Backstage Travels

All the world's a stage…

Abandoned/Not Abandoned

It’s been a long time (almost a year!) since last I posted.

I’ve done a lot of really cool things, and I’m still traveling. I will, I promise get around to posting about the snorkeling, and the time I sat with a rescued jaguar…

And I haven’t abandoned this blog…but I kinda have.

I have been struggling at work. Not because of the work itself…it’s stupid amounts of easy. Real stage managers would laugh at the lack of difficulty at my job right now. Come to that, most stage hands would too. I’m struggling because of just that. It’s easy work…almost to the point that it’s insulting. I want to be challenged, and the only way I’m being challenged at the moment is with piles of unnecessary paperwork and a boss who doesn’t question ANYTHING he’s told, and gets miffed when I do.

I’m becoming quite disillusioned. Because of this, Backstage Stitches is getting a lot of attention because I just keep throwing myself into that hobby.

Over the next month, I’m stuck in trainings forever and ever, but I’m hoping in October, I’ll be able to start working on my SCUBA license.

I also hope over the next month, I’ll be able to organize my photos and start to post about my other travels.

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Cabin Chrismakkah

Holidays on a cruise ship are very different from what you get at home, but they have their own weird charm.
Hanukkah was celebrated for eight nights in the Main Atrium with a giant menorah.

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Being one of the only Jewish crew members onboard, I led the celebrations, and dealt with concerns regarding certain traditions including why we couldn’t light actual candles. We don’t allow candles onboard due to risk of fire, which is the most dangerous event on a ship. I say this, but the guests’ counter is “but smokers!”….and I don’t know how to respond to that…

“Our centuries old tradition could kill us all…but you could totally carry a tiny firestarter in your pocket always, if you want. Just flick it eight times.”

….

We had a Holiday Christmas Show that we put on a couple times. It’s mostly just singing, and a short story for the children, but it’s set up kind of homey, and it’s cute.

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Meanwhile, my mom sent us some Hanukkah and Christmas stuff for our cabin, and then I found a gingerbread kit at Target that I couldn’t resist. So decorations!

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I meant to cross stitch a little menorah for our cabin, but between all the Christmas prep, I didn’t really have time, and I couldn’t find the right plastic canvas in time. I’ll make one for next year. I already have a pattern all ready 🙂
This coming cruise is the New Year’s Cruise and the parties should be pretty good. See you all next year!

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New Pride

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We’ve started a new contract on a ship called the Carnival Pride, and boy is it…something.

This contract started in Hollywood, Florida for a month. Frank and I were selected to bring out new shows to the Pride. We were provided with a little furnished house to live in with our supervisors, and went every morning to a warehouse that was converted into a rehearsal studio.

This was our little house.

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There wasn’t much to do except go to the studio most days, but every Monday, there was a gathering of food trucks not too far from where we were staying. We made a point of getting out of the house and going every week.

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The month went fairly slowly. While I had all the set pieces and most of the props for the shows, and Frank had all the sound equipment he needed, most of the time I’d set up a scene and then they’d spend all day in that one scene. There were days I did nothing but cross stitch. I tried to watch videos of the shows and write the cue sheets, but my supervisor left after just a few days to demolish the old shows, so I had little direction. It didn’t matter…all the paperwork I did there was eventually scrapped, and we did everything from scratch…but I digress.

In the last few days of October, we were sent to the Pride while it was in dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas. We had to take the tiniest plane ever! And, clearly, the whole airline was on what we call “island time,” because the plane was sitting at the gate when we arrived at the airport, but we didn’t start boarding until what was supposed to be departure time.

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The flight was super short, though, and we actually got to the Bahamas at the time we were supposed to. Our luggage, however, did not. I suppose they didn’t consider that at least 10 of the passengers would be packing for 7 months, and the rest would have tools and equipment…about 100 lbs per person. The plane ended up being too heavy to fly, and without telling us, the airline personnel took several bags off the flight, including one of Frank’s, and one of mine. We were not happy, to say the least. Luckily, there was another flight coming from that same airport that evening, so we eventually did get our bags.

