End of Winter Break, Beginning of a New Year

[This post was written while on board a plane from St. Louis to Denver]

I am sitting on a plane again.  This time for domestic travel.  I’m on the way back to Denver from St. Louis for the beginning of Winter Quarter.  I’m also heading back to Denver at the end of my last winter break – and I have to say, I’m not a big fan of that one.  I cannot believe that winter break is over.  Simultaneously, I feel like winter break just began and has been going on for quite some time.  Of course, winter break has been about six weeks long and I have been to the other side of the world and back again – literally.

I have no regrets about this winter break.  While I would have liked to have had more time in St. Louis to spend with people, I had some amazing experiences that I would not have wanted to pass up.  In my time at home, I spent a lot of time with family – something I am very happy about.  As well, I got to catch up with friends all over St. Louis.  I traveled to Israel where I saw new and old sights, reconnected with old friends and made some new ones, and attended an amazing wedding.  I traveled to England where I traveled the country with a friend and saw some of the most amazing (and old) places I have ever been to.  I was able to experience England and what it has to offer.  I spent time looking for and Interviewing for jobs (hopefully with some results soon).  I did a bit of reading and time to reflect and prepare for the new quarter.

The past few weeks have taught my several things.  I can rely on my instincts.  I know more that I realize sometimes.  It can be okay to go with the flow.  While planning is necessary, some adjustments may be necessary.  Change is okay and can be a good thing.  Relationships may change and morph.  We have to be okay with this.  Friends and family are important.  Treat them as such.

I graduate from the University of Denver with a BA and a MBA at the beginning of June.  This June.  With two degrees.  Wow!  I cannot believe that 2011 is here; 2010 just flew by!  The first half of this year will be filled with what promise to be the most difficult classes I have taken in college.  This new challenge should prove to be of benefit to me and I plan to rise to the challenge and exceed all goals and expectations.

This year will also contain a major decision that will likely affect the rest of my life (the next few years, at a minimum): what job to take and what city to live in – the two are linked.  Everything I have done these past 23 years was effectively preparing me for this moment.  This year I will need to make a decision based on my past education and work experiences that will set me up for my future – work, friends, family, etc.  I do not take this situation lightly and I hope to make the right/best decision possible.  I pray that will indeed be the case.

Other than what I have written here, I do not really have any new resolutions for 2011.   I generally have the same goals for each year that will hopefully lead me to being a better person:

  • Try my best to understand people – i.e. increase my empathy and open-mindedness
  • Rely on my values
  • Do my best
  • Learn
  • Talk less about people behind their backs
  • Do what I can to make the world a better place
  • Be the best friend and family member that I can be and trust my friends and family
  • Be happy and healthy

I have no doubt that 2011 will be my best year yet.  They each get better and better.  Every year also seems to go by faster.  I hope that I will be able to create new memories and relationships and value and retain them all.

Happy 2011!

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Britain’s Best Views – Cheshire

During my trip to the UK, I visited Beeston Castle in Cheshire with my friend Jack and his mom.  We were interviewed by two guys from The Guardian who were putting together a story as part of a series on Britain’s best views.  The article has now been posted online and I’ve copied it from The Guardian’s website below.  It’s pretty good, although Jack and I are not necessarily referred to 100% accurately (which is fine).

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Britain’s best views: Cheshire

Right in the heart of Cheshire – county of cheesemakers and footballers’ wives – Martin Wainwright finds two reminders of a wilder west that provide fantastic panoramas from their hilltop vantage points

Martin Wainwright

Martin Wainwright

guardian.co.uk, Saturday 25 December 2010 00.01 GMT

A fortified peak is the best kind of architecture, where crags and a castle combine to make an eagle’s nest, a place for desperate sieges and last stands.

After centuries without invasion or civil war, such places may sound unlikely in Britain, with its gently beautiful countryside and political tradition of compromise.

But here is one, a miniature Masada or Montsegur right in the heart of Cheshire, county of cheesemakers and footballers’ wives. Rising abruptly from the plain and its hobbity world of thatch and narrowboatsBeeston Castle is every warlike child’s dream.

Even today, you need to check English Heritage’s opening hours – unless you have a scaling ladder or ballista in the back of your car. The gate through the lower wall shuts off the entire hill and the inner bailey on the rock summit has another great door, surrounded by precipices and the deep half-moon of a dry moat.

“I love it for climbing and hiding,” said one of a gang of children out with their Mum for a pre-Christmas walk as the snow lurked visibly over the Welsh mountains to the west. A Cub Scout leader showing an American friend round picked up the theme, leading the way to a dog-sized hole in the base of an otherwise windowless, doorless bastion on the summit.

