Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plagues (not really though...)

Do frogs chirp? Well, they do in Georgia! When I returned from Berlin, I started hearing a new sound that seemed to come from the house across the street. I thought it was some sort of a new bird or Georgian animal. It was a Georgian animal, but it was not only found in my neighbors house. As I was walking past the school, I heard the noise again, and looked in the gutter and noticed that there were frogs. LOTS of frogs. They have taken over Georgia, and, if people who were here last summer can be trusted, they are here to stay. Fortunately for me, they all hang out way down the street on my street, so I hear them as I walk home, but never from my home. I took some video from the corner of the school, which is where I hear them the loudest.
(again having some issues with the uploading of the video, so it will be put in at a later date... Fixed thanks to Mc Ds)

Speaking of frogs, and plagues, and passover... What does pascal mean? Pascal lamb and pesakh, these are all words I have grown up on, but have no idea what they mean. I bring it up because as I type, I have no internet and can't look it up, and because of a great Easter cake they make here called “pasqa”, which has to come from the word pascal, right? My host grandmother, Margo, made a whole batch that we finally finished off a couple days ago, but yesterday she made a whole new batch. It is great!

Berlin Cont.

A sentence uttered by the tour guide today in Berlin. “so people pay 5 euros to a pair of strippers to invalidate their passport.”

I realized that I posted the pictures of Berlin without telling you what happened in Berlin after dropping in on the grand-parental units.
On the Thursday of my quick trip to Berlin, I took an eight hour walking tour that was awesome! Yes, everyone who has known me since I was little, I voluntarily went on a tour in which I had to WALK. As the shock wears off, it was actually a great tour and we had a lot of fun. It was four of us, two girls from China who were studying in Singapore and visiting Berlin for a break, and a guy from the states who was studying in London who was visiting Berlin on break, and me, teaching in Georgia and visiting Berlin on break (by this point, Easter vacation had begun). Out tour guide was great and showed us all over. I showed the picture of Takheles, the building that artists are currently in, and the bank is trying to kick them out. We went inside and I helped on the the artists set up his studio. It was fun and really interesting. I have tried to find out more about it online, but not a whole lotta-luck. Maybe you can find stuff and send it to me.
We walked all over Berlin and saw many really famous and important places, but the craziest part of the tour came when we went to Check Point Charlie. Now, as you know, I had been there on the first day, but this is what makes walking around and walking around with a tour guide so different. Our tour guide said this was her least favorite place in Berlin because it is so fake. She pointed out that the Americans did not have a huge issue with border crossing, it was the Soviets who would have had the major checkpoint. Then she pointed to the pictures that were up as a billboard to show you which side you were going toward. On one side was an American soldier and on the other, a Russian. Now, if they wanted to be accurate, they might have wanted to the soldier from America to not wear his pin that showed he fought in the gulf war. And the Russian would have had the Soviet flag, not the Russian Federation flag on his uniform... Maybe... But the worse/best part were the two people in American Uniforms. I mentioned them in the previous post, that one of my friends was thinking about getting the stamp because she hadn't gotten any stamps on her passport yet (silly European union). But when we saw how much it cost to get the stamp, we laughed and left. It was a good thing too, because, even though there were no signs warning you about it, letting the “soldiers” stamp your passport would actually INVALIDATE your passport. That's right, pay five Euros and then some hundred more in your own country to get another passport... Not a good deal at all. The stamp just said “east Berlin”... But the last part she told us about was the best! The people who stand there all day have another job. She asked us to tell her what we thought it was, and through we all guessed different professions, only one came close with the guess of models. They are “adult entertainers”. she pointed out the van that they are taken to work in and they are all strippers for this one company that obviously has a deal with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Who wouldn't want to pay a stripper to invalidate their passport? Well, uh, I wouldn't...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Berlin Pictures

Berlin Pictures:

Well, the pictures came in backwards this time, and I have tried to fix it twice, but we are just going to go with it.

I have amazing grandparents!

The memorial to the Jewish Victims of the Holocaust

Bubbe-Zeyde. This memorial was really special.

 Kolwitz is the name of the A&C shack at Camp Kinderland. Here was some of her work in a very special memorial. Below was the tomb of the unknown soldier and freedom fighter. Above was a hole in the ceiling so that when it snowed it snows on the grieving mother, if it rained, it rains on her, etc.

A length of the Berlin Wall is still there. You can see where people chipped away at it .

From my first time at the Jewish Memorial

These translate as stumbling stones. They are the names of people murdered in the death camps outside the last known "chosen" place of residence. They are found all over Berlin and are slightly higher than the rest of the street forcing you to notice them.  I thought of the chalk markers in New York that honor the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. 

This building has a really neat history. It is the center of a huge fight between artists and a bank. We went in and heard from the artists. It was really interesting.
Staking out the point of attack... I mean, uh, the reunion with my grandparents.

So I just noticed that I messed up standing over the line. The brick my left foot is standing on is what the wall was...

