Tag Archives: haifa

Spring Semester Resolutions

17 Feb

The Dead Sea

Well, before I know it I’ll be back in Haifa – buried waist deep in the spring semester. Last semester FLEW by so quickly and this coming semester is already shaping up to be a challenging one. Though between all my classes and a once a week internship in Jerusalem – I’d really like to get out and explore more. Here are some of the resolutions I’ve been thinking about:

  • Go to the beach in Haifa! Why can’t I do my Holocaust readings as the waves crash in the background?!?
  • Explore more of Haifa. I have yet to find a good hummus shop. 
  • Take a road trip! A few friends are discussing this plan. We are trying to decide rather to head north or south.
  • The Dead Sea. I need to get this one off the “must see” list soon!
  • Masada
  • We have two separate two week breaks coming up. At least one of these will be spent abroad. Hopefully, both will be. Hello Jordan! Hello Greece!

Of course, I want to do far more than this but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on an already crazy semester. Anything else I do beyond this list will be a bonus. Plus, we have our field trip to Poland and Germany coming up next semester as well. Busy little bee…


The Current Situation

16 Nov

Well, I had planned to cover the topic of security in Israel at a later date but current events have tipped my hand. I will not get into the politics of what is going on – that’s a far deeper topic than anything that needs to be posted here. First and foremost, I want to reassure you that I am okay and I am safe. Living in Haifa puts me about as far away as you can get from Gaza. We had a mandatory meeting with campus officials on emergency protocols yesterday. The US State Department has been in contact with instructions too. We have been asked not to travel for now and to stay close to campus. Campus officials feel confident that we will be safe here in Haifa but plans have been put into place in case we do need them. In the meantime, they encouraged us to go back to our regular routine as best we can.

I have to say, the mood here is absolutely surreal. Last night, I made a massive pot of spaghetti and fed a herd of people. As we laughed and ate, it was unreal to think that just south of us people would be spending the night in bomb shelters. Despite the fun, everyone kept a close eye on the news too. Around 11 pm, a spontaneous dance party started next door to us and lasted most of the night as people looked for an outlet to blow off steam. For Israelis, this is not the first or last time they have had to deal with this type of situation. There is an air of stoicism about the conflict – like the stiff upper lip of the English during the Blitz of London. At the same time, people are still living their lives. A friend who was in Tel Aviv yesterday when the bomb sirens went off for the first time since the Gulf War in the 90s, was shocked to walk past salons and bars just an hour later and all were filled with people doing their regular Thursday night activities. Though I have to say, most Israelis I talked to yesterday were stunned that Tel Aviv was targeted. This is the first time the center of Israel has been on alert – despite the bombardment Southern Israel has faced for weeks.

Our Holocaust Program Director and many of our fellow students have gone out of their way to reach out to those of us who are international with no family here. Our Director is hosting dinner tonight at her house for us. She said she wanted to do it not only to feed us but to surround us with love and support. Another student offered to let us stay the weekend with his family on his kibbutz north of Haifa. Another classmate contacted me to make sure I had plenty of food and to see how I was holding up. When you are on the other side of the world, experiencing such a remarkable situation, these small acts mean more than you know.

And so we live our lives in Haifa. All watch the news. Many friends in the reserves are preparing to be called up. As I have mentioned before – I have a paper due tomorrow. To honest though, I am having a very hard time peeling myself away from the news to read about the Yugoslavian Civil War – let alone write a paper about it.

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.

Hip Haifa

19 Aug

The Bahai temple and gardens in Haifa. Photograph by Anthony Pidgeon

I apologize for the lack of posts lately – I have been buried at work and didn’t really have too much to say for now. I have about two weeks left in the office before fall travel starts. Between wrapping up work projects and trying to enjoy time with friends and family – time has been flying by!

We did hire someone to cover my position during my absence – my friend Johanna! She already works for USAC in the Student Information department but will be moving to Marketing on September 4th. We will be traveling together for the first two trips of September – I’m looking forward to traveling with someone! I’ll train her as we go and then we will have three days together in the office between trips. After that we split up to cover more fairs – I will have two more work trips before the end of the month. I am very happy that my schedule worked out so that my very last fair is at one of my favorite schools – Northern Illinois University. I didn’t plan it that way but I would have if I could! I’m really happy to be finishing work travel on such a great note.

