Pride and more from this week!

I had heard a lot about the pride parade in Tel Aviv, so I was really excited to get the opportunity to go.

During the weeks leading up to Pride, the streets of Tel Aviv were lined with rainbow flags. Restaurants and other stores also showed support in their windows.

Last Friday I met my friend Amanda in Rabin Square and we walked over to Gan Meir where the parade was set to begin. It was packed and hot. We made our way to the stage where we watched performances. The park was lined with various stands: companies selling products supporting the pride community, food and drink vendors, and free giveaways.

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One of our friends from Petach Tikva was actually performing at the parade so we stayed long enough to see her dance. The dance was amazing, but the costumes were better.

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After the performances and celebrations in this park ended, the actual parade began, leaving the park and going down Bograshov Street, eventually winding its way down to Charles Clore Garden, near the Shuk, where a huge party awaits. There are floats down the street filled with dancing people. It’s just insane.

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We actually walked in the parade for a while and it was just so cool. There were thousands and thousands of people just walking in the street together. Anyone could join in and there was great music and good vibes.

My favorite part of the day was definitely the outfits. There were outraged costumes as well as scantily clothed men and women. It was definitely a site to see, and I was enjoying the people watching as much as the performances.

Besides the pride parade I’ve been spending most of my free time in Tel Aviv this week, because my brother and his fiancé are here to visit. We had dinner at Vicky Cristina last night, a great tapas restaurant in the Old Train Station in Tel Aviv.

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On Wednesday we are going on our final program trip to the north filled with kayaking and water hikes. And tomorrow is my last  day of school! I can’t believe the year is already over.

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The Seven Stages of Insomnia as Told by Me

The past few weeks I’ve had a little bout with insomnia. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night around 4am and toss and turn until my alarm ends my suffering. I’m not sure if it’s because of the heat or our new noisy neighbors, but something is definitely affecting my sleep. While lying awake at night feeling sorry for myself, I named the seven stages of insomnia I experience each night.

  • Beginning—Something makes me slowly come out of whatever dream I was having. I throw my blanket off of myself because even though the air conditioner is blasting I am sweating. I try to resist the temptation of my phone, but I give in to sadly see that is only 4 in the morning.
  • Denial—Its’ probably the worst part of insomnia because it’s when I realize that I won’t be falling back asleep the rest of the night. No matter how many times I tell myself that I can fall back asleep, I know that it’s a lie. I press my eyelids even tighter together as if to force sleep to come.
  • Distraction—In the middle of forcing myself to count sheep or think happy thoughts, I realize that I have to pee. Even though I have only been asleep for about 5 hours, it’s an emergency. I roll over, telling myself that I don’t have to pee and I’ll fall asleep soon.
  • Defeat—I get out of bed and use the bathroom. At this point, there is no getting back to sleep.
  • Frustration—I take a few sips of water, pace back and forth and little, and climb back into bed. I know they say the light from your iPhone is bad for sleep, but I read some articles anyway, wishing my eyelids to droop.
  • Panic—I start to panic. I won’t get enough sleep and then I will be tired the whole next day. The day will be ruined and I won’t be able to focus at work. I try to calm down thinking I’ll take a nap when I get home, but then I worry that if I take a nap, it’ll affect my sleep the next night. Endless scenarios play out in my head.
  • Acceptance—I roll onto my back and stare at the ceiling. I am now wide-awake at 4:30 am and there is nothing to do but relax and wait for the alarm to go off.

This happened to me almost every night the past few weeks. I recently started making my air conditioner colder at night and that seemed to help a bit. Hopefully by next week I’ll be back to my normal self who can sleep until 11am no problem.

Besides my insomnia, these past few weeks have been pretty uneventful. Kayleigh and I went to a bonfire to celebrate Lag Baomer last Monday, I ate at an amazing restaurant called Bread Story which centers all their dishes around bread, great for the carb lover I am, and went to a used bookstore in Tel Aviv that sells a ton of English books. I also celebrated Cinco de Mayo by somehow finding good Mexican food in Israel. Yesterday we had our last educational seminar of the program, which really made it feel like things are coming to an end.

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Happy Mother’s Day Mom!!!!!

The Most Israeli Week in Israel!

This past week is usually described as the most Israeli week of the year here in the Holy Land. That’s because three major holidays that pretty much sum up the meaning of being Israeli and living in Israel all fall within one week of one another.