I hate the Kiev airport (not as much as I hate the one in Tbilisi), but these were funny. Birds everywhere. It took me too long to get my camera out of my bag to catch the whole flock of them hanging around inside the terminal.

Israel Pictures

A post based on pictures that I think you should see and that I didn't leave room for in previous posts.

Some from Israel:



Western Wall. I didn't go in, because I would have had no idea from what to do next.

Old City Jerusalem is not just a tourist site. It is a neighborhood! Next to the basketball hoop was a Tree House.

Well, even if they hate of the Yiddish Language, they recognize the literature.

I was told that Peretz had a street too, but I couldn't find it. These two were right next to each other.

So this is the President's compound. I was walking back to Dor's and passed this and saw all the security and went HUH? Dor's apartment was right around the corner...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


One of the neatest things about traveling is that you come across so many different languages. As you all know, when I got to Israel, the whole blog got shifted because I decided I did not need the whole page to be translated into English like I did in Georgia, because my now, I know which buttons to click. In Israel, this made for a very Yiddish/Hebrew style writing, that was so funny, I had to keep it. Well, as I write today, there is yet another language on the page Google is offering to translate for me. German. Yes, I sat in Poti preparing to sleep the vacation away, and thought, hey, my grandparents from NY are traveling across Europe... Wouldn't it be fun if I surprised them in Berlin! Ok, so with slightly more planning than that story suggests (but not that much) I am now in a hostel in Berlin down the street from Bubbe-Zeyde's gorgeous hotel.
Last night, I went to the hotel before they checked in and walked up to them with video camera in hand (tonight I will see about getting the video into the blog-DONE!)
and did not kill them, as many in the hostel predicted I would do. We had a very fun evening and today, we are going to spend the afternoon doing something. 
The best part of this is that I have people here at the hostel to hang out with a explore with when they are busy with their tours, but who I can leave when they become free. Yesterday, I hung out with a few people from Australia and we visited Checkpoint Charlie, one of the checkpoints between East and West Berlin.

We also went shopping and created a great pasta using cottage cheese which we bought thinking is was cream cheese, which the Australians had discovered was very good as a cream for your sauce at a previous hostel. We discovered that cottage cheese is really good in pasta and veggies too.
I LOVE seeing new places and meeting new people, but I am starting to get really sick of the act of traveling. I love getting on a plane and take off and landing, but the whole getting to go on the tarmac isn't really novel or cool anymore, and flying through the night and getting no rest is not my favorite way to travel. I got to Berlin thinking I would take a nap and being scared I would sleep through the night. Luckily this hostel, Helter Skelter, is a really cool place with people to meet and hang out with everywhere.
Let's review. In the last week, I have been sunburned in Tel Aviv, food poisoned in Tbilisi, taken care of in Poti, stood up by a train in Poti (a story I might tell in a post about transportation in Georgia), Marshutka-ed to Tbilisi, spent a four hour layover in the Kiev Airport (an airport that is INSANE), taken the Bahn in Berlin (also an insane experience with no map!), and surprised grandparents in Berlin. Not a bad week at all...

Monday, April 9, 2012

The rest of Israel

I am back in Poti after a whirlwind tour of Israel.
After the family filled weekend (the weekend in Israel is Friday and Saturday), I went to Jerusalem and stayed with one of Adi's friends. I wandered through the Old City of Jerusalem and had an amazing time. I got lost so many times, it was kinda amazing. I was trying to get from the Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall and kept on finding myself looped back to the Christian and Armenian Quarters... I finally found the Wall and saw the Temple Mount. I had done a project in a Tech Theater class involving designing and building a set for a play of our choosing. I chose Lysistrata, a Greek play about the woman going on strike until the wars end. In my version of the play, the war the women want ended is the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the temple they lock themselves in to keep the men away was the Temple Mount. I poured over pictures and then built a miniature Temple out of Balsa wood. After so much pain to paint the mosaic on my mini, it was something else entirely to see it in person and think about the work it took to create such an amazing building.

After all the adventures of the Old City, I decided the next day to see some dead land. And by that I mean the desert next to the craziest body of water in the world. When they say you can float in the dead sea, that is not the weirdest part! Or maybe that was the part I was expecting so it wasn't so unusual. What got me was the water itself. It has this slick oily feeling that was just insane! Also nuts, if you reached down to grab some sand while in the water (in the shallow end, since you do NOT put your head in this water... your eyes would burn for days!) you bring up these huge things of salt. Then rub it in all over and exfoliate. Not too hard, or you will irritate your skin and then you need to get OUT of the water.
That night, I headed back to Tel Aviv to prepare for an Interview for my job last year with the Wexler Oral History Project of the Yiddish Book Center. I did the whole thing in Yiddish with a wonderful Yiddish Poet, and except for the minor glitches, it was a great interview. I spent the afternoon with my second cousin once removed Irit (Gilli's mother) and we went for a walk on the Harbor.

