Friday, October 22, 2004

Jilted Lover --> Nursing School

A few days ago I attended a Hadassah Young Women's event. One of the speakers, the PR director of my hospital (yes, I now think of it as my hospital!), recalled the history in great detail of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital and more specifically the nursing school.

Forgive my screwing up the exact dates, but basically Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, had been keeping the company a man, Leo Ginzburg for quite some time. Something like 5 years, which was unheard of in 1909. She kept waiting for him to want to marry her. She was a highly educated woman, from a family of 5 girls, and everyone had warned her that Leo Ginzburg would never propose. He was just using her to edit his books and ghost-write them. She kept hope though. At some point (after 5 years), he told her he had a surprise for her. She assumed it was a proposal. But no, he told her, "I'm engaged to some young chippie I have gone out with 3 times".

As you can imagine, Henrietta was crushed. Her mother thought it might be a good idea to get her away for a while, so they came to visit Palestine in 1909. While here they noticed the terrible health conditions (the area was still under Turkish rule), and realized that a health care system was desperately needed. Specifically nurses. Henrietta brought over doctors and nurses from America, and had a special
program to train nurses in America and bring them here to Israel. After 10 years or so, Henrietta and the Hadassah Women's Group realized it would be better to train the nurses here, and thus, Hadassah founded a nursing school, with the first graduating class in 1921. Eventually came the hospital, the med schools, and in 1975 the nursing school joined with the Hebrew University. Hadassah, by the way, is named for Queen Esther. The women all little Jewish girls wanted to be at some point on Purim, but whom may not have made it in real life. The Jewish heroine who saved her people.

Meanwhile, Henrietta Szold never married, never had children. In Israel, Mother's Day (which we call Mother and Family Day) is celebrated on Henrietta Szold's Yahrzeit (anniversary of death); although she was not a mother in the literal sense, her founding the healthcare system of Israel enabled the fledgling country to survive, so in a sense, we are all her children.

I almost cried when I heard that whole story, and felt very proud and honored to be continuing in the chain that Henrietta had founded.

After the speech, a friend came over and pointed out what I'd been thinking during the whole speech. "Isn't it funny," she said, "How the nursing school was founded because someone had a broken heart and had been shafted by a man, and you chose to go to the very same nursing school for the same reason?"

I don't want anyone to think I chose nursing school because of my sadness over D. (Sadly, I don't think I can call it a broken heart - the breaking part happened already). I have been wanting to do this for more years than I can remember. But the sadness that was going down with him all last year made me realize that you need to make your own happiness. Don't expect it to come riding up to you on a white horse. So, I decided (while still dating D., but knowing there'd be no happy ending) to create my own happiness and go for my dream, instead of putting it off. To leave my job, that bored me to death and brought me no happiness, and go for the career I thought would give me a bit more meaning, that I would enjoy going to work in.

I have made it through the first week. (Hence the lack of blog entries). Classes are good, the people are all pretty nice. The material we learn is relatively simple for me, since i have taken almost all the classes already for my BA in Biology, but because they are in Hebrew, I find myself exhausted at the end of each day. Sitting through 9 hours of classes in Hebrew wipes my mind out. Though, I am bursting with pride to say, I fully comprehend everything. Every once in a while we come to a word I don't know, and I write it down and look it up after class.

I have started to raise my hand and speak in class. I never thought I'd do that, but it only took about 2 days to get the confidence. I'm not embarrassed about my accent, and if I am saying something and I can't think of the word in Hebrew, I just say it English. No one minds, and since they all have to be fluent by graduation, they actually try to speak English to me.

I have found a few other "oldies" like myself in the class. A woman who turned 40 on Tuesday, but never went to college. A 27-year old religious girl who has a degree in Criminology. Ronnen, 30, who studied economics and worked for a drug company, but decided he'd rather see the human side of it. I'm learning a lot from my co-students, in terms of Israeli culture and Muslim culture. One of the 19 year old Arab boys, Adam, has a crush on me. You know, Jewish guys could leanr a thing or too. He brings flowers, sits next to me in all my classes, brings me coffee. I explained to him it'll have to just stay a crush, but he's content at that. On second thought, maybe its not the religion; maybe its because he's 19!

Which brings me to my social life. I've gone out with a couple (okay 3) people. I know it seems like it's "really soon", but the truth is, D. and I had broken up so many times and had so much messiness, the heartbreak had happened a long time ago, and what happened a month ago was just an acceptance of the reality. People have been setting me up left and right, and I've been meeting guys all over. I must give off some "newly-available" scent. One guy (and I thought this was shallow as all hell) saw a picture of me and got my number form his friend on the basis of that picture alone. I said yes, because I'm a poor student and it turned out to be a free meal! He was also a nice guy and he smelled good, something I am now conscious of.

