Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mama, I'm Comin' Home!

Ah, the joys of having winter break. The fine people at UIC give me an entire month free from school. Where shall Cara spend this time? Someplace warmer than Chicago...sure. Someplace where she has friends to visit...of course. Someplace like...Israel? Perfect! That's right, folks. Cara is going back to the HL this winter break. And the best part is that her trans-Atlantic flight is being paid for by someone else.

Okay, enough third person. I've been accepted to a program called Leading Up North. It's a 10-day volunteer program being run by several different Jewish organizations. I think about 500 young Jews are going in all. I'm going through Hillel (I am really loving this whole being-a-student thing!), which is taking about 150 of those young Jews. During those 10 days, I'll be up in the north, helping to repair damage from this summer's war with Lebanon. I don't know yet exactly where or what I'll be doing. But it will be in Israel.

After those 10 days, I'll be staying around in Israel for another week or so. I'll most likely be bouncing between Tel Aviv and the J'lem area, because that's where most of my friends are located. So if you happen to be one of those friends, and you want to see me during that week, drop me a line.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sittin' By The Dock of the...Printer?

Here I am, sitting in the computer lab of the one building on campus that I know very well, waiting for someone who works here to actually show up and start working here. The printer needs reloading, and the paper tray is locked (!), so I'm stuck here until some TA reloads it for me. Otherwise, I have no class notes, and no midterm study guide. That, and I already paid for the printing, so I want my documents. With nothing to do but wait, I figured that now would be a good time to catch up on some blogging. Luckily, I have a whole hour until my next class.

"How's life, Cara?" some of you may ask. Others may phrase it differently. "Where have you been?" "Did you forget about us?" "What is the air speed velocity of a coconut-laden swallow?" To you, I will answer: life is pretty good, I've been buried under textbooks and lesson plans, I did not forget about you, and it depends on whether the swallow is African or European. But you probably could have guessed all of those.

Honestly, life is good. I just don't have much time for blogging. That, and my paternal unit reads this occassionally, so I'm a bit reluctant to post some of the more amusing episodes of my life.

Ah, the TA finally arrived. Actually, he walked in, roamed around the room, ignored the blinking red light on the printer, roamed some more, and then went into his office. At which point I drew his attention to the blinking red light. This means that I can now go get my documents and start studying.

So much for my update. If you really want to know how I'm doing, I suggest emailing or calling. For my friends in the Holy Land, particularly those who have called in the past few weeks, I'll call as soon as I buy myself a decent phone card. For my friends in the States...well...I guess I'm just lame like that.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Elul Cleaning

I don't really do the whole 'spring cleaning' bit. For me, it's more like Pesach cleaning, but I guess the end result is the same. Everything gets swept and scrubbed and polished, the unusable gets put away, etc. I kind of feel like I've been doing a metaphorical autumnal version of Pesach cleaning. So much of the Life of Me is undergoing changes right now.

First off, I've moved into my own Cara pad. I'm flying solo for the first time in my life. No roomates, no flatmates, no one to share a bathroom with, no one to have to explain my moods to (and even I get moody sometimes). It's lovely. I am absolutely adoring having my own space. Every day, my apartment looks less like an ungovernable morass of boxes and old newspapers, and more like home. I haven't had all of my stuff in one accessible place for over a year. Me likey.

Second, I start school in less than 12 hours. I'm both excited and petrified. I've been talking about grad school for so long, but more as a concept. That concept is about to become reality. I already have my ID, my bus pass, my books. I'm a student again. Next week, I start my field placement, and will be working with children with behavorial problems. Again, I'm excited and petrified. And still adjusting to the fact that I'm going to be Stateside for at least two years. A year ago, I was packing up the last of my things, getting ready to leave for Israel. Now I'm unpacking those same things and settling back into America.

My life looks so incredibly different, one year later. Some of those changes are good ones. Others make me sad. I've gained a lot of self-confidence over the past year, and learned to put my foot down when necessary. I've taken steps to jettison some emotional baggage. I heard a quote recently that said letting go is easy, that it's holding on which hurts. Or something to that effect. I don't agree that letting go is easy, but I'm learning that sometimes holding on hurts more. I'm learning, or trying to learn, to distinguish what (or who) I need to hold on to, and what (or who) it's time to let go of.

On the Jewish calendar, we've entered the month of Elul, the final month of the year. It's supposed to be a month of reflection, of looking inward, as we get closer and closer to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It seemed rather fitting to me that so many of the changes in my small little life are taking place now, during Elul. Last year was one of the best of my life (so far). I know this year will be so very different, so much so that it would, and will, be unfair to draw comparisons. With so many changes taking place at once, I'm trying to see how all of these very different, very separate changes fit together in the bigger picture. Trying to view all of them as parts of the same Make Cara Happy process.

I've been out of touch with many people over the summer. To all of you, I apologize. (Particularly Jon and Veronica. I owe you about three dozen phone calls and emails. They're coming, I promise.) Now that life is settling into a more recognizable pattern, I feel like I can come out from under the rock where I've been hiding.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Few (Inadequate) Words

I can't stop thinking about Mike. My thoughts and emotions are all over the place right now, so coming out with a coherent description of them will be hard. But my last post is just so inadequate. It neither does justice to who Mike was, or how hard his death has hit me.

On one hand, it seems a little strange to be hit so hard by the death of someone I didn't have a chance to get to know all that well. On the other hand, it makes this war- which was already emotional for me- incredibly personal. My shul has already sent out two emails about Mike's death. The American Jewish community, and even the secular one, has been struck by the loss of a young American whose passion and dreams took him to Israel. Such stories are not uncommon. But this one is not just a story for me. This time, I knew that boy. I'd laughed with him, talked with him, chilled with him. I used to tease one of my ulpan friends about having a crush on him.

Since coming back to America, I've struggled with the idea of not knowing when I'll be able to return to Israel. The more I get settled into this life here in Chicago, the more precious my memories of this past year have become. Spazzy Mike is a part of those memories. Maybe this is hitting me so hard because those memories are still so shiny and new. I met Mike less than a year ago. I always thought that he was the kind of person in my life that I would just run into the next time I was in Yerushalayim. The person you see in a bar, and join for a drink. Or stop to chat in Kikar Zion. That will never happen now. Those shiny, new memories that include Mike now take on a different hue. Now there's grief mixed in. My precious memories of Israel are not supposed to be tinged with grief. Nostalgia, yes. Longing, of course. But not grief.

