I'm sitting in my friend's lovely kitchen in Baqa on a cloudy Jersualem morning at 6:52am inhaling Wellness Tea because its too hot to sip since I left the cup of water in the microwave long enough to kasher the thing. I've been up since 3:30. My lymph nodes feel like watermelons, or better yet, since I am, after all, living in the settlements, they feel like really big (stun) grenades. My throat feels like its been jackhammered and is now mere jagged cement. My vision is hazy and I think one eye is stuck so that one appears larger the other. I don't think I look pretty. But then, what's a blog for if not to avoid the most physical part of a relationship? Ahh yes, now I remember why I do this.
Appearances aside, let me tell you about Israel. Which is where I am.
Yom Chilutz Atazamot
I got in three days ago -- give or take a day or a night -- and have been on the run ever since. Ein Prat (the institute I am about to begin attending) scheduled a "yom chilutz" which literally translates to "Pioneer Day" on - I thought - Wednesday, the day after I got in. So I went to the central bus station, got on the 125 out to the boonies, arrived at Kfar Adumim (the closest spot to Ein Prat to which buses run) and walked/hitchhiked down to Alon, the settlement to Ein Prat is adjoined. But something was very wrong. It was a ghost town. I was on time, but no one else was there. I figured it was just Israelis being their lovely unscheduled selves, and walked on. But when I got to the Midrasha itself, I knew without a doubt that it wasn't that everyone else was late -- it was that I was early. By 24 hours.
The madrichim (organizers, counselors, administrators) were very kind, offering me drinks and strawberries, and telling me that, well, at least I got to figure out how to get there on my own! (Yeah, yeah. Ugh). So I turned around and went back. I hitched a ride to French Hill and from there I took two buses to get back to Baqa. Sigh.
But I was not deterred! No no! My pioneering spirit prevailed! And I went back yesterday (Thursday) -- meeting people as I went. Turns out there are going to be not two, but FOUR Chutznikim ("out of towners") in our group of sixty! I met one of them my first day in Israel and one more yesterday. Only thirty or so showed up for our Pioneer Day, so I have yet to meet about half the clan. Or commune. Or kibbutz. Or yeshiva. Or whatever we are. Anyway, its all very exciting, and I do love meeting people.
My tea is a goodly temperature now, and I do feel a bit better for drinking it, but I still can't help glancing at the clock and wondering when the Terem (clinic) at Tzomet HaBankim opens. Do we think it might open at 7? Is that possible?
Right! Back to the Yom Chilutz! So basically all we did was try and pretend like we were going learn each other's names, and then clean. The first two hours I spent mostly organizing the Moadon Studentim or "student office" which had been ransacked by the bogrim (alumni) that had come to Ein Prat for their Purim Party this past weekend. I also helped move chairs, which was fun. We assembly-lined it. And there was music blasting, which helped matters. Then we ate falafel. Scrumptious and clearly homemade, it came in a big pickle-jar like canister and the techina was poured from recycled plastic water bottles. And then we were put into teams of three to scour the caravanim, or trailers, where we will all be living for the next 4 months.
Now, I visited this place before I signed my name in blood and agreed to come. I checked out the caravanim. Indeed, I slept in one! And I had though it a pleasant enough place, pretty, sedate, with a nice view of Jericho on one side and the Dead Sea on the other. But I hadn't seen ALL of the caravanim. Oh no. I hadn't seen the ones situated within the houses (can I even call them that?) of Alon. But I was assigned to clean one. Caravan #17.
It was NASTY. It had likewise been flipped upside down (pardon the Purim pun) by the party that had gone down last weekend -- but the chain-smoked cigarette butts in the coffee mugs and the sticky double deck of playing cards were not the real the problem. The real problem was that walking inside of it was like walking into a cabin at Camp Long. It was walking into a dirtier, nastier version of outside. Living there would be like camping all the time. I won't get into details, but I swept, scrubbed, and then waited as the two Israeli girls I was with did their thing with the squeegees and water that I'll never understand, and then we went back to join the others. I really hope I'm not forced to live in Caravan #17.
In a pathetic attempt at good cheer this morning, my ipod touch (which I have, in the interim, named Sweet Jimmy) has brought to my shuffle's attention the Belle and Sebastian gem, "Women's Realm". I hope it warms your the cuticles of your heart the way it has mine and brings serenity to the aches of your throat. Merry Sabbath.