Friday, February 8, 2013

Week 2: Family, Food, and Felines

I would like to begin this blog post by taking a moment to celebrate the life of Aimee Wallis Buchanan. Aimee joined God on Monday, January 28. Even though I did not know her personally, I have realized this week how my life has been changed by her presence on earth. She was in some position behind the scenes of at least one Montreat conference I have attended, and I went to a workshop she facilitated a mere month ago at College Conference at Montreat. Now that I think about it, it is hard to believe that when I saw her then that she would complete her time in on earth in a short 3 1/2 weeks. From what I learned in that workshop and have seen on Facebook from my Presbyterian-connected friends, she lived her life much in the way that I hope to live mine. Aimee co-founded the Asheville Youth Mission. Even though I didn't know her well, I find that I am awestruck by the connectedness of people all over the world and how we truly don't know how our lives affect others around us. Wow. Although many are grieving her death right now, I firmly believe that God needs her more right now. Thank you, Aimee, for giving me this moment of contemplation. My prayers go out to all of your family and friends.

Now for this past week. It's been a busy one so this is a warning that this post will be lengthy. I found that I had so many more things to post about immediately after I wrote the last one, but have not had time to write until now.

Last Friday the fourth floor really became the Fourth Floor Family (and Friends/Favorites). We all got together to cook food for Shabbat dinner. Like I mentioned last week, I am not domestic. I do not cook. So this whole experience of buying and making all of my food by myself is a bit intimidating. I had planned on making fettucini alfredo all week, but everyone else kept cooking and offering me food. Who am I to deny free cooked food? Anyway, I planned on making chicken alfredo with broccoli for our floor dinner. The whole process took 2 hours, but I successfully made chicken (even though I accidentally dumped too much black pepper on it), broccoli, pasta, and homemade alfredo sauce (recipe found by my dear friend Molly). Everyone loved it, and I have even had requests for it for tonight's Shabbat dinner. After putting so much time, energy, and effort into cooking that food, all I wanted was for other people to eat it and enjoy it. I think I could get used to this whole cooking for people thing. Since Friday, I have made chicken macaroni and cheese pizza with help from my dear friend, Pavel (the Canadian/Russian/Israeli/Jew). Tonight's plan is actual macaroni and cheese using Molly's special recipe. If you hadn't realized, food is actually a central part to this experience. All our floor and friends do is eat, cook, and buy food. I wish I were kidding. It is a great bonding experience, though, and we are all learning from each other.

Back to Shabbat. Before we ate Shabbat dinner, a few of us got together in one apartment's living room and did our own services. Although I had absolutely no idea what was going on, it was still obviously a religious experience. I was simply a participant observer. Among the group, we had varying degrees of religiousness and knowledge of the services. Different people knew different tunes to different songs (which were all in Hebrew). It was interesting to see everyone comparing what they knew and what was familiar to them. I was skeptical, at first, to how singing random songs in Hebrew without knowing what you were actually singing about was religious or gave a spiritual connection. Then one of the girls who was leading most of it mentioned how spiritual it was to her because she didn't know what she was saying. For her, it was the unknown and mystery that brought her closer to God, which made me rethink my stance. As the service progressed, the atmosphere actually changed. Everyone was happy and enjoyed singing. Other people on the floor returned from services at a synagogue in the middle of our services. One of the guys sang along and chimed in with claps and dancing as he prepared his food for our dinner. I also never understood why people sway as they study the Torah or pray (I guess that just shows my "frozen chosen" roots). When we got to the amidah (the part of the service that involves individual meditation or prayer), I was surprised when I felt myself swaying as I prayed and talked to God.

During the dinner, I realized that what we had made was an intentional community on our floor. I have experienced that many times, especially while I have been on staff at Bethelwoods and Camp Shawnee. I have decided that I absolutely love communal living and intentional community. I love our open door policy that we have on the floor. I love feeling comfortable enough to walk into anyone's apartment to borrow something, find someone, or just hang out. It is amazing to me that this has happened pretty much unintentionally and after only two weeks. The Fourth Floor Family is the best.

The next morning, our floor hosted a Shabbat brunch, much like the Shabbat dinner the night before. We put up signs around the building and in the elevators inviting everyone to bring food and have brunch with us. Our spread was amazing, and the food was delicious! This time, my contribution was strawberry and strawberry banana pancakes. My roommate Sarah (the one whose boyfriend is in the Israeli army) made the batter, and I cooked them. Everyone loved them, and again I got the great feeling from cooking for others.

Last night, another floor had a potluck dinner. I wanted to make the macaroni and cheese for it, but literally every pot on the floor was already being used for cooking pasta to take. So I claimed my contribution was spaghetti that my friend, Austin, made.

Speaking of the community that is the fourth floor, the building, and the Rothberg Program, we have decided that Rothberg is actually just like high school. I never went to boarding school, but I imagine it would be like this. Except we have less supervision and rules. By this point, everyone in the program knows or at least has heard of everyone else. We all go to class at the same time and have the same breaks. The workload isn't as much as college so everyone actually has time to hang out and do things after class. It is just like high school. Sometimes, the interactions and relationships are a bit high school-esque, too.