I recently found an interesting group on Facebook – Haifa Young English Speakers. They host monthly beach barbecues, attend concerts and do cooking classes in their homes. They have a great list of English resources like – salons with English speaking staff, English speaking doctors and dentists, where to buy English newspapers (I loved the International Herald Tribune when I lived in Germany) and books, etc.  I joined their group and have already jumped into several interesting conversations. I even already made plans to meet up with several people for coffee my first weekend in Haifa!

So to apologize for such a boring post today I wanted to share a great article I found on Haifa on the Lonely Planet website (this is a different article than the one I posted on Facebook). It’s all about Haifa’s rebirth from a working class port city to a hip, progressive and inclusive city. Enjoy Hip Haifa.



26 Jun

Good grief, I’m going to need to pack my skates if places like this exist in Haifa!

My friend, Ryan is currently in Haifa for a work trip. He posted this picture on Facebook of a sweet shop they stumbled upon yesterday while exploring the city in their free time. That’s all different kinds of baklava and other sweets. My stomach growled when I saw this. I think I’m going to like Haifa!

Hello world!

8 May

Well, I guess I need to start somewhere. I started this blog to document my year in Haifa, Israel for friends & loved ones. I kept a similar blog when I lived in New Zealand. It’s just an easy way to keep people posted without getting bogged down writing a zillion emails a day. Not that I don’t love emails – I love hearing from friends and family! Hint, hint! Ha ha!

As I have been slowly telling people about going to Israel for grad school I have been getting some funny responses and a lot of questions. Here are a few answers to common questions I have been hearing:

Q: Why Israel?

A: The simple answer is because the program is very inexpensive and I can complete it in a year. The more complex answer is the program I’m doing sounds fascinating to me. It’s a brand new program – it’s the first of its kind in Israel. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I enjoy living abroad – as you know I’ve made it my job to encourage people to do just that. Israel provides a great opportunity to experience a complex place, steeped in history and an all around interesting culture.

Q: Where in Israel are you going?

A: I’ll be studying at the University of Haifa…in Haifa. It is the 3rd largest city in Israel and sits on the Mediterranean coast in the northern part of the country. In fact, the city sits on a bit of a peninsula so it has coastline on three sides of the city. It’s also built on a mountain, Mount Carmel. Apparently you develop killer calf muscles from all the hiking you do just walking around town. The university is location on top of Mount Carmel and backs into Mount Carmel National Park.

Q: Are you Jewish?

A: No

Q: Why Holocaust Studies?

A: I’ve always been interested in World War II history, especially the Holocaust. Much like many kids before me, my interested in the subject was originally sparked after someone gave me a well worn copy of Anne Frank’s Diary in fourth grade. My family is originally from Germany, although most of them immigrated to the US by the late 1800s but my own family could have just as easily been smack in the middle of history. Around that same time I discovered that a close family friend grew up in Berlin during the war and had so many jaw dropping stories to share – I wanted to know more.

Q: You are in your 30s, why do you need a Master’s degree now?

A: I work in the field of International Education. Having an advanced degree is pretty standard, in fact, I’m close to the point where I can advance no further without one. Plus, I’ve always wanted to get a master’s degree.

Q: Why do you want to leave? Can’t you just get your degree here?

A: I don’t want to leave but this is a simple way to accomplish my goal quickly and inexpensively. I do get free tuition from UNR as a faculty member but I travel too much to be able to take advantage of it. In order to get a degree using the free tuition, I’d have to work only part time and no traveling for two years. Not to mention fit in all that studying with all my other obligations. I am hoping that by doing an intensive degree abroad – I can use my time away to just focus on my degree. Of course, I will miss my family and friends very much but I will be back.

Q: When do you leave/when will you be back?

A: My program starts October 21st. I will leave a week before that. My program finishes in September 2013. I will return shortly after that.

Q: What about your job? Did you quit?

A: I am incredibly lucky that I work for fantastically supportive people. They have granted me a one year leave of absence, in order to complete this degree. They will hire someone to cover my position for the year that I am gone. I am very thankful to be allowed to do this. I love my job and didn’t want to leave it but getting this degree was very important to me.

Well, that covers a few questions. I’ll add more as they occur to me. Until I leave in October 2012 – this blog will just be covering preparations. I promise it will get more interesting once I jump on the plane. In the meantime, thanks for reading!