A Girl Named Domi and Inner Inspiration

As you set out on an adventure you are full of excitement and dreams. Two of my goals on this trip was to journal one sentence every day (doesn’t sound hard right!) and to write on my blog once a week. And the truth is some people can, and a lot of people do. However, I was not. The truth is, I was having too much darn fun (I mean studying too darn much mom and dad)!

 

The last time I wrote I was complaining about the *Freakin French Train Strike – the words I have used to describe it ever since. From there I went to Barcelona, a city of life, color, dance, coincidental meetings and learning about myself. The coincidental meeting I had with a woman over and over again is what led me to learn abut myself.

 

It started on a plane from Rome to Florence. I was leaving one travel partner to meet up with the others. On the plane I placed my book on the floor and I guess gravity did the rest because next thing I knew it wasn’t there. Eventually, the flight attendant found it at the back of the plane and tried to return it. However, he handed it to the girl in front of me, her name would turn out to be Domi. As the plane landed and we stood up Domi and I had a quick conversation. The sparks flew and within five minutes we knew all about each other. Currently, she is living in Barcelona, although originally from Argentina (the same country my last travel partner was from). She was going to a dance convention in Florence and would be having a dance performance “at a park in Barcelona on the weekend I would be there.” I left the plane with her full name, her phone number and her Barcelona address.

 

Fast forward to my first full day in Barcelona – the boys wanted to go to a castle at the top of this huge park located in the south. We spent the day looking around this park, ran into a festival, the Olympic center, the castle and more. As we began to head down the hill our bellies grumbling for dinner I heard my name, “Leeeahh!” It was Domi, five minutes before her free performance at this exact park. I knew the boys wouldn’t be interested to stay for a dance performance. I was torn. It was getting dark and in order for me to get home I would have to take two different subway lines. Nonetheless, I couldn’t pull myself from the dance and had the boys head home without me.

 

The dance was incredible. A contemporary piece that used the stairs of the park and were related to the idea of “relationships.” After, the performance I hugged Domi and asked her to hang out. Alas, it was the last night of the performance and she was supposed to celebrate with the dance crew. I bid her farewell and we hoped we would see each other again. I began the walk to the subway, took the two lines flawlessly and emerged out of the subway with the biggest smile on my face.

 

I had done it. Although in retrospect it wasn’t a big deal it was to me. I had done something in a foreign country by myself and I loved it.

 

For the rest of my time in Barcelona I would wake up early (the boys would sleep in till noon since they would go out till dawn) and explore the city by myself. I loved being able to take my time on the things I wanted, I loved sitting down under a tree and writing, I loved running into strangers or tour groups of Jews, I loved seeing the locals dance. And guess what… I ran into Domi every single day I was in Barcelona, every single meeting by change, every single meeting in a different part of town

 

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Fines and strikes

Sitting in the beautiful gardens of the Hospital de la Santa Crue I Sant Pau. The origins of this place dates back to 1401 when the Municipal Council merged six Barcelona hospitals together. As I said I am sitting in the gardens of this “city within the city” (it is now a giant complex called Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site) and I can say it is serving it’s purpose. To heal and relax.

As you have guessed by now I am in Barcelona. The number one destination on my map. Although it sounds silly ever since I was at Sarah Winters house many years ago watching the movie “The Cheetah Girls” I have wanted to come here. Something clicked, I can’t tell you what, and this has been a place of my dreams… And now I’m here

This morning is a morning alone. As some of you know I am traveling with a group of bro packers (you can check out their website at bropacking.wordpress.com). I joined up with them in Florence on the 7th (after being in Istanbul for five days) and will continue with them to Paris where I’ll head back to israel on the 20th. From there my nana, aunt, cousin and mom are coming to visit for two weeks. Then they fly back to the U.S.A and I fly to Berlin with Bar. After a sixth month adventure I will be returning to the U.S on July 20th.

