Ariel Hirsch ’12 is currently studying at the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel. She is majoring in Hebrew Language and Literature and minoring in Hispanic Studies. The article below has been reposted from her blog by permission.
Day one in Israel.
Not sure exactly how I feel yet, but the sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea, above the cloudline, was breathtaking. That’s two sunrises I’ve seen in one week (also my first two sunrises ever). Got to be a record.
When I think about the months ahead, part of me wants to curl into a ball and dream myself back to Philadelphia. I won’t, obviously. Not only is that impossible (The Wizard of Oz is wildly deceiving in that regard), but in spite of my current–predictable–anxieties, I know that good things are ahead. I just need to get there.
The amount of Hebrew here is simultaneously exhilarating and paralyzing. I love it–but it’s scary being in a country by myself (relatively speaking–no pun in intended (ha)) that functions almost entirely in a language that’s not my own. I feel like I can kind of get lost here. I won’t, I know I’ll manage–Mom, you can breathe now–but it’ll take some getting used to.
Things I’m quickly learning/recalling:
1. Only in America can I get away with saying “Oy” to good news (e.g. “Oy, that’s awesome!” “Oy, what a cute baby!”). Here, that’s a jarring and mystifying oxymoron.
2. The big meal here is lunch. I TOTALLY forgot about that and was not physically or mentally prepared to eat the feast Nurit had set out about an hour ago. She said if I didn’t eat the last bits she’d toss the remainders, and I, being the good soul that I am, could not let those starving children in Africa down. So I ate beyond my body’s natural capacity, and now feel rather uncomfortable. It’s okay, though: it was all for the children in nearer-by Africa.
3. A “kaspomat” is actually a “kasfomat.” Go figure.
Going to a business party (or something?) tonight with the cousins instead of sleeping. I might fall asleep on the dance floor.
While the plan was to take a bus-cab combo to the University, this morning Nurit managed to talk a passing cab driver into taking me from Herzeliya to Haifa for about the same price (so I was led to believe).
Now, the Mediterannean Sea is on my left, Israel is on my right, and a great playlist is in my ear: Dave Matthews, only the best of Glee, the one Ingrid Michaelson song that I know and like (“The Way I Am”), some Kings of Leon. At this moment, I really appreciate what our Core teachers on Muss used to say to us on our weekly tiyulim–כדאי לנו to look out the window while we travel through this beautiful country! Their rule about iPods, however, seems a bit misguided. A soundtrack definitely enhances the viewing experience, the same way that it does in a movie or a play. Imagine watching a series of pictures with no music playing behind them: the pictures might be lovely, but the music adds a whole new level of meaning, feelings and identification with the subject matter. Just a theory.
This is my fourth time in Israel, but the view never gets old.
Or rather, it does get older, but in its age it only becomes more beautiful and awesome (not in the dude way–in the awe-inspiring way).
We are driving up a hill–it’s clear that we’re headed towards the University, which stands on top of the Carmel Mountain–and I am ready to put down my iPod (where I’m taking notes for this blog) to follow my own advice about looking out the window, when the cab driver starts pointing out places in the area where the recent forest fire hit. Huge patches of trees are brown and orange instead of green; there is a collection of burnt buildings, which I believe represents one of the first (or maybe the first) neighborhoods to get hit; flowers and signs lie on the side of the road next to where the bus full of jailers-in-training was burned to the ground. The place deserves my full attention, and after a final note the iPod is put down.
Tomorrow is the first real day of ulpan, so I’m going to try to get to bed before midnight, if possible. I think I was placed in the highest level–good, I hope, for my Hebrew, but with the downside that it’s a small class and I won’t meet as many people. I guess I’ll have to find other ways!