Sunday, August 28, 2011

I've been sitting, waiting, wishing...

Sitting around on base with the girls, waiting for someone to give us something to do, wishing I were learning more Hebrew.
You know how they say be careful what you wish for? This is one of those situations...

Today we found out some new things we'll be doing to pass the time until our foreign relations course starts October 23rd. First, I have to come up with four topics I would like to present on, anything I want excluding politics. My commander picks one of the four and tells me 48 hours beforehand when and what I will be presenting on the the group. Okay, fine, Hebrew presentation, I had to do that in ulpan so I think I can handle. The problem is...the presentation is 45 minutes. 45 minutes! yikes...that's A LOT of new vocabulary to remember, I'll keep you posted.

Second, we have to present on the place where we live. Here we encounter another problem...I don't, actually, live anywhere right now. I'd say I'm "staying" in many places. I raised my hand and asked if I could present on the place were I think I will be living and my commander said no but when I reminded her that I really am not living anywhere right now she agreed that presenting on Baka, a neighborhood in Jerusalem that Allie and I are looking into is okay. So let's move there, Al, I'm about to do a 30 minute (30 minute!!) presentation on the neighborhood, I'll be an expert.

Third, we have to present on a topic from the news on whatever day we are given. We find out in the morning that we will be presenting that afternoon. That means no google translate for this girl...hah...that should be interesting. I will apologize to my fellow soldiers beforehand if they simply receive incorrect news from my presentation, they use hard words in the newspaper!

Forth, we have to come up with a bonding/ice breaker type game to do (with a partner) with the rest of the group. At least this one is right up my alley, I've got many games up my sleeve from all those years in Student Council and as captain of various sports teams in high school and college.

Fifth, we have to present on a famous person who (I believe) is assigned to us. Again, not so difficult. The Hebrew will obviously be an obstacle but I can look up facts on the internet and it is very straightforward.

As you can see, I have lots of new projects to keep me busy and on top of studying/learning Hebrew for the next few weeks. Too many of the girls I'm with speak English all day and it drives me CRAZY. All day I say, "Hebrew, please" "Let's talk in Hebrew" "Why in English" etc. I tell myself every morning that I'm only going to speak in Hebrew all day but sometimes I forget. I'll keep trying...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Backpacking Week 1

For some backpacking may mean traveling around many cities and countries by foot with nothing but a backpack on your back and a plan to see and experience as much as possible en route. For me backpacking means traveling around many cities in Israel via public transportation (free, if I'm in my uniform) with nothing but a backpack and a plan to make it to base by 9am and leave around 3ish each day. Not so different, I'd say, which is why when people ask me where I'm from, where I'm living, where I'm staying, or anything like this I've begun to answer with the phrase...I'm currently backpacking through Israel. It makes things a lot easier than saying "I don't have a home" or even "I have too many homes." I don't think there are enough weekends in a year to actually stay with all of the people that have invited me to stay with them (almost every girl from the army so far, haha).

Last week I went to the Jerusalem Wine Festival on Wednesday night with Allie and some friends. What amazinggg wine they had there! 70 shekel (<20$) entry and all the wine tasting of deliciously local Israeli wines that your tummy (and BAC) can handle. Thursday morning I went back to the army and Thursday night back to Jerusalem again to go to the Infected Mushroom concert with friends, which was awesome. I love outdoor concerts in Jerusalem oh so very much :). Friday we went on a little tiyul (trip) to a spring near Jerusalem where we jumped off the ledge into really dirty water (shout out to Boston and the Charles). Friday night I had Shabbat dinner at Daniel's with friends of his from the army and his family. It was the first time I had Shabbat dinner with both Daniel and Gadi which was fun, usually I'm at either Daniel's or Gadi's. Friday night we went out into the center of the city and Saturday we went to Gadi's house for a little belated birthday gathering. Sunday morning I went back to the army to find out that I have Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday off this week...not too shabby.

