Never a dull moment or without a hump in the road, the day we were supposed to move in to our apartment, it was still in construction mode. This means that after a long weekend in the desert, essentially "homeless," we had to drop off our bags in the haphazard commotion and take some time to explore before even settling in to HaShlosha. Gratefully, we went to one of the main malls in PTK and had the chance to get our bearings- the "we" I am referring to is my three flatmates. Luckily, we got the chance to bond and come back to our beautiful, relatively large for Israeli standards, apartment (see Gallery).
Later that night, after a bit of unpacking, my roommates and I took a walk around our neighborhood to spot out noticeable landmarks, markets, and convenient stores. Besides one expensive convenient store and a local pizza stand, everything is about a twenty minute walk- in one direction is the Central Bus Station; in the other is the main road Haim Ozer, closer to אולפן (Ulpan) and the other two PTK ITF flats. One thing I noticed right away is that barely anything is in English! I knew PTK is described as the archetypal Israeli city, but I was not expecting the language barrier, especially among adults, to be as great as it is.
Speaking of Hebrew, I started Ulpan on Tuesday at the Intermediate level. We only have six hours this week, but will be taking Ulpan twice weekly until December. The goal isn't to teach us vocabulary words; that we do on our own. Rather, we will be conversing and improving our fluency so that instead of sounding robotic or confused, we will be able to confidently speak as close to native as possible. Hopefully ten months from now I will be proficient at the very least!
On Thursday, our cohort had the privilege of learning a bit about Petach Tikva and the municipality by taking an overview tour of the city. Notable highlights included a trip to the HaMoshava Stadium, where we got to speak with the stadium's manager to learn about the sports culture of the city and the significance of the stadium for PTK. One of the VIP Suites in the stadium honors the Terezin Ghetto (about forty minutes outside of Prague), where Jewish WWII prisoners actually formed a soccer league in the camp. We spoke with the stadium manager who explained that there was going to be a lecture in the coming weeks about the subject, and that we were more than welcome to attend (which I hope to do). On a lighter note, we were also invited to attend a game! To give reference, tickets normally cost about 50 NIS (about $13), so coming to games could definitely be an affordable past time throughout the year. We ended our tour at a local hotspot and brewery, JEMS, which is famous throughout Israel for its on-site brews.
Before ending this post, I want to close by sharing my first Shabbat experience in PTK. For me, Shabbat is a time to come together with family, reflect on the week and welcome in a new one, I didn't have any expectations, but I was so happy that even with all of the chaos and בלגן (ba-la-gahn), craziness, throughout the week, our Petach Tikva ITF family decided to share in Friday night dinner. One of the three ITF apartments in PTK offered to host, so potluck style, my roommates and I made mashed sweet potato with some date honey and pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top. We walked about a half hour to the other side of town and walked in to a beautifully set table with all of the traditional Shabbat emblems - challah, wine, candles, etc.- and had the best night just sharing together and continuing to get to know one another. We decided that every few weeks we will switch off so even if we all don't get a chance to see each other throughout the week once we start working, we will always have this chance to reconnect and share our experiences. I thought it was the perfect end to an emotional and stressful week, and think it was a great beginning to set the tone for the rest of the year :)