The holiday that came first was Yom Hashoa, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The six graders in my school performed a beautiful ceremony, focusing on the importance of remembering the Holocaust. It was also the first time I heard a siren while being in Israel. At 10am on Yom Hashoa, a siren sounds throughout the country for about two minutes. I was in school when in happened and all the students and teachers lowered their heads in complete silence as we thought about those who lost their lives. It doesn’t matter what you are doing when the siren goes off, riding a bike, walking in the street, driving a car: you stop, pull over and stand up and remain silent. The siren was a little eerie, as I remembered what happened this past summer and all the sirens that went off then. But it was an amazingly cool experience.

Later that night, my program had a meeting with Israeli students at Tel Aviv University (my future school!!), where we discussed the meaning behind the day and its importance. There was a little debate in my group as to whether the Holocaust should be remembered as one of the leading factors that led to the creation of Israel, but it was interesting to hear the Israeli’s opinion on the day, which was almost a bit more critical than the Americans in the group. I think it’s because of the way we learn about it. In Israel Yom Hashoa is so personal to  everyone, there’s no way to not think about it as a siren rings forcing you to stop your day for two minutes. Whereas in America we learn it out of a history textbook. It’s more tangible here.

The second major holiday that fell during this week was another somber one: Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, which was last Tuesday night into Wednesday. We didn’t have school on Tuesday as we had a programming event all day to introduce us to the holiday and tell us a little about it. We spent the morning discussing the importance of remembering those who lost their lives in battle or to terrorist attacks. Then we met with the sister of a fallen solider. It was very interesting to hear her opinion about the day and the remembrance of her brother. I think the most powerful thing she mentioned was that she had just turned 23, her brother was 22 when he died. She remarked that she was now older than her older brother, something that made me think a lot.

Later that night we drove to Latrun, which usually serves as a display area for old army memorabilia, especially tanks. There was a huge Masa ceremony there commemorating the fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Again at 8pm everyone rose for another two minute long siren. The siren meant it was the start of Yom HaZikaron. After the siren the ceremony started. We saw 6 videos detailing the lives and eventual deaths of people who had died. Because the ceremony was for Masa participants, most of the victims had made Aliyah, making it personal for any non Israeli currently living here. There were also musical performances and speeches throughout.

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Wednesday was the actual day of Yom HaZikaron and is probably one of the most somber days in Israel. Because the country is so small an there is mandatory military service, everyone knows someone that has been affected by the war, someone who has lost a spouse, parent, or child. There was another ceremony in my school. It was really interesting because parents of fallen soldiers who attended Haviv School actually came to the ceremony. At 11am there was another siren. I was already home at that point. I was putting clothes away in my room when the siren went off. I stopped what I was doing and moved to the window. As I stood still I could see everyone else on the street doing the same thing. Specifically I watched this one couple a few buildings over that looked out over their balcony holding hands. I wondered if they were thinking of anyone in particular. Once the two minutes was over, the cars starting moving again and the couple went back in side.

Wednesday started marked the end of Yom HaZikaron and the start of Yom Haatsmaut, Independence Day. This is cause for a lot of debate in Israel, as the saddest day of the year ends with the start of the happiest. Some people believe it doesn’t give the families of the dead proper time to grieve, as they are forced to be happy as soon as Independence Day begins at sundown. Others feels it is part of the Jewish way of life to feel so many emotions at once, to so drastically go from sad to happy. I personally think it is a little bizarre. I understand the connection between the wars and the fallen soldiers and the eventual formation and protection of Israel as the Jewish state, but I think maybe if there was one more day in between there wouldn’t be such a big issue. It’s not like people wouldn’t make the connection between Memorial Day and Indepenednce day if they were just a few more hours apart.

Anyway, that night Ran and I went into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv where literally thousands of people go to celebrate Israel’s 67th birthday. There were shaving cream fights in the middle of the road (including on a police car), free concerts, fireworks, and just a great atmosphere. After walking around in the area for a little we decided to walk the hour long walk home through the park so we could watch everyone celebrating.