However, I've gone out a bunch of times (to the point that I will no longer see others, for now) with B., who was not a blind date. He's quietly sweet and intelligent, and adorable and he smells divine. And he's a really good person (I have empirical proof, but I'll withhold because it is an identifying characteristic and I don't want to out the poor guys I date). So I figure, B. now deserves an initial on this blog. Again, more on it if it develops. I haven't even entered him into my cellphone yet because that'll jinx it...but I did see I was in his!

So, in summation, life is good. Real good. Sometimes, the sun does come out tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Political Orientation...Winds are shifting

Yesterday I had orientation for nursing school. For me, at least, it was emotional and exciting. We got the traditional pep talk from the Dean of Nursing, Dr. Miri Rom.

She gave us a run-down of the history of the School of Nursing, Hadassah Hospital, and nursing in Israel. Basically, in 1912 Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah Women's Organization, decided that the thing the nascent Israel (then called Palestine) needed most was nurses. So Hadassah trained nurses and sent them specially to Israel. After doing this for about 10 years, Hadassah decided it would be better to train nurses here, in Israel, rather than import them. Thus was born the Hadassah School of Nursing, in 1922.

Eventually a hospital was needed for all these newly trained nurses, and so they built Hadassah Hospital, which has been in lots of places all over Jerusalem. Eventually Hadassah settled in the Ein Kerem campus (where the nursing school is), and only after the War of Independance did they decide to add on a Medical school, dental school, Pharmacy. And eventually, the hospital and the schools joined wiht Hebrew University, which was only established in 1925.

All these mergers and acquisitions led us to the Henrietta Szold School of Nursing of Hadassah and Hebrew University, a rather unwieldy name.

Dr. Rom congratulated us on choosing the chosen profession, the only profession that is more or less selfless. As she put it, "You aren't doing it for the respect, because you won't get any; not for the work conditions, because they're awful; and definitely not for the money!" And for being chosen by the most prestigious nursing school in the country. Then she charged us with the duty of becoming nurses, of serving the public, of becomgin the guardians of health and hygiene.

I think the thing that most impacted me was when she said, "Look outside those windows. See the hills, and the city? That's where politics will stay. Politics has no place in nursing, nor in any healthcare profession. In this building, and in this hospital, we are all the same...Jew, Muslim, religious, non-religious. All patients are the same and all healthcare workers as well."

This message was echoed by the representatives of the Student Union. Apparently at other campuses, there are political parties, but at the Faculty of Medicine politics are not allowed to be discussed.

Looking around the 80 or so students that comprise my shlucha (Hadassah Ein Kerem), and the other 50 from Kaplan and Assaf Harofeh hospital (outlying hospitals which are slightly easier to get into), the make-up was very different than what I am used to interacting with on a daily basis here in Israel. Out of the 80 students, I would say there were 15 males, 65 females. Of the males, 13 were Arab and 2 were Russian. Of the women, I would say 15 were religious (I did this based on who washed netilat yedayim before the sandwiches they distributed - not clothing), maybe another 10 were religious Muslims, another 10 were not wearing the headscarf but clearly Arab, and the rest were non-religious Jews.

Also, all but 2 students are younger than me, and so far I think I am the only one who has gone to college before.

My political orientation is right-wing. Not violent right-wing, or anarchist right-wing, but right-wing. I believe Israel has a right to all land won in any war (just like any other country), has a right to erect a fence to protect its citizens, has a right to retaliate and even instigate attacks in order to protect its citizens. I just wish we didn't have to. I don't believe all Arabs are bad, or out to get me. Its just hard, because I can't always know who is friend and who is foe.

So if I cross the street to avoid an Arab person, its not because I hate them, or I'm racist. It's out of fear. When I'm in a place I deem safe (inside a building where we've already gone through security), I enjoy learning about the Arab culture, and a few words here and there. And the nursing school is definitely a safe place. I finally have an opportunity to establish an ongoing relationship with Arabs, and I'm excited about that too. I'm not sure the world's problems can be solved by dialogue and cookies, but for me, it's a good start.

Also, I went on a good date last night with a nice boy that I met, and it went well and he called me again to ask me out again. More on this if anything develops. But it has been a while since I have gone on a real (ie -- not blind) date.

So life is definitely looking up!

