Saturday, January 22, 2011

Exams and How to cope with stress

I've been working on packing up my suitcases today. I'm looking forward to flying back to the states tomorrow night. I will be back in the states for about 16 days. I've made lists of everything I want to do and all the American foods I want to eat while I'm at home. Those will probably be the subjects of a few posts. But I wanted the share with you the experience of taking exams in Israel.

The set up for exams here is a bit different from what I was used to at Texas A&M. Here exams are taken in a different room from the one the class is usually held in. If you class is a small one you might be sharing the exam room with another class. They have exam proctors that run the test, most of them only spoke Hebrew with very limited English. The front of the exam booklet where you fill in the information about the class and you ID number is completely in Hebrew. So there is a moment of panic in your first exam while you try to figure that out. Its made worse because they use some abbreviations and I don't know Hebrew well enough to figure them out quickly. Eventually I got it all filled out. The exams are held from 2:30pm to 5:30pm. For some tests they extended the time. Because unlike the exams I took in the states the professors seem to want you to be there for the entire exam period. Here you are not allowed to leave the exam room during the exam for any reason. In only one exam they were nice enough to let us leave to use the restroom but only one student at a time. The rest of the exams we couldn't leave the room.

Before taking my first exam which was my Hebrew level exam they handed us a brochure. It was meant for the mechina students. The mechina program is for students who have just graduated high school but aren't quite ready for college, its kind of like a prepatory program from my understanding. The brochure gives helpful tips about how to cope with stress. It did help me cope with stress but not because of their tips...some of them had me laughing so hard I did feel less stressed out. Somehow I don't think this is what they had in mind. Some of the tips are legitimate and some of them sound like there were put in an online Hebrew/English translator and they didn't turn out right. This brochure is such a gem I decided to share with you along with my commentary. The points from the brochure with be bullet points my commentary will be in italics. The bullet points have been typed exactly as they appear in the brochure.

  • Get up 15 minutes early So far we are off to a good start
  • Prepare for the morning the night before This is a good tip I already pack up my backpack the night before
  • Avoid relying on chemical aids This made me laugh because that week I was so nervous about my modern Hebrew exam I had taken sleep aids several nights in a row.
  • Don't rely on your memory...write it down Another good tip except you might forget where you wrote everything down
  • Set priorities in your life Another good tip
  • Avoid negative people Gee why?
  • Use time wisely This is a good tip for undergrads that usually let their new found freedom from their parents go to the head
  • Always make copies of important papers I read this as use the copy machines, give the university more money
  • Repair anything that doesn't work properly I'm not sure what this means exactly. I've never seen this mentioned as a stress relief tip.
  • Ask for help with the jobs you dislike Yes ask for "help" trick others into doing the things you don't want to do.
  • Break large tasks into bite size portions
  • Look at problems as challenges Change you outlook on life!
  • Look at challenges differently Then immediately change it again!
  • Smile!!! I smile because I have no idea whats going on right now. :D
  • Be prepared for rain How exactly does this relieve stress?
  • Pet a friendly dog/cat Get rabies. Seriously this isn't a good idea in Israel all the cats are feral. I do feed them a lunch but I don't ever try to pet them.
  • Don't know all the answers Fail your exams raise your stress level...
  • Say something nice to someone I like your does this relieve stress?
  • Walk in the rain But you told me to be prepared for rain earlier? So am I prepared for rain and walking in it or am I just walking in the rain and getting wet which would stress me out. It doesn't rain here that often anyway so I was surprised to see two references to rain in this list.
  • Schedule play time into everyday Well there is a playground in the student village for the families that live here. Somehow I think they would look at me funny if I tried the swings. I don't think they could hold my weight anyway.
  • Take a bubble bath The apartments in the Student Village only have showers I'm not sure why this is on the list.
  • Be aware of the decisions you make I am what?
  • Believe in yourself Don't stop Believin'...
  • Stop saying negative things to yourself So earlier it said to avoid negative people but if you are negative should you avoid yourself too?
  • Visualize yourself winning Find that special mirror from Harry Potter stare into it and slowly waste away
  • Develop your sense of humor This list is definitely helping with that.
  • Stop thinking tomorrow will be a better today O.o This is my favorite tip on the list I think it was originally in Hebrew and put through an online translator or something because wow that's just awful!
  • Have goals for yourself Are these different than the priorities I set for myself above?
  • Say "hello" to a stranger Another tip that is not a good idea in Israel just my luck the person wouldn't speak English. Or if I spoke to a man they might be offended that I was talking to them.
  • Ask a friend for a hug I need a hug....this does not relieve stress
  • Look up at the stars I live in the city not possible
  • Practice breathing slowly I don't think this would make me less stressed out.
  • Learn to whistle a tune I can't whistle. Frustrate self by attempting to whistle then get stressed by my lack of ability to whistle
  • Do a brand new thing I don't have time I'm studying for exams!
  • Stop a bad habit Exam week is not the time to try to break a bad habit I think this would just increase your stress level
  • Take time to smell the flowers There aren't too many flowers to smell here...
  • Find support from others Good idea a support network can help
  • Ask someone to be your "vent-partner" The idea of asking anyone to be my vent partner makes me laugh just picturing the expression on their face.
  • Do it today or else!
  • Work at being cheerful and optimistic Fake it until you make it!
  • Put safety first This is halfway down the second column instead of you know....first?
  • Strive for Excellence NOT perfection Decent tip
  • Stretch your limits a little each day
  • Stand up and stretch Just not during the exams because you can't although it would help relieve stress during the exam.
  • Always have a plan "B" Is a plan "B" different than a plan B?
  • Memorize a joke Israeli humor is different than American humor they won't understand your joke.
  • Be responsible for your feelings How is this a stress relief tip?
  • Learn to meet your own needs But earlier tips seemed to suggest building a support network?
  • Become a better listener Huh? Sorry I zoned out there for a moment.
  • Know your limitations and let others know them,too I'm really bad a math....and I'm still stressed out even though you all know!
  • Exercise everyday I walk up and down the hill to school every day does that count?
  • Go on a picnic In the winter get sick right before exams.....
  • Take a different route to work There is only one way from the dorms to campus....
  • Leave work early (with permission) I'm glad they added the with permission...they will not be responsible for any consequences of you leaving work early!
  • Write a note to a far away friend Why far away why not a close friend?
  • Recognize the importance of unconditional love Recognized....I'm still stressed....
  • Remember that stress is an attitude No its not its an actual physiological response...isn't it?
  • Keep a journal or a blog :)
  • Remember you always have options Except failure that is never an option!
  • Quite trying to fix other people Unless you are a counseling major
  • Get enough sleep Just remember to set your alarm so you get up in time for your exam!
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Freely praise other people I really appreciate everyone that reads my blog. I love you guys! And I'm still stressed !
Hopefully my own style of humor and sarcasm translated okay. I thought you would enjoy knowing how to cope with stress.

