Here in Haifa!

Trip Start Jan 07, 2006
Trip End Jun 2006

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Well here I am in Haifa, where I'll be volunteering for the next month and a half. Alex (my roommate, co-volunteer and friend from Colorado) and I have settled into our new place (our "immigrant centre" room) and it's starting to become a comfortable LITTLE home. When we first arrived we were slightly concerned, very cramped (we've got a kitchen in a closet! yah!) and slighty grimey (unknown bacterial growth in the showers). But after some clorex bleach and picking up the neccessities we're getting quite happy with our place. Even cooked my first meal in the place tonight. We've been eating a lot of schwarma, schnitzel and falafel, so it was nice to make one of my ol' stirfries.

I started my first shift on the ambulances yesterday. I have to say it was a rather anticlimactic one - I was stationed at a rather slow area so most of my shift consisted of watching A-team, Family Matters (good ol' TGIF to bring me back to my teenage years) and trying to translate the Hebrew conversation that the 2 other ambulance workers were having (which mostly consisted of car talk). Finally we did get a call to transport an older man to hospital - but I didn't really do much since, to put in gently, men here in Israel tend to treat women like "ladies", so they took over and let me hold the ambulance bag (and left me slighty angry).

But things sorted out differently today, as I found myself having a broken Hebrew/Russian/English conversation with an sweet old Russian woman as she was being transported to hospital, consoling a young Arab women who lives in Bethlehem after getting injured in a rear ender, transferring a woman who had just had a CVA and fairly successfully taking blood pressure. I come to realize that my daily experiences will vary considerably according to the driver I am assigned to, so I've got to get to know them and who I have the best dynamics with.

My experience as an OT definitely helps me considerably but I am quite humbled as my Hebrew skills are lacking and I find myself at times feeling like "the quiet lost English speaking Canadian girl" - much like my summer in Quebec with little French daycampers when I was on exchange in high school. Actually, the funny thing is that I think I'm brushing up on my French skills as much as my Hebrew, as I find myself in autopilot translation to French in my head (as it is the only other language I roughly know) and then translating to Hebrew after. Funny.

I spent last weekend in Tel Aviv, went with Alex and we stayed with Ari, an Aussie from the ambulance training course. Things are definitely a lot more lively in that city, so I'm sure we will find ourselves making regular visits down there to get away and go out. I also plan on venturing out on some daytrips around Haifa. The natural landscape is gorgeous here - right by the ocean with lush, green mountains (hmmm... sounds suspiciously like home - maybe that's why I love it).

Culturally, I find Haifa a lot more fascinating than Tel Aviv. As I may have written before, when I first arrived in Israel, I was pretty astounded at the extreme division between Jewish and Arab communities. I guess I expected slightly more integration, either through work or community living. In contrast, Haifa has an area called Wadi Nisnas, which is known for Arabs and Jews living successfully side by side. That's not to say that there are not difficulties, as this is a pretty unique set-up (the old Russian woman we transported today had to confirm that all those working in the ambulance were Jewish). But it's pretty refreshing to see the multiculturalism in this town. There are many Russian and Ethiopian Jews living the centre I am living in.

I've posted some new pictures and more will slowly be popping up (they take some time to download).

I hope everyone is well and I would love to get updates - messages from home are a wonderful thing to have when one is away.
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