For dry dock, basically the entire ship was undergoing renovation while sitting on blocks out of the water. We missed the worst part, apparently, but there was still no air conditioning some days, and the water was shut off at night. There were a couple days when the water wasn’t shut off, but we couldn’t use it because of fluoride.

We could get off the ship in the evening if we had time, and take a chartered bus from the port to Port Lucaya, about 30 minutes away, for decent food and internet. The bus only had about 50 seats on it, and left on the half hour. Some bus drivers were sticklers for having only the amount of passengers that there were seats, which means some nights, people got left behind to either wait an hour or take a taxi. Luckily, Frank and I were never left behind, but there was never a line, just a mob of people elbowing other people to get out of their way. It was frustrating and chaotic, and gave a real insight to how certain people operate.

We finally set sail on November 7th (maybe? The days ran together…) and got to Tampa on the 9th (definitely the 9th). Our department still had several shows to install. We opened with two main shows and the Love and Marriage show, but we have 7 day cruises, so we brought on several variety show acts to fill the other nights. We still had two main production shows and three other shows/games to install. Every week we opened something new for another month or so.

That month was…interesting. I learned about working with bosses whose idea of encouragement was kind of degrading. I also learned how difficult it is working under two people who are at the same professional level in the hierarchy…especially when they don’t share certain visions.

But it’s over! The Office Personnel have left, we’re in operation, and the ship is ours now. We’ve opened 4 great production shows from PLAYLIST ™ Productions, and Carnival’s Hasbro the Game Show, which is actually kind of fun (go Red Team!).

This is the first time I’ve been able to get off the ship anywhere but Tampa the entire time we’ve been in service. Frank’s stuck on the ship on duty, so I took the day to just see the sun for more than ten minutes at a time and grab some free-ish WiFi. More updates coming soon!

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Bachelor/ette Party/Wedding/Honeymoon NYC

Myyyyyy goodness…it has been a long time. So, this will be a long post…

Following the first Carnival LIVE, we had two more (Martina McBride and Chicago!), and while they were very exciting and cool to work, from a blogging standpoint, there wasn’t much more to add to the first post other than “We did the thing again! With different boxes!”

After that, my life was consumed with WEDDING. And cross-stitching (lol)

In the midst of getting together what I could while I was still on the ship, we were “kidnapped” on Cozumel for a joint bachelor/bachelorette party by our cast. We were given capes and crowns, and people had segregated them according to our last names.

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We had to perform various tasks for “House Points,” such as “proposing to someone else (as sappily and emotionally as possible):”

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Various trivias (with the help of our teams):

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And a twerking contest:

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In the end, we tied, because “marriage isn’t a competition,” or some nonsense like that. 🙂

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DSC_0529It was a good day.

Then we came home, and hit the ground running…and…

…as of 2:28 pm September 6, 2014, I married the love of my life, on the nine year anniversary of the day we met. Hooray!

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For our honeymoon, we decided to stick close to home (while still spending an exorbitant amount of money), and traveled to the Big Apple for a week. The original plan was to see 4 shows, and go to museums, and then just sort of play it by ear.

The first day, we had no evening plans, but when I discovered we were staying only about a block away from the Ziegfeld Theatre, I decided we just had to see what was playing there (provided that it wasn’t a horror film). The last time I’d been there I’d seen StarWars Episode 3. This time, the fare was considerably better: Guardians of the Galaxy. Hardcore recommend, but you will cry.

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I started us out pretty busy the next day. First VideoGamesNewYork, a tiny little shop that is literally floor-to-ceiling vintage and modern video game paraphernalia.

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From there, we moved on to Nintendo World, one of very few Nintendo shops in the world. Or, we tried. We found the LEGO Store first.

Those are drawers floor-to-ceiling full of LEGO bricks!

Those are drawers floor-to-ceiling full of LEGO bricks!

