Friday, October 31, 2014

BYU v. University of Haifa

After finishing my first week of classes, I've been thinking about the differences between this new college experience and my former one. Since most of you probably won't be weird like me and attend college in a foreign country, I made a little list of ten of the differences I've come up with so far.

10. No sports. I included this because not all Americans realize that college sports is solely an American thing. Too bad; I can only imagine the epic rivalries between Israeli and Palestinian universities haha.

9. Weather. I actually like Utah’s weather. I’m kind of sad to not get a real winter this year (good thing I’m going home for Christmas though!). However, the weather is gorgeous here right now. It’s just about 80 and sunny with a fresh ocean breeze. So I’m dealing with it for now (but I’m missing my fall wardrobe!).

8. Security. Something weird to get used to in Israel are all of the security checks. Every time you go on campus they search your bag, and every time you enter the dorms you have to show your ID.

7. Schedule. The school week starts on Sunday, and I have classes all day Sunday! It's kind of weird but church is on Saturday anyway so it doesn't really matter.

6. The hair. No one is blond. As compared to BYU which kind of looks like someone cloned a bunch of Swedish people. Also, way not as many people are balding. I’m weirdly obsessed with understanding why so many BYU men start balding when they’re like 21, so I noticed this right away.

5. Language. Duh! That’s an obvious difference. I’m surrounded by Hebrew here. My classes are in English, but I still hear Hebrew all around me on campus. Several times I’ve been so thankful that I can read Hebrew, since that’s what all the signs on campus are written in. I can’t imagine how lost I would be without that random skill I have. 

4. The view. The Provo mountains are pretty sometimes depending on the season, but I was never a fan of the view from campus. I know people that are from the mountains love seeing this, but to me they were always just these big brown lumps that made me feel claustrophobic.

3. There’s NO Mormons! Besides me :). That means no tunnel singing (!!!!!!!), no listening to people’s long-winded mission stories, no one trying to out-righteous one another, no grown men building a fort and having a Disney movie sleepover together (okay, I only heard about that happening one time but I’m still scarred)... and many other things. In general I think this is definitely a positive. It's just more interesting.

2. On a related note, there’s no Prohibition here in Haifa. They don’t just sell caffeine on campus, they sell alcohol right in the dorms commons room. People take smoking breaks during class. That's fine, but it’s so weird to me and I’m totally not used to it. I realized that I’ve actually NEVER lived with a non-Mormon before haha. #byuprobs

1. I guess one of the biggest differences is just having so many international professors and students. I think all of my professors are Israeli, but some of them are originally from other places. The students in my program are from all over the world, which is pretty fun. At BYU I had lots of French professors from France, but that's about it. That's another positive of studying in a foreign country!

So in general, I like it here so far. It's pretty overwhelming getting used to everything, but I'm content to be here and start my program! I survived my first week of classes. I've really liked most of them, but I'm already getting a little scared for all of the huge papers I'll have to write. Oh well, at least I have to write huge papers while living here in this exciting country.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts Friday at sundown for Jews. Haifa's International School hosted a Shabbat dinner yesterday night for all of us Jewish and non-Jewish students. There are actually a lot of other non-Jews here. I'm not the only one who had this idea :)

It was pretty interesting because it's such a diverse group of people. Besides a few other Americans, there were people sitting around me from Romania, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands...and a lot more places I don't remember! It totally reminded me of the FLSR.

There was an orthodox rabbi there who led all of the traditional blessings and songs. He was kind of an eccentric guy who was really into what he was doing even when his audience was more into eating than singing yet another song. At one point he was reminding me of Norm Macdonald because he told this really long story that had very little point to it. One of my favorite parts was when his cute 2 year old daughter was reciting scripture verses for us. She was shy at first but when she found out she would get applause she wanted to keep talking haha.

I enjoyed my second Jewish Shabbat dinner! It was a good way to celebrate coming back to Israel. It was also fun to meet other people from the International School. I think it was worth getting the song Shalom Aleichem stuck in my head for probably forever.

Today, Saturday, I got up bright and early to go to Mormon church. That's a bit of an interesting situation. The only places that have LDS congregations in Israel are Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Tiberias. Tiberias is the closest city to Haifa, which is funny because it's completely across the country. Thankfully, in a little country like Israel that only means it's an hour away.