And yet, I'm proud of him, as strange as that sounds. I didn't know Mike very well, but I knew how passionate he was about Israel, and about Israel being home to Jews of all types. That is the Israel that he left America to become a part of, and the Israel that he joined Tzahal to defend. The Israel that he died defending. He was given a hero's burial on Har Hertzl, a funeral attended by thousands who didn't even know him. There's a kind of comfort in that, at least for me. There's comfort knowing that he will not be forgotten, that he has become a hero to the country and people he loved so much. Even in the midst of this grief over a boy who died far too young, I'm proud of him, and proud to be able to say that I knew him, even for so short a time.

I said it before, but I'll say it again. May his memory forever be a blessing to all of us. There's a lot we can all learn from Mike, even though he's gone.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Boy I Used To Know

A few hours ago, Jacque called me from London. He'd called two days ago, but I'd been unable to talk then. I was pleasantly surprised that he called again so soon. We chatted for about ten minutes, and then, just before we had to hang up, he suddenly changed the subject.

"Do you remember Mike? The soldier, Josh's friend?"
"Sure," I replied. We'd called him 'Spazzy Mike' as an affectionate nickname, because he was so full of life and energy. He'd laughed at the nickname.
"He passed away. It's what I called you to say a couple days ago."

For a moment, I was utterly speechless. Passed away? Mike? What could possibly have happened?

"Passed away?" I managed to get out. But I knew, before Jacque spoke again, what he would say.
"Well, killed."
"In Lebanon?" I asked. My eyes were already tearing up, and I could barely get the words out.
"Yeah." He didn't really need to say more. We both understood enough.

I guess, deep down, I knew that eventually this war would get personal for me. It just wasn't possible that everyone I know would come out of this unscathed. But I'd hoped and prayed. And now I'm grieving for a boy younger than I am.

Spazzy Mike, also known as Michael Levin, had been in the ulpan on Kvutzat Yavne about two years before I was. He'd made aliyah and joined Tzahal, and still visited the kibbutz. One of his fellow ulpan friends and fellow soldiers, Josh, was very close with Jacque. As a result, whenever Mike came to the kibbutz, we would end up hanging out. Just chilling on the steps, or in the moadon, or around the nargila.

I can't say that I knew him very well. But I knew him. He was a sweet boy, a few years younger than me, with enough energy for six 12-year-old boys put together. He was easygoing, with a quick sense of humor. One of the only people who could keep up with my sarcasm and send it right back to me. No, I can't say I knew him very well. But I liked him.

Baruch dayan emet. May his memory be a blessing for us all.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

General Update. And Stuff.

I keep coming up with excuses why I'm not blogging more often. This week's excuse: my life is mundane. How can I blog about the small frustrations and miniscule triumphs of my life when my country is at war and people are dying? How can I write about my random thoughts and non-sequiters here in Chicago when my people are under attack here in America. I feel guilty. Stupid as it may seem, I feel guilty writing about the events of my life which, in the grand scheme of things, really don't amount to very much. Rockets are falling deeper in Israel. People were shot in Seattle. And I'm frustrated because I can't find an apartment?!

But, for those who really are interested in my small little life, here's a general update:

*Grad School* I've been accepted and enrolled in the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work. This is the program I wanted, and I'm extremely excited to start. Classes start at the end of August.

*Living Situation* I just found a place to call my own. I should be moving in sometime after August 15th. In the meantime, I'm still living with Big Brother and Big Sister, who have been wonderful and generous and patient. We just moved yesterday to their shiny, pretty new condo.

*Work and Play* My meaningless summer office job ends in 2 weeks. I have 2 PT jobs lined up for the school year, which shold begin within the next month. I kind of have a social life. It ebbs and flows. Right now it's kind of ebbing, but I choose to blame a combination of the Three Weeks and my recent frantic search for an apartment. This means that I should start being more social again after this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

There you have it, folks. The current Life of Me in a very small nutshell. I really will try to post more often. I just don't want anyone to think for a moment that any irreverant, random postings mean that I'm not glued to CNN or Israeli newspapers online, and that my heart isn't still with my people and my country.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Watching the Green(er) Grass Grow

We all knew this statement was going to come. In fact, I knew when I left Israel that I was most likely going to say this. Ready for it? Here goes...

I should have made aliyah.

My friends in Israel, assuming they still read this, are now nodding their heads and saying, "Told you so!" while my friends and family in America are shaking their heads and thinking that I'm crazy. The latter won't like this post. They want me safe and healthy and happy in Chicago.

Safe, certainly. Healthy, well...that's not in my hands. Happy...I haven't been truly happy since I was in Israel. That's the part that I know they won't want to hear. But it's true. I miss who I was in Israel. I miss my lifestyle in J'lem. I made more sense there. Life made more sense there. Even with rockets falling, sirens wailing, people dying, etc., I would rather be in Israel.

Some of my friends here say that I need to give Chicago more of a chance. Wait until I've found my own apartment, started grad school, met new people. Wait and see, they say. And in the meantime, I go to bed every night and wake up every morning with the same thought. I should have made aliyah.

I feel locked in. Like I made my choice, and now I have to live with it for two years. I'm enrolled in grad school. I got a scholarship. I have jobs that I can keep while in school. I'm searching for an apartment. All those little wheels are in motion that stick me further and further into the rut that I feel like I'm in. Those iron bars are sliding shut. Pick cliché and insert here.

On the other hand, had I made aliyah, maybe I would be typing this post from my flat in J'lem, wondering if I had acted too hastily. Wondering if I should have gone to grad school in America. Feeling guilty knowing that my family was losing sleep worrying about my safety. That darn grass is always greener, after all. So I'll just sit here and watch it grow. Feel free to bring a picnic blanket and join me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If I Forget Thee...

I keep telling myself to blog more. Not that my life is all that interesting these days, but I'm sure there are those out there who would still read about my apartment hunting trials, or random Cara-type murmurings.

But I can't write it. I have friends facing far more difficult, trying obstacles than finding a new apartment, or trying to figure out how to juggle work and school. All things considered, my life is chugging along fairly smoothly. My world seems to trivial.

The events of the past 48 hours have made me feel my own triviality even more strongly. I should never have left Israel. I know my family and friends here in America sleep more soundly at night knowing that I am in Chicago, but I don't. I toss and turn at night, unable to sleep, wondering and worrying. In waking hours, I constantly check Israeli news sources, obsessing over every new article or lck thereof.

