A Travellerspoint blog

Snorkeling in the Red Sea

semi-overcast 88 °F

I went to Sinai, Egypt with friends for the weekend to go snorkeling and scuba diving in the Red Sea. I don't have a scuba license so I had to be accompanied by an experienced diver. It was actually very comforting to know someone was with me who actually knew what they were doing! They are also like tour guides since they know that part of the sea so well and can guide you to the most amazing reefs or point out interesting things along the way. Since talking is impossible under the water I was given a quick scuba sign language course. Just what I needed: more vocabulary words! Buying snorkeling gear was cheep in a shook (out door market) in Sinai. Snorkeling is very simple compared to scuba diving so it is okay to go snorkeling solo. Which I did for hours. I don't know if I have ever experienced anything quite so breathtaking. It made me think of how limited our perspective is on land. Diving opened up the world of the sea.



The water was so clear. In the parts where there weren't any coral reefs the blue just stretches out bright and boundless. It felt like flying. The fish were spectacular. They were all sorts of unique shapes and their colors are so vibrant. My favorite were the Regal Angelfish and the Striped Butterfly fish. I saw an eel and some really interesting sea urchins. I even saw an octopus!

To get to the Red Sea from Petech Tikvah took about 4 hours. We had to drive through the Negev desert which was thrilling to me because I think deserts are mysteriously fascinating. And I could enjoy it all from my comfortably air conditioned seat. While driving along I noticed we passed a sign with a warning in Arabic, Hebrew and English to beware of camels near the road. There were also smaller warning signs with just an image of a camel on it like this:


Eventually we saw a herd of wild camels by the side of the road!


Apart from the camels, though, through most of the desert there was no life to be seen. It was swelteringly hot. We drove past mountains of solid stone. There were also mountains that looked like giant mounds of cinnamon.


We drove past many historically famous areas. We drove past Padan-aram which was the home of Rebekah (Genesis 25:20). We drove past Beersheva. A be'er, in Hebrew is a well. Sheva has two meanings. It means an oath as well as the number 7. In Genesis, it is recorded that Isaac dug 7 wells in this place. We also read that both Abraham (Genesis 21:31) and Isaac (Genesis 26:23–33) made significant oaths here. So the name of the town lives up to its double word meaning. Beersheva was also the location of Jacob's dream of the staircase of angels leading to heaven (Genesis 28:10–15 and 46:1–7).

Outside of Beersheva we drove past a number of Bedouin camps.



Bedouins live in the Negev desert raisng livestock. They are nomadic because of scarcity of water and also tradition.


I learned a few Arabic words while in Egypt. Mahaba means hello. I found this on a wall near the sea:


Posted by Sarah 2116 05:59 Comments (7)

Friends in Ulpan and the Day There Was Dancing in the Street

sunny 91 °F

The Russians in my Ulpan class started calling me Sarichka which at first I thought was just the Russian name for Sarah. I found out that the Russian way to express endearment is to add a particular suffix to a persons name. There are several so the suffix depends on which fits with the given name. So far I have figured out that "-itchka" "-roushtka" "-inka" and "-tchick" are all Russian endings for the names of ones friends. I think that goes to show that making an effort towards friendship speaks just as loudly as ones mother tongue.

Yesterday was one of my classmate's birthday. She is the dearest girl who is originally from Thailand. She made a cake to share with the class. There are five girls from Thailand in my class. They cook Thai food to bring to class every day to eat together during the break. They always share with me too. Delicious!! Below is a picture of my new Thai friends. In the picture Nantapone and Tik are in the back row and in front are Rahn, Nie and Anee. Also in the picture is a classmate from Moscow (named Yulia) and a classmate from California (named Dawn).


When I was walking home from Ulpan yesterday I heard some techno music way in the distance. As I walked closer I recognized one of the tunes. Now I really wanted to know what was going on! Right in the middle of town was a white van with a speaker mounted on the roof blaring the music. Dancing in the street along side it was a gang of Hasidic guys. Hasidic Jews admire the teachings of Rabbi Nachman. They are known for going from city to city with their music sharing the joy of being religious Jews. They have the Rabbi's name in black letters on their knitted white hats. In between dancing, they stop to hand out little business card sized papers with the Rabbi's picture and quotes from him. The streets were jammed with cars. For one thing it was rush hour traffic but the guys dancing in the street slowed things down too. The sidewalks were lined with spectaters. Shopkeepers stood outside of their shops to get a better look. People were taking pictures with their cell phone. When I was in Tel Aviv last year I saw these guys a lot but I guess they don't make such an exhibition in Petech Tikvah as often as in Tel Aviv. When an elderly couple saw me taking pictures too, they stopped to chat. We had a lovely conversation; they were very patient with me and my broken Hebrew.