On the Sabbath in Israel pretty much everything shuts down and there's no public transportation. Since everyone is so spread out, the church hires a taxi to bring people to church. I got picked up this morning, we picked up someone else along the way, and then trekked across the country from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee.

The awesome thing about the branch building is its amazing view of the Sea of Galilee!

That's not an amazing picture, but you can kind of tell!

For a few better pictures of the building, here's my post from visiting here during the Jerusalem program.

Today I counted 13 people at church. Something I wasn't expecting was how many people spoke Hebrew. There are several people who have lived here long-term (some with mixed Jewish/Mormon roots) who speak Hebrew in their daily lives. For a lot of people Hebrew is kind of the lingua franca to talk to other people in the branch. I loved hearing the sacrament prayers in Hebrew :). I was laughing that I ended up speaking and hearing way more Hebrew at church than I did at a Shabbat dinner.

Here's a glimpse of the linguistic diversity of the branch- the program.

Today there were Americans, Israelis, Spanish-speakers, and a girl from Germany. I heard sometimes there's also Arabic speakers and Filipinos there.

I guess that concludes my first Shabbat experience in Israel. I've been pretty happy because I love being surrounded by international stuff.

Tomorrow is the first day of classes! Shabbat shalom, everyone!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baby Steps

I named this ‘baby steps’ because that’s literally how I’m walking right now, and also that’s my philosophy on getting everything figured out moving to a new country. This post covers the last 3 days and my moods while writing about those 3 days.

Day I- on the plane and writing a lot because I was dying of boredom

I made it on the plane! See, this is a big deal because I had a little SETBACK last week.   I had a wonderful time dancing once a week all summer at Milwaukee Ballet, and then of course I had to hurt myself (doing a tour jeté!) at the very last class. In the last minute of the last class in fact haha. 

That happened Wednesday night, and my flight was supposed to be on Friday. I was in denial for most of Thursday, but late in the afternoon I decided I should go to the doctor  (even though I avoid going to doctors at all costs) to be cautious because I couldn’t really walk at all. After an MRI I found out Thursday night that I tore my ACL and sprained my MCL. The doctor said it was okay to go and that I could put off having surgery until after this year in Israel. However, I couldn’t walk enough to get through the airport (especially with the amount of luggage I tend to bring), and I couldn’t really see sitting through 14 hours of plane rides because my knee didn’t bend.

So with much sadness we decided to delay my trip for a few days. Those were the most boring days of all time because I couldn’t move at all and I wanted to be in Israel! I was sad to miss all of the orientation stuff at school, but at least I didn’t have to miss any classes (which don’t start until the 26th).

We rebooked my flight for Tuesday, and thankfully my knee is starting to get better. I can walk a lot better now, but it’s still pretty slow and doesn’t feel too good. I managed to get the bulkhead seat on the plane which is good because there’s no way my knee would bend enough to squeeze into a normal seat.

Isn’t all of that so fun? I’ve never ever had knee problems before. It’s already really stressful to move to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone or know where anything is... but now I have to be worried about simpler things... like walking! 

Looking on the bright side, I still get to go. Also, my favorite part about this injury is that now I feel much more justified about making fun of professional athletes who roll around on the ground and make a scene when they get similar injuries. I’m always like, ‘Be a man and save your tears for your pillow.’ I guess ballet dancers are just tougher :) I just stood up right away, walked to my car, and drove home- no tears or dramatics for me.

So anyways, only 8 MORE hours of flying to go :)

Day II- recently arrived in Haifa and feeling a little cranky...

After about another 20 hours of traveling, I finally made it to Haifa. Saying that it was a long day would be an understatement. There was the drive to Chicago, the 9 hour plane ride to Vienna, a few hours of waiting around there, the 3.5 hour plane ride to Tel Aviv, wandering around in the airport there for a while, a 2 hour shuttle ride to Haifa, and then finding my way around and making it to the dorm.

It’s such a relief to be here! But I have sooooo much to do and figure out now that I’m here. I was all excited to get here and then I had a wake-up call and realized I have no food and lots of other things I need ... and also no idea how to get around. And I just want to sleep. Like now. Well, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right?