“We crawled in there when we were kids, and no grown-up could get in after us,” he said. “The Cubs do the same nowadays.” He counts them all in and counts them all out; and when they get back to English Heritage’s gatehouse, with its shelves of desirable toy swords and armour, the staff have another revelation, nicely suited to getting cries of Gross and Yuck from the children.

“You were right underneath the castle’s garderobe,” they say, going on to explain how the neat little hiding place would once have been knee-deep in poo. Then there’s the well; at 370ft, one of the deepest in any UK castle. A pebble takes almost seven seconds to clunk on the pile far below.

Beeston never saw any blood-curdling sieges or heroic stands. It was obviously too difficult to spend time on, although this led to its one, humiliating capture. On an icy December night in 1643, nine Royalist soldiers helped by a traitor crept inside the inner bailey. The Parliamentary garrison commander was so astonished to see them there that he surrendered his much larger force on the spot.

Most of Beeston’s nine centuries have been spent much more peacefully, and after purchase by the Tollemache family in the 19th century it became a marvellous icon ofthe Picturesque. The first Earl Tollemache (pronounced Tollymarsh and a fake but grandiose name for a family originally called Halliday) was responsible for the beautiful landscaping of the site, with conifers, miniature copses and a circular woodland walk with takes in the 350ft sandstone cliff faces, woodpeckers, buzzards and some excellent caves.

Tollemache was Cheshire’s biggest landowner, outdoing even the nearby Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall, but he made himself a name for liberalism and rural improvement. He adapted the Chartists’ demand for “three acres and a cow” to “three acres and a cottage”, housing his many workers with such efficiency that the Prime Minister William Gladstone called him “the greatest estate manager of the day”.

Tollemache was conscious of his own importance, however, and that is why the hamlet of Beeston, remarkably, boasts not just one hilltop castle, but two. At a cost of over £5 million in today’s money, he built Peckforton Castle on top of the second local cliff, a fake fortress to go with his adopted name. Touring the enormous pink sandstone complex in 1858, Sir George Gilbert Scott called it aptly “the very height of masquerading”.

After a spell as what must have been a memorable children’s home, Peckforton is now a cheerfully spoof-ancient hotel with marriage ceremonies featuring owls trained to fly down from the Great Hall’s rafters with the ring. However fake, the endless bustle – from piles of laundry to giggling chambermaids trying to manoeuvre a floor polisher down a spiral stone staircase – is probably truer to genuine medieval castle life than Beeston’s beautiful, silent ruins.

Peckforton has one advantage over Beeston in view terms, too. From its battlements you get an awesome close-up of the genuine castle, almost toppling from its rocky perch. Even better is the panorama from the high point of the 37-mile Cheshire Sandstone Trail at Stanner Nab above Peckforton. Both castles stand proudly in the foreground.

Beeston’s own view would justify any siege. Because the hill rises so abruptly from the plain, the foreground looks tiny, a children’s book world of miniature trains and tractors, but with the grandest of backgrounds stretching for miles. Wales’ mountains are one buttress, the snow-capped Pennines the other. To the north, the Dee estuary’s refineries and chemical plants frame the far-distant smudge of Liverpool cathedral.

The great goal for Cheshire viewers, though, is Jodrell Bank, the radio telescope whose eye into infinity has the county bursting with pride. “There it is!” shouted one of the clambering children. “No, there!” said the Cub leader. The final attraction of a wonderful place, the faraway disc’s visibility depends on its tilt, as the astrophysicists in charge change the angle of their peering into outer space.

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Winter Trip 2010: Post #7

Well, my trip is over now and I am back home.  I may post some of my overall thoughts/conclusions on my trip in a separate post.  This will be my last post summarizing my activities in England.  It was an amazing time and I am very happy that it happened.

The section of my time in England was significantly affected by a snow storm that occurred Friday night.  While it was only a few inches of snow, it is considered the worst snow storm in England in 18 years and combined with the cold temperatures that followed, the coldest winter in 25 years.  Snow was not cleared in most areas and the “grit” (sand/salt) that was used on the snow in some areas was considered in short supply.  London Heathrow airport basically shut down and when I left several days later, only 1/3 of flights were occurring.  I was concerned that I would not get out, but I got lucky.  Many people spent 2-3 nights in the airport and reports were that if your flight was cancelled or delayed, you likely would not be able to leave until Christmas Day at the earliest.  I heard horror stories in the airport.

Even with all of this happening though, I still had a great time.  I owe my friend Jack major thanks for making my time in England such a great experience.

