Reflecting on this Past Month with the Students

Shalom from Israel! I am typing this at the Ben Gurion Airport while waiting for my plane back to Boston. I actually got here at 11pm, and my flight is at 7:30am—yes, I’m camping out at the airport overnight. Fortunately many other GTL-ers had the same thought, so I’m here with 6 others 🙂

This is our final post. This post would probably be a sentimental one, summarizing our experience for the past 4 weeks.

This last week, we got to visit another school in Nazareth: Salvatorian Sisters’ School (Al Mukhalles). A few Loopers go to this school, so it was nice to be able to see them and their school!

Kalyn and Emily at the front sharing our lives in the US
Emily and Kalyn with the students at Salvatorian Sisters’ School!

Our last week at Loop was eventful! To make the most out of our remaining time here, we planned many fun activities (aka games!) with the students. On Monday, after Emily held a session on ethics, we played this game: https://www.sporcle.com/games/g/common_english_words. The students enjoyed shouting out the answers! On Tuesday, after Kalyn held a session on UX/UI, we played Pictionary. Especially because this was with the younger group, they got really excited to draw on the whiteboard and we all had a lot of fun guessing each other’s drawing! On Wednesday, after Emily held a session on basic AI, we played Taboo with the older group that we normally teach. We had fun being attentive to when an opponent messed up, and everyone got really competitive 😛 Thursday—our last day—we played CodeNames and Charades, and though we all get competitive usually, we ended the last game on a tie: yay leaving things on a good note for both sides! 😀

Playing Pictionary with the younger group!
The Super Loopers playing CodeNames!

So now not about what we did but more on our interactions with the mentors and students the last few days (and the last month in general):

I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but we got really lucky with our placement. Our students were the most well-behaved, respectful, motivated, intelligent students that were always ready to learn. They were honestly a teacher’s dream class! We mostly taught the oldest group called “Super Loopers,” and we’re super thankful that we got to spend 4 weeks with the same students and grow close to them. They were always curious and not afraid to ask questions; whether it was about our teaching topics or about our lives in the US, they always wanted to know more, and we appreciated their enthusiasm. Whenever we gave feedback about their product ideas, they were very attentive and showed us their improvements in the next session. When we saw each other before or after class, they asked us how our day has been and also told us how school is going for them. We also enjoyed listening to their future plans about college and beyond. We’re super happy that they opened up to us and they asked us many questions, and we got to have many meaningful conversations. We were both happy whenever the students accomplished something like achieving a high score on their exam at school or solving a difficult coding challenge.

We also got to grow close to the mentors at Loop. I feel they really opened up to us in the last 2 weeks, and we learned that a lot of the mentors’ age is similar to ours (we thought they were older, but actually many of them are younger than us!) We went to eat out together, shop souvenirs together, and just hung out at Loop often since Emily and I went to campus very early usually. We shared similar humor, and talked about memes(!) and current events. The room was always filled with laughter when it was us with the mentors, and we will really miss those times.

During our last week, one of the mentors took us to an Arabic dessert place and made us try Kanafeh!
One of the mentors, Mohammad, whom we got to grow very close to!

On our last day, Emily and Kalyn gave handmade cards to each student and mentor we interacted with. We’ll miss them so much!

Handmade cards for students and mentors!
Our students and mentors with our handmade cards :’)

And finally…our group photos with both groups we worked with this month!

Emily and Kalyn with the Loopers (the younger group)!
Kalyn and Emily with the Super Loopers (the older group we normally worked with)!
The students and mentors wanted to follow us to the bus stop on our last day
We were featured on the Loop Instagram story!

The students and mentors thanked us for the things they learned from us, but we’re also thankful for the things we learned from them and all the experiences they provided us. It was an amazing one month in Israel, and we’re so happy that we decided to do GTL-Israel this IAP!

Thank you Loop and MISTI-Israel for this experience!

