Hello, world, and many happy greetings from Israel. Learning Hebrew is exhausting, especially when you spend 25 hours a week in class. I'm very happy to say I'm enjoying Israel very much, despite the tone set by my departure from America. First, the travel agency I booked my flight with (through the university, a group flight with other students) was so late in mailing out our travel packets that I never actually got mine, and had to meet a representative from the agency at the airport to get my necessary travel vouchers. The representative waited until the very last minute before we were required to check our baggage to show up, and then was surprised to learn I needed anything from her, and seemed confused as to why I should want the documents she had promised me both in e-mail and over the phone. Then take-off was delayed by about an hour while security did who-knows-what. And then, to top it all off, when we arrived in Israel, the school officials had us fill out the paperwork they had already mailed or e-mailed to us, which I had already taken the time to mail/fax back to them. Nearly everything was chaotic and disorganized in some way. However, once I settled into my dorm (and threw away my big suitcase, which gave in to old-age on the flight over and had to be literally dragged across the ground to my dorm), I started to feel slightly calmer.
That disappeared as soon as ulpan (Hebrew classes) started the next day. We are three-quarters of the way through ulpan, and three-quarters of the way through our text book, and somewhere around the second week I started looking for a tutor. This is where my major (and pretty much only) problem with Israel arises: people seem either annoyed or baffled when you ask for help. When I asked my teacher if the university had tutoring for students, she looked at my like I'd sprouted another head, but did take me up to the language office to get the information. It turned out their tutoring is just another class you go to after ulpan, though, so one of our wonderful activities coordinators found an Israeli student willing to tutor me one-on-one. In short, my life since August 3 has been one of constant studying, with a few exceptions: the coordinators took us on a 'practical' tour of Jerusalem, and then later to the שוק (outdoor market, where we do most of our grocery shopping); and last week they took us on a tour of the Old City, where I got to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Right now we're on vacation for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), which our teachers celebrated by giving us a take-home exam, with plenty of homework on the side. One of my classmates invited me to her home for dinner tonight: she's married to an Israeli and they have a home off-campus.
More to come, but for now שלום ושנה טובה!