Saturday, December 31, 2005

Next Year in Jerusalem

(Apologies to those who don't believe in celebrating the secular new year. Deal with it).

Jacque, Miguel and I are about to go to Yerushalayim to meet up with more friends and celebrate the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006. Being Cara, I find it impossible not to reflect on the past calendar year.

2005 didn't start off so well. At the end of December/beginning of January, Liz told me that her tumor was back and growing quickly. I took a vacation to California a week or so later, and remember talking to my aunt about how much I wanted to visit Liz, and wanted to get Tabitha to come with me. February was insanely busy at work, and I just counted down the days until I could go see Liz.

March was the visit to Pittsburgh with Tab and Paco. It was the last time I ever saw her or heard her voice. I was supposed to visit again in early April, but she was too ill by then. Then it was Pesach, and she was gone. April was hell.

The summer months were a combination of dealing with my grief and planning for Israel. I left my job in July and went to Disney World for the first time. I studied for the GREs and decided which graduate schools to apply to.

September 1st landed me in Israel. After a week of traveling, I came to the kibbutz. I've made some very special friends, and can actually have conversations in Hebrew. (Though, since this shabbat was only Jacque, Miguel and me, I think I've spoken more in Spanish).

And now it's about to be January 2006. Like always, I have no idea what this year will bring. I certainly had no idea at 00:00am, 1/1/05, what 2005 would bring. Looking back on the past year, the only thing that really jumps out at me is Liz. I know there were other things that happened, both positive and negative. But all of them are overshadowed by losing my friend. Maybe that will change in time, or maybe 2005 will just remain in my memory as the Year I Lost Liz. It's too soon to tell.

In any case, I wish all of you out there a happy New Year, full of family, friends, and only simchas.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Week in Review

A quick list of the cool things I've seen in the past week:

* Sufganiyot are everywhere. Better than the ones we get at my shul in Chicago, not nearly as good as the ones I've learned to make from scratch.
* No Christmas jingles in stores.
* Chanukiot in hotel lobbies, hospitals, coffee shops, public squares, and even in pubs.
* Did I mention no Christmas jingles?

A quick list of the strange things I've experienced in the last week:

* A cab driver who insisted on mimicking American, British and Indian accents.
* A cab driver who seems to have Tourrettes and kept jerking his head to one side every 30 seconds while driving.
* Roman soldiers, Renaissance ladies and SS officers roaming along Ben Yehuda...and then singing Chanukah songs.
* A giant Pokemon figure dancing in the central bus station with a giant teddy bear.

Other updates: Sam and Jake have returned to the States. I went to Eli and Miryam's Chanukah party in Tel Aviv, where half the people seemed to be from our Chicago chevra. I held a newborn (as in, less than 48 hours old). I made 70 sufganiyot, and am currently in the process of making another batch. I don't have to work in the kitchen again until Tuesday.

And today is Allan's 25th birthday. Happy birthday, Allan!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Nes Gadol Haya Po

Nun, gimmel, hey, shin...the letters on the dreidel in America. They stand for nes gadol haya sham ("A great miracle happened there"), and they also tell you how many pieces of gelt you've won or lost when actually playing a game of dreidel.

The coolest thing about being in Israel for Chanukah (other than making sufganiot from scratch in class last week) is realizing that I'm "there". Dreidels in the HL don't have the letter shin, they have the letter pey, which stands for the word po. "Here". A great miracle happened here.

While I'm really sad about not being with my family for Chanukah, I find it thrilling to be "here". That said, this will be the first Chanukah of my life where I won't be lighting the chanukiah with my parents and brother. I'll have to sing our songs to myself. And this year I'm using a different chanukiah. Liz's parents gave me a beautiful chanukiah that had belonged to Liz, and I brought it with me so that she could be with me when I light them. It's something else that makes this Chanukah so different from the ones before.

