Backstage Travels

All the world's a stage…

Day 6: The second event we crashed

I’m pretty sure this is when I started sleeping through breakfast. Veggies in the morning isn’t really my thing, and I found that I got less bus-sick if I didn’t eat in the morning. That’s right…I work on the sea, and the worst motion sickness I’ve gotten is on the roads of Israel.

We first went to a cemetery near the Kinaret River. We visited some famous grave sites, and learned about the Labour Movement. Our Israeli companions gave some interesting insight to the things we were talking about.

Then we went to Tzippori. The wind was raging and the rain was stinging, but we plugged along anyway. Most of it was under a roof anyway.

We saw how ancient Jews were influenced by Roman culture in mosaics and such.

Then we went inside to what is apparently a still functioning synagog, because this happened:

Yep, we crashed another party. This time it was a Bar Mitzvah. Hilarious. For us. Probably not for the family and that embarrassed 13 year old.

We finished our tour, then took our bus to a new hostel. We had an unprecedented few hours of free time before our small Shabbat service.

Afterwards, we played a game of the Israelis’ devising. It was a memory game to see if we remembered all the places in Israel. I was our Israel. Also cheating may have ensued. Maybe.

At this point, it felt like they had been with us the entire trip, which itself felt like it was a year long already.

Also, we didn’t like this hostel. It was weird, and we had a mouse in our room.

Browndoggy seemed okay with it.



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Israel Day 4: Longest day of our lives

We woke up…at four thirty in the morning. I cannot emphasize how four-thirty in the morning we woke up…

So we got dressed in our tent, where it was warm, and then had biscuits (kinda) and tea outside, where it was cold. First breakfast. Then the bus. Everyone was falling asleep because it was like 5 am by then.

Then we get to Masada. This is the mountain we are supposed to climb to see the sunset. (I find out later that it’s not really a mountain, and I was lame for being tired after climbing it.) We are lead to a path and then told to walk.

Whatever. I walk every day. Slight incline? Psh…I’ll walk the crap out of this path. I’ll…*pant*…make it…*pant pant* …how are…*pant*…you people…*wheeze*…still talking to each other? *coughsplutterpant*

I need to get in shape. Like woah.

But I make it. And I’m not the last one. Not that that’s a bad thing, to be last…ugh, anyway. Most of us, exhausted and hot after the climb, forget that it’s about 37 Fahrenheit outside, and strip off all the nice fluffy jackets we’ve now sweated through…just to remember and hastily put all those layers back on again.

The sun is starting to make an appearance, and we can’t be late! We go to the lookout point, look towards Jordan, the Dead Sea, and the mountains, and wait. And wait. Shutters click and there are sighs of disappointment as most of us realize that our cameras are not doing a very good job capturing what our artistic eyes all want to be able to capture. Two of our companions, however have excellent cameras. They are now assigned to take pictures for everyone, whether they like it or not. “These better be on Facebook [for me to steal]!”

The sun winds up being later than the forecast, which puts our tour behind. But just look at these shots (that I took myself!):