Anyway, I am appreciating these moments alone – where I am an anonymous person in a new place. I woke up this morning, made scrambled eggs for breakfast and hard boiled eggs for a snack and began my journey by myself. First, I headed to Sagrada Familia – a famous building that is said to be completed only in 80 years. It reminded me of Harry Potter, the size and design. I showed up at the right time because as I was there a live band and dance was taking place. This “festival” was for the people of Catalan – and they were showing their pride for their origin. I wanted to join in with the dance, I even memorized the dance moves for the dance, but I could see this was a dance from the heart, to show their pride and longing for Independence – not just something tourist can join. So I stood on the side, copying their foot moves and taking in the site of Sagrada Familia with a band and dance in front.

While watching this scene unfold before my eyes my ears perked up. Hebrew was being spoken nearby. I quickly scanned the crowd and it was not hard to find the tour group that guided these Israelis. There they were, kippah or baseball caps on head, one man with a long beard, and the tour guide speaking Hebrew. I slowly inched my way up to the group, overcome with excitement. (There is something special about coming across other Jews/Israelis. American and English you can find everywhere – but someone you share this kind of bond with is rare and harder to find). Anyway, as I inched my way over I heard a girl about 20 say “yalla” meaning “let’s go” – obviously done with seeing this site. I turned to her and said the secret word “shalom.” She got a big grin on her face and asked if I speak Hebrew (in Hebrew). I responded with everything that I knew I could say in Hebrew. That I’m currently livening in tel aviv and studying Hebrew, but I only speak a little. By this time her mom had noticed her daughter speaking to someone else in Hebrew. She approached me and asked me a question in Hebrew, I didnt understand and she switched over to perfect English. After a few moments of talking she asked to take my picture commenting “I love meeting people who have a passion for Israel.” After a few more conversations the tour group was leaving and we said goodbye (again in the little Hebrew I know). I walked away with a happy heart.

Change of pace in the writing: but the title of this is “fines and strikes” so I might as well tell you about this briefly. To summarize. France trains are on strike, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to move around. In our case to get to Barcelona. We were supposed to leave two days ago to get here, however, we could only take a limited number of trains as far west in France and just got here yesterday. We spent some time in Canne and Marseille before making our way to Barcelona in the wee hours of the morning. Along our journey with these trains my group collected a total of 150€ fees (thankfully I got none). These fees where both for not filling out the eurorail pass on an Italian train (when going from cinque terra to nice) and for not having a ticket for the French tram (me and two others in my group were able to sneak away – the other two were not so lucky).

That’s all the time I have for now!

Adios!

Cuts, scrapes, splinters and more

Today was a full day.

Waking up in Florence and going to the Duomo. Meaning first thing this morning was more than 300 steps to the top of a church where a hand painted dome was so close you could touch (literally I saw someone touch it). Also meaning we got to the tallest part of Florence and was able to see a magnificent 360 of red roofs and rolling hills.

After bolting down the stairs and scurrying back to the hostel (where we made pasta dinner last night… Classic) so we could get our bags we ran to the train station and made the 9:50 train which would bring us to Corngelia at around 1:00pm. The train was well kept and comfortable, buying tickets was a breeze and the only disappointing part was I was facing backwards as we sped through the tiny Italian towns.

Corngelia. Our final destination. A beautiful, must see, perfect place for a honey moon little town located on the coast of Italy. Reachable only by train (so my travel mates say). The only way to get into town is a shuttle or a hike up 500 steps. At least that’s what the officials say …. My travel buddies and I decided to make a third option and hiked through the vineyards of the Italian hills.