I tried to make a LEGO me and LEGO Frank at the “Build a Character” station, but there was no blonde hair for me, and no brown short hair for Frank! Sad.

We were in Rockefeller Center at this point, and made a point to look around.

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We finally got to the Nintendo Store. WE GOT SO MANY STREET PASSES.

Easily my favorite part was the mini museum they had set up with their awards through the years, and display of handheld gaming systems.

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After a short lunch break, we explored the city more and found M&Ms World.

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Glorious.

Across the street is a Hershey’s shop.

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And then we walked all the way back up Manhatten to see FAO Schwartz, where we found a Jim Henson Puppet display/shop

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And GIANT candy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat evening we saw the first of our planned shows: Matilda

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.Lovely. Highly recommend. It’s more based on the book than the Danny DeVito movie (lol), but it should be.

That evening, I was already not content with the amount of shows we were seeing, and I had just seen a show listed that was star-studded. With Frank’s blessing, I booked a matinee for the next day, and we were suddenly seeing two shows in one day. That’s a long time to be in dress-up clothes. But we did it!

First:

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Comedy gold, if not a little self-indulgent. There was a good amount of “inside” jokes, if you’re a theatre person, along with name dropping; Nathan Lane dropped his own name at one point!

We filled the gap walking around, and eventually found the Fashion District by accident, purely because I saw a HUGE button and needle statue, and needed to find out what it was

And take a picture with it.

And take a picture with it.

Then, we went Off-Broadway:

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I’d seen a version of this before, but it’s hilarious every time.

Our third day, we intended to take a break from theatre. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked through Central Park, and stopped to see Balto.

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At first, I thought we could see the entire museum, but by the time we finished the Ancient Greek bit, it was lunchtime. At that point, with 5 hours left, we decided to pick and choose the rest of the way.

We spent a long time in the music section. Frank plays guitar, and I played clarinet from grades 4-12.

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Then moved on to Arms and Armament

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Stopped by the Egyptian exhibit, where there’s an entire ancient temple

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And some tomb stuff

Are you my mummy?

Are you my mummy?

The Asian section was complete with a little rooftop garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe American section was a bit of an afterthought for us, but did not disappoint.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong with all the other great stuff they have to represent us, there is the most patriotic frame ever on this painting of George Washington. The top is cut off, and the rest is difficult to see through the glass, but the top is an eagle with two flags, and there are cannons down the sides.

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We would have gotten a better picture, but we were politely being reminded that the museum was going to close in ten minutes, and if we could please get the hell out, that would be great, thanks.

Also this “WTF?” bust.

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Seeing how it was only 5:30 when the museum closed, and we didn’t want to spend ludicrous amounts of money in the gift shop, we were left wondering what to do for the evening. I heard about 20at20 the evening before, which is a program in which you show up to a participating show 20 minutes before the show, and if there are seat available, you get tickets for $20. Pretty good deal. One really stuck out to me: Drunk Shakespeare.

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We were across town, but made it in time to get ticket for this show in a bar. It turned out they were doing Macbeth, which is my all-time favorite of the Bard’s plays. The premise is that one of the actors takes 5 shots before the show, and then…they do the show. Abridged, obviously.

IMG_1203“Somehow” we ended up with “Mackie B’s” letter to his wife.

Needless to say, it was hilariously fun.

The next few days, we actually took it more easy on the sightseeing. We did go to Central Park a couple of times, and the Zoo once.

We saw Les Miserables

IMG_1200I’d never seen it, even the movie. It was incredible.

The last show we’d planned to see was Book of Mormon. I’d heard nothing but good things, but I had reservations, because the writers were the same from South Park and I’m not a huge fan of the show. However, I’m totally obsessed with that show now

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Our Elder Cunningham was Benji from Pitch Perfect. Wonderful casting. I wish I had the recording of him.

The last full day, we had no plans, so I dragged us into the TKTS line to see if we could squeeze in one more show.

