Thursday, October 21, 2010

First two weeks of Graduate School

Graduate school definitely keeps you busy. I was too overwhelmed last week to post. I'm still overwhelmed but I've had time to collect my thoughts to post. The first day of school they were handing out pink and red carnations as well as red apples. I don't know why I couldn't figure that out.

First I'm going to list my class schedule so you will know where I'm at on certain days.
Sunday Readings in Jeremiah 12:30-2
Bibliographical guidance 2:30-4
Monday Modern Hebrew 8:30-10
Biblical Hebrew 12:30-2
Akkadian 4:30-7
Tuesday Modern Hebrew 8:30-12
Biblical Aramaic 4:30-6
Wednesday Archaeology of Jerusalem in Biblical times 8:30-12 12:30-2
Thursday Modern Hebrew 8:30-12
Biblical Hebrew 12:30-2
Akkadian 4:30-7
As you can see its quite a lot of classes. Even if I have several hours between classes I hate going up and down the hill to the student village so I stay at school and try to get some homework done. Most days my backpack weighs about 20 pounds so I'm getting a great workout walking to and from school.

Readings in Jeremiah is kind of obvious its a class about the book of Jeremiah. We will be doing a critical analysis of the text and looking at the Hebrew.

Bibliographical Guidance is a required class. It meets every other week at least so that gives me a little break. This class goes over the important sources the Biblical Studies field and teaches us how to use the libraries on campus.

Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew are also obvious. Remember back in June when I was taking the first year of Biblical Hebrew in a five week crash course? Well it didn't go so well for me so I'm repeating it. I'm not very happy with myself for that one but I really didn't get it the first time around and I want to have a good foundation before I continue.

Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language. It is written in cuneiform script (symbols). Today the symbols are transliterated into English. We haven't started to learn the symbols yet I'm interested to see how hard it will be to learn the symbols. You can read more about the Akkadian language here. I will be learning the Old Babylonian dialect just in case you were curious. Before taking this class I didn't know there was more that one dialect. I just thought symbols were symbols how different could they be?

Aramaic is another Semitic language. Unlike Akkadian this language is still spoken but only in small remote villages. Modern Aramaic is very different from the Aramaic I will be studying this year. I learned that in the Hebrew Old testament there are several sections that are written in Aramaic. The Aramaic letters were adopted by Hebrew. Aramaic is the language that Jesus would have spoken.

Archaeology of Biblical Jerusalem is my favorite class so far. All the other classes I feel behind everyone else. Most people in my masters program have a bachelor's in Biblical studies or Jewish Studies so they have had these languages before where as I have never seen them before. I have had classes in Archaeology before so I know what to expect in this class. Its the one day a week that I feel like I really belong here. This class also goes on tours around the city every other week to see the places we are learning about. We had our first trip this week but it will be the subject of another post.

To keep myself sane and to get out of the building that all my classes are in I go outside to the botanical garden for lunch and on days where I'm there longer dinner as well. As I've mentioned before there are cats everywhere in this country. But the cats in the student village and on campus are some of the most well fed stray cats I've ever seen. This one has found me almost everyday during lunch. She is very loud and persuasive. I usually give her a corner of my sandwich. On this day she ate it and I took out my camera to take a picture and she posed for me. I guess she is used to having her picture taken.

I try to eat at a different bench in the garden everyday so I get a different view. Sometimes most of the benches are taken studying in the garden is very popular. This was the view from one of the benches I had lunch at this week. This one is usually taken because it has a great view.

Another day at dinner I noticed how pretty the sun was coming through the trees so I snapped this picture. Its really sad to eat both lunch and dinner at school. I go to school as the sun is coming up and I leave school after dark. The sun rises here around 5:30am and it starts to set around 5 ish I haven't really payed attention to the exact time but I think we have less daylight hours here.

Remember the construction in the student village from the last post? I think they might have finally finished it. Last week they tore up the tiles at the bottom of the staircase on the right. The dug a twenty foot deep hole that was about ten feet across. The funny part was this hole was right in front of a door leading into the dorm. They posted a sign on it in English 'No Entry'. That sign made me laugh because of all the times to post a sign in English they picked the one time I wouldn't need to read the sign to know that I can't use that door. Unfortunately they filled in the hole before I got a picture of it. So last week when they turned the water off they were making announcements on the speaker about it but only in Hebrew so I had no idea what was going on. I could only catch a few words: "water blah blah blah, 2 hours blah blah working on water blah blah" Not very helpful if you just want to know when you can take a shower so you can go to bed.

I've had a very hard time this past two weeks. I'm been very homesick I'm been in Israel since June and while I am getting used to life here it is very different from Texas. I'm also overwhelmed with my classes. I feel like everyone else is smarter than I am with these languages. Every class I'm in is like a mini United Nations which only serves to point out the flaws in the American education system. All of the students from Europe are fluent in multiple languages because they start learning them in elementary school. It is much easier to pick up languages when you are younger. Those who grew up bilingual have an advantage. Everyone here has accomplished amazing things. Several have spent the last year studying Biblical Hebrew at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. I have a monk in one of my classes, yes a real monk with a brown robe, rope belt and a rosary. Next to all of my classmates accomplishments and previous knowledge I can't help but think 'Why did they accept me?' And of course with the overwhelming feeling comes the tears and the question of what in the world am I doing here? What was I thinking when I decided to come to Israel? Why did I think I could do this?

