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 :)

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