Home(stead) and Away

I’m being harassed by several people in my life to post here more often… and, considering I’m neglecting some things, and haven’t written here in over a month, they’re probably right.

I have things planned for this blog, too. I was going to have all sorts of fun with posts during the semester, but then life slapped some sense into me. And now it’s winter break and I’m trying to take advantage of the last few weeks I’m going to be in this country until (probably. Hopefully?) August.

Sigh. It’ll happen eventually!

Now, to catch up. The weekend before Thanksgiving (geez, was it really that long ago?) I volunteered at Homestead Miami Speedway, at the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It was the final event of the semester for the field experience program and I was low on hours, so I signed up for a full day that Saturday.

Brave? Absolutely. Stupid? Perhaps. But you know me, always working! Or something.

I got there at around 10 or 10:30 in the morning, and actually had to get accreditations. It was really cool! We all had official lanyards that we had to wear around the track all day and gave us special access. I mean, the only places I went were the photo bubble and the media center, but still. I was official.

The first shift that morning had started at some ungodly hour (6:30, I think), so I headed up to our headquarters in the media center to meet up with Dr. Scott and get my assignment. It turned out that a person that I’m really not a fan of was the event manager for the day. Basically, we’d had a group assignment together a year or so ago, and he slacked off; I did the whole thing and got a 98 for our group. And now I found myself having to take direction from this clown?

It ended up being fine. I am, of course, absolutely incapable of being outright rude to anyone, so I bit the bullet and did what he said. He’s not actually incompetent, he just made that one semester a living hell. Ya know. No big deal. After all, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

But anyway, my assignment was the “photo bubble.” Another girl took me over there, where I found out that “photo bubble” meant the photographer headquarters that was sectioned off with glass, forming a sort of bubble comprised of the majority of the room. My job would be to sign in the photographers as they came, and hand out numbered vests.

Cool and all, but there were a minimum of four of us at that desk at all times, and we had maybe one photographer come to us every fifteen minutes. Needless to say, the highlight of my morning was stocking the fridge in there with Gatorade.

Oh, and I also drank like three of them. Volunteering’s gotta have some perks, right? Ours was free Gatorade. Yay sponsorship!

Luckily, at around 3:00 I got moved out of the photo bubble and into the media center. I was stationed with another girl at the welcome desk to answer questions. It wasn’t a particularly riveting job, but it was quieter and closer to both the food and the bathroom (priorities, people). We got to see some drivers pass through on their way to press conferences, and popped outside to watch the beginning of the race. Man, was it LOUD. Really cool, though.



I was only there for a few hours until I was moved again, upstairs into the actual media center. There was more to do up there, so I was definitely excited for the change in scenery! Papers would get faxed in, and they had to be copied and handed out to the room full of reporters working on their stories. Every now and then I’d be handed a stack of papers – the current leaderboard, or what-have-you – and walk up and down the aisles of tables and add them to the growing stacks of literature next to each station.

Things really picked up when the race ended, and it got exciting. The results were coming in and had to be handed out almost faster than we could handle, so it involved very little down time and a lot of really fast walking. By now it was around 9 pm; after having had little, if not nothing, to do all day, I was thrilled. What I was doing was more public relations than journalism, but either way, it was really cool to be in the media center and just sort of feel that vibe.

Yes, I’m a nerd that likes what she does.

I ended up getting to leave earlier than my scheduled 11 pm departure time. Everything was wrapped up and we weren’t really needed anymore. My ride had bailed an hour or so earlier because he was feeling sick, so I hitched a ride with the girl I was at the welcome desk with. By the time I got back to my dorm, it was about a twelve-hour day. I’m tired just reminiscing about it.

I really hope it doesn’t just sound like I’m whining. I’d love long days if I was busy the whole time, ya know? These things might look really good on my resume, but I’m actually trying to get some experience out of them too. And stocking Gatorade really isn’t on my list of life goals.

Does this mean I dream too big?

Alas. It’s a curse.

