be such a huge part of my life. While we have grown up and changed, I believe that regardless of how often I speak to her or any of my other friends, each individual person has come into my life for a purpose (even if I don’t know what it is). I am so thankful for all of my amazing friends here and in the states and can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for all of us!  

 So, Happy Birthday, L! Have the best day ever and as your wise dad once told me, “enjoy 21 responsibly”. I love you! xoxo

 

Greetings From Israel

Shalom from Jerusalem. It is currently Wednesday, January 22, 8:36pm and I am officially in Israel. There is no way to describe the emotions I have gone through these past three days. I don’t even think it has hit me that I have arrived and the semester has begun (and that I have homework to do each day).

The plane ride was great and I could not have asked for a better trip. I was expecting us to sit on the runway for over an hour like I did this past summer when I flew to Israel with my dad, but it was smooth sailing and we took off only 20 minutes late. I was on the group flight with about half of the participants in my program so when we landed we all got our luggage and boarded a bus with the destination of our apartments next to the Hebrew University campus.

I walked into my apartment alone (my two friends/roommates from IU had to go take a Hebrew placement exam) and was greeted by my two other roommates who I did not know. After just a few days I feel like I have known them forever. They are absolutely incredible. A day has not gone by that we are not so grateful for the good luck we received of being placed together. 

The rest of Monday is a total blur however that is probably a good thing because it was one of the most overwhelming days of my life for more reasons than can even be explained through writing. After the rest of my roommates returned to the apartment we went to participate in some mandatory sessions. Following the sessions we were brought to a mall to go on a hunt for random things we needed such as pillows, blankets, kitchen utensils, etc. Normally I would have been beyond thrilled to be at a mall within 24 hours of arriving in a new city, but by this time I was beyond exhausted and was not totally pleased with the items that were in the store. No worries though, I managed to find a pillow to sleep on that night even though I did not get much sleep. Thanks to you wonderful friends who spoke to me that night and kept me entertained in the wee hours of the morning when I should have been getting some sleep.

Anyways, each hour of each day has drastically improved. On Tuesday morning (the next day after I got maybe three hours of sleep) we began ulpan, the five -hour a day Hebrew program. It took me about three hours into the day to realize that I had started school. Also, I luckily was put into a class that is giving me a great deal of review and better foundation. After taking four semesters of Hebrew at IU, I decided it was best for me to relearn some things. My teacher is so great. I use to be terrified of Hebrew class but the structure of the class here is so much more relaxed (as is everything). I also would describe my class as a bunch of people who have different backgrounds in Hebrew and are to the point where it is a big mush in their heads and that perfectly describes me. No worries though, I have understood everything the teacher says and she even sometimes speaks English which really throws me off since my former Hebrew teachers would rather us not understand something than speak English (luckily I met some of my best friends in Hebrew class at IU and they were always there to help). Today Anat, my teacher, informed us we have a test tomorrow. It is suppose to be review so wish me luck….less than 72 hours in the country and I already have a test.

During the time I haven’t been in class I have learned how to use the light rail, which I can best describe as an above ground subway to go into the heart of the city to walk, eat, and shop.The light rail goes straight through Jerusalem and is sooooo convenient (except when you get kicked off due to an apparent suspicious item on board…no worries, everyone, all is totally fine, and it was simply a welcome to Israel message). Because I have ulpan from 9-2pm each day, I plan on going into the city and exploring as well as checking out coffee shops to do my hebrew homework. Must get the homework done before I can have some fun! Last night we had an incredible dinner outside and spent the rest of the evening hanging out in the city and this afternoon we went to the shuk (market) to purchase some fruits and veggies as well as some apartment appliances.

  Because we got kicked off of the light rail on our way to purchase an unlimited light rail pass, we ended up going to dinner and taking a break for the first time all day. I feel like I have been on the go since I got here and it isn’t stopping as I am going out of Jerusalem tomorrow to go on an overnight hike. I am currently sitting at a cute café down the street from my apartment with my roommates as we don’t have internet in our apartment and long story short…it probably won’t be happening for a long time. Thankfully my phone has allowed me to stay in contact as well as respond to all necessary emails.

 On the plane one of the flight attendants told a girl in the row next to me that there is an “Israel way” to ask for things. She had kindly asked for a glass of water and he told her that in Israel you say, “I want water” because in America people are too nice and Israeli’s don’t have the same level of manners. While that may come off to be somewhat cold, and yesterday I did get yelled at for taking to long to purchase a light rail ticket, the amount of positive Israeli encounters I have already have had are simply beautiful. From waiters, to random people on the streets, to my handful of Israeli friends that have offered help, to the barista that just gave us free dessert, and finally to the other barista at aroma that has helped me figure out  (only took two visits) how to order the equivalent of a Starbucks iced soy latte (for those wondering, it is an iced cappuccino). This semester is already off to a great start and I can’t wait to see what is to come. Miss and love you all! Until next time, Shabbat Shalom. xoxo

ONE week until Israel!

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I am a planner. I have attempted to plan out as much of my life to the best of my ability. Mental and physical to-do lists and timelines (with help from my moleskine weekly, 18th month, extra large, black, soft cover planner) have helped me stay on track. Checking things off of my to-do list gives me great pleasure. So today, as I write my first blog post of the semester, I am delighted to mentally be drawing a straight and bold line through the bullet on my “life- long” to-do list that reads: STUDY ABROAD IN ISRAEL.

For as long as I can remember, I have planned on studying abroad in Israel. During my college search, it was a must have for the school I would someday attend to have a program with a university in Israel. To my advantage, Indiana University has an incredible and unique relationship with Hebrew University in Jerusalem. On January 20, I will land in the holy land and start what I know will be not only a wonderful semester, but also a once in a lifetime experience studying, learning, and enjoying everything Israel.

While I have loved reading blogs from other friends who have studied abroad, I was not sure if I wanted to write my own. However, it has been requested time and time again from my one and only mother that I share some stories through the means of a blog. Again, if you know me at all, you know that I talk to my mom several times a day and being in Israel will be no exception (even with a seven hour time difference- no worries, dad, I won’t wake you up at 3am…). So, as I continued to contemplate whether or not to write a blog, I decided that this upcoming semester would not be at all possible if it were not for my loving and supportive parents. I cannot possibly thank them enough for everything they have done and will do for me as I begin this next journey. Therefore, I have decided to please my mom, and attempt to keep up with a blog- even if she will already know what has happened hours, if not days, before it is posted online for her reading pleasure.

So as I sit in my frequent coffee hot spot and sip on one of my last Starbucks soy (no foam) lattes, I invite you to join my parents and read some stories about my time abroad. It still has not hit me that the semester I have been dreaming about for years will soon come to life. After saying way too many goodbyes in December (that still have not sunk in) and now at the conclusion of my stellar winter break, it is hard to believe I am not at IU starting spring semester today. But, as soon as I start packing five months of clothes into two suitcases (both under 50lbs), my dream will become my reality.

Thank you to all of my friends and family for all of your help, support, advice, and words of wisdom that you have already given me. I apologize in advance for all the grammar and spelling errors that will be made in this blog. I can only hope that I become so fluent in Hebrew that I forget proper English. Best of luck to everyone this semester and please keep in touch! I can’t wait to hear about your spring semesters and live vicariously through all you Hoosiers during some of my favorite spring events such as IU basketball, ADPi Diamond Sister Reveal, Hillel’s Israelpalooza, and of course, Little 500 (just kidding…).

Well, that’s all for now…time to pack! Have a great Monday, everyone! xoxo