I Like Russian Girls {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #2}

I Like Russian Girls {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #2} | Monday 11th July 2016 |

It’s not a pleasant waking up throughout the night feeling like you’re going to pass out. Our dorm was so hot and stuffy because the air-con switched off automatically at random intervals. I had to jump down from my bunk (pretty dangerous, not gonna lie) and switch it back on before collapsing back on my bed swigging water and fanning my face. 

This morning we went to “flag raising” at 7.45am, where we stood in rows of 3 and tried to follow the soldiers’ positions before they raised the flag. If I wasn’t so hot I might have taken a moment to feel proud standing in front of the Israeli flag wearing my army uniform. 

It’s true that everyone looks much cooler in a uniform, but I think I must be the exception. I tried the whole army-girl-side-plait look but it doesn’t do my round face any favours; I tried clasping my belt shut but it kept popping open (I swear I haven’t had that much shwarma). Let’s face it: I look like a sweating, puffy green olive. 

We went to the commander’s office and he welcomed us to the base. I was expecting him to be intimidating, but actually, like everyone else here, he seemed friendly and just…very Israeli

We walked to a huge warehouse (apparently this base is known for its large amount of storage). Everyone was delegated different jobs so I can only report on my individual experience. A group of us lifted plastic crates out of a container and stacked them outside, ready to be carried off by a forklift to the warehouse. Then I spent the remaining hours until lunch washing the crates and scraping off any labels. It was quite pleasant sitting in the shade but the work was repetitive and tiresome. The vat of water soon became filthy but the manager wouldn’t change the water (“recycling”, he said) so whilst we could wash the crates, I have no idea just how clean they ended up. 

Lunch was an interesting experience. We ate in a canteen closer to the warehouse than our dorms and there were other staff there too. One girl and I sat with another soldier who didn’t speak much English. He tried to make conversation but it was clear that communication skills were lacking (I’ve been having more luck with the French volunteers). He asked if I would be his friend and I said yes. But then he moved onto saying “I love you”, followed by “too much, I love you too much” and “you beautiful”. I think he was expecting me to say “I love you too” but instead I just said “thank you” because I think he was actually serious and I was seriously creeped out…

This afternoon I was lagging a bit. After a long rest in the warehouse’s (air conditioned) office, I labelled and stacked boxes of vehicle horns. Meanwhile, the Canadians were introducing our madricha to Drake’s music videos and we exchanged words in different langauges. Our madricha tried to distract us from the heat of the warehouse; when the Australian came out with some perfect Russian, she asked “Do you like Russia?”, to which the troublemaker of the group (who keeps disappearing or schmoozing with different soldiers) leaned in and answered “I like Russian girls” and our madricha slowly inched away… 

Later I got to sit down and create plastic bags for tank parts (airtight rings and springs) with long roll of plastic and a cool heat sealing machine. A girl and I had a conveyor belt style system in place, so we were quite efficient, and with fans and Sia playing in the background, it was the most fun part of the day. 

After that, I had to sweep up (the girls ended up doing the cleaning tasks- how typical!) and empty a crate of junk into the bin. There was black dust everywhere so I hate to think what toxic stuff my poor skin has absorbed! Before a debrief and permission to leave for the afternoon, we were trying to write everyone’s names in Hebrew to help the staff, but it was really challenging- especially when it came to a Hungarian name with no Hebrew equivalent for some phonetics. 

I was so grateful for a cold shower and the chance to rest before dinner and our evening activity. Our madricha gave us a brief history of the IDF, explaining that there were 3 organisations prior to Israel’s independence in 1948: “Aganah”, “Etzel” and “Lechi”. When the first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, set up the IDF, “Etzel” still wanted to be an independent group and secretly ordered a ship of guns, but Ben Gurion knew about the attempted import and blew it up, so the group gave in and joined the IDF. 

We did an activity where we were given a military rank and tried to order ourselves. I got 3 stripes- Sargeant- which is the 2nd lowest rank. You earn it when you complete 1 year and 6 months in the army, and most girls leave with this rank if they only do their compulsory 2 years. Some of the ranks have weird pictures that are hard to make out- one is called a “falafel” (we all laughed) and there’s another that the madricha couldn’t explain in English so a Canadian boy suggested “sour cream” and she unknowingly went along with this purposefully mistranslated picture. 

We went through the different coloured berets of each unit in the IDF and our madricha explained a bit about what each one does. “Givati”, “Golani”, “Kfir”, and  “Nachal” are infantry/combat; Engineering controls the tunnels from Gaza to Israel; Home Front do rescue missions (eg. the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake); Military Police serve at border checkpoints; Paratroopers don’t actually do parachuting anymore because it’s supposedly useless (now it’s mainly combat); and then you have Air Force, Armory, Artillery, Intelligence, Navy and Logistics, Medical, Education and Communication.

Finally we sang “Ha Tikvah” (the Israeli national anthem) and I felt so bad for the non-Jews who probably had no clue what was going on! 

I’m currently in my dorm talking to my roommates about star signs, ice hockey and horse riding. I just gave paracetamol to a soldier for her tooth ache; a roommate walked by and asked what I was doing so I said “oh I’m just giving out my drugs”, to which the soldier made a priceless shocked face (apparently Israelis who can’t speak English understand the word “drugs” so I had to convince her it was actually medicine as opposed to narcotics!)

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