IMG_1202We could! I couldn’t resist. Idina Menzel was great, and the story and design we phenomenal. It’s really amazing what you can do with a big budget (light up, revolving stages!).

It was so wonderful to see all these great places and shows. My mom originally thought that it would be like a Busman’s Holiday, but it wasn’t. We both really enjoyed ourselves.

We’re also really anxious to get back to work, partly for a paycheck, but mostly because we have some exciting prospects coming up!

(New contract resolution: update this blog more!!!)

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Carnival LIVE

Carnival Cruise lines has been rolling out a bunch of new and branded ™ initiatives lately, to mixed reviews from passengers and crew alike. There is one, though, that I recently participated in, and thoroughly enjoyed: Carnival LIVE.

We had REO Speedwagon onboard this week. I got to meet some of them! I did not take pictures with them, but I watched the concert from backstage. It is by no means the best seat in the house, but with two fights out in the house, it wasn’t the worst.

We had banners all over the ship to sell tickets, and some people were given buttons to wear

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The load in was insane! REO by themselves had 44 road cases, and then there were the ones from the production company

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat blur there is me, apparently.

Frank had to run one of the spotlights, but got a couple of pictures of the band

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I also got a set list

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I forgot how much I love/hate big load ins 🙂 After the concert, we had to load everything out in time to leave Cozumel at 1 am. We made it with about half an hour to spare, I think.

We get to do it all again next month!

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Welcome to Paradise!

Okay, I’ve actually been on the ship for about 2 months now. I really needed to finish the Israel posts before I did any other ones, I told myself.

Really, it’s been pretty mundane, up until a couple cruises ago, when this happened:

Cruise ship rescues 24 stranded Cubans

We were actually getting ready for our first show of the evening when we heard our cruise director say something about a tiny boat that appeared in distress, so we all went out on deck to see.

That’s the Celebrity Silhouette in the distance. Maritime law states that any ship within a certain distance of a distressed vessel must respond. There was also another ship that we could barely make out on the horizon heading toward us as well.
Most of us had never seen anything like this before…
All photos courtesy of Scott, our bass player.
There were 23 men and one woman. They were brought onboard and subjected to a security search, after which they were looked at by the medical staff and given fresh clothes, food, and water. They’d been stranded for 5 days, with very little to eat or drink. They stayed in the Officer’s Mess where they were watched by security overnight, and disembarked in Grand Cayman when we arrived the next day.
I hope they’re alright now.
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Day 11: The End.

We started packing early. I had to check and double check all the souvenirs and chocolates.

Oh, did I not say anything about this amazing chocolate?

 

Not only is it delicious, but it also has Pop Rock candy inside. I bought some at every single opportunity. Seriously.

We had a last chance to shop a bit, and get some food.

Then we were also supposed to go see a presentation at Yad Lakashish, but the weather held us back, so we missed the people. When we did get there, there was a video presentation about what they do. Basically, they invite elderly people to come and create items to be sold in a shop. The artistry is beautiful, and I wish I had brought my wallet. There were some beautiful mezuzas with embroidery and cross stitch. I’d like to see if I could do that.

For our last activity, we all gathered in a classroom and sat in a circle. Shira took out a ball of red yarn, and as we tossed the ball around, each of us shared an “aha” moment.

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I think I had a few, but I know that one of them was in Yad Vashem. I saw a picture of an interfaith couple (one was Jewish, and the other was not), and ti really struck a chord, because that’s how Frank and I will be. What if that was us? He’d be ostracized and terrorized just as much as me. That’s terrifying.

We were all holding the same yarn for a moment. All of us. Then we each broke a piece off, and tied it around our left wrist. The idea is that you put out energy with your right, and take in energy from your left. The yarn was supposed to help filter out any bad energy trying to enter.

I took all the rest, and made this:

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This was really the last time we were all together. Some left at the airport to extend their stay. Ofer met us at the airport because he just couldn’t stay away. These 40-odd people are so close to me now, and I knew them for ten days. We are all connected on facebook, and we share things everyday. This trip really was all about “taglit,” discovery.

