Saturday, July 30, 2011


Last week I set some goals for myself during the week, here's a recap of how I did:

Week one goals:
1. at least once be the person who receives the commander when in formation
check: 2 or 3 times
2. ask questions during lessons with my commander or the platoon commander
check: a few times I said I didn't understand and asked for clarification during lessons.
3. answer questions during lessons
check: i think 4 times total though out the week
4. learn the correct sentences to say when we check to make sure out gun is clean
check: sometimes I mumble the last line "weapon discharged, checked, locked" because it rhymes and is kind of a tongue twister, but for the most part I've got it.
5. involve myself in downtime conversation with the girls
check: only sometimes do I not add to the conversation due to being too tired or uninterested. a few times from not understanding the conversation fully.

Week two goals:
1. be the one to receive the commander a few more times this week
2. ask many more clarification questions during lessons/ say when I don't understand
3. answer more questions during lessons
4. don't receive any individual punishments (pushups, usually)
5. continue to converse in group settings with the girls
6. RUN during our free hour at night

okay thats all i have for now, i have thought of others but currently have forgotten them. time for a few hours of sleep before the 4:50 wake up to head back to base :). see ya next weekend!

university to dishwashing...

As I stood in the dishwashing room of the cafeteria on base Thursday I couldn't help but think to myself..."where did I go wrong? I have a degree and I'm working in a dish room." I instantly reminded myself that this is just part of basic training and basic is part of a bigger piece of the puzzle, the year of service I will be spending in the foreign relations unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Force).

So as I said, Thursday was my platoon's turn in the kitchen. I spent the day in the dishwashing room, 7am-ish until 8pm-ish but with large breaks. We actually had the most time off Thursday than we did any other day since we had long breaks after breakfast and after lunch. Ironically, it was also the most physical work I did all week, pushing around carts filled with plates and trays and carrying lots of silverware and such. Since we are normally only with the girls of our platoon or company day after day some of the girls got quite excited to be around some of the guy soldiers in the kitchen. I was instantly reminded of the age difference between myself and the girls when they were yelling, flirting, and splashing/spraying water with the guys in the dishwashing room. Pretty annoying but I reminded myself that I'm sure I acted the same way around guys when I was 18. It was kind of like being at your first job (for me that was more like 16) and your boss wasn't around so you goofed off in the back room. I remember doing that at ColdStone and actually at Whole Foods too so it's cool. I just kept telling the guys to grow up (thanks to the theme song of the television show "Ramzor" I know how to say grow up in Hebrew). I thought I did a pretty damn good job in the kitchen during breakfast and lunch and was rightfully awarded by given the easiest job for dinner; walk around and make sure everyone in my group is doing their job and see if they need anything...keep things moving smoothly. That was pretty nice even though I ended up doing a lot of the closing type work anyway just so we could get it done faster and leave earlier. I found that it was easier to just do whatever needed to be done on my own then try to explain to the girls what to do...cop out on the Hebrew part but what can I say, I got the job done.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kef li, kef lach?

what a week :). 1 week down, 2 more to go!

this may be long, I have a lot to tell, bare with me, I hope it's marginally interesting.

Last Sunday, July 24th I woke up at 5am and made it to the train dressed in uniform and with my bag packed by 6am for the long journey south where i met my commanders and Company. From Nahariya I took the train to Tel Aviv, switched trains and took a train to Ashkelon which is a city on the south western coast of israel, north of Gaza, south of Tel Aviv. From Ashkelon we took a bus to base which is a little bit farther north than Ashkelon. Since I live far from base I have an extra 45 minutes to get to the train station, woo 45 minutes. The commute isn't too bad though, the train is air conditioned and relatively roomy (although on Sunday mornings it is PACKED with soldiers). The total ride takes about 3-3.5 hours but I can sleep.

I don't remember exactly what we did each day but basically we do a lot of standing in two lines or three or the shape of this letter ח which is called a "chet" in Hebrew. That's with the guttural sounds that you make when speaking hebrew, not "ch" like cheat. Because of the heat wave last week there is a rule that we are not allowed to do basically anything physical when the sun is up so physically the week was pretty easy. Bummer for me, I would looovee to do more physical stuff. So for exercise this week we woke up at 4:30 basically every morning and did a little bit of stretching/about 2 minutes of jogging before getting ready in the morning and one day we had sport at night but we didn't have a lot of time because of random punishments throughout the day.