I came back to Nahariya and hung out with Allie's roommates and some people from her work, went for a run, studied some Hebrew vocab (I miss the weeks of vocab lists from Ulpan!) and tonight I'm going to visit some friends from ulpan at a kibbutz outside of Haifa. Tomorrow I'm going to finally play some ultimate, yayyy! I'm going to the Tel Aviv team's practice and I might also play in the hat tourney this Saturday too, which would be great.

Next week will be a bit more regular, I'll probably stay mostly in Ramat Aviv near my base during the week either with my friend Eli and her parents or with my friend Itamar, and I'll probably be in Jerusalem for the weekend. I'm assuming I'll continue like that for most of September. I'm hoping to find an apartment for October 1st, or the middle of October, and Allie comes back toward the end of October.

That's all for now, more later :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

chicka chicka boom boom

sat around a lot today to find out that I will be doing "yomiot," or going back and forth daily, to a base right near Tel Aviv University. Holla old stomping ground! I felt quite nostalgic being around there today. Incase my TAU friend were wondering, the dorms are all redone, there is a new and improved gate entrance right across from the gate to the university (where the fence is where we used to sneak guests in at the wee hours of the morning to sleep), and there are some stores (i saw a bike shop and two other shops) on the first level of some of the dorms.

Back to army stuff...I am going to be wasting a whole lot of time until my foreign relations course starts October 24, oof! To start, I have tomorrow off and vacation all of next week, not too shabby but I'd rather be doing something productive. I'm going to be at this base doing the 9-5'er thing for a while, legitimately probably doing nothing but crap work until the course. We have a lot of days off in October because of the Jewish holidays so at least that will go by quickly. The course is going to be really awesome and super interesting, can't wait for that to start!

Until then I'll be hanging out with friends a lot in Tel Aviv, crashing at lots of friends houses during the week, and probably spending most of the weekends in Jerusalem until Allie gets her butt back in the country and we find our very own apartment in Jerusalem for October. Let 2.5 months of the wandering Israeli soldier commence :).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tekes Hashbah

Me with my "model soldier of the company" award

Wednesday night we had our ceremony for finishing basic training. Apparently we weren't special enough to have parents and guests at our ceremony, lame, and it was just held in the middle of our company area on base, nothing special. On the contrary, however, it was something very special.

After we lined up in formation I went with a few other girls to get the "Tanachim" or, as you may know it, the Old Testament books. My commander handed me a stack of 20 of the books (each soldier receives one) and I can't begin to explain the infiltration of emotions that I felt. I'll try to explain anyway. I turned to the other girls I was with and said something along the lines of..."wow, I can't believe how amazing this is! we are having a ceremony in the army, a organization that is part of the government of the country, and we are swearing in on the TANACH!" I continued to say that I am not used to this and emphasized how truly amazing it felt. In the US, give or take the PC society as of late, we are used to (at least on TV) swearing in on the bible. But this was the tanach, the Jewish bible! in HEBREW! how cool.

After having our run-through of the ceremony with our commander and cracking up laughing on multiple occasions when people messed up or said the wrong thing, the ceremony commenced. As one by one we went up to swear in on our gun and the tanach I slowly started to become overwhelmed with emotions (read: cry). My commander was tearing up in front of me which REALLY didn't help and when I was "on deck" and moved up face to face with her I couldn't look her in the eyes (even though she was looking at me) because I would have lost it. I think I've mentioned it 3 or 4 times already in various entries but she is adorable. My turn to swear, "ani nishbat," and run up to the platoon commander to get handed my gun and the tanach. My platoon commander told me to look at the ground and said something cheesy and perfect along the lines of...this is your land now, the land you chose to defend, etc etc. followed by a punch to the shoulder (sign of affection in the army, i have come to find out) and a "good luck." I promptly started balling my eyes out and got back in line. Next up was the national anthem, Hatikvah, of which I tried to sing but was a little too choked up to get most of it out.

I ended up getting the "model soldier of the company" award, which is pretty cool, and had a few nice words said to me from the company commander before all was said and done.

