Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Blog, A Book, and a little procrastination, which never hurt anyone but never helped either...

Paola, as it turns out, is keeping a blog too. In it, she tells me she's written the following about me:

1) I'm from Virginia. The only thing she knows about Virginia is the song "Take Me Home Country Roads," which she loves. When she told me this, I politely corrected her that West Virginia, which is the subject of the song, is not the same as Virginia, though it used to be before the Civil War. She was disappointed, and the first time she wrote about me in her blog, apparently (I haven't read the blog as it is in Italian), she included all of the lyrics to "Take Me Home Country Roads" just for kicks

2) She's been keeping a list of the idioms that I say, as she wants to incorporate them into her English. So far they include: creature of habit, homebody, to find common ground, to walk all over someone, grade inflation, and it's raining cats and dogs. The latter was her favorite, of course.


I'm writing on the blog largely to procrastinate from studying for my Hebrew test tomorrow, for which I actually feel pretty prepared, which makes it harder to study as I'm not convinced that I have to. What makes it even harder to study is that there is some kind of concert going on outside that I can hear quite well from the apartment. I thought initially that it was a Birthright Israel event because it included "Sisu et Yerushalayim" "Yachad" and "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu", but now it sounds more like heavy metal, so who knows.
The accomplishment of the day is that I (A) read an entire relatively lengthy newspaper article in Hebrew about Musharaff's resignation, and while it took me several hours and there were more words in the article that I didn't know than there were words that I did know, in the end I think I understood all of it, and (B) I went to a used book store and bought myself a collection of Hebrew short stories. I was having trouble convincing myself to read the children's book I was trying to get through because frankly it wasn't that interesting and also it was too long. I think short stories will work better. And it makes me super proud that I own a real book in Hebrew - and have the potential to read it.

I met with my advisor today. He tells me that after this summer I am technically allowed to take classes from Hebrew University proper, in Hebrew, if I am so inclined, as I will be at a high enough Hebrew level to do so. I'm thinking I might do that in the spring, but don't feel ready for it yet. In the meantime I think I'm taking something like the following: Hebrew, Readings in Early Yiddish Literature, Multiple Voices in Israeli Society, Jews in the Habsburg Empire. All of this is subject to change, but I thought you might be curious.

Guess I'd better get back to studying...


Incidentally, while procrastinating, I read an interesting and upsetting post on the Lilith blog ( about a trend in Orthodox communities for mothers to encourage their daughters not to excel academically because they either won't be attractive to men or will feel frustrated and bored when they have to leave their careers by the wayside to take care of their families. I think this an old problem and certainly not exclusive to Jewish communities. And not exclusive to traditional communities that "mainstream" folks can write off as being exceptions. I think the idea that women should be less accomplished, or less forthright about their accomplishments, than men, is so ingrained in our society that even the most accomplished of women are often hesitant to give themselves full credit for their accomplishments. Anyway, the author of the post writes, "It IS difficult to combine a career and motherhood, but striving for mediocrity is not a viable strategy. Subduing young women in the hope that potential husbands will find them more attractive is a damning indictment on religious men and cannot be the basis for a healthy partnership between the sexes in the modern Orthodox world." Thank goodness there are many people who feel this way, too. The real challenge may be, though, in acting in a way that we know, logically, to make sense. I believe that men and women are equal, for instance, but it doesn't stop me from preferring to sit in the passenger seat in the car, to walk behind Daniel on the sidewalk despite his insisting that I walk next to him, to wait for Daniel to tell the host that there will be two for dinner and we prefer to sit outside. These little things, about which I don't really think at the time, are small behaviors that in themselves don't matter at all, but demonstrate perhaps, the internalized notions of gender that have such a huge impact on how we see ourselves and how we live our lives. OK, now for serious I really have to go back to studying for that test...Or I could just strive not to do so well academically, as it might make me more attractive?

PS: You may have noticed that in our technical expertise, Daniel and I (mostly Daniel) have added a section to this blog recommending other blogs we read. If you have any blogs to add to the list, let us know, and seriously check out some of the ones there as they are quite good. We'll add to it if/when we start reading something new.

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