As January lazily draws to a close, so do the first five months of my ten month program.

I knew that five months would not be enough time for a living-abroad experience based on friends’ stories and simply the fact that I had a very short time of five years at college. College went by so fast, I don’t even think it could possibly have gone by, sometimes.

Even with the bumps along the way, the medical ordeals and conflicted major and minor changes and roommate drama, it all seems like a blur of Shakespeare, 80′s theme parties, and patchouli.

I made it a goal going back to Israel to take way more photos than necessary this time around. I felt hungry and sad as I later feasted my eyes upon the photographs of others from my birthright trip that made me see things I wasn’t even paying attention to when I was in Israel. Things like the curves and sweeps of the Hebrew signs in the shuk, the vibrant colors of spices, flowers, and beautiful shadows cast by rolling hills of sand.

I have been doing a pretty good job so far of taking photos of everything, even the mundane because this journey is coming closer to it’s end every day.

I haven’t written on New Year’s as I wanted to because I was depressed by it.

It was another year, another American holiday that wouldn’t be the same anywhere else but with my family.

I ended up having an okay time–I went out with a few friends and rang in the New Year at a local bar in Be’er Sheva where there was a half-hearted countdown ending in paper confetti falling from the ceiling.

I’m glad it’s over.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to move on from the emotional lows I had during parts of Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashana, and New Year’s in order to focus on the things that I do have to be grateful for (there are many!) and the temporary family I have found here in Israel.

I do not see myself living here for good at this point. I love my host family, I love my group leaders, I love my boyfriend and my Be’er Sheva family of Israel Teaching Fellows. I love my rabbi, my teachers, and the amazing children that I work with at school.

When one of my girls at school came up to me after I was returning from a 3 day MASA seminar and she said, “Melissa, we missed you!” It broke my heart more than a little bit.

There are so many wonderful things about Israel but the best thing is the people. My heart is going to stay here no matter what, not all of it, but enough, I hope for the people that need it to cling onto the pieces I choose to distribute.

I have busied myself working with my advanced students. I have implemented my drive and passion for creative writing into my idea for the12 higher-level English speakers to work in pairs and write children’s books in English. These books will be shared in a reading aloud event to the lower grades and will stay in the library at school where there is very little to be found in the way of English books.

The students are all extremely excited about this project and not one hand was unraised when I asked them to share with me their own favorite childhood stories. It was a discussion that opened the floodgates to creativity and bridged the cultural barrier between us. The joy and enthusiasm that children’s books inspire are so pure and so special and so imaginative by nature that they are cross-culturally outstanding.

I am excited to share more of this project in my blog here as it continues to build steam.

I have also taken on the project of creating a children’s coloring book for my art students on Thursdays that I volunteer with at my school on what would have been my day off.

It is an eight page book of pictures, drawn and outlined by me that are meant to inspire and teach just a touch of extra English. There are pictures such as the pirate with a parrot on his shoulder and a treasure chest to his right and the word ‘Pirate’ written beneath him in both Hebrew and English.

I am trying to make a mark on my school and help these kids realize what a big world is outside of their little country.

I want them to know that I was just like them not too long ago and I used to like the same things–I even still do like some of those same things! I want them to realize that I am not just their assistant English teacher that yells at them when they ask me how much more time is left in the period. I want them to see me as somebody that can inspire them to reach that extra height they were unsure about and to really encourage the creativity that I know is there. It is simply a creativity that isn’t encouraged with their heaps of worksheets on tenses, outdated textbooks, and tireless translating of English to Hebrew.

I am not dismissing any of these teaching tools or saying they are not valuable or useful in their own way. I am simply saying that I can’t help but think that my artsy ideas and creative methods for teaching English are just the breath of fresh air these kids have been waiting for.

I look forward to a doubly successful and extremely happy five months ahead of me as January ends.

I look forward to my boyfriend’s completion of his army reserve duty in one week’s time and my Tu B Shvat plans to plant olive trees with Holocaust survivors.

I look forward to the return of sunshine and summer days in Be’er Sheva.

Even though I am unsure what my future in America will bring, whether I will work, go to school, travel, or decide Arizona is the worst place on Earth, I am trying my best to focus on what lies ahead of me that I can see without squinting my eyes into the horizon.

Even though I can sometimes hear the captain’s voice on the airplane or feel the crowds pushing me through baggage claims…even though I can sometimes feel my mother and father’s arms back around me and hear their voices welcoming me home…I am here in Israel right now and my heart is still in one piece and overflowing with love for these people I am so lucky and grateful to be involved with right now.

 

 

 

 

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