After everyone started giggling because the commander instructed us incorrectly with our stances and gun positions for the exiting of the company commander, platoon commanders, and group commanders, the ceremony was over...just as "unspecial" as it had started, but totally not, at the same time.

Maybe the second best part of the whole evening (second to the Tanach realization aspect) was right after the ceremony ended. One of our commanders gave us 1 min 30 sec to run to the shooting line to do our last nightly gun check. After we repeat, "yes, commander, 1 min 30 seconds" and begin hustling over to where the line is she yelled, "and if you're walking....FEAR ME!!!" It's hard to explain why this was so funny but when you're used to everything being overly serious between you and your commanders anything they say "out-of-line" is really funny, especially the way she said it. We all started cracking up, myself included, through all of the tears I still had running down my cheeks. I got to the line with the biggest smile on my tear-soaked face, and was completely lost in the moment for that last gun check.

What an amazingly fun, frustratingly memorable, difficult, yet at the same time easy...and wonderful...3 weeks. I can't wait to see what the rest of my service brings me :)

brief goals follow up

these were the goals I set for week two...
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

1. check
2. check. could have done this MORE but still met the goal, I think
3. check. obviously could also do this more but definitely answered more questions as the weeks went on
4. fail. i forgot my gun when i left my tent last week and had to stay 2 extra hours before leaving last friday, oops!
5. check.
6. check minus. i did extra push ups, dips, lunges, sit ups, whatever i could when we had time after our exercise sessions, but i didn't actually go for a run on my own free time. being first to the shower always seemed like the better option.

embarrassing moments

where do i begin with this one...

-first and foremost, i went over a week saying "bvakasha mfakedet" instead of "akshev mfakedet" which means i was saying, "please commander" instead of "attention, commander" when i wanted to talk to my commander or ask a question. how embarrassing!!! a friend finally told me that i was saying it wrong.

-We have to write a "situation" after every break which includes the names of all the soldiers that aren't present and where they are (home, sick, guarding, with the sergeant or commander, etc). last week we had to write 10 of these things each time because we couldn't do it correctly on time (because some of the girls are kind of useless) Also, you write your name at the bottom of the paper so they know who wrote the list. This time, however, instead of writing that Julia was guarding I wrote that she was "servicing." This could either mean that she was doing service (what that is i don't know), or she was in the services...i.e. bathroom. The commander read it in front of all 50 of the girls in my company. She said, "uhh...where's julia? services? what does that mean?" and promptly began laughing after and all the girls, including myself, followed in suit. To get the commander to laugh in front of us when we're in formation is a hard thing to do in the first place but it was at my expense which made it a little less fun. how embarrassing!!

-basically every time i call out the time remaining (every 10 seconds) it's a joke, because of my accent. some of the girls mimicked the way i say the number 20 because it's the hardest one to say correctly. oof, i hate saying number 20 i get so nervous each time!

-Instead of asking if I could go and get my water bottle I asked if I could go and read my water bottle. good one, lauren

-The first two weeks we had only girl commanders but last week we also had guy soon-to-be commanders with us. In hebrew, like many other languages, words have genders. I can't even count how many times I said, "akshev mifakedet" to the mifaked, essentially calling him a girl. I guess it's like saying "excuse me waitress" to a waiter, but worse because they have power over you, haha.

i'm sure many more things happened, basically surrounding how or when I said something incorrectly or with a really bad accent, but that's all i have for now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

general recap, week 2

we went to the shooting range this week, it was pretty scary but actually kind of fun too? I did pretty well during the day, twice my farthest shot from the target dot in the center was 5cm which is pretty decent for my first time. once i shot at the wrong target (hey, what do you want, i confused the words "up" and "down"). I shot at the bottom target and so did the girl after me so i'm not sure how many out of 5 i got because you couldn't tell who shot what. my commander told us both 3/5 but i think i did better, of course ;). at night i got 5/5.

