the city that stole my heart

To all of my loyal followers who have stayed with me in my journey — thank you for being patient!

It has been months since I’ve updated and I do apologize; but as I’m sure everyone knows that life gets in the way.

I have graduated from my Ulpan program and moved to the big city!

Now, those of you that know me know I come from a small town. I am very much a small town girl. I went to college in the same city where I grew up and besides Israel, I have never left the comfort of my own home (thanks mom and dad 😉)

It seems odd that not only have I moved countries away but to a city?! My how things have changed. I was never one for sleep away camps— or camp at all, really. I was a homebody, but as the years grew on, so did I.

I am proud to update you all and say that I am now successfully living in Tel Aviv!

I moved 4 months ago (whaaaaaat) and within two weeks of living in Tel Aviv I found myself a job. It was quite crazy actually. I applied to this position for an English tutor and then next day I had an interview and after I had my interview I walked out with an employment contract. I was working for a company for a month traveling to peoples homes and doing private lessons in English to families from the MOD (ministry of defense) who were being relocated to English speaking countries. While it was fun and rewarding in its own way I wanted something with more of a schedule, benefits, and of course a career path!

…..so there started my job search– again! Quite simply I googled “English speaking gans in Tel Aviv” for those of you who don’t know a gan is a mix between a daycare and a kindergarten. I found 3 different gans that were close to my apartment and I emailed all three my CV and was inquiring if they had any positions open.

I heard back from two and interviewed at both and I fell in love with one.

For 3 months now I have been working full time (6 days a week!) at Rainbow Nursery or גן קשת. Rainbow is a bilingual, educational gan that serves from 3 months until 5 years. I am working in the Tigers room (26 children; the children are currently at age 22-27 months) as a keyworker for green group.

In the gan there are 150 children broken into 5 groups (penguins, tigers, zebras, lions, and elephants) each class has 4 color groups (red & blue – the youngest and green & yellow- the oldest)

What does a keyworker mean? It means I oversee 8 children daily on a 1:1 personal basis. I also run an adult led activity everyday for one hour, as well as multiple adult initiated activities where I welcome children to come build towers out of blocksC or the the role play area, or even to come listen to a book (sometimes in Hebrew 😊) I also change nappies (our gan uses British English) everyday so now I’m a changing wizard. Of course, I also work with all of the other children; however, for my kids I am constantly doing observations, daily development plans, parent consultations/meetings, and so much more.

Two months into my job I was offered a promotion. The promotion will take affect August 25 as I transition into the role of deputy team leader of lions (36 children) I will oversee 50% of the class (red and blue groups), take more part of planning the daily activities, engage in morning rotation activities which include language, math/science, art, and cooking. I will also be doing home visits. The children I will be working with will be 3 years old.

The gan is completely bilingual and the children are unbelievable. Every class has Hebrew speaking staff as well as English speaking staff. 50% of the time English is spoken and the other 50% is Hebrew. Truly, language is an amazing thing. Many children speak two or even three languages fluently and it’s astonishing! I have stepped into a leadership role and the transition is going smoothly. As I prepare to move classrooms, I am given new responsibilities and duties to complete daily. I helped co-lead a tour for prospective families (for 2020!!) last Friday. I help set up classrooms to make it look welcoming and professional.

My job is about 25 minute walk away from my apartment which is a very nice commute. When I’m feeling lazy or tired it’s only a 10 minute bus ride!

I’ve become a local! Or as local one could be in a city. I have my usual supermarket, usual coffee place (conveniently located next to the gan), usual bar (shout out to all my friends who are the bartenders), etc.

All of the good/positive updates are great but don’t get me wrong. I still have my days where I really miss my family. A few weeks ago was my birthday- the first one I spent away from my family and our regular traditions of celebrating. A month ago or so I was really sick for weeks I had a terrible virus and all I wanted was my moms matzah ball soup. Working with kids as a teacher makes me miss my niece and see her development and how she’s learning and watching her grow. I miss my dad, seeing all the kids during pickup so excited to see their “aba” (dad) and greeting them with a smile and a hug just makes me wish I could go back to my apartment and open the door and see and greet my dad with a smile and a hug. I miss my sister and all of the things we would do together and all of my friends.

Buuuuuuuuuuuut in 21 days I’ll be back in the states for almost 3 weeks! I’m so excited to see everyone and not have to deal with flying cockroaches.

xo,

Erica

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Update: I’m doing ok!

I realize it has been months since I’ve last posted. So sorry!

In the past months I’ve been busy getting my permanent Teudat Zehut (Israeli ID card), taking Ulpan classes 4 times a week, and trying not to knock over boxes of screws/bolts at work. 