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The day of Yom Haatsmaut is a day of barbecuing, street partying, or going to the beach. There is an air show that started at 12pm, however it is best seen from the beaches in Tel Aviv. Ran and I heard the planes but couldnt actually see them. We decided to take a bike ride to the port area because it was a really nice day out. After I had planned to meet friends at a day party on Dizengoff. Let’s just say the bike riding didn’t go as planned. First one of the rented Tel Aviv bikes broke, so Ran had to carry it until we could find somewhere to switch it. Then it started to downpour, like torrential rain while we were in the middle of the park with no where to go. In a matter of seconds it looked like I had just jumped into a pool. Then, I crashed my bike into a pole, causing me to fall off the bike and become covered in mud. Needless to say I was not happy. We finally made it back to the house a few hours later after cleaning up in a random building in the park and exchanging the city bike for a new one. I didn’t end up making it to the day party.

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All in all I had an amazing time during the most Israeli week of the year. I had heard about these holidays before but never actually got to celebrate them. It was amazing to be in Israel and just see how important these days are to everyone here.

That’s all for now!

I survived birthright day.

Today, Amanda and I hosted 40 Americans on a birthright trip at our school. The point of this visit is for the Americans to see an Israeli school while interacting with the students. The students in part get to practice their English and just have a fun day. Also it’s awesome promotion for the ITF program.

We knew that the day was very important so Amanda and I started planning weeks ago, making a schedule that detailed practically every minute of the day. But, since we are living in Israel we knew that many things would have to be done last minute.

I was so nervous going into the day. Although we had a solid plan, there was just so much that could go wrong. I wondered if the kids would behave well, if the birthrighters would be interested in our activities, and if all the supplies we needed would be there for us.

The day was to start with an opening ceremony at 9am. The birthright group called at 9am and said they were five minutes away. So we sent the students to the gym to get seated and relaxed before the Americans got there. Twenty minutes later there was still not birthright bus in sight. I started to panic, knowing that the kids sitting already for twenty minutes would not be able to handle much more. Right when I thought I was going to have a breakdown, the birthrighters arrived.

I ushered them quickly into the gym and the ceremony began. First our vice principal and teach made a welcome speech. Then some of the 6th grade girls did a dance and it was amazing. Literally, I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face once the dance started, because a huge sigh of relief came over me. The day had started and it would all be ok.

After the dance, 4 of the sixth grade students made speeches about English class at the school, the history of the school (Haviv is the first Hebrew school in the whole world. Meaning, it was the first school to teach all subjects in Hebrew), and just about general life in Israel. My favorite quote from the speeches : “All Israelis want to live in America and speak English.”

After the speeches everyone stood and we sung the Hativka (the national anthem.) The students then had a 15 minute break to eat quickly and run around to let out some energy. We split the birthright group into 6 groups based on color. We had already split our students earlier in the day.

At 10:10 the rotations began. The six groups rotated throughout the school visiting different classrooms with different activities. There was a craft, a mad lib station, word dominos, a dance, basketball, and a soccer relay. The kids went around with the Americans.

The day was a complete success. The kids had an amazing time and most of them got to practice their English with the Americans. Some of the less confident ones even gained some confidence just from playing on a team with the birthrighters. I think our visitors had an amazing time as well. Some of them were interested in learning more about the program, hoping to apply maybe.

I wish I could upload some photos of the kids, I took plenty of selfies today. They were so happy and just really having fun while doing everything in English! However, I’m not really sure what the rules are with that so I’m going to stay clear. But we did get a nice group shot at the end with all the birthright participants.

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So now the most stressful school day of the year has passed. After weeks of build up and anticipation it’s over and it went so well I wish I could do it…well almost.

Also, quick side note from the weekend. Kayleigh, Amanda, and I went to a chocolate festival in Tel Aviv and it was the best thing ever. Just chocolate everywhere, even a bathtub full of chocolate. YUM!

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Paris and Christmas in Israel

So I got back from Paris about a week ago and it was an amazing vacation. Not only did I get to see my mom who I haven’t seen in five months but I got to see a city that I’ve never seen before. Paris is so beautiful, so much different than New York. Every building is so old and has some sense of history behind it. I can’t get into detail about everything that we did or I will have written a novel so I will sum up a little bit about each day.

Day 1:

I landed in Paris around 11am. My mom had already landed but was waiting for me right after customs and the baggage claim. I anxiously waited in the customs line because I just wanted to see my mom already. Of course they had one person working for a line of about 100 people and for some reason the heat must have been cranked up because I was sweating within minutes.