Saturday

Our plans changed significantly.  We were supposed to go to the Liverpool football game Saturday night (we already had the tickets) but the game was cancelled due to snow and we reworked the plan for the day:

  • Jack lives on the outskirts of Bunburry.  We walked along the path he used to use to go to school and walked around the village including the village green (Scout building, bowling green, etc.) and saw the church that goes back 700+ years.
  • We had lunch at his house.
  • We drove to Birkenhead to take the ferry across the Mersey river to Liverpool.  It’s the most famous ferry in the world.
  • While we waited, we walked to Birkenhead Priory and walked around the remains and rebuilt sections of the priory from 1150.
  • We walked around Liverpool.  We tried to go to a Maritime Museum and a Beatles Museum, but both were closed due to snow.
  • We walked around the Albert Docks and Livepool One – a shopping area in the center of the city.
  • They have these crazy statues all over Liverpool called Super Lamb Bananas.  They are combination lamb and banana.  Weird.
  • We saw where The Beatles started.
  • We went back across the Mersey River and visited Jack’s cousins and his grandma.  They were quite fantastic.
  • We went back to his house for a late tea (dinner) and hung out there.

Sunday

  • We took a train from Crewe to London.
    • Our original train got cancelled so we took another train.
    • We had to wait at a station because of work on the lines.
  • In London, we took the tube back to Jack’s house but had delays due to issues with snow and someone who threw himself under a train.
  • We went to Greenwich to see the time line and go to the museum.  The museum was closed though.  We did go to the Greenwich Market, which was really neat.
  • We met one of Jack’s friends at a pub in London, near the Bank of England.
  • We walked to Brick Lane.  It has a line of Indian restaurants where people stand outside offer you deals to try to convince you to come to their restaurant.  I know of nothing like it in the U.S.  We ate a good dinner and went out with Jack’s friends.

Monday

  • We spent the morning at the Tower of London – easily one of my favorite places we visited.  We took a tour and then explored some of the buildings including the Crown Jewels, artillery, torture, etc.
  • We met one of Jack’s friends and went exploring all afternoon throughout London.  Unfortunately, it seems that you cannot actually go into many of the popular sites.  Among the places we went were:
    • Trafalgar Square
    • Picadilly Circus
    • Buckingham Palace
    • Harrod’s – a huge department store like nothing I have ever seen
    • Big Ben
    • Parliament
    • Westminster Abbey – but did not go in as it was closed
  • We went to the London Eye, a huge ferris wheel on the Thames River that overlooks all of London.  It really made me appreciate the city.
  • We went to dinner at a pub called The Mad Hatter.  Across the street, there was a billboard for Alice in Wonderland.  Ironic?
  • We went back to Jack’s place and I got ready to head to the airport the next morning.

Tuesday

  • We got up early to make the trek to Heathrow.  Online, it said my flight would be leaving, but we still were not 100% certain.
  • I took the tube to the airport.  Jack went with me part of the way (had to switch trains a few times) and then I went on myself.
  • When I got to the airport there were barriers up in the terminal.  Security was only letting people with confirmed bookings on confirmed flights through to check in.  There were lines of people laying down/sleeping under silver foil blankets.  It was madness.
  • They did not want to let me in – we were told that unless your flight was leaving in less than 1.5 hours, you had to wait outside under a tent that had been set up.  Luckily, I was able to get through anyway – although when I checked in, our flight had still not been assigned a gate.
  • The flight did leave, about 1.5 hours late, but that was nothing to complain about.
  • I flew through Philadelphia back to St. Louis.

The whole experience was great.  I am extremely grateful for everyone who contributed to the success of my three weeks abroad.  I am indebted to each of you for this amazing opportunity.  I hope to be able to travel abroad like this again soon.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #6

I’m in England now.  I’m a big fan of the United Kingdom everything looks so classy.  The cities we have visited (I am traveling with my friend Jack)  are beautiful and everything is done up for christmas so many places look like they could be in a card.

I’ve realized that I have tried to fit too much into one week.  I wanted to see as much of the country as possible, but in order to see all of the sights I should have really chosen a part of the country to stick with.  It’s okay, though because I am seeing different parts of the countryside, meeting Jack’s friends, exploring,  and still seeing some cool places.

Here is a brief outline of what we have been doing.  It’s more condensed since I have a tighter travel schedule.

Tuesday – Part 2

  • After several delays, I finally got on a plane to Berlin.
  • I basically ran through the airport to get my plane to England, which it turns out, was also delayed.
  • Wen I arrived in London, Jack and his friend picked me up.
  • We drove around the city for a while to see the sights at night.