The night has come and my eyelids are falling, but I must recall our time spent in the sea today. Walking to the other edge of town (a full three minutes) and down about 300 stairs you get to a rocky entrance of the sea. The clearest most beautiful body of water I have seem. Unfortunately, like I said it’s pretty rocky – so by the end of the day I am full of cuts, scrapes and splinters (from stepping on muscles that were on the rock that we jumped off of)

A perfect vacation from vacation

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Thank goodness for Jim and my need to be on time

Once upon a time a girl named Leah awoke after getting a terrible night sleep. She woke up at the early hours of 7:30am so she would have plenty of time to get to the airport for her 12:05pm flight. You see Leah had a weird thing about time, she always needs to be on time… Actually more than on time she likes to be early.
Anyway, Leah knew the way to the airport since she had arrived only 5 days before. She had purchased her two tram tickets (how to get to the airport) the day before and had spent her last Turkish liras the night before. Leah was out the door at 8:05 and on the tram heading to the airport! Well 20 minutes later (she is still on the first tram) she decided to double check her flight, she didn’t have wifi but could still see precious emails). That’s when she realized… She was halfway to the wrong airport,… On the wrong continent. She quickly pulled out her map of Istanbul, asked the nearest English speaker, jumped off the tram that was heading deeper into Europe and hopped on the same tram going the opposite direction towards Asia. When she got back to where she started (right next to her hostel! she hopped off the tram hoping to ask her hostel for help. On the verge of tears she begged them to do anything, to get her a shuttle, a taxi, anything! But there was one problem. You had to cross the sea to get to this airport and the next shuttle on the Asian side didn’t arrive till 11 (keep in mind my flight is at 12:05). With no solutions other than to take public transpiration and Leah kicking herself for wasting time asking the hostel, she ran back to the tram station and took it two more stops. As she approached her final destination she could see her ferry leaving the dock. Yes a big, slow moving, ferry across the sea to get to Asia. If she hadn’t wasted those 20 minutes asking her hostel she could have made it on the 9am ferry. But now she had to wait for the 9:20 ferry. And there was nothing to do but wait (and bite my fingernails). Soon the 9:20 ferry docked and the doors were opened so I could board. I figured I might as well enjoy the ride over to kadakoy (my stop on the Asian shore) and picked a seat outside on the bow of the boat. A tall, American looking gentleman carrying a suitcase sat next to me. He had a huge grin on his face as he sat on this ferry looking out onto the sea, one that reminded me of dad, you could see the excitement of being on a ferry in his eyes. I asked him if he was heading to the airport and when he responded yes I asked to join. Turns out he didn’t want to deal with the public bus transportation on the other side and was going to get a taxi. After sharing my story he offered for me to join him free of charge (a $30 taxi ride). We then spent the next 20 min ferry ride and 40 min taxi ride talking. Turns out he a Christian pasture from Washington who loves to travel and talk to natives. He knew a lot and was very sociable. The funniest part… His travel plans were Italy, Istanbul, Israel and mine were Israel, Istanbul, Italy. We shared stories and recommended things and places from the countries we had just been. Also, one of his three daughters went to Naropa University for a semester (another university in Boulder). By the end of our adventure I thanked Jim for his knowledge and stories and of course for the taxi ride. I made it to the airport by 10:30 and got through security by 11. An hour early for my flight.

I bought an umbrella

There is a curse among my family. Whenever we travel it rains. Well it’s raining, so I just be traveling!

My semi spontaneous- not really – always wanted to – planned trip to Europe has begun!

I’m in Istanbul, Turkey!

I’m traveling throughout Turkey with a woman named Naty (yes woman, since I feel like anyone who is a lawyer can’t be called a girl). Naty has been on my program in Israel with me for the last four months. She is originally from Argentina (where she was a lawyer) but came to israel a year ago to volunteer on a kibbutz in the north. She loved Israel so much she joined my program in tel aviv after her kibbutz program ended and loved that so much she is now moving to israel for good!

Anyway, barRAWR drove us to the airport at the wee hours of the morning (6:30) (isn’t he the best)! We said our goodbyes where he told me again and again to be safe and then naty and I went through security. Our plane boarded a little late but we took off and landed at the right time.

