As things are coming to a close here on the first chapter of my OTZMA experience I want to write a few things in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. I first want to say thank you to everyone. Thank you to my friends from home who have been so great to me over the years. I was able to talk to Morgan on the phone for a little the other night and it was a great way to end my Thanksgiving holiday.
I also got to video chat with my family which, with some technology frustrations aside, was soo nice. I miss all of you so much! Thanks for always reading my blog and being the absolute best family in the world. Mom, dad, and Mark I can not wait to see you in just THREE weeks!!
Our OTZMA Thanksgiving sure was a special one. This was my third time outside of the states for the all-American holiday. I have made it a personal goal to be in Connecticut with my family for next years. But this year all the Otzmanikim really came together, especially when we went around the room and each of us said what we were thankful for. We had a pot-luck style dinner with some delicious dishes. My friends and I made brown rice and barley with sauteed peppers and onions. We also made green beans with toasted almonds. Yummmmy.
The night of thanksgiving Vanessa made her way back to the U.S. to surprise her mom for her 50th birthday party. While she was there she posted the most lovely surprise for me. Here she is holding a Starbucks red cup in my honor! What an amazing friend.
Sunday was my last day at the family club. The children drew us pictures saying “Happy Chanukkah,” “I’ll miss you,” “I love you,” etc. The caretaker than compiled them all into a book tied together by a ribbon. Unfortunately they only gave us one copy so we’ll have to use the colored photocopier. At one point we all sat in a circle and Ariel and I said thank you for having us over every Sunday and how much we enjoyed coming. Their caretaker wanted us to also tell them how important it is to learn to speak English. I think she was hoping since it came from us it may have a stronger impact on them.
Then it was the children’s turn to say anything they wanted to us. Sasha especially struck me with her words. With tears in her eyes she told us, “I love you so much and I will really miss you. I will never forget you.” Sasha, and everyone else at the family club, I’ll never forget you either. Thank you for providing me with such a wonderful experience.
After Ariel and I said our goodbyes we made our way to the bus stop. I came home and worked on my final project for Ulpan. I had to give a ten minute presentation about myself in Hebrew. On Monday I presented in front of my class and it went pretty well. My biography could not have been more basic. But then again, my Hebrew vocabulary is about on par with a three year olds right now.
Ulpan ends tomorrow, I can hardly believe it. I am sad it is ending, I really enjoyed the class and can’t believe how much my Hebrew has improved in every area of reading, writing, and speaking. I want to thank my teacher Miri for being a major reason for my progression.
As one thing is ending, another is beginning. Yesterday I went to Rehovot for my site visit. Come January I’ll be living and volunteering here for three months. We were brought to two community centers that we may be volunteering at during our mornings. Our work in the a.m. to around lunchtime will range from playing and working with children, helping middle and/or high school students with their English, or even helping adults over the age of 50 with their English. In the afternoons they are going to help give us the opportunity to do what we really want. I wrote that I’d love to work in/with the environment so hopefully that will be able to happen.
There are sports, games, and other activities that members can participate with and we can help with at the community centers. We also have free membership which means I have pilates, yoga, ballroom dancing, belly dancing, jazz, and a lot more classes at my disposal. AAAMAZING! I will definitely be taking advantage of these. I can only now hope I’ll come home and be half a good a dancer as my brother.
After some touring we had lunch and were a bit more information on our future lives in Rehovot. Unfortunately we still don’t know where we are living but we were assured it was only because they are searching for the best for us. They did however tell us we were getting bus passes and when we screamed with excitement they said, “No we’re not getting you a car, just bus passes.” And we said, “We know!” But this is very exciting news because the bus costs around 4 shekel ($1.00) every time you use it, and this would add up financially over 3 months.
All in all it was a good site visit. I am thankful to be able to put a picture to the place where I will be living after December. I also forgot how much I liked Rehovot itself, it is such a great place with a little city feel to it. There are two major universities there, the Rehovot Agricultural campus of Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. I was told yesterday that there is a small division between the students and faculty of the Weizmann Institute (who are more science-minded) vs. the many Orthodox Jews living in Rehovot (who are more religiously minded). I am looking forward to hearing and seeing more about that when I live there.
Tonight is the first night of Chanukkah! I love being in Israel for Hannukah because at this time of the year I am not used to it being the dominant religious holiday. But here there are lit-up menorahs everywhere, and last night when Ellen and I were running we saw a giant lit-up dreidel in the center of a garden. In grocery stores there are menorahs, dreidels, etc. being sold everywhere. There is not just one small stand on the end of an aisle filled with Christmas decorations.
But I think the coolest thing about celebrating Chanukkah in Israel is that I now get to say “A great miracle happened here.” As opposed to when I am at home and I say, “A great miracle happened there.” So on dreidels in America there are the letters: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (shin) which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” – Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there.” BUT on dreidels in Israel there are the letters: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), פ (Pei) which together form the acronym for נס גדול היה פה – Nes Gadol Hayah Po — “A great miracle happened here. TOO COOL! Happy Chanukkah everyone!