…But really, is it weird that I want to be worked harder?

Anyway.

Hey, I’m going to London on Wednesday! And I’m starting to freak out a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited beyond belief, but I’m really nervous for the first few days. Actually, just the first day, really. I’m landing at 10:30-ish am, so I’ll be jetlagged, exhausted, overwhelmed, and most likely PMSing. I’ll have to move into my new room by myself, attempt to make friends, and go shopping for linens and dishes and food in a city I’ve lived in for a grand total of never.

So yeah. Freaking.

But I know I’ll be fine. I went to camp by myself and was fine. I did Endurance by myself and was fine. I went to college by myself and was fine. Okay, apparently I do a lot of things by myself. Never anything on a different continent, but hell, if I could survive reality television, study abroad is gonna be a piece of cake.

It’s also a comfort that this stage of panic happens to me before all important and significant life events. Even Endurance, which I wanted with a burning desire for years; the night before, I had moments of sheer terror where all I could think was OMG NO I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS. I CAN’T.

But I know myself, and it’s only because change scares me. I like routine and comfort, so newness is kind of terrifying. I know that my life is going to change, but I like the way it is now, so even if it’s going to get better, I’m nervous about it.

Just get me through the first week and I’ll be golden. :)

And besides, the Universe sent me this message:



Eggnog, anyone?

I’ll see you all on the other side of the new year, and from the other side of the Atlantic!


Short and Sweet

I have far too much work to do right now, to the point where I don't even want to think about it, so I'll keep this very simple and write a monster post about my latest volunteering adventures at a later date.

SO.

What's got two thumbs and is now officially cleared to work in the UK?



THIS GUY! (And yes, I'm actually this excited about the potential to work!)

And my resume and clips have officially been sent off to people involved with press at LOCOG with an awesome vote of confidence from their colleague that's helping me out. AWESOME, I tell you!



Pray for me while I go write a 15-page paper, finish two travel writing stories, write my last short story for creative writing, and do research for an ethics group project...

How am I going to get things accomplished while I'm waiting to hear back from LOCOG, you ask? LOL no idea.

The Rollercoaster Ride Called My Life

It’s been an interesting few days. An interesting few weeks, really.

First and foremost, guess where I am OFFICIALLY studying abroad during the spring semester!



Yeahhhh buddy! :) It really isn’t breaking news anymore, but better late than never, right? I’ve submitted my housing application and course preferences and everything. I cannot wait to go!

Like I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, I’m trying to get an internship or volunteer for the Olympics while I’m there. The contact I made with LOCOG was kind of AWOL for a while, so I emailed him again and he asked if there’s a number he can reach me at. Eek! An unknown number called me this weekend, but I was in Orlando (to be explained in a minute) and couldn’t talk, so they left a voicemail. I’m kind of wondering if it’s him. I should probably check that (but I’m really nervous so I’m putting it off until tomorrow, when I can feasibly call him back. Heh.)

Has anyone ever tried getting a visa before, though? Because, oh my god, I’m terrified. Literally terrified. I need a gazillion documents, none of which are specifically listed, so all I have is this extremely fuzzy, vague idea of what’s going on. I have an appointment at the British consulate in Miami so they can fingerprint me on Wednesday, and I need to get everything in within two weeks after that. My study abroad advisor told me to call and ask the British Council in Washington, DC… but I went to their website and it said they don’t accept questions by phone. So I emailed them, and haven’t heard back. Can you tell I’m freaking out a little bit (read: a lot)? I think I’ll just ask what I need when I’m actually at the consulate.

SO. OVERWHELMED. Good lord. But if things actually work out the way I’m praying they do, it’ll ALL be worth it. Every single penny of the $433 application fee and every bit of stress. Seriously. So worth it. I just have to keep wearing my London Does It Better shirt to remind myself!



*Sexy transition* (← Makes sense if you watch the What the Buck? Show on YouTube.)