Finally, I got through and my bag was already waiting for me. And then I found my mom! She was waiting for me right next to the exit and it was amazing. It was so nice to see her. After we found each other, we took a cab into the city which ended up being the most expensive cab ride of the trip because of traffic. The airport is annoyingly far from the center of the city. After that we checked into our hotel which was conveniently located right next to a Starbucks. They don’t have Starbucks in Israel so this was my first stop. Then we went to this amazing crepe place my brother told us about in the Latin Quarter. I had a crepe with eggs, spinach, and of course bacon. Then we went to a jewelry store in the area that is my mom’s favorite and they don’t have in the United States anymore. After that we walked in the pouring rain to Notre Dame (my mom’s umbrella sadly broke), and walked around inside. After that we tried to go to Saint Chapelle but it was closed so we took a cab to Galeries Lafayette. I went to the Urban Outfitters there (another thing they don’t have in Israel) and found a really cool vintage Barbour jacket that I immediately had to have. It’s amazing and I’ve worn it every day since I bought it. We bought macaroons from Pierre Hermes; I think throughout the day I sampled about 4 different macarons. After the mall we went back to the hotel and had dinner at a restaurant right down the street from our hotel. I chose the place specifically because it had french onion soup which I really wanted to have because I wasn’t used to the cold weather. My mom was so tired from her overnight flight I actually caught her falling asleep at the dinner table. Needless to say after dinner we went back to the hotel and passed out.

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BACON crepe.

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First macaroon of many

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success of the trip.

Day 2:

Our second day started with a trip to the local bakery where I got a croissant and a cafe au lait. Then my mom and I went over to the Eiffel Tower which was a quick 15 minute walk from our hotel. We walked up the first and second floors. It was quite the walk I felt like I was climbing Masada again. We didn’t go all the way to the top because there was a 45 minute wait for the elevator so we just left. After the Eiffel Tower we went to Saint Chapelle, which has beautiful stained glass windows. Then we walked to the Marais Area which is  really nice shopping area in Paris with really narrow and old streets. We stopped at a brasserie along the way for lunch. We found the Jewish Quarter in the Marais Area which was filled with falafel restaurants and a jewish bakery. Finally, we ended the day with a trip to this store called Merci. They have a bunch of cute souvenirs, but also clothes and stuff for the home.

Our cab ride back to the hotel was pretty eventful as our cab driver was talking to us in French the whole time. Sadly, even though I took 5 years of French when I was younger I couldn’t remember anything. My mom and I didn’t understand anything that this guy was saying except that he really liked the story of Mohammed Ali and the Jackson 5. We had dinner at a restaurant called Chez something (insert French guy’s name here). It was recommended in the book, A Food Lover’s Guide to Paris. It was one of those places where everyone sits really close to one another. We ended up talking to this father and son sitting next to us, who lived in India but were originally from France. The son was not too pleased about the move. I ate shrimp and pate. After dinner we walked to the Champs D’Elysees. It was all lit up for Christmas which was really pretty. We visited Lauderee and tried the famous macaroons. Once we reached the Arc D’Triomphe we took some pictures and then turned around and walked back to the hotel.

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At the bottom of the Eiffel Tower!

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Saint Chapelle.

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Falafel in Paris!

Day 3:

Day 3 started early with a 7am wake up and then a trip to Versailles. Our hotel offered tours through another company that made the visit really easy. Instead of figuring out the train or bus to get to the palace, the tour would pick us up at our hotel at 8am and drive us right to the palace gates. Everything was included in the price, transportation, ticket, and headset for information inside the palace. There were two other families on the tour with us, another mommy daughter group from America and the other a family from India. Our guide told us some cool facts during the drive and then showed us around the gardens before we actually got to the main palace area. The gardens were so pretty. The thing that struck me the most was how symmetrical the gardens were. Every bush, tree, or statue had a counterpart. After the tour of the gardens we got to actually go inside the palace which was just incredible. Even though it was really crowded, we got to walk around the main part of the palace. The main rooms we visited were the King’s Bedroom, the Queen’s Bedroom, and of course the Hall of Mirrors. After Versailles my mom and I ventured on our first subway ride in Paris to the giant flea market.  really pretty, really crowded, then to the flea market which wasn’t as good as we thought it would be, everything was either really expensive or really cheap. Have you ever seen the movie Taken? Well my mom had a slight taken moment when she turned around in the market and I was gone. I really just went to try something on but I could see where the confusion would be. Before we went the flea market we had lunch at a brasserie in the Latin Quarter. I had a Croque Monsieur and it was just as good as all my french textbooks in school made it sound. For dinner we found a tapas restaurant near the Louvre. It was good, not the best tapas but I needed to have some sort of spanish food before returning to Israel. After dinner we walked to the Roue de Paris which is Paris’s version of the London Eye but about half the size. It’s right next to the Concorde so we kind of killed two birds with one stone. We got to see Paris all lit up from the top of ferris wheel. It was a little cold, but really pretty.