Continuing with the food theme of my life and this post, it's time to mention the shuk. The shuk is the market. I went for the first time my first Friday in Jerusalem. It was absolutely crazy. Everyone is buying wine and challah for Shabbat and any groceries they need for the weekend because it is closed until Sunday. The vendors line the street and sell all kinds of produce you could ever want. Some stores sell household items or clothing or tourist-y knick knacks. Sometimes, you have to haggle to get to a decent price, which is difficult if you don't know Hebrew. On one of my recent trips to the shuk, I managed to haggle some dried mango from 58 shekels to 20. On that trip, I managed to get my produce for the week for only 50 shekels (about $12)! It is definitely better to get groceries there than at a supermarket. The only issue is that it is a 20 minute light rail ride away. Anything you buy you have to walk around with and carry all the way back. I'm only now realizing how much I take my car for granted.

I have found bacon in Israel!! On my last trip to the shuk, Pavel took me to the Russian place that sold bacon. However, it costs about $30 for a kilogram. I don't even like bacon so I don't think I will invest in it any time soon.

I chose my classes earlier this week with my advisor. It was probably one of the least stressful registration processes I have ever done in my academic career. Granted, I already had a list of classes approved for credit by W&L before I left. I will continue taking Hebrew 8 hours a week after Ulpan ends, which will be glorious (especially at 8:30 am). I am taking Archaeology in Jerusalem which meets every Tuesday afternoon at different sites around the city. I'm very excited to learn about the history of the city past the tourist information. I will also be taking It's Complicated: Partners and Politics in the Bible, which examines biblical relationships between Israelites and non-Israelites through the lens of current questions of Jewish identity. Appropriately, I am taking Christians and Jews in Late Antiquity: Amid the Battling Empires, which focuses on the development of Judaism and Christianity into their current religions. I purposefully arranged my schedule so I don't have class on Sunday (the school week here is Sunday-Thursday). So I will be done with class 12:15 Thursday and don't have to go back until 8:30 Monday.

I have neglected to mention this to anyone, but I have contact information. I have a US number that you can call, but please don't text. (973) 928-7966 Please remember that I'm 7 hours ahead if you are going to call. My address is Angela Williams 2 Lohamey Hagetot St., Student Village 742 Jerusalem, Israel 97880

Now for a fun shout out to my friend Scott. Scott is also writing a blog, and I was lucky enough to receive an honorable mention in said blog this week. He was describing his roommate (or floormates) in this post. Here is a direct quote from that post: "then Angela who is Christian but extremely friendly." My friend told me about it before I read it. Then I read it. Then I laughed and was slightly offended. He knows me well enough to have much more to say about me than just "extremely friendly." The comment Christian but extremely friendly is a foot-in-mouth statement in itself, but I got to thinking about it and went a bit deeper. I realize that being one of the only non-Jews and devout Christians with the intent of entering ministry means that I am representing Christians and Christianity. That's kinda huge. I also think that there is something wrong with the Christian church if someone is described as Christian but nice. Christians, we gotta work on our image. That's enough preaching for now.

Now, I have a series of one-liners (you could call them that).

This is a birthday shout out to my amazing new friends who are now 21 since coming to Israel! Happy Birthday, Austin and Mollie!!! I love you both and can't believe how close we are after 2 weeks! Can't wait for 4 more months of shenanigans!

I was wearing my CAP shirt from Ichthus, and my friend Jakov from England asked if Appalachia was in South America. Everyone gets a kick out of the fact that it's a Christian shirt. My friend Brittany (or Princess Binny, PB) wants to steal the shirt just because it says Christian.

The fire alarm went off toward the end of class this week. Rather than evacuating like it was a fire drill, my teacher asks if anyone is panicked and continues on with the lesson.

I've had to explain to several of my friends that the W&L trident was not a messed up swastika. They don't seem to grasp the concept of our beloved emblem.

My roommate Julia didn't realize that the Lee of Washington and Lee was Robert E. Lee. When she found out, all she said was, "You're so southern!"

I went to a panel on Israeli politics one evening. Right as the panel was beginning, a cat jumped off the windowsill and walked over to Pavel and I (who make friends with cats). We proceeded to play with the cat, and it jumped in my lap. I think I may be a cat whisperer.

Pavel and I have made friends with another cat that Pavel named Smoky. One evening, my roommate Sarah went to do her laundry and saw Smoky on the bottom of a pile of cats who were attacking and essentially raping her. She scared off the attacking cats, but they laid in wait while Sarah guarded the door of the building that Smoky ran into. She called me, and I came downstairs and got Smoky. I wanted to take her into the apartment, but Mickey, one of Pavel's roommates, made me put her down. Cat rape is not cool or ok. It makes me sad that something that I try to prevent is a part of nature.

My sister's name is Rachel. Normally, when you meet someone who has the same name as someone else close to you, it is easier to remember that person's name. I started saying that to people when they introduced themselves as Rachel. Then I realized there are at least 5 Rachel's in my program.

For my psychology/mental health readers, I have had quite a few conversations about mental health and mental health resources in Israel and on campus. I am so grateful that W&L has the counseling resources that it does. Do not take that for granted. Ever.

Now for the ending. Props to you if you have kept reading to this point. A concept in positive psychology is flow. Flow occurs when you are so intently focused on an activity that you get lost in it. It requires at least a little bit of thought so that you are not bored. You enjoy what you are doing, and time flies by while you are doing it. I feel like I am living in a constant state of flow here. It is amazing. I love this place. I love these people. Two weeks down. So many more to go.

1 comment:

  1. Love ya! And love living vicariously through your big adventure! (Sad about the cat rape too!)