Wednesday

  • We drove from London to Windsor.
  • We walked around Windsor, walked around the castle (didn’t go in), and visited the Build-A-Bear Workshop UK Headquarters.
  • We drove by the Ascot Raceway.
  • We visited Stonehenge.  It was quite interesting and in the middle of nowhere.
  • We drove through Bath on the way to Bristol.
  • We went to a few pubs in Bristol with Jack’s friends.

Thursday

  • We woke up a bit late as we were exhausted.
  • We drove into Wales to visit Cardiff, the capital.
  • We walked around the city and met Jack’s friend for lunch.
  • We visited Cardiff Castle, my first real castle.  The castle is from before 1100.  It was great.
  • We went to a fancy dress shop – i.e. a costume store to get costumes for the Christmas party at the Cub Scout meeting we were going to.
  • We went to Cheltenham, where Jack went to University, met Jack’s friend,  and went to a Cub Scout meeting.  They had a Christmas party and played games I’ve never seen in the U.S.  It was pretty exciting.
  • We went out after Cubs and I got my first authentic Fish & Chips.

Friday

  • We drove to Bunbury, where Jack is from.  I’ve now met his family.
  • I saw Jack’s family’s chickens 🙂
  • We ate lunh at Jack’s home.
  • We (me, Jack, Jack’s mom) went to Beeston Castle, near Jack’s home.  Some of it is still standing and other parts are in ruin.  It was quite large and interesting.  While there, we (well, Jack and his mom) got interviewed for a series on Britain’s best views in The Guardian to be posted online.  Quite exciting.
  • We went to the Ice Cream Farm.
  • We went to Chester, a nearby city, and walked along the Roman walls.  The walls are the most complete set of Roman/Medeval walls in Britian.  We explored some of the shopping in the city, etc.
  • We went to Jack’s best friend’s house and talked to Jack’s best friend’s mom and sister.  I had my first English tea.
  • We went back to Jack’s house and then went to a nice pub with the family for a great dinner.  I had a fish pie.  For desert, Jack and I shared a cheese board.
  • I’ve been talking with Jack’s parents.

We’ve been listening to BBC Radio 1 on the drive.  It’s much more entertaining than most stations I have listened to in the U.S.

Saturday night, we are going to a Liverpool game.  Sunday we had back to London and will be there until I leave on Tuesday.  It is quite a busy/fun trip.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #5

Currently, I am sitting in David Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv waiting for my flight through Berlin to London. 

Last night I slept in Jerusalem at the Romm’s.  The past two days have flown by.  And I was basically flying – as in the weather has been crazy all over Israel.  The storms and huge wind gusts were especially bad in Tel-Aviv and worse where I was staying near the Mediterranean Sea.  I would have ended up in the road one time if a light pole had not gotten in my way.  The past two days in Tel-Aviv were really good, but went by quickly.  I also could have done more if the weather had cooperated.  Oh well, Israel needs the rain.

Sunday

I left for Tel-Aviv and made my way to my hostel (including navigating through Tel-Aviv’s crazy complex central bus station).  I was staying at Hayarkon 48 Hostel, one block from the beach.  I met a guy from Sweden in the hostel and he came with me as we tried to make it to the Eretz Yisrael Museum.  On the way, we went by the beach to look at the huge waves and see the damage.  After getting to the museum, we tried to make it between buildings without getting destroyed by the weather.  It was more difficult than it sounds.  Back at the hostel, I met another guy from Sweden and a guy from Canada.  We went across the street to a building/mall with restaurants and a cinema.  On the way across the street, we got completely soaked and I have been at least damp since then.  We ate dinner, with a good special from Burger Ranch, and then saw Eat Pray Love – a good movie.  Now I think I need to find the word of who I am… (see the movie).  Back at the hostel, I met a number of people with whom I discussed Israel, the weather, Tel-Aviv clubs, World War II, and other random topics.  I had wanted to go out and do something exciting, but the weather basically prevented that from happening.

Monday

I woke up early (i.e. before my alarm) and then waited for a few other people to wake up.  I ate breakfast in the hostel while talking to some people from Germany.  I then went with the two Swedish guys to the Diaspora Museum.  We took a cab because it was raining and on the way, I had a conversation with the driver in Hebrew!  He said my Hebrew was good, but I know the truth.  It was fun anyway.  The museum was very interesting recounting the history of Jewish exile and return to Israel.  We then went to lunch in a cafeteria in Tel-Aviv University (the museum was on the university campus).  The two Swedish guys went back to the hostel and I went to the Palmach Museum where I waited for Ella and then we went on a tour.  It was a Hebrew tour so we had English audio guides.  The museum is rather untraditional – more of an interactive theatre experience.  Very interesting.  After the museum, we went to the hostel to get my bags and then to the bus station and I returned to Jerusalem. 