This weekend, there was the National College Media Convention in Orlando. Most of the editorial staff of The Hurricane went, and it was a really great experience. All of the sessions I went to were awesome; I really feel like I learned a lot. And it was great bonding with the staff!

But at the same time, it was a really stressful weekend. It was all newspaper, all the time. I’ve known for a while that I definitely don’t want to work for a newspaper after I graduate, and all the talk about how much we need to improve the paper was a tad overwhelming, especially since I’m just not good at opinion.

Yeah, it’s true. It’s just not for me. I mean, it’s a fairly easy enough section to handle, and I’m really on top of my rundowns and getting content up in time (for the most part). But writing editorials? LOL. Apparently I’ve been doing a worse job than I even thought, and nobody felt the need to tell me, but instead just complain about my writing when I’m not in the newsroom. I’ve been very clear with everyone that I have no idea what I’m doing and to PLEASE give me feedback so I can learn, but I’ve only been called to sit in on the editing process twice. Now there are only eight issues left, and of course I’m going to keep trying and attempt to put some stuff I learned this weekend to use, but I’m really unhappy with the way this was handled. I’ve been trying really hard, and I feel like it's all for naught. (Side note: Thankfully I'm getting tons of positive feedback from the folks at Xanga and Lovelyish, otherwise I'd be having a serious personal crisis.)

So THAT was (is) a bummer. I’ve felt for a while that I’m not entirely comfortable writing opinion, but this was the final nail in the coffin. I don’t think I’m going to miss it much when I’m abroad next semester. I’ll miss the people like crazy, but the actual work? No. Not even a little bit. I’ll have to decide whether or not I want to rejoin the staff when I come back, because at this point, I don’t even know.

Luckily, though, because I know opinion isn’t my thing, I went to a bunch of sessions for my own personal needs. For instance, a great session called “Get That Internship,” and another one called “Making Money Blogging.” A lot of it was common sense but not really plausible for me (ex: he told us we need some sort of inside connection and access to information nobody else has, like if you personally know a celebrity). But hearing all this talk about doing things only because you’re passionate about them got me SO excited about this here blog!

Even if I somehow don’t get to be directly involved in the Olympics in London, I’m still going to BE in London. I’ll be able to visit the facilities and have my thumb on the pulse of what’s actually going on as the clock ticks closer to the Opening Ceremonies. I will DEFINITELY be using this as a reporting tool. I can’t wait to become an unofficial member of the press and get out there! Expect tons of photo essays!

I think I’m going to try to do some other stuff on here even before that. I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to have some more “exclusive” content somehow, and the session I went to only enforced that thought. But how to do that? After all, I’ve only ever really spoken to one Olympian, and he didn’t answer the last email I sent him.

NEVER FEAR!

Remember Awaken the Olympian Within? I finished it last week or so, and LOOK WHAT’S IN THE BACK!



I CAN’T EVEN. I love the Olympics so much, have I mentioned that? Like, IS THIS REAL? YOU MEAN I CAN WRITE TO MIKE ERUZIONE? AND NADIA COMANECI? AND DAN JANSEN? AND AL JOYNER? AND JEFF BLATNICK? And I could CALL THEM?! Seriously, shut up. This can’t be real.

It is, though. The book was published in 1999 so who knows how correct any of this is anymore, but still!

Anyway, I’ll stop fangirling for a moment and mention two stories I’ve dog-eared since the last time I wrote about this book.

The first is by Bonny Warner, a luger from the ‘80s and early ’90s. She wrote about how a professional explorer came to her high school and, in his speech, told everyone to write down what their dreams and goals for their lifetime were. Here’s her list:

-To go to a top college.
-To become an Olympian.
-To work for ABC-TV.
-To obtain a private pilot’s license.
-To built a log cabin.

And guess what? She went to Stanford. She was on three Olympic teams. She became the expert luge analyst for ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” She earned her pilot’s license and, at the time of publication, was the captain of a Boeing 727 for a major airline. Her story ended with, “I call it my dream job. However, I have one more dream to go…Remember the log cabin? I’m setting up the plan now.”