Our adventure still continues, just back at MIT… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen

Hopping the Border to Jordan

Shalom from Israel! This past weekend, Ariel, Emily, and Kalyn traveled to Jordan with 14 other GTL-Israel students (so most of GTL-Israel). We booked the Petra & Wadi Rum 2 Day Tour from Tourist Israel, and we left the Grand Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv at 4am. We slept well on the bus ride throughout this entire trip since we were all sleep-deprived.

Border crossing to Jordan was an interesting experience. We had to pay the border fee, get an exit visa from Israel, go through luggage screening, pay for a Jordanian visa, go through customs, etc. and it took a long time for the whole tour group to go through everything.

We spent most of the first day at Petra, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a beautiful walk through the rock walls, and we reached the Treasury (from Indiana Jones!) Here’s a fun fact: Ariel and Emily have the same Myers-Briggs type, and Kalyn’s is the exact opposite. Ariel and Emily are the thrill-seekers, and Kalyn is not. Majority of the tour group decided to pay extra to have a random local tour guide take us to hike up to get a better view of the Treasury, and of course Ariel and Emily wanted to do it, so Kalyn agreed to come too. Kalyn was really scared and careful through the climb (to be honest it wasn’t hike, it was more like bouldering), but it was super worth. As they say, “You wouldn’t have done it without us right” 🙄 And it’s true, Kalyn actually had fun and is thankful for them for bringing her out of her comfort zone.

Kalyn and Emily at the top of the viewpoint
View of the Treasury from the top
Hello from fancily-clothed camels in Petra

The unfortunate thing about this trip was that most of the time was spent for transportation; nevertheless, the sights and experiences we got were super worth 🙂

Second day, we spent the first half of the day at the Wadi Rum desert. We got to go on the back of trucks through the desert, and it was such a cool experience that I feel we might not get again. We had three stops during the jeep ride through the desert: the pyramid-looking thing, the Red Sand Dune, and the Burdah Rock Bridge. Climbing up the Sand Dune was super fun! We were all barefoot, and the sand was cold a few inches below surface and it felt so good on our feet on such a hot day. Climbing the Rock Bridge was slightly scary (for Kalyn), but it was also super fun 🙂

Emily, Kalyn, and Ariel at Wadi Rum! Spot the fake pyramid in the back-right
From the top of the Red Sand Dune!
Locals playing music for us
Ariel and Kalyn at the Rock Bridge area (I didn’t take pictures of the bridge oops)

We stopped by Aqaba City on the way back to Israel, and then we were back at the border. Border control again took some time, but we all made it back to Israel safely. We had a couple hours in Eilat, where we got to see the Red Sea (yay conquered four seas in one IAP, Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, and Red Sea!) and have ice cream. Also, Eilat was suer warm, like 25 degrees Celsius at 6pm.

Emily and Kalyn didn’t make it back to Nazareth until 3:30am, and we were exhausted, but it was an experience we believe we won’t get again. It was a weekend packed with memories and sights! Ariel and Emily really dragged Kalyn into their thrill-seeking activities, but Kalyn really enjoyed the weekend (though her whole body was in pain after all the climbing).

We’re sad to leave Israel this week, but we’re also determined to make the most out of our remaining time here!

Our adventure continues… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen

Teaching from This Past Week

Shalom from Israel! It’s been quite eventful at Loop, so I wanted to highlight some of the teaching activities that happened this past week.

On Tuesdays, the students we normally work with do not come to campus, so our Tuesday schedules always vary. Last Tuesday (1/15), we had brunch with David Dolev (MISTI director) and a couple MIT-MEET students in Nazareth. Afterwards, we showed David the Loop Campus, and we headed to Haifa with one of the mentors from Loop. Haifa has a startup workplace called WeWork, which Loop is a part of. After visiting there, the Loop mentor took us to Cremerie De L’clair, where we had amazing croissant ice cream sandwiches! We had an early dinner at Frangelico, a sushi restaurant in Haifa.