I’ll be honest the first 6-8 weeks here were really rough (and sometimes continue to be). A lot of people here were different than me, and it was hard to find common ground to bond over. I found myself purposefully isolating myself and staying in my room, and fleeing on the weekends to various friends houses. It was/is a struggle knowing that I can’t cook for myself. As great as it is to have the dining hall, I really wish I could just cook something for me. However, with no oven, stove, or even hot plate, it’s nearly impossible. 

I found myself questioning my decision. Why did I come here? What did I want out of this “experience”. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t think it would be this hard. I kept comparing everything to last year and all of the experiences and friends I had. I know this time is different but deep down I wanted it to be the same. As I found myself stuck on dwelling on the past I pushed forward and now I’m focused on living in the present. Living life on a kibbutz, while somewhat convenient, community-filled, and small, I have come to the conclusion that at this particular point in my life kibbutz life isn’t for me. 

Fast forward to now, I still think kibbutz life isn’t exactly where I see myself, but my time is so much better! I have made connections with people here and have a friend group, I am enjoying Ulpan and learning so much, and even my job isn’t all that bad. Sometimes I leave on the weekend and sometimes I don’t so I can hang with people here. 

This weekend I’m going to Tel Aviv with two girls from the program. It should be a good trip! 

My time on the kibbutz ends at the end of April. In 3 months I have to have a somewhat solid plan as to where I’m living and a job. It’s crazy because I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow let alone what I’ll be doing/where I’ll be in 3 months! I have an idea of what I want to do, but for now I’m just kinda winging it. 

I’m also hoping to do some traveling once Ulpan is over and before I really “settle down”. 

The past 69 days have been good and bad but I know this is where I want to be. All the feelings of doubt have gone away and I want to live my life here and I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds. 

xo, 

Erica

6 hours later…

Have you ever walked into a meeting or a classroom, or even work for the first time and immediately felt like you were behind? 

That’s how I felt on my first day of Ulpan. 

It was hard. I had a massive headache at the end. Did I understand everything that was going on? No. Did I learn a lot? Yes. 

Last year was great, but my Hebrew knowledge is more kid-friendly and I know nothing of grammar or past or future tenses. 

At our first break I begged to be moved back to level bet. I was told it would be to easy for me and that I already know what they’re working on. So, I was forced to put my big girl pants on and face the next 6 hours of Hebrew. 

At the end of the class, I realized I knew more than I thought I knew. I filled out a worksheet in class and I got them all right so that was a nice confidence booster. However, I am going to work with a teacher 1:1 to learn more intensely the past and future tense since I really need help with that. 

I just finished my homework – two worksheets we had to fill out based on the vocabulary we learned in class. Am I confident that I got everything correct? Absolutely not. Did I finish the assignments given? Yes. 

Learning another language is no joke. It’s hard work and I’m here for the ride. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to write one of these blogs in Hebrew. 

I was supposed to start work today but throughout the night I had gotten sick. A lot of people smoke here including all of my housemates, so my asthma’s having a field day with that. When I showed up for work this morning, Amir actually sent me home and told me to go back to sleep. My job is still in the screw factory. So it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. My next work day is Monday! So I have a few days before that comes back. My work uniform consists of heavy duty black work boots, blue khakis with a crap ton of pockets (not actually complaining about that one!) and a t-shirt. 

Today was a tough day. I wasn’t feeling well and I was really missing the girls from last year. I am the second oldest in this program on the kibbutz. Mainly there are 18-20 year olds and most of them (with the exception of 2) come from Russian speaking countries so language is a big barrier. I miss my kids, my host teacher, host family, and my town I lived in. It’s hard, but I have to try to stop comparing “last year vs this year”. I’ve been here less than two weeks so I have time. 

I’m thankful that I have all “my people” in my corner, last night I actually met up with Guy in Haifa it was nice being away from the kibbutz for a little. We got cheeseburgers for dinner so that was good too, haha. 

Tomorrow I have Ulpan again and then I’m off until Sunday. 

xo,

Erica

Some things never change!

What a day I’ve had. 

I spent about 4 hours (on and off) calling hot mobile today. Hot mobile is my phone service out here. I purchased a phone plan because the one I received from misrad haklita ran out. I was bounced around between people (Hebrew speaking as well as English speaking) and no one could tell me why my phone wasn’t working. Finally I went to Amir, he helps with our Ulpan program and asked him to help me speak with the customer service. FINALLY after many different representatives telling me in different languages that nothing was wrong with my account this person said there was a block on my account. Got that settled right away and now my phone is as good as new! 🙌🏼

So far, I’ve had a great Hanukkah break. I spent some time with Mor and Amit and their families. My tummy is full of levivot (latkes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts)!

I got back to the kibbutz last night and I got to know more people that are doing the Ulpan program. There are two groups here. People would made Aliyah (like me) and people that are doing volunteer time. There’s people from US, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, France, Romania, England, Spain, and Venezuela. We have our own United Nations! 