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Versailles Gardens!

Day 4:

On our last day in Paris we walked to the Louvre in the morning along the River Seine. We walked through the Tuileries, the gardens that are in front of the palace. I bet they would be a lot prettier in the summer because the trees were all bare. Also my mom and I were approached by some potential pick pockets. They came up to us and asked if we spoke English, we just ignored them. But if you don’t they get to you sign some petition that supports some fake good cause as a distraction while their partner steals stuff from your pockets. Anyway, we walked through the gardens until we reached the giant Louvre Palace. It was so much bigger than I thought it would be. The I.M. Pei pyramid seemed a little out of place in the middle of the old palace. We soon found out that there was a two hour wait to get inside the museum, including buying tickets and a security check. Luckily, three girls from Barcelona in front of me in line found out that there was a separate entrance, at the Lyons Gate, that was a much shorter line for people who didn’t have to buy tickets. Since I am under 26, entrance would be free for me. My mom wasn’t planning on going back in as she had already done the Louvre her last visit to Paris and I really only wanted to see the Mona Lisa. So we followed these girls to the other entrance and I got in no problem, walked right to the Mona Lisa, took a selfie, and left. Mom if you are reading this I just realized we totally forgot to go and see the Love lock bridge! Oh well, next time.

Then we walked to the Montegrueil Area which just has a main street with a bunch of food shops on it, from different bakeries, to cheese shops, to meat shops. I bought some cheese for myself and some salami to bring back for Ran. From there we took the subway up to Montmartre. We walked around the bottom of the hill a little and then had lunch at this brasserie called Le Progres which my brother recommended. My mom and I split a cheese plate and I had pate again (after being told that my first 2 choices weren’t available). The cheese plate was so amazing. My favorite part of the meal was when my mom took a bite of cheese and exclaimed that it really tasted like butter. Upon further inspection we realized she actually had just taken a bite of pure butter. After lunch we went on a free tour of the Montmartre area through this group called Culture Fish. If you are ever in Paris I highly recommend them. My roommate Mona had done one of their tours and said they were really good. The tours are completely free, in all English, and just have a recommended tip of 10 euros at the end. The tour lasted about two and a half hours, during which we saw the Moulin Rouge, the apartment where Van Gogh used to live, old windmills with serious history behind them, and finally Sacre Coeur. After the tour we had the best dinner I will ever eat in my entire life. My mom and I went to this truffle restaurant that was right near our hotel. Everything on the menu had some sort of truffle component to it. My mom and I split salad and bur rata cheese topped with slices of actual truffle. Then I had risotto with truffle and my mom had some sort of eggs with truffles. The entire meal was so amazing. Did I mention that they had truffle oil on the table for us just to use at our leisure. And for dessert we had truffle ice cream. Enough said. We went back to the hotel and finished packing as I had to wake up at 630 the next morning for my flight.

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Truffes!!!!

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I.M. Pei

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At the Louvre!

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Mona Lisa and I!

I got back last Tuesday late at night. I unpacked, showered, and went right to bed. I didn’t really do anything on Wednesday during the day because I was still really tired. I actually slept until noon. But I had dinner with a friend that night in Tel Aviv and met Ran in the after. We tried this place called Cookeez, where you make your own ice cream sandwich. It wasn’t as good as it was hyped up to be.

