In this blog post, I will recall and pass on my experience with the people beyond the circles of the students/faculty/administration of MSIH.
Each morning usually started off with going to the classroom 616 in the Old Internal Building in the Soroka Hospital, by 8:10 AM. I usually overestimate the amount of time it'll take for my biking to get to class, so I usually arrive at around 8:00 AM. I meet the cleaning lady there – a lady that looks like she's a Russian descent. I used to just ignore her but as time passed, and as my Hebrew increased relatively, I started to be a bit bold. I started saying 'Bokhel Tov' (Good Morning) to her, and although that's all that communication limits allow (she sometimes fumbled Hebrew too, or so I think with my limited Hebrew), I became less of a stranger.
Amidst the occasional VERY random encounters such as an Israeli almost forcing me to be friends just because I was born in Korea, my usual day-to-day exposure to the locals happened while grocery shopping.
My preparation to go grocery shopping is always a quest. I felt especially like a mage, memorizing spells to use them, hehe. Equipping is essential. I gotta bring a backpack, along with my bike, along with my water bottle. My small pocket notebook (aside: I make PocketMods. Google'it!) has lists of words, spells I might cast to complete the quest of obtaining prized items such as 'chicken' or 'ground beef'... oops, sorry for the game analogy! But really, I repeat phrases and sentences, mumbling past people who look at me strangely. Oh by the way, for me, grocery markets have levels. Beginner's level: small markets, Eden, Tiv Tam. Intermediate: SuperSol, Mega. Hardcore: Shuk.
Beginner's level grocery shopping isn't too hard. They either speak English or don't have a lot of people shopping. SuperSol and the Shuk, on the other hand.. I have to meditate on potential encounters before going in. People would start asking me who's the last in line (i.e. the most important information in SuperSol), or at the loss of communication, but still trying to convey that he knows that North Korea's Kim Jung Il has passed away, a guy at the Shuk would start making crying faces at me, interchanging with a choking sound/facial expression. I might have to start a ground-meat buying transaction with a kid who is running the meat shop, possibly right before closing up shop. All in all, every interaction an interesting one.
Another group of people I got exposed to, with the help of the MSIH first-year clinical interview classes were the Bedouin population around Beersheva. Now for this, as it links to the theme of International health, I'll go into it more in the next blog post.
Now for me, the biggest interaction I had outside MSIH for the past 11.5 months – a consistent, deep relationship, as in becoming part of – centered around the Christian group in Beersheva, with its focal point being the 'Nichalim Yeshua' church. This relationship is the second biggest fruit that I gained by living in Beersheva, first being MSIH. As a Christian, I practically gave up of the prospect of going to church as I moved into Beersheva. However, a third year showed me this church, and I've become part of it.
In it are multiple groups of people. The older people are mostly from Russia/Eastern Europe. Some of the younger groups are Israeli. Some are foreigners that came via mission-related activities or academic /work-related reasons. Some, like me, are MSIH students, a sub-group which apparently lasted for quite a few years already. For me, knowing about all of this was a miracle. I realize I will be blabbering on and on quite a bit about Christianity-related things. I ask with respect and humility that you accept what I will write down, and I am writing with nothing but a humble effort to jot down what I felt and experienced, to add to the overall first-year experience.
I never really expected my being in Beersheva, in Israel, to sing worship songs in Hebrew, to actually say 'Hallelujah' because that's what it says in Hebrew on the projector, to say 'Elohim', to end prayers by 'ba shem shel Yeshua'(in the name of Jesus). It was and still is surreal. Very emotional. To be greeted and hugged by the older people – reflection of my grandparents back in Korea – in Russian, as they don't know Hebrew, but still feeling the love nonetheless, was one of the great stress-relievers after six days of unending school work. To be able to meet English-speaking fellow believers and sharing their accounts, to be sent to a meeting of believers in all parts of Israel and share in the understanding, to pray for another's struggles... it was amazing. Sure, the sermon is in Hebrew and concentrating to the translation headsets takes a lot of effort, but to see all of the group take joy in worshiping and caring for each other was pretty enriching. Meeting a Korean who grew up in Israel was inspiring. In the same aspect was a MSIH couple's role-model like conduct in things, always making time for bible-study, while still managing marriage, school, and birth of a child. Or another MSIH student's reason to become so good at Hebrew being wanting to read the Bible in Hebrew. The passion of the Negev, for me, is here. The desert can be dry and terse, but I found a source of water that replenishes. I intend to find out further of how this relationship will unravel/deepen in the coming years. I really thank God for this opportunity. - blogger of the month Seungjin Kim