Originally posted December 29, 2009
It’s been a crazy two weeks, trying to finish up homework and make plans for Europe at the same time, but things are finally coming together. That’s not to say that everything is planned (or even close), but I’ve got a good idea of where and how I’ll be going everywhere. It’s crazy to think that I only have 2 more days of class (!!!) and then I am flying out to Berlin early Friday!
Let’s see, when last we met, Hanukkah had just begun. It was interesting to spend Hanukkah in Israel; nothing too monumental, but a bunch of funny moments. Like when I was in a club with all my friends (the International School set up a Hanukkah party for us) and they stopped the music to light the candles and say the prayer. Then in Hebrew class we learned the prayer (well, learned how to read it), so it was quite exciting for me to be able to read what I already knew how to say. Then in the salsa club downtown they stopped the dancing to light the candles as well, and say the prayer. I bet most of the people there were not religious, but it’s a pretty big cultural event, not just religious. And finally, another night I was in Carmel Center and saw a line of cars, all decked out with Hanukiot (the Hanukah menorah) on the roof of their cars! Oh and they were blasting music too. I got a kick out of it!
One of the pictures I put up in this blog is of me and my friend Dani, at the Israeli Food night a few weeks ago. Basically, the Madrichim (social activity coordinators for the International School) got us together, we cooked, ate, talked and it was lovely. Oh and of course we lit the Hanukia. I really enjoy those dinners with everyone in the International school, it’s a good time to hang out and relax (though we do a fair amount of that anyways), and eat (our favorite thing to do!). You can also bring friends, so some peoples’ roommates have become honorary members of the international group. There’s also a picture of me and my roommates, from a party a while ago. Rachel is staying for the year, but Abby is leaving. I think Dani may actually move in and take Abby’s room, which I’m psyched about.
Two weekends ago I went to Jerusalem again for the monthly contra dance. I went with my friend Abby from school (both here and at MHC) and we had a good time relaxing and reading Orson Scott Card all day Saturday. That night was the contra dance and it was fun, but I was the youngest person there by about 7 years (and most people more), so it was a little lonely. Still fun, but just not quite the same. That Sunday morning I had an unfortunate adventure around Jerusalem, trying to find the Talk’n’Save office. I looked it up online and it should have been only a twenty minute walk from the central bus station so I decided to go for it. I got pretty lost and ended up going way too far, so an hour and a half later I finally found the office. I left twenty minutes later with a phone and took the bus back to the bus station to get back to school. Exhausting, but at least it was nice out, no rain, and I got a phone (for Europe).
We had a Christmakkah dinner with the international school last Tuesday night which was really fun. It ended early, so I went to salsa downtown with Irina and it was wonderful per usual. I had been in level 2 for two classes, then level 3 for a class, and decided to really challenge myself and go for level 4. My partner wasn’t great, but I found out from the teacher after class that my partner comes all the time and usually has a lot of trouble keeping up, but with some help from me we were all set. I was very proud that I could keep up with the class even though I haven’t been dancing as long as they have (I can tell about how long someone has been dancing just by their form, male or female). Irina and I had to run after a few buses, but we made it work and even got back pretty early! Unfortunately, I was still pretty tired for the Wednesday salsa at the University, but that didn’t stop me. I’ve also been looking up salsa clubs in the cities I’m going to, and I can’t wait to learn how to dance salsa in German, French and maybe Italian too!