The next day was Christmas, and we had a huge Christamas meal at our apartment with my roommates and a special guest from the apartment upstairs, Blake. Not that special, he just wanted to come and offered to help us cook, so he was in. He made an amazing like butternut squash and carrot soup, Kayleigh made a salad and cheesecake for dessert, and Mona made a whole roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, and homemade apple pie. And then we exchanged Secret Santa presents. I got Kayleigh fuzzy socks, a bracelet, and some Krembo (an Israeli snack kind of like a chocolate covered marshmallow but fluffier and with a cookie at the base). Mona had me and she got me these pill bottles to relieve “stress from school” which are filled with M&Ms. It’s from this cool store in Tel Aviv where you can buy a candy cure to any illness.

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Christmas Dinner!

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Pretty place settings

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The meal.

I spent the weekend in Tel Aviv with Ran. Highlight of the weekend was going to see the Hobbit 3 on Saturday.

Last night we went to see a comedy show with my program in Tel Aviv. It was called  the Tziporella Show, specifically The Odd Birdz Show. It was a bunch of difference skits that varied in style and it was so funny. It’s all in English and they definitely catered it to the audience.

Today marks my first full day back at school after vacation. The day went by pretty quickly considering it is one of my busiest days. There are parent teacher conferences tonight which I am very excited to get to go to. I can’t wait to meet my students’ parents and hear if they talk about me at home!

That’s all for now. To everyone reading this and my friends and family back home, have a happy and healthy New Years!

Testing in School, A Trip Up North, and Preparing for Paris! Another couple of weeks here.

Sorry I haven’t gotten a chance to write sooner. I usually write my new posts on Tuesday or Wednesdays but this past week my usual time slot was taken up by a different task. I am meeting my mom in Paris this week (in 4 days to be exact); so I put aside my blog time for the week to make an itinerary. I have never been to Paris and my mom said that we can do whatever I want during the trip so I thought it best to have some ideas of what to do and where to go each day. That way we can make the most of our time there.  I’m not going to get into the whole itinerary right now because you will hear about the whole trip in my next post. But I will say we are hitting all the major touristy spots with some necessary stops that remind me of home such as urban outfitters and Starbucks. Both of which don’t exist in Israel. I keep dreaming about all the food I’m going to eat. Macaroons, French onion soup, and crepes are definitely at the top of the list. Counting down the days!!

School this week was pretty quiet compared to the brawl that broke out last week. Both our fifth and sixth grade classes have finished up their units and we are giving tests this week. Hanukkah break starts on Wednesday which means only one more days left of school. It’s the longest stretch of school we’d had so far since the first few months are filled with holiday breaks. I’m excited to just get some time off.

Last week there was more excitement in our apartment. I woke up Thursday to a bunch of frantic texts from my roommates. Apparently a pipe burst and water was leaking into or neighbors apartment coming down from the ceiling and into both her bathrooms and kitchen. She came upstairs at 7am and knocked on our door. My roommate Kayleigh answered and was dragged downstairs to our neighbors apartment. She showed her the damage. Since I get a late start on Thursdays, I waited around for our landlord. I showed him that there was some water in the hallway in front of our door, seemingly coming from the marble wall. And then I took him downstairs. My neighbor was very happy as her own landlord hadn’t come yet. She was really friendly and invited me inside and offered me some tea. I noticed that her apartment was the same exact layout as ours and the tiny room that Iris and I used to share before we moved to a bigger room was being used as a storage closet. Anyway later that day I got home from school and there was a guy ripping off the floor and working on the pipes. He told me that the leak wasn’t from our apartment but the one next door. So yay, we didn’t break anything!

This past Thursday night I went out in Tel Aviv with my friend Diana who lives in Petach Tikvah.  We met at one of my favorite restaurants called Giraffe. It’s an Asian chain restaurant that has really good noodle dishes for pretty cheap. From there we walked to a bar right down Ibn Gabirol. I had been there a couple times with people from birthright. We ordered wine with hot cider which has quickly become my favorite drink. There’s not that much alcohol in it but it’s so yummy and it comes with dried apples in it. Also it was only 15 shekels because of happy hour so it fits my budget. Halfway through our drinks some lady approached our table selling good luck tokens and coins that supposedly would help Diana and I conquer our fears. She gave us a five minute speech about how some class changed her life and it was her goal to sell these coins. She told us she would sell each of us one for only fifty shekels each. My response was pretty much “yeah f***ing right” (trying to keep this as PG rated as possible). I offered her ten shekels for one just to get her away from us. It’s a cool token that says Israel post office on the back in Hebrew. It also says telephone on it so maybe it’s some old pay phone coin. Who knows.