So what do we do from 5am until 9pm-ish? Well, we have a couple lessons per day with either our (bare with me I don't know military terms in english) commander, our platoon commander, or our company commander (just looked those up on google translate...FROM hebrew, haha, go me!) Some of the lessons are much easier for me to understand than others. For instance, generally the tactical type lessons like how to use the gun are easier, and the lesson on obedience went right over my head (maybe that's because I didn't know the word for obedience until AFTER the lesson and our platoon commander said it about a million times, oops!) What I'm having the most difficulty with right now is the terms for the different parts of the gun and the shooting positions. After physically taking apart and cleaning the gun, learning the commands and how to shoot, and going through the different positions I understand much better, thankfully. There are two main reasons that this is the hardest for me, I think. A. there are a lot of parts to the gun and I only know the names of about 1/3 so far which makes it really easy to get lost in the sentences and B. I need to understand 150% because this is a weapon I will shoot, I can't just understand the concept or the majority of the lesson because it actually could be life or death.

One lesson stands out in my mind as the most frustrating time of the week. After learning about the different positions I was pretty sure I understood about 90% and would review with my commander/notebook/and the other girls afterward to pick up the rest. At the end of the lesson my commander was asking our group/class a bunch of review questions. Now you all know me, I am not a shy person, I'll be the first to raise my hand and answer question/add my input, but in Hebrew it is much different, unfortunately. the "Hebrew Lauren" appears to be much more shy because of the language barrier, bummer. Anyway some of the girls were really on point answering all the questions, what to do with which part of the gun, when to stand how, advantages and disadvantages of each position, etc. I answered a few of the easier questions regarding the distances of shooting and when to use which position (standing, kneeling, laying down), and some about the advantages or disadvantages but there were a lot of questions that I really didn't feel comfortable answering because I don't have the vocabulary to answer correctly, even if I know the answer in english. So my group/class in general was doing great answering the questions thanks to a few key girls, and our commander was happy and laughing with them which one would think is really nice since our commanders don't usually show much positive emotion because of "distance." And yes, the term is said in english, "distance," with a hebrew accent, haha. For me, however, it was the first time I really truly felt left out in the army so far. I can recall many times when I feel left out here when I'm with my Israeli friends due to cultural or language differences but this was the first time in the army. I was so jealous that I couldn't answer the questions because I didn't have the vocabulary, and I felt dumb, which I often feel due to a lack of vocabulary. Now I am well aware for having made Aliyah 7 months ago I'm managing pretty well with my Hebrew, but I have a long way to go, and this really proved it to me. Even though I understood when the commander was talking and explaining and I had the vocabulary to explain when and why to do what in English, I couldn't voice it. For anyone who has ever learned a second language, you know how much easier it is to understand than to actually own the words and use them yourself. As they say in Hebrew...slowly, slowly. (In the army it's more like quickly, quickly, hurry up and learn, but you get the idea, eventually I will learn, word by word, phrase by phrase)

Moving on...the girls really are great in my platoon! I have a few core good friends so far and many of the other girls I'm friendly with. I talk to and am involved in a lot more conversations than I imagined I would, which is great. Everyone continuously reminds me how brave I am to be here doing what I'm doing and how inspiring it is and it really helps me to feel that I am doing the right thing. Everyone compliments me on how well I speak Hebrew, even though I know I make a lot of mistakes, haha. Besides the fact that they laugh (and I do too, whoops!) when I mess up keeping time or receiving the commander, and that they sometimes talk to me like I'm a little girl saying I'm so cute and sweet and stuff, they're really nice and I like them :). Also, I love my commander, she's adorable and weighs like 90 pounds I think, and she's probably 19 years old, maybe 20, so I am allowed to call her adorable. Speaking of age difference, my platoon commander enlisted in august 09, that means she graduated high school in july 09...3 years after me. Also, my company commander (she is higher than her assistant, the platoon commander and her assistant, the sergeant, the like 15 class commanders and 150 or so soldiers) is 22. Army age and actually age are much different though, and because of the language barrier I actually don't really feel like they are younger than me at all. I feel the same with the girls I'm with, almost all of whom are 18. This brings me to my two advantages of the language barrier:

Advantages of language barrier in the army so far:
1. I either don't always understand all of or can extremely easily drift off, tune out, or not hear all the conversations the girls are having. That is to say...the stupid conversations 18 year old girls who just graduated high school might have that would eventually annoy me, I can actually never hear if I don't want to. I should correct that: it's not that the conversations are annoying, they would just really point out to me the age/life experience difference between me and the girls. May I also add here...the girls I am friends with act much more mature, yay :)
2. When we get yelled at it doesn't hurt me really at all. I hear and understand the commander saying that we should be ashamed of ourselves and embarrassed and such, but the words just don't have the same meaning to me yet in Hebrew as it would if she were talking in English to me. Thanks to this I do not actually get upset at all when we get in trouble, haha. Just because I don't get upset, however, does not mean that I don't want to be better next time. On the contrary, I very much want to improve next week. I really resect my commander and I'm starting to see the way the military works and I want to prove to her that I CAN do everything correctly and on time. Next week: strive to be a perfect soldier :).

Another positive note: I only have to do "shmoneh v'ode shmoneh bhatzlecha" or "8 and another 8, good luck" twice. That's how they say how many pushups you will do. The first one is kind of a funny story. I think both were at 5am, so forgive me a bit. The first time I must have been really out of it because when our commander said "8 and another 8, good luck" for some reason I thought she said "20 and another 20, good luck." I have no idea why I confused this, the words do not sound the same in Hebrew and I'm pretty sure I know my numbers. I don't remember why my class was punished, I'm assuming we didn't have our "situation" paper that counts all the soldiers ready in time because that's usually why we get in trouble. Anyway, I proceeded to do 20 push ups followed by another 20, for no reason. oh well, I'm dying for more exercise anyway, haha. The second time I got punished I, and 5 other girls, didn't have my hat on when we were in formation. Let me point out that it was 5am and the sun hadn't risen yet so I assumed having my hat on my body (pocket) but not my head was okay. Rule #1, don't assume, just do as you're told, even above and beyond.

this is really long and if you made it to here...congrats! I'll probably update a few more times over the weekend when I think of stories or things to add, there is a lot more, like about my day yesterday in the kitchen, but for now I'm going to get ready for temple/shabbat. By the end of the weekend you'll have plenty of reading to keep you busy for the week until I update again next weekend.

Shabbat Shalom, Commander

P.S. oh yea, the title of the blog post, it means "it's fun for me, is it fun for you?" two of my friends and I kept saying this to each other all week. They're great and are enjoying basic training too, not all of the girls think it's fun but we do :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

yes, commander!

extremely brief update, sorry for any mistakes! it's after 2am and i have to wake up at 5:10 in order to make it to my base on time in the morning YIKES! i can sleep about 3 hours combined on the train though, too, so it's okay.

i enlisted last thursday and everything went really well! the girls i enlisted with were really nice, asking me a bunch of questions and congratulating me for making the decision to join the army. by the end of the day they were yelling "hey american!" when i walked by. i'll explain the specifics of "barkum" (the whole first day stuff, uniforms, shots, dental, fingerprints, etc, next weekend) but basically I left there at 8pm Thursday night and went to my first night at basic training. we didn't do so much because we got there late but i still learned a ton in the short time i was there. i left friday morning at 10:15am and went straight to tel aviv to meet up with my sister. we spent the day around tel aviv and then went to jerusalem to spend shabbat at daniel's. shabbat was awesome but we just got back to nahariya tonight (saturday) at 12:30am. i packed all my stuff and now i'm ready for my first full week at basic training. oh, and we're getting a heat wave this week...yay!!

most importantly...i got my placement: i'm going to foreign affairs!!!! there is a ton of stuff that foreign affairs deals with and i don't know exactly what i'll be doing but i am sooo excited, i think it's going to be great.

more to update next weekend when i get home (my commander told us we are not staying for shabbat next weekend so I hope that is true!)

it sounds funny to me in english but at night we say goodnight to our commander so...

lyla tov, commander!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last Day As A Civilian

So it is finally here, my draft date is tomorrow! I have a paper that tells me where to report (in Jerusalem), what time, what to bring, etc. I am pretty lucky (I think) because I am drafting on a Thursday which means I will go home for the weekend the same day. From what I understand I will get on a bus in Jerusalem and go to a place where I get fingerprinted, teeth imprint (scary thought..for identification), blood samples, my army ID, dog tags, uniform, give them my bank account info for payment, and a few other things. I'm pretty sure that after all that, instead of shipping off to boot camp that day like most do, I will be able to go home for the weekend. Sunday morning, I'm assuming, I will report wherever they tell me (somewhere in the desert or the north) for my three weeks of boot camp.