I feel like I abandoned my home. Part of me knows that this is irrational. I left two months ago, before Shalit was kidnapped, before Hezbollah started this on the Lebanese border. I left to go to graduate school, not because of the "situation". And I know, deep down, that my presence in Israel would not be of any help. I'm not a soldier. I can't defend my country. But over here in Chicago, I am completely, 100% helpless to do anything except watch from afar.

Maybe this won't make sense to anyone else. It doesn't have to. I realize how bizarre this must wish I was back in a place where people are taking refuge in bomb shelters, where rockets are hitting cities never before hit, where every hour brings the toll of those wounded or killed even higher. Bizarre, but true.

I've been homesick for Israel every day since I left. Right now, the longing to be there almost makes me nauseous. My heart weeps for those wounded, for their families, the families of those who have been killed, the families of the soliders who have been kidnapped, for my entire country. And my fists curl up in helpless anger at those who have brought about this violence, and at the Powers That Be who have me sitting in an office in Chicago, so very far from where my heart is.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Holy Wing Girl, Batman!

The following is an actual advertisement that I saw about 30 seconds ago in a local Chicago paper. I was simply looking for part-time job opportunities, along the tutoring or waitressing lines.

Sorry to the guy who wrote this, but it's just too funny not to share:

Here's the deal: I don't want to date you, have sex with you or even kiss or hug you.

I want you to hang out with me at bars and talk me up to other girls so I break the ice with them. Whenever I'm out with females, random girls feel so much more comfortable in talking to me.

The only requirements are that you are attractive and personable. Age doesn't even matter, so long as you're over 21. I'm 27, 5'9, 135 lb; but even having an attractive confident 40 yr old talking me up would be superb.

If you like, I'll give you my cellphone number and home address so you know my details; but I don't need to even know your last name. We'll arrange by email or cellphone to meet in a bar, and at the end of it I'll pay you $45/hr. In addition to this, if I meet a girl through you who I end up going on at least 5 dates with, I'll give you $1000.

If there's anything I can do to make you more comfortable in doing this, I'm all open to ideas. Obviously I'll pay for all drinks, tips, meals, concert tickets, etc.


I placed a very similar ad to the one above about a month ago. I got about 90 responses, interviewed about 30 of them, and eventually chose 6 to actually go out with. 3 of them I used only once, and am now down to 2 who I think are effective.

Both of my current winggirls have very hectic lifestyles, and I can only go out once a week between them. Although I haven’t found my soulmate, I’ve met lots of girls through going out with them. I’m therefore looking for 2-4 more winggirls, so that I can go out 2 or 3 times a week during the summer.

Anyone think I should apply? Bueller? Bueller?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cara's World Goes Gluten-Free

Those who have had the privalege of meeting my maternal unit probably know that she has a whole host of wacky food sensitivities: wheat, corn, soy, milk, oranges, and I think even egg whites. For years, it seemed as though this was solely her bizarre burden.

After returning from the Holy Land, however, it appears as though this may be my burden to share. Since coming back, I've been on what they like to call a "Detection Diet", which pretty much means I stop eating anything we think I may be sensitive to for 2+ weeks, and then reintegrate it into my diet and see what happens. So far, I don't seem to have much of a reaction to corn. So that leaves wheat products. I've not deliberately eaten gluten in over 2 weeks (okay, so I've had a little bit of challah. And maybe a sip or two of scotch. What can I say? I'm weak!).

Here's the sad part: I really do feel better. I have more energy. My brain seems to function better (though I'm sure plenty of my friends would argue this). My nose is less stuffy. So this seems to indicate that I'm either "Wheat Intolerant" or that I've joined the ranks of those with Celiac.

So, for the time being, my world is gluten-free. The good news? Bourbon is also gluten-free. We don't have to end our love affair anytime soon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Day In The Life

My random summer job is perhaps one of the most random that I have ever held. More random than a polisci major working for a genetics education outreach program. I work as the Jack-of-All-Trades for a new culinary consultant start-up. I'm supposedly the office manager, sometimes called the Administrative Assistant, but really I do whatever is needed. Expense reports? Done. Build shelves from Ikea that destroy my manicure? Done. Research the latest food trends involving pickles?


Yes, that's right. Today I am researching that oft-overlooked, but oh-so-enjoyable food: the pickle. Who eats pickles? What are the nutritional benefits of pickles? Are there particular food trends- ethnic or otherwise- that involve pickles?

Just when I think my life has hit its limit for bizarre, I get asked to research pickles.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Coming Up For Air

There are so many posts that are just waiting to fly from my fingertips. They'll have to wait a little longer. I've been back for almost a full month, and can't bring myself to write those final posts from Israel that I wrote on the plane. I just don't want to close that chapter.

I miss Israel every day. And I wonder if I made the right choice in coming back. To be honest, I'm not sure that I did. There's a huge chunk of me that got left behind in Yerushalayim, and I'm still figuring out how to be the Israeli version of Cara while living in Chicago.

So, for all three of you out there that read this and are not my blood relations, sit tight. I'll be back.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In Honor of the Fallen

Today is my last day in Israel (for this trip, at least). Today is also Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independence Day and 58th birthday. Yesterday was Yom HaZikaron, Remembrance Day for all of the fallen soldiers who have given their lives to protect our tiny little country. This is the first time I've ever been here for Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, and I'm grateful that I was able to stay long enough to celebrate (commemorate) here.

Yom HaZikaron is unlike any kind of day of remembrance in America. I guess Memorial Day is the American equivalent, but there really is no comparison. Like on Yom HaShoah, there is a siren that is sounded for two minutes, during which the entire country stops, stands, and remains silent. For Yom HaShoah, I was at Yad LaKashish, in the Shikum, and stood with the elderly, most of whom lost loved ones in the Shoah. For Yom HaZikaron, in the evening, I stood with Miryam and Eli in their new apartment in Tel Aviv. In the morning, however, I experienced the full force of the siren. At 11:00, Miryam and I were crossing the bridge over Dizengoff when the siren sounded. The bustle and business of Tel Aviv stopped immediately. No matter where you looked, you only saw the still, silent forms of individuals standing in place, heads down, until the siren ended. It was compelling, to say the least.

We don't forget. Since the mid-19th century, over 22,000 Jews have given their lives to protect this little parcel of land that many are still trying to take away from us. We mourn for all of them, and we honor them. There are not enough words or even the appropriate words to honor them. They've given their lives to enable the rest of us to live ours. If not for them, we would have no country of our own. We would have no Tzahal (IDF). We would not be able to go to the Kotel. If not for them, I would not be sitting here right now, typing this post.

