Tag Archives: friends

Happy New Year

2 Jan

Wow, it’s 2013! How did that sneak up on me? This semester has absolutely zipped by me. December was packed full of deadlines – hence the lack of posts. Sorry about that. I’ll be better now. I have a list of topics to write about so get ready for more regular updates.

2012 was a doozy of a year. In January, I decided it was time to stop dreaming and start doing. I had talked about getting a Master’s degree for nearly ten years and I wasn’t getting any younger. I had forever gone back and forth between thinking of getting an MBA in Marketing or studying the Holocaust. The going rate for an MBA is around the $40k mark. My current Master’s program is well below $10k and that’s without the scholarships I received. Since I’m paying for this degree myself – cost was a big driver.

In the end, I found an intriguing program in Israel through a school I was already familiar with through work. It was a very competitive program and I was unlikely to get in. Given the low application cost – I decided to just apply for the experience of it. I was so sure that I would not get in that I never said a word to anyone about the application except for the people who wrote my letters of recommendation. I did not want anyone to know that I had failed, so pride kept my mouth shut. After not hearing anything for several months – I knew I was unsuccessful. I applied for a new opportunity at work and started to make plans for new grad school applications.

The week of Easter, I received word that I was not only accepted to the program but I received an automatic scholarship. Suddenly my long shot had paid off and I had to decide if I was going to accept my position. First though, I had to break the news to my parents and friends. My parents took the news surprisingly well. I think they were more upset that I didn’t say anything about applying. They were, and continue to be, my strongest supporters and cheerleaders. My friends were very supportive though sad I’d be gone for nearly a year.

After about a day of thinking about it, I decided to accept my position in the program. Given that I had zero expectation of being accepted, I felt that perhaps my acceptance was divine will or just the universe telling me I needed to do this. Whatever it was – I didn’t argue. I’ve agonized over my drink choice at Starbucks longer than I thought about this decision. I can’t say why but this decision just felt right. The next hurdle was breaking the news to work.

My boss and our Director were so incredibly supportive of my decision to do this, that I nearly broke my iron clad rule of never crying at work. The rest of 2012, was spent preparing for this major life change. I moved out of my little blue house next to campus, got rid of a ton of possessions and moved in with my parents in May. I scrimped and saved all summer long. Before I knew it, October 17th was upon me and it was time to say goodbye to Reno and hello to Haifa.

I spent November and December getting to know Israel, making friends and immersing myself in the subject of Holocaust studies. I have incredible roommates and a great circle of friends. My group of friends regularly find ourselves unable to not discuss the Holocaust in some way, shape or form when we are together. My friend, Vicky went home for Christmas and shocked her family by talking about Death Camps at a family breakfast. I fear similar issues when I visit in February.

Deciding to come to Israel completely upended my life in so many ways. I realized recently that nothing will be the same after this – in some good ways and some not so good ways. I’ve gained new friends, strengthen some friendships and lost some who I never thought would leave my life. Regardless, I still think this was the best decision for me and I don’t regret it whatsoever. I’m still proud that I decided to chase my dream of getting an advanced degree and that I was brave enough to do it in a country where I had never stepped foot. This country is definitely growing on me. I appreciate the direct, no BS attitude of most Israelis. A defining characteristic of people here is that they don’t wait for what they want – they go get it. Rather it’s a spot in a bus (no polite lines here) or a person they are interested in or introducing themselves to a new group of people. They are bold, forward and fearless. I hope it rubs off on me.

2013 promises to be another interesting, life changing year. The majority of it will be spent here in Israel before I return home in September. Sometimes, I wish I could close my eyes and see a brief glimpse into where I will be a year from now. But if 2012 has taught me anything it’s  I can be wherever I want. I am the sole driver of my destiny. I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds for me.

Thanksgiving – Israeli Style

24 Nov

Here in the dorms we have several people whose jobs are to keep the students entertained. In Hebrew, they are called Madrichim but they are basically social directors. They organize field trips, they have movie nights and they host meals at least once a month. On Thursday, they hosted an American Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, I am making a “national” distinction given we have Canadians here too who are sensitive that their own Thanksgiving was ignored and given that we walked into the dorm club to find the room had been decorated in an overwhelming amount of red, white and blue.

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Fourth of Ju…wait…Thanksgiving!

It was immediately apparent that our lovely social directors wanted us to feel at home and went to great effort to recreate such a sacred holiday…without actually consulting any Americans. From the strings of flags flying above our heads to the loud country music blaring on the stereo – it was Americana at it’s best. Yet, it wasn’t cheesy – it was touching.

The food was tasty – turkey, rice stuffing, lots of salad (to be expected here), green beans, corn, mashed sweet potatoes, red wine – they even had a version of pecan pie with a shortbread crust, toasted nuts all covered in dulce de leche. Yum! The International School Dean lead us in prayer and a small cheer for the cease fire before we dug in.

I sat with several friends from my department, as well as my roommate, Davie and some other friends. Our little group was composed of people from Canada, Poland, Columbia and from people all across the US – Iowa, Rhode Island, California, Arkansas and of course, Nevada. As we ate, we discussed prior memorable Thanksgivings – I told the story of Thanksgiving when I studied abroad in Germany and last year when I made dinner for friends in London. We talked about our Thanksgiving traditions at home and what our loved ones would be doing for dinner that night. Finally, our little group decided to list out what we were thankful for. There were many mentions of the cease fire, the Iron Dome and tasty, FREE food. I was one who listed the cease fire. As we continued to eat, laugh and grow more and more red cheeked from the free flowing wine – I found myself sitting back and watching everyone interact. Then I realized what I was actually most thankful for this year was this little group. Though I may be far from home and friends and family – I have carved my own little family here in Haifa. These are the people I depend on, who I’ve laughed with, who I’ve cried with and who make my time here so much more fun. I have no doubt that someday I will be sitting at another Thanksgiving table wistfully telling the tale of the time I spent Thanksgiving in Israel surrounded by flags, friends and “America, the Beautiful” blasting on the radio.