For clarification...I still have no idea what job I am doing in the army. I don't know this because I pushed everything to happen really quickly because I didn't want to enlist in October or December. Tomorrow I will also have a bit of an interview and based on that and my profile (test scores, hebrew level, physical profile, etc) I will get job options. Don't expect anything cool, I'm not very hopeful, but I am going to push my hardest. My physical profile is a "perfect" 97, the highest, my test score on the psychotechnical test was also 100%, I have a degree, all these things are going for me. Against me is the fact that I'm serving for a year and not the typical two required of girls, and also my lack of Hebrew proficiency, these minimize my job options.

Today I have to get some things done like buy socks and white t-shirts. (I have an excuse to buy new white t-shirts! If you know me and my wardrobe you know how exciting this is!) Actually they give me everything but the socks aren't that great and I'd rather have a few t shirts of my own. I also want to change my cell phone plan to a cheaper, soldier plan, I have to call the bank to sort something out and book a table tonight at a bar in Jerusalem for my enlistment/bday party.

Time to get moving, gotta get back to Jerusalem this afternoon. It's been a busy and exciting week! Hopefully I'll update this weekend on how Thursday went.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Heebs

I CANNOT WAIT until I am proficient in Hebrew.

I can definitely admit that I am improving. I can get around totally fine and manage to accomplish whatever I need to using my Hebrew, and occasionally English if need be. I successfully completed my entire army interview for over and hour in Hebrew and another interview today with the social worker, again in Hebrew. I took a driving lesson in Hebrew and only got confused a few times, haha. I generally understand the majority of conversations unless they are talking about something with difficult vocabulary or pertaining to something I'm not familiar with like business, etc. The problem is I cannot contribute to conversations in the way I would like to. By the time I have figured out how I want to say what I want to say the moment has passed and the conversation has moved forward, ugh! I've started to interject a little bit, and sometimes in English if it's something I don't have time to think about and just want to say it. It's much easier to understand than to speak, so now that I've improved with the understanding part it's time to start mastering the speaking part, in real time conversation. I'll keep you updated on this, I'm really hoping the army will help because I'm beginning to get quite frustrated at the plateau I seem to be on.

Speaking of the army, no I have not heard if the 21st is definite. I have inquired multiple times daily including showing up at the office and talking to a few people today but still nothing concrete. I am REALLY hoping to hear tomorrow, I don't want to wait until after the weekend.

Hopefully I can update tomorrow with an answer, but I've been saying that everyday so don't hold your breath...the IDF is Israeli bureaucracy at it's finest, or it's worst, whichever.

Monday, July 11, 2011

If I Had My Life To Live Over

I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I'm one of those people who live
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I've had my moments,
And if I had it to do over again,
I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.

I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

Nadine Stair,
85 years old.

We can only hope that we remember this every day as we make decisions, from the small and seemingly insignificant to the life-changing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


My friend Amos who I met at the army recruitment center and who has been helping me with my enlistment process told me Thursday that there is a 90% chance I will enlist July 21st....Happy 23rd Birthday to me!!! If you're thinking, "Wow, that's soon!" so am I, but I am the one who asked for it to be ASAP. The enlistment date they gave me at first was December 2012, Amos moved it up to October 9th this year, and then, hopefully, to July 21st. I will call tomorrow to see if the date is finalized...let's cross our fingers!

That's less than two weeks away which means I need to get my act together and get things done since, once I'm in the army, I will only be home Friday afternoon-Sunday morning. First order of business, doctors appointment in the morning with Allie for the second step of our license conversion. I need to do things like change my address with the army to say that I'm living in the north and not Jerusalem (which means I'll be allotted 3 extra hours of travel time to and from base, woo hoo!). I also need to get "lone soldier" status on my file so that I receive all the benefits that come with that including extra pay, money for groceries, rent money, etc. A lone soldier is someone without family in Israel. I have to buy a few things like socks, flashlight, odds and ends that I'll need while in the army. I also need to figure out what i'm doing for my cellphone plan because I want the internet on my phone so I can use skype to keep in touch.A bit of catchup, nothing too exciting. I babysat in Jerusalem last Tuesday and Wednesday and spent Wednesday night/Thursday in Tel Aviv. Last Thursday night I spent the night at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) with my friend Itamar and a bunch of his friends. Itamar's family owns some land on the shore of the Kinneret. I got to wake up to the sun rising behind the mountains in the picture above. I also had poike for my first time, see photo below. Poike is a "dish" that comes from Africa and is literally just a combination of whatever you have, cooked in a pot over a fire. We made two, one veggie one meat, and put in potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, I don't know what the meat was, rice, chickpeas, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, coca cola, wine, beer, and probably some rocks and sand,too. I had the veggie one and it actually didn't taste bad I just wasn't too fond of the texture/color. I was told you have to eat poike in the dark, it's just "what you do" and also that poike without said isn't real poike. People make it in the army I guess relatively often so maybe I'll have another shot at it soon.
I'm planning some birthday/enlistment festivities next weekend and the night before I enlist which should be nice. I'll keep you updated on the army as soon as I know for sure!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth!

