It turns out that the best way to destress after a final and take a quick break from studying to relax, is to go for a hike! I had three days of finals before a three day break and my last final so I had quite a few late afternoon hikes. For our finals we had to take the local bus down to Eilat, take our finals, and then take the local bus back. It generally amounted to an hour and a half for the final and three hours on the bus. Because of this, my friend and I occasionally took the Egged bus back which costs nineteen shekels but gets us back to the kibbutz in half the time. Plus it was usually full so I got to have some fun bus surfing, a sport I know I don’t often get to practice in the US.
This became one of my new favorite routes down the mountain, it’s pretty easy and has a great view of the kibbutz.
Because where would we be without artsy pictures of electricity poles in the sunset? Without many big trees in the desert these end up having to suffice. They’re extending the electricity lines past the kibbutz, in the above picture in the bottom left corner you can see a little excavated patch with a small road leading to it. Eventually they’re going to put up some new electricity lines there so that the parallel lines run all along the mountain. Currently the second of the lines stops just short of the kibbutz and only one continues. As students, we were all a little sad to see the development because one electricity line is already pretty ugly and two will just make it worse, but the people need electricity!
After finals week we had a little goodbye party for two of the students who were leaving early. The student lounge is filled with lots of comfortable pillows and, after a rather stressful week, the party rather predictably devolved into n epic pillow fight. I ran around taking pictures so I was spared the fight and instead got to capture awesome moments like this one.
Later that evening, at one o’clock in the morning, we all headed out to the bus stop to drop off one of our friends so she could catch a plane home.
For our last Hebrew class we visited our teacher in her fascinating little town, Shaharut. Shaharut is one of the many illegal towns in the Negev, the people there created the town in order to have a little space separated from the rest of the world and build a community there in the desert. So they took the land and then started negotiating with the desert to get permission to have a village there, that was 35ish years ago. Now the community has grown to about three hundred people who each build their own house, though it has to attempt to blend into the desert. This leads to many interesting designs, using the stones from nearby as well as lots of mud buildings (such as the one we’re sitting in the photo below). Because they’re so far out of the way, many people own their own goats and chickens to supply them with fresh eggs and milk and then go to Eilat once or twice a month to stock up on other ingredients.
The house below was one of my favorites, this woman is the village expert on mud building so she’s helped quite a few people out with their houses. The larger structure in the forefront of the picture was the goat pen she created out of a house she started but didn’t finish. Her house is partly hidden by the tree in the background. At this point we were standing on the outside of the village, all of the houses are built facing outwards because that’s where the good viewpoints are. Because the village isn’t formally recognized, the government doesn’t collect any property taxes from them. Because they expect to be recognized eventually, all of the villagers pay property tax each month to a fund that they will eventually hand over to the government when they come along to collect.
At the end of finals week we all hung out in Eilat together after our last final. We went down to the beach and then hung around the mall for a little bit. Then we all caught the local bus back to the kibbutz after I grabbed one last smoothie from my favorite smoothie place on the main street.
Our final party was held Tuesday night, first in the moadon (or club) and then in the pub. In the moadon the staff joined us for snacks, improv games and quite a few closing activities. They gave each student an award such as the “Too Sexy for His Shirt Award” (yes that was a real award) or the “Wow Cool” award, or the “Award for the Best Beach Dancing,” my award was the “Most Down” award for “Being Up For Anything.” Awarded to me based on my tendency to say “I’m down” to doing anything people suggested. The staff also put together a six minute poem that goes over all of the activities and trips we went on during the semester in (almost) rhyming couplets. So if you ever want to know what I did during the semester I can just send you that video. It pretty much sums it up.
As I mentioned in my last blog, the pub often hosts going away parties! We attended ours and happily took over the DJ station and played the best music ever. I danced for most of the evening, occasionally popping over to help my friend choose songs that were good for dancing but not the awful pop music that no one likes. A lot of the music was nineties throwback music or slightly alternative pop/rock music. We had a total blast and ended the evening with a group sing-a-long to Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey).
The three of us (below) got a ride from one of the PAs up to Tel Aviv on our last day there. Their flights left around midnight so we dropped all of our bags off at my hotel before grabbing dinner nearby. My friend in the middle was turning twenty one at midnight so we celebrated his birthday and ordered better food than we’d ever had on the kibbutz. Afterwards we met up with a few of our other friends and had a nice long goodbye with lots of hugs and one or two tears and assurances that we’d all see each other again, inshallah.
#datkibbutzlyfe: Insert obligatory, thankful “I learned so much and met lifelong friends” comment here.
#datkibbutzlyfe: The kids on the kibbutz get a pretty ideal situation growing up there. Most of the students all agreed that they might not live on a kibbutz unless they had a family that they wanted to raise there. At six months the babies spend their days at the baby house where volunteers and kibbutz members take care of them all day. I’m not sure exactly what age they graduate to the toddler house, but that’s where they head around a year and a half where they hang out with volunteers and kibbutz members. They go on field trips to play around the kibbutz and are taught important life lessons, such as always hold hands with another toddler when crossing the streets. There’s another area for the preschoolers and once the kids reach five they head to school all day. On some kibbutzim the schools are located on the kibbutz; down where we were, none of the kibbutzim were big enough for that so they took a bus to the regional school about ten minutes away every morning. When they have days off from school some of the garin (teenage volunteers) take care of them and arrange activities (they essentially act as a daycare). The kids don’t live in these places, they go home in the evenings and on weekends, but it is pretty awesome that they get a group of playmates to share everything with until they graduate high school and head off into the big wide world.