It’s weird to think that 2014 starts tomorrow. I truly don’t know where this year has gone. A year ago tonight I was babysitting for two of my regular kids, Samara and Tal, in the morning and then I spent seven hours at night babysitting two new children, Mackenzie and Logan. New Year’s Eve in Boston is not something I’ve ever been too fond of celebrating since the weather tends to be awful and I find the clubbing scene lame. How much better it was to spend my holiday this past New Year’s Eve playing with two cute kids, putting them to bed, watching TV, reading and using the Wi-Fi? I made bank for the night and was hired to watch both kids again the next weekend. It was a great holiday, falling just behind spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square three years ago. Tonight will mark my first New Year’s Eve in a foreign country. As I sit in my room, I think of this past year and all the firsts I had—nannying for an amazing family and finally being respected at work, being Boston’s Most Reliable Nanny and Babysitter and, most importantly, moving to a foreign country and staying longer than three months. I’ve just reached the four month mark. I can’t wait to continue to learn more about my cohort, Israel and the precious, little lives I get to teach each week.
There are faded clothes, Facebook messages and paperwork tucked into the pieces of my heart, worn soft from the remembering. I use the random art supplies I have when I write out cards for my cohort and I try to think of song lyrics that fit each memory. I have songs like Brandy’s “Camouflage,” to Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.”
The lyrics are from a time I do not always remember, and it’s both a blast and a curse to get a tiny glimpse of myself over the past four months. Still, I do remember lots about my time here in Netanya, the days when I would walk along the beach and the way the wind would blow in my hair and my flip-flops showing off the pedicures I gave myself. But I do not really remember ME.
Many times I question why I spend so much time writing and posting photographs on Facebook, Tumblr or this blog, although it does cheer me up to scroll through the events of my life in Israel and to be reminded that I have been blessed with the chance to do what many young Jews cannot or refuse to do. Facebook, Tumblr and this blog are like baby books—memoirs of the most incredible years of our lives.
There are doubtless better stories than the ones I write, events that I have missed recording or escapades that I am not wise enough to have known are important for posterity. But I know that writing forces me to notice the small details and provides an enthralling way to trick myself into being in the present.
My cohort may not know my past and its impact on my decisions, my deep reverence for all of them or how I would move Heaven and Earth to keep them happy, but I want to. They don’t know that I still lie awake at night wondering if I am giving them enough. I might forget the details of our talks, that they have different reasons for moving here, the verbal skills of professional public speakers and the souls of poets. They don’t realize how wonderful they are to me. Unless they, hopefully, care to read here. And when they don’t, I remind them.
As for Israel, I appreciate her more than words can ever say. I try to be sensitive to the fact that she can be sensitive to certain things. I cannot take away her troubles or how she is perceived by the world, but I can sit with the locals and ask questions. I can read. I can write.
Israel does so much for me. When my voice is strained and sounds like a frayed string, Israel’s love rises like helium balloons. And whenever I’m sad or feeling particularly fragile, Israel has a way of rendering life luminous, day after day.
As a young, extremely secular Jew, I watch as my cohort seems to know more about Judaism than I do. I still work at figuring out the Hebrew alphabet. I will buy fruit at the shuk, only to see the same thing cheaper at another fruit stand. I do not think of these scenarios as mistakes or failures. I may mess up all the time, but I consider it learning.
I am not cut out to run a country, but I can wash a load of dirty dishes in the sink and most days I can make my bed look immaculate.
I am not in any position to make a strong point, but I can give stickers to my students and I can make a small difference.
I know that I am not the only person who feels like I do not have an ounce of agency; like there is not a single thing I can do to change the world.
But I do and there is and I’m trying.
I hope my students know how great they are. Even though I have worked with children for nine years, there is still a lot of blind forging. I collect drawings, I carry a marker and I am reasonably confident in my work. But as much as I want to do things like a good teacher, most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing until I’m doing it. I guess the only thing that matters is that I’m doing it; whatever it is, I’m doing it. Teaching English in all of its minutiae, admiring the attempts at spelling and correcting the sentences, I am doing it with my whole heart.
No matter how bad a day I may be having, my students always lift me out of my despair. My brain will turn off, my heart turns on and my body will be full of big feelings and little words.
I go about the days at school, my right arm heavy with my oversized bag, my left arm carrying my lunch bag and my voice engaged in discussions with various students ranging from how they’re doing to if I like Justin Bieber. (No. Just no.) I step over my students’ backpacks to check their work, use hand gestures to explain words and practice my Hebrew with them. Tending to the demands of my students brings welcome distraction. Much as each has been all year, the day—filled with the work of love and life—is its own solace.
I try not to navigate unruly feelings in front of my students. After another day is done, I let loose thoughts lead—eyes spilling fat tears that frame words like shiny parentheses. The same words that are being tossed around across their school—“learning” and “America”, and the same words I have whispered before—“how” and “why” and “little kids should have big futures.”
Every day I spend with my students, I look at them and remember what they were like when I first started teaching back in October, and I feel, most acutely, the ache of the passage of time. But I know all too well that I will leave them in June when I move back home and I am grateful to watch all my students put their own good growing footprints on the planet.
I am grateful for an average day at school and hopeful for a million more.
My students may be loud, but they are confident little people, full of thoughts to articulate and words to explore and they have so many needs. They are all good things—the hunger, curiosity and the energy. But there are days when it just feels like noise and obligation; sometimes teaching feels more like a job than a joy.
Sometimes I teach by myself, and occasionally when I do, my students run LIKE WILD THINGS, loud and messy, through the English Room. But that’s just how life is right now—loud and messy. I take it with me wherever I go.
I hit the sheets exhausted at night, but when I wake up in the morning, I know I get to see my students again and really, what could be better? I make my coffee at school and my students make messes, but another day begins. Another day begins.
Even on the days that are especially long, even when my students are especially loud and even when my job feels like a JOB, if I had to choose between five minutes alone or a great ten months together, I’d pick the lifetime every time.
I love my cohort, this country and my students. I can’t wait to see what these next six months will bring me.