I found out that my “job” is studying the anatomy of screws and then working the assembly line to make sure they are all manufactured correctly. Well I found out that there’s an opening at the children’s petting zoo.  I’m hoping I can switch my job to working with the animals and the kids! Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow if I get the ok to switch. 

Tomorrow I’m going to Haifa to the mall to do some shopping and a couple of other things I have to do. I should be getting my health insurance card and my bank card tomorrow. I’ve been here 11 days and I’d say I’m in pretty good shape for getting settled and everything set up for my transition into a true Israeli! I already have my Israeli phone number memorized (in English and Hebrew 😉) next up is memorizing my teudat zehut. 

Overall the past week has been pretty low key. It has been really great spending my second Hanukkah in Israel! It’s gotten colder and rainy. Winter has arrived in Israel. My roommate, Fey and I have the heat on in our room. Some good news, we haven’t received a third roommate so it looks like it’s just going to be the two of us! Wahoo 

Excited and nervous to start Ulpan on Tuesday! Can’t wait to start talking to my friends in Hebrew more fluently. 

Tonight, I’m hanging out with some of the Russians and trying to learn a little Russian! 

xo,

Erica 

3 buses and 2.5 hours later….

Last year played a huge part in my ultimate decision to make the “big move”. It really helped prepare me for “all things israel”. Now, in no way am I a pro but when my appointment yesterday with misrad haklita was changed from 10:15 to 11:45, I for one was not surprised. Just like when 7 of us went to open bank accounts and only 5 left with open accounts and the other two people were quite upset about waiting 4 hours for nothing to happen. As a seasoned veteran (this isn’t my first rodeo!) with dealing with Israeli banks, government offices, health offices, I just take everything with a grain of salt. *enter here an important Hebrew word: savlanoot (patience) one must exhibit patience when dealing with such offices, because quite honestly times/appointments mean nothing. 

Once my appointment was over I packed up my things and went on a three-bus ride adventure. My first bus was late (shocker 😉) so the bus driver actually opened the doors while we were stopped at a red light so I could lightly jog (I don’t run) to the bus stop in order to catch my second bus which was actually a minute early (that’s the real shocker!). Impressively, I happily arrived in Moledet! It’s crazy that a 45 minute drive by car took 2.5 hours by bus but, hey I got here and that’s all that matters!

In some ways I really miss having my own car, especially since arriving at the kibbutz. I arrived 6 days ago and I’ve really only spent 24 hours there. The transportation (buses and trains) were much more accessible living in Beit She’an. Living in the kibbutz the closest bus station to go to yokne’am (the closest city to where I live) is a 20 minute walk which isn’t bad but the 50 minute bus ride that would take 15 minutes by car is somewhat annoying. On the plus side everything I need is within the kibbutz, there’s the dining hall, (I don’t have to grocery shop or cook! A clinic I can just walk into and get the medical service I need, which might take a few hours but it’s very convenient and helpful that I have the accessibility. There’s laundry service (I can’t even remember the last time someone else did my laundry, although if you ask my mom she’ll have a different answer). There’s a pub and movie theatre for entertainment. 

I’m sure once I actually start spending a consistent amount of time on the kibbutz I’ll enjoy it more and more everyday. I also realize that it is somewhat unusual for an oleh to arrive at the place where they’re living and leave almost everyday. I’m super thankful for that. In 6 days I’ve already seen Amit and her family, Guy, my host family from Beit She’an, my kids and host teacher from Beit She’an, and Mor and her family. I’d say that’s kinda impressive. 

Hanging out with Dekel and Ido is always fun! Their personalities, now are really shining through!! It’s crazy to see how much they’ve grown in the 5 months I was gone. 

The jet lag I had been experiencing is almost gone, and I’ve very thankful for good coffee. I’d say overall I’m settling in nicely. It is a little strange to be able to do what I want, when I want. At least for this week.

I am eager to start Ulpan, expand my vocabulary and start speaking to my friends in Hebrew. It’s exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time. I know I’ll make mistakes, that’s all part of learning.  I’m interested to start my job and get the specifics of what my job actually is. The vagueness of my job “oh you’re working at the industrial factory” doesn’t really help when I want to know what my job is.

I’m staying tonight again at Mor’s. Tomorrow I’m hoping to go around to see some other people. Happy 4th night of Hanukkah to those who celebrate. 

xo,

Erica

And my job is……!

Alright, so let me pick up where I left off! Amit had picked me up Friday and we went back to her house. It was my first Shabbat as a citizen, very exciting! 

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They made a l’chaim to me and it was very sweet. Both of her sisters were away so it was nice to spend some time with her brother and parents. We just hung out and watched some movies. I was still very jet lagged. 