Christmas was a rather uneventful holiday; many people leave for the weekend in general, but this time almost EVERYONE left. So I went to Tel Aviv with some friends for Christmas Eve and it was a blast! We traveled with Niall for a while, who decided to fly back to Canada for the weekend (yeah, he is a bit crazy), and we helped him plot how he was going to surprise his family (they didn’t know he was coming). We left him on the train to continue to the airport and we went into the heart of Tel Aviv. Dani, Maya, and Irina and I had a wonderful time at Max Brenner’s, a delectable chocolate restaurant. Yes, a chocolate restaurant. I had heard of it, but had never been, and so we decided to splurge. It was so delicious! I got some sweet potato ravioli and then a chocolate mousse waffle, which was the best chocolate mousse I have ever had. And believe me, I’ve had a lot! We hung out, talking and just devouring chocolate for a few hours, it was just wonderful. The restaurant has a great vibe and wow do they know chocolate! We ended up getting back pretty late to the university, but I had a great time talking with my friends. Irina and I passed the time on the train by sleepily talking about educational systems, health care, socialism, and politics. It was so interesting to hear her perspective and learn from her, I really enjoyed it (even so late at night). She’s from Russia originally but has been living in Germany for the past 6 years, so she speaks fluent Russian, German and English, and she’s learning Arabic here. She’s only here for the semester, so I was glad to spend some quality time with her.
That’s one of the things I really enjoy about the International school; sure it’s great to hang out with other Americans (Maya is awesome, and actually from Newton!), but then you get to hang out and really get to know people from other countries all around the world (Dani is from Mexico). And since we’re all studying similar things, we get to talk politics a ton, and I love it. I like the freedom we have to talk about our own country’s politics and compare it to the rest of the world or to theories. We also have an outsider’s point of view to the Middle Eastern conflicts, though some of us are more invested in it than others, and because we all bring with us our background knowledge and experiences, the discussions we have are really fascinating. Generally everyone is very respectful of others’ opinions which I really appreciate, and I’ve really learned a lot just by talking with people. I also like how comfortable we’ve all gotten with each other, so we can talk about sensitive topics openly and honestly. (end tangent)
Waking up on Christmas alone was a bit depressing; all of my roommates were gone as were most of my friends, so I just put on some Christmas music and danced around the apartment. Saturday night we had a goodbye party for the International School, which was sad but I’m not letting myself think about the fact that most of my good friends here will be gone in a few days and won’t be here when I come back in February. See? not letting myself think about it. Sunday I got a H1N1 flu shot (courtesy of the school, and I figured it couldn’t hurt (and it barely did! he he)) and did lots of work (though I am still nowhere near done).
I had my Peace and Conflict final yesterday and I actually think it went quite well. I am definitely out of practice in writing a lot, my hand was hurting and cramped by the end. But I felt like I answered the short questions well, and then the essay I think I did a good job on. I had a fun time writing it, surprisingly. The prompt was about the War on Terrorism, and whether or not that is a good method of “winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world”. It was fun to write about because I felt like I really knew what I was talking about from class, and then I felt like I was able to articulate my own ideas clearly and effectively. It was nice to feel like I knew enough about the subject to discuss it in relation to what I had learned but add in all of the things I have been thinking about for years. I practically skipped back to my dorm, feeling so good about it. I’ve got another final tomorrow (Terrorism), and then on Thursday (Hebrew) along with a presentation (Media). So I’m in okay shape, but I’ve got lots of time today that I need to use effectively (thus the many cups of tea that I will be having).
Okay, so travel plans. As you can see from the map, I’m feeling pretty ambitious for where I’ll be traveling over 5 weeks. I’m so excited, Sarah (my friend from MHC that I only met here and adore) is coming with me for two weeks until London, and then I strike out on my own (and yes, I will be singing On My Own from Les Mis a lot, especially in France). We’re flying to Berlin the 1st, leaving at 1am from Tel Aviv and landing at 6am. We’ll be in Berlin for about 4 days, until the 5th or 6th. Then we are off to Munich! We may fly, as it is cheaper. I talked with my friend Anna who is from Munich (where the Oktoberfest takes place in October (duh)) and she told us all of the great places to go to and things to see, and also how to say a couple key phrases (like hello, and thank you).
