Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We're Here!

Well technically we have been here for...three days? Who knows, I still am not sure if today is actually Wednesday. It has been a whirlwind of a week so far though! I am really not sure where to even start, so I guess I will start at the beginning.

It all began at 3:00 pm at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. We all arrived with our ridiculously heavy bags in tow. There was nervous and excited chatter between the interns and parents as each of us checked in praying our bags were under 50lbs. As the clock struck 4:00, we all said our goodbyes and made our way through security. (Not before taking a group picture of course)

The first picture of Onward Israel Cincinnati
Our parents didn't want to be left out! Thank you to all of the parents!

The first PARENTS picture of Onward Israel Cincinnati
Once we made it through security we made our way to our gate where we all sat playing cards and getting to know each other more. We finally boarded our first flight of the day to Philadelphia..and what a rough flight that was. We all eagerly rushed off of that plane as fast as we could to our next gate, which we only had about thirty minutes to get to! We all made it through the secondary security screening and before we knew it we had all boarded the plane to Tel Aviv! This flight was a whole heck of a lot better than the first one. The best part was the touchscreens on the back of each seat which we full of movies, tv shows, and games. (The only downfall of this was the flight announcements coming through your headphones ten times louder than what you were watching.) I made it through Frozen, Gypsy, and Little Shop of Horrors. Most of that eleven hour flight was spent sleeping, waking up with a stiff neck, adjusting, and sleeping some more. Soon we were all alerted by the captain's voice blaring in our ears that we were going to be landing in thirty minutes! We landed with the sound of applause from some of the passengers and we had finally made it to The Land of Milk and Honey.

After going through customs and getting our luggage we were greeted by our madrich, Lior. He welcomed us with a huge smile and a laugh that is contagious. He led us to our bus which we quickly loaded, and then we were off to Jerusalem for the night. We arrived at Bayit VeGan Youth Hostel and went straight to dinner where we got our first reminder of Israeli dining qualities. Number one, no ice. After dinner, we moved into a meeting with Lior and Netta, our internship coordinator. We got our Israeli sim cards or phones. I chose the phone route so I was given a beautiful Sony Erikson, complete with a TalknSave lanyard attached. We all called our friends and family to tell them we arrived safely and went to bed relatively early. The next morning was filled with orientation meetings which were just as much fun as you would expect and orientation to be. 

     *There was an interesting occurrence on one of our breaks. Outside of the hostel there was a barricade, and on the other side were people chanting and making noise, and holding flags and signs. It looked very intense and important. When we asked, we were told they were protesting a gas line that was to be placed in their area, and there was big meeting about the issue taking place in the hostel. We were relieved that it was a peaceful protest and quickly went back to our meeting. 

That afternoon we finally boarded our bus and headed home, to Tel Aviv. We were each given a key to our own brand new apartment dorm on the campus of Tel Aviv University. These buildings are so new that we are the very first people to live in them, and the surrounding buildings are still unfinished. But it wasn't time to move in and relax yet; Lior and Netta took us around the area. They showed us some restaurants, the bus stops we would need for work the next day, and the nearest supermarkets. Thankfully they pointed out the cheapest one. As the tour went on small groups broke off to go to the supermarkets, and in the end there were five of us left. Then, just like that, Lior and Netta left with a, "Good luck tomorrow! Remember, getting lost in a city is a state of mind."

Onward Israel Cincinnati's First Group Photo in Tel Aviv

The five of us (Emily, Aaron, Nikki, and Shira) made our way to dinner at the restaurant Netta had pointed out, King George. It was a good meal, complete with warm water. When our waiter brought our check we all came to the realization that in Israel they don't do separate checks. Thus began the biggest struggle of figuring out how to pay, how much to tip, and how much change we each were supposed to receive. I still am not even sure what we did, but I know that waiter was left a pretty big tip. From there we walked to the supermarket. Although we were well aware that we were in Israel, the confusion of every label being in Hebrew was still high. I settled with the basics: Cheerios, soy milk, apples, a bell pepper, pasta, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, hummus, pretzel thins, and a chocolate bar. Emily, Aaron, and I also purchased what we thought was hand soap, but now I am pretty positive it is says "soapless" on the bottle. Other than that, I think the shopping trip was a success! That night almost everyone went to bed early, nervously awaiting the bus commute to their internships in the morning.

There were some of us however who did not have that same concern. I found out that afternoon that my mentor, Naomi, is sick, so I don't have to start work until Monday. (She doesn't work Sundays so I don't either.) Liora, Daniel R, and Micah are interning at Joy Records, and their boss is busy preparing for Pride this weekend, so they did not have to start. Daniel V's mentor is out of town, so he did not have to start either. 

Today, while everyone else ventured out in the city to find their internships, the five of us ventured to the beach! Lior recommended a beach, and gave us some loose directions, so we set off to find it. We got on the correct bus, and eagerly watched the screen, waiting for the Hebrew name of our stop to come up. We turned onto Ben Yehuda St. when another patron stopped the bus, and as he got up he told us he could show us where the beach was. We exchanged glances and agreed to follow him. That very nice man led us (the opposite way that he was headed) one more block to Gordon Beach. We quickly applied our sunscreen and headed out into the water. We got our first falafel (for only 15 shekels, HOLLA!) and shawarma of the summer for lunch, and headed back to the beach. We spent the ENTIRE day on that beautiful beach, and there was only a teensy little bit of sunburn involved. 

Gordon Beach

We came home in the evening to find everyone returning from work. Nobody got too lost, and everyone seemed to love their internships! A lot of people walked to another beach this evening, some went to check out a local bar, and the rest of us just hung out at home. Our first few days have been long and exhausting, but it has been a fantastic start to our time in Israel.

     *An example of how tired we were on our first night in Tel Aviv: After returning from the supermarket, Emily put her yogurt and eggs in the freezer. She had not purchased anything that needed to be put in the freezer. She opened the freezer multiple times today (for an unknown reason) and did not realize what she had done until around 11:00 pm tonight. (Emily approved this example.) 

This Friday is Pride in Tel Aviv, or as Lior translated it, "Mega Gay Parade." We are all super excited to go! We have a lot of fun things planned for this weekend, so be ready for my next post! 



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