Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Volunteering, the Negev, and Purim too!

Alex, a 5 month Social Action track participant, recently wrote about some of her experiences in her blog post:

This past week has been very fulfilling for me! Last weekend the group traveled to the Negev Desert, where we set up sleeping bags under Bedouin tents, made pita from scratch, and learned to make poikey. That night I smoked hookah with two Bedouin muslims. One was 25 years old, named Solomon. I learned that he had 2 wives and 6 kids. His wives don’t like each other apparently, which he seemed okay with. They fight over me, he said with a subtle, satisfied smile. He’s a modern Bedouin, making money working at these tents made for tourists like me. He prays 5 times a day, but on his own time, none of that call-to-prayer tradition for him. And he probably does this in his Ed Hardy sweatshirt.

The next day we hiked Makhtesh Ramon Crater. For five hours. It was challenging, even difficult for most people, as there were steep inclines and scary descents on more than one occasion. I honestly loved it. I felt the burn for sure, but the result was worth it. The views were breathtaking, & the geological nature of the crater was mind blowing. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but I can imagine this is what it would be like to hike through it. Except for the billion year old fossils of sea life you find along the way.

Volunteering has been really rewarding this week. Etgarim is fun, although a nerve racking experience. There’s not much instruction, it’s fair to say you’re left to find your way and figure it out as you go. It’s hard, for instance, to tell Ronnie, on his hybrid bike, to watch out for other people. I can’t remember how to say it in Hebrew when I’m feeling panicked. The other day I’m there I work with a different group of kids, including 8 year old, Hannah, who is autistic. She’s so sweet but she really doesn’t even communicate with words at all. Mostly I read her face, like her eyes, or her excitability level. I have brought one awesome skill with me to the table; my enthusiasm and energy. I cheer the kids on while we’re all en route, riding along the coast on bike paths, telling them “metsuyan!” or “tov me’od!” ("excellent!" or "very good!")Even though it’s scary to have their general safety in my hands, there are some things I guess you can just do on your own.

Mesila was fun last week for the toddlers. Melanie and I noticed these kids had like, NO toys. We took time to go shopping and brought some balloons. It was a huge hit. Since every kid was allowed a balloon, no one had to fight over who got to play with it first. Sharing is not an option for these kids... Another nice thing is that they’re slowly catching on to my routine song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes.” They like the moves to that song anyway. It’s a very sad place. This one child kept begging to be held, over and over, and I finally realized he was pretty delirious, as in sick. I picked him up and he immediately fell asleep in my arms. He’s from Sudan or Areatrea, no more than 3 years old. His parents cannot afford to stay at home and take of the poor little guy. It’s a hard life for these kids. I can only go 2 hours a week according to this program, and it’s honestly not enough time for me, but it takes your EVERYTHING to be there, especially when there’s 20 other toddlers tugging at your clothes, wanting to play with you, and wanting to be held as well.

Omanoot is very cool so far, since my first assignment was to photograph a band at a cool venue called the Barbi Club. Next, more photos, as well as helping create a more visual look for their site, but all in due time.

The Blind Center has been really great. I started teaching a yoga class for senior citizens on Thursdays. It’s easier than I thought it would be, although one of the staff members had to take it too so she could translate everything for my "students." They are not only blind, they also barely speak English! This last Sunday they created a Purim party for all their members and volunteers. Not only did I set up food and drinks, but plated the food for members as well. Not usually a big deal, but I don’t know all the vocabulary yet for food, and I have to explain to them what the options are for them to eat! It was pretty funny. I was good at naming drinks at least. I'm noticing understanding Hebrew spoken back to me is also very difficult… Interesting situation! They really like me though (once again, energy goes a long way), and now some want me to teach them English. Love it!

Purim was insane here in Israel. Now, I have celebrated Halloween in the Castro in San Francisco, but I think even that comes to a close second on the party scale when it comes to Purim in Tel Aviv… I dressed up as a thought bubble. I wore all white, white long sleeve shirt, white skirt, white leggings, bought some bubbles, fabric markers, and walked around asking everyone to write their thoughts on me. It was creative and fun! Made for a great souvenir to bring home. Many of my friends and I started on Thursday night at an Etgarim dance party, which was really, really fun. Even little Ronnie was there, and we danced the night away. Friday during the day I went to a street party, then at night we went out to Florentine, the trendy, popular district within walking distance from our apartments. Then Saturday we just started all over again. Some of us went to the beach to hang for the day, and then came home to change back into costume and start the drinking again! Loving this holiday... On Sunday it was Ma’ayan’s birthday, so we all had a lovely pot luck dinner at our house, where I made Israeli salad and tabouleh for my first time. Everyone brought some amazing food, it was a feast and a great party.

I want to write more, but that is the last week in a nut shell, and I’m exhausted from running around. Keep your eyes on my Picassa for photos, and also on Facebook.

Missing everyone back home.

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