Monday, June 29, 2009

flashing back

As I was driving into work this morning, I had a very intense, very realistic flashback. I was so entranced in this vision, this reenactment of a past time, that before I knew it I was just an exit away from where I usually get off the highway. I guess while driving isn't exactly the best time to have such a lifelike flashback, but lately, my dreams and reality are getting completely mixed up. I find myself unsure of whether something actually happened, or if it was just a dream.

Today's flashback was of getting off the airplane at JFK at the end my Birthright trip to Israel. Actually, it was first being on the plane. Feeling so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I felt almost drugged. Everyone around me was dozing in and out of sleep, and I found myself not being able to keep my eyes open for very long at all. I found time to write down some thoughts and share those with Rachel and Jeanine, but we all didn't speak that much throughout the long plane ride. So many days running on three-hour-of-sleep nights was finally catching up to us. So many days of learning, of exploring, of overcoming fears. So many days of melting in the desert heat. So many days of epiphanies; of life-changing moments. Finally weighing down on us.

Then my flashback jumped to walking through the airport after getting our luggage; our luggage that had taken this journey with us, thrown around, squished into buses and carrying just some of our memories. I saw everyone's parents and relatives waiting for us to meet them. Most of them knew we were changed from this trip; others were completely unaware. My mother ducked under the flimsy barrier to hug me as tight as could be. She couldn't wait to grab hold of me, knowing I was safe, knowing I had a million stories to tell. Not knowing I would be unable to fully explain what this journey was for quite a long time, if ever.

I think we were all in shock. We went our separate ways, not knowing how to end this trip, not knowing how to say goodbye. We had experienced so much together in such a short period of time, and now it was all over. I hugged my friends, old and new, and walked away. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I didn't know when I'd see these people again - if I'd see these people again. I didn't know if it would ever be the same. And I certainly didn't know if I'd ever be the same.

Now, it's over a year later, and I'm still unsure. I'm flashing back to those memories quite often - not wanting to forget them, but not exactly sure what to do with them either.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

reflections, part 3

An excerpt from my Birthright journal: Day 9 - Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Today was yet another incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ali G., Jill and I walked to the Goldenberg family's apartment to spend Shabbat lunch with them. David Goldenberg was a Rabbi, but for English-speaking beginners in Judaism. They were an older couple with a family friend. They fed us a five-course meal that was really great. We talked and asked and answered and really learned a lot. Also, it was a ton more walking (and sweating). We got back to the hotel after three and a half hours of lunch, and got to swim a little, then get ready for the evening.

We went to Ben Gurion Street which was SO much fun, just hanging out, shopping, drinking on a street filled with people and excitement. Then we headed to a bar/club that was pretty small, but was literally the most fun I've had in a long, long time. Everyone just danced and was dripping in sweat, and it didn't matter. Matt and I tore up the dance floor and just really had the time of our lives. Everyone was just dancing with everyone, and I can't imagine a more perfect night out. Of course, getting everyone to leave was tough, especially since most of the soldiers had come out to meet us, so no one wanted to say goodbye. The bus left without several of our group members, including Rachel and Jeanine. Bev stayed behind to round the rest of the gang up, and head back to the hotel via cab. I was locked out of our hotel room for a little bit of time, but soon the girls made it back, just to leave to go downstairs with a bunch of others. They came back after raiding the hotel kitchen, and I can't even describe the scene of the two of them, olives quiche, bread and eggs in hand, bursting into the room. They are too funny and fun, and we had a fabulous night that I wouldn't mind having every weekend."

This day last year was jam-packed, as evidenced by this excerpt from my journal. I remember that lunch with the Goldenbergs like it was yesterday. It took us a long time to walk to their apartment, and we got lost more than once. We asked someone in the community if they knew where the street was, and they actually knew the Goldenbergs themselves. How nice to belong to a community where people know you by name even several blocks away. Another distinct memory of this lunch was that David Goldenberg called us by our Hebrew names, which was really just a little detail, but meant a whole lot.

The evening portion of June 21 was just as memorable as the day, but for very different reasons. The daytime was all about learning and culture and community and Judaism. The evening was pure fun and enjoyment. The energy on Ben Gurion Street was incredible - so many young Israelis and Americans, just having fun and being together. It was great that we were able to meet up with our new Israeli friends, who had to leave our trip a few days earlier. Really, the bar was very claustrophobic for me, and at first I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, but once I just let go, and took a deep breath, I ended up having the time of my life. In that moment, I had no worries; I had no cares. I forgot about the extreme lack of sleep; I forgot about my fears. And there was nothing better than just dancing the night away with 30 of my friends, singing and sweating and laughing and living truly in the moment. If I could live that night over again, I would, and I'd do it exactly the same.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

reflections, part 2

On June 16, 2008 I had one of the most adventurous days of my entire life. I was in Israel, having already experienced more than I had ever imagined in just three days of Birthright. We began the day visiting a Kibbutz on the Israel/Lebanon border, where we listened to a passionate speaker talk politics. The Hezbollah community on the other side of the fence had houses without windows. We were told they were built this way so they could be easily shot out of. There was no activity in the community - very few cars drove through; no people were seen.

