Wednesday, September 21, 2005
when 16 days feels like 16 months
Yesterday was ‘community service day’ here on the Livnot Campus in Tzfat. For half of us that meant heading back to the Ethiopian Immigration Absorption Center to help paint and plaster walls, for the rest of us it meant digging and excavating the future site for the expansion of the campus. I elected to dig because evidently I enjoy heavy lifting and filthy manual labour in the blistering Middle Eastern sun. Also, because I had already been to the Ethiopian Center last week and thought it would be nice to try something different.

This would be the first real physical activity I had taken on since being sick the last week or so. It wasn’t too bad though I tired easily and didn’t last as long as the rest of the group. I rested frequently (at the bidding of my peers and group leader!) and then I left a bit early to shower and take a nap before lunch. After lunch I stole another hour of sleep before heading out for a group trip to meet a local artist in his home. Pretty thrilling level of activity, no? Hey, I’m trying, alright??

Today we went on a hike to Tzippori (Zippori, Tsippori, however you want to spell it) just north of Nazareth and took in some cool sites and old ruins. That’s what I love so much about this country… the rich history that goes back thousands of years. This is one thing that is seriously lacking in Canada; to touch history there you are only really going back a few hundred years. Here you have can follow in the footsteps of Romans, Byzantines, Turks, and more. This country has seen more action than pretty much any other place on the planet!

Anyway, tomorrow night marks the beginning of our first free weekend. Since we are all being kicked off campus some of us are scrambling to make plans and find places to stay. This is proving a bit challenging as we are in the very northern part of the country and getting to any central city, like Tel Aviv, is about 3+ hours away. That and the fact that this is the busiest time of year and many hotels are booked up. Several from the group are considering sleeping on the beach in Haifa.

You may be able to tell that I am not particularly impressed with the fact that we are being forced off campus whether we like it or not, nor am I impressed that we are going to be forced to pack up all our stuff yet again (just after being told we could unpack because we’re staying here a month) and are being told we have to move it all to one room to be stored while we are away for the weekend (seems others will be using our rooms. lovely.). Indeed I am experiencing a high level of frustration with this program which is something I have not been discussing up to this point (nor am I going to get into a lot of details…. just yet). I don’t mind living together as a group with all kinds of rules… that’s cool, that’s what I expected. But when people go and change the rules as things move along.. that’s not so cool.

I’m not going to say more than that at the moment, but let’s just say that I am not the only one considering other options for my time here in Israel. Many of us are sharing the same frustrations and concerns and despite airing them many times with the group and staff we still feel like we are not being heard. I am doing my best to give this program a good chance but 16 days into this and I am seriously questioning how this program is run. While I greatly enjoy the hiking and community service there is still MUCH left to be desired. It’s about quality, not quantity and having us hopping from 7am to 10pm everyday doesn’t necessarily equal a good program. Perhaps it’s because this is only the second time they have run the five month program, a fairly new edition to the list of programs available (generally most programs are 3 months or less), but I am not enoying being the guinea pig while kinks are being worked out. It’s also worth mentioning that 4 people left the program in the first week alone (3 on their own accord, 1 was asked to leave) and for many of the same reasons that still more of us (at least 5 that I can think of) are thinking to leave. People are dropping like flies and Livnot doesn’t seem to want to listen to the reasons why. If this doesn’t change more will leave, I guarantee it.

I am feeling out sorts, confused and a bit lost. Being recently sick (almost over it!) and having my cat die was horrible while being away from home. Now I got an email from my mother telling me that my grandma is slipping quite quickly as well and if this is the case my trip will be cut short immediately. My grandmother isn’t dying or anything, but her health has been noticeably deteriorating these past few months and she’s finally admitting it, something she has been steadfast against until this point. This was my worst fear…. losing my cat and my grandma while I was away. This free weekend will give me time to clear my head and consider all avenues. I need to decide if this is the path for me here or if there is another…