This gave me the biggest goosebumps. I can’t even put into words how much this affected me, and still does. In my elementary school’s fifth grade yearbook, we were told to write what we wanted to be when we grew up. What did I want to be? An author and an Olympic athlete.

I’d completely forgotten about those dreams until fairly recently, after I’d already altered and sort of combined them. I was chasing my lifelong goals before I’d even realized they were life-long. Bonny gives me so much hope that this might actually happen for me.

I want to write to her and ask if she ever built that log cabin.



The other story I marked was by Henry Marsh, a steeplechase runner from the ‘70s and ‘80s. He himself says that his story “fits more into the category of what the world would call a tragedy – the kind you turn into a country song.”

He goes on to say, “I choose to think that my Olympic experiences helped shape my life, much for the better. Sometimes, in fact, I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t had to endure a good dose of what the poets call ‘character-building experiences.’ If I had won my gold medal, or gold medals, would the lessons that followed have been as satisfying or as valuable?”

This is when I started getting interested in a significant way. This is such a huge part of my philosophy because of Endurance. It’s like he reached into my skull, yanked out my beliefs, and splattered them on paper. I didn’t win by a long shot, but I think my lack of success there made me appreciate what I learned so much more than I think the more successful contestants could. I learned so much about myself through failure and betrayal than I ever could have through victory.

He continued, “I know this: By not finishing first and by not realizing the fulfillment of all my dreams – when everyone in the world, myself included, fully expected that I would – I was able to gain a much greater appreciation for, and understanding of, the Olympic Creed:

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well. –Pierre de Coubterin”

I read this while sitting on a plane (I really should’ve learned my lesson with the Jeff Blatnick story, shouldn’t I?) and my jaw literally dropped. I never thought about it like this before. I’ve been living my life by the Olympic Creed and didn’t even realize it.

It’s things like this that make a dream that seems harder to achieve every day feel like it’s within my grasp. I love being reaffirmed that I’m not crazy for wanting this so badly. I live by this creed; no wonder I love it so much!

…Really, can I just blog about the Olympics for the rest of my life and be done with it?

How I Know I Want To Do What I Want To Do

Okay, so I have some important life things to report, but I’ve decided to put those off until a later date and instead talk about something else.

I’ve had this book called “Awaken the Olympian Within” for the longest time, and never got around to reading it. Well, at the end of this summer, I was on a reading kick and decided to bring it to Miami with me. I have basically zero free time, but this book is a bunch of individual anecdotes from past Olympians – I can (and have) put it down for over a month at a time and not forget any plot points.

Yesterday, I left for a trip with my travel writing class. We’re writing stories about Grand Teton National Park, and to get here we flew from Miami to Dallas, and from Dallas to Salt Lake City. I brought “Awaken the Olympian Within” with me to read on my flights when electronics had to be turned off. So I read several chapters when we took off out of Dallas, and a few more as we were landing in Salt Late City. The last one I read was by a guy named Jeff Blatnick.



Blatnick was a Greco-Roman wrestler, and won gold in the 1984 Olympics after being diagnosed with Hogdkin’s Disease (cancer) two years previously. He talked about how he was into sports as a kid but always sat on the bench, until his brother David introduced him to the high school wrestling coach. He wrote:

“Quickly growing in speed and strength, I flourished on the mat. Soon I was defeating people who had beaten me months earlier. I was improving and motivated. My brother David and his buddies started showing up at the gym whenever I had an important match and, if I did well, I heard them pounding their feet in unison on the bleachers, the sound echoing off the walls. Even after he joined the Air Force, David would come home on occasion and stomp on the bleachers with his pals.

“In 1977, David was a passenger on a motorcycle that didn’t negotiate a sharp turn and he was thrown. He died shortly thereafter. My brother had brought me to my sport, but he was taken away before he could see my success.”