In fact, as a funny, we were on a tour of the hospital and the med. school campus, when this boy called to firm up our plans. I was chatting with him and following the tour and not really paying attention, and at some point I noticed that it got pretty chilly. I asked some girl where we were and she said "Hacheder meitim" - The Morgue! I got off the phone pretty quickly.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Multiple Orgasms, Indeed

This article, written by a fellow blogger, appeared in this week's Haaretz.

I am very proud to admit that I am the "N." in the article, and that "M." was drinking my wine and eating my chocolate covered strawberries (as well as sushi and "boob cupcakes"). The only reason the article uses an initial is that I've been quoted too often by the reporter in other articles, and it would have looked bad.

If anyone is interested in contacting Beverly, drop me a line.

UPDATE: I feel the need to answer some of the comments here in the actual entry.

Avi: The point is that not all women even feel comfortable buying vibrators, despite feeling a need for one. They think they're weird, or sick, or wrong. But if they come and see a whole diverse group also interested, it may help them get over their concerns. Also, only a small portion of the evening was devoted to vibrator sales. A lot of it was devoted to talking about women's bodies, sexual pleasure (with or without a partner) and communication with a partner to get what you need. Despite what you men may think, it isn't always "good for me".

And as I understand it, the places in Tel Aviv are really seedy and more importantly, run by men. Not so comfortable for a woman.

Anonymous: I'll answer your questions one by one. I don't read hirhurim, but I do know that Simcha is not a halachik authority. why must you assume that A) Sexual pleasure of any kind is reserved for married women only? and B) That there would even be a problem of any kind. Sexual gratification IS NOT BAD. Find me a Rav who will tell you that sexual gratification in accordance with Halacha is bad, and I'll show you a fraud. In fact, I think we would all agree that it is far preferable for women to use a vibrator or other methods of masturbation, than to have sex not in accordance with Halacha.

In fact, I'll take it one step further. I have, as a single twenty-something, who has lived in both the Upper West Side and Katamon, noticed that some singles, confuse love with lust. They marry someone because they are horny, more or less. Ever wondered why the frum community, with its safeguards and shidduchim, has almost the same divorce rate as the general public? Wouldn't it be great if people (well, women since obviously its not halachikally a-ok for men) could get their sexual overdrives offloaded and then marry for the right reasons, all the time?

The only things you can assume about me from the article are the following:
1) I know how to make sushi
2) I know how to make chocolate-covered strawberries
3) I have a recipe for boob cupcakes
4) I am a woman not afraid to discuss sexual health, gratification, women's bodies, or vibrators (keep in mind, I am in nursing school).

About the people. I don't think anyone thought they were rebelling or misbehaving. It was a roomful of women in search of the big "O". And who clearly thought they were entitled to it...whether they are married, single, religious, secular, young or old. As you read in the article, they were all different kinds...women in shaitels, non-religious, married, single, mostly in their 20's and 30's.

Clearly there is a need for this type of forum, as I invited 9 women and over 30 showed up. It traveled by word of mouth. Lots of women were total strangers, whom I have no idea how they got to my house. But I am happy I could make the shidduch between them and the vibrators.

Adam: You're touch topics I wouldn't go near. And you're not anonymous.

Boston Tea Party

After deliberating last night whether or not to attend an erev gibush for the nursing students, I decided to go. And I am glad I did.

I was worried that perhaps only the losers went to these events, and if I went I'd be a loser. Or alternatively, if I didn't go, perhaps everyone else would and people would think I was a snob.

As it turned out, a lot of people were there, everyone seemed cool (where were the nerds?? where are my homies??), though most of the students were from the school of pharmacy, dentistry, medicine or research.

On the bus there I noticed one girl (she turned out to be 19) and eventually I asked her if she was a student going to the shindig, which they had called the Boston Tea Party. She was a dental student, from an Arab village up north. In fact, I would say about 80% of the male students were Arab -- from all the schools. I can see this is all going to shake up my political orientation -- perhaps in a positive way. More on that later.

As we were trying to find the bar on the campus of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, I saw another person who looked lost. Turns out she is also a nursing student, has lived in America for the pat 5 years, is 26 years old (so I'm not the oldest one) and seemed quite nice. We stuck together and she drove me home, and offered to pick me up for orientation. Which apparently is on Tuesday -- good thing I showed up last night since the website still says it starts at 10 am today, and I would have showed up on the wrong day.

Its also good to know that if you are ever in the hospital at Hadassah Ein Kerem, and have the unquenchable desire for a Heineken, a Scotch, or an Alabama Slammer, there is actually a bar on the grounds of the hospital. Beers are 10 nis for students, and 12 nis for non-students. Pretty good prices.

