Originally posted February 25, 2010
It has been a very busy 3 weeks since I last wrote, and here are just a few pictures to prove it! Okay, an obnoxious number of pictures. I uploaded a bunch from the whole trip, and tried to chose only the best ones. If anyone wants to see more of a certain place, please let me know. By the end of my trip I had taken almost 2000 pictures!
So yes, I am happily back in Israel right now. The semester began this past Sunday with a boring orientation and we started classes on Monday. When I last wrote, Mom and I were in Amalfi and were enjoying fireworks. From Amalfi we went on to Orvieto for 2 nights, during which we took a lovely side-trip to the hill town of Civita (pronounced che-vi-ta). Then we spent one rainy night in Siena before we took a train up to Venice.
There we met up with Dad, who we eventually found after a few miscommunications. We had a great time wandering and getting lost all over beautiful, sunny Venice that was decorated and full of beautiful costumes. We saw some very crazy costumes (like modern art), some strange ones (a pack of people dressed up like dogs), and many people wearing masks of all shapes and colors. We had a wonderful few days (albeit a bit chilly) walking by the canals and enjoying Venetian life, well, as much as we could with the tourists everywhere. But we found some quiet spots, and strolled along the sunny docks many times. Finally, we took a train to Milan, enjoyed a chilly afternoon in town before taking a flight to Tel Aviv in the morning. We made a short, snowy stop in Riga which was amusing, and soon we had landed in warm Tel Aviv.
We slept the night there before rushing up to Haifa to beat the fall of Shabbat, when everything closes. We went up to the University and dropped our stuff before heading down to the shuq for some food shopping and sight seeing. It was a nice quiet weekend with some more sight seeing at the Baha’i Gardens and walking around Haifa, eating delicious falafel and Leggenda frozen yogurt too. I had some time to relax and unpack while my parents put their feet up and enjoyed the smells of freshly laundered clothing that I carted to and fro. My parents even went exploring in Haifa on their own one day, a very brave move on their part.
Early in the week we went to Jerusalem to say with relatives there while we ventured into the Old City by day and hung out in the German Colony at night. We went on a free tour in the Old City which was quite good; informative and interesting, giving us all a good sense of where we were and how to get around. After the tour we went deep into the shuq, all the way to Damascas gate, “window” shopping and comparing what kinds of things were available. Mom had a blast buying zatar from every other spice seller and we all shopped for scarves and skirts as presents for my jealous sisters.
The next day we took a bus to Masada and since it was very hot out, something we were still barely used to, we took the cable car up rather than walk up and exhaust ourselves before we even had a chance to see the ruins. We had a good time walking around between the bathing houses, the cisterns and the palaces before walking down the path to where the bus dropped us off. It actually worked out well as by the time we started walking down the path was in the shade from Masada, so we weren’t too warm and didn’t burn at all.
The day after was another day spent in Jerusalem; we did some errands, went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum), and back to the shuq for final shopping. Finally we successfully bought some scarves for my ever-difficult-to-buy-for sisters and even one each for Mom and me (mine is purple with stripes). We tried out another yogurt shop in the German Colony and had a lot of great bagels at the “Holy Bagel”, but we all agreed that Leggenda was better.
Finally it was time for Mom and Dad to leave, so they had Shabbat dinner with our relatives before their flight while I headed up to school so I didn’t get stuck in Jerusalem. I actually had a Shabbat dinner of my own with the International school, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I saw a lot of people from last semester, and some of them I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed them until I saw them. I also met a few new people, and ate a lot of good food.
It was a nice, quiet weekend. Friends of mine invited me places which was nice, but I knew I needed to spend the day at home and just decompress, so I did. Sunday morning was orientation and then costume shopping in Hadar, which was a hilarious experience. The Jewish holiday Purim is this weekend, and apparently it’s the Halloween of Israel, so we had to find costumes of course. My good friend Dani is going as Mulan, and I decided to go as a bandit, just so I could wear a mask around for the weekend and shoot at people with my suction-cup-dart gun.
