Monday, June 27, 2011

Full Circle, by blogger of the month Renata Mazurek

Vendors setting up for Friday morning
market in the Old City.
It’s just us again. The other class years have finished, and while not everyone else has left Be’er Sheva, it reminds me of when we were basically the only ones late last July. Not tremendously though. That time seems so distant. I smile at conscientiously thinking of things have become commonplace in my mind. Approaching a gate or entrance, I find my ID card and open to show my bag. Walking up the stairs in the hospital, I excuse myself past large gatherings of people sitting across the steps. I don’t expect to buy 2% milk, but I make sure I select the right percentage in yogurt. I never put my laundry in a dryer. Basics. One occurrence that caught me off guard was when I stopped at a crosswalk of a one-way lane for a car to pass and instead of continuing, the driver stood blocking the turn. For a second I thought, What is he doing? because he started honking and there were no cars in front. That’s when a person passing out newspapers on the corner came up and handed one to the driver, who after accepting it then drove on. Oh, I see, I thought, and kept going. That is how it is. It’s mentally convenient to have gotten the hang of most things and not be distracted by making adjustments– particularly during weeks that end in exams. With the last exam and the end of our first year, after the last day of classes, the remainder of the week will be devoted to studying. That said, I don’t have much by way of news-flash events to report, though from the point-of-view of focusing on endocrinology, it might actually be better for us.

The University and Soroka Medical Center juxtaposed.
This past weekend I also realized that it was my last Shabbat in Israel this year. On Friday evening, I was with the family with whom I spent the first Shabbat here! They have been very welcoming people from the start and have always been willing to accommodate anytime during the year. And now being left with less than a week to go struck me of how preoccupying it gets over the year as each semester picks up speed. Not surprisingly, finishing first year and preparing to leave for the summer has culminated in making sure that all is in order. Therefore, as I have been fine-tuning and settling what needs to be taken care of, it was pleasant (and fitting) to just be able to pause and begin this “closing” Shabbat in the same home where the “opening” one began.  (As an aside for incoming students, I would recommend signing up to go to a family for the first Shabbat – it is a great to be able to connect at the start of coming to Be’er Sheva).
Aview on my walk back home. 

Since then, I have passed almost all Shabbats in Be’er Sheva. These have been the days that I have most appreciated living here. In addition to the break from the motion of daily life, there is also a certain calm that is a part of this city. It is distinct from the serenity that one might describe especially of land in northern Israel, and it transitions into Shabbat more discreetly than in other major cities.

Over my final Shabbat, I assessed that even during weekdays, as hectic as it might become at the personal level, the overall environment in Be’er Sheva is more easy-going, making it conducive to study and establish a nice rhythm in spite of being an atypical region. That is the balance. There are opportunities to be as involved as one decides to be with the area and populations, as much as with partaking in one’s own pastimes. People seek out ways to follow their interests, and at MSIH, there is always a good possibility of finding other people that share interests. It can be anything, from piloting a major initiative to a student group to a hobby. I’ve determined that there is an abundance of ways to be sufficiently occupied on a usual basis.

Of course, the main reason I am here to learn to practice medicine. With classes and studying taking up almost all of the day, there is not so much time to contemplate the place I study in as if I were planning a vacation. It’s great that already in the first year, students take opportunities to travel and engage in other places in and outside of the country. Besides this though, I’ve revisited the thought of taking advantage of being exactly where I am. One year down and I haven’t even exhausted seeing all of Be’er Sheva. On the day-to-day basis, it might not come to mind that this city has a long history, to recognize how it has built up and changed over time.  And maybe the aspects for which it is a unique will not be as imprinted until a few more years down the line.  Regardless, the present importance has been about being content in the pace of everyday – it is getting together with friends to share meals; having access to fresh seasonal produce (at good prices!); talking with little kids in the neighborhood who inquire about what it is like in the U.S.; discovering that, as much as I enjoy walking everywhere, acquiring a bike (a couple of weeks ago) can improve the quality of my life… Not to mention that my course of study is international health and medicine, in Israel! Not many people can make that claim. At various times before, I’ve mentioned that I would not trade the experiences of going here for any other school, and most of them have not even happened yet! There has never been a day that I wished I wasn’t here (and I cannot just say that on account of flying out soon, because I will undoubtedly be returning).

A park in Beer-Sheva. 
As my attention now turns to successfully completing the year, I tell myself to remember that my context sets up a baseline, and from there, my experience is what I choose to make of it. - blogger of the month, Renata Mazurek