By Davy Ran, a student of MPH in Global Health Leadership & Administration, 2016-2017 Cohort.
Born and raised in NYC, I’m a city girl at heart. Spoiled terribly by one of the densest cities in the world, where our nature is neatly quarantined in Central Park and ice cream is available at all hours of the night. It took me awhile to adjust to living at the University of Haifa, where it is impossible to buy ice cream at 3am and awfully annoying to go at 2am, because you have to shlep down a giant mountain filled with twists and turns which are pretty scary to take at night. The sounds of the city that I’m so used to- sirens, shouting, party music, protests- are replaced by whistling wind and the incessant creaking of my bomb-shelter window. Sometimes there are crickets. More often there are cats. At least once a week, I hear coyotes howling in the distance. Or maybe jackals? I don’t know. The closest thing to a wild animal I see in New York is my 10-pound poodle.
I know Haifa is the 3rd largest city in Israel. But as of 2015, it had 278,903 people, which equalled 0.31% of the NYC population at the same time. So I hope I’ll be excused for the amount of times I’ve referred to Haifa as a town, or suburb, or hamlet. It took me awhile to stop comparing the way “city” is used here to how it’s used back home. It was only in coming to accept that the definition of city is different in the first place that I started to see and appreciate Haifa for the beautiful place that it is.
Unlike in NYC, I can actually see the stars here. I can see the sun rise and the moon set for more than the precious few minutes they spend beyond the reach of skyscrapers. I can hike out one day and find a cave, another a stream, another a meadow, another a mining project. Another a forest, another a beach. In New York, the place stays the same but the people change. In Haifa it’s all too easy to see a familiar face, but I discover new spots every day. The variety of sites in Haifa distinguishes it from the type of uniform city design that I’m used to.
I’ve learned a lot from living on Mount Carmel. I’ve learned how to motivate myself for early morning hikes, because nothing beats a cliffside sunrise. I’ve learned to appreciate the creepy fog— or is it a cloud?— that settles in the early morning, and the way the lights of the city don’t quite reach the top of the mountain at night. I’ve learned how to seek out places to go and things to do without Facebook, or twitter, or my University email notifying me of them beforehand.
Most of all, I’ve learned how to give new places a chance, and I am so, so glad I did.