Jeff got diagnosed with cancer in 1982 (two years after he should’ve competed in the 1980 Games had there not been a boycott), and went into remission six months later. Of course, I’m not doing the story justice by summarizing it, but in a nutshell, he rehabbed, got back into top form, and made it to the Olympics. Before the gold medal match, he wrote:

“In an age-old ritual, my dad said, ‘Get mad, son!’ and I responded as I always had, ‘If you get mad, you get stupid.’ He patted my shoulder and I thought my family had given me all the encouragement possible until, as I walked toward the mat, mom whispered in my ear, ‘Do it for Dave.’”

So four years later than he should’ve, Blatnick became the second American in history to win an Olympic medal in Greco-Roman wrestling, and it was gold. And he’d beaten cancer. All really inspirational stuff, but his story ended with this:

“Perhaps it was just my imagination, but as I stepped up to receive my gold medal, amid the clapping and cheering of the partisan American crowd, I thought I heard the sound of feet pounding in unison on the bleachers, echoing off the walls.”

I read this and broke down.

Okay, I wasn’t wailing or sobbing or anything, but I cried. And not just teared up, either – I legitimately had to wipe my eyes so tears weren’t rolling down my face. I don’t even understand why! I mean, I’ve read and seen and heard about all sorts of inspirational and heartbreaking stories like this. Hello, Dan Jansen wrote an earlier chapter of the book. It doesn’t get much more heartbreaking, yet I was dry-eyed. But for Jeff Blatnick and his brother, I couldn’t keep it together.

And then we landed, and the flight attendant said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Salt Lake City.”



I wasn’t expecting that to be as big a deal as it was, either, but suddenly I was THERE. This is where Sarah Hughes won her gold medal, where Apolo competed when I first discovered him, where Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded a gold medal after that whole judging scandal. This is where so much of my passion for the Olympics started. And then I was crying about Jeff Blatnick and his brother and being in Salt Lake City and wondering why the hell I had no control over my tear ducts. Luckily I had an empty seat next to me and got myself together fairly quickly.

…Is this what a religious experience feels like?

Just kidding.

But seriously.

Even When I Have Something To Do, I Have Nothing To Do...

It’s been a really long couple of days. I mean really, reeeeally long. Like, bring-your-computer-to-work-even-though-you’re-not-allowed-to-because-you-have-so-many-assignments-to-do-that-your-hectic-schedule-didn’t-give-you-time-for kind of long.

On Thursday night, I left work early to volunteer at the women’s soccer game. It’s required for KIN410 to volunteer at four sporting events throughout the semester, and as most of them are during the weekend (when I’m either at work or volunteering for the field experience program), I had no choice but to forgo a sliver of my next paycheck in the name of a grade. And writing credit, which I don’t need. But I digress.

Tom, the guy in charge, originally told me (the day of the event, actually – love all this advance notice!) that he wanted me there at five. Five? For a game that started at 7? I told him I had work until six, and would get there at around 5:30. When he responded with “that’s fine, see you then!” I knew… I wouldn’t be doing very much.

And guess what? I was right!

Because it was required for a class, there were several other people there. Sam, the girl I’m working with on a project for that class, was there, and it was nice actually having a friend while I wasn’t doing anything. Livens things up a bit, ya know?

We didn’t have anything to do until the team started warming up, when we got to stand behind the goal and chase any missed shots so the players didn’t have to. It was actually kind of fun. I haven’t played soccer in YEARS, and it brought back lots of memories. It was nice using my deteriorating soccer skills again!

The athletic department loves getting kids to work for them during events (remember my track and field debacle from the spring?), and soccer was no different. During the game, we had kids that were the ball boys and girls, and they told us college kids to “help them out.” Aka do nothing, and occasionally nudge them to pay attention to the game. But Sam and I basically just stood around, watched the game, and chatted. Not a bad deal, I guess. It was nice to have SOMETHING to do as a volunteer.



