Well, I have been to the Bakkum and back, not much of a start to being in the army but there were some significant moments. On Wednesday, we arrived at Tel Hashomer as a group of 15 boys from my programme all going to tzanchanim. Since we had already done a lot of the things (due to being in this special programme) that Israelis need to do on that first day, there was a lot of sitting and waiting. Eventually, after not doing much the whole day, we were finally in the line to receive our uniform, I was absolutely buzzing and couldn't wait to get dressed. After signing for the madim (uniform), you're given a massive kitbag, then two sets of boots (red!) and finally, after looking at you and judging your size, two sets of madim aleph (nice uniform used for travelling), which includes trousers and the special tzanchanim shirt with four pockets. Then, you go into a football-style changing room and are told to change into uniform. I found a tiny cubicle and, after changing my trouser size two times to the smallest size there is, I was marvelling at myself in the mirror in full tzanchanim uniform; kumta (beret), skirt and red boots.
It was common knowledge that we were going to be given a free weekend before Sunday, but would have to spend the night at the Bakkum. While everyone else from my programme and the rest of the tzanchanim draft, 600 in total, went to some orientation and form-filling, I was told to stay behind. Due to a slight problem with my only child form, I needed to see a welfare officer on the following day, in order to be signed off for kravi. So, for the evening, night and following morning, I was split up from everyone and found myself in a group for people with some sort of problem, many of whom had nowhere to go in the army. On thursday, the following day, all of tzanchanim went home for the weekend at 8am, however, I waited from 9am until 6pm for the signature of the commander of the Bakkum. Don't even ask. It was a very hard day for me (and I haven't even started basic training!), mainly because I was alone, totally clueless regarding the situation, had missed out on stuff that they had told the other tzanchanim and, frustratingly, found it extremely difficult being in a completely hebrew environment without any help whatsoever. Anyway, I managed to get things sorted and returned here to Ortal for the night. Yesterday, was tough but I feel like I have really experienced the bureaucratic nightmare that is the army and I managed to argue in hebrew the whole day with officers and commanders.
Now I am just repacking my two bags: the giant tik aleph that we received and my own bag. In the tik aleph we got everything from a bomber jacket to a brand new Gillette fusion razor, from elastic bands for the bottom of your trousers to baby blue army y-fronts! It is said that you should pack for two weeks as there is the likely possibility that you are closed for two weeks before having the next weekend off. So now I will transfer two weeks worth of clothes into my tik aleph; green t-shirts, white t-shirts, underwear, special socks, toiletries and more. By the way, this is a video that our leader made of some soldiers' arrivals, definitely worth watching the start! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZgUcGrtJCg
On Sunday, we will be taken to the tzanchanim base, nicknamed 'Lunar Bach', because it is modern and massive. While Givati and Nachal have to sleep in tents for the next four months, tzanchanim soldiers have dormitories, but don't start thinking that I am lucky as tzanchanim are also expected to do more, in order to live up to the reputation. On Monday there is another gibush, this time for elite units within tzanchanim, as well as two other units; Maglan and Duvdevan. This gibush lasts four days and is impossible to describe its diffculty, in terms of physical and mental challenging. I have not decided if I will do this, since it is not compulsory and I have always said that I preferred to be in a 'gdud' (regular battalion), rather than a more serious elite unit. However, I still may try out for it as there is nothing really to lose.
To end, I want to say how I have such conflicting emotions at the moment. On one hand, from Sunday, it all starts; the discipline, the exhaustion and the general 'shtuyot' (army nonsense). The first week is always the hardest (apart from maybe 'war week' and the weeks in 'shetach' (field) but I don't have to worry about that right now) and I just want to get through this period. I know I am going to be missing home terribly at hard moments and the lack of space and sleep are normally the main causes of the inevitable shock. However, this is what I came here to do and if it was any other way, then it would not be the Israeli army. The hell of basic training is what makes it basic training and what makes scared boys into trained soldiers. I will always have my passion, determantion and knowledge of loved ones to try and bring me through in those really hard times. I also need to try and enjoy it because, in some aspects, the army (and basic training) can also be fun, especially for boys in combat units. I'm looking forward to writing the next blog as that means this week (and maybe next week) will be out of the way, but at the same time I am excited start this totally one-off, incredible and rewarding experience.