I am sure a lot has happened since I last wrote, but it has a while so I will try to remember everything! Last week we finished up our Talpiot training! We finished on Thursday. I am very happy to be done because that means I am that much closer to getting a permanent schedule and being in the schools!
We had one observation day last week in the schools where we visited a special school in Netanya. By special, I do not mean special needs. I mean that these schools in Netanya are different than regular schools. They can be therapeutic schools, schools for immigrants, American schools, Religious seminary type schools, etc. We visited a school mainly for at-risk boys. This school was a religious school, but not in a typical manner. There was an animal farm on this school. Yes, you read that correctly. They had two dogs, goats, an ostrich, a camel, horses, chickens, guinea pigs, and more! The children held an election at the beginning of the year to vote and campaign for their fellow classmates to get responsibility of an animal. By the way, the students live at this school. Therefore, when they get responsibility of an animal, they do everything. For example, when the kids wake up they feed the animal before they even eat breakfast. Throughout the day they feed, clean, and do other necessary tasks for that animal. This is really important because most of these children had never been given any responsibility before.
After visiting the school we went to Jaffa for some unexpected lectures. It was a long day and we were very tired by the end, but I really enjoyed the last speaker of the day. She opened two centers [one in Netanya and one in Herzlia (I think)] for at risk youth. We learned a lot about her centers and at the end, a bunch of us wanted to potentially do our secondary volunteer project there. I got her business card and am going to email her today to figure out when I can go visit the center and speak with her. I really liked what she had to say though so I am sure I will love what she is doing in these centers. I will tell you more about that later!
On Saturday, I went rollerblading for the first time! Marisa, Jenny and I walked to the bike park that I had visited a few weeks ago. Jenny brought her long board, I brought my rollerblades, and Marisa was going to run. It was Shabbat, therefore everything was closed and it was the perfect day to go. It was very enjoyable rollerblading with the breeze and not a care in the world. I hope to do that every Saturday that I have free.
The sunset on Sunday marked Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This year we had the option to be paired with host families if we wanted. I was lucky enough that Eli has extended family in Israel and they were more than willing to host me. I had no idea what I was getting into but I was excited to meet everyone. We were picked up by Eli's third cousin to head to dinner at some other family member's house. As we walked in the house there were about 10 people already there. Most of them only spoke Hebrew and I felt immediately out of place when I lost Eli. Luckily, His third cousins once removed, I think (His third cousin's daughters), were nice enough to take me under their wing. They spoke English and the older daughter (Maia who turns 14 on Oct. 8th) showed me around the big and BEAUTIFUL house and introduced me to some of the cousins her age. There ended up being about 40 people at this dinner. I sat next to Eli and his extended family that he knew (3rd cousin Eti, her husband Seny, and their daughters Maia and Hila). They all spoke English, which was very helpful in normal table conversation. I got to know them very quickly and enjoyed myself very much. The food was absolutely incredible. There were so many homemade dishes that I lost count. I also think there were about 7 desserts, maybe even more. It was heaven! I will post pictures of the beautiful house later. They also hired a telepathic for entertainment, if that tells you anything!
The next day Seny picked up Eli and I and took us back to Tel Aviv where he lives. We picked up his mother and headed to his brother-in-law and nephews house. We got there around 2pm and I had no idea that we were going to eat. It was not quite as large a gathering (about 15 people) and not as much food, but it was still a lot of food by any standards! We ate around 3pm and had dessert around 5pm. This was the strangest meal because I wasn't sure whether it was supposed to be lunch or dinner. Also, meals here consist of courses. For example, the first course consists generally of 5-10 small dishes and the second consists of 5-10 larger dishes. Then desserts can be anything from fruit to cakes to pastries of many sorts! Anyways, it was absolutely delicious! Then Sarah (I think it's Eli's third cousin's brother's wife or something like that) gave Eli and I both handmade bracelets! It was so sweet of her. Mine is gold with a pretty little charm design. We were driven home by Seny feeling both happy and spoiled! They are so sweet to us and have really taken us in. Eli really is family to them (albeit extended), but they treat me just the same! It's so wonderful having them to take us in. They invite me everywhere that they invite him, which is so sweet. Seny wants to give us a real Yom Kippur experience so he invited us back to Tel Aviv for that. I will explain how that works later! It is really amazing how extended family can become connected so quickly. Before this trip, Eli had never even met this part of his family before. It's amazing how warm, welcoming, and really amazing they are!
I forgot to mention we met a random girl on the street! That sounds strange, but when an American hears another American voice, you immediately become friends and exchange numbers. As Eli and I were about to get into Seny's car she was walking by us and heard us speaking English to each other. She immediately stopped us and explained how she had moved to Netanya 8 days ago to play basketball. We exchanged numbers and that was it. We texted her and invited her over for dinner the next day so we could get to know each other. We ended up having six of us over for dinner. We made a veggie platter with hummus for snacking, spiced chicken (some curried and some another spice), curried rice with veggies, and of course, apples and honey to bring in the new year. Dessert was a fruit salad that Eli made. It was a delicious meal, that I have pictures of, of course. We learned all about her and it was really interesting. She is from New York and was recruited to play professional basketball for Netanya. She made Aliyah so she counts as an Israeli citizen, which is very valuable for the team. She seems really cool though and we will definitely be hanging out more often.
Yesterday and today we had observations in our permanent schools. Marisa and I went to Be'eri and they greeted us the first day with a huge welcome banner! It was really sweet of them. We just basically sat in Louise's class both days and observed her 5th and 6th grade classes. She had some large classes and then some small groups she works with. The small groups consist of like 4 to 6 students who are getting help for their standardized test that is coming up in March. We will be back in the school on Sunday and Monday and then we have off for Sukkot.
That's about it for now! Eli, Marisa and I are going to go paragliding tomorrow and then Marisa and I will be going to our teacher, Louise's house tomorrow night for Shabbat dinner! I am very excited for both! I will try to write again soon!