I have now completed my 5th semester and second year at Hebrew University (yeah, go figure that one out). It has been an exciting year, one of much personal growth and growth of laboratory yeast. I learned many things, including how to sleep sitting up and how to do the kakuro puzzle in the newspaper (you know, the one with the numbers). Hopefully I learned some physical chemistry the second time around, since I don't think I could handle physical chemistry a third time. Don't worry, I did learn some actual stuff but when I talk about it, people's eyes tend to glaze over. This is a warning sign of impending science talk induced coma if I do not shut up within 3 minutes and 42 seconds. Therefore I will not share with you what I learned as you may be reading this at home alone. It could be days before someone found you, eyes open, face down, drooling on your keyboard.
I was also informed by the student authority that I would be required to complete 60 hours of community service during the second semester in order to receive a refund from them upon payment for the semester. This was mildly amusing since they hadn't yet refunded me for the first semester. I decided to turn the tables on them and threatened not to do my community service until receiving the 5,000 or so shekels that they owed me from the first semester. I then received my money. Of course I had already started volunteering, but they didn't need to know that.
I received an 8 page list of organizations I could volunteer with. None of them sounded like a good fit for me (i.e. they involved working directly with people), but I had to make a prioritized list of 3 places I wouldn't mind volunteering. Most of the organizations worked with children, children with problems, adults with problems, the needy, or old people. The first place I chose was mostly a logistics position not involving too much human contact. That one was of course not available in Jerusalem (even thought it was listed in Jerusalem). The second place where I was in fact accepted, was visiting Holocaust survivors at their homes. It seemed like maybe not the best idea sicking ME of all people onto these poor people, but it was either that or possibly traumatizing a bunch of innocent children. Somehow I also got wrangled into being a group leader of other volunteers. This involves sending out monthly emails and calling my group of volunteers once a month to ask how things are going with their old people, at least until they get tired of hearing from me and start screening my calls. My job is now much easier 6 months later since only about 3 out of 12 or so volunteers answer my calls.
The woman I visit is a Viennese woman who fled from the Nazis to Denmark at the age of 14 and lived with a Danish family for a few years until she was able to get to Israel at the age of 17. She then married a kibbutznik and had three kids. She's 89 and a half and still pretty sharp. We actually have quite a bit in common, and I do enjoy visiting her. She worries though that she tires me out on our walks up and down the block. I have to reassure her every time that I can probably handle the trek. Seeing as I did the 5K marathon and all which basically took place on a hill.
She also likes to feed me cake and cookies. She has that Jewish mother mentality and insists that I must eat more cake. I tell her, no thanks, two pieces are enough for me, really. She says “it's ok, you're skinny, you're allowed.” Well, even if I was skinny when I entered, I won't be when I leave. Sometimes I have to fend her off with chair.
Unfortunately she cancels our visits on occasion due to ill health or a doctor's appointment, etc. This means that I have not finished the requisite 60 hours I was supposed to have finished by June 10th. I got an email from the student authority stating that since I did not complete my hours, they would not be paying for that semester. Joke's on them though, because they already did! Natania: 1, government: 0.