On the road from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, there are the rusty remains of cars that were used to try to get food and water to the Jews in Yerushalayim in the War of Independence, who were under siege in the city. Arab snipers sat in the hills and shot anyone who tried to approach. Many Jews, fully aware of the danger, continued to try to help the Jews of Yerushalayim and lost their lives in the attempt. The rusty remains are left there as a memorial to their bravery and loyalty. On Yom HaZikaron, those rusty cars are draped in Israeli flags and wreaths. Dozens of them. It is one of the most touching, inspiring sights I have seen here. The picture of those blue-and-white covered car skeletons is burned in my head.

No, we don't forget. I certainly will not. Though I don't know when I'll be able to come back home to Israel, I will not fail to remember and honor the ones who died to protect this country that I love so much. May Hashem protect and give rest to their neshamot, and may their memories be a blessing for us all.

And may Hashem protect the men and women of Tzahal who are still fighting to keep us safe. May no more of their blood be spilled, and may Israel celebrate it's next birthday in peace.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Final Week

Can anyone tell me where I put the past eight months? They seem to have vanished without my being aware of it.

By this time next week, I'll have landed in Toronto and will be waiting to board my flight to Chicago, where my doting parental units will be awaiting me with happy faces, open arms, and (if they really love me) a cup of real coffee.

I'm not ready to leave Israel. I'm really, really happy here. I love being at Yad L'Kashish every morning. I love walking to work in the mornings. I love being able to say "I live in Yerushalayim". I love buying a kilo of strawberries for 4 shekels in the shuk. I love that almost every clothing store sells knee-length skirts and shirts with sleeves that still look cute and stylish.

Do I really have to leave? Why doesn't everyone else just make aliyah and move here, too?

So begins my final week. Tonight I go to Tel Aviv to celebrate Eli's birthday (yes, and mine, too) and to spend my final shabbat with Avi and his beautiful, talented girlfriend Lianna. I've finished up at Yad L'Kashish, but will stop by Monday morning with my camera to say my farewells and take a few pictures. The rest of my time will be spent packing, walking around Yerushalayim, and soaking up as much as I can before I go to the airport Wednesday evening.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chevron Meaz U'LeTamid

There were two places at the top of my Places I Must Visit Before I Leave list: Ein Gedi and Chevron. I've now been to both. I went on an organized tiyyul to Ein Gedi during the first week of April. It was beautiful, but my trip to Chevron outstrips its blogging importance.

I went to Chevron this past Sunday with my buddy Avi. I've always wanted to visit Maarat HaMachpela, the Cave of the Machpela, where Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov and Leah are buried. I also learned (after I left, so I didn't get to see it) that Esav's head is also there. I don't know where the rest of him is. Chevron is undoubtedly the most publicized land purchase in the history of the written word. Open any copy of the Old Testament and there it is- a record of exactly how much Avraham Avinu paid in order to buy this cave and the land around it in order to bury his beloved wife.

Chevron is a highly controversial part of Israel. There are those who insist that we leave it for good, despite the fact that Jews have pretty much always lived there. In fact, for 700 years, Jews were forbidden to even enter Maarat HaMachpela. They were only permitted to go as high as the 7th step leading up to the entrance. Even that was too much leeway for them, according to their friendly Arab neighbors, who attacked them simply for standing where they were legally allowed to stand.

Chevron today is, in a word, depressing. The Jewish area is like a ghost town, with graffiti scrawled on metal shutters. Soldiers are everywhere. It's the only place in Israel that I've been to that feels and looks like a war zone. The atmosphere is one of death and destruction, focused on a bloody history of being oppressed by the surrounding Arabs. Yes, I said oppressed.

What else would you call it when, in 1929, the Grand Mufti gave a call for the Jews of Chevron to be slaughtered for the sole reason that they were Jews? 66 were killed and 67 were wounded in the massacre. The rest were forced to leave Chevron by the British Mandate. There's a tiny museum in Chevron devoted to the 1929 massacre. There are pictures of some of the survivors: a 7-year-old girl with her skull bashed in, a young man whose hand had been chopped off with an axe, a toddler who was the sole survivor of his family. And who were these Jews who lived in Chevron back then? They were yeshiva students and their families. Scholars. Rabbis. Dedicated Jews who wished to live close to their ancestors.

There are also pictures of how the Arabs treated the Jewish area after the Jews were kicked out. They put cows in synagogues. They burned books and Torahs. They destroyed anything and everything that held value to the Jews who had lived there. It wasn't enough to slaughter us. It wasn't enough to kick us out. They also had figuratively and literally shit on anything that had been ours.

The Jews who have returned to Chevron still live in danger. Perhaps you remember reading about Shalhevet Techiya Pass back in 2001. She was the 10-month-old infant who was murdered when an Arab sniper took careful aim and shot her in the head. What crime had she committed? Breathing? Did she cry too loudly at night? Or was her only crime being born Jewish? There's a memorial to her in Chevron. I wish every idiot out there who claims that the Jews are oppressing the Palestinians would go stand before that wall. Oppression is not being able to take your baby for a walk in her stroller without having to worry that she'll be killed by a sniper. Oppression is being mutilated with an axe for learning in a yeshiva. Oppression is being raped simply because you're a Jewish female. The army had to maintain such a high presence in Chevron in order to make sure that the Jews who live there aren't treated the way that the previous generation had been treated.

I've always believed that Chevron must remain a part of the State of Israel. After being in Chevron, that conviction is even stronger. If Israel "disengages" from Chevron, I'm willing to bet that soon cows will once again be shitting in synagogues, that Torahs will be burned and destroyed, and that any Jews who wishes to be close to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka or Leah will find themselves staring at the shiny edge of an axe. Or maybe they don't use axes anymore. Maybe sniper bullets are the new "in".

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Word From Our Sponsors

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Post-Pesach Thoughts

I can't believe that Pesach is already over. It really just sped by. I felt almost guilty eating bread today, as though my brain hadn't yet caught up with the idea that Pesach was over and that I wasn't doing something naughty.

Last year, at seder in Chicago, saying 'L'Shana Haba B'Yerushalayim" gave me a special thrill, because I already knew at that point that I was going to be spending Pesach the next year in Israel, and most likely in Yerushalayim. This year, I was here, in Israel (ok, Bet Shemesh instead of Uerushalayim, but it's close), and my thoughts were completely different.

