I hopped on a bus early in the morning, trekking to a previously unfamiliar place. Never in my life have I been to Chaifa, yet I could not be happier to be studying here for the semester. I safely arrived at the central bus station in Chaifa (I’m boycotting writing Haifa…starting now), in which I ask the information center how to get to the university. There were two possible busses I could take- the 141 or the 146. The 146 comes, but I see that it has no space for my two huge 23 kilo bags to be stored on the bottom of it. I had time, so I waited for the 141. The 141 comes, and it too has no storage space. And so, the student’s suitcases struggle began. I try with all my might to hike up luggage onto the bus from the curb, and bump into the woman in front of me who was far from pleased. Thankfully, I get to the top of Har Carmel and almost immediately meet one of my Madrichim, Oshri, at the front gate. He is so nice, offers to help me with my bags, and takes me exactly where I need to go to get my keys, student ID, and all that introductory good stuff. Oshri then leads me to my room, where I meet my new roommate, Lena Mrissat. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the bus transfers and check-in, I decide to unpack right away (something so not like me to do!) However, it felt much better to be settled in my new room, despite the slight language barrier in getting to know my very close-quartered roommate.
Afterwords, it was time to go on a tour of the campus. Because the tour was also our first opportunity to meet all the other students in the program, we all ended up socializing instead of paying attention to where things are on campus. My voice was hoarse after the tour because I talked so much. There are so many unique people on my program and I am so excited to get to know them even better. Part of the tour included going to the top of the President’s tower, where you can see basically all of Chaifa from a huge window. It overlooks the shore and what is called “Little Switzerland.” I am really looking forward to exploring Little Switzerland and eventually going on a 3-4 hour hike to the beach.
I am definitely going to go back to this birds-eye-view; next time, I will bring a bottle of Windex with me.
I was kind of relieved when Megan and I figured out we are living in the same room. She is from Pennsylvania and super sweet. All my other roommates speak Arabic, so it is nice to have some familiarity in our room. Honestly, being in Chaifa is increasing my tolerance of all cultures. There is such a wide diversity here, and I am really learning to appreciate it.
At night, our Madrichim took us out to a local bar called Evelyn. I tried some delicious Leff blonde beer, and we all got super Israeli pizza (read as: sarcasm). Apparently, Sunday nights at the bar are “sing-a-long” nights. Talking to Becca, I knew that she sings, so I tried to convince her to come sing with me. She was not willing, so I just went for it since I happen to know one of the songs that they were playing. I belted Rolling in the Deep as best as I could, and it was a lot of fun. Becca couldn’t resist joining me, and sharing the mic with her was a really exhilarating bonding experience.
We had our Hebrew placement exam and interview. And now for the far more interesting highlights of the day…
We got a tour of Chaifa! We had our own personal tour bus and began the tour by visiting the Bahai Gardens. The Bahai religion is essentially a mix of various monotheistic religions into its own unique one. A man, who called himself Bab, is viewed as the founder of the Bahai faith. His religious beliefs were widely followed and became a threat to the Islamic clergy.
The Bab’s bones were crushed and put in this beautiful touristy tomb. During the day we visited the top of the gardens, and at night we saw it from the bottom. I find it interesting that only people of the Bahai faith are allowed to ascend to the tomb, while us lowly visitors may only descend to it.
We then went to the shuk, where we bought out all the hangers in the whole shuk. I got some remarkably fresh strawberries, oranges, and yellow and orange peppers. They did not give us nearly enough time in the shuk, as I rushed back to the bus to be driven to a cool area of Chaifa.
Essentially, this part of the tour involved us walking through a long dark alley that ended in two falafel restaurants right across from each other. I got a sample of incredibly delicious right-out-of-the-frier falafel with tachina. YUMMM I’m hungry, deuces for now.