I have been wholly tossed into a new life. Like a kid on a wave, I can just go along with it! After 6 months of unstructured travel extravaganzas, I now have a precise schedule. I even have feeding times. I go to class, work, exercise, and then study. Sometimes I work, then go to class, and then exercise and study. And in between all those time-blocks I squeeze in as much socializing as possible.
It’s been a while since I had the luxury of proffered friends. I’d be a fool not to build as many relationships here as possible.
It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you’re doing. It’s the people around you that make your life worth it. And I am giddy to have a good group of friends already.
This ulpan has a definite collegiate feel about it, mixed with a twinge of summer camp. We all live 3-to-a-room, work and study together, and eat communally. We’re also (usually) the only people we know in the country and we also have a date of departure – June 31st, the last day of the ulpan.
Class is 4 hours each day, as well as work. We switch times every week – one week we’ll learn in the morning and work in the afternoon, and the next we’ll learn in the afternoon and work in the morning.
Class is…ok. I am in Gimmel, the 3rd level out of 4. I am, often, desperately out of my element, as everyone else in the class either grew up with Israeli parents or attended a Jewish day school. And yet, despite my requests to move down to Bet, they won’t let me because I “show promise.” Granted, reading and writing and grammar are pretty easy for me, but the fact that I have thousands of fewer words in my vocabulary than the other students puts me at a disadvantage. My evenings are spent in rote memorization.
Still, I’m learning a lot of Hebrew, and quickly!
Some explanation of class organization: There are 4 levels here: Aleph (א), Bet (ב), Gimmel (ג), and Daled (ד). The first 4 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (which, incidentally, is called the aleph-bet). Daled it the highest, Aleph the lowest.
By the test, I’m comfortably in Bet. However, I stretched a bit, talked to the teachers, and got placed in Gimmel. This was so that I could work in the school, since they want ulpanists with higher Hebrew skills.
But I underestimated Israeli bureaucracy, even on the kibbutz level. Though you state your job preferences and your work history, the admins don’t give a damn. They give returning ulpanists (those for whom this is their second ulpan at Maagan Michael) their choices, and then scatter the first-timers around the kibbutz at random. No checking preferences or experience.
We are the kibbutz bitches. Somehow we’ve crossed the Atlantic to come to the kibbutz, and end up paying them to work their menial jobs. If I hadn’t gotten an excellent scholarship, I’d rankle.
I work in the dining hall, the chader ochel (חדר אוכל). I work in salads, which means that for 4 hours a day, I make vegetables smaller. Chop. chop. chop.
It’s boring, and depending on who you talk to, we may or may not be allowed to listen to our ipods. But bras are a wonderful thing, and I find that if I tuck my ipod into mine, I can turn it up to full volume and listen to my podcasts without headphones.
And, as always, it’s how you look at it. I work with some good people, and if we joke and compare our respective strangely-shaped vegetable findings throughout the day, it’s not so bad.
That’s the core of it. At least, that’s my day until 5pm.
Some exciting stuff is happening, and I’m eager to keep you posted.