Well I’ve been the busiest I’ve been in a long time since my last post. These past 4 or 5 days (I don’t even know) have been such a blur.
On August 28 my dad and brother dropped me off in Jerusalem for the start of my program. It wasn’t necessarily a tearful goodbye, because I had to go into a room full of people I’d be living and working with for the next ten months. But I definitely was sad and nervous as I watched my dad and brother round the corner and disappear out the door. Luckily I didn’t have much time to think about changing my mind or running out to my dad and telling him to take me home. As soon as I walked into the classroom, I was given enough paperwork to distract me from the reality that I was now going to be alone for ten months.
After paperwork and some basic introductions I got on a bus with more than thirty strangers and headed out to the Ein Gedi to spend the weekend relaxing and bonding in the desert. I ended up rooming in the hostel with three girls from the other city. The orientation program included both cities run by Israel Experience, mine (Rishon) and Petach Tikvah (PTK for short). Both cities are known for being centrally located in Israel and possess ample transportation to and from Tel Aviv. Hey girls of Cheder 42 if you’re reading this, I miss ya!
Anyway, the weekend was full of informative sessions detailing the cultural differences in Israel, what to expect from the school system in Israel, and the basic structure of the program. Most of this information would be boring to any of you reading this as you are not a Masa Teaching Fellow yourself so I’ll skip over that part.
The weekend wasn’t all talks and information sessions though. We also hiked in Ein Gedi to some pretty awesome waterfalls. Although my feet were literally bleeding from stepping on rocks walking from one waterfall to another, it was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We also had a very nice Shabbat dinner and got to spend most of the day on Saturday resting.
Orientation flew by and before I knew it, it was time to move into my new apartment. We were warned that some of the rooms in each apartment were better than others. I also knew that apartments in Israel were much different than those in America. But when I saw my room, I almost had a panic attack. The room I share with my roommate is so small that our beds are literally touching. There is photo evidence below of this. We have a pretty big closet, unless you have to split it between two people, and barely any room for bedside tables. It took me about three days and countless tearful phone calls to my mom to finish unpacking. Reality set in when I realized my super organized mom was in New Jersey and was unable to help me unpack. But, with the help of some Ikea products, notably a bedside table that I put together all by myself, a small (very small rug) to fit the little floor space we have, and a bedside lamp helped make the room homey.
This past week has been filled with more orientation activities meant to get us familiar with city and with each other. My favorite was yesterday we had to complete an “amazing race” in which the group was divided into four or five teams. We had an hour to complete seemingly mindless and ridiculous tasks. Such tasks included finding 5 random Israelis to do the hora dance with us, getting a free falafel ball and taking a picture with the store owner, and meditating in a weird place in the city. My team actually came in first and were rewarded with some chocolate, my favorite.
Now we have the weekend off and I’m going to spend it in Tel Aviv with my friends there. Also some of the girls I mentioned from PTK are meeting me in the Shuk later today to do some shopping. Shabbat dinner tonight at a good friend’s house.