Sushi with Rawan, a Loop mentor who’s been taking care of us :’)

We went back to Loop in the evening to meet a group of students we had never met before. They’re another group of Loopers, slightly younger than the students we normally teach. They were learning intro-level Java, so we could be helpful in debugging their code. After the session, many of the students came to talk to us, and they were genuinely confused that we were from the United States. We heard that especially for Nazareth, people who live in Nazareth are generally from Nazareth, so it is hard to grasp the concept that there are Asians born and raised in the United States. They weren’t rude about it or anything, and they were very interested in our lives. We found out they love Asian culture (well…I mean things like anime and k-pop, which is pop-culture). Some of them were shy about speaking English in the beginning, but they really opened up and we talked for over an hour.

Kinda sad photo quality but our students are all sweet 🙂

On Wednesday, Emily held a session on Business Models. She explained the product design process roadmap, going into detail about what happens at each step of the process. She made a great interactive example about the evolution of iPhone’s unlocking system, from passcode to fingerprint to face recognition. After doing an example together, the students made a product roadmap for their own app ideas. Then, we went over feature types and feature analysis, understanding what is necessary and what is desirable within products. We did another activity with the students doing some analysis on their own app ideas, then compared SMS messages with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (we learned that WhatsApp features are way better than Messenger or SMS in our students’ opinion…)

Emily talking about product roadmap
Emily and Kalyn giving feedback on our students’ app analysis

On Sunday, Emily gave another lecture, this time on public speaking. There were two exercises where students had to talk in front of the room, and a lot of them were shy. First topic was on personal hobbies, and the second topic was an elevator pitch for their app ideas. From the first talk, we heard hobbies like music, meeting new people, traveling, volunteering, etc., and we saw how similar their favorite past time activities are to US students’. They seem to have found the second activity easier, maybe because it is not about them but about an idea they’ve been developing for a while. We were impressed and proud of how clearly they talked!

Due to a few emergency situations, from here on, the group has shrank to Kalyn and Emily only. We will keep sharing our lives, so keep an eye out for our updates! 🙂

On Monday, we had our MIT alum speaker, Mr. Reuven Lerner. He drove all the way from Modi’in to Nazareth for this, and he was a very inspirational speaker that kept everyone’s attention. He answered all the students’ questions in great detail, and even after the session was over, many students remained in class to talk to him. Thank you so much Reuven!

Our amazing alum speaker with Loop-MIT!

On Tuesday, we visited a nearby high school, High School and the College of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic. We talked to 10th graders concentrating in physics and electronics, and it was a Q&A style where Emily and Kalyn answered questions about our lives and schools in the US. We also got to have a tour around the school, and the students seemed very interested in us, since we look…well, foreign. The students were genuine though, and we really enjoyed the experience at this school!

Kalyn and Emily (and Wasim, Mohammad, Julian from Loop) at High School and the College of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic

In the evening, we taught a younger group at Loop, and we started the class with the Big Wind Blows Game. It seemed to engage the students and allow them to feel more comfortable around us, and we enjoyed getting to know the students 🙂 Yesterday’s lesson was on introduction to UX/UI, and Kalyn led the lesson with interactive and relevant examples to introduce the most important concepts in designing products.

Kalyn introducing the basic concepts of UX/UI

Today, Kalyn held a session on her favorite topic…probability! The students seem to have understood the relation between probability and psychology, and it was a cool topic to cover. Emily led a session on basic artificial intelligence and different methods of searching. We also incorporated a geography game in the middle, and the students (and mentors even more) were very engaged in guessing major cities in the US and filling the map of Europe.

Our adventure continues… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen

Jerusalem, Masada, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea

Shalom from Israel! This past Thursday, we had our GTL day trip to Jerusalem, and the Loop team stayed in Jerusalem for one night, and the next day we went to explore the nature in Israel.

