Sunday, April 23, 2006

There's Good News and There's Bad News...

A-Minus: 3 Months, 3 Weeks, 1 Day

The Professional Engineering (PE) exam has been sitting like a great boulder in the road of my life for the last year or so. I’ve been spending all my weekends and any free time on weeknights since January either studying for or fretting about it. Well, I finally took the exam last Friday, and I feel that I was at least able to approach and try to solve about 90% of the problems. Whether or not I got them right is another question entirely. The exam is eight hours long and given twice yearly, but because it requires three years of hands-on experience and because I’m planning on making aliyah soon, I only get one shot at passing it. Waiting in line, the woman in front of me told me that this was her 10th attempt, which didn’t help my nerves. As for me, I won’t know the results for another 13 weeks.

I spent Shabbes alternately celebrating and sulking over the exam, just glad to be through with it either way. This morning I woke up, looked around my place, and realized that I’ve got less than four months to get rid of everything I own. I’ll start by selling what I can on ebay, then I’ll sell the big stuff on an internet garage sale.

In the mean time I’ve been moving along with my aliyah plans step by step. My application to Nefesh B’Nefesh (the American aliyah assistance organization) is in and they sent me a list of flight dates from which to choose. Luckily, my target date, August 15th, was on the list, which made the decision easy. My plan of action after landing has been to stay at Merkaz Hamagshimim in Jerusalem, which is a sort of dormitory specifically for new immigrants. Residents pay about $250 per month for a room with a bathroom and kitchenette, and the rent also covers city taxes, water, and electricity. It’s an incredibly good deal considering that rent alone in Jerusalem can run $500/month before taxes and utilities. In exchange for this discount, residents volunteer with the center as well as with outside activities for about 20 hours per month. I sent in my application on time and went through a phone interview two weeks ago, which I felt went well. I’ve been planning to spend a year there, take six months to study at ulpan Beit Hanoar Ha’Ivri, an intensive language course in downtown Jerusalem, and then to spend the next six months studying in a Hebrew-speaking yeshiva.

Once I returned from the PE exam, numb and tired but otherwise in one piece, I finally had a chance to sift through my backlog of mail. I received a reply to my application from Nefesh B’Nefesh, and they will be giving me a bit of financial assistance. It’s less than I had hoped for but far more than I expected, and will definitely be helpful. Then I turned on my computer and checked my email. A letter from the director of Merkaz Hamagshimim was sitting in my inbox, and it looks like my application was…. Rejected!

Moi? Rejected?

So now my aliyah plans are a mess. I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to stay in Jerusalem for a year paying normal rent, and there really isn’t anything outside of Merkaz Hamagshimim which offers such a great deal. I also don’t want to jump into the working world without having a chance to learn the language properly, so I’ve been looking forward to some time off to focus on Hebrew.

But this is one of the middot (personality traits) I’ve been working on fixing lately, not getting myself flustered and upset when Hashem throws a wrench in my plans. Rafi and Galila (cousins) in Jerusalem said I could stay to them for a few months, although I don’t want to overstay my welcome. I will also still have some savings and the Nefesh B’Nefesh financial assistance, so I’ve got to start working on a new plan. I still have 115 days, and suggestions are welcome.