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