Saturday evening, she brought me back to the kibbutz and a few hours later my host family from Beit She’an came to visit me and they brought pizza! It was so nice to catch up and they even brought me a Hanukkah candy basket. 

On Sunday morning I had a meeting with my Ulpan director where I actually tested out of level bet for Ulpan and I am now placed in level gimmel. I have Ulpan on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 7:45-1:45. 

And my job is (drumroll……..) working in the industrial factory! Yay for not having to shovel poop! Although this factory makes car parts so maybe don’t buy a car anytime soon with parts I help make lol. I will work on Monday and Wednesday. 

Level gimmel starts after Hanukkah break so I had a surprise day off yesterday so I grabbed a ride from a man on the kibbutz to Afula and took a bus to Beit She’an. I surprised all my kids and it was so nice to see everyone!! It’s crazy what a difference 5 month makes- all the kids got so much taller. After school, Rachel and I went to the tzim center for coffee at aroma. I then went back to her house and hung out for a little bit with her and her family and met her older son who’s in the army. 

I got a ride to the train station and took it to yokne’am where I met with Guy. We grabbed some falafel and went back to my kibbutz. 

I was able to sleep in today and unpack a little. I went to open a bank account and tomorrow someone from misrad haklita is coming to the kibbutz tomorrow to help set up sal klita. 

I am making Hanukkah plans for this week to go around to some of my friends houses before my schedule gets busier. 

Chag sameach to everyone!! 

Happy holidays 

xo,

Erica

I’ve landed!

I’d like to blame the cat fight or roosters for why I’m up right now but the reality is that jet lag is a horrible, annoying, thing to deal with! 

Out of all my times flying this one was the most exhausting. I never slept! But I did watch 5 movies, so if anyone would like a comprehensive movie review; contact me. 

Once the plane landed there was a huge applause, many cheers, and over the announcement the pilot even wished all the Olim hadashim “chazlacha” (success). There were about 40 of us on the plane all making Aliyah. My Aliyah anniversary is November 29 which is actually a very historic day to Israel! November 29, 1947 is when the UN first noticed Israel as a nation. At least this is what our Nefesh B’Nefesh advisors told us. 

We were told to stay on the plane until all the other passengers leave so we can exit as a group. As we got off the plane we were met by flashes of cameras, Israeli flags, signs saying “welcome home”, chanting, and so much excitement that we were the newest citizens!

We got on a bus to take us to terminal 1, and we went upstairs to Misrad HaAliyah and HaKlita, or the ministry of Aliyah and absorption. 

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We had individual meetings where we got our teudat oleh, teudat zehut, SIM card, and an intense overview of all the steps we have to take next. Of course i remember everything 😉

It was all very overwhelming especially when sleep deprived! I already have a list a kilometer (have to get use to the metric system now!) long. I have to make an appointment at misrad HaPanim (ministry of interior) to get my permanent teudat zehut, and my darkon (passport). 

Finally at about 10:00 (3.5 hours after we landed) we head back to terminal 3 to get our luggage. I was immediately happy to see that all of my 3 suitcases had made the flight! I grab a cart and load it up and go wait for my taxi to come to take me to the Kibbutz! 

I meet my driver, and he asks me “do you know where Ein Hashofet is?” I inform him that I know where it is, but I don’t know how to get there. He says “me either, but we’ll find out together” so it made for an entertaining car ride! 

About an hour or so later I pull up onto my kibbutz and it is a lot bigger then I thought! Following the signs for the Ulpan, I can already smell the goats and cows. I go into the office and meet Elka, the Ulpan director, and her assistant Amir. We’re talking and she decides to put me in Ulpan level Bet. So that’s exciting! I start Ulpan on Sunday. I’m still unsure of my overall schedule but I’ll get it Sunday. 

Amir takes me to my room. Upon arrival it looks like a little house! There are 3 bedrooms, in two bedrooms there are 2 roommates in each. In my room, there are 3 roommates. We have two shared toilets, a shower, and a small kitchen. Our small kitchen is basically just a room with a counter and a fridge. It’s a cute set up! I will say my apartment in Beit She’an spoiled me! 

Some perks about this kibbutz: 

  • I don’t do my own laundry (they have a service) 
  • There’s a pub right around the corner from my room 
  • I get to use to cheder ochel (dining hall) so I don’t have to cook 

I’m looking forward to finding out more exciting perks about this kibbutz! 

Most of the afternoon and evening when I wasn’t sleeping I was updating family and friends with my new number and making plans to see each other. I received a video from my host teacher of my 5th grade (now they’re 6 grade) girls welcoming me back to Israel. It was so sweet. 

Tomorrow, well actually today, I am going to Amit’s house. I hope to see Guy sometime on Saturday and my host family from Beit She’an is coming Saturday evening. 

It’s been a whirlwind of 22.5 hours in this beautiful country of mine and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

xo,

Erica