The first farewell was at Yeshurun for the end of the school year. The week before our last day, one of the 7th grade classes we work with threw us a surprise party! We walked into the classroom unsuspectingly, only to be bombarded with 30 students and balloons, singing, food, and an Israeli style מסיבה (meh-see-ba: party). We all shared our summer plans and what we loved about working together. Hopefully some of our students will stay in touch. We took our balloons with us out of school and released them together in our own little goodbye ceremony. As for the rest of the classes, we didn’t really have an official goodbye, but Emily and I made a video for the PTK ITF closing ceremony with some of our favorite 8th and 9th graders, which you can check out HERE. The purpose? To debut the video as a thank you from our school to the rest of the ITF PTK. It was my first time experimenting with iMovie… let’s just say I won’t be the next Spielberg.
Another goodbye that went out with a bang was with the PTK Department of Environmental Education. As you’d know if you’ve been reading my blog throughout the year, this center has really become one of my homes in PTK. From volunteering at the garden on Tuesdays and getting a glimpse of the composting program at the gans (kindergartens) in PTK, to working on a lecture on Adaptive and Resilient Cities with the office staff, it was nothing but a pleasure (in the end). Frustrating for me at times because the Israeli work style and process is topsy-turvy from the States, I learned patience, sympathy in the workplace, and the importance of synergy among a group of people from all different backgrounds and ages.
As part of the culmination of my volunteer service, the director of the office and I set a date for me to present my lecture on Adaptive and Resilient Cities to members of neighboring municipalities… in English, of course. For nearly 2 hours I presented on concepts of vulnerability, mitigation, adaptation, resiliency, and sustainability, drawing case studies from around the world for best practices and policy implementation strategies. The entire audience was interactive, welcoming, and receptive to the material so it was overall an amazing experience for me to be able to present my research in a more formal setting to people. The following week I said my final goodbye to the office, where they presented me with a memory jar (sustainably made, obviously) and warm wishes for my future. I know we will continue to stay in touch, and I am genuinely interested to continue seeing the innovative educational initiatives the department comes up with.
Another tough goodbye was with my host family in PTK. Although I have a lot of blood relatives in Israel, I was also lucky enough to share a host family with two of my roommates. Genuinely some of the warmest and most giving people I know, I will miss Sigi and her wonderful family dearly. I spent only a few Shabbats there, but throughout the year we’ve come to get to know each other pretty well, and even though my host mom and dad barely speak English (as well as my two younger “host brothers"), it hasn’t stopped us from connecting. I’ve had taste of the best Yemenite food I’ve had in Israel (by far), the longest Shabbat dinners (seriously talking 6 hours here people), and running out of ways to express that I’m full and don’t want more food. So thank you Sigi for welcoming me into your beautiful family, and for treating me like one of your own <3
And then came the goodbye to ITF at HaYarkon Park in TLV. All of the Israel Teaching Fellows from around the country came to hear the CEO of MASA and our Pedagogical Advisor, among others, thank us for our work and spend a relaxing night celebrating the end of our experience. With free booze, a diploma and dope portable speakers as a little parting gift, it was a beautiful night and atmosphere, with lots of goodbyes to my friends from other cities.
In addition to the physically packed schedule was the equally emotionally packed one as well. In a series of reflection activities, our group shared the ups and downs, favorite and worst moments, and highlights and regrets of the year. The 14 fellows in PTK also had our own reflections, where we filled out private notes for each other in little memory boxes, crafted by our Madricha, Amit. I even debuted my ukulele playing skills (or lack thereof) when one of the PTK fellows performed a song he wrote for the group. The whole tiyul was surreal because a lot of the people in the cohort I really didn’t get to know so well even after a year. It was a strange feeling for the final doors of MITF to be closing, and the tears and sobs began. Two weeks later, and I’m magically hydrated enough to cry nearly every day.