The 8th or so we’ll be going to Prague to visit my friend Lenka (who also studies here in Israel) for a few days. She lives there and will help us around the city, it’ll be a lot of fun. From Prague (probably the 10th or 11th) we’ll be going to the Netherlands (either by train or maybe fly) for a few days, and we’re excited for that. I’ve heard its a really pretty country, and I hope it still is during the winter. Around the 13th we’ll head off to England! Sarah spent her summer there, so she’s in charge of that part of the planing. There’s a student from MHC, my good friend Kotz, who will be studying there starting the 7th, so I’m definitely going to visit her, and there are 2 people I met in Peru who are there too. One is English, and one’s studying abroad for the year. So we’re pretty set on places to stay. Sarah will leave from there to go back to Tel Aviv before flying back to the US (she’s a senior and needs to graduate), and I will continue on solo. I’m possibly going to stop over in Brussels for a night, I don’t think I can live with myself if I pass up the chance to gorge myself on Belgium chocolate for about 24 hours. And it’s easy to get to Paris from there, my next stop.
In Paris I’ll be staying with Becca’s friend from Clark, and I cannot wait to see everything and anything! I’ll be there for about 5 days, maybe more, it’s still a long way off. I’m thinking around the 21st until the 26th or so. It should be enough time to see all of the classics, visit some salsa clubs, walk down the Champs-Élysées, get lost a few times, and eat a lot of baguettes, cheese and pastries. Then I’m off to the south of France to Montpelier, where a friend of mine from Wildwood lives. She has invited me to stay for a few days and I was only too glad to accept! From there it is a bit hazy, it depends on where I am by the 30th, and how much energy I have left. I would like to stop over in Switzerland, but I may just shoot down to Rome.
Why Rome, you ask? I’ve already been there, so why should I go back with so many other places to see. But guess who is flying in to meet me and join my travels? My Mom! I cannot believe it! I am so so so so so excited. Yes, that excited! She is flying in on the 31st and we are going on a mother-daughter week, Italian style. It will consist of cannolis, gelato, and beautiful scenery. Mom’s thinking of renting a car and driving up the coast to Venice, which sounds absolutely amazing! I cannot wait to see Venice; I’ve heard so much about it and after all, it could disappear in a few years (rising sea levels and all). We’ll make our way up north that week somehow, because guess who is flying in to Venice on the 6th? Dad! He doesn’t love me as much (no just kidding, he can’t get as much time off from work), so he’s meeting us in Venice. We’ll spend a few days there, then travel over to Milan for a day. Then we fly out of Milan on the 11th of February to Israel! Well first we fly to Riga because it was a cheap flight, but then to Tel Aviv. We land late, so we may just come right up to Haifa. Then I’ll show them all around Israel for the next week and a half before school starts. I’m so excited!! We’ll spend at least a few days in Haifa, then a few in Jerusalem, hike Masada, swim in the Dead Sea, maybe even visit Ein Gedi. I’ll have to practice my tour guide skills: walking backwards and knowing the history of the area.
Moral of the story: I will be all over Europe in the next month and a half (and I can’t wait!). I’m going to try and update my blog pretty often, as often as I can, but I really have no idea how much that will be. It’ll be a good time to reflect, and will save everyone (me and all of you) from the super long blog entry at the end. I’ll try and get some pictures on as I go, but depending on the computer I’m using (if it has a card reader or not) I may have to save those for the end. Believe me, there will be a lot of pictures!
I also rented a cell phone for Europe so that I can keep in touch. The rates are kind of high ($.69 a minute), but I feel much better knowing I have one. If anyone would like the number (incoming calls and text messages are free for me!) just let me know and I can send it to you. My service starts the 1st of January and ends the 11th of February, when I’ll be going back to my regular Israeli phone.
I think that about covers it for now. I’ll be in contact with my parents the whole time I’m there, so if you are curious about where I am on any given day and I haven’t updated in a while, call them and they should know. Or call me and ask! And if you have any suggestions of things to do and see while I’m there, I’d love to hear them! I know there is tons to see so I’m going to try and get to a wide range of places, while still enjoying my time and not forcing myself to see too many castles (but they are so lovely).
Wish me luck, warmth and good weather!