Istanbul. My impressions after only a few hours here. Huge. A lot of Muslims and women wearing hijabs and burkas. Actually, at the airport I saw something I had never seen. It was a woman in a Burka (the covering that covers all but the eyes). However, this specific woman had lace over her eyes, something I have never seen, she also had gloves on. You literally could not see a single part of her. I wondered outloud to naty how she gets through security – do they ask her to take everything off?

Back to Istanbul… As soon as we checked into our hostel (just a subway and tram away from the airport) naty and I began to walk around. We ended up walking right into the grand bizarre. And holy cramoli it is bizarre! It’s huge! We couldn’t find out way out after a couple hours and began to panick when we heard the thunder (I told you cursed)!

We quickly made our way back to the hostel where I took a hour long nap. I awoke to two more girls in the room, two Sisters from France – they are very nice and we ended up walking around with them for a bit. They pointed out all the places we should go and helped us get to know where we are (Right by the blue mosque!) Naty and I eventually split off, had dinner and now I’m in bed falling asleep.

Goodnight everyone. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Leah Start’s to Panic

Well I figured things would just fall into place. I figured I didn’t have to worry too much about what I was going to be doing from June 2 – June 27th.

 

Background: My program ends on June 2. However, my flight home isn’t until July 20th. My original plan was to travel with someone for most of that time and come back to Israel near the end to spend my last two weeks or so with BarRawr. Well plans change and the girl I was supposed to travel with couldn’t in the end.

Furthermore, my Nana, Aunt, Cousin and Mom will now be visiting on June 27th! We will be spending about a week in Tel Aviv and a week in Jerusalem. I consider myself far below an expert of this country but seeing as I have done 2.5 tours (the 1/2 is because I’m counting my two week long road trip around Israel), 4 visits, and have been living in Israel for about 4 months  – I am pretty excited to share my knowledge with them. 

 

Anyway back to the panic…. I still have no idea what I will be doing from June 2 – June 27th! I was hoping to find a buddy to travel with but have had no such luck. I don’t want to travel alone but would be more willing if I knew people wherever I was going. So here is the thing: I am reaching out to you:  my friends, my family, my readers (though how many few you are!). If you want to travel or if you know anyone who is traveling or if you know anyone living in europe or if you know anyone who is abroad during June then let me know! ❤

 

 

And Prauge with Pops happened too!

It was to my utterly delight when my Poppa started planning his trip of a lifetime. For him, it was a trip to Prague and Italy, a trip including lots of walking, lots of food, lots of laughter, lots of adventure and lots of love. For me, it was the opportunity to travel to a city I have been dreaming of, but more than that, to see my Poppa for the first time in three months and to experience traveling with him as both my father and my friend. I can confidently say that we both will never forget our trip to Prague.

It is truly a different bonding experience to wake up in a different city with you Poppa and to walk around experiencing new sights, new smells, new thoughts, new food (bad I might add), while simultaneously filling each other in on the last three months of our lives.

It had been exactly three months since I had landed in Israel as I headed to the airport with my Israeli Visa that expired that day. Praying that no complications happened that might make me delayed and therefore stay past my Visa Expired. But thanking G-d and good weather I was on the flight in no time.

My poppa ended up getting us an apartment right in the center of Old Town Prague, one of the most beautiful, central locations he could find. And it was everything and more! The apartment exceeded our expectations and we lived comfortably for the next couple days!

I liked the game we played on my last post about trying to say each section in one breath. Shall we play again?

Section 1: Landed, got in car to check in, saw the “witches burning” night with hundreds of kids gathered, checked in, went to apartment, walked around till the early hours of the morning.

Section 2: Woke up walked around the Jewish quarters, bought passes to the Jewish Museums in Prague, bought a ticket to a concert at the Spanish Synagogue, saw the Spanish Synagogue (the most beautiful synagogue in Europe), saw an exhibit on the Jews of Prague

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Section 3: Went to the Pinkas Synagogue where the names of 77,298 Czech Jews who perished in the Holocaust are written on the walls. Take a breath. Think about the people whose names are written here.

