Monday, January 30, 2012

'Hi sir it's Lauren from the no, not Moren...Lauren, with an 'L' like LIMA.'

I know, it's been a while.

Coming home every other weekend literally makes time FLY!  In my job I'm currently on an 11-3 schedule meaning I'm on base for 11 days (Sun to the following Thurs morning), I come home for the weekend, and leave Sunday morning to go back to base.  It means I count everything not having to do with the army in 2 week increments, instead of daily or even weekly increments like the average "citizen".  If I have plans for a weekend/Shabbat to be away from home then that means I begin to count in monthly increments because if I am not home one of my weekends off then I haven't been home in a month.  I'm not sure if it is possible to follow that but basically...time flies before I even realize I had time.  That also means that every minute I'm home I try to fill it with things I need to get done, things to buy, people to see, relationships to catch up on, many of you already know all too well...I never manage to check off my entire "call and catch up with ____" list.  It seems to be ever growing and never shrinking, and I am truly sorry for being so out of touch with so many of you.  With the time difference, friends/family with school or jobs, and my desire to keep busy/travel around/go out while I'm home it puts me in the position where the most convenient time to call and catch up is at 2 or 3 AM when I get back from the bar or a friend's house on the weekend, and let's just say that rarely works out or ends up actually happening.  I swear though, my intentions are good and I still make the "to call" list every other week before I get home from base seriously hoping I can catch up.  It's a HUGE bummer that the internet fully functions on my phone on base except it is not strong enough for skype, so I can't call people when I have a night off like I am used to.  Don't worry friends, this also means I can't call MY MOM when I'm on base... :(.  We use TalkBox and WhatsApp to keep in touch though, maybe you're also interested in downloading one of those free apps and keeping in touch with me (free voice chatting and sending texts/pictures/videos respectively).

Okay, on to more interesting things...I started my job about a month and a half ago! I'm a Liaison to Egypt in the Foreign Relations Unit of the IDF.  I think I mentioned this in a post before but in English they call my title an NCO, non-commissioned officer, which is hilarious because in maybe every other military in the world it takes a long time to reach that title, not 4 months, haha.  Anyway, because Egypt has no government, or, rather, their government is currently their army, all of the contact Israel has with Egypt goes through my branch of our unit in the army (ohh yea...Israel DOES have that Peace Treaty with Egypt still...).  So that is the base of my job, work out border security and policy with the Egyptians in hopes of keeping the peace treaty in tact and not starting any unnecessary wars.  We also work with a multinational peacekeeping force made up of soldiers and civilians from different countries around the world.  In short...make love not war.

I can't really get into more detail than that, especially on a blog on the internet, so if you're interested or have specific questions feel free to ask me and if I can answer I will gladly do so.  It's going to be a very interesting year for my unit, depending on the official turnout and after-effects of the elections in Egypt.  Last weekend Egypt celebrated the 1 year anniversary of the revolution, yayy!! Let's cross our fingers it turns out well for Israel.  I'm fairly optimistic because the Peace Treaty is very good for both countries, whether either wants it or not.  Ohh, politics. 

I am still in training for another few weeks or a month or so, which is great because I have A LOT to learn.  I'm sure you all understand what it's like to start a new job with new demands, responsibilities, and required skill sets, so that's nothing new.  They keep me, and I keep myself, very busy learning everything there possibly is to learn from 8:30am until midnight or so every day I'm on base.  That's the deal with being on a "closed" base, or a base where you sleep, you work all the time and there is certainly no concept of 9-5 or anything remotely close to it.  This is neither a problem or something new for me, though, I am naturally a person who desires to learn, study, practice, and master whatever tasks I have at hand, and I seriously thank God that I am naturally like that because if I weren't I would never survive in this situation.  Small side-note: in case you forgot and I haven't mentioned the slight complication...I'm doing this job in a language I started learning (beyond the basics) about a year ago.

To keep myself laughing I like to try and understand this concept by imagining a 3-year-old child sitting in a big office with a relatively important military/political job like mine.  With his silly grammar mistakes, funny baby "accent," and general lack of vocabulary, we're really not all that different, this baby and I.  I make a lot of mistakes, which is something I'm not particularly familiar with and it definitely takes a lot of getting used to.  I'm not saying I don't make mistakes in life, or at a new job, but I certainly am not used to making avoidable mistakes, which happens often enough because of the language.  The thing I really try and focus on and so far have been successful at is not repeating mistakes, so at least I have that going for me.  I'm also not used to taking so much time to complete tasks.  I am not exaggerating when I say it often takes me 10 times longer than the average Hebrew speaker to complete a task.  You can probably just imagine how frustrating that is.  It takes forever to read, to type, to write, to understand, etc.  Seriously bless the veteran NCO's at my job, my officers and commanders for not getting upset or frustrated with me and taking their time with me.  Every "shift change" I have to sit and read through all of the updates, the current statuses, what happened during my shift, etc, so that everyone can continue to be on the same page.  You should see me read through these pages of excel spreadsheets, word documents, and emails at 11 at night after a 15 hour stressful shift.  I often can't seem to successfully read a complete sentence in Hebrew, and about once a week I start crying for no reason...I'm assuming mental exhaustion.  I realized last week the extreme lack of rest I am giving my brain during my time at base; working, speaking, typing, reading, socializing in Hebrew. Lunch time is not down time because the conversation is in Hebrew, when I manage to give myself a few minutes to watch TV I read the subtitles because I don't want to miss a learning opportunity, even when I run I talk to myself in Hebrew!  It clearly takes a toll on me, but it's also the reason I'm learning so much so quickly.  I don't necessarily see the progress all the time but everyone tells me I'm getting much better everyday, so I'll believe them.  I have light-years to go, but step by step, or leap by leap, I'll get there.  And if I could only get rid of this damn American accent I have when I speak Hebrew...ugh!

Don't get me wrong, although my job, and being in the army in general, is certainly no walk in the park, I wouldn't have it any other way.  I've said since basic training that I thought I would be bored if I were on the same adventure, in the same situation, in an English speaking military.  I hold true to that, even though I may just be saying it to make myself feel better.  Because I'm so used to this situation of learning and pushing myself so much so often, I can't really imagine what it would be like if it were any easier...maybe less fulfilling.  For what it's worth, I love, and hate, love to hate and hate to love the IDF, but I wouldn't change my decision to join for a minute.

More to come about why I have the time/ability to update on a Monday morning.

P.S. - I must admit I'm quite successful at speaking with the Egyptians and the peacekeeping force (English, duh!), even though it takes the Egyptians forever to understand what my name is. re: the title of this post.

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