Thursday, February 19, 2015

Taking Care of Business, Been Working Overtime

Shalom, chaverim! Or, since we now live so close to our Canadian neighbors, should I say, "How's it going, eh?" Either way, it's nice to be back in the blogosphere! I feel like I'm talking to a good friend in this little bloggy-blog, even though I have little to no idea who actually reads it. Especially now that we're not living in Israel anymore. I've really had to think hard as to whether anyone would be interested in this blog now that we're not living in Israel, and whether I should just close the whole thing down. But I'm not ready to do that, simply because I like writing, aka gossiping via a keyboard.

It's been two months since my last confession--er, blog post--and the time has really flown by. At this very moment, I'm writing at 11:25 at night in Beautiful Bellingham, the City of Subdued Excitement. I am teaching an Israeli student, and her English lesson starts at midnight. Fortunately, she's the only one of my eight students who wants a lesson that is in the morning (for her), which means I have to stay up very late. The rest of my students like their lessons after they get home from work, so I teach them in the mornings.

My students are such an interesting and pleasant bunch of Israelis from all walks of life. One student, whom I'll call Svetlana, is a Russian-speaking woman who made a kind of forced Aliyah when she was just a teenage girl at a very tender age. She was from Moldova and her family got caught up in the Balkan war in the 1990's. The family left for Israel, and in the blink of an eye, she found herself living in very poor conditions and the only blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid in her school. All her classmates bullied her ruthlessly, calling her a "Russian slut" in a language she barely understood.

But Svetlana didn't let that get her down. She studied and worked harder than anyone in her school, and got a scholarship to study at the University of Haifa. She went into social work, because she wanted to help others who found themselves in equally dire straits through no fault of their own. She did development work in Haiti, then in Africa.

Right now, Svetlana is preparing to move to Senegal to do more work, helping to develop community leaders to teach others about psychological health. Her employers, a non-profit Israeli NGO, believe that a crucial part of development work lies in training young people to be community leaders and to feel empowered to make change within and among themselves. She is a delightful and fascinating student to work with, and I'm very lucky to have her. If anyone is interested in hearing more about my other students, let me know via Facebook or the comments section here, and I'll talk about the rest of them over time. They really are fascinating people, and always inspire me to do better, think bigger, and work harder.

So, what have I been up to besides work? Well, for the past two months, I've been taking free classes in Word and Excel and Career Coaching at our local Goodwill store. And here, I want to do a BIG plug for Goodwill. Did you know that sole mandate of Goodwill is to get people ready for and into the workplace? And that anyone who wants to can come in and take free classes to improve and build on their skills in computers, customer service, cashiering, GED preparation, ESL, and even citizenship test preparation? They do! And they do it so nicely, as well. I've had a great experience working with my job coach, Cathie Haag, my computer instructor Jim, my case manager Jessica, and the other great people who work there, Maureen and Sean. Cathie has been working with me on revamping and updating my somewhat chaotic and incoherent resume and has given me some leads on some great jobs.

I've really enjoyed the coaching and computer skills development classes, and I'll be returning for more when the new session starts in March. Even if you're only partially employed, you can still take advantage of the job coaching services Goodwill has to offer, and anyone, regardless of employment status, can take any class at Goodwill for free. I highly recommend you check them out and offer them support by becoming one of their customers. Yesterday, we students toured the "production area," where all the donations are sorted, cleaned, and priced to be put on the floor. As an example of how well the Bellingham store is run, the head of retail there, Patty, spent over twenty years running departments at Target, Sears, and even Nordstroms. This lady trains her floor staff incredibly well, and runs a very tight and immaculate ship...and it shows in the store. I can't tell you how many bargains I've gotten there already!

Our social life is still pretty much based around my mother, stepfather, stepsister, and her partner. We've been "shul shopping" at two places so far, and while one seemed quite promising, we're not sure if it's really the right fit for us. We'll probably go back a few more times, and if it still doesn't click, we'll try other places. We really missed our congregational life in America while we were in Israel, and hope we can find a new community that will be fulfilling spiritually as well as socially.

So while finding a synagogue to join is still in "search mode," we've also taken to going to to find other groups we might be interested in joining. I've joined one on digital photography, another one on independent filmmakers, and a couple of women's groups with various centers of attention. I've also joined a yoga group that does musical chanting, followed by readings from the Bhagavad Gita and a vegetarian potluck! I'm also flirting around with joining the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, but their dues are a little pricey for the moment, so I'm content just to go to their monthly talk. Last month's talk was about women and depression, and this month's talk is about women and economic insecurity in the local area. Having had first-hand struggles with both of these issues (being depressed and broke at the same time, living on not only a shoestring but also having my life itself hanging by a thread), I am a highly motivated attendee!

Well, it's time to teach my lesson "at the midnight hour," as it were, so I wish you all a Shabbat shalom, and a shavua tov (good week)! Please let me know if you'd like me to keep blogging about all my mundane and non-glamorous nonsense.