This week has been a little calmer than the one before, mostly because orientation and classes are starting up. I needed a little time to rest, to enjoy my last days of freedom before ulpan (my intensive hebrew study) begins. That's not to say I've been lazy, however. I've ventured out to new and different areas this week, and have been braving longer walks and new neighborhoods both alone and with others. Monday night, I ventured onto Emek Rafaim, a cute area that reminds me a little of downtown Kirkwood in STL. It has a lot of cute little shops and restaurants, and is far less crowded than the touristy Ben Yehuda area (See Danny, I listened to you...) I met Rabbi Franken there for dinner, which was lovely. It was nice to talk to Rabbi Franken outside of TI, and to get to know him through his history and knowledge of Israel. It was especially nice to see a face from home.
Yesterday morning I headed off for my first solo adventure to the shuk (marketplace, similar to Soulard in STL). I managed to find it okay by myself, but once I actually got there I was completely overwhelmed. The shuk is ALWAYS crowded with people buying the many fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, etc they have to offer. For someone who tends to be "people claustrophobic", it can be a bit of a traumatic experience. Yesterday as I was walking down the hill of the shuk, a man came after me screaming in hebrew and finally tapping me on the shoulder. As I turned around, visibly scared out of my mind, he said "Lady, you left a bag at my stand" and handed me a bag with the lemons and peppers I had bought from him. He then proceeded to tell me that I didn't have to be afraid, that people in the shuk are my friends. It was reassuring, especially after initially thinking that this man wanted to kill me, but it was still an uncomfortable situation. I think I need a buddy the next few times I go, until I'm comfy there.
Orientation began last night, with a fun evening of mixers and getting-to-know-you activities. It continued this morning, with a very lovely shacharit t'fillah (morning prayer service) followed by meeting after meeting after meeting. It was great to meet the faculty, and to hear about this coming year, but I am now totally exhausted.
I've been incredibly emotional the last couple of days. I think it's the realization that school is starting and I'm not just here on a 12 day Birthright trip, combined with the usual insecurities of starting something new and the small pangs of homesickness I've been feeling. I cried during t'fillah today, and again in one of our orientation breakout sessions, and again when I got home and started to really process everything I learned today. The funny thing is that I'm not sad--homesick maybe--but definitely not sad. Emotions are bizarre sometimes.
The good news of the day: I was placed in the kitah bet (2nd level) hebrew class for the summer. I completely expected to be sitting in the aleph (1st level) class, so that news makes me very happy. I'm a little shocked, I must say, but I'm hoping it's the right place for me. I guess we'll see on Sunday, when ulpan begins!
OK, naptime for me. Much love from Jerusalem!