Saturday, October 20, 2007

Orientation, Good Vegetables, and Teachers Striking

There were lots of topics that I thought about including here, since my last posting:

-the entrenched, unbearable bureaucracy of every government (and often non-government) office/going to 6 different offices to get one thing done

-my experience signing up for national health insurance in Beer Sheva (more bureaucracy, ladies screaming at each other, people standing too close to me)

-Sunday morning bus ride down to Beer Sheva is a wrestling competition/who can push harder/who has fewer bags and a bigger fun (Sunday is Monday here an all the soldiers return to their bases, mentioned in last post with soldier under luggage rack on train) where I let 2 buses pass me by before a man in a cowboy hat directed all the civilians to a separate bus for priority boarding.

-eating Israeli salad almost every day, always adding bulgarit cheese (a kind of feta I think). So far, my favorite is from Aroma Cafe.

-buying paint to paint my room from Ace in Beer Sheva. I foolishly thought because it's Ace, it will be like an Ace in the US. I was sorely mistaken! 3 hours after entering, I managed to leave with 2 liters of "Sea Calm" and 750 ml of an aubergine color, but not without the cash registers not being able to process international credit cards, lots of screaming between Russian ladies (same as at the clinic where I signed up for health insurance), other customers yelling about whose fault it was that the cash registers had a "communication problem," and so on.

Asides from all these things, most a bit stressful, I am having fun!

We had orientation for the MAPMES (Masters of Arts Program in Middle East Studies) on Wednesday. It was mostly underwhelming. But I think that's a good thing. There are 27 students in the program, although I don't really know anything about any of them since we didn't do any sort of introductions. The professors seemed impressive--PhDs from Harvard, Princeton, etc. We had an hour lesson on how to use electronic journals at the library--most of us were rolling our eyes, as we all learned this as undergrads. There was also a one hour lecture/discussion by an anthro professor on life in Beer Sheva. This was interesting, although nothing new: she mentioned the Israeli concept of personal space (or lack there of), how your neighbors and everyone really care about you and aren't fake like Americans (אכפתיות= consideration/caring), and how fruits and vegetables are amazing here. I laughed a lot. The evening ended with a reception. We mingled, had Ramat Ha'Golan (Golan Heights) wine, some good ravioli, more good vegetables, and that was it. Class starts Sunday, with Arabic at 10 am.

Most University professors are striking and not starting the academic year on Sunday. There is a small chance the strike may not take place. Either way, we were informed that the professors (the same ones who are striking) will be teaching our classes. The logic: because the MA program I am doing is not subsidized by the Ministry of Education (as most students' tuitions are), the tuition we pay goes straight to the University.

Also, most middle and high school teachers are on strike. I found out recently though that religious subjects are continuing to be taught. The explanation: "Rabbi Chaim Druckman, director of the Bnei Akiva state educational network, including dozens of yeshivas and ulpanas, said, 'We are not opposed to the strike, but we have a religious duty to teach Torah.'" Interesting stuff.

Last night I was flipping through Yediot Achronot (the equivalent of USA Today) and I found this article. It's about 5 different women trying to build 5 different tables. It says only one of the was successful. I am not sure if I am more aware of gender relations here (or am I just more aware in general, of all that is new to me?), but this struck me as a bit sexist!

Would this get published in an American paper?

Even better--the writer is a woman.

Lastly, here is the Melissa plant. Oded's mom, Tali, got it for me. I was talking to her about how I had been thinking of changing my name to an Israeli name, and we were discussing the name/word Melissa in Hebrew. And I am lucky that most people are familiar with this herb/spice, and thus my name is not too foreign to most Israelis. I believe it's somewhat similar to mint, although I don't know what it's called exactly in English.

Melissa, pictured below, needs to be in the sun and stay moist at all times.

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