Last year, I was focused on the idea of physically being in Israel. I, Cara, was going to be in the Holy Land next year. How cool is that? How exciting, how amazing, how thrilling...and so on and so forth. That special thrill that I felt was completely and 100% selfish. It was solely about me being in Israel the following year.

This year, on the other hand, it finally dawned on me why we say this one line on Pesach and at the end of the Yomim Noraim. Yes, I should have realized this long ago, but even I can be dense sometimes.

It's not about physically being here, as wonderful as it is. We're not asking that every Jew comes to spend Pesach here, in the kosher hotels in a 2 week vacation. We're not even asking that every Jew pick up and move to Israel. We're asking for Moshiach (whatever that word might mean to you). We're asking that next year finally be the time when we, as a nation, are where we're supposed to be, on the spiritual level. Maybe that's why we say it out loud, usually in unison. It's not about me. It's not about any one of us. It's about all of us, truly being free in the land promised to us.

L'Shana Haba B'Yerushalayim! Next Year in Jerusalem!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Travel Plans

The last couple of weeks have felt like a flurry of travel planning.

* I booked my return to the States for May 4th. I'm not happy about the idea of leaving Israel, though I am, of course, looking forward to seeing my family and friends.
* I booked a trip to Pittsburgh for May 7th-9th for the unveiling of Liz's headstone. Tonight I lit a yahrzeit candle for her. I'm having a very difficult time coming to terms with the fact that it's now been a whole year. So difficult that I don't even know if I can blog about it just yet.
* I need to book a trip to NYC for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, for Moose's wedding. This is turning oout to be surprisingly complicated, as my best friend in NY will actually be living in DC for the summer and therefore will not have a place for me to stay. I also have to book a hotel room for the night of the wedding, and will probably have to get my own room, since I have no idea who else will be going. I don't want to go to NY for shabbat, because airline tickets cost much less if I fly Sunday-Wednesday instead of Thursday/Friday-Sunday.

So help me think: Who do I know in NYC that wouldn't mind letting me crash at their place Monday night and possibly Tuesday night? I know that I know tons of people in NY, especially WashU people, so why can't I think of who they are night now?

And those of you going to Moose's wedding, would you mind shooting me an email and telling me what hotel you're staying at on Sunday night?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Super Happy Happy! Joy Joy!

While there is much going on here in my world, my blogging time ghas been somewhat limited. Updates will be coming soon. But first, an important (albeit slightly belated) announcement:

Mazel tov to the world's greatest, most splendiferous Big Brother on his engagement to the world's greatest, most splendiferous future Big Sister (hereby dubbed "Big Sister")!

I can honestly say that I could not possibly be happier or more excited. I must also add that Big Brother pulled off what may have been the slickest proposal in the history of proposals. He also had the good sense to propose to a girl with a great wardrobe who happens to be the same clothing and shoe size as me. Her great taste also reassures me that I do not need to worry about the bridesmaid's dress that I'll be wearing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Cruelty of the Calendar

Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the month of Pesach. For my entire life, it has also meant birthday. Both Big Brother and I were born in April, so Pesach and Nissan were inextricably linked with birthday presents and pesadik birthday cake (usually sponge cake with strawberries). Pesach has always been my favorite chag.

Last year changed all of that. My darling Liz died last Pesach. And no matter which calendar I use, the anniversary of my birth and her death are only days apart. She died the 17th of Nissan, and I was born on the 20th. My secular birthdate is April 24th, and she died on the 26th. It's something that I just can't escape.

The closer those dates come, the more aware I am just how raw my grief still is. I can't think of her without my throat closing up and burning with tears that I often have to keep inside. A month ago, I dreamt of her and woke up crying, feeling like someone had rammed their fist directly into my heart.

I hate my birthday now. I don't know how to celebrate being another year older when it also means that another year has passed since I lost someone I loved so much. How can I go out and pretend to be happy about the fact that I was given another year in this world and that someone so much more deserving than me was taken out of it? The thought of celebrating literally makes me nauseous. On the other hand, how can I not celebrate my life, when the alternative has been so starkly laid before me? Of course I am grateful to Hashem that I'm still here. But I'm also still resentful and bewildered because Liz is not.

So I've made a very simple, easy decision. For those of you in the habit of getting me birthday presents- Don't. I don't want them. Unless you can find the cure to cancer and also own a working time machine, there's no birthday wish that you can fulfill. Instead, take whatever you would have spent on me, whether it would have been dinner or drinks or books or DVDs or a pony, and donate it to Liz's memorial fund. Send it to Washington University, Elizabeth S. Schmerling Endowed Scholarship Fund, Campus Box 1082, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.

I don't need to know that people remember my birthday and are thinking of me even a miniscule fraction of how much I need to know that they remember and are thinking about Liz.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ein Od Makom

It's Friday evening at the Kotel. The sky is clear, and there's a little bit of a bite to the air. It's enough after shkiya that you can hear some of the men davening maariv, but still early enough that others are singing and dancing during kabbalat shabbat. The Kotel is completely packed, on both the men's side and the women's.

I'm standing right behind the women's section, waiting to meet my dinner hosts. I've already davened, but I stand and quietly hum along with the large group of girls singing Lecha Dodi. I'm really just watching the other women daven, something I don't often have a chance to do.

In the middle of the women's section, a small group of five girls begins to sing and dance. A few more girls join in. Then a few more. I also join in. Now there are two circles, one inside the other. Soon there are three circles.

Someone reaches out to take my hand. It's a soldier, her gun strapped to her back. She smiles at me. I smile back.

Some girls are wearing blue jeans and sweatshirts. Some are dressed like me. Some are solders in uniforms. Some are married women in snoods or sheitels. Some are young. Some are young at heart. All are singing and all are dancing, holding hands.

Ein od makom...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Week In Review

* I moved out of the Happiness Hotel. Yay!!!
* I was accepted to UW-Seattle. Not going to go there, but it's still worth a Yay!!
* I met new people. I may even see some of them again. Yay!!
* I spent shabbos in my own apartment for the first time in my life. Yay!!
* I've been moved back up to the Arigah (embroidery) workshop for at least two days a week. Yay!!

Life is good.

There're only two thoughts that get me down:
1) I can't vote here. I'm only a psuedo-Israeli, and nothing hammers that point home like the upcoming elections.
2) It's almost April. I don't like April because a)it means that it's almost May and that my time here is over and, b) it means that Liz's first yahrzeit is almost here and I'm not ready to deal with that yet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Should I Be Worried?