Thursday morning was…crazy. We decided to take a bus from Nazareth to Jerusalem straight, so we woke up at 4-4:30am. In our initial plan, we had to take three buses to get to Yad Vashem where our tour starts, but we missed the first of the three. Then we found another way to get to Jerusalem on time with two buses, so we ran full speed to the other bus stop, but we saw the bus pass in front of us as we approached the stop. We figured out an alternate route, and we still made it to Yad Vashem before the chartered bus from Tel Aviv arrived 🙂 Yay us!!

The first stop of the day was Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Our tour guide for the 2.5 hours was amazing, and we traced the history of the Holocaust in chronological order. From seeing propaganda against the Jews to hearing stories about Holocaust survivors to walking through the Children’s Memorial, it was an emotional education experience for all of us.

Afterwards, we went to the Old City of Jerusalem and spent all our afternoon there. Passing through the Jaffa Gate, we heard stories about the gate from our tour guide like how the Sultan was so pleased with the gate when it was built that he killed his workers, since he didn’t want them to build a gate like this anywhere else. In the Old City, we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter, the Old City Market in the Christian and Muslin Quarters, and the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter. We also got to see a panoramic view of the city from a rooftop and drank sahlab because it was cold.

At the Old City Market, this storeowner showed us a lot of cool fabrics!
I’m always taking pictures of my teammates hehe 😉
Yay for a picture with all four of us!!

After the MISTI tour, we went to Jachnun Bar with 4 others from GTL. The malawach was amazing! We also walked around the Mahane Yehuda Market, since it was really close to Abraham Hostel (where we were all staying for the night).

GTL students getting malawach together! Missing Samira in photo since she was getting ketchup 🙁

The next morning was even earlier. We had to be in the Abraham Hostel lobby by 4am for the nature tour. Known to be one of the world’s greatest sunrises, Masada sunrise hike was the activity I wanted to do the most in Israel (also because I hike a lot in general). I can’t explain in words how beautiful it was, so here are pictures to show the beauty:

Good job us for waking up at 3am
M I T!!!!

After the hike, we drove to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. There, I was happy to see so many ibexes! New animal added to my collection:

Nubian Ibex!
Ein Gedi was so beautiful

Last stop of the tour was the Dead Sea. The driver said that it’s very, very rare for the Dead Sea to be so clear to the point where we can see the Jordanian coast. We stopped at a lookout and took some photos before getting down to the beach.

At the Dead Sea, we did the Dead Sea mud mask all over our bodies, and we got some water in our eyes and it was painful…the taste was really bad too… A lot of GTL students were on this tour (about 10 of us I believe), and we all had a fun, packed, eventful weekend filled with experiences that we might not get again.

Our adventure continues… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen

Classroom Activity Highlights

Shalom from Israel! We wanted to make a blog post about our teaching experiences this past week.

This is what a typical day at Loop looks like: the students come to campus, the mentors assign coding challenges for the day, and the students work on the tasks for 2 hours with mentors’ help and online resources. With the 4 of us here, their schedules vary day to day.

Some days, we just do the same job as the Loop mentors and help students with their coding challenges. They are assigned tasks like creating a camera app and displaying the photos taken within their Android app, or storing and retrieving data from SQL. We walk around the room seeing if any student needs help. Our students are very respectful and eager to learn, so it makes our job easy and worthwhile!

Our students asked us at the end of class one day if they could take a picture with us!

Last Thursday, we held our lessons on Scrum methodology, user story, and prototyping. We tried to make our lessons as interactive as possible.

First, Ariel talked about the Scrum methodology and how it’s applied in the major tech companies worldwide. She did an activity that enforces understanding of sprint cycles with an example using WhatsApp (the most popular messaging app in Israel). The students were very engaged in ranking important features within the app and sharing reasonings behind their choices.

Ariel presenting the Scrum sprint cycle (with her new Loop hoodie 😉 )

Second, Christina talked about the importance of user stories. She emphasized how important it is to interview your audience when developing a product, since it is the best way to identify the users’ goals. After the lecture, we asked the students to come up with their own “user story” by prompting them to a few questions to ask themselves and target audience. Christina also provided the students with a template to define the user story for each student’s product idea.