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Section 4: Went to the Jewish Cemetery, took in the beauty of the graveyard, went to the ceremonial Hall, the Klausten Synagogue, had lunch at Dinitz Gltt Kosher restaurant – where we were mistaken for Palestinian’s because of our dark skin!

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Section 5: After lunch went to the Old new Synagogue which is still in use today, walked around Prague got lost, saw the Power Tower, the Charles Bridge (where is began pouring on us – thank G-d my Poppa thought ahead and brought lots of rain gear and layers), went to Wenceslas Square and came back for a nap.

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Section 6: Went the Gershwin concert at the Spanish Synagogue (really enjoyed the acoustics and the music), met up with a friend from college Jacob Fields, went to dinner at Maitrea (a vegetarian place), had a huge burger of cheese, went to a very local pub called Vzorikouna, pet the biggest dogs I had ever seen there, listened to music students play instruments, walked around the Old Town Square (felt like a fairy tale), went to James Dean for coffee (took in all the differences of this place compared to America and Israel), went to sleep at the early hours of the morning

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Fun Fact: you are not supposed to pet the dogs in Prague. There are lots of cops everywhere. They bring little wallets to the table for when you pay. They place the silver wear in a box on the table.

Section 7: Woke up and bought tickets for Shabbat dinner that night (got questioned about who we were before we could enter the building), strolled around looking for coffee, took the tram to Petrin Hill, got on the Funicular to the top, met up with Jacob at the Eifel Tower, walked across Petrin hill to the castle

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Section 8: Started raining, bought a four pass site in the castle grounds, went to the St. Vitus Cathedral, went to another site on the castle grounds, really started pouring, made our way home for a nap. Woke up and went to the Jewish center for Shabbat, Poppa sat next to the Rabbi, spoke with the natives and other visitors, good soup, bad chicken, nice people.

P.S. Czech is an insanely hard language to master! It took us days just to be able to say thank you.

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Section 9: Woke up took the subway to the farmers market, bought a delicious crepe, bought cheese and bread and apples, went back to the castle grounds, saw the last two pass sites, the last stop was golden lane (saw an armory museum and enjoyed the look of the lane),  went back for a short nap, woke up had coffee (they have DELICIOUS coffee in Prague, it is SO sweet!), went to a classical guitar concert in the basement of an art gallery (a Czech couple named Jana and Petr Bierbanzl) then went to the King George Bridge, crossed the King George Bridge, went to the John Lenin Wall, had the best meal for dinner (including apple strudel)!

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Section 10: Went to sleep and woke up early to get to the airport,  got questioned by the Israeli security, threw dad some things from my suitcase to make it lighter, got away with it and put the thing back into the suitcase, said goodbye to my Poppa who I miss immensely, got my cobble stone taken away by the second set of Israeli security, boarded the plane back to Israel.

 

As you can see, although it was a short visit, we managed to fill it with many adventures. Our schedule was consistent; waking up in the morning, walking for hours, taking a short nap, and out again for hours more. Prague is a gorgeous city, full of history and a new culture I had never experienced before. Although the weather and food might not be the best the trip with my Poppa certainty was. Thank you Poppa for these memories with you. I love you!

 

The Israeli Road Trip Happened

The Israeli road trip:

Bar and I planned a wonderful two weeklong (auto correct says this is one word?) road trip all around Israel. Actually I’ll be honest and admit Bar planned most of it. Regardless, it’s hard to get into the detail of everything, plus you will probably get bored if I do! Therefore, I’ll try to make it quick, we can even make a game of it; I’ll separate the story into sections, try reading each section in one breath!

Section 1: We started in the North – churches, bees, camping at the kinneret, slides, gondolas, ice skating, best dinner ever, Syrian borders all in two days!

