Monday, July 21, 2014

Home is Where the Ulpan Is

               Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I moved into my ulpan dorm last week, and the only place where wifi is available is the common area in the lobby, and since my preferred blogging position is cross-legged on a bed listening to Britney Spears (yep, still) and wearing pajamas, this new arrangement isn't quite working for me. 
               If this post makes me come off as a spoiled American oleh, kvetching about first-world problems, well- that's probably a valid complaint. As far as New York Japs go (dispensing with the formality of being outraged at my employing the word "Jap") I would say I'm a solid 5.3. I can rough it if I have to, I can kill bugs, I can eat on the floor/grass, my grooming regimen is pretty normal, but at the same time- I like nice things, I have more pairs of shoes than most full-sized families, and my cooking skills are virtually nonexistent. So when I came to my new home for the next 5 months (we'll see...) my expectations were about what a seminary girl or university student might expect from her new dorm home for the next year. Oh, those heady days with my biggest fear being how small my closet would be.
             When applying for ulpan, you are told the rooms accommodate two or four residents each. Requests are not allowed, but (obviously) I wrote an impassioned email to the ulpan, imploring them to have pity on a single oleh in my current stage of life, and put me in a room of two. Lo and behold, I enter the ulpan and am informed that there is a magical rooming option called "a 3- person room!" Two people sleep in a larger bedroom and then there is one tiny adjoining room- big enough for a bed and 2 shelves. I honestly saw this room and little sparkling hearts appeared before my eyes. I wanted this room. So I asked, in my most charming possible way, if before anyone else moved in, I might have one of those treasured rooms instead on the teeny tiny room I was to share with another person. I spoke to the madrich (dorm counselor), then the guidance counselor, and then the office assistant in charge of making the rooms. I was offered a 4 person room instead. I was gobsmacked. I know I'm new to this country, but by my estimation 4 people is more than 3 and most certainly more than 2! It was a no- go. Let the record show "In July of 2014, Jordana Brown did not get what she so politely requested, and she still lived." So, on to the room that I begrudgingly moved into.
               During orientation, we were told that we are the 130th session of our ulpan. That means our ulpan has been functioning for over 65 years. To say that my room has not been renovated since then is no exaggeration. We are talking original electricity, plumbing, furniture and grime. We are talking Six-Day War- era luxury. We are talking Yom Kippur War-time facilities. There is no air-conditioning in the room. Thankful as I am for Jerusalem's blessed nighttime breezes, they are often accompanied by the rowdy noise of the students outside at 1 AM. So what's it gonna be- sweaty but quiet or breezy and raucous? You choose! Let's take a tour of my domicile, shall we?
              First to the beds. You know when you have a child over to your house, and he's only but 5 years old, so you keep a small bed in case he sleeps over? That is our bed. A mattress as thick as a notebook, wedged into a tiny metal bed frame. Two shelves and an adorably rickety desk,  round out the bedroom furniture. Did I mention my roommate and I are so physically close to one another we can stare lovingly into each other's eyes and share secrets all night? We can, except we're adults, so we don't.
                Onto the kitchen. A welcome surprise! Although it was left to us in a condition somewhere in between dirty and the kitchen-that-time-forgot, we still have a cute little fridge/freezer, a whole bunch of cabinets and drawers (which I will likely use to store excess shoes) and a burner/hot plate combo. It is the bright spot of the dorm, and my new happy place. 

To the bathroom, possibly the most shock-inducing room in out palatial dormitory. There is the shower, a misnomer as it is basically a continuation of the floor with a spout on top, a sink; which only has pressue on the "hot" tap, of course, and then the "medicine cabinet" which is currently housing my Advil. And it's full. Add to this the prehistoric grime my roommate and I have to eradicate, and we most certainly are living the Israeli dream.

                   Any of you who know me know that I have a lot of clothing/shoes/accessories. You saw me packing and thought "where will she keep all this?" Well, I am here to inform you that you were all correct! I have 2 large and beautiful clothing cabinets except for the niggling fact that I have to share them! On our little, tiny hanging- clothing rod, of which I was given half, I have essentially put 3 items of clothing on every hanger. I have turned my closet into a virtual rummage sale, or the clearance section at TJ Maxx. Nothing makes sense. Denim vests on shabbat dresses, leather jackets over maxi dresses- it's chaos in there!

                  But let's end this post on an up- note! I am trying to make this work. I am working to make this dorm my home. I am putting up pictures and posters. I am keeping things clean, neat and orderly. I am stocking my fridge with essentials (and by essentials I obviously mean cereal and cheese.) I am picking up cute (and cheap!) wastebaskets and other assorted knicknacks to brighten up the place. And I am constantly telling myself- you live in Jerusalem, the most beautiful home in the world! It ain't so bad!

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