Christina presenting the importance of knowing the target audience (I don’t know why the colors look weird in the photo…)

Third and lastly, Kalyn presented about what MVP (minimum viable product) is and how to prototype products. After defining some terms and explaining the importance of each of them, she showed an example of paper prototyping she did herself in a class. Walking through the sequence of paper prototyping helped students understand what it is and why it is important. We asked the students to come up with their MVP and bring their paper prototypes for the next session so that we could provide feedback.

Kalyn presenting about prototyping
The Super Loopers and a few mentors listening to our lectures

The students seem to have enjoyed our interactive lessons! 🙂 Emily will be presenting later this week, and we hope to update more on her lesson when it happens!

The mentors at Loop have been organizing a few activities at the end of class for us to get closer to the students. We split up into teams with equal number of Loopers and MIT mentors on each team and play games like Google Feud and the Higher Lower Game. We also have time before and after class to talk to students about their lives, and we really enjoy getting to know them on a personal level.

On Sunday, we held individual sessions with students and gave feedback on their MVP ideas and paper prototypes. We spent about 10 minutes for each student and provided additional technical support for a few. We were impressed by how much they absorbed from our lessons on Thursday! All their prototypes were detailed just enough, and they remembered all the tips we mentioned.

We (the MIT mentors) working with students one-on-one for their app ideas

We feel lucky to be able to work with these talented, motivated, and respectful students, and we hope to grow even closer to them in the next couple weeks! 🙂

Sometimes, we’re being goofy behind students

Our adventure continues… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen

First Weekend in the North

Shalom from Israel! We finished our first full week of teaching and spent the weekend exploring the north side of Israel—in fact, we went to both coasts from the Sea of Galilee to Haifa! Unfortunately, Ariel couldn’t join us in our adventures this weekend because she spent some time with her cousins in Tel Aviv. Since she doesn’t appear in this post, before sharing our exploration I want to feature a picture of Ariel with her relatives from this weekend:

Ariel with her relatives in Tel Aviv!

We headed to the Sea of Galilee in the morning of Friday. It was a warm, sunny day, perfect for hiking along the Sea of Galilee! Though we didn’t accomplish our original plan of walking on the Kinneret Trail from Capernaum to Tiberias, we walked for a few hours along the Sea of Galilee enjoying the beautiful views. We started our trek from the Capernaum National Park, where we found many wild peacocks! We spent quite some time chasing the peacocks and taking pictures of/with them. Here is a collage of each of us taking a selfie with peacocks:

Kalyn, Emily, Christina (respectively) with peacocks!

Here at the national park we also spotted an interesting sight of cats and peacocks fighting for food from humans:

Isn’t it kinda scary to imagine something as big as a peacock asking you for food
Also the peacock won the food fight against cats

There were many other wild animals, like chickens and turkeys. After spending some time taking pictures of animals, we started our walk towards Tiberias. We really enjoyed the long walk along the Sea of Galilee with beautiful views.

Emily, Kalyn, and Christina (respectively) enjoyed walking along the Sea of Galilee! We also took individual portraits, inquire if interested 😉

We were lucky to be there on a day with such nice weather 🙂 After reaching Tiberias (by taking a bus at some point), we were starving and stopped by a shawarma vendor for some food before heading back. Weekend travel is sometimes hard with Shabbat, so we tried to leave Tiberias relatively early.

We had another (relatively) early morning on Saturday when we headed to Haifa. We first hit Bahai Gardens, and there we ran into 5 other GTL students! The 8 of us did an English tour of the gardens together, and we were able to learn about the Bahai Faith religion and the garden designs. Walking down 700 stairs, we were able to see beautiful views of the gardens throughout the tour.

Bahai Gardens, one of the most popular destinations in Israel

The 8 of us went to a nearby shawarma restaurant that was recommended on Trip Advisor, “Sabbah”. It was probably the best shawarma I have ever had! There was a recommended juice stand right across the street too, and we all enjoyed the freshly-squeezed juice as well. I got strawberry-mango-grapefruit smoothie, and it is my favorite fruit juice I have had in Israel so far!