Later that night the waitress brought two shots over to our table and told us they were from these guys at a table nearby. I smelled the shot and discovered it was tequila. This was a wine and cider kind of night, not a tequila shot night. We offered them to the couple at the table next to us, but they too did not seem keen on the shots either. We just kind of put them to the side, trying to avoid awkward eye contact with the 30 year olds who bought them for us. A few minutes later the waitress came back over and told us shyly that the shots actually weren’t meant for us. One of the guy’s wife was sitting at a table next to us and wanted to send shots to her and her friend. The waitress apologized a lot but we told her not to worry that we didn’t even want the shots anyway. The night ended with a bit of indulgence, a waffle ice cream sundae that was so good.

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Apple cider & wine, waffle sundae, tequila shots : sums up our night

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Rabin Square lit up at night.

My boyfriend and I walked around the shuk area this weekend. We bought a lot of candy from the candy stand where you can mix and match different types of jellies. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on the candy but it should last me for a while. We also walked to Neve Tzedek, a really quiet and cute area near the shuk. We found this amazing frozen yogurt place called Anita. I had eaten there with my brother when I visited him last year and it’s my favorite because they put toppings on the bottom, then the yogurt, and then more toppings. We then drove to Jaffa and picked up some Shwarma to eat for lunch. It was actually the first Shwarma that I’ve eaten since I’ve been here. I ate it every day when I was here on birthright but I just hadn’t had it since. It was so yummy I forgot how good it was.

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My frozen yogurt before.

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And after.

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Schwarmaaaaaaaaa

Side note I finished the second book by J.K. Rowling aka Robert Galbraith. It’s called the Silkworm and it was almost as good as the first one. I couldn’t put it down all weekend.

Yesterday was a really long day. We had a twelve hour seminar with our program. It was really interesting despite the fact that I couldn’t keep my eyes open once we arrived home. It started with a 645am departure from Rishon. Then we headed up to Haifa to visit a multicultural center. The center hosts various events that tries to bring Arab Israelis together with Jewish Israelis. We saw an art exhibition that shows art created by members of the center. Then we drove to a Druze village. Druze is a different religion in Israel. It’s pretty cool because the Druze people are totally loyal to the country that they live in. We learned all about the culture and the history behind the religion. The most interesting thing to me was that only the religious Druze can know what’s written in their religious books. They can choose to be secular and religious, but if they choose the secular life then they cannot know what is written in the books. Only the religious members can study and read it. Also the Druze are very similar to the Amish in the sense that if you marry outside of the community you are excommunicated. Then we had an delicious meal prepared by the family who we were talking to.

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Our meal at the Druze village!

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Quick photo I took on the bus of the Christmas tree in Haifa!

After that was our last stop of the day. An Arab high school. We got to hear from an English teacher in the school and then talk to the students. It was very interesting to hear their opinions about different issues on Israeli society. The girl I was talking to said that English was her favorite subject and had actually lived in New York City for a few years when she was little. She also added that “Jewish, Israeli, Arab, Muslim,” she didn’t “really get involved with all of that”. She lived well and that’s all that mattered and she likes everyone no matter what their religion is. Interestingly we had to discuss a time when we felt a little scared, threatened, or out of place. The boy who I was talking to and I both said the same place: Temple Mount. It was for slightly different reasons. Mine being that I was a foreigner there and definitely stuck out like a sore thumb, and his because of all the violence that occurs there. If I don’t feel safe there and neither does he, then who does feel safe there? After the talk we ate some pita the students had prepared for us and went home.

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A hill looking over village of the school we visited.

Also a few weeks ago my brother and I were interviewed for a jewish newspaper from our town and the article came out last week. Read all about the program I’m on and our experiences in Israel! : http://jstandard.com/content/item/masa-ing_english_in_israel/

That’s all for now. My next post will come after my trip to Paris!!!!

Movie Skits, Pen Pals, and Chess : Another week in Israel

This past week of school Amanda and I started working on projects with the students. The 5th grade has been learning about movies and film studios, so we decided to have the students make a play to present to the class, using vocabulary and ideas from the chapter. Getting the students organized took some patience and hard work, but each class now has a plot and character list for their play. One of the classes is making “Titanic 2.” Basically the same story as the first one, except with some additional characters. They have decided there will be a captain, an assistant captain, a cook, a millionaire, a spoiled girl and her level headed brother, and a mother and her daughter that “always makes a mess.” Their homework is to write 5 sentences that their characters would say so that later we can help them formulate an actual script.

