Monday, January 24, 2011

"They call it: 'the hill fom hell' "

Let's talk hills for a moment...

I have been running around my neighborhood, East Talpiot, Jerusalem, for 2 weeks now. I was aware of the hills before moving here because my sister used to live here, but let me try to explain to you what a typical run is like.

Upon exiting my apartment complex I have the choice to either go left, "down the hill" or right, "up the hill." Today I chose left, downhill, for the first time. I was hoping that if I started off downhill then I would be able to finish my run uphill. I wanted this option because I am used to finishing my run with a 8-8:30 downhill decent as the sole way to get back to my apartment. I would rather not spend the last 10 minutes of my run exherting so little energy, since this is when my body has the potential to be using up the most energy. Anyway, after about 3 minutes of a steady decline today I approached a rotary and stayed to the left. This wasn't the street I thought I would end up on but I figured that I'd realize where I was eventually. Oh dear, and the uphill battle began.

Let me just tell you, I have never run up such large hills before in my life. These things put heartbreak hill to shame, both in degree of slope and ultimate length.

I cannot find a topographic map of the area, so all I know is that Jerusalem is at an average height of between 750-850m above sea level. Without numbers though, I can tell that when I am running uphill consistently for half my run, it is a large incline. There are times when the slope is definitely manageable, but there are also times when I feel like I might as well be running backwards the hill is so steep.

I have been researching online and comparing running on flat ground and running on hills so that I am better equipped to tailor my training schedule for the half marathon as needed. For example, if I am supposed to run 7 miles one day should I actually still run 7 miles even though it will take me much more time and energy because of the hills. I found a website that labeled hills into three categories: short, medium, and long. Short hills were those that take up to 30 seconds to run, medium hills take 30-90 seconds and the long hills take up to 3 minutes to run. So, I asked myself out loud, "If a long hill is one that takes up to 3 minutes to complete, what the hell are the hills that I run categorized as? One hill today took me 14 minutes to reach the top!" My roommate answered, "They call it 'the hill from hell'".

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ellyn's Birthday!

Week 1 of Ulpan came to a close and a group of us beit canada'ers headed off to tel aviv to celebrate Ellyn's birthday in fashion. Public transportation doesn't run for the 24 hours during Shabbat (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday), so in true Israeli fashion we caught the last bus from Beit Canada to the central bus station and the last bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Minor breakdown on the way to Tel Aviv (typical) but another bus came and saved us very quickly. A shared taxi ride to the hotel and we had finally arrived; hungry, cranky, tired, and excited to relax in the hotel room before going out. Not surprisingly, however, something had gone wrong with the hotel reservations and we had to wait outside the hotel sketchily for 45 minutes until it was all sorted out. (sketchily because we were fitting many more than 3 people in this hotel room.) Check out the view from the hotel room Ellyn got us :)

Once we figured out the number for a pizza place that was open and would deliver, thanks, Domino's, I was a happy camper (or, happy hotel guest?). We went out to a club called Gossip and it was really fun! Everything except all the smoke that was inhaled all night, ugh.
Saturday we hung out on the beach all day and I got some Hebrew studying done. Great first weekend of bonding with the ulpaners :). Geared up for week two of hebrew class...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beit Canada Beginnings

I am finally a J-towner! I dont think people really call Jerusalem J-town except for (shout out) Melissa Gold and Michelle Suconik, but I'm officially adopting it.

Quick lingo update: I'm living in the absorption center which is called Beit Canada and my Hebrew language program is called Ulpan (read: oolpahn) Etzion.

I arrived on Tuesday fully expecting my room to look like the typical, not-so-nice, very minimal, kind of grungy, cheap Israeli apartments and boy was I surprised! We have the nicest room here! "Completely" redone including neew actual tile floor, new closets, a new bathroom and kitchen, half new desks, etc. I say "completely" because, like most things here, renovations are done with the most minimal effort possible, so I am glad we are (probably) the first ones in this apt, haha. More pics on facebook.