The move is over, and I have taken everything I own out of the Happiness Hotel...including my balsamic vinegar. Back when I'd first moved in, we'd all agreed to share common, household staples (sugar, milk, coffee, paper towels, etc) but anything else we bought would be for our consumption alone. So I was more than a little taken aback when I would see Frenchie reach into the cabinet and pull out my balsamic vinegar. Especially when she once scolded me for taking some popcorn that her boyfriend told me I could have.

But, those days are behind me. The vinegar, my other edible items, and all of the kitchen items that no one paid me back for are now out. And so am I.

So, last night, I bought new groceries and put them into our brand-new refridgerator. Among those groceries was a celebrational 'First Meal In My Apartment" beer. I put it in the fridge to chill, and made myself that first meal.

When everything was just about done, I opened the fridge door and BAM! The celebrational beer fell out and shattered on the floor. So instead of drinking it, I got to mop it up instead. Now I'm wondering if maybe that was a bad omen. Or maybe the beer gods are just upset that I bought Goldstar instead of something imported.

I have a replacement beer. This one will have to be a celebrational 'The Bottle Didn't Break' beer.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Check Out Time

I'm officially checking out of the Happiness Hotel. I signed a lease this morning for the next month and a half for a room in Talbieh. It's a very cute, very 1950's two-bedroom apartment, and my flatmate is an American named Jackie who I haven't met yet. I've already started moving my clothes in, and should be fully moved by the time I go to bed on Sunday.

This move can't come soon enough for me. Last night, right after I came back from viewing the apartment in Talbieh, the doorbell rang at the Happiness Hotel, and turned out to be yet another person claiming to be the landlord. This one seems to be the real landlord, though, and the first one was actually his agent. His agent, that is, who never bothered informing the landlord about all of the craziness with Cousin Ganif. So we had to go through the entire story all over again. The real landlord now wants to break the lease with Cousin Ganif, and is willing to discuss a new lease with us, but needs to check out what's been happening with the agent first. He says we'd know by Wednesday at the latest what the story is about the lease.

No thank you. I want out. So I signed my own lease at a totally different apartment. I'll move more clothes over motzei shabbat, and then move the last of it Sunday after work. My stay at the Happiness Hotel is almost over. Baruch Hashem.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You Know You're A Psuedo-Israeli When...

* You can go into the bank and have an entire argument with the teller in Hebrew
* You actually get to celebrate Shushan Purim
* You accidently drop part of your Purim costume in a jar of schug
* You have no idea how to spell 'schug' in English

I'm getting good at this...

My Problem After All

It's Shushan Purim here in the walled city of Yerushalayim. I slept in and woke up thinking, "Yay! Another day of chag!" I walk out of the bedroom and wish Frenchie a boker tov and chag sameach. She returns the greeting. Then she tells me, "I want to be out of this apartment by the beginning of April. I can't deal with Cousin Ganif anymore."

Now, I had stopped looking for another place because I thought we'd be staying here at least until May. So now I have half as much time to find a new place, either for all of us, or for just me. Frenchie did say that she had already spoken to a girl in her hiur program, and that there was room for me in that apartment as well. But O Canada is in Paris right now, so we can't make any decisions until we get ahold of her.

I'm really sick of this. To be completely honest, it makes me wonder if I should just go back to America early. At least then I could be with my family for Pesach. But then I think about having to leave Yerushalayim, and my heart just breaks. So I have no idea what I should do.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Someone Else's Problem

O Canada and Frenchie met with the manager of the Happiness Hotel this morning to discuss Cousin Ganif's recent display of hospitality and the possibility of a new lease. Apparently, the current lease can't be broken, but we don't have to check out just yet. We're also not getting a new lock on the door, so O Canada made it clear that if Cousin Ganif decides to let himself in while we're not home, she'll call the police.

Strangely, I don't care all that much. I don't have to move out by April 1, and probably won't have to move out before May. And, as we all know, I was planning on checking out by then anyway. So even if O Canada and Frenchie have to move in May or June, it doesn't affect me in the slightest.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Week Two With the Kashishim

After two days of embroidering with Orit, Anat, Esther and the Miryams, I was moved downstairs to the rehabilitation workshop, where I was told that the madricha needed more help. The Shikum also does sewing, but the people working there are more mentally and physically challenged. It's a better fit for my intended career as a geriatric social worker, except for one thing...the madricha doesn't seem to need my help.

I've spent Tuesday, Wednesay, Thursday, and this morning sitting in the Shikum and working on my embroidered mezzuzah (which, btw, I've learned is an Ethiopian design). I sit next to an Israeli named Odel. She's from a chassidic family, butnever married, mostly due to her health complications. She has severe diabetes, and is in a motorized wheelchair. She loves to talk and sing and make jokes, and we have a great time. There's another Esther who sits at our table, who has decided that she wants to marry me off to her son.

The conversation is generally better in the Shikum, but I felt more useful in the embroidery workshop. I keep asking the madricha if there's something she wants me to do. She always says yes, and that she'll be right back with something for me...and then it's 12:00 and I've been sitting with Odel doing my embroidery the whole time.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Shabbat in Efrat

Have I mentioned how gorgeous this part of the country is?

I'm sitting in the living room in Chez Treppenwitz, using Trep's laptop to both stay out of Mrs. Trep's hair and catch up on my blogging. The house smells amazing, mostly due to Trep's considerable skill with a grill. Well, it seems consdierable. We'll have to see if the hickory chicken tastes as good as it looks and smells. Even if it doesn't, I probably have to say nice things, because he reads my blog. (Just kidding). We're also going to be having sushi with shabbos dinner, and potatoes (or maybe they were sweet potatoes) roasted with bourbon. I'm already happy to be here, and that's not even taking the excellent coffee into account.

While Mrs. Trep is getting some work done, mini-Trep is going down for his nap, and Trep is doing his own pre-Shabbos preparations, I'm pretty much hanging out with the not-as-mini Treps. They're so much more fun than my roommates at the Happiness Hotel.

**Post-shabbos Update** As Trep has now heard me say approximately one gagillion times, I'm completely in love with Efrat. I want to move there and raise lots of mini-Caras. I think it's the most perfect spot in all of Israel.

For those of you wondering about shabbat itself, I had a delightful time. And yes, the chicken tasted as good as it smelled, and the sushi was great.