Then we toured around the place. The history’s pretty cool; it was a massive palace that was the size of a small city, and then it was taken over by Zionists, who were a Jewish dead end, because then they all killed themselves in an act of defiance.
…Yeah, you should probably just read the Wiki article about it…
This paint is original.
The bath house had double floors and walls to allow the hot air to be cycled throughout the building itself. The ceiling was also domed, so that any collecting condensation would slide down instead of drip on the occupants.
Under the line is original, and over the line has been restored.
Now this was a tiny model of the place that showed how the aqueduct system was used here to make this palace in the desert livable for many years:
We also went to the temple on Masada. It is one of the oldest temples (if not the oldest) still in existence.
It’s also a fully functional temple, with a Torah and everything. A few years ago, people brought up a Torah to put back in the temple. It’s behind this door.
Now, the night before, I, along with two other outgoing people, was asked to read a monologue in front of everyone at a specific time during this tour. Mine was at the temple.
I was a bloodthirsty Zionist, as you can tell.
This was a swimming pool.
There was enough water collected by those aqueducts that there was a fully functional and fairly large pool. On a mountain. In the desert.
Then we yelled into this valley.
The echo effect was incredible.
Back down the mountain. But not the path we came up, oh no. This time, we took:
That path was pretty wicked. My legs were not happy after that walk. Oh, and it started to rain. We were supposed to do another hike, but apparently it go rained out and flooded. This started our streak of “more luck than brains.”
Second breakfast, and then we were off to the Dead Sea for some hardcore floating. I’m not going to lie, I was not looking forward to swimming in the Sea. The temperatures had stayed around single digits Celsius, and I really don’t like being cold…
Our choice for the Dead Sea part of the trip was to go to a free part of the beach where you had to buy packets of the mud, or go to a paid part of the beach, where you didn’t have to pay for the mud, and there was a hot spring fed by the Dead Sea itself. Oh, and the pay one was free as long as we watched a commercial for Ahava Dead Sea products. Um, duh. We watched the (really strange and oddly sexual) commercial, and then we were let loose in the store. At that point, I still only had a very primitive knowledge of the dollar to shekel exchange ratio, but I still knew that I totally did not want to spend that much money for salty face cream. (I demean it because I actually wanted to get some, but I can’t afford to keep up the regimen.)
Here’s a picture of the weird salt statue from the shop!
The sea ended up being a lot warmer than I anticipated, because the cold front had come in so suddenly, the large body of water hadn’t absorbed all that coldness yet.
Photo courtesy of Steph D
Photo courtesy of Steph D
Photo courtesy of Brian A
Photo courtesy of Brian A
That last one was homage to one of our American leaders, Rachel L. For the first few days, she kept telling us that any photos posted on social networking sites should be tagged with #gokesher, because the name of the chapter of Taglit Birthright we were traveling with was called URJ Kesher.
The sea was amazing to float in. The Sea is about 1/3 salt, which creates incredible buoyancy, something that was recreated in the hot spring. I tried to sit one the little bench in the pool, but it just floated about 6 inches above it, in a sitting position.
Then we had lunch. Yep, all that was before lunch.
Then we were back on the bus for our next place to stay. Games ensued, and Shira said that she’d never had a group that played together so much; mostly they just sleep. I think we were too tired to sleep.
We had a couple hours of free time (!) before dinner (I’ve had so much hummus by this point), and then an activity. Our Israeli companions were to join us the next day, so we were going to make something for them. We were split into groups, and given one of their names, plus three or four facts about them. Then we were supposed to draw out what we thought their FaceBook page would look like…
We got Anat, who was just getting out of the military, had majored in Jazz and Dance, and loved the opera.
We drew her in her uniform with a gun, not knowing she was an Israeli hippie with a couple braids. And we threw on a YouTube link to our bus anthem, “Shalala” by the VengaBoys. We also included some Facebook ads, like one for umbreallas with the tagline “Because you never know,” alluding to our experience with people telling us that “it never rains in the desert” while we’ve been sheltering from showers for three days.
Then I felt like I wanted to sleep forever……
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Israel Day 2: Arrival in the Jewish State

I think I saw about 2 hours of sun on the whole trip over to Israel. When we landed, it was about 6 pm because of the delay in our flight. We were all so exhausted from the travel, and we pretty much went straight to the hostel.

I’ll admit that I didn’t take very many pictures that day. I’m not sure that anyone did. None of us knew each other that well yet, and as I said, we were all so tired.

On the bus there, we met our tour guide, Shira, and our military escort, Ziv. Both are pretty badass people. While we were driving toward the hostel, Shira told us a story about how we should view Israel.