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Section 2: Still in the North – rafting down Sneer river, Memorial for soldiers, Kibbutz Dafna, Dobrovan Farm, Rosh Pina, ending in Kfar Hannesi where my “aunt” lives.

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Section 3: Still in the North – tour of the Kfar, hikes, waterfalls, lunch with Bedouins in Tuba Sangeria, BBQ, beer and good night sleep at Tor’s a friend from Shwayder camp!

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Section 4: Tor gives tour of the North – wind turbines, borders, UN, chameleon, tea break, leave for alligator farm, mineral hot springs, back to Tel Aviv marking half way through the road trip! Next day woke up and saw Assaf, another friend from Camp and then Pesach in Modi’in with family!

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Section 5: Leave for Jerusalem – stop at tank museum, latrun monastery, get to Jerusalem – tour of the first settlement, walk around the shuk, sleep.

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Section 6: Leave for Bat Ayin to visit a family friend, go to the Botanic Garden in Jerusalem, Kosher for Pesach lunch, walk around the shuk, see the light show at tower of david, sleep

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Section 7: Blessing of the Cohens at the Western Wall, gross kosher for Pesach Crepe, sleep, Beer Sheva at night to stay with another friend, Arie/harry – still working on how to spell it in English

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Section 8: Tour Beer Sheva, camels, drive to Kibbutz to see Nimi, another friend, sleep there, bikes in the Negev, tea on a cliff, Ben Gurion’s house, Ben Gurion’s Grave, hikes and Sandstorms in Negev, Ibek’s all around, off to Ramon Crater!

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Section 9: Ramon Crater includes movie of Israeli astronaut, sand collecting, hikes in the crater, wind, sunset and then a drive to Tor’s other house in the south.

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Section 10: Dinner, sleep, hike to a muddy reservoir, get in the muddy reservoir, go to the pool, have a big lunch, dip in the pool, lay in the sun with new friends and tor, off to the dead sea. Mudd at the Dead Sea, old Russians and young Germans, float around, and drive to Ashdod.

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Section 11: Drive to Ashkelon to find lost relative, walk house to house, found a number, called the number, went back to Ashdod marking the end of an amazing road trip!

Never again

Two days ago was Holocaust Remembrance day. Please take a moment to remember the six million Jews who died less than 71 years ago. Please take a moment to realize how powerful hate is, please take a moment to realize that every human’s life is valuable, please take a moment to try and grasp the sheer number of six million humans. However, don’t just think of a number, think of each individual, think about the stories you heard, remember the names, remember the facts.

I had the privilege to experience Holocaust Remembrance day in Israel, the only Jewish state in the world. At exactly 10am the sirens, which are normally heard if a rocket is about to fall, went off for one minute. These sirens echoed throughout the country as an entire nation stood with respect for those 6 million who gave their lives and for those countless survivors who give their testimonies.

These sirens reverberated throughout my body as I stood among a nation who represent the strength and unity of the Jewish people.

 

At the school I work at the kids were asked to think back to the first time they learned about the Holocaust and the first time they heard a Holocaust survivor speak. I want to take a second and thank Angie Jacobs Witt, my 7th and 8th grade literature teacher. This woman (who recently became a mother!) has had a tremendous impact on who I am and my Jewish identity. She taught me the power of education, the power of love, and the power of people. She ignited my passion for Judaism by giving me the resources to stand up and be proud of who I am. Without her; without the guidance of this passionate, beautiful, loving, Christian woman, I would not have known the power of myself, a young American Jew. I will never forget her passion as she taught me what happened to my family members, I will never forget her dedication as she brought in Holocaust survivors to speak to me and my classmates, and I will never forget her devotion to educate more than our minds but our hearts. She is one of those remarkable human beings who loves from her soul, speaks from her heart and teaches with all of her might. Thank you “Ms. Jacobs” … for everything.

 

 

 

And thinking of the souls of those who perished in the Holocaust, and with the words of the survivors resonating in me:

Never again.