I definitely felt more of a connection to this part of my upbringing. I’m not a particularly religious person, in general, and I was raised interfaith (Jewish and Southern Baptist…what a mix, right?). I feel like I was more inclined to start thinking about the future because of my upcoming marriage…and what that will and might bring. I’d like to share some traditions and holidays and food with my new family without being overbearing with this new feeling.

I’ve been encouraging everyone I know to be Jewish to take this trip. I even met a family on the ship who was Jewish with a young daughter, and I spoke to them at length about it. Do this. You will never regret it.

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Day 10: Remembering

The morning was spent traveling to, and touring Yad Vashem. We could not tour the whole campus because the snow damaged some tree and was blocking parts of the property. It wasn’t all bad, though. That gave us more time in the museum itself.

The entire building is a symbol, all the way through. It’s a triangle, one half of a magendavid; the Holocaust took half of a people away. When you walk in, you can see the end of the building, but you can’t get there straight away, because it’s blocked by several installations that are surrounded by wire fencing. There were a few skylights that allowed natural light in certain places that showcased tiny rays of hope in a terrible, dark time in history.

There were no pictures allowed in the museum, but that’s just fine. I don’t think I’d ever want to see pictures of the inside, nor would pictures capture what you see in there. There are the the things that everyone expects, like the Nazi propaganda and the pictures of the camps, but it’s the subtle things that really got me. There were antisemitic artworks and board games. There was also an installation about some of the worst Nazis…but it was about how they were well-educated, otherwise normal people. That was really difficult to see. It’s so easy to think of these people as monsters…but isn’t that how they saw us in the war?

When we got to the Warsaw Ghetto exhibit, we saw where they had installed bricks and rail road from the actual place. We saw videos and pictures of how terrible conditions were. However, it was still kind of like a town…and the people naturally got bored. The most striking things for me to see was how these people amused themselves. They put on plays for each other, and we saw photos of the casts. They played for each other. They painted and drew and thrived as a suffering, terrified people. As a theatre person, it’s fascinating and refreshing to know that art was, is, and can be used as a tool for relief from terrible social situations. It’s also heart wrenching, because that was all some people had.

We saw diaries and letters. Heart breaking and inspiring alike. Then I saw a hand drawn board game. A personalized version of Monopoly called based on their ghetto. It struck me, and I had no words. It was like they accepted this life as truth, but felt they also deserved a semi-normal life…and a game based of their life.

The last room is dedicated to remembering those who died. There are photos, and books that the Foundation is trying to fill with biographies of those people. Unfortunately, so many records were destroyed, and so many towns were just flat out destroyed that we might not ever be able to name them all.

The view outside the place is phenomenal. It’s representative of the future for Israel and the Jewish people.

 

It was astonishing that there was a gift shop. It wasn’t garish, though, which was refreshing. There were many books, even if there were a few souvenirs. I flipped through one book full of poems. One was written by a woman who watched men take her mother and her sister’s son away. She confessed that she traded her elderly mother for her sister to stay, because the men were taking the son and one other regardless. I couldn’t read any more after that.

The bus ride was a nice buffer for lunch, which we had in the shook in New Jerusalem. We walked all up and down the marketplace, and negotiated for some very delicious pizza challah rolls. There was also a bit of shopping where I bought some beautiful artwork. (I’m on the ship, and the artwork is at home, so pictures some point in the future.) It was fun to haggle, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. At one point, our Israeli soldier guard/guide, Ziv, was with us, and helped us with some of the prices.

 

We got back on the bus, which has long since felt like our home away from home, and drove by the security fence, and learned a bit about Israeli security.

Then we stopped by the bus stop where there was a bombing in 2002. I just can’t imagine, even after 9/11/2001, going along your day and having to be fearful of the buses, even.

