Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sorry I haven’t updated this in so long! Here are the last three days!
Today I went to two placements; one which I liked and one which I didn’t. The first was Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) http://www.saveachildsheart.org/, which is an incredible organization that brings children with heart disease from developing countries to Israel for life-saving surgery. They also train medical personnel so that the children can get proper care when they go back home. 50% of their children come from Palestine, with another large chunk coming from Iraq. The rest come from all over Africa and some from South America and South-East Asia. As a volunteer, I would be playing with the kids in their house (they all live together) and visiting them in the hospital pre-and-post-op, as well as giving their parents some relief from constant caregiving.
We went to the house and met some of the kids, which was very intense. They ranged from what looked like 4 years old (but could have been older since kids with heart disease don’t grow very well) to 12. Most were from Ethiopia (they had a big group come in) with little Asian girl with a Chinese-sounding name. We played with them for a few minutes, which worked very well despite none of us having a common language.
I need to do some introspection on whether I will emotionally be able to handle working there a couple times a week, but I think it’s a really amazing place. If anyone is looking for an organization to donate to this Jewish holiday season, I strongly recommend this one. All of their doctors and the surgeon are volunteers, so it only costs $10,000 to save a child, including travel and logistical costs. The family pays zero dollars, even for the most complicated open heart surgery there is (one kid had heart on the wrong side of his body, and they saved him.) It’s really really amazing. They have saved over 2,400 children.
In the afternoon I visited a community center that I didn’t like as much. The guy doing the presentation wasn’t very good, and he seemed like he wanted only people with good Hebrew who would be here for 10 months. Plus the work wasn’t as coexistence oriented as I wanted. So, at least I can cross one of my 9 of the list!
After that, we tried to go to this dance performance in Tel Aviv (The Inbal Pinto Dance Company http://www.inbalpinto.com/). We went to dinner and got super delicious food, but it took a long time and then we got lost, so we found the place a few minutes after the performance started. And the men were snooty, so we decided to come back and see it when they will be back in November. We ended up just getting drinks at the really nice and comfortable bar/restaurant outside the theater. It was a really great setting, and I had one of the best drinks of my life (called “Summer Apricot,” which is how I learned that “apricot” is “meeshmeesh” in Hebrew.) We decided that we want to go there all the time and be slightly yuppie, but feel really good about.
We (Morgan, Jodi, Hannah, and I) had a really interesting conversation about how we, as opposed to other people in the program, are doing. A lot of people are kind of disillusioned with experience at this point, and we talked a lot about that. Obviously, adjusting to a new place takes a long time, and I honestly wasn’t expecting to feel this settled for a month, at the very least. I also think that it is hard for the people who just graduated college in May (which is over half the program, I think.) For me, because I lived in the real world for a year, and it was SO not what I was looking for, especially socially, I knew what I wanted in a very specific way. This program is much more like college than like real life, and that was exactly what I wanted. I wanted a built-in social scene and structure, which I am getting. But for people that have had that for the past 4 years, and haven’t had time to miss it, it certainly feels different.
Another big consideration that Morgan and Jodi brought up is that many people have (we think, look at me putting words in other peoples’ mouths!) an idealized version of Israel, especially after doing Birthright, which almost everyone on the program has done. On Birthright, apparently, everything is clean and nice and exciting and there is no seedy underbelly. Here, in Yafo and South Tel Aviv, it is dirty and sometimes smells like trash and things don’t work and you have to cope every day with the seedy underbelly. In addition to our volunteer placements, which are obviously dealing with needy populations, we are living in areas that are economically depressed. When we walk around in big groups of girls, men in cars honk or yell stuff at us, and you have to watch your step on the street cause the stones might be uneven, or maybe water will drip on your head, or maybe you’ll step in dog crap (like I did yesterday.) But I really love Yafo! I think it’s a really awesome place. But I (and the other girls in the conversation) never thought of Israel in that idealized way, either logistically or politically. I never felt like being here would be easy, luxurious, or feel like home. When you get off the plane and walk towards customs, there is a huge sign that says “WELCOME HOME.” I never expected to feel like this was home, or to feel an instant affiliation or connection with Israel, which I think a lot of other people did, either subconsciously or consciously. I certainly understand how hard that is, and how shocking it can be to realize that what you’ve thought and expected your whole life is so different.
Anyway, I hope the people that aren’t happy start to feel better as we get more settled and fall into more of a routine. And I hope I keep feeling as good about it as I do. Honestly, I am learning and using my brain, I have really good friends, we talked about racism, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” the concept of “good hair,” and dinosaurs tonight at the bar, and I’m living in a way nicer apartment than when I was in Boston. For me, at least for now, it’s all good in the hood.