And I have a bit of advice for anyone who is going to go to the beach in Tel Aviv... That sun is STRONG. One coat of sunscreen will not last you the day, especially if you fall asleep lying on the beach...

Luckily for me (at the time), I did not have an idea of how sunburned I was and managed to have a great day shopping in the Shuk and at the crafts fair. I did get myself a nice sun hat to protect myself from the sun here in Georgia, because I have not yet seen any sign of sunscreen in the stores.
Now that I am back in Poti, it is actually Easter vacation. Eastern Orthodox's Easter is this coming Sunday. I realized that, being in the old city last Sunday and seeing all the people with palm leaves, and being in Georgia yesterday for their Palm Sunday, I have seen the celebrations twice. Anyway, I need to find something to do with this vacation after my last vacation. Probably rest... a whole lot...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Large Family

Happy April Fools Day! You know, when I was, maybe 10 or 11, my wonderful father whom I love so well almost convinced me that he would let me skip school and would take me to an amusment park. I KNEW it was April 1st and still the only reason he did not get the chance to say April Fools was that I remembered that the parks would not be open this early in spring.
Today's 1st of April was a lot less eventful or trick-some, though sleeping in a room with blinds that actually keep out the sun meant I overslept by a lot (only a lot when you consider I have many places to visit and see and limited time to do and see them) I plan to write this post and then head out into the Old City of Jerusalem. But first, a little about my doings after Tel Aviv.
Kobi and Noemi, Adi's parents and my Dad's second cousins, picked me up from Adi's and took me to their GORGEOUS house in Raanana. Friday was a pretty chill day with a trip to the mall to get a video recorder as the highlight. It was certainly an educational trip though, because every car that parked in the mall's garage had to go through security that involved them checking the trunk. It felt like we were crossing the border, and Kobi makes this trip every week to get groceries. We talked a little about what life was like at some of the heights of the tension and what it is like for Kobi to go to another country and walk into a shop without going through metal detectors and having your bags scanned.
That night, I went to meet family I have almost definitely never met before. My grandmother's cousin Gerry and his wife Elaine, I may have met when I was a baby (same as almost all the family from my Dad's side) but I had never met their kids or grandchildren. It happened to be the date set to celebrate Gerry and Ellie's 60th Wedding Anniversary, so the whole family was gathered. I heard all sorts of things about my Bubbe and her mother, known in our family as Bubbe Pauli. Gerry told me that he was so happy his "tanta" (aunt) Pauli had such a wonderful namesake, and I blushed for the rest of the evening. I also got some dirt on my own bubbe!
I have always known my Bubbe Helen was an amazing lady. She knows a little something (and sometimes a whole lot more) about everything and always wants to learn more. She also loves to travel and I grew up with my mother and her taking trips all over the world (this fall they were in Spain and France looking at ancient cave art!). I had already known that when she visited my Mom in Ireland the two of them had hitch-hiked (I was quite horrified when I found that out). But Friday night, I learned that my Bubbe is even more of a daredevil.
I have not been able to confirm any of this with her, but the story I heard last night went as follows. The first time that she went abroad on her own was to Egypt. And she was taking a boat along the Nile when the boatman invited her to come to a Nigerian wedding. Ok, know what, that sounds really cool, and if I had ONE OTHER FRIEND to go with me, I would be there in a heartbeat. But wait, the wedding is on an island somewhere and the boatman will come and pick her up. Let me be clear here. My Bubbe, my grandmother, let a strange man take her to a wedding on an Island where she knew no one. Bubbe, are you nuts?! I mean, I know that a lot of my travel bug comes from BOTH sets of grandparents, but you would be horrified if I did something like that! I would be horrified if I did that! But since it all turned out fine (my bubbe is still going all over the world), when I get home, I want to hear all about this Nigerian Wedding.
It was a full family weekend, because Saturday we celebrated Itamar's birthday. Now I got to see all the family from my Dad's side. I went from my Mom's Mom's first cousin to my Dad's Dad's first cousin. Chava was amazing, though why I should expect any different from a Katz woman, I can't say. We sat next to each other and spent the whole meal going back and forth in English and Yiddish. She told me about why her family ended up in Israel when my branch came to the States. It seems her mother a nurse for the king of Egypt's family.
I am very lucky in family. We all live so far away, but the first cousins on both sides of my family have all been so close and made sure that they progeny felt the same way. In other families, 3rd cousins means nothing, but not in mine. First of all, I want to know more about my great-great grandparents who must have taught something of this to their children that they all stayed so close across the world at a time when there was no internet and cell phones, but telegrams and snail mail. And thank you to their families who all managed to continue the tradition of strong family values. We might not agree on anything politically or (more importantly sometimes) in sports, but we are family.

An Edit: I have been informed that it was a Nubian Wedding, not a Nigerian one. Honestly much cooler. And she did go with friends she had met on the trip. So, the moral of story is, I am following in my amazing Grandmother's footsteps. And she isn't as insane as originally thought.