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