Day III- feeling accomplished that I actually got some things done today

Today was my first full day in Haifa! The first thing I did was find campus. It was successful! But it involved just a few stairs. To get to campus, I have to walk up 100 stairs as well as walk down 100 stairs. It sucks, but at least I know I’ll be in good shape at the end of this like I was at the end of the study abroad. Forced exercise is good for you haha. Although it doesn’t feel too great with my awesome knee.

What is it with Israel and stairs? This country has a ridiculous amount of stairs. Jerusalem was exactly the same. The Haifa campus is built on Mount Carmel, so there’s a lot of going up and down.

After a lot of wandering around I managed to find all of the buildings I needed to and got a student I.D., an Israeli sim card for my phone, a wifi login (most importantly!), and I also met with some people from my program and got caught up on what I missed at orientation yesterday. It feels good to get some things checked off my list. Tomorrow morning I really need to hit up a grocery store before everything closes for Shabbat. Unfortunately that means I need to figure out the buses.

This whole super long thing is probably pretty boring because my last few days have been boring. Don’t worry, more exciting travel adventures coming soon :)

I did take these pictures on campus today of the Mediterranean view. Not bad!

And also, I’ve been having fun reading and hearing lots of Hebrew again. Share my joy with this collage.

Left: the mezuzah on my room door (wikipedia that!). I thought it was cute they were on all the room doors and not just the apartment doors.
Top right: my name in Hebrew on my new i.d. card
Bottom right: Israeli Kit Kat bar!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Summer. It's over.

Summer is officially over! It hit 40 degrees yesterday! Pumpkin-flavored deliciousness is everywhere! And my time in Wisconsin is quickly coming to an end. 

We got back from a trip to Utah on Saturday, which was officially my last trip out of Wisconsin until I leave for Israel (except for going to the Chicago airport, if I'm being precise). Here's a recap of my summer adventures. They weren't really adventures compared to what I was up to last year, but I did get around to 10 different states so that's not bad.

I went to Utah for the first time at the end of May. I got to see family and catch up with some great friends. Highlights were our little FLSR reunion and all of the sister hang-out time.

In June I started my dance teaching job. I taught 4 classes once a week. I wish I could have taught more! It's the best job ever. 

At the end of June, Jenna came to visit and we had some fun times... including a Brewer's game, State Fair, and finding a drive-thru cheese store in Belgium, WI.

After Jenna's visit, the rest of us drove down south for the Houdek family reunion in Branson, MO. I already expressed my thoughts about Branson a few posts ago haha. But it was a fun time with the family! For the 4th of July, we drove to Kansas City to hang out with some more family... where it was also very fun to catch up with everyone.

My next stop was flying to Tennessee directly from Kansas. I finally had a much-needed reunion with my good friend Stephanie Jones. She was a former BYU roommate who I hadn't seen in forever! I had such a great time hanging out with her and her family and meeting her adorable son Westin.

About a week after getting home from Tennessee, I decided to go along on the Milwaukee YSA ward trip to Kirtland and Palmyra. I don't actually attend that ward or know anyone in that ward, but I thought hey... why not? I'm glad I decided to go, because I love visiting those places and the trip ended up being pretty fun.

In August, we welcomed a French visitor to the Houdek house. My friend David, who I met in France last year (haha, obviously) came over to experience the joys of Wisconsin. We had a great time showing him around exotic locations like Nauvoo, Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, and Green Bay.

Contrary to what these pictures make it seem like, I did not spend the whole summer doing fun and exciting things. A lot of the time, I was kind of bored and really lazy. None of these pictures express the amount of time I spent working on my Israel scrapbook (almost done!) in my pajamas while watching TLC and/or Netflix.

For a slightly more realistic idea of how I spent my time, here's a small selection of the Daisy pictures I took. Let's just say someone might have gotten a little TOO much love and attention this summer :)   

I did go to Chicago yet again after David left to apply for my Israeli visa. It was fun to go with mom and visit the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time and do a little shopping (ZARA!).

The last trip I have to document was the one we just got back from. We spent a week in my "favorite" state of Utah. Besides spending time with family and friends, we visited Sundance and the Great Salt Lake and watched the BYU football team get their butts kicked in person.

About a month ago, I started to get kind of antsy and ready to leave for Israel, but all in all it's been a really fun and relaxed summer. I know when my life gets crazy being back in school again I will be nostalgic for these lazy days.

For now, all I have left to do is get started on packing and enjoy the fall weather before I leave in just 12 DAYS!