And The Plot Thickens

I went to look at an apartment in Rechavia on Wednesady night. It was a great place, but the timing isn't quite right. The room isn't available until March 24, and the lease goes until June 15. I want to move in sooner, and they're looking for someone who's staying a month longer. So we left it as a backup for each of us. If they can't find someone who can stay till mid-June, and I can't find a place before the end of March, we'll work something out.

I got back to my current apartment (hereby dubbed The Happiness Hotel) and heard O Canada saying, "Well, Cara just got home, so I need to get off the phone." She hangs up and says to me, "Ok, I have some bad news." I thought I was getting kicked out of the apartment. Instead, it turns out that all of us might have to move.

Frenchie's ganif cousin apparently came by while I was at work Wednesday afternoon. (Backstory- he subletted the apartment to us without informing the landlord, taking 2,000 Euros from Frenchie that he never gave to the landlord, to whom he owed four months rent and 1,000 shekalim for electricity, and kept telling the landlord that he was in Paris while he was really in J'lem) He told Frenchie and O Canada that he wanted to sublet the apartment to new people, and that we had to decide if we wanted to be out by April 1 or June 1. He also took his television and kitchen chairs.

O Canada and Frenchie will be meeting with the landlord on Monday morning while I'm embroidering my mezzuzah. Luckile, the landlord is a very decent man, and told us that he was willing to write a new lease with their names on it and get Cousin Ganif out of the picture. Of course, since Cousin Ganif doesn't own the apartment, he has no right to throw us out. I'm pretty sure we'll be able to stay. Besides, even if the landlord only lets us stay until May or June, it doesn't affect me too much. I'm leaving the Holy Land mid-May, and may go spend my last couple of weeks in Tel Aviv anyway.

In the meantime, this means that I can openly apartment hunt and not fear repercussions from the other inhabitants of the Happiness Hotel. O Canada will be leaving Tuesday morning for two weeks in Paris, and Frenchie's mooching boyfriend goes back to England in a week and a half. I think it will be a much more plessant place to live while half of the inhabitants are gone.

Answers to Previous Questions

1) I learned how to use that blasted can opener...with help from my ex-boyfriend in London. And if you think it's a little pathetic that I needed overseas assistance to open a can of mushrooms, you're absolutely right.
2) The ancient lady who lead exercises on Sunday is also named Miryam. I don't know how old she is though...I still think she's 92,000.
3) Embroidering a mezzuzah cover takes a really long time. I've been working on it for about 18 hours and I'm still not done. But I'm getting less bad at it.
4) I have not yet found another apartment. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Skill I'm Lacking

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to use the can opener in this apartment. It's not supposed to take 10 minutes to get a can 1/4 open. I wish I'd known this before I'd gone grocery shopping after work this afternoon.

Who wants to send me an American can opener?

Mornings With Bubbes

Today was my first day at Yad L'Kashish. I got there on time at 8:30am, and was taken to the Embroidery and Weaving workshop. The head of the workshop is named Anat. For some reason, she reminds me a lot of someone I know, but I can't quite place her. Her second in command is a very pregant woman named Yulia. Everyone in this workshop is female. The men seem go for metalwork and book binding.

I was handed over to one of the workers, an Israeli named Orit. she started to teach me how to embroider. I had a piece of white cloth with straight lines drawn on with a pencil and ruler, a needle, and some lime green thread. My job: emroider straight lines. After I mastered that, I was set to the task of embroidering straight lines with smaller stitches. Then I learned how to make little round daisies (still using lime green thread). My first attempts weren't exactly circular, but my fifth attempt was perfect. This meant that I was ready for a real project. I'm now in the middle of embroidering a mezzuzah case. So far it just involves embroidering black lines. Later I'll get to fill in spaces with colors. Who knows? Maybe, eventually I'll be able to embroider tallaisim, like Esther and Orit, using gold and silver thread on ivory colored silk. At least I have something to aspire to.

Pretty much, I get to sit and embroider with smeet little old ladies all morning. Actually, Orit doesn't seem like she's over 45, but the others are ancient. Here are my two favorite moments from Day One:

1) Miriam, who's hard of hearing and knits something blue all morning, learning my name and immediately asking, "Are you married?" (All in Hebrew...I don't speak English there. They call me Naama, since Cara is too difficult for Israelis) When I respond in the negative, she replies without hesitation, "May Hashem soon send you a mazel tov."
2) A little old lady, whose name I didn't learn and who appears to be about 92,000 years old, coming into our workhop to lead us in 10 minutes of arm and leg exercises. She's just too cute for words.

After one day, I really like this internship.

Weekend Report

I realize that there really is no such thing as the weekend here in Israel, since we work on Sundays, so this weekend report is really an Erev Shabbos/Shabbos report. Today's report will be in the next post.

I woke up Friday morning in time to throw shabbos clothes into my backpack, dress somewhat presentably, and run down the street a couple of blocks to meet up with fellow bloggers Steg and Treppenwitz. 'Trep' picked us up in his minivan, with adorable mini-Trep in the backseat, and drove us to his home for a lovely brunch with the entire Mishpachat Treppenwitz. This was my first visit to Gush Etzion, and I'm definitely going to be back. (Next shabbos, actually. I really like Mishpachat Treppenwitz, and they're not sick of me yet.) Gush Etzion, for those not used to the real names of places in this part of the world, is sometimes referred to as the West Bank or the Occupied Territories.

I'm going to interject here with a comment of Trep's, which more people should hear. At one point, we were driving on a road through their town, which was bordered by Arab vineyards on the left and Arab vineyards on the right. Yes, that's right, folks. Arab-owned land in the middle of a Jewish "settlement". If, as Trep so rightly says, we Jews were really just interested in a land-grab, don't you think we'd have seized those vineyards, rather than let the Arabs border a frequently used road that runs through a Jewish town?

Back to Erev shabbos. After an extremely enjoyable brunch, Trep was kind enough to drive me back to J'lem, so I could catch a bus to Tel Aviv. I spent my shabbos with Eli and Miryam, which is always fantastic. I've been there enough times that I'm comfortable with their friends. I'll probably go to them for Purim, since these are very funny, entertaining people and Purim is a funny, entertaining chag. Miryam and I caught up on a lot of girl talk, which was wonderful. I don't have any really close female friends here in J'lem. The closest I get is my employer, and that's kind of sad (even though she's fantastic and treats me like a friend, rather than her household help).