I had hoped to see more in Tel-Aviv but the weather did not cooperate.  I planned on walking up the beach and visiting the flea market in Yaffo (Jaffa), perhaps visiting some small museums, and checking out Disengoff I spent the night at the Romm’s.

Tuesday – Part 1

Today, I got up early and got ready for my flight.  I then went to the Fuschberg Center, where Rabbi Romm works.  I was to get picked up there by a sheirut, a shared taxi.  While I waited, I walked around the center of Jerusalem.  I visited Ben Yehuda Street and read historical markers on buildings.  I then said goodbye to Rabbi Romm (The Romms are my adopted family in Israel.  I will miss them all very much.) and got on the sheirut.  We picked several other people up in Jerusalem and drove to the airport.  On the way we seemed to be following much of the security wall around the West Bank and I saw several check points.  There were two other people on the sheirut who had the same flight as me so when we got to the airport, I waited with them since we were two early to check in, after going through the first security.  I am now checked in and have eaten lunch.  My flight to Berlin has already been delayed twice though.  I hope not to miss my flight from Berlin to London.  My layover was not very long to begin with.  My luggage is tagged to go on without me picking it up.  I still have to get my boarding pass though since they could not check me in in Tel-Aviv.

Israel has been a great experience.  I knew it would be, however much I worried at the beginning of my trip.  These two weeks have flown by and I hope to return soon.  I now look forward to the next leg of my trip – a week in Europe.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #4

There is a lot to update here.  The past (almost) week has been busy and a lot of fun.  I’ve really been enjoying myself.  Right now, there is a major storm in Israel with high winds and rain.  It seems that winter has finally arrived (very late and after a long drought) and did so almost over night.

Tuesday

Tuesday I woke up in Jerusalem and then got on a bus to Be’er Sheva. (I feel like I did something in the morning that I cannot currently remember.)  While waiting for the bus , I met some Israeli kids who started asking me about American movies.  It was pretty amusing.  After getting to Be’er Sheva, I met my friend Ella (from Denver and on the Overseas Program at BGU) and we caught up.  I went to a class with her on collective memory and then we went to dinner at a new shwarma/falafel place nearby.  After dinner, we went to a Chanukah Party held by the Overseas Student Program where we lit candles, sang songs, ate food, played dreidle, etc.  After the party I moved my bags into a room in the dorms that they had arranged for me and then went to meet Na’ama who was a counselor on my USY program when I was in Israel in 2005.  We had 5.5 years of catching up to do.

Wednesday

My 23rd Birthday!  It was a good one.  In the morning, I went and saw Ora, my Hebrew teacher from my time at BGU.  I then went to a class with Ella on Talmud stories in which we discussed Chanukah.  Then, we went to lunch at Lemongrass, a Kosher Chinese food restaurant on campus.  After lunch, I checked a few emails and then in the afternoon we explored the Old City of Be’er Sheva and went grocery shopping.  We made latkes (from scratch) and had them with animal shaped shnitzel for dinner.  It was not fancy, but was great fun – especially when this nice lady argued with the person at the checkout to give us a sale price on the shnitzel.  It was a good dinner next to the menorah for the last night of Chanukah.  After dinner, I walked to the BIG and ONE Plaza, malls in Be’er Sheva to explore and then came back to meet Ella.  We had pie and then went out to some of the pubs around campus for a little while.

Thursday

Thursday morning Ella and I went to the Beduin Shuk where we explored everything we didn’t need.  When she left for class, I walked over to the regular shuk and explored there as well as the Canyon HaNegev (The Negev Mall – Be’er Sheva’s big indoor mall).  I then met Ella for lunch and we got bagel toast.  After lunch, I explored the university – they made several changes.  I went back to the Old City and went to The Negev Museum, which I figured was about the desert.  Indeed, that was not the case.  Rather it was a small art museum, but the people were extraordinarilly nice.  I got frozen yogurt at Glida Be’er Sheva and headed back to the university.  I left Ella and went with Inbal, who was the dorms counselor when Iwas at Ben-Gurion.  She now works for Ayalim and I went with her as she showed a potential donor some of the villages in Be’er Sheva.  I saw areas of the city I never knew existed.  She then bought a sofa chair from some guy on the side of the street (pretty awesome) and we went to Ashalim, where she lives in a student village in the middle of the desert.  We made dinner, she showed me around, and I met some pretty cool people.

