University of Haifa International School Student Blog
I am in Haifa, finally! The view from my room is spectacular, with the sea cupped by the shore, the sloping, forested mountains below, and the glittering lights of the oil refinery (I’m not joking, at night, the industrial plant looks like a city of jewels). But let’s back up a moment as I re-cap how I got here.
Meital and Tomer drove me to the train station in Rehovot, where I said goodbye to little munchkin Matan, who was being a good boy (yeled tov) today. I joined Tomer on the train for his ride to work, and he was able to help me with my unbearably heavy luggage. When I brought my bags through the security check in the Rehovot train station, my largest suitcase did not fit into the belt. Instead, the security guard had to pass it through the metal detector, and asked me for my passport. I handed him my Israeli one, and all things were good. It’s amazing to me how frequent racial profiling occurs here. When Tomer and Meital drove me to the mall in Jerusalem, our car was not checked, but a woman wearing a headscarf in the car ahead of us had to open her trunk for inspection. This is something I will be constantly aware of here.
After saying goodbye to Tomer at the platform in Tel Aviv HaShalom, I made sure to ask and verify which train to take to my station, Haifa Hof Hakarmel. Usually, in the United States, I will ask the most confident-looking person in the train station for directions, which is typically a large man who looks bored by the repetitiveness of his commute. In this case, I asked a mother of two sitting on the bench beside me. I was able to take an earlier train than I had anticipated.
On the train, I dragged my two suitcases on, and did not even have to ask to receive assistance lifting my bag onto the baggage shelf, as the girl behind me helped out. I took a seat, and asked the woman sitting beside me what station was before Haifa Hof Hakarmel. When you ask someone for assistance in Israel, they are not only more than happy to help out, but they will genuinely try to help you out to the best of their ability. The woman took out her iPhone and began seriously investigating the answer to my query. Eventually, a train attendant came by and told us it is Binyamina. I was able to relax after that, with the knowledge that my travel plans were almost complete and complication-free.
On the approach to Haifa, I yanked down my suitcases early from the shelf and stood by the exit. Man, am I glad I did. The sight of the sea right beside the train tracks was completely unforgettable. It’s amazing how ruins dot the shore like it’s nothing. I need to keep reminding myself that many places here are fantastically old. It was the most beautiful train ride of my life.
After departing the train, I pulled the two bags that filled with my life for the next six months into the parking lot, where the taxis waited beside their loud, expressive drivers. I sidled up next to the driver of the Mercedes-Benz taxi, who loaded in my bags and swept me off and up the mountainside. What can I say, I ride in style. It felt like the road up to the university was like swirling up an ice cream cone. I kept getting different glimpses of the coast from each angle. THE COLOR OF THE WATER HERE IS SPECTACULAR.
I arrived at the university, and checked in at the moadom, or clubhouse. There I met Jacob (pronounced Ya-kob), from Frankfurt, who was so kind and helped me out so much with my luggage. Keren, one of the program assistants here, showed me to my room, where I met my first suitemate (and so far, as of tonight, only suitemate) Hila. Hila is really sweet and showed me which pots and pans I am free to use, which areas of the refrigerator I can put my belongings, and what cabinets I can use. Hila is great to have around, since she is an Israeli student staying in the dorms for the summer. I feel comforted in knowing that there is someone experienced at this university that lives a few doors down from me.
The room was very hot when I first entered, but there is a pleasant breeze that comes through the window. I still need to buy a fan, but I have other solutions to sleeping well at night that doesn’t involve clothing. Perks for not having a roommate. I also have my own bathroom, which is a dream! I took a shower and felt sparkling clean after feeling icky with sweat.
I have been making great efforts to get out of my room and meet people. I took a brief chill moment after eating some food from the mini-market, and buying some groceries as well. While sitting outside, I met Eric, from Alaska, as well as some Israeli guys who were watching the arrival of the ulpan students (a.k.a. scouting possible hookups). I returned to my room with my food and took a brief nap just before the campus tour. There, I met several Americans, including two students from Wesleyan who will be with me for my entire stay here. Becky is super nice, and we have a lot in common. We’ve already agreed to become travel buddies and take full advantage of our time in Haifa. I am sure we will become great friends.
I met more people than I can elaborate on in this post, since it is getting way late, and I need to wake up early tomorrow before a full day. I met some of Becky’s suitemates, who are Europeans and so pretty. Nathalie, a statuesque accounting student from Holland is really sweet, and Bogi (her name is much longer), from Hungary, is a classy future-diplomat and has a way of speaking that would be such a hit in America.
The madrachim brought us to a local bar at the base of the mountain called Sleek, where we had discounted beer and a bit of dinner. Becky, Nathalie, Bogi, and I did cheers and enjoyed another great Israeli meal. Becky’s cousin and his friends, all soldiers/former soldiers, joined us at the end of the meal and walked with us to another pub, where we chatted about the IDF, Israel, patriotism, and how Nathalie and I were completely distracted by the pole-vaulting footage projected on a large screen. The guys were funny, cynical, and gave me new insights into the lifestyle of a soldier.
It got late, so we took the bus back up the mountain, which was far mistier than I expected. I said good night to Hila, and sat down to write this post. Hopefully, tomorrow, I will have internet access and be able to contact the people I love over the internet. Until now, I am off the grid and close to the stars on Mt. Carmel.