Thursday, November 24, 2005

Eich Omrim "Gobble Gobble" B'Ivrit?

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans in my world.

This is my first Turkey Day outside of America. Have you ever tried explaining Thanksgiving to someone from another part of the world? It's pretty difficult, especially when talking to someone British. They learn about the pilgrims from an entirely different perspective. Their education also places much more emphasis on the diseases that came with the Europeans and killed off the Native Americans. So the Europeans here find Thanksgiving to be a somewhat hypocritical 'holiday'. The Israelis can't understand why Jews celebrate secular holidays. And I've given up trying to explain American football.

We had thought about trying to make Thanksgiving dinner here in the ulpan, but the difficulties proved to be insurmountable. I'm also a bit under the weather today, so I don't really feel like eating much of anything. Still, I wish I could be in Chicago, enjoying my cousin Mike's deep-fried turkey (mmmmm....deep-fried turkey) and spending time with my family.

Time to go nurse my headache and dream of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie. Gobble gobble!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Love Shack Or Loony Bin?

Today was crazy. There's really no other word for it. Either Friday's full moon took a few days to have its effect on us, or someone spiked the eggs at breakfast, but something just was not right in the Love Shack this morning.

Let's start with the fact that someone stole a laptop, camera and wallet...all from one room, and didn't go into any of the others. The door to the room in question had not been locked; both girls had left their keys on their desks. The thief also took their keys.

Then the 55-year-old Ukranian in my kita, who rarely speaks above a whisper, completey snapped and started yelling at one of the girls in class for speaking to her friends in English while the teacher was helping another student. Yelling wasn't enough, though. The Ukranian then took the girl's waterbottle, and poured water all over her.

And let's not forget the boy who's planning on doing his giur in six months, who showed up this morning without his kippah or tzitzit. When asked why, he answered that he got bored of them. He didn't say this in Hebrew or English, though. He apparently forgot all of his Hebrew and English, and has decided that he will only speak in his native Spanish. "No puedo hablar en ingles," he says to me ("I can't speak Engish.") This would be more believable if he and I didn't study the parsha hashavua every shabbos in English using an English translation. He also refused to speak anything other than Spanish during class, and insisted that either the Brazilian girl or I translate into Spanish for him.

All is quiet at the moment. Either the craziness has passed, or this is just the quiet before the storm. I'm almost afraid to wonder how today could get stranger...unless someone reports having seen elephants sitting down to tea in the middle of the olive fields.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Quick Pre-Shabbos Update In the Life of Me

* We had a tiyyul to the Golan. It was amazing. I have incredible pictures that I will post online as soon as I buy some blank CDs, so that I can transfer the pics from my computer to one with internet access.
* Seven people have now left the ulpan since the first week. One went back to America, one to France, three to Yerushalayim, one to another kibbutz (I think) and one to Bet Shemesh to live with her olim hadashim parents. There was also a Swiss guy who was only supposed to be with us for a month, so he doesn't really count among the people who've left or been kicked out. A new guy from Bulgaria arrived today.
* Today is my maternal unit's 60th birthday. Ahd mea v'esrim! (Bis ein hundert und zwanzig)
* I don't like shabbat on the kibbutz. I only plan to be there the one shabbat a month when I'm not permitted to leave. Last week I was with Eli and Miryam in Tel Aviv. This week I'm in Yerushalayim. (I was going to stay at the Heritage House, but Yankel hooked me up with a friend of his who lives across the street from him in Nachlaot.) Next week, I'll probably go back to Tel Aviv, or possibly to Bet Shemesh.

Most importantly, I'm happy and I'm healthy. More to come (when I'm not racing to get ready for shabbos).

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Very Lonely Unbirthday

Yesterday was (would have been) Liz's 24th birthday. It was also her mother's birthday as well. It's been on my mind so much lately, though most of those thoughts are the same ones I've had ever since Liz's health began to deteriorate so rapidly. I had the same thoughts on my own birthday, not knowing that she would be gone only two days later. What is this number, "24"? What does it mean to be 24 years old? It's so young. There's so much that I haven't done. There's no way that I've accomplished whatever it is that Hashem put me here in order to accomplish. Why did He cut short the life of someone so talented, so good, so beautiful on both the inside and the outside, when she would undoubtedly have accomplished so much? The world was a better place with her in it. And why am I still here? What makes me so deserving? Why should I reach that 24th birthday and Liz shouldn't?

I know that I will never know the answer to any of these questions. That doesn't stop me from asking them.

This shabbos was such a strange one for me. In some ways, Friday was more difficult emotionally, as I was dreading waking up on the 5th and remembering that Liz wasn't turning 24 that day. There were very few ulpanistim here for shabbos, which was something of a blessing. I didn't have to talk to people. I stayed home and davened on my own in the morning, because I felt like I just needed the private time with Hashem, my tefillot and my thoughts. After lunch, I came back to my room and learned on my own. Naturally, I cried on my own as well.

It wasn't being on my own that made me feel so lonely, though. It was not having anyone to talk to who was also remembering what November 5th used to mean. It was being 7 hours ahead of Pittsburgh and not being able to call Jon and Veronica (Liz's parents). I longed for the comfort that's only come with talking to my college friends. I wanted Tabitha or Mark or Allan or Paco or Mikey or Macraild or Helen...or any number of my friends from WashU who are on the other side of the world. I wanted my mother and father and brother and sister-type people who know me and love me and have been helping me cope.

I stayed up until it was late enough here that shabbos was over in Pittsburgh, and then I called Liz's parents. Talking to Veronica was everything I needed. Today I got an email from Nisha, one of Liz's high school friends. I need that contact so much these days. Jacque is the only person here who I've talked to about Liz, but it's so hard to convey to a new friend just what someone means to you. Anyone who ever met Liz doesn't need that kind of explanation.

November 5th has come and gone. It's another reason why November is my least favorite month. This shabbos, November 12, is my grandmother's secular yahrzeit. It's something else I can't convey to people who don't know me and don't understand how important my grandmother was to me. I find myself grateful that I have my own room. I don't mind being alone with my thoughts. It's the loneliness that comes from being far away that makes this so hard.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Room of One's Own

Ilana Sheinit (more commonly known in the Love Shack as "Gingi" since people distinguish the two Ilanas by saying "Ilana m'anglia" and "Ilana hagingit") moved out today. Being 27 years old, she decided to leave the Love Shack for the peace and quiet of the giur building. She's actually not sure if she'll be happier there, since it will probably turn out to be too quiet, but she wants to give it a try. I think more powerful forces are at work, and that I'm simply not meant to live with girls named Ilana.

I'm of two minds about having my own room. On the one hand, the privacy will be lovely. No one will be in my room unless I want them to be there. I can close the door and do my own thing. I can talk to my family in the morning and not worry about waking up my roomate. I also pushed the two beds together, and now have a double bed. There are definate perks.

On the other hand, Ilana and I got along very well, and having her as my roomate gave me someone over the age of 18 to bond with. (There are a couple of girls around 21, but they're not really people to whom I feel I can open up.) She's also fairly learned and takes yiddishkeit seriously. We would lie in our beds at night and discuss Torah. No joke. (Ok, so maybe other nights we would talk about shtuyot as well. We are normal, healthy girls, after all). It was really wonderful having someone to discuss and debate with at any given moment. I think I'll have far fewer of those conversations without her living in the same room as me.

(Note on the title of this post: In college, I had to critique Virgina Woolf's "A Room of One's Own". I hated it with a passion, mostly because I found her logic incredibly flawed. I thought the title fit my post better than it fit her book.)