 

We had dinner at the hostel, and then blew off some steam with another night out in Tel Aviv. We “accidentally” bumped into some people we knew, and had a grand time in another bar. Ofer and I got into another deep conversation, and it lasted almost the whole time we were there. At one point I was telling him and some others about the way Frank proposed to me, and it really touched him. He felt a deep connection with me, and he decided to give me a great gift: part of his IDF uniform. It is one of the best things I have to remember my experience.

 

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Day 9: Subdued and winding down

This morning started later than usual, and we gathered to watch a documentary about a young man named Michael Levin. He was American, but felt deeply about Israel and what it stood for. So when he was old enough, he made alliah (making pilgrimage to Israel), and joined the IDF to support and even fight for Israel. He made quite a mark on the people that he worked with, and died in the line of duty. It’s a really moving story, and I recommend looking it up.

This was our warm up for visiting Har Hertzel, the military cemetary for the IDF.

We didn’t even start the day with Sha-La-La. The bus ride was subdued and long. Snow had been dumped exactly where we were heading, and drifts were getting almost 4 or 5 feet tall. We finally arrived two and a half hours later, and started walking though the place, at one point ducking under some CAUTION: KEEP OUT tape (though it was in Hebrew). Officials came and kicked us out, almost. We stayed in the front courtyard area, where the Israelis performed a short ceremony in honor of the fallen soldiers.

Obviously the feelings of the military is different there because every citizen is required to join for two years, unless they have strong religious aversion, in which case they perform other civic duties for that time.

We had a short lunch break in the city, and I had shwarma for the first time. So good.

We went back to the Old City, and toured Mt. Zion. This place is sacred to all three of the major monotheistic religions

There’s a small Orthodox synagog inside.

Afterwards, we went to the Western Wall for a small good bye ceremony. The Egalitarian side of the Wall was closed because of the snow, so we went back to the Orthodox side.

There was a full moon.

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We all took pictures with the Israelis before we said our goodbyes.

We then went into the tunnel to the Muslim Quarter to be a little more sheltered. Everyone shared something about the experience with meeting all these different people. I was really sorry to see everyone go. We were told at the beginning that once the Israelis joined us, we’d wonder how we ever felt that our group was complete without them. We were skeptical at first, before they arrived. Now, we totally believed it.

We finished and then all got on the bus to drop them off at a bus stop. It seemed so strange to just leave them on the side of the road. The rest of the ride was subdued, but differently from the beginning of the day.

When we got back to the hostel, after dinner we had a meeting to prepare ourselves for the next day. We were going to go to the Israeli Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem. We started talking about why it’s important to remember, and modern antisemitism. So many people, including myself, shared stories. Shira told us that if the Israelis had been with us, they’d be surprised at all these stories. While they might be rare for us, it’s commonplace compared with how Jewish people are treated in Israel.

Each of us were given a piece of paper, and a candle. On each paper was the name and biography of a different child. A child that was killed in the Holocaust. We lit the candles and set them in front of our chairs, then went around the circle to read out the names and ages of the children we were given and blow out the candles.

We were told to leave when ever we felt like it. I sat for a long time.

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Day 8: Snow? In the desert?

We were supposed to go to Jerusalem. Imagine our surprise when we could not go because mother nature decided that the Middle East seemed like a good place for a snow storm. I remembered that little boy from Safat, and imagined he’d have the time of his life having a massive snowball fight.

Anyway, we were rerouted. We went to Jaffa, and toured around there for a while.

So much art!

There was also this fountain with weird caricatures of zodiac signs…

Then we stopped for gelato. Our guide said that if we ever wanted to see her at her happiest, this was it:

We also went to Independence Hall. This was where Israel was signed into a State.

There was a man who gave a very passionate, but a little preachy speech. I was very sleepy throughout the whole thing, but I woke a bit when he started telling us all to have Jewish babies.

Then we went to our last hostel/villa/kibbutz. We were supposed to be in a different one, but the snow happened. This place was beautiful though.

That evening, we had a pretty heavy political discussion about Israel and Palestine. It seems that if you make a decision on the subject, you’re ignoring some of the facts…

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