Classes started on Monday, but first was the Hebrew test. It wasn’t too bad, but I was very tired and really don’t remember anything very significant besides the fact that it was boring. Later that afternoon they posted the list and I got into the class I wanted, which is Alef 3, skipping Alef 2 like I’d hoped. I also went to two classes Monday, Literature of the Shoah, and Markets, Games and Strategic Behavior. I haven’t taken a literature class since high school English so I felt like it was time to brush up on my literature skills, and the topic sounded interesting. By the way, the shoah is another name for the Holocaust, but it means the Holocaust specifically, not any other event. We’ll be reading some well known works, as well as some lesser known ones while discussing the dilemmas facing survivors and their descendants in relation to art and literature that is produced (should survivors be the only ones that can write about it, how can each generation come to terms with it, etc).
Markets, Games and Strategic Behavior was a pleasant surprise. I knew it was an economics class and I decided to check it out since I know politics are largely tied to the economic interests of a given country, and my economic knowledge was severely lacking. We started out with a fun game involving choosing numbers and trying to guess the right one, but the right number was based on what other people chose as their number.
To explain it more clearly, everyone chose a number between 1 and 100. Whoever got the closest to 2/3 of the class average of the numbers would get a prize. So logically the number had to be under 66 (which is 2/3 of 100, the highest the average could be, and the average would be 100 if everyone chose 100), and we all sort of guessed from there. I was way off the first time, but once our teacher explained it, we did it again. This time, I thought about it carefully and using my psychology and fencing knowledge, I actually got it right and won a pen. A decent pen actually, it writes well. But by thinking about what everyone else knew and how it would effect the average, I chose a number (7) that ended up being only 1 off from the average of everyone’s guesses (8).
We discussed the game some more, and then added a twist. Now, the game would be that whomever was closest to 2/3 of the average plus 20 would get the prize. This changed it, but I still figured it out and actually won again (okay, so I like winning). It was really cool to see that though I didn’t know much about economics, I could still use psychology and even fencing skills (thinking about what your opponent will do if you make a certain move and changing your move to get the outcome you want, sometimes taking many steps to do so) to understand. Later in class we went to the computer lab and did another game with buyers and sellers, which we will go over next week. It was actually a fun class, and I think it’s going to really help simplify economics for me in an entertaining way. Oh and my teacher is a complete nerd which is awesome; he went to a tech school in the US and even quoted Star Trek in our first lesson. How cool is that?
Tuesday was my first Hebrew lesson, and it sort of scared me. She started talking mostly in Hebrew, something I was not quite expecting, and yet I was mostly able to understand what was going on, which was a great consolation. It was a bit tough, but I could tell that the pace we were moving at was the right one for me, even if I’d have to work a bit harder in the beginning to catch up. After that, I had the Peace and Conflict seminar for a little while. It was all about regional conflicts which was interesting, but there was another seminar at the same time that I wanted to try out, so I left halfway through. I went to the next seminar, thinking I’d only missed a few minutes, but turns out the school messed up the timing and told us the wrong time, so more than half of the class showed up halfway through the 4 hour seminar. Yeah, 4 hours long. It’s a Poli Sci class titled The Morals and Dilemmas of Asymmetric War, and I think I’m really going to like it. We started talking about the laws of war as written in the Bible, reasons why they might have been written, and what that meant for war. It was really cool, and though it’s a long class, I think I’m going to enjoy it. It’s actually offered through the regular university, so there are a few Israeli students in my class, which makes it even more interesting, adding that dynamic. But of course, it is taught in English.
Wednesday I gave myself a break and only went to Hebrew after deciding not to go to any other classes and actually take a break (I was in class for 8 hours Monday, 7 hours Tuesday, another 2 on Wednesday…). I was also a little shell-shocked from Hebrew since we’d started to go over all of the families of verbs and it scared me a bit (again). I couldn’t really understand my teacher’s explanation though some of it, even though it was in English, but with some help from friends I was feeling better by the evening. Oh, and there was salsa to go to, which was a BLAST. It was so great to be dancing again, to see friends and to listen to salsa music. We learned some ladies style in my lesson which was good because it’s something I need to work on, but I didn’t get it as well as I’d hoped. More practice is definitely in my future.
Thursday, today, I had more Hebrew in the morning and then went to the Women in Israel class. I felt like I owed Mount Holyoke and had to check out the womens studies class offered, seeing as it’s the kind of class I would only be able to take here. It seems like it’ll be really fun and interesting; we watched this cartoon that combined a bunch of fairy tales and had to do with a woman having to work hard to get promotions and a career.
There’s more to say and tell, of course, but it’s homework time for now, so I’ll try and write more soon. And put up some pictures from Israel with my parents.
Until next time!