July 4th is coming to an end and it was all-too-much of a regular day for me. Lately my days in Nahariya have consisted of either waking up, running then going to the beach, or waking up, going to the beach, then running. Today it was the latter, with a bit of baking thrown in there. I wanted to bake something because I felt that is what I would be doing if I were back in the states on the fourth, gearing up to go to a BBQ of some sort. Instead of making an American flag cake I made and apple coffee cake, but it was still baking. I also listened to Born in the USA multiple times throughout the day. I missed my would-be 11th annual Rexhame beach/Shanahan 3rd of July party with my friends from home, and I missed a frisbee tournament in Philly with a bunch of BC friends. (Sidenote: When I'm here my high school friends and BC friends area all "friends from home," it was funny to differentiate between them) Anyway, maybe it's good because I would have been so torn on which to do anyway! Last night I called Erin's beach house and talked to all my friends there, and I just got off the phone with all my frisbee friends who are now at a Pirates game in Philly waiting for their flight back to Boston. No too shabby, talked to about 15 people in two phone calls!

I have always found it a bit ironic (since my first visit to Israel in 2007) that being here makes me more thankful to be American than I ever was when I lived in the states. It is true that I am now also Israeli, but I know I will never lose my American-ness, either. I am aware that all of the privileges that I grew up with lead me to where I am today, and had I been born somewhere else I certainly may not be so lucky. All of the rights and freedoms that I was able to experience growing up have helped me to become the person I am, and have shaped many beliefs that I have as well. For these reasons and more I feel especially connected to the USA on this Independence Day, probably more so than all of the July 4th's I had before I left the country.

Lastly, whenever I use the term "home" or something of the like, my Israeli friends, particularly Daniel, like to remind me that I live here now, and that Israel is my home. I am well aware, and I do feel that Israel is my home, but I finally decided to try and describe how I feel about Boston/Whitman to him this weekend. It's where I grew up, spent 21 years of my life, where so many of my friends are, and maybe most importantly, where Momma and Danielle are. It's really hard to be away from friends, and I love and miss them a lot, but I came down to one thing specifically surrounding the word "home"...Wherever my momma is, that will always be my home. I think it's best to say that I have two homes, because that is truly how I feel. Momma, Allie, and Dani made me a great photo book before I left and on the front there is a picture of my house, 13 Jacob Lane, Whitman MA, surrounded by the quote "Home is where you love, home where your feet may leave, but never your heart." So Whitman, and Boston, don't worry, you'll always be my home.

Happy Independence Day USA, and thank you to all of those who have fought and are still fighting to protect all of our rights and're part of the reason why I am here today, ironically, and I truly appreciate it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weekend's Little Lessons

things I learned/re-learned this weekend...

Run around the block an extra time to pass by the fresh lavender again...mmmm.
Dance. Even if you look like a fool. No one cares and it's more fun.
Even though it's hot in Nahariya all the time it is still quite cool in Jerusalem at night during the summer. Bring a sweater/hoodie.
Choose fun and friends over sleep at most every opportunity possible.
A return train ticket that you threw in the trash is not worth getting upset over, but don't do it again.
An unbelievable amount of technology and science goes into designing a race car.
There are a whole lot of secrets in the US (read: probably every) government that we don't know about.
Don't overanalyze. You're doing just that, OVERanalyzing. You're only hurting yourself.
Don't stand behind a dog when you're walking her, she'll pee on your foot. Take it as a compliment.
Timing is (almost) everything.
There was a time when I thoroughly enjoyed going down the same slide 50 times in a row. Do not become immune to those simple pleasures.
Drink Sam Adams because it makes you happy, who cares that it's more money and calories than coffee or tea.
Always ask little kids (12-24 months) to say please. Not to teach them manners, but because they will say "peass" and its adorable.