We then went on a water hike - I've never hiked in my life, nevermind through a river, over rocks and around trees. It was a challenge - one of the first of the trip, but certainly not the last. The rest of the day was spent jeeping through the dusty desert and kayaking, which was not so much kayaking as it was floating and swimming down a river. I definitely spent more time in the water than in the raft, but we had a total blast - the boys jumped from raft to raft pushing the girls out, we collided with a group of young Israeli girls who tried to push us as far away as possible, Matt & Adam smoked cigarettes with older Israeli men in an adjacent raft, they swung from a tree landing with a splash in the shallow water. This "kayaking" was by far one of the most fun activities of the entire trip, where we all really bonded with one another - a truly important part of this trip for most of us.

It took us hours to get down the river, and once we made it to the end we were soaked, exhausted and happy. We did our best to get cleaned up, dressed and ready to go out in a very cramped camp-style bathroom/changing area. We had dinner in Tiberias, where we rejoiced to see french fries and pizza, along with the typical cucumber/tomato salad and hummus. After we devoured everything in sight, we went to a nearby outdoor bar right on the water in Tiberias, where we drank wine and danced the night away.

We headed back to our resort-like hotel in Hispin, where we all got into pajamas and sat outside, sharing stories, further cementing our strong group bond. It was nice to be able to laugh together, as well as be serious, having some very deep conversations about Judaism; about life. Matt and I went up to the roof of one of the hotel buildings, where the word "peaceful" could not even begin to describe the atmosphere. Everything was so still, so simple, so perfect. I remember feeling incredible in a truly indescribable way. And I felt an odd comfort in knowing these feelings were shared by and with someone who I felt I had known my entire life, yet was a stranger just days earlier.

In my journal that night I wrote, "I feel happy and proud and fulfilled." It was only the fourth day of my trip, yet I had already learned so much about myself, about my new friends, about community, about connection. And there was so much more to come.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

hangin' tough

So, my mom and I re-lived our teeny bopper days at the New Kids on the Block concert last night at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, and let me tell you, we had an amazing time. We stood up the entire time, screaming, singing and dancing to their hits from the 90s, and songs from their newest cd, The Block. We had great seats, dead center in the third row of the first tier behind the orchestra. These seats were great for the entire show, but especially for when the guys sang their song "Single" from little platforms in the middle of the audience. Joey McIntyre stood on this center platform literally one seat away from me. I felt like I was 14 years old again. We all screamed and sang, and I even held his hand for a few seconds. We definitely had a moment. Be jealous.

Overall, they sounded fabulous, danced great and put on such a fun, energetic show. When the audience is singing and dancing to your new songs just as much, if not more, than your hits from the past, that's when you know you've made a real come back. And that's just what they've done.

Check out the video that I took below of the famous "Hangin' Tough." The sound quality isn't great, but the energy of the guys, as well as the audience, was amazing, even after being on stage for almost two hours. NKTOB forever!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

reflections, part 1

One year ago today I was anxiously arriving at JFK, clueless as to what the next 11 days would bring. One year ago today I was checking in, getting my boarding pass and passing through security, unaware of how this trip would affect me. One year ago today I was meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones, not knowing that the bonds I would form with these people would be life long. One year ago today I was experiencing every emotion possible all at once; a feeling that would stick with me throughout the weeks ahead. One year ago today I was not the same person I am right now.

One year ago today I was on El Al flight number LY022 with the Mayanot 41 Taglit-Birthright group my way to Israel for the very first time, and I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life forever.

Monday, June 1, 2009

my first time (at citi field)

This weekend I went to my very first game at Citi Field, home of my New York Mets. I know what you're thinking. "She calls herself a fan? And she hasn't been to Citi until May 30th?" And yes, I admit it was very late in the season to be going to my first game, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. The problem isn't a lack of desire to go on my part, but rather a lack of someone else to go with. But this weekend, I had a taker - my dad!

All I can say about Citi Field is "amazing." I had a smile plastered on my face as we walked around field level, seeing everything from brick oven pizza vendors to the famous Shake Shack. I loved the open feel of the space - we were inside the stadium, but there was a breeze and sunlight pouring in. The view from even the seats furthest from the field were amazing, and I could imagine the view from just about anywhere in the stadium being great. Our seats were in section 130 - field level just before the left field reserved seats. We only couldn't see one little corner of left field, and had to turn our heads to see the diamond, but overall they were great seats. As 1:30 p.m. rolled in, so did the shade, which gave us some relief from the hot sun baking us since 12:30 p.m. when we sat down. It was a tough day for Mets baseball - no Wright, no Reyes, no Sheffield. And let's face it - we got creamed. But overall, it was a great first-time-at-the-new-ballpark experience, and I can't wait to go back.

I do have a few questions/complaints that I've seen/heard around the Mets blog community before: What is with "Sweet Caroline" and why no "Meet the Mets?" Singing "Sweet Caroline" I can deal with, but "Meet the Mets" is a Mets game staple and I felt lost without it. Is this any every game kind of thing? Or are they just playing it certain games? What's the deal?