She said that a few years back there were wildfires in Israel. People were being evacuated from their homes, and she was eventually evacuated from her kibbutz. She watched the news everyday, like most people did, and one day she recognized where the camera crew was: her kibbutz. Everything on camera was razed. It panned over wasted and burnt landscape. She said that she was in shock, but eventually came to terms with the fact that she had no house, nothing. She was safe, and could buy new clothes. The news continued to show the same footage over and over, and Shira saw something on the edge of the screen, right before it cut back to the newscasters…a leaf! A green leaf! Why won’t they show that, she wondered, why won’t they show the green? She kept watching, hoping they’d pan the camera just a little bit further, so she could see the green.
Finally, the fires were contained and the people were allowed back to their villages. When Shira got to hers, she saw that only 10% of the village had burned. Her house was fine. Most of the houses were. She saw that the “green” was a lot more than the burned wasteland.

This is how we were supposed to look at Israel. Not as the wasteland the TV shows, with the wars and fighting and such, but what else it is. Tel Aviv has thriving technology and businesses. Jerusalem has the three major religions living there in…well, they’re cordial, if not exactly bosom buddies. The landscape is beautiful. And the cats! Holy goodness, the Israeli cats…

So, we get to the hostel. Most of us do not know a word of Hebrew save “Shalom” at this point (exaggeration…but only just), and we don’t know where to go. We were pointed in a direction on an elevator somewhere, but when we got to the approximate location of the finger-pointing, we were met with a large crowd.

And that’s how we crashed the wedding.

Well, the reception, really. We turned back, only to have Ziv (resident co-badass) walk us right through to the elevator, a mere 2 meters from where we ran in to all those people.

We all got assigned rooms and settled in and then…jetlag set in. For me at least. I slept an hour, and then was up till about 4am local time.

Browndoggy slept though…


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End of hiatus!



I’m getting back to the ships. Today, I drove…*checks Google Maps*…over 800 miles today to get to Orlando. Sunday, I will be shipping out of Port Canaveral on the Carnival Sensation. So, I have a couple days to kill (after I get some stuff done which is the reason I’m here so early in the first place). I’m going to try to get to Harry Potter world!!

Anyway. Here are pictures from my drive.

Start: Virginia.

As I drove south, I got to say good bye for real to Kings Dominion


I’ve had some really awesome times at that place 🙂

There was no leaving sign, so next is…


Notable fact about North Carolina: my best friend went to college there. She has a blog about food. Read it.

Of course, just south of North Carolina is…   IMG_0153

Winner overall for classiest Welcome sign. Thank you, South Carolina, for your kind words and brickwork.

Then this happens:IMG_0154

When I was younger, my family lived in Florida and we’d drive to Virginia twice a year to visit my grandparents. We had a couple games we’d play in the car, and one of them was to try and count the amount of billboards advertising this place. They start about 100 miles out.

South Carolina also wishes you farewell:


You’re welcome, South Carolina.

Hello, Georgia.IMG_0159

Now, here I stopped to get gas right before Florida and use the restroom. This was the men’s room:


Pretty standard.

Then I saw the women’s bathroom:


Wtf? Why did that need to be pointed out? Even though there were two stalls, I locked the main door too.

Final stretch!


And now, I’m in my hotel. In a giant bed. Sooooo sleepy.

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Day -1

It’s the day before I set sail 😀 But, I guess if tomorrow’s Day 1…would that make today Day 0? …No, there was no year 0 lol…


Last night (though it seems much longer…I have had a long day), we had a going away party with the family. They surprised me with a cake and everything

That’s a picture of my ship, the Imagination! On the cake!

Carnival Cruise Lines provided my plane ticket and hotel room for one night.

This is a (stock) photo of my swanky hotel:

I’n’ it pretty? King sized bad and a room to myself. My mother said that the hotel managers put us in big rooms because they know we’ll be packed like sardines for the next six months lol.

So, tomorrow at 9 am I leave in a shuttle to port. I’m so nervous and excited. I’ll try to take an actual picture of my ship instead of using a stock photo. I probably won’t even be able to post at all until Friday, when we’re back in the US.

As for nervous and excited, all week I’ve been bombarding Frank’s inbox with questions about what to expect and what to bring. I’m still worried I brought too much…or not enough… :/

Did I mention I’m nervous? And excited?

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