Freshly-squeezed juice stand in front of Shawarma Sabbah

The huge GTL group split up after this, and the 3 of us continued our day with a walk to the beach through Wadi Nisnas (Arab neighborhood) and the German Colony. It was really interesting to see two areas next to each other with such different cuisine and architecture.

Something people don’t mention about Israel often is that there are cats everywhere; we realized this in Tel Aviv, Nazareth, and Sea of Galilee, and the Haifa beach was not an exception. Many people were fishing at this beach, and the cats were waiting for people to catch some fish and feed them.

Cats at the Haifa beach

We made our way to the Louis Promenade afterwards, just in time to catch the sunset on the walk. It was an amazing sight throughout the walk on the promenade, and we made it at the perfect time with the perfect weather.

Photoshoot at the Louis Promenade at sunset!

It was a weekend filled with sunshine, warmth, good food, nature, animals, and friends 🙂

Our adventure continues… 🙂

P.S. All photos have been compressed for website use. Inquire Kalyn for original high-quality photos on this page.

Written by Kalyn Bowen

First Days of Teaching

Shalom from Israel! All four of us arrived at our apartment in Nazareth safely on the 6th, and we just finished our second day of mentoring at the Loop Campus. Before we dive into our teaching experiences, I want to share a bit about adjusting to the life in Nazareth.

Upon arriving at our apartment, we were welcomed by many farm animals like goats, chickens, and donkeys. There are so many of them around where we live (pictures to come in the future)! There are also so many stray cats, which we realized in Tel Aviv as well.

Our feline neighbor came to say hi at our door!

The day after we arrived in Nazareth, a mentor from Loop came to help us with grocery shopping. Fortunately, our apartment is located less than 10 minutes away from a supermarket, Shamshoum Supermarket. We were able to get all groceries ranging from eggs to pasta to ground beef to strawberries to hummus.

Grocery shopping at Shamshoum Supermarket with Rawan, one of the mentors at Loop!

The commute time from our apartment to the Loop Campus really…depends. If there was no traffic, it should really take only about 10 minutes, but traffic in Nazareth can be horrible (also the driving is really aggressive here). According to Rawan, traffic is usually really bad every day until 5pm. It takes us more than half an hour to get to the campus when the road is jammed.

Commuting to work on bus with Rawan the first day!

After getting stuck in traffic, we got to the Loop Campus and met all the staff we will be working with this IAP. Here at Loop, we say hi by giving each other a high five. We were introduced to some logistics and expectations, and we also received a list of students’ projects we will be helping with this IAP. Everyone at Loop is super nice and caring, and we can really feel that they want us to enjoy our time at Loop and in Israel 🙂 We also all got t-shirts with the Loop logos, and we were featured on their Instagram (oops should have taken a screenshot)!

MIT students with Loop mentors! Everyone wears Loop apparel here 🙂

It was finally time to meet the students! We introduced ourselves, and we played a name game to get to know each others’ names. Especially at a place where we might encounter unfamiliar names, it was important for us to grasp each student’s name and accurate pronunciation. We played a name game used in 6.UAT: pick an adjective that starts with the first letter of your name, and you have to repeat the name and adjective of everyone that went before you (we were “Kind Kalyn”, “Adventurous Ariel”, “Crazy Christina”, and “Excited Emily”). The game was a huge success! Everyone had fun and we succeeded in memorizing everyone’s name with correct pronunciation (hopefully?)