I have 3 other roommates and they are all great! I am in the big common room-ish thing with Tali and the other Lauren and Allie are in the small bedroom. Tali is from Atlanta and went to school in Worcester (Clark), Lauren is from Long Island and went to Vassar, and Allieis from New York and went to U Delaware. We're all 22/23. Our room is clearly not an accurate representation of the diversity of the 220 students here which are 50% North American and 50% other.

I went to Tel Aviv this past weekend to meet up with Michelle, Melissa, Emily, and Tara before they went back to (the Republic of) Georgia. Ulpan started yesterday, we did icebreakers all morning, went to har herzl, then had a ceremony/party for us at the community center. Class today was good, the teacher was awesome but I think I might move up one class because I knew all the words/things we learned today pretty much. I am going to check tomorrow morning if I can move up.

So, week 1 in J-town: big success! I feel much better now that I am moved in and getting settled. My nerves have subsided quite a bit and I am feeling more comfortable. I have a credit card and things hung on my wall. Maybe it's weird but those two things made me feel more comfortable.

Our internet is fully set up and (knock on wood) very good! Once we figured out that we needed to put it by the window it started working great. Yayy I can finally start skyping again! Also, I decided that I am going to run the Tel Aviv half marathon on April 8th, so I am about to go out for my first run, I hope I can stick with it on all of these hills...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bye Bye Beach

<--- This is two blocks from my sisters apartment in Nahariya.

Today was my last day in Nahariya with my sister, tomorrow I am moving to Jerusalem. I cannot explain how extremely thankful I am that my sister and a guy she works with are taking me (and my suitcases, of course) to Jerusalem in their work van. This means I don't have to trek to the train then change to the bus then another bus with all my stuff. WOO HOOO!!

I am excited to meet new friends. I hope my roomie (or roomies, I will either have one or three!) is nice and likes me! haha.

Brief update from the weekend: I went to Kibbutz Yavne, near Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv just a bit inland from the coast. My sister's friend from Ulpan lives there while he does his army service. Kibbutzim were some of the first Jewish types of communities in Israel. They are based on a socialist model. Now most Kibbutzim are less socialist, but they still have things like a common dining area and the residents usually work on the kibbutz in order to produce whatever the exports are (Kibbutz Yanve exports milk and cheese, of course, as well as pickles, chicken, watches, animal feed, and some other things). I'm thinking about living on a kibbutz while I'm in the army, it would be free! and a nice community, too.

It's finally starting to sink in a little bit that I am here. A longer post will come from Jerusalem. Shalom out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Concerted Cultivation vs. Natural Growth

I started gymnastics when I was 5, Hebrew School in first grade, and soccer when I was 10. Middle school meant some combination of softball/dance/soccer and extracurricular activities like student council and “adventure club”. High school brought more soccer, winter and spring track, student council, NHS, PROTECT, class office, volunteering, tutoring, etc.

Some class at BC taught me that Annette Lareau calls this type of childhood “concerted cultivation.” Concerted cultivation is a style of child rearing where parents attempt to foster their children’s talents through organized leisure activities (thanks for the definition, Wikipedia). Concerted cultivation usually occurs in middle to upper class families. The other parenting style Lareau discusses in her book Unequal Childhoods (great book for you social workers) is called natural growth.

I have come to realize that nearly all of the children in Israel (from my experience) are raised through natural growth. Two examples in the past few days have brought this to my attention again.

Example 1: While walking out of the Damascus Gate of the old city in Jerusalem I saw an 11 or 12 year old boy riding his bike with no hands down the hilly sidewalk. This is a very busy area, as is all of the center of Jerusalem for that matter. Said boy clearly saw people as he approached them but decided not to put his feet down and stop the bike until he actually HIT another 11 or 12 year old boy carrying a 1 year old baby!! The minor collision was not enough to knock either over, but still scary. As I stared and gasped, the bike riding boy strolled over to his friend laughing hysterically about the incident. I do not see anything funny about almost knocking over a kid carrying a baby, and perhaps if this little boy’s parents were around he would not either.