And then we went to the food truck round-up. And then I had a super awkward experience in my bathroom, which you can read about here because I really don’t feel like reliving it. Hooray.

Today, I had my second day of volunteering with the Florida Panthers. It was the first day of practice with the full team, which I was excited for, but it also meant dragging my tired butt out of bed before sunrise again. How do you tell you didn’t get enough sleep? When you wake up to your alarm and have no idea what it means. Yeah, that was me this morning.

I only had time for about five mouthfuls of yogurt before my ride got there, which was rather unfortunate, as the only things I ate between that and 3:00 were a baggie of nuts and a granola bar. Ah, the glamorous life of a journalist.

We got there at around 7:45 for a shift that started at 8. I was assigned to web content this time (!!!!!!!), so I was super pumped to write a story. But two hours later, I was still sitting there aimlessly, watching a group of girls have an ice skating lesson on the rink in front of us. Le sigh.

My assignment was to write a story about the first practice under the new head coach, Kevin Dineen. I started looking up articles and such for background info, but there really wasn’t anything for me to do until I could talk to the guy.

The practice was broken up into halves, one from 10:30 to 11:15-ish, and then from noon to almost 1:00. During the break in between, we had locker room access to get quotes from the players (of course, Dineen wouldn’t be talking to anyone until AFTER the second practice). We just kind of sat around until then, and I didn’t even really need to talk to players, but I went in with some other volunteers and the rest of the media anyway. Why not, right? It ended up being pretty useless for my story, but it was still cool! I was in my first scrum, and recorded an interview with Scott Upshall!



Then I sat around some more. I had most of the background info on the coach written by then, so I had nothing to do. I like framing a story around the quotes I get, so I was getting really antsy.

After the second practice, the GM and coaches were coming out separately to do a press conference/interview session. A girl needed a recorder to use so she could transcribe the interview with the GM, so I gave her the one that had been in my possession all day. So she used it, and was still using it when I needed to go record Dineen’s interview. I had the stupid thing all day, except for when I needed it. Such is life.

I did get another one, though, and was in another scrum with Dineen. Again, super cool, even though it was with lots of other journalists so I didn’t have to ask any questions myself. But I felt like such a member of the media! /nerd.



So, by now it was around 1:15. I’d been sitting around doing more or less nothing since 8 am. I wrote my story, had it read over by Dr. Scott, emailed it to her, and was out of there by 2. I woke up at 6 am for a grand total of about an hour of work out of six hours spent at an iceplex.

BUT I now have a really awesome clip to send with my resume!



Awwww yeahhh. :)

And at least the media room was moderately warm. The soccer game was at night, so it wasn’t grossly hot, either. It looks like I finally ended my streak of volunteering in grossly uncomfortable temperatures! (Except for the first hour or so I was at soccer, and the few minutes I was standing by the ice waiting to get into the locker room…)

Oh, and hockey players are super cute. Just had to get that out there.

…Was I going to say something else? I don’t know. Again, my brain isn’t really functioning all that well. Kiiiiinda drowsy. One day I’ll write a well thought out blog here again, but right now I’m thinking about how much work I still have to do (that I’ve been neglecting for far too long) and how badly I just want to sleep.

I cannot wait to sleep late next Saturday. CANNOT. WAIT.

Chalk It Up To Experience

If I’ve learned anything in the past year or so, it’s the following:

1. It’s good to know people in high places, and;
2. Volunteering is never as much fun as you think it’s going to be.

Remember that time I nearly froze to death trying to hand out pamphlets for the Pinstripe Bowl? And that time I lost my body weight in sweat picking up like three javelins at a track meet? Well, today was right along those lines.



I worked (or “worked”) my first event for the field experience program today – the Florida Panthers Rookie Camp. The shift started at 8 am, and we had to be there a half an hour before that, and the iceplex is about an hour away. Do the math yet? That means leaving at at LEAST 6:30 am. The guy I got a ride with (who I thought was a girl before I met him, by the way – his name is Rayeez. How was I supposed to know?!) came at 6:15 though, just in case. So I had to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 am.