Most evenings, the “Loopers” (the students at Loop) have some assignments to do, and the first day we were there they were working on integrating Google Firebase into their Android Studio. While they were working on their tasks, we were able to have individual sessions with each student and learn about themselves and their app ideas. From listening to their ideas, we were able to learn a bit about the culture in Israel as well. One of the students had an idea to develop an app that spreads awareness about hidden female composers from the Classical and Romantic Eras. She shared how especially in the Arab culture, women’s rights are violated just for their gender and that she wants to challenge the norm. Another student shared her app idea for “sorry service”. She said that in Israel, people are too arrogant to say sorry, and there is a need for an app that allows users to say sorry to each other more easily. We really enjoyed listening to all the students’ ideas, and at the end of the day, the mentors told us that the students were very happy with the feedback we provided! 🙂

Our group was very lucky to have the Master Chef Emily! She is an amazing cook that knows a lot of nutritious and tasty recipes, and every night we look forward to what she cooks 🙂 Of course, we help in any way we can…

The team enjoying Emily’s lentil soup with bread!

Today was the second day at the Loop Campus. On Tuesdays, there is no regular after-school program, but some Loopers schedule individual sessions with us with help for their projects. We were able to help two Loopers and one mentor today with their projects, and each of us was able to provide help in our subfield within computer science 🙂

Since we finished our day early, we were able to explore downtown Nazareth for a bit. There are so many small cafes and vendors that we wish to check out during our time here. Today, we stopped by a shawarma/falafel place on the street, and we were satisfied by the amount of meat inside the pita (they put some meat, then some vegetables/hummus, then more meat)!

Enjoying our shawarma/falafel pitas after work!

Our adventure continues… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen

Arriving in Israel!

Shalom from Israel! All 4 of our team members have arrived in Israel safely, and we are ready for our adventures ahead! Over the next few weeks, we hope to share our experiences teaching high school students in Nazareth, Israel.

The first few days in Israel, we stayed in Tel Aviv and just spent some time relaxing and exploring the city. When we were first dropped off at our lodging for Tel Aviv, we realized we didn’t really know which room in the apartment we were staying in, and none of us had cellular data at the moment. After debating what to do for about a minute, a lady walked out of the apartment. Here we encountered our first act of kindness from the locals. She saw 3 of us looking lost, and she knew we were there for Airbnb. She offered to call our Airbnb host for us, and within a couple minutes we were able to get into the apartment.

After settling in, the first thing we did was to go find SIM cards. Fortunately, we found a cell phone store near our lodging, and we were glad we waited since it was much cheaper than those at the airport. We encountered our second act of kindness from the locals when the store owner didn’t have a twenty-shekel banknote and he was going to give us 20 one-shekel coins, a stranger voluntarily changed the 20 coins with his banknote.

The day of arrival we were really tired, so we wanted to rest early. But…of course we had to eat! Our lodging was at the prime location in Tel Aviv, right next to the Carmel Market, and we stumbled upon a restaurant that offered “The Best Kabob in Tel Aviv!” (with the exclamation). So we tried it:

“The Best Kabob in Tel Aviv!” at Bar Ochel in the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

The quality of food matched its description in our opinion!

After some resting, we started the day next day by exploring more of the Carmel Market. Being a Friday morning (before Shabbat), it was very lively with both sides of the alley filled with food stands of all sorts. We stopped by a vendor and got some Hummus Sambosk and some cigars (not what you think—they’re the egg-roll looking things in the photo)!

We were lucky to be there when Nachlat Binyamin Arts and Crafts Fair was happening, since it only happens twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays). The alley was filled with original crafts from local artists ranging from home decors to jewelry.

We then walked around Rothschild Boulevard (White City), which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most buildings surrounding the boulevard are white (as suggested by the alternate name, “White City”), and it is lined with kiosks and restaurants. Walking along the Rothschild Boulevard towards the coast, we also got to walk along the beach too! It was nice to get some sunshine after being cold in Boston 🙂

My (Kalyn’s) first time seeing the Mediterranean Sea!

We had dinner at a place close to our lodging called Bezzo Pizza, and the server told us that it would be the best pasta we would have…and it was pretty amazing! Afterwards we went out for a famous dessert in Israel called malabi, which is a milk pudding with rose water and nuts.

Our adventure continues… 🙂

Written by Kalyn Bowen