Shalom wonderful people!
It’s been a while! Life has been a little loco poco these past few weeks, but I’ve finally settled down in my own bed with a cup of nana tea, a hefty slice of halva and a blank word document. In other words, it’s writing time!
Three weeks ago, after a 24-hour turn-around in Israel from Spain, Mimi and I hopped on a plane to Cyprus— an island 45 minutes from Israel’s coast. I’d like to say that we were taking the whole 24-hour turn-around thing in stride, that we had glowing happy faces and that we were brimming with energy. In truth, though, we were beat. We had such an early flight out on Friday morning that we had to take the last train to the airport on Thursday night and snooze on the airport floor. Trust me, it was just as unglamorous as it sounds. None the less, we arrived in Cyprus Friday morning and took a bus to Limassol, a port city on the southern, Greek side of Cyprus. Limmasol proved to be restful and just what we needed. We spent our first few days there, walking along the coastline, visiting the Kourion ruins, befriending the barista at a local artisan coffee shop, admiring street art and eating lots of fresh fish (you know how I do).
We took a bus to Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus, on our third day. Nicosia had a more energetic vibe than Limassol. We crossed the border to the Turkish side of the city one afternoon and explored a beautiful mosque before buying a few homemade desserts from a street vendor. We were far from the touristy area by that point, meaning we got lots of questionable looks, hollers and suggestive honks while we sat on the bench in the town square to enjoy our deserts. After having been in Europe for so long it was a bit jarring to be thrown back into a public place where we were addressed in such a manner. I have never experienced cat-calling or this type of attention as a woman anywhere else in the world to the same extent that I have while living and traveling in the Middle East. Sometimes I find it jarring and uncomfortable, other times I find it humorous and nonsense. That afternoon, though, Mimi and I were so wiped out that we just sat there, shook our head and sighed. The next day we headed back to Larnaca, the city we had flown into. We visited a few art galleries, had an amazing platter of calamari and shrimp and hopped on a plane to…..Budapest?!
Yes, Budapest. I am aware that the Cyprus-Budapest combination is funky and not too logical, but when cheap flights come knocking at yo door ya gotta string them together as best you can! In this case, we flew from Cyprus to Budapest for $23. A total steal. Anyways, we arrived in Budapest and checked into our hostel right off of St Stephen’s Square. The hostel turned out to be more like an apartment, so Mimi and I got our own room. The biggest pluses of this were that we had our own TV so I was able to watch the women’s downhill skiing World Cup (held at Squaw Valley this year) and that we weren’t woken up by any random people snoring (the greatest downside of dorm style hostels). #thankful
Budapest. Was. Awesome. We logged an easy 10 to 15 miles a day wandering around the city. Notable excursions included the Holocaust memorial, the Great Synagogue, the Hungarian Parliament building, the National Art Gallery (I am officially museumed-out at this point), the gorgeous river and the insane food. Who knew Budapest held the key to culinary success in Eastern Europe? We dined on smoked salmon, poached eggs, tasty smoothies, homemade almond milk and exquisite pastries for breakfast. Mimi found boutique coffee everywhere, and I was on the hunt for the perfect teas and hot chocolates. Lunches and dinners ranged from roasted lamb with coconut cream mashed potatoes to salmon with pesto risotto and real sushi. The best meal of all (which has officially made the “top ten meals of my life” list) was from a tiny restaurant that served Jewish Hungarian food with a modern twist. It was a perfectly cooked branzino (whole fish) stuffed with garlic and lavender, complemented by artisan mushrooms and fennel. Simple. Tasteful. And absolutely divine.
After five days in Budapest, we boarded our final plane (for now) to Israel, arriving just in time for the beginning of second semester. It’s been a whirlwind of readjusting to school schedules, remembering Hebrew (eek), settling back into dorm living and getting to know all the new second semester students. The student demographic is completely different than last semester. We have far fewer Americans and Jews in the group. In this sense, it’s a lot more diverse. We have students from Germany, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Canada, China, and Switzerland. Truly a melting pot! I love it!
In addition to getting to know new people, I’ve also been spending time getting to know my new classes. I’m stoked on the lineup, which includes a class on water resource conflicts in the Middle East, a class on the organizational structure and operating of sustainable businesses, a class on lost and isolated Jewish communities and a class on the legacy of the Holocaust in modern-day Israeli society…plus Hebrew, of course! A perfect mix of environmental sustainability and Jewish studies. PSA ya girl has officially picked up a Jewish Studies minor!
Putting ALL of those exciting updates aside, the coming weeks may prove to be even more wonderful…because…spoiler alert: the one and only Gretch and Grandma Dianne touch down in the HOLIEST OF LANDS this Thursday (and then a week later Hannah and Padj arrive). You can’t imagine my excitement. Get ready to read about a whole lot of happy moments!
Love you all. A lot. A lot.