Phew, this week has been a whirlwind! The flight to Israel was fine, although the bag check process was much more interesting. I was flagged down and told my luggage would be searched, as well as my carry-on. For two grueling hours, I waited outside a small room near the boarding zone while my backpack was searched, as well as the carry-ons of five other classmates, which made it the strangest get-to-know-you experience I’ve ever had! We were finally allowed to go just before the plane took off, and the flight itself was nice if excruciatingly long. We got into Tel Aviv in the morning and the drive to campus was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever experienced—the 16+ hours I’d been awake definitely made the whole “Oh my God I’m finally here!” aspect much more intense.
I’m in a single room in a suite-style apartment. Two other flat mates are here and we’re not sure if the other two rooms will be filled. I’m still working on decorating and unpacking, as my room was rather bland with white walls, a large wooden cupboard attached to the far wall, a window overlooking another building, a narrow wardrobe, a long desk, and a bed that is very low to the ground.
We were given some down time then, and I used it to call my folks at 5AM their time (Rothberg required that we purchase a phone plan, which was brilliant). They were, regardless of physical or mental state at the moment of waking, very relieved to hear from me! I also took the time to shop at the nearby market, which was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I was, I suppose, more surprised than I had a right to be by how little I understood—nearly everything was in Hebrew, and there were very few American or British products I recognized. The coolest culture shock, to be sure! Luckily a lot of bags and boxes include illustrations so I treated myself to some tiramisu biscuits.
At 3pm, we went on a tour of the campus—which is 10 minutes uphill from the Student Village in the desert sun. The campus is much larger than my home campus and that in itself was an interesting experience. Happily, the Rothberg building is easy to get to and easy to figure out.
Then there was an orientation meeting and after that an optional bus trip to a mall for some much-needed shopping. There were several necessities I didn’t pack, so I was relieved to have the chance to get them. I did panic a bit during the trip, however: sleep, food, and water deprivation + an inability to read or understand the written/spoken language of a country = total disaster. I bought everything I needed, though, and after I calmed down a flat-mate and I got some pizza and ice cream (but, man, am I dying for some pepperoni right now….).
Today was the first day of Hebrew classes, and it was also an interesting experience. Other than English, I’ve only ever learned French, which follows the same alphabet and is easy enough to figure out once you understand the basics; Hebrew, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. Trying to learn what shapes make what sound is definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do—I didn’t realize how used to the Latin alphabet I was, but looking at the lines I drew and trying to figure out what sound they made was difficult to remember, difficult to keep track of. I enjoyed that they gave us two breaks throughout the day, though: a 15 minute break and then a half-hour for lunch made the lesson go by much faster.
After getting lost around campus, my legs are killing me, I’m starting to tan up (read: burn), and I think I’m pretty used to the Israeli time zone by now! Tomorrow is the trip to Masada and the Dead Sea, which I’ve been looking forward to for the past few weeks; I can’t wait.