Firsts and Lasts of November

As we say goodbye to November, it has become more real that we are in the last leg of our Fulbright adventure. Our awareness that time here is dwindling started in October as Adam dedicated hours upon hours to his applications for jobs next year. With each potential position came a discussion of where we would live, how easy it would be to visit family, etc. so naturally we could start feeling the pull towards the US. Yet, that pull can easily be ignored when your days are filled with work, errands, and taking care of your adorable baby. The mundane events of life can shadow thoughts of future adventures.

Most of November was filled with days of normal, everyday life. Adam was able to focus more on his math since he finished so many of his applications in October. He finished a project that he was working on and submitted it for publication. Now he is collaborating on a number if projects, most of which are still in the early stages. My days have been filled with work for Ramah and Adina. I was hired to work part-time to help prepare for the upcoming semester. My official title is Academic Specialist, which means that I am the assistant to the Director of General Studies. My job is to gather and organize academic information about our Spring semester students by being in contact with the students, their parents, and their schools. Twice a week I go into the office to work. Adina comes with me, which is great. Israel is so baby friendly! When I don’t go in, I answer e-mails from home and work on Chemistry materials, since I will be teaching the course this semester. Plus there are all the chores in the house that somehow get done. Busy, Busy, Busy!

Adina spends her days being cute. She is getting very strong and is now a pro at tummy time. She can roll over from her tummy to her back, stand with support, and she can clasp her hands together. She can hold things now, especially her keys. She loves to read books and sing songs. Her current favorites are The Wheels on the Bus, Down by the Bay, and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. If she isn’t hungry or tired, then she is smiling and laughing. We are so in love with her!

The last two weeks of November were much more interesting and profound. The first exciting thing was the Givatayim 10K that Adam competed in. The race started at 7:30 in the morning so we rented a car and stayed with Adam’s cousin Nancy and her family Thursday night. We arrived a little later than we planned, but we still had time to spend together before bed. We got up early to get to the race. Adina woke up on her own and was in a smiley mood as Adam and I got ready to go. Once she was happy in the Bjorn, we walked to registration. We were excited because it was Adina’s first race. Adam checked-in and then began to stretch. Eventually it was time to head to the start line. Adam ran ahead while Adina and I carefully made our way. About 5 minutes before the race started, with the very calming techno music and super excited announcer in the background, she fell asleep. She actually slept through the entire race!

The race followed the same course as last year so I knew where to go to maximize the number of times I saw Adam. The weather was beautiful, partly cloudy and warm, in contrast to last year’s thundery rain. Adam completed the race around his expected time, although he said that during the run, he thought he could beat his time from last year. He didn’t so he was a bit disappointed. There is always next year though, right? That is when it hit us. The Givatayim 10K had become a November tradition for us, just like the Manchester Road Race back in the US. It was really upsetting when we realized we wouldn’t be coming back next year.

Another first for Adina this November was Chanukah. I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it, although it is hard to tell since she smiles and laughs at everything. She was very attentive during candle lighting and enjoyed the different Chanukah songs we sang or played for her. She didn’t care so much for her gifts. She cried when we gave her the first one (a Chanukah book) because she was hungry, and she was asleep for the second (another book). We didn’t follow the tradition of eight gifts this year since she is too young to know the difference. Instead, we focused on making the holiday fun and happy.

As Chanukah approached, we could once again feel the spirit of the holiday throughout the city. The menorahs were on the light poles, the buses said Chanukah Sameach, and the grocery stores were well stocked with candy. Sofganiyot were everywhere, and of course we bought a whole bunch! We didn’t plan too much for the holiday, but somehow it got filled up with dinners with friends and parties. Adina went to her first Chanukah party at our friends Sarah and Yossi’s. They made latkes which were super yummy. I also took her to a Chanukah party at Ramah. It was really fun to end a work day with candle lighting, sofganiyot, and singing. It was too bad she was too young for dreidel painting!

A continued tradition from last year is going to the Kotel at night during Chanukah. We met our friends Kevin and Kristen (from the US) there. We made our way to the wall in a more roundabout way, but it allowed us to see all of the menorahs outside of peoples’ homes. It was breath-taking to see the streets lit up with the light of Chanukah. We made sure to return to the Kotel during Chanukah because we found it really meaningful last year. We had a nice time, although I found it harder to focus since Adina needed attention/wanted to eat. On our walk home, it was sad to think we won’t be able to visit there again at this time of year for at least a while. It isn’t our last time at the Kotel, but it will be sad not having the option to go there next year.

As Chanukah came to an end, I realized how much I’m going to miss celebrating it in Israel. Not only will we miss being able to celebrate with our friends and colleagues, but we will miss celebrating it as a people. I think I finally understand the appeal of Christmas. When the air is filled with such happiness and joy, you feel lighter on your feet as you go to work, do errands, and light candles. The Christmas season has always been hard for me. Part of the problem is that the season starts so early and so much Christmas music can really get to you. However, after celebrating Chanukah here for two years, I think my problem is that I feel left out. I can’t fully join in the excitement of the season because it is not my holiday. I don’t mean that I want people to go out of their way to make a big deal about Chanukah at their holiday parties. I just wish I could feel a part of it like I do here.

So the question is, how to we bring what we feel home with us? We need to make a conscious effort to make Chanukah joyful. With life being so hectic, it is easy to just light candles, eat dinner, and then go back to preparing for the next work day. When we settle back in the US, we want to make sure that we have or go to parties with friends and family where we eat latkes and play dreidel. We need to sing songs with Adina and read her books about Chanukah to make it something special because it is something special. It just isn’t the same as Christmas.

The last first of November for Adina was Thanksgiving. I know that it was a big deal that Chanukah and Thanksgiving overlapped this year, but being in Israel, you didn’t really feel that additional excitement because Thanksgiving is a purely American holiday. As usual, Thanksgiving was just another work day. Like last year, however, we went to the Fulbright Thanksgiving dinner. This year it was at a hotel in Tel Aviv instead of at the Deputy Ambassador’s house since he is in another country during work for the government. We rented a car because it was easier with Adina. We got her all dressed up in a dress (her first real one!), and we made our way to the dinner. We gave a ride to our friend Adam who is also a post-doc in Jerusalem. It was nice to see him and catch up! He is also working on job applications only he is focusing his search on the west coast. It was sad to think we won’t be able to see him so easily next year.

The drive to Tel Aviv was interesting. Adina didn’t appreciate the pressure change leaving Jerusalem so there was a bunch of crying. We ran late because Adam needed to make a shiva call before we left, but no one seemed to mind, especially when they saw Adina. She definitely caught everyone’s eye! The dinner was much less formal than last year although it was appropriate for us to dress up a little. The food was absolutely delicious and basically everyone just sat around eating and talking. We caught up with some of the other post-docs from our year and met many of the new Fulbright scholars. The time there passed quickly because we were having so much fun chatting. On the way home, it was sad to think that we wouldn’t be able to celebrate with our fellow Fulbrighters next year. While we are so excited to be able to celebrate with our family again, we will miss hearing everyone’s story about where they are from, how they are settling in, and what family traditions they have for the holiday. It is sad to have another new tradition come to an end.

It is appropriate at this time of year to say what we are thankful for. We are obviously thankful for our beautiful baby girl, our family, our friends, our health, our happiness, and our freedom. This year particularly, however, we are thankful to the Fulbright program for giving us this amazing opportunity to live in Israel. Because of this adventure we have grown closer as a couple, grown more confident in our ability to adapt to a new location, and become parents. What more could we ask for!
Until next time…

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