The 6th grade classes started working on pen pal letters. I contacted one of my teachers in New Jersey that I had in middle school, and asked her if she would be interested in doing pen pals with my 6th graders. It’s a little old fashioned, I know, but I think it’ll be cool for the students to get letters from kids their age in America and actually get to open the envelope. It was funny to see some of the things they chose to tell the students in America. One of my students said that it was hot in Israel because “we are close to Africa.” They were really excited to find out the names of their pen pals, as names like Ian, Mackenzie, and Dustin are not that common here. Hopefully they will all be done soon and in the mail!

We also had to decide this week about what our volunteering activity would be. I originally had decided to work at an animal shelter in Tel Aviv. But, the shelter did not seem to have too much structure and it didn’t seem like I would be doing too much. So I just found out today that instead of walking dogs in an enclosed area, I am going to be working once a week at an after school program teaching students chess. I am not a chess mastermind but I definitely enjoy playing and think it’ll be good for the kids. Hopefully that will start permanently next week. Oh and really random but we finally got our books for Ulpan so class has definitely been getting better!

Back to stuff about school. They hired someone from outside the school to come in and sort of revamp the English program. Our school is on a watch list for English, meaning that most of the students need to improve their level before the big test (like state wide testing in America). So this lady came in, tested all the kids, and then separated them into groups based on their scores. I’m not saying the test was useless, but I really don’t think you can base a students ability off of one test. Also I disagree with some of the groups made, as there were some stronger kids put into lower groups. Maybe the kid was just having a bad day. Also grouping the students like this totally discounts for the fact that some students really don’t get along or work well together and should not be in the same group.

Well the first day this new system was imposed on us, Amanda and I were told to work one on one with the weakest students for 2 hours. What this entailed was sitting with one student and having him repeatedly write the ABCs or say the sound of each letter. I think this could be beneficial except I speak no Hebrew. Or a little at best. So even when I was trying to explain things to him in Hebrew, he didn’t understand my accent.

After school, we told our teacher that we did not feel comfortable with this. Although I have no problem teaching a child the ABCs, in this situation, I don’t think I am the most qualified person to be doing it. The language barrier is the biggest issue, and I don’t think the student is getting as much out of it as he could if he were working with a bilingual teacher. My teacher completed agreed. We aren’t in the school to teach one or two students the ABCs. We were told from the beginning we would be working with the middle and stronger students to bring their level even higher. There is not much we can do with a student who we cannot talk at all to. Our teacher told this to the lady in charge of the program, we can call her Lisa for the story’s purpose. Lisa clearly wasn’t happy that my teacher disagreed with her methods and did not try to hide her feelings the next day. I also don’t think she understands why Amanda and I are in the school, and seems to think that taking small groups of students outside of the classroom and engaging them in the material through games and other activities is pointless. Needless to say there was a meeting yesterday with all of the English teachers (all of whom speak perfect English), to discuss the program and how to implement certain techniques. Lisa held the whole meeting in Hebrew without bothering to explain anything to Amanda and me. Can you say passive aggressive?

Luckily this new system is only in place until after the big test, which is in January or February. Our teacher is also being very nice and understanding. She feels bad because there is nothing she can do but she really wants to make this experience the best for us and the students. Today, she helped us take out our students from classes whenever Lisa was not around to tell us otherwise. Even though the new system is a bit overbearing, we still get to teach the students and they are obviously very happy to work with us so that makes me happy. Actually today in school one of the students cried and begged until he was switched into my group because he really likes to work with me. Take that Lisa.

After school tomorrow thankfully means the start of the weekend and I am going to my boyfriend’s in Tel Aviv. We never really do anything too special, but that’s totally fine with me. I usually am the one asking Ran if we can stay in and just watch movies instead of going to a bar. Last weekend we watched an embarrassing (or maybe impressive) amount of movies. I’m not going to write how many hours because the more I think about it, the more I realize I need to get another hobby besides this blog.

Oh and I totally forgot to take a picture of this past week’s family dinner but it was chicken parmesan and it was just as tasty as the past few dinners. It was so good I ate it all before I could even take a picture. Thanks for feeding me real food Mona!