Classes Begin

21 Oct

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day. We started with an extended welcome to campus by the head of the International School and several other campus officials. All MA students were present. The university offers four International Master’s programs – Creative & Art Therapy, Peace & Conflict Studies, Maritime Civilizations and Holocaust Studies. These programs include both international and Israeli students. The welcome to campus was nice…but long! I was dying for coffee.

Afterwards, all the programs had the day off until it was time for tours. Our program chose to dive straight into classes so after inhaling a mega fast cup of coffee (random note – all coffee not bought at a coffee shop is instant. My time in New Zealand and England prepared me for this so I don’t really mind. Others on our program are not happy and thus spending heaps of money on nice coffee. I’ll stick with free and instant!) we were off for our first class – “Qualitative Research Methods.” After talking to many friends who’ve done grad school and hearing many horror stories about research classes – I was not looking forward to this class. It turns out – we have a fantastic professor and I think it’s going to be a great class! Yay! The thrust of the class this semester is about using people as research sources. We will be focusing on interviewing skills and investigative research. It should be fun!

As part of the introduction to the class, our professor had us go around and say our name, where we were from, our education and what our Holocaust “connection” was. After doing our symposium, I knew several people had family members involved but we really dove into it here. The stories were amazing to hear and I cried several times listening. One lady’s mother survived Auschwitz and never recovered from the experience. After her daughter started asking her questions about it, she slowly began to talk about her experiences. The memories haunted her so badly that she committed suicide. Another man’s grandfather survived three separate camps before being liberated by American troops. He weight 65 pounds when released. There was a child of a Babi Yar survivor. And the stories went from there.

This class was supposed to go until 11:45 and our next class was to start at 12:15. Unfortunately, we went way over and left our class late. On the way to the next class, our entire group got lost and we ended up half an hour late to the next class, by the time we finally found the building and room. The professor was completely unimpressed. This class is “The Second World War” and the class that I had to read a MASSIVE book for beforehand. We were given the syllabi for all courses a few weeks ago and I was pretty worried about this one kicking my butt. After going through the first class – I am not nearly as worried. The professor is very young but he is incredibly tense and strict. I think as long as I follow his set rules – I will do well in his class. It’s four hours once a week so I will make it work!

After all of our classes, we were to have a campus tour. Unfortunately, our WWII class went over and all of us missed the campus tour. This was okay since we were all starving at this point so we had a quick meal. I shared a lunch special from a coffee shop on campus with two students I’ve become close to. Victoria is from Columbia and in her mid-30s. After being diagnosed with MS a few years ago she completely re-evaluated her life and made many changes. Going back to school was one of them. Heather is an artist from Canada who could happily retire to enjoy her 3 adult children’s growing families but her love of learning brought her to this program. The three of us split a quiche and an ancient salad. At least the quiche was good!

We did catch up with the tour group to go on the city tour. They had hired a bus to take us down the hill and around town. We visited the Bahai Gardens, the Arab neighborhood (Wadi Nisnas) and the shuk (the open air market place). I really enjoyed finally seeing more of the city! I really liked the Arab neighborhood, which was mostly closed since Sundays are a day of rest from them. The market was great! Cheap food and incredibly tasty. I bought fresh bread, grapes, potatoes, eggs, cheese, salami (from a Russian market) and olives. This is where I will be doing most of my food shopping since it’s so much cheaper than anywhere else in town. It’s basically a year round farmers market but with more than just fruits & vegetables. I will try to post pictures once I have a strong internet connection. Unfortunately, the signal in the dorms is TERRIBLE! And totally unreliable. I have to say – it drives me nuts!!

After our tour we had time to eat dinner in the German Colony – an area of town that was originally settled by German Templar (not the Templar of Dan Brown fame!). It’s a super posh area with many restaurants. One of the girls who joined our group keeps kosher so we had to find a kosher restaurant for her. The place we ended up at, Cafe Cafe was good! I had a massive salad with fried cheese that come with the best homemade bread. I approve!

Once we finished dinner, we headed back to campus where I was thrilled to pieces to see my dorm room and go to bed! It was a long 12 hour day that was packed full!

On an unrelated note – several people have asked what kinds of foods have I been eating and what’s available. I have only eaten outside of my kitchen twice so far. I had dinner at a pub one night and had sweet potato ravioli with fresh tomato sauce (excellent!) and last night I had a fresh salad that was delicious. All restaurants on campus are kosher. This means no serving meat if you serve diary products (and vice verse, obs), no pork, no seafood unless it has fins and scales. So most restaurants tend to be vegetarian. It’s a vegetarian paradise! I have not had any meat yet but I hear there is a great place on campus that serves good and cheap hamburgers. I may try it tomorrow. Sadly though, no cheese on those burgers. 😦 I have to say the food is really good and always fresh. I have yet to try real hummus or felafel. Soon!

Gosh, typing about all this food makes me so hungry! I just woke up and now I’m starving for breakfast. I’d better wrap up this epically long entry. Let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments.