Archive for Ann Arbor

Jews in the Woods

We’re currently in the big “yaaaaar jewish holiday seasonnnn” that comes around every Fall. Cause Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the dates fluctuate from year to year. During my first year in Korea, Yom Kippur was on a day when we only had a half day of school and midterms, so I wasn’t even teaching and it was easy to ask for the day off. This year, Rosh Hashana fell smack in the middle of the week. My school (in its infinite kindness) allowed me to take two vacation days to celebrate the holiday in style.

There are essentially 2 synagogues in Seoul (Chabad and the US Army chaplaincy). Ya know the saying, 2 Jews, 3 opinions? Yeah. There’s a lot of that. For the high holidays they merged together to form an uber-metch-synagogue out in the woods. WHAT? Jews in the woods?! Apparently the military has a religious retreat center in this uberforesty part of HanNam-dong with a nice chapel and bunk-bed-filled-communal-bathroom-sporting dorms. Everyone who wanted to got to stay there for free, eat for free and get eaten alive by mosquitoes for the low low cost of nothing! With the weather being an ongoing stream of monsoontyphoon I chose communal bathrooms over my normal hour long commute to temple.

The community brought in two young guys (both with connections to my hometown, which made for some Jewish geography) to help lead services and read torah. I’m gunna say with honesty that normally I don’t do so well on the high holidays. It’s hard to feel kavana (spirit//feeling) when you’re looking at a four hour service+sermons; it can feel more like an obligation to be there than anything else. Go to high holiday services, get ya JewCard(tm) renewed for a new year. This was the first year that I felt the words resonate with me and was able to appreciated the whole experience. When we blew the shofar, the symbolic trembling of our souls, I felt this deep connection to Jews across Asia, all of us celebrating the new year together. The guys also did a great job of leading, especially the Friday night services. There were about 100 people there on the first days, and it tricked down to the twenties as the holiday weathered on.

Being a Jew in Seoul is different from being a Jew in Ann Arbor. Where in the the states ya can say “I’m a Jew” and people have some kinda idea about what your taking about, a lot of Koreans aren’t really sure. I get a lotta –

Are all Jews Israeli? (no) What, there are Jews today? (yes) Do all Jews look white like you? (no)

– which I don’t mind at all. Its kinda sad though that Jewish life in Korea is really all about services and not volunteering or eating or social stuff. I’m sure that there’s more Jews here who’d want to connect, but maybe just not in a go-to-temple kinda way. There’s just not that much in way of options in Korea.

One thing that my thoughts kept drifting to as I was praying was the oft repeated Jewish mantra, ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ I have really complicated feelings about Israel in general, but I’m hoping that that’s where I’ll be next year, studying at Pardes. Maybe, maybe not. It’s what my mosquitoe bitten legs and way too Jewish heart want 😉

Happy New Year everyone! May we all be inscribed for a sweet year!


{homeward bound}

Ahhhhh America. I’ve been back in the states for about a week now, steadily gaining back all the weight I lost by indulging on all of my favorite american treats. MMMMmm. No regrets there!

My trip started out in Ann Arbor, switched it up in Detroit, involved a combo greyhound+plane flight to get to my bro in Tallahassee, and now is kicking down a few gears as I board a private bus bound down the FL coast for Miami in just a few hours.

My trip has been defined by food and friends, but grad school is weighing top in my mind. Since I was visiting two university towns, I met with the graduate programs admissions representatives and fleshed out some of my post-grad goals while hearing about different programs.

Basically, I’m planning on going to library school to get my MLIS and a certificate as a school media specialist (ie, a school librarian). I could work in a school in in a public library as a YA/children’s librarian. After a few year of tossing around different ideas for grad school (MSW, MA in Jewish women’s studies, the omnipresent MFA), library school has stuck out. Do I have any experience working in libraries? No… And yet, it’s something that I’ve been kicking around for a long time. In both of the admissions meetings that I had, I got uncontrollably (yes! uncontrollably!) excited when talking about library space, information usage and youth education. Seriously! I’ve read a lot of peoples’ day-to-day librarian experiences on Library Day in the Life and it looks like what I want from a job: social, challenging, technology and youth based, and ever changing.

And yet, I still have some… slight doubts. I talked to my brother about it a lot. See, I always expected that I would do something art related with my life. I’m a couple of years out if art school, and that hasn’t been the case. My day jobs have been about education, not art. I keep wondering if I should be getting a degree in art education instead. Which will give me satisfaction and happiness? Which would let me grow and develop as an artist? Which will lend itself to a stable work environment?

As it stands, I’m looking at applying to four iSchools for the fall of ’11. Utexas-Austin, Umich, Simmons in Boston and Umaryland – college park. These schools might be some of the harder iSchools to get into… I might also have some of the lowest GRE scores to ever fall out of a fairly intelligent persons skull. I’m looking at it as an experiment. If I don’t get in, I’m not going to stress about it. If I do get in, I’ll take it from there.

Librarians in training. I can see myself doing that.

Tomorrow morning I’ll head out from Ann Arbor, A2, the Ace Deuce, the big kahuna of what-have-you. I can’t help but feel a bit sad, after all this is the place I learned to separate my laundry colors, where I printed my first photograph, where I learned how to dance. I became myself in a small town in Michigan. Crazy. I never would of thought that I would be so impacted by a city as small… or quiet as Ann Arbor. I guess it’s more about the people – yeah. It’s about who I met, about who my friends are. I know I’ll see everyone again.

By this time tomorrow I’ll be in Miami. From there, the Bahamas’ with Aaron, and a week or so later I head off to Korea. This makes me ridiculously lucky – 23 years old and about to seize the world. I’m not sure if the world is ready! Haha, way too crazy.

Exit stage right: Ace Deuce

According to my handy STA travel widget, I’ll be leaving Ann Arbor in 11 days. First I’ll hit up Miami, then the Bahamas with my brother, then the hypertropolis of Seoul, South Korea.