The first week back from school was a bit “balagan,” the Hebrew equivalent of chaotic mess. Most of the kids were upset that the month of seemingly endless holidays finally concluded. Instead of having vacations every other week, its full weeks of school until Hanukkah vacation in December. The students handled this reality by basically being crazy and bouncing off the walls. It’s hard getting back into a routine after so many trips, assemblies, and time off. Here’s a quick example. I didn’t witness it as I wasn’t in the class at the time, but the other day my partner Amanda texted me saying “Yaniv is running on the tables…literally.” It has started to die down a little bit this week, and hopefully by next week the students will be more relaxed, but I know in an Israeli elementary school that is highly unlikely.
So school has been basically the same as the first few months. We continue to take students out from every class and help in the classroom when the students are being particularly difficult. My school is running a program after school from 1:35-3:45 in order to work with the really week 5th graders. Each year, the 5th grade takes a standardized test (I forgot the name). But it’s similar to the state specific tests students take in the United States. My school has done really poorly on these tests over the years, especially in English. So for the next month, the English teachers are staying after school to work with the smaller groups of students in order to raise their level. Amanda and I are going to stay after school on Tuesdays to help out.
Today was our first day of staying late at school, and it didn’t start off to bad as we got to sleep in an extra two hours (since we’re staying an extra two hours at the end of the day, we were granted the luxury of coming in at 3rd period). The day went by really quickly, especially the last two hours of the day. There were only 9 kids in the group that I worked with (there are only two groups with 7 in the other) and I was actually surprised with how happy they were to be there. If I had to stay after school for an extra two hours I don’t think I would be very enthusiastic, but these kids were happy. Of course there was the one or two that did not want to do anything except sneak onto the computer or beg for candy, but most of them really were excited to learn English and proud of themselves when they could finish a worksheet at the end of the time. The coolest part about the program is that the students get a hot meal around 2pm just to keep their energy up. They set up the tables in the teachers’ room into one long table and each student had a hot meal consisting of chicken, couscous, and vegetables. (and of course there was rugalah for dessert) It was really cute and all the kids definitely felt special getting to eat in the teachers’ room at one big table.
I actually didn’t go to school yesterday because I was sick and got to experience for the first time going to a health clinic in Israel. I had been feeling really congested all weekend and I woke up on Monday feeling like my head was going to explode. I have gotten sinus infections in the past, and I was scared that I was on the brink of another one. Rather than waiting until my head actually did explode, I texted my host teacher and explained the situation to her, and then ventured off to the clinic. There were two options for seeing a doctor with my insurance. I could either go to the clinic or have a doctor come to my apartment. One of my roommates did a house call when she was sick a few weeks ago and said that the doctor barely spoke English. I had been told that the doctors at the clinic were a lot better and could definitely speak English so I decided to give it a try. How bad could it be, right?
I walked into the office and was a little surprised that there were only about 5 other people there. I had assumed the Maccabi Health Clinic would be packed. I sat down and waited for about 5 minutes before I turned to the man next to me and asked him (while sort of begging) if he spoke English. He did and he told me I just had to get up and wait behind the people already sitting and talking to the secretary. The first secretary sent me to another one who supposedly spoke English. When I sat down and asked her if she spoke English, her response was “No, what do you want?,” which definitely confused me. She then sent me to someone else who finally explained to me that I could not get my sinuses checked there as it was the dentist office. Perfect. I was directed downstairs.
When I walked downstairs into the clinic, it was as if I entered the apocalypse. There were babies crying, people screaming, and nurses running everywhere. I had no idea what to do. I saw a bunch of people swiping cards at a machine and getting a number, however my insurance card did not have a bar code. There were about 20 people in line to talk to the front desk, but before I got in line (if you can even call the mass of people a line), I saw a secretary off the side sort of sitting by herself. I walked right to her, skipping the whole line (very Israeli of me) and again asked if she spoke English. She could hear the desperation in my voice as I told her I was on a Masa program, teaching English here for a year, and I just wanted to see a doctor. She directed my towards the back of the clinic, where there were two other secretaries. One of the secretaries spoke pretty good English and was kind enough to help me, although I could tell she was slightly annoyed with the extra work she had to do since I don’t have Maccabi Insurance and had never been to the clinic before. She did laugh though when I attempted to give her my phone number in Hebrew, stumbling over the numbers. She told me just to do it in English. We have a different insurance company through the program, but we are allowed to go to the Maccabi Clinic. The only catch is I had to get approval from the company. I was on hold for about 30 minutes before a representative finally answered and faxed the approval form over to Maccabi. This allowed the nice secretary to finalize my appointment. I finally got a ticket stub (like one you get at the deli counter in the supermarket) and waited for my turn to see the doctor.
It only took about 30 minutes before the doctor saw me. She was super nice and spoke perfect English. Within 15 minutes I had my prescription for nasal spray and decongestants and was out the door. I walked to the pharmacy which was a two minute walk from the clinic and got all my meds for free thanks to the insurance. The whole process took about 3 hours in total. Next time I think I’ll take my chances and have a doctor come to my apartment.
A quick cute story to end my post for today:
My program had an organized trip to Jerusalem last week.
Quick side note. The trip was a seminar focusing on all the different religious views in Israel. We got to visit to one of the most ultra orthodox communities in Jerusalem. There was a very strict dress code for this. Girls had to wear a skirt well passed the knees or pants, closed toed shoes, and a non revealing top that went past our elbows and covered our collarbone, definitely showing no cleavage. The boys had to wear pants, long sleeve shirt, and kippahs. After we saw the synagogue, we got to have a very interesting question and answer session with one of the members of the community. We were told to ask him anything, from his viewpoint on Haredi in the army, to how marriage works in his community, and the Haredi’s view on gay rights. It was a very interesting and eye opening talk. After that we got to hear from a completely different speaker, who worked for the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC.) IRAC addresses the issues of religion and state in Israel and how to distinguish the two on a civil and human rights level. According to their website, IRAC “works to advance pluralism in Israeli society and defend the freedoms of conscience, faith and religion.” I learned some things I had never known before about how prominent religion really is in state matters. For example, any marriage that takes place in Israel has to be done according to the Rabbinate and follow halakhic law in order to be recognized. So that means two totally secular people who wanted to get married in Israel would have to have an orthodox wedding. I’m not sure of the specifics like if the wedding guests would have to be separated or if the bride would have to have her shoulders covered, but I do no that a Rabbinate approved Rabbi would have to conduct the wedding. I don’t understand why people just don’t leave and get married in another country and come back. Well I do because of money and stuff, but it just seems so crazy to me that in a country where there are so many secular people, civil marriages are not recognized by the state.
Anyway back to my little cute story. I has been passed out the entire ride as we had to leave Rishon at 7:30am. When I woke up we had arrived in Jerusalem and were about 10 minutes from our destination. I looked out the window as another bus pulled up next to ours. The driver started flailing his arms at our driver and rolled down his window. Finally my driver saw the guy, smiled, and rolled down his window. The two then had a brief conversation that look liked a “hey, how are you, long time no see” sort of thing. But I was so taken aback by it. Our driver had told us that he also lived in Rishon, and here we were in the middle of Jerusalem and we stopped next to one of his old buddies at a stop light. It’s such a small thing, but I thought it was so cool. Sort of like what are the odds. But I’ve come to learn that in Israel, the odds of running into past or current friends wherever you are in the country are really high.
That’s all for now. Happy Halloween to everyone at home!!!!