Wanna know the last time I was up that early? When I hiked Masada at sunrise. But when I woke up this morning, it wasn’t sunrise. Not even close. I was thinking wistfully of sunrise. I didn’t want to turn on a light, so I got dressed and ready by the light of the bathroom and my phone. (This was after a very interesting night, too. I’d been woken up at 2:30 am by my loud, obnoxious, drunken neighbors that I HATE WITH A PASSION getting into a shouting match in the hall, and then at like 4 am by my suitemates being loud in the bathroom. Yay.)

…And, as if on cue, the neighbors are being loud again. Have I mentioned how much I hate them? Because I really, REALLY do.

But anyway, my breakfast was a yogurt that I ate on the way to the iceplex. Rayeez was nice, as is Chloe, the other girl he drove. We got there super early (like, before Dr. Scott, the director of the program), so we sat around being cold in the lobby. We had to dress “business professional,” which would’ve been GREAT to know over the summer (like we were supposed to) so I could’ve bought a jacket to wear. I just had a cardigan, which not only toed the not-quite-business-professional line, but didn’t really keep me warm.

People finally started getting there as 8 got closer, and we got our assignments. Another girl and I were assigned to “TV/Video.” I was afraid they’d make us actually do video things – I’m kind of a print girl, and I was totally unprepared. But just as I psyched myself up and was ready to learn some things, I found out that we’d just be helping out the TV crews that would be there, just for general assistance stuff.

Okay. Cool. I can totally live with that.

Dr. Scott was saying how there’d definitely be media there today, because it was the first official day of the rookie camp, and that TV people are very needy, so we’d definitely be doing things. I was all “YES! LET’S DO STUFF!”

By now it’s after 9, and from the makeshift media room behind the rink I see a guy with a TV camera. The shift manager, Sasha, talks to him to show me what I should be doing; she basically just introduced herself and said to find one of us if he needed anything.

So I’m like ‘cool. I got this.’

Well, in the next few hours one other TV guy shows up. ONE.

ONE.



And he just went straight into the media room, so I didn’t even talk to him. I just loitered awkwardly with some other volunteers for a while. And then I went back into the media room and loitered awkwardly some more, standing up, because I felt like I should be ready to do something should the chance arise.

The chance never did arise, though, and I ended up sitting down next to a girl working on a story. YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT. There were people that got to write stories, while an editor of The Hurricane got to loiter.

Okay, I’m just bitter. I know everyone there was probably perfectly qualified to write good stories, but REALLY? I know Dr. Scott doesn’t know me, but didn’t she read my application? Most of the people working were public relations majors, whereas writing is kind of what I do. And at one point, Sasha was trying to edit the story the girl next to me was writing as it was being written, and she wanted to change a sentence that was perfectly fine. I was like NOOOO, let the former assistant sports editor edit the sports stories, plz!

So, all in all, it was NOT what I expected the day to be. I ended up just hanging around until Reeyaz was done with what he was working on, and then leaving at like 12:30-ish (even though the shift technically ended at 2). But Sasha talked to Dr. Scott about/for me, and hopefully I’ll get to write next Saturday. Today was just a practice day for the team’s rookie prospects, but next week there’ll be the whole Panthers team, plus the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators. That means lots more athletes and lots more cool story opportunities!

I did get something out of the day, though. I haven’t done any actual stories in awhile, being opinion now, and I haven’t done sports in ages either. But being in the media room and around all these athletes and journalists working on stories got me so excited to do it! I’d been kinda thinking that maybe I didn’t miss sports writing that much, but I was itching to get back to it today.

Look at me, finding a silver lining! Since when have I become an optimist? :)

(Since being a pessimist became meaning I’d be depressed all the time. Necessity ftw!)

