I arrived in J'salem safe and sound around 12:00 this afternoon. The flight wasn't bad, and I was actually able to sleep through most of it, which is a rare occurance for me. I got my luggage, passed through customs with no problems, and caught the sheirut (a shuttle into Jerusalem...for those of you who don't know, the airport is closer to Tel Aviv.)
OK, so the biggest piece of advice I can give thus far to anyone traveling alone for an extended period of time is this: make sure you can handle your own luggage by yourself. I flew Air Canada, which allowed me to check 3 pieces of luggage. At the time we ordered my plane ticket, this seemed like a fabulous idea. However, when the sheirut dropped me off today, across the street from HUC, I was hardly able to get my stinkin' luggage across the street. It literally took about 30 minutes to cross a street, and I have dirt and grime covering all of my suitcases! Pathetic.
Luckily, when I did finally cross the street, I bumped into David, a first year rabbinical student from St Louis who I've met with a few times prior to coming here. He was leaving HUC with his roomate, and they were nice enough to help me schlep my bags into the school so I could get my apartment keys. After finding out that both Helen and Nancy (2 of the women who deal with administrative stuff) were both gone, I called Stephanie, my roomate. Lo and behold, she and her mom and friend were just walking into HUC to take care of some other things. So Steph and I met and she and her family helped me schlep my stinkin' bags up to our apartment.
Now, when I say UP to our apartment, I mean UP. I guess I didn't realize how hilly this city is when I was here 3 years ago. This is a city of hills, and to get to my apartment is straight up a big one. I was a pretty sight-I had just gotten off an airplane after a 17-total-hour trip, spent an hour on an unairconditioned mini-bus with 10 other people, struggled to schelp my luggage to HUC and to my apartment, and did all of this in 90-degree temperatures. I was incredibly ugly, with sweat dripping and dirt from the roads all over me. What a way to meet your roomate and her family for the first time, not to mention important people from HUC. Oh well, I think they all liked me anyways, or at the very least did a good job pretending to like me!
The rest of the day was much, much better. I went to lunch w/ Steph and her family at a cute outdoor cafe, and then we came home to get ready to go to a birthday party for my cantorial colleague's 1-year-old daughter. I was able to meet some people from the programs, and everyone is so very nice, including my roomate and the one other cantorial student I've met so far. I didn't really know what to expect of the people; I was a little afraid they'd be pretensious or arrogant, and so far no one seems to be. I met a particularly nice couple, Brad and Claire, who Steph and I later went to dinner with at a great restaurant close to Ben Yehuda street. Some people were going to a bar afterwards, and though I was invited I was incredibly exhausted and ready to settle in a bit. Thus, here I am.
I am so excited to be here, even though it all still seems so surreal. The thought of staying here a year is both exhilarating and overwhelming-I don't know the streets or the people yet, and I'm beginning to see that life here is going to be more of a challenge than I expected. I'm ready for that challenge, however, and I know that once I get used to things I am going to absolutely love it here.