I've been trying to calm myself down and remind myself why I wanted to come to Israel. I want to learn these ancient languages so I can translate the documents myself. I want to be able to translate the Bible from the Hebrew into English. I don't want to have to rely on anyone else to know what the Bible really says. To be honest it is part of my search into religion. I believe this is what I am meant to do in life. This is the first step of my plan in studying where the Christian religion came from. Here in Israel I hope to gain a Jewish perspective of the Old testament. I've always studied the Old testament with a Christian mindset and I want to know how the Jewish people interpret the Old testament.

Music has always been one of the ways I calm down. Lately I've been listening to a podcast National Geographic Weekend. On the podcast they interview the National Geographic explorers about their projects. Some of them have done some amazing things that seem like they should be impossible to accomplish and that gives me courage for my studies. It also makes me hope that someday I can be a National Geographic Explorer and inspire others to try the impossible. I've been listening to music that is inspiring and uplifting. One song in particular that I have been listening to frequently over these past two weeks is This is your life by Switchfoot. The key part of the lyrics is a question: Are you who you want to be? I'm not yet but I'm working on it. Well that got a bit more philosophical than I intended it to be but it is something I've been thinking about a lot this week.

From the last post:
Nikki- Thank you I'm glad my cooking looks good. I have messed up a few things but when I mess up I don't take pictures. I'm still learning so I still make some interesting mistakes when cooking. :)

Amanda-I really liked Pride and Prejudice I now understand all the references to Mr. Darcy. Now I also understand why all of the sequels and prequels have been written by so many people it was a good story. I finished The Count of Monte Cristo last weekend it was part of my attempt to retain my sanity by reading something in English. I liked Monte Cristo better than Pride and Prejudice. The characters were complex and Mr. Dumas really got into the characters motivations. The plot also had a few twists that I wasn't expecting. Monte Cristo is a very long book but I would recommend reading it. I've shown the para para video to a few people here too. I wish I still knew all of those dances but I haven't practiced para para in quite a while.

Uncle Joe- No I didn't figure out why they wouldn't sit next to me at the post office. I don't have TV in my dorm so I don't know what kind of cartoons they have here. I love the Japanese anime though.

Uncle Sam and Aunt Lynda- I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. I'm going to try to keep it updated.


  1. AC,

    Googled the red/pink carnations. All I found for Israel was that those flowers are given on Mother's Day when the mother is still living. Since LG is still around, I guess that's appropriate. Only prob with that theory is that Mother's Day in Israel is supposed to be on 30 Shevat, which is supposed to fall somewhere between Jan 30 and March. Maybe we're looking too deep for meaning and the florist just had a special going as they were walking by? :)

    How did they ever figure out dialects for Babylonian? I didn't know anyone spoke a language similar enough to know how the words should be pronounced at all. But that should be fascinating. Stuff I read says that a lot of the stories in Genesis are based on stuff picked up while the Jews were in captivity there. Stories of Nimrod, Noah, Lilith and the rest are supposedly on cuneiform tablets in that language. Guess that's why you're studying it.

    Don't know how to cure homesickness but maybe I could send you a McDonald's hamburger. Recent internet memes suggest it would survive the trip intact. :)

    Have a happy and even more beautiful day.

  2. Hi Sweetie,

    Wow you aren't kidding that is alot of language courses to tackle with long days. I'm so sorry you are having a bout of homesickness too. Graduate school looks tough but your course descriptions sound fascinating and I can't wait to see your post on the one class you feel good about. The botanical garden looks like a beautiful place to have lunch and supper and who could resist the cat. Of course you will have to come up with a name for you lunch mate.

    I know you are overwhelmned, home sick, scared and excited all at the same time. This is a big adjustment your are going through. I truely believe you are in the right place. I enjoy reading your blog because you bring this Holy sacred city alive for me in a way no Sunday school teacher or Pastor ever did. I'm learning so much through your experience and wonderful explanations and beautiful pictures. I'm so impressed with your courage and your willingness to go after your dreams. I couldn't agree more with the graduate school when they accepted you into the program.


  3. I know why you are there. You developed a strong passion for this stuff over the years. You are where you are supposed to be. Yeah it is a lot of work but it will be worth it in the satisfaction the knowledge will bring. Hang in there.



  4. Dear Anna,

    You are were you are supposed to be, in the room next to me! I know you are homesick and feel behind, but you have been such a blessing to me and inspire me everyday! Just think about how far you have come, and I would not want to go through this journey without you! It is in my opinion that we will be friends for life, whether you like it or not.

    Maybe if you are could I can try to find you a mattress pad, but I have a feeling it could be difficult, what about a sheep or something?


  5. Dear Anna,

    You have been a blessing to Claire. Just yesterday she told me she does not know how she would handle it if it was not for your support. The way you describe your feelings sound a lot like the way she feels also. I am so glad that you are there for each other to lean on. I appreciate your friendship to her. Please know that.

    Anna, press on to your goal. It will be well worth it. Thought for the day...
    Psalm 37:4
    Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.


  6. Anna,

    From where I'm sitting I think you're hugely impressive. It's easy to make the choices you've made when you feel that you're well prepared for what's coming. It takes a true trailblazer to take that same path and to follow ones destiny into the unknown. You are my hero, kiddo!