i got to go back first from the shooting range (we were there allll day, early morning until like 11pm, with two other girls in my group and my commander. we got our stuff ready and had our free hour first because one of the three of us had to guard outside the base in the am. turns out i was the lucky winner so i got to wake up 3 hours earlier than everyone and guard at the "trempiato" with my commander. before I went out i had to have a little test during which i learned what to do if someone suspicious was approaching. I didn't realize that no one would actually come from 730am-930am but it was still scary to learn that i first have to say something in arabic, then twice in hebrew, then if they continue to come forward i have to shoot two bullets in the air and if they continue then shoot at their legs and if they continue then, yea, you get it. scary stuff...good thing no one came. Also had to make sure that no soldiers were hitchhiking from the bus stop because it's illegal. might sound silly to you but it's quite typical to hitchhike here. besides that i basically just bonded with my commander for two hours, she's adorable i love her.

let's see...we learned about all the different ranks and positions in the military and how you can tell by someone's uniform, we learned some CPR and what to do in case of an explosion or attack, we learned how to use the radio communication thingy called mk-77 and a chemical mask called m-15, we learned about honor and personal example and personal vs system needs/wants/desires, etc. I like the latter type discussions about things such as...your commander tells you to do something but you don't personally agree with it, what do you do. the answer is, of course, that you have to do it anyway, but do you understand why you have to do it and such. One thing we brought up was when the IDF had to evacuate Jews from their houses in the territories and how hard that must have been, Jews taking Jews from their houses. One of the girls in my platoon lives in a settlement and she was saying she has no idea what she would do if she were put in that situation, to evacuate her family, friends, neighbors, community (in any two-state type solution situation, that is). It's easy to SAY that for the greater good of the state and the Jewish people as a whole you have to do it but how would I feel if I actually had to do it? I can only imagine. Sidenote: no worries, I wouldn't be the one doing it.

I took a 2 hours-ish Hebrew test this week to assess my Hebrew level and see what I need to receive from the army in terms of extra help, ulpan (UGH), etc. The test was pretty easy for me except for the last page where the text was pretty difficult. It brought me back to ulpan days with grammar, verb conjugations, texts and questions, etc. At least I had ample practice in that so I feel I was pretty prepared. I apologize in advance, Hebrew teachers, that I forgot or mixed up some of my linking words like despite, therefore, in spite of, as a result of, etc. sorry Sylvia and Malka!

Thursday morning was the first time I started to get frustrated with the girls that don't do anything and expect that things are just going to get done anyway. I usually just do it because it's much easier to just do it myself then wait for other girls to do it, and then they dont, and then we get yelled at, and then i end up doing it anyway. I still just do it myself but I actually spoke up about it a little last week that it's annoying that girls just think someone else is going to take care of it for them...oh 18 year olds.

I'll end with another time last week when I really felt the difference in age. We were sitting in a small group talking about whether or not we believe that every job in the army is important, small or large, and whether or not we believe in compulsory army service and such. Some of the girls, just out of high school, obviously don't think that they should have to do the army and feel like it's a waste of time. I tried to interject my opinion in the best Hebrew that I could, a few times. My perspective was that Israel is a very small country and if you believe in it's existence and you want it to continue to be here in the future then you have to believe in the existence of a strong army, since without the military Israel wouldn't be here. Since it's such a small country I understand compulsory service because without everyone being drafted the military would be too small to be strong. If at 16/17/18 everyone was given the CHOICE to join, I'm afraid, at least at first, that a lot of people wouldn't join, especially girls not going into fighter positions. Clearly that wouldn't be good for the country. I added in that many Israeli's take for granted the existence of a Jewish state, and living in one, and they they don't know what it's like to live in a place where they are not surrounded like people who believe what they believe or practice what they practice or celebrate what they celebrate. The girls continued to say that if they had a job that they wanted to do it would be different but some of them have no interest in doing what their job is going to be. I continued on trying to say something like...I've done a lot of things in my life that I didn't want to do or didn't see how it would help me or be important to me in my future, only to find out at the end, or a year or two later how it helped me to be a better person or helped me in another aspect of my life. Thankfully my commander agreed with me even though I imagine many of the 18 year olds couldn't really see how that can be.