Sunday, June 12, 2011


I'm leaving this country in three short days, so I thought I'd share some simple reflections.  For the past week or so I was really excited to go home and see everyone that I miss, but then last night as I was coming back in a five hour car ride from Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), I felt a pang of sadness about leaving.  The other students here are extremely thoughtful, articulate people who have seen a lot in their young lives.  I don't know when I'll have the chance to see many of them again, if ever.

Well, here are two lists about where I am and where I'm going:

I will miss...
  • the friends I've made (who are very different from me)
  • hiking in a desert "backyard"
  • copious sunlight and lack of humidity
  • free time
  • hitchhiking
  • falafel, fool, hummus, pita
  • Jewish holidays
  • field trips
  • religious and political discussions

I am looking forward to...
  • public transportation and trains
  • rain
  • American work ethic and punctuality
  • less secondhand smoke
  • no more border crossings or checkpoints or strip searches
  • pork (and Chinese food)
  • Christian community
  • catching up with family and friends

Mind you, I still think I'll get reverse culture shock.  Probably when I see Woodfield Mall and the surrounding area :P

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Birthday Committee

So today is my birthday :)

The past semester, I've been a part of the birthday committee on campus.  It's pretty simple - a few of us make a birthday card for people to sign and cook up some sort of nice treat whenever it's someone's birthday.  Usually David and I end up doing the baking, and since he's vegan (and there are ~4 other vegan students), we make a vegan cake.  For some reason this term puts people at unease ("A cake without eggs or butter!?") but I have to say we've made some pretty delicious cakes anyway.  We always joke that the birthday committee is for people who like to cook but don't want to spend their own money...which is true in my case :P

Last night, we celebrated all the June birthdays at once because there are seven of us June babies (out of 40 students).  David and I baked three kinds of cake - chocolate pistachio, cinnamon fruit, and chocolate pudding cake.  Fun stuff - we even made the pudding ourselves!  It was our last birthday bash and I'm glad I've had the chance to make everyone's birthday a little sweeter.

And I've been slacking on the prayer part:
Request - I'm headed home a week from today and I have so much to do in between now and then...
Praise - I'm so thankful for 21 awesome, blessed years of life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Return to Timna

Today I returned to Timna Park for an Earth Science field trip.  This time, I got to see some new areas of the park which I didn't get to the last time:

The Arches
Exploring ancient copper mining tunnels
Very out-of-place artificial lake formed after recent mining endeavors
I have to say, I wasn't expecting much from a geology class, but it turned out to be a pretty awesome class (rocks are not as boring as I thought).  I even chose to do my final project on rock climbing :)

My clip in this video (of Oliners studying abroad) is from my last visit to Timna Park:
The video turned out really well and I can't wait to see Olin '12 again in the fall!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Politics, Activism, and....Reptiles!

I returned from a hectic week and a half on Thursday night.  I ended up not going to the alumni gathering because I missed everyone on the kibbutz (and actually had some work to do).  My time away was split up into three parts:

1. PELS (Peace-building and Environmental Leadership Seminar) trip
  • PELS is a weekly seminar for all the students comprised of discussions, guest speakers, and workshops.  We've covered everything from the Holocaust to "compassionate listening" to an-Nakba - the aim is to move towards peace by engaging the diverse group of students here.
  • I don't really know how to describe the trip - there were many ups and downs.  One moment we'd be hearing from residents of Sderot, an Israeli town that is the target of rockets from Gaza, and where every building has a shelter. Then we'd be spending time with Palestinian families in Susiya in the West Bank, where Israeli settlers constantly encroach on their lands.  I've had more than enough interactions with the IDF (Israeli army).  We heard from Benny Begin (right-wing Israeli politician) and immediately after from Christopher Gunness (UN Relief and Works Agency).
We climbed up to a little indent in the rock during the initial hike

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The one thing I regret not bringing here: safety glasses.  Of course, I had to get involved in an engineering-related project here which requires machining.  Except there's no machine shop, and the only safety goggles available are so scratched up that it would be more unsafe to use them.  Today I cut wood boards with a jigsaw while wearing swimming goggles.  It must have been quite a sight...don't worry, I still have both eyes.  Oh, how I long for the luxuries of the Olin machine shop.

P.S. Tomorrow I'm leaving the kibbutz for 11 days to go on the PELS (Peace-building and Environmental Leadership) trip, stop by an activism festival, collect reptiles on the second Biodiversity trip, and attend an alumni conference of the institute in Jerusalem.  See you on the flip side!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trip of Mishaps

Okay, so I'm really behind on posting about my travels.  But I wanted to write a post about a weekend trip to Jordan back in the beginning of April.  Six of us crossed the border at Aqaba and took a bus up to Amman, where Yara, a Jordanian student, lives.  We explored the city for a day and stayed with Yara's family.  Hashim, another Jordanian student (from Irbid), then joined us as we headed to the Dead Sea and back to Aqaba.  We slept on the beach of the Red Sea before crossing back into Israel the next day.  Sounds great, right?  Well, it wasn't that simple...

I'll start with the not-so-highlights:
  • waiting on a stationary bus for two hours to leave
  • getting dropped off at a random gas station because the bus driver lied to us about his destination
The beguiling bus
  • pleading to use the showers at the Dead Sea
  • cutting the soles of my feet on the sharp salt
  • waking up on a beach littered with trash and realizing that the nice groomed beach was only 50 m away
  • coming across a butt naked man in the women's bathroom (to his credit, he was very kind and apologetic)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Deficiencies of the English language

Now that I've spent three months in foreign countries, I've come across many flaws in this strange tongue we call English.  (I'm often asked to read over papers and emails written by fellow students who are non-native English speakers. This is mainly how I've become distinctly aware of these flaws which have tripped up many an ESL student, I'm sure.)

1. Silent letters, and letter combinations which imply a different pronunciation
  • Example: psammophile (which is a sand-loving organism), pronounced "sammofile."  The first p is silent, but then the second p before an h makes the f sound.  It's a wonder how we keep track of such inconsistencies.
Picture for fun - here, I am a psammophile :D
(I was sandboarding in Wadi Rum...)

2. Irregular verbs
  • Example: The verb "be," which has the forms am, are, is, was, were, being, and been. A few too many, don't you think?
3. Homonyms
  • Example: My roommate and I were asked how old we were.  My roommate said "I'm 20."  I said, "I'm 20, too."  Which sounded like "I'm 22." :P

I could go on, but I'll stop here before I lose any more of you.  This is not to say that other languages are much better, for instance, I am glad that English has an alphabet.  And I do have to give it credit for not having masculine and feminine forms of everything (as in Hebrew and Arabic).  Maybe these flaws are really just the foibles which make English what it is - of course, nothing's perfect.

In any case, it's refreshing to see things from the other side.  I do wish I knew other languages better, especially since everyone here seems to know at least three.  But I've realized how fortunate I am to know the language which has (for better or worse) become the international standard.