This is a picture of their van. The speaker is on the roof of the van. The words on the side of the van are the words to a jingle that uses the Rabbi's name.


You can read more about Rabbi Nachman here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nachman_of_Breslov

Posted by Sarah 2116 10:00 Comments (4)

Arabic Wedding

sunny 91 °F

I was invited to an Arabic wedding when I was in Galilee this past weekend. It was beautiful! However, I think I committed a great offence. Before going to the wedding I went to the mall to pick out a wedding gift. I chose a beautiful silver frame with hearts etched into it. Today I found out that Arabic tradition demands the wedding gift to be money. Everyone just knows this except the people who have never been to an Arabic wedding before. I should have figured that out when I got there and there was no place to leave the gift; there was just a wooden box for the envelopes of cash. The money covers the expenses of the wedding and honeymoon. The parents of the bride and groom keep a careful record of the amount each guest gives so that when they are invited to that persons wedding or the wedding of their son or daughter, their gift will correspond to the amount they received. I didn't mean to break a thousand years of tradition with my inappropriate gift but now I know to Google everything in order to prevent mistakes like that. Hopefully the ignorance of the little American girl will be forgiven.

In accordance with Arabic tradition, the family and friends of the groom gathered at the groom's parents home two nights before the wedding for a huge feast. On the same night, the friends and family of the bride gather at her parents home for a wedding feast.

On the day of the wedding, the woman of the house went to a salon in the village to have their hair and make up done. Make up is a super big deal here. A couple hours before the wedding, close family on the grooms side drive to the home of the bride to pick her up and take her to where the ceremony will be held.

The march of the wedding party to the front:

Everyone stood to watch the wedding party march to the front:

The bride and her maid of honor:

Posted by Sarah 2116 05:10 Comments (1)

Bye Bye Balagan

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I decided that I need to focus on organizing my vocabulary words. My notebook has become one massive balagon (בלגן). Balagon is the Israeli way of saying mess. There is no way I could systematically memorize anything out of it because the notebook was simply notes taken in order of classes. Until now, my memorizing has been mostly random. Words that sound unique or that I hear over and over again manage to get lodge in my memory. Words that I write on flash cards and drill consistently sometimes make it in as well. But I felt like I was constantly running into words that sounded vaguely familiar or that I should know by now but don't. So last night I made charts. Charts for adjectives, charts for nouns and I already have charts for verbs from Carmella coming out my ears. This afternoon I sat in Aroma (my favorite coffee shop) and categorized and color coded most of my words. I lost count of how many pages I have so far of words I should know by now but don't. Hopefully writing all of them was a memory exercise in and of itself. Ultimately my strategy is to go through the pages category by category and memorize the words. I doubt it will be once and for all but at least now I have a system. Bye bye vocabulary balagon.

Remember how I wrote about the verb categories? I explained that there are 7 main categories that define how past tense verbs are conjugated. There are numerous subgroups as well but we are focusing on the main ones for now. So far we have been exposed to 6 of the groups. Each has rules for the tenses and the pronouns doing the action of the verb. We have a chart for each group so we can see the pattern laid out. Future tense is coming up within the next few weeks.

Posted by Sarah 2116 10:50 Comments (1)

This Week in Class השנוע בכיתה

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On Sunday, one of my classmates who is from the Philippines, dictated a delicious, traditional Filipino recipe to Carmella to write on the white board and we added the new words to our vocabulary list. It was a fun way to learn words like fry, chop, boil, and noodle.

We also learned words relating to advertising. Carmella broke us into groups and gave each group a pile of dairy cartons, juice bottles, tea boxes, snack packages, vegetable cans, and jelly jars. Our assignment was to list the brand name, the product name, weight and expiration date of each product. Then we each got ads which had been ripped out of a magazine and we had to explain to the class what the product was, what company manufactures it and to whom the ad was targeted to.

On Monday Carmella wrote about a family and gave each of us a slip of paper describing who we were in the family. Then we had to explain to the rest of the class who we were and what we enjoyed to do. I was Dov Rosen, married to Ronit Rosen and the father of two sons in the army and a little daughter. I liked to watch basketball, play tennis and eat pickles.

We have begun to learn words relating to seasons and the weather but here there is really not any use for any words besides חם מאוד cham maode (very hot). Each day we take turns writing the date from both the Gregorian calender and the Jewish calender and the day of the week on the top, right corner of the white board.

And of course my Russian vocabulary is increasing too. I now have a permanent column in my Hebrew notebook to record new words I heard in Russian that day. Sometimes during the breaks the Russians ask if I learned a new word that day and everyone gets a kick out of the little American girl stumbling over the tongue twisting Russian sounds. They are very sympathetic since we are all in the same general beginner boat. It is a good way to begin to bridge the language barrier in the class.

Posted by Sarah 2116 04:51 Comments (2)

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