Friday, November 1, 2013

Emerging from the Deep Water

Shalom, chaverim! I must say, I don't feel like I've been a very good "chavera" in keeping up my end of this blogging relationship. I was shocked and horrified to see that it's been nearly two months (!) since my last post. Finally, with the words of my professor (more on that later), "It's better to turn in some crap on time, than it is to never turn in anything at all." So, keeping that in mind, here is my poor attempt to update everyone with what's been going on in my small life these past few months.

In a word, it's been busy as heck. September meant the shock of re-entry into the school year. After all was said and done, I ended up with a contract to work eight hours a week (4 hours on Mondays, and 4 hours on Tuesdays) at the Druze school. Sadly, it seemed that there was a major funding cut at the religious girls' school, where I loved working, and there was no money to hire me with unless I gave up my job at the Druze school. (This has to do with the Kafka-esque funding system of the Ministry of Education in Israel, which baffles everyone.) Since the Druze school was offering me more hours, I felt I had to vote with my wallet and accept the position there.

Once the High Holidays were over, and Israel grudgingly lurched itself back to life, the "machinery" really started working again. Back to teaching, and--even more fun--driving lessons! Since my school days start very early in Yarka--about 30 minutes away in rush-hour traffic--and Elul works late nights, it was vital that I finally bit the bullet and started going for my driving test. It took a couple of months, actually: a few weeks for lessons, and then having to wait for over a month to take my practical test. There aren't enough driving testers in the area, you see, so the waiting list is quite long. The process is tedious, time-consuming and expensive, and my experience as an already-licensed driver involves even less hassle than the poor suckers who need to learn how to drive "from scratch." But, even though the driving examiner was busy shouting at me and insulting my "too safe" manner of driving during my practical test, somehow I managed to pass. Whew! So now I'm on the road, all by my lonesome after not driving for almost two years. It feels great!

So, besides working my two regular jobs as a teacher and a newsreader/story editor for the media company Elul and I still work for, what else has been occupying my time? Well, of course I took on an extra assignment for a publishing company, writing college textbook chapter quizzes. For three different textbooks, actually--introductory anthropology textbooks, to be precise. With my stupid optimism and excitement about even being asked to do the assignment, I accepted it willingly.

Of course, I had no idea how many battles I would face with the assignment until after I took it, and was on the hook to deliver the goods on time. The first and most difficult battle I had to face, was my own horrible habit of procrastination. I spent more time worrying about not doing the assignments than it took to actually do them. And it took a LOT of time to do them, which was the second part of the battle! For some perverse reason, while I was procrastinating, I felt I shouldn't allow myself to do anything else that would "distract" me from the work I was (supposed to be) doing (but wasn't). Hence, the absence from the blog. "How can I spend time blogging/exercising/keeping in touch with friends and family/doing errands, when I have all of these chapter quizzes to do?" I would ask myself while lying in bed in the middle of the day. The paralysis was terrible, and I still don't know how to get out of this terrible habit. Can you believe, I'm now using writing this blog post as an avoidance strategy for doing my homework!

"What homework?" you may ask. "Didn't you just spend a year doing coursework at that religious college so you could get your Israeli teaching certificate?" Yes, I did. And to my utter amazement, when I finished the course I got invited to do their M.Ed. program. So, I've started that. And to help pay for it, I got enrolled in a program that pays graduate students for doing tutoring in the public schools for four hours a week. The rest of the money I'll have to make up with private students or doing extra hours on my news job, but all in all, the tuition fees are incredibly cheap when compared to America. Seriously, a full year of graduate school for NIS 10,000-- the equivalent of about USD $2,800? I'll take that, in a heartbeat!

So graduate school is fun and challenging, and goes every Wednesday from 8:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. at night. On Monday nights, I've also started attending a Hebrew class for immigrants, and also study with a wonderful Englishwoman named Jean, who kindly tutors me for an hour a week. Progress is slow and frustrating, but it's still being made. My M.Ed. program is all taught in English, by the way, except for one class in Research and Quantitative Methods, which is given in Hebrew. I've worked out an arrangement with the professor in that course to do self-study that parallels what he's covering in the class. Aside from having to significantly cut down my pleasure reading and television-watching time (a huge sacrifice, especially the television-watching time!), it's worth it. And I'll only have to do it once!

Finally, a lot of health stuff has been happening in terms of tests and the somewhat tense waiting periods for the test results. The good news is, I neither have epilepsy nor sleep apnea. That's thanks to the EEG I took during the summer, and a recent sleep study test I took a few weeks ago. The doctors still don't know why I'm having nocturnal seizures, memory loss, time distortion and daytime fatigue, but at least I won't have to use a breathing machine at night and disturb Elul. In the meantime, I'm using the games of to improve my neurological functioning overall, and have also installed a lot of external systems to keep me on track--things like electronic reminders on my phone about upcoming work shifts, a big diary I carry around with me everywhere, a computer-based program that allows me a way to manage projects and tasks, and so on. Unfortunately, I have also had to devise some rather sneaky methods of disguising my memory loss and bouts of confusion, which I am sure will be "outed" by others sooner or later, if they haven't noticed it already. The neurologist doesn't think I have Alzheimer's though, so that's good. Chalk it up to a mystery, I guess.

In other health news, I do have some suspicious skin conditions that my dermatologist was alarmed enough by to send me for a biopsy for one of them, and to have the rest surgically removed. That process is ongoing. The biopsy will be in a couple of weeks, and the surgeries will be done in December. Then there are follow-up visits, more waiting, and so on. Fingers crossed it's nothing serious, even though the thing that needs the biopsy clearly had been misdiagnosed by several doctors--and two other dermatologists--over the past five years.

Happily, today also happens to be Elul's and my fifth wedding anniversary! We're going to celebrate by going out to dinner tomorrow night after Shabbat--maybe to Acco, for a lovely meal by the sea. Our bigger celebration, into which we're rolling all our traditional anniversary gifts and Hanukkah presents to each other, is a trip to Rome we'll be making in December. That's why I took on that publishing assignment--to help pay for the trip. Whenever I got discouraged and frightened that I wouldn't deliver it on time, I simply repeated to myself, "When you're in Rome this winter, it will all have been worth it!" And so I succeeded--I turned in the last chapter of the last textbook, on the very last day it was due, a minute past midnight. Thank goodness that the midnight deadline was midnight on the West Coast, not midnight in Israel! Also, thank goodness I had an amazing supervisor who was so exceedingly patient--above and beyond the call of duty, in fact. Thanks, Kate!

So, now I feel "caught up" with all of you and I hope you feel the same. Thank you to everyone who emailed me out of concern for my well-being, due to my lengthy absence. I've been OK, just overwhelmed and very, very engaged. Making Aliyah is not for the faint-hearted. It stretches you, and pulls you around so much that (warning: mixed metaphor ahead!) you feel like a big piece of human taffy that has gone eleven rounds with Mike Tyson. But in the end, you still get the champion's belt!

Shabbat shalom, everyone!