Example 2: My sister and I were driving out of the parking lot of the grocery store. One car was ahead of us to leave the parking lot but had to slam on their breaks when two little boys, about 9, came running down the sidewalk and in front of the car. Said boys began to laugh as they jumped back on the sidewalk and crossed after the car. Again, I do not think running in front of cars is funny and perhaps if the parents of these boys were around they would not either.

Conclusion for now: Israeli children (read: until they graduate high school) are wild maniacs who wander the streets way past what should be their curfew and are allowed quite a bit of independence. I realize this is a different culture with a different way of thinking but it certainly takes some getting used to. I cannot imagine the life of a teacher attempting to keep a classroom of these crazy children under control. It seems as though no matter the income level, the idea of natural growth has prevailed as the best method of child rearing in Israel. I also must add, however, that most all the children turn out pretty well, and I think I attribute some of this to the army.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Week 1: New Year and a New Last Name

After an exhausting two days of traveling to get here, my sister and I left her apartment at 6:30 Thursday morning for an adventurous weekend. Thursday I tagged along to a disabilities conference at Tel Aviv University (aww, nostalgia!) that my sister was going to for work. I was pretty excited to go and it turned out to be really interesting. There were many lectures on a wide variety of topics that fall under disability studies, and I especially liked learning about how it all works in Israel (or, let’s say, how it’s supposed to work).

Thursday evening after the conference Allie and I went to Jerusalem. I went out for hummus with Daniel and his friends at “the best hummus place in Jerusalem” (this “best hummus” thing is a long standing debate all around the country and it always depends who you ask). After hummus we went to Daniel’s friends house then I met up with my sister and some friends at a bar in the center of Jerusalem. Since bars don’t really close here until everyone leaves, it’s kind of hard to remember to leave. 3:30 seemed like a good time, though, and so we made our way back to my sister’s old apartment in Jerusalem for the night. Side note: my sister’s friend Adina still lives in the apartment.

Friday, New Year’s Eve, I helped clean the apt and get ready for Shabbat and then headed off to Tel Aviv to ring in the New Year. I met up with Michelle and Melissa, two friends from study abroad, and their two friends they are traveling with. I brought with me two of Adina’s friends from the states that were visiting for her wedding. We had coffee and dinner then walked around to kill time. After stopping to buy 6 bottles of champagne and a bottle of vodka to bring with us, we were off to the party. We decided it would be okay to drink one of the bottles of champagne on the walk over since there is no open container law here, and it was a fairly long walk. New Year’s eve was fun, even though we never made it out to the bar nor did I see the ball drop (can’t speed up time :( ).

Saturday was back to Jerusalem. Shabbat stuff all day, lounged around, ate, went for a walk, etc. Saturday night we did some things to get ready for Adina’s wedding on Sunday and then Allie and I went to Abe’s apartment for the night in East Jerusalem. Sunday morning I opened a bank account and got my Teudat Zehut (proof that I am a citizen!). Thankfully, because of Allie, this was 1000 times easier than it should have been had I done it on my own.

Sunday night was Adina and Yaakov’s wedding!! As a refresher, Adina was my sister’s roommate in Jerusalem; they met in Ulpan when they first made Aliyah. It was my first Jewish wedding, too! The place was beautifully decorated and both the ceremony and party were great. It was really happy and fun, the band played music while the Rabbi was doing his thing and everyone cheered many times. It was a funny combination of American/Canadian/Moroccan/Israeli, Hebrew/English, religious/non-religious, which made it all the better.

Today I went to the bank again, all by myself, and finished setting up the account. I am not sure that I will actually receive a debit card but I think that’s what I am picking up “not Sunday, but after Sunday.” The very nice lady said that about 12 times. On my way back to Allie’s apartment, I met up with Michelle, Melissa, Emily and Tara again and we had dinner in Haifa. What a long first week!

One more week until I move into Jerusalem, I am excited not to have to lug a duffle bag around with me everywhere. Public transportation is not a convenient way of life, but I am getting used to it again.