Friday, January 21, 2011

City of David

As always I meant to write this post sooner but I just didn't have time. I finished up my final exams this past week. There will be a separate post about exams and how they are done differently than exams in the states.

Here we have a picture of the City of David and a artist rendering of what the City of David might have looked like during the first temple period. Dr. Barkay said its not entirely accurate but it gives you a basic idea.

This picture I'm at the City of David on a lookout point looking south. The mountain in the center of the picture is the place from our first tour in my post titled Geography of Jerusalem.

On the same lookout point turned the opposite direction we have the Mount of Olives. This is the famous burial ground outside the Old City. Everyone wants to be buried here because when the Messiah comes(or returns depending on your religion) the people buried on the Mount of Olives will be the first ones resurrected. People have been burying their dead here since the Intermediate Bronze age (2200-1950BC). The mountain is very crowded now and I've heard that burial plots are very expensive. The valley below the graves is the Kidron.

The mountain where the trees are marks the location of the high places King Solomon built for his foreign wives(1 kings 10). King Josiah later destroyed these high places but they lasted for 200 years. This is also the place that Jewish tradition says the dove got the olive branch from to give to Noah.

Here is the Temple Mount from the City of David. As you can see I am at a lower elevation from Temple Mount. This is the only place that you ascend to the Temple Mount which makes the Psalms of ascent make more sense. As Dr. Barkay was giving this tour there was a rooster in the yard of one of the houses below us. The rooster kept crowing during the tour. I guess Jerusalem has different laws about farm animals in the city than we do in the states.

This one is going to be harder to see in the picture but I'm going to try to describe it. Towards the middle of the picture near the front there is a house that looks like its on stilts if you look just above that there is a single tree in the middle of the houses. Under that tree is a tomb that archaeologists believe may be the tomb of the steward Shebna mentioned in Isaiah 22:15. There is an inscription on the tomb that comes close to the words of Isaiah. I love when I can match up verses to the archaeological evidence. On the rocky cliff face below the houses notice the square holes those are tombs from the 9th century officials(upper class) they were alive during the time of King Jehoshaphat.

Here is a good view of the rest of the City of David you can see that it is a sloping hill.

Now for one of the most famous and most controversial remains of archaeology in Israel:The stepped stone structure. The reason its controversial is different archaeologists have dated it to different time periods. The earliest date is the 13th century BC the latest date is 10th century BC. The two pillars in the middle are the remains of a house that was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC(2 Kings 25). The houses were built on the steep slope when the Babylonians came the houses toppled down the hill. This is the area mentioned in Nehemiah 2. When Nehemiah took the night tour of the city he mentions have to get off the animal he was riding and go on by foot because there was no room. The stones from these houses were in piles on the slope and he couldn't pass. Near this area archaeologists found several clay seals. These seals were used to well...seal papyrus documents the seals contain the signature of the people who wrote them. During the fire of the destruction it baked the seals preserving them for archaeologists to study. One of the seals found is from a known Biblical figure Gemariah son of Shaphan (Jeremiah 36).

This is a little to the right in the above structure. One of the most exciting pictures I've ever placed on my blog. That square stone with the hole in the middle is a toilet seat. Just what you've always wanted to see an ancient toilet seat! All kidding aside though its an important find because these house represent the middle class. In the surrounding nations of the the time toilet seats are usually found only in palaces and the homes of the upper class. This means that the Kingdom of Israel was a pretty advanced civilization to be concerned with sanitation. Archaeologists analyzed the ....stuff in the pit below and discovered they were eating a lot of lentils and they suffered from the same intestinal parasites we do.

For my last picture from the tour we have several different city walls from different time periods. The little white and grey specks at the bottom of the wall are pigeons which is ironic because they are right in front of an ancient dovecot. The pigeons were used as sacrifices in the temple. Towards the top of the picture notice the vertical concrete pillars in between those pillars is a garbage dump from the time of King Herod.

The adventures in cooking continue. I made these I think two weeks ago. They are pigs in a blanket...sort see the little cocktail sausages do not have pig in them because our grocery store is kosher. I got the recipe for biscuit dough off the internet and gave it a try. They turned out pretty good thought if I make them again I need to grease the pan better they got stuck. These were made in celebration of the grocery store finally having butter in stock again.

Claire made chicken soup! Can you tell we were both feeling rather homesick?