Friday

We woke up pretty early and explored a bit more.  Inbal then brought me to the bus station in Be’er Sheva and I fought the madness of tons of soldiers to force my way onto a bus to Jerusalem.  On the way back to Be’er Sheva, we passed several Beduin villages and I saw horses, camels, donkeys, and sheep.  Once in Jerusalem, I made my way to French Hill and the Romms where I relaxed, tried to catch up on email, and helped get ready for Shabbat (including making challah!).  We went to some great Kabbalat Shabbat services, came back to a good dinner, talked, and went to bed.

Saturday

We went to services in the morning and then returned to the apartment for lunch.  There is always so much food!  After lunch, we chatted, I read The Jerusalem Post, and took a nap.  When Shabbat was over, the computers came out for a bit and I tried to make some plans for Tel-Aviv.  We then picked up Dvora and Yair from his parents house.  I went along for the ride and had never realized how large Jerusalem really was.  My experiences seem to have always been limited to a few areas of the city.  When we got back, the table was set for a big dinner and apparently it was to celebrate my birthday all together!  They had even made a cake!  I was surprised and very happy.  We talked for a while and went to bed.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #3

I feel like I am settling in now to my trip.  It has now been one week since I arrived and I am enjoying myself.  I still find some of the uncertainties to be stressful, but I have been fortunate in that I have connected or reconnected with people who have certainly helped me out.

I was having a lot of trouble sleeping almost every night.  Last night, I finally slept well and hopefully that will continue from here on out.  I also had several days of bus troubles that I will share below.

I stood at The Heritage House, a Jewish youth hostel in the Old City (although, I was probably the youngest person there and several of the people had been there for months) Friday night and Saturday night.  It was a nice place, but loud at night (especially with the guy under me snoring extremely loudly.  Last night and tonight I am spending with the Romm’s in French Hill.  They are some of the nicest people I know and I have very lucky to have been invited to stay with them.

Tomorrow I head to Be’er Sheva.  I’ll be back in Jerusalem for Shabbat and then after Shabbat, I plan to head to Tel-Aviv for a few days until I fly to London.

Below is a summary of the past several days:

Friday

Friday I woke up at the Romm’s and was going to go to the Bible Lands Museum.  I was told to take a bus from a nearby stop, but the bus wasn’t available there so I asked around and found out from a nearby hotel that the bus didn’t come there so I would have to transfer buses.  I did not think I would have time to do so and visit the museum before heading back to get my bag and head to the hostel in the Old City for Jerusalem so I just went back to the Romms.  I thought I would leave and head to the Shuk before going to the hostel, but had to wait for the third bus (about an hour) because buses were full, did not stop, etc.

When I made it to the Old City, I checked into the hostel and got ready for Shabbat.  We lit Chanukah and Shabbat candles before heading to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat.  I prayed and danced (which was a lot of fun) there with a group from a yeshiva and a few soldiers.  Then I got set up for a dinner with a family in Mea Shearim (known as one of the most “traditional” super religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  I had dinner with a Breslav Hassidic family which was a lot of fun and quite the experience.

Saturday

I woke up later Saturday after having difficulty sleeping and went to the Kotel for a little bit.  I then got set up with a family for lunch.  We waited until it was time to go and then went to an apartment inside the Old City itself for lunch with a Rabbi and his family.  It was a good experience.  After lunch, I walked around the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel a bit before going back to The Heritage House for an early dinner and speaker.  We then lit Chanukah candles and I walked around the Jewish Quarter again to see all of the menorahs everywhere.  I also walked around Mamilla, a newly built upscale mall, right outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City.  I met a guy from Brazil who joined me for the meals and we walked around together.  I also met people from Singapore, France, Argentina, England, etc.

Sunday

I got up super early (before 5:00 a.m.) and walked to the David Citadel Hotel to meet a tour group that I had signed up for to Beit She’an and the Golan Heights.  We got picked up late (typical Israeli) and taken to Tel-Aviv where we met another bus and our guide.  We went to Beit She’an a huge Roman city that had been excavated in Israel.  We then drove through the Galilee into the Golan Heights and went to an overlook of the Kineret (Sea of the Galilee).  Later we went to an overlook on a mountain of the Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli borders and talked about the area, its history, and its importance.  We ate lunch there.  We then went to Katzrin where we walked around an excavated city from Talmudic periods which was followed by a drive around the modern city of Katzrin, when of course, our bus started problems.  We went to an olive oil factory (very popular in the Golan) and learned about the process of making olive oil and other fun things.  I finally made it back (via rented bus) to Jerusalem around 9:30 p.m. and stayed with the Romm’s.  A good, although long, day.

