Monday, September 05, 2005
Shalom from Israel!!!
Well FINALLY I have a chance to get online and write a post. It has been a week since I have really watched any tv or read any news online or in a paper. I’m sure I am supposed to feel liberated by shedding my attachment to technology but instead I feel disconnected from the world when I know things are going on (like the chaos from Hurricane Katrina).

Anyway! News of my journey thus far….
First of all, I want to send a huge shout out to fellow blogger Noorster who took time out of her life to meet me at the airport in Budapest and gave me an amazing tour of the city. I am so very grateful that she extended me such a warm invitation and welcome, otherwise I would have spent 10 hours in a Hungarian airport. Instead I got to take the subway (train, tube…whatever), a couple of buses, and a tram (streetcar). I played the role of tourist perfectly by taking an endless amount of pictures of buildings, parks, statues, food and even the money. I love to document everything, what can I say? Budapest was an amazing city to see with a rich history and interesting architecture. At one point I passed a choir on the street singing “The Bare Necessities”. Very strange but very fun. The Danube was beautiful and huge though dirty looking. I was a big girl and walked over many huge long bridges despite my fear of such bridges. All in all I was amazed at how much energy I had given that I had very little sleep on the plane. Noorster and I ended the evening by eating at an outdoor café/restaurant complete with patio lighting and candles. It was so very European! (or at least, how I imagined European dining to be. Hahaha…) I had a total blast thanks to Noorster and I hope to meet up with her again when she moves to Israel in November. TODA RABA, NOORSTER!!!!!!!! You set a wonderful tone for my trip. I am indebted.

After a long layover in Budapest it was off to Israel where I landed at 3:40am and an hour later my friend had scooped me from the airport and took me back to Bene Atarot where I would spend the next 5 days visiting with two of my good friends (a couple) and their children. The property is on a moshav (a semi-private communal farm) and from there we would head out for walks and day trips. Mostly the time was spent getting into the time zone (read: napping) and catching up with my friends. Already I have taken over 300 hundred pictures, reminding me why I bought a camera and laptop for this trip despite my tight budget. I truly do love taking pictures.

Yesterday I arrived in Jerusalem by taxi. As anyone who has taken a ride in an Israeli taxi can attest to, it’s not for the faint of heart. Breakneck speeds, sharp turns and no signaling of lane changes are the norm. Several times I just closed my eyes and tried to relax because there was no point in trying to reason with him. As we were driving up the mountain into Jerusalem there was a very VERY big traffic jam, and a trip that should have taken 30 mins turned into an hour an a half. In the end it turns out a bus had broken down and was occupying one of the lanes. Back home you would have found things moving a little more quickly as people are fairly accommodating when it comes to merging and letting others in, but here in Israel it’s every man for himself and nobody is too keen on extending courtesies while driving.

Once I arrived on the Livnot campus I was happy to finally get a room to call mine (for the next week, anyway) and to unpack a little and dig out long lost items I packed a week ago. I will be sharing a room with 2 other girls, though as yet none have arrived, so I have had the luxury of having a room to myself for the past day. The room is ok and the beds are acceptable (though many are complaining about the hardness, I don’t mind it so much). Last night a group of us (4 American guys and another Canadian girl) all hiked to The Old City of Jerusalem…. a pretty fair hike from the campus. The evening was cool which was a welcome change the heat I have been melting under for the last 5 days. Canadians don’t cope so well with such extreme heat, y’know? We then proceeded to get a bit lost, found and then lost some more. But oh how I love Jerusalem! The sights, sounds and smells. The Christian and Jewish Quarters and the markets within. At one point we found ourselves heading into the Muslim Quarter as it was getting dark and promptly turned ourselves around and went back. All in all it was about a 5 hour adventure as we explored and eventually found our way back towards the campus. We made a pitstop for some shawarma (oh how I loves the shawarma!!) and water. I don’t think water ever tasted as good to me as it did last night. It was a great bonding trip for our little group as we await the arrival of the rest of the clan. The group for this program is about 25 people… there were only about 8 as of last night when we left. When we arrived back after our exhausting outing a few more had arrived and more should be arriving today… the program officially starts at 2pm.

So far I haven’t really had a chance to contact too many other bloggers; I called Yael on Saturday when I was searching for John’s number (you’re lucky you weren’t home when I called, John!). It was really great to finally hear Yael’s voice, though it was nothing like I imagined. Thanks for your help my friend, we will meet up at some point, I promise.

And that’s about it. I will be in Jerusalem until Saturday and then Sunday we head up to Tzfat where we will spend the next month. After a month there it’s back to Jerusalem for a month. Let the games begin!

Thanks to all who have sent well wishes my way, you are all very sweet. I’ll post again when I can.