It would be very easy to be a bit down about being so far away, between missing my family and missing Liz. Somehow, though, the change from sham to po is making the entire difference. It reminds me how special Israel is, and how lucky I am to be here for this year. Nes gadol haya po...

All Clear

The pinkeye is gone. Both my eyes are back to normal, and I don't have to put any more drops or goopy medicinal creams in my eyes.

Quick update on the life of me: I was in Tel Aviv for two days hanging out with Jake and Sam, who are visiting the HL for a week or so. Life on the kibbutz continues to be crazy. Twelve people have now left the program. It really is like a game of Ulpan Survivor, except that instead of a million dollars the winner gets a working knowledge of Hebrew and the satisfaction that they somehow managed to make it through this maze of insanity. Like Camelot, tis a silly place here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pinkeye and the Brain

My left eye is almost all better now. Instead of being red and goopy, it's now just a light pink and tears up a lot. I guess that eye got a bit lonely, though, because it decided to give the infection to my right eye as well. So I'll need to go back to the clinic today and get more medicine.

At least I have a warm, caring person to look after me- our madricha/aym bait (house mommy-type person) cares more that I haven't been able to work in the kitchen for almost a week than that both of my eyes are now infected. I didn't feel like explaining to her that pinkeye normally takes a week to clear up. I just nodded and said I'd go back to the clinic later today. Really, though, I'm touched by her concern. It makes me want to poke her in the eyes and find out how much she enjoys having pinkeye.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I Feel Like A Leper

To complete the impression that this is summer camp, I've somehow managed to contract pinkeye. Never in all of my years as an actual camper did I end up with pinkeye, but that lucky streak is over.

For those who haven't experienced the joy of pinkeye, I can tell them that they're really missing out on a great time. First there's the pale yellowy goop that crusts and tries to seal your eye shut while you sleep. Then there's the constant tearing-up and more yellow goopiness while you're awake. Last, just to complete the experience, there's the highly contagious nature of pinkeye, which means you're not really supposed to touch anyone or anything. People who've had pinkeye nudge their chairs just a bit father away as soon as they see your pink, irritated, watery, yellow goopy eye. I'll probably have to wash off the keyboard with rubbing alcohol as soon as I'm done here. I wash my hands so many times a day that they're becoming dry and in need of lotion.

This is all very annoying, and very lonely-feeling, and no one is permitted to give me a hug. The only upside is that I get a day off from work tomorrow (which means I'll get to sleep in, and have time to work on grad school and fellowship apps).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Chodesh Tov L'Kulam!

And a merry rosh chodesh Kislev to all of you!

Kislev always makes me think of my grandparents, a"h.

In November 1932, in a town in Germany by the name of Fuerthe, my grandfather and grandmother went for a walk in the afternoon. At one point in the conversation, my grandfather turned to my grandmother and asked, "Fraulein Strauss, what Jewish month is it?" She replied, "It's Kislev, I think." He then responded, "Then here is kiss, and here is lev (heart). Will you marry me?"

And she said yes.

One Visa Down...

Can someone explain to me how it's already December?

Time flies by so incredibly quickly here. I think the fact that it's still 70 degrees and sunny may have something to do with the fact that I still think it's September. I've been here three months now. I can speak in Hebrew in the past, present and future tenses. I can even give a few commands. I'm learning enough vocab that I'm almost able to express myself and develop a personality in Hebrew. And the ulpan is now half over.

Sometimes I feel like all of this is just a dream. I have these bizarre moments of cognizance, almost as though I'm looking at my life here through a microscope or as though it were a TV show. This is not real life. This is a bubble outside the normal realm of existance. I wonder what I'll think and what I'll feel when I leave the ulpan, or when I return to America. How will I remember all of this in retrospect?

At the same time, so much of my life in America seems like it was a dream. Life here is so different that it makes my life there seem almost surreal. The challenges I faced there are not the ones I face here. When I go back to America, will I think of my life here as somewhat surreal?