Today/Monday

I finally slept last night!  I got up later and went to the Bible Lands Museum where I saw archeological objects from 4400+ years ago and newer objects!  It was really cool.  I wasn’t there for a full two hours, but definitely worth it.  I went then to the Old City for a Free Tour that was three hours long and covered all four quarters: Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  There was a lot I had not seen or learned about before (with a little repeat).  It was very good.  I also had my first frozen yogurt on this trip (frozen fruit with yogurt = tasty).  I then went to the Mahane Yehuda Market (shuk) and walked around and got shwarma for dinner (they also gave me a falafel).  I bought a pita with spices and pinapple and mint juice – an interesting mix that turned out to be very good.  After the Shuk, I went to the Fuschberg Center for Conservative Judaism where Rabbi Romm was teaching a class on Chanukah.  Now I am back at the Romms.  Another good day.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #2

Here is an update of the past few days:

Wednesday

I went to the Israel Museum.  It had been closed when I was in Israel in 2005 and 2008 and they just reopened it.  It’s amazing.  I was there for 4+ hours and could have stayed longer.  I went through the exhibits (Jewish Life, Fine Art, Dead Sea Scrolls, Map of Second Temple Jerusalem, etc.) and took a tour of the archeology exhibit before going back through to see a few parts.  From there I took a bus (and met the volunteer coordinator for the museum at the station who explained to me how bus transfers work) to the Central Bus Station to try to find out about some tours, with no luck.  I got my first falafel of the trip and then took a bus to the Old City to find out about possible tours.  I walked around a bit and went to the Western Wall for a quick prayer and to put a note in the wall.  I then got lost (of course) and followed some guys who were studying a Jewish text who said they were going to one place but went to another.  Eventually I made it back.  After navigating my way back to the apartment I was staying at, I got ready for the evening’s wedding.

I spend the night at Dvora (who I had met in 2008) and Yair’s (who I met last night) wedding.  It was amazing and beautiful.  It was held at Shoresh, a Moshav about 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem.  It was a great night.  There was a reception (with lots of food), candle lighting (it was the first night of Chanukah), the chupah (wedding ceremony), dinner, dancing, more food, dancing, desert, dancing, etc.  The chupah was outside and it was a great night for it.  There was more food than I could have imagined and the bride and groom looked beautiful.  Of course, I forgot my camera, but I am sure there will be pictures posted.

Today

I woke up a bit later since we went to bed so late after the wedding.  I met up with Rabbi Romm.  I had thought it would be just for a few hours, but I ended up spending the day with his family.  We went back to Shoresh to pick up Yair and Dvora who spent the night there.  I also got to admire the great views and scenery of the Jerusalem hills.  I spent the day catching up, hanging out, seeing the neighborhood, etc.  It went fast and has been a lot of fun.  I am spending the night here.

—–

Other notes:

  • There is a huge fire going on in Northern Israel with over 40 people who died when their bus caught on fire.  Read about it.
  • Tomorrow I may go to the Bible Lands Museum and perhaps look around the shuk (market) before going to the Old City (I will be staying in a hostel there for the next several nights) to get ready for Shabbat.
  • I like Chanukah in Israel.  There are candleabras on lightpoles all over the city.
  • I booked a tour for Sunday to Beit Shean and the Golan Heights.  I wanted to go and my time ability and plans have changed from my original idea.  This tour should be really good, it’s just expensive.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #1

I am currently sitting on a couch in an apartment in Jerusalem!  It’s been two years since I could say that.  I am very happy to be back.

I just got into Israel this afternoon (it is about 10:30 p.m. now.  Below is a basic outline of what’s happened so far:

  • I got to the St. Louis airport, later than planned of course, around 12:00 p.m. Monday.  I avoided the full body scanner and went through a metal detector while a Catholic Priest was being frisked in the line next to me.
  • I got into Philadelphia a bit early and did some last minute emails and phone calls.  In the middle of it, everyone in the gate area for the upcoming Israel flight was asked to leave so security could get it ready for the flight.  When I went back, they had put up a seperate wall.  We all had to go through a second line of bag screening and metal detectors to go to Israel.
  • My flight to Israel was long, but quite nice.  I sat by some interesting people, slept a bit, read, and watched two movies.  I was able to get Kosher meals, even though I had not requested them in advance.
  • I went through passport control, retrieved my bags from baggage claim, and tried to rent a cell phone.  Apparently you can no longer rent cell phones in Ben-Gurion Airport.  I wish I had known about that change in advance.
  • I took the train from the airport to Tel-Aviv Haganah train station.  In the station I tried to rent a phone, no luck.
  • I walked to the Tel-Aviv bus station down the street to catch a bus to Jerusalem.  I also tried to rent a phone there.  With no luck again, I bought a go phone.
  • I experienced the Tel-Aviv/Jerusalem evening traffic.
  • I went through the bus station in Jerusalem and got a bus to French Hill.  The bus was very busy.
  • In French Hill, I met the family I am spending the night with, had dinner, walked the dog, etc.