Its harder for me to guess the ages of the female students, since make-up and maturity of character can add years to a person's life, but I feel pretty sure the guys were all under the age of 23. My new friend and I were joking about how all the 19 year old guys were flirting with us. She kept saying "Its a good thing, it's a good thing!" despite the obvious appearance of an engagement ring on her third left finger. She didn't mention a fiance or even a boyfriend, so either she is just happily wearing a diamond ring, or she is a woman not defined by her dating status and had other things to talk about than the men in her life. She told me she decided to become a nurse since she's been a waitress for 6 years, and really liked it, but knew she had to go to school for a more respectable profession. So she thought about what real job is most like waitressing, and came up with nursing! Apparently she told the Dean of Students this during her obligatory interview - and she said she almost fell off her chair. They may have admitted her simply because she gave the most unusual answer ever.

People were generally friendly, and Rachel (the new friend) and I kept introducing ourselves to people and just sitting down with strangers. I can see the nurses are seen as the dumb blondes of the group. The Arab students (the males) were all too friendly though, and most of the women as well, once they realized that Rachel and I weren't stupid, we just want to be nurses.

I debated not telling people my age or the fact that I already have a degree in biology, plus I studied law, lest they be intimidated -- which they have no reason to be since I'll be lost in Hebrew. In the end it slipped out anyway -- I cannot hide 8 years of my life. One girl said she was born in Waltham, Massachusetts and I excitedly said "I went to college there!"...whoops.

The most important thing was that I spoke for an entire evening, with my peers, in Hebrew, and didn't think about it, or struggle for words. I have never felt so Israeli or settled. And people did not immediately guess I was American. There we were, just a bunch of Israeli university students, meeting each other and making jokes. And scarily enough, I fit in.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Vacation Over

In all senses of the word, my vacation is over. My 6 week long vacation finishes tomorrow, when orientation for nursing school starts. The holidays are over. My internet is up and running, so blogging must resume. And my personal pity party is over too.

My apologies for my absence, but from a technical standpoint, my internet was down so blogging was somewhat difficult; and from a reality standpoint, I had nothing positive or happy or even new to report, so I took a hiatus. But all the wonderful comments helped.

I spent this past Shabbat with the Treppenwitz family. I was a little nervous, truth be told, seeing as how our face to face interactions were somewhat limited. I ran into someone I know in synagogue who said, "Oh, how do you know the Treppenwitzes?" And I stopped...debating whether to make something up or tell the truth "Well, we read each other's blogs". I opted for the truth. They are just as funny, kind and down-to-earth in real life as portrayed in the blog. And both Mr. and Mrs. are truly wonderful cooks, and excellent hosts. The juniors are intelligent, good kids. Only good things to report from that house!

I spent this morning running around Jerusalem trying to get things in order for school. Still no student ID card, but I was told..."Just carry your acceptance letter around - that should be enough". Yikes!

Right now I am pondering whether to go to this get together for the nursing students tonight at the med school dorms. I have no idea whether its mandatory (like orientation activities in America) or not. I am going to be a teeny bit older than the other students, and definitely more experienced, so I am being very conscious of the image I portray. I am torn between thinking that if I show up I'll be labeled a nerd, because the cool kids won't be there, and thinking if I don't go, I'll show up to orientation tomorrow and be labeled a snob because I thought I was too mature to show up to an orientation activity! I'll let you know what happens.

As for D. Well, I would be lying if I said I stuck to my guns and we hadn't spoken since that horrible bombshell. We have. Partially because I wanted my purple Hush Puppies loafers back, and they were under his bed, and I wasn't about to lose them since I lost the original pair of those shoes to the first David in the broken engagement.

Turns out I somehow misheard him that day and he didn't mean he never wanted to marry me, he meant he just couldn't do it then, he wasn't ready. I spent the past few weeks trying to decide if the new version mattered. I had a lovely drunken birthday party where the male to female ratio was about 10:1. No joke. It definitely helped the ego.

And I realized that if I would stick with D. I would have to accept being happy without a commitment, and not trying to change him into a guy who was ready to commit. I tried to see if my love for him was that strong. And in the end I decided that maybe it just wasn't. Or maybe, I love myself a little bit too. Because try though I might (and I did try) to rationalize his actions with what he claimed were his feelings -- I just couldn't make them jive in my own heart. No matter what I cannot believe the statement "I love you and I want to marry you -- just not now." One of those elements isn't true. At least not for me. And that, I hope, is that.

I better go get showered....if I am going to be labeled the nerd of the class of 2008 (Oh my -- in college I was the class of 2000), I at least want to be labeled the clean nerd of the class of 2008.