I got back to J'lem around midnight, motzei shabbos. Just in time to find another irritant about this apartment (French girl is in Ashdod with her family for the night. So what the devil is her boyfriend doing sleeping on our sofa?!), and go to bed.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Honey, I'm Home...Sort of

Well, that week went by rather quickly. Paris was unbelievable. I'm completely in love with that city. I spent the first two nights on my own in a hostel in district 10, where I made friends with people from all sorts of interesting places, and learned how to say 'I don't speak French" in French. I wandered around during my one day flying solo, finding kosher sushi, the Picasso Museum (note to Picasso fans: this one is a huge disappointment. Not worth the admission fee if you don't speak French) and the Jewish History Museum. The latter was amazing. It starts with Jewish life in Europe from the Middle Ages and goes all the way to the 20th century. Anyone in Paris with a couple of hours to spare should make a point of going.

Then I met up with Big Brother. We spent the next four days or so going to the Rodin Museum, D'Orsay Museum (Impressionist and Post-Impressionist), the Louvre, Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, Saint Germain Des-Pres, the Middle Ages Museum, the Latin Quarter, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, the Champs Elysee, etc. Bee-you-ti-ful! We did a lot of wandering and exploring, and I did a lot of picture taking. I'm hoping to create some online photo albums this week.

Then Big Brother returned to the States, and I went on to London for two days. To be honest, I prefer Paris. But London was phenomenal (especially stopping in a different pub every couple of hours for a pint), and it was great to spend a couple days with Jacques.

Now I'm back in Yerushalayim, with mixed feelings. I'm thrilled to be back, and to still be able to call it home, but I find myself in a less than ideal situation. I'm looking for a new apartment. My roommate situation just isn't working out. I came back after a week to find my bedroom entirely rearranged with no regard whatsoever for my opinion (and the new arrangement sucks, to put it mildly). Plus, my roommates have decided that they want to rent out the apartment for Pesach. The only problem is that I was planning on being there for the chag. Would I be willing to move out for that week, they ask? After all, it's a great financial opportunity for them to make some easy money. I think this is incredibly chutzpadik, to say the least. They expect me to just pack up so that they can make money...and not even offer to include me in on the plan? I don't think so! So I'm now looking for either a new roommate situation or a studio apartment. Let them pay extra rent without me to cut costs. I'd rather not live with people like this.

Anyone in J'lem looking for a personable, responsible, considerate Jewish girl to live with? Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Travel Advisory

In about 10 minutes, I'm leaving Israel.

This is the first time in my life that the thought doesn't make me cry. That's probably because I'll be back in a week.

I'm off to Paris to meet Big Brother. Then it'll be London for 2 days, and then I'll return home to J'lem to start my internship.

Cara's European Adventure

Au revoir!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

This Just In...

I've been accepted to the Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work. This would be pretty cool news at any time, but Loyola also happens to be my first choice for grad school, which makes this news very cool.

I'm still waiting for word on 2 other schools. One is just a backup, and the other no longer interests me all that much, so I'm not too concerned with whether or not I get in. I'm also still considering grad school in Israel, but I have to do more research on Israeli MSW programs and transfering my American non-social work bachelors degree.

However, as much as I don't want to leave Israel, I have a feeling that I'll be back in Chicago for the next couple of years, and going to Loyola. So it's a damn good thing that they accepted me.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I Heart My Life

Every day since moving to J'lem, I've found myself smiling, whistling; or humming a happy tune for no particular reason. I'm just happy to be here. Walking to the bank makes me happy, because I'm walking to the branch in my neighborhood in Yerushalayim. Grocery shopping makes me happy, because I'm stocking up the refridgerator in my apartment in Yerushalayim. Everything makes me happy.

So here are some detailes about the Happy Life of Me. I live in a two bedroom, first floor apartment in the Talpiyot-Baka area. I have two roomates, both of whom made aliyah and were in my ulpan. Jill is 18 and French, and Esther is 26 and Canadian-born Morrocan. Pesach should be interesting, since I'll be sharing a kitchen with two Sephardic girls, and I'm as Ashkenazi as they come. Jill and I share a bedroom. We occassionally hit a language barrier, but overall we manage to communicate just fine. The apartment is big and bright, with a large living room, separate kitchen and balcony.

Though I don't have much to do at the moment, I will soon be very busy. At the end of February, I will be spending every morning volunteering with Yad L'Kashish (Lifeline for the Aged). I've recently landed a babaysitting job for a family in my neighborhood, so my afternoons will also be full. All that remains is to find some shiurim, and I don't think that will be a problem. After all, this is Yerushalayim.

Before my busy work schedule begins, however, I'll be temporarily leaving this marvelous city. I'm meeting up with Big Brother in Paris for 4-5 days, and then going on to London for 2 days to visit a friend.

So, right now, my life is about as perfect as it can be. It's good to be me.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Return To The Real World

Summer camp has officially ended. I no longer live on the kibbutz. I am no longer in ulpan. I have moved to an apartment in Yerushalayim (in Talpiyot, for those familiar with this marvelous city.) and plan to remain here until mid-May.

I apologize for the total lack of blogging during the month of January. The ulpan computer broke. Blogging should become more frequent, as I'll have more reliable access to the internet. (I'm currently using my roomate's computer, since we haven't quite figured out how to configure mine to access the internet. French keyboards are downright weird. They put letters and symbols in odd places. Like flipping the 'a' and the 'q'. I've never been so aware of just how many words use the letter 'a'.)

I don't really know what to think or feel about finishing the ulpan. When I planned out this year, five months had seemed like a sizable chunk of time. It went by so quickly. I'm more than halfway through my time in this country. It's a depressing thought.

On the other hand, I've already accomplished so much of what I came here to do, and not just the part about learning Hebrew. I've come to realize so much about myself: the person I was when I left Chicago, the person I want to be, the kind of person I want to be with, the kind of person I don't want to be with. I see my Chicago life from an entirely different perspective now, and I know that some of this is going to leave a lasting impression. There are aspects of my life that are going to have to change when I go back to the States, and some of those changes will be difficult and painful. I'm starting to think that perhaps one of the reasons I came here was to give myself the opportunity to sort through some of this stuff. Baruch Hashem.

So here I am, back in a big city, in an apartment, having to pay bills and buy groceries and whatnot. The vacation part of my vacation is over. I will try to give more details in the coming posts about life on the ulpan and life in Yerushalayim. I'm hoping to have the time to make this blog more personal again. Until then, I'm going to do my little happy dqnce and sing my "I Live In Yerushalayim" happy song.