Tomorrow I plan to go to the newly renovated Israel Museum and who knows what else.  In the evening, I go to a wedding outside of Jerusalem and it is also the first night of Chanukah.  I’m excited!

Hopefully, I will be able to solidify more plans tomorrow.  I don’t know how often (or detailed) I will be writing, but there should be an update here in a few days or this weekend at the latest.

Repost of the “Right Time”

I am finally making plans for my trip to Israel and England this Winter Break.  It is unlike me to have bought a plane ticket without solid plans, but I did so as to not pay double the price.  Now, I am in contact with friends to develop my plan.  I came across the following post on my Facebook profile.  I got home from studying abroad on December 26, 2008.  I wrote the post on December 28, 2008.  As I think about where I am going to be in Israel, this post certainly brings back memories.

I am hoping for a great trip, without the worries this post describes.  Hopefully, new memories will be made and I can rekindle old friendships.

Coming Home at the Right Time or the Wrong Time?

by Joel Portman on Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 12:51pm

I got home from Israel on December 26. On December 27 Israel launched a retaliatory operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for its rocket bombardments against Israeli citizens, including 80 rockets in one day. Hamas’ rockets can now reach Be’er Sheva, the city I was in.

Here is an email I got on the security situation from the Director of the Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where I was studying:

Dear Students,
The semester is over and some of you have left Israel, others are still here for a while. As you probably have heard, a little more than 24 hours ago the Israeli Airforce began its bombardment of the Gaza strip. This is the first phase of a military operation that is intended to restore normalcy to the Jewish towns that are adjacent to the Gaza Strip. As I write this, casualties on the Palestinian side are upwards of 230, the vast majority of which are men in uniform. On the Israeli side there has been one casualty in Netivot and 4 injured there. There is no indication at this time as to the extent of this operation. The range of Hamas rocket attacks have expanded their range to include areas that have previously been unaffected: Towns of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rahat and as of this morning Beer-Sheva too, are now in the Home Front Command “at risk” category. This is not a cause for extra or new alarm, but for those of you who are still in Israel it requires the following awareness and know-how: If you can plan to be elsewhere in the country for the upcoming week (Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv or their suburbs) it is advised. If you are in Beer-Sheva or any of the other abovementioned towns and you hear a waving siren or a “code red” (“Tzeva Adom”) or big explosion search out and enter the nearest designated sheltered area (a “miklat” or “mamad” or “ezor mugan”). Most likely everyone around you will be hurrying to these locations. In their absence, go to internal rooms with fewer windows or staircases. Do not stay in a bathroom when a siren is heard. After five minutes it is permitted to leave the protective areas if no other instructions were given. To those of you who are still here I suggest all to get familiar with the instructions posted (in English) in the Home Front Command website at: http://www.oref.org.il/934-en/PAKAR.aspx There is good reason to be alert and informed, but there is absolutely NO reason to get anxious or panicky. If you are still here you have noticed that the Israelis around you are calm and they stick to their daily routines.

I urge you all to contact your parents and maintain in regular contact with them as they most likely are being informed by international news agencies (CNN and the like) which tend to paint a disproportionately dire picture of Israeli reality at times like these.
Feel free to contact me, Tzipi, Hila or Inbal with any question you may have.

All the best,
Shlomo

If you are interested in updates in what is going on, check out:
www.ynetnews.com
www.jpost.com

 

Brooke Depenbusch

Hmmmmmmmmmm

December 28, 2008 at 1:03pm
  • Kerrie M. Rueda

    Just glad you’re safe and sound. Looking forward to hearing about your amazing time in Israel.

    December 28, 2008 at 1:32pm
    Miles Brennan
    For the sake of science we need to test the association between your presence and peace in the Middle East: Accordingly, fly back to Israel, and see if the shooting stops
    December 28, 2008 at 4:12pm
    Tabi Southall
    Glad you’re safe Joel
  • December 28, 2008 at 6:17pm
    Barney Katzerman
    im at the airport now. Nitay and I went to the old city, apparently there were riots going on while we were there and didnt know it.  Glad to see your home. its really not as bad as it sounds, but a lot of ppl dont want their kids in uniform…
    December 28, 2008 at 6:45pm
  • Tess Cromer

    Wow, that’s intense…I’m so glad you are safely home.

    December 29, 2008 at 11:32pm