On a completely unrelated note…

Study abroad. I’M SO FICKLE, it’s ridiculous. I’m now basically set on going to London <3. I really do want to go somewhere new, but the Olympics are going to be there in August. If there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that I could get an internship with LOCOG this spring, I’d be absolutely insane not to jump on that. I’ve already emailed everyone Olympics-related that I know about possibly having a contact over there, and my mom’s found some potential goldmines for me (again! Yaaaay!). The only unfortunate thing is that it’d have to be not for credit, since apparently Queen Mary (my potential future university) doesn’t do internships for credit. So it wouldn’t count towards my major, but DUDE WHO CARES? I’d totally do it for free on my own time anyway!



Basically, this is me asking for favors again. If anyone reading my humble little blog knows anyone that may be able to get me in touch with some Olympics folks in London, please let me know! I would love you forever and ever and ever!

Oh, and I made myself a tumblr. http://you-should-be-writing.tumblr.com/, because when I’m on it I need to be reminding myself that I’m most likely procrastinating and should probably be writing. It’s full of Remus/Tonks, other assorted Harry Potter things, and Castle. I’m doing a blow-by-blow of my camping out experience for the NYC premiere of Deathly Hallows, too, so that’s kinda fun. Yeah. Shameless self-promotion.

I feel like this entry is really garbled and tangent-y (and that’s not even a word), but I woke up at 5:30 this morning, so I’m not quite functioning at 100%.

Bedtime. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Harry Potter, The Olympics, And Passion

Why hello there! Remember me? …Yeah, didn’t think so.

I can’t believe I last posted on the fourth of July. I’m still trying to figure out where the hell my summer went, and wrap my head around the fact that I’ve already started my junior year of college. Time is moving far too fast. Sort of. There are things that I’m itching to get to already, but at the same time, I feel like I’m running flat out just to keep up and don’t have time to stop and smell the roses. It’s an odd combination.

This semester is going to be more than a little bit insane. I’m only taking four classes, but I’m working 18 ½ hours a week at the wellness center to try and make bank. Plus the newspaper, which involves long deadlines on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. Plus the field experience program, which involves 40 hours of volunteering throughout the semester. And I may only be taking four classes, but they include creative writing (for which I need to write a short story every 2-3 weeks), and travel writing (for which I actually have to do some serious traveling for the writing assignments). For KIN410, we’re required to volunteer at four sporting events. PLUS I’m still blogging for Scholarships.com, AND I’m staying with Lovelyish and Healthkicker as a contributing editor, which means a minimum of three posts a week, because I love them.

I’m super excited about, like, everything. It’s all going to be awesome. I’m just hoping I’m not overextending myself and running myself into the ground. Because (of course) every major assignment for each class is due on consecutive days with those from my other classes. So I’m gonna be majorly stressed, like, all the time. Except during midterms and finals week – two tests each! Yes!

But outside of those two weeks? Unf. I might be MIA for a while.

The reason I’m working so many hours on top of everything else is because I’m no longer just saving up for London next summer – I’m going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in November! It’s a weekend celebrating the films, complete with cast Q&As, autograph signings, and a gala. SO EXCITED. THERE ARE NO WORDS. And now that I’m in Pottermore and have been officially sorted into Hufflepuff, I can stock up on House merchandise! Woo!



Allow me to go off on a House pride tangent for a moment. I’ve always thought I was a Ravenclaw, and I was pretty surprised when it turned out that I wasn’t. But after reading the Hufflepuff welcome message that explains the House in a non-Gryffindor-biased way, I’m definitely in the right place and proud to be a badger! It’s basically a dead-on description of me. Hufflepuffs know they’re awesome but don’t feel the need to brag about it; we’re loyal, hardworking, and patient; we live quietly until we’re attacked, in which case “cross us at your peril.” For some reason, Hufflepuff is looked at as the lame House, which I honestly can’t figure out, because loyalty and not being afraid to put in some good hard work are two things that are pretty important, no? And I mean, Tonks was a Hufflepuff, as is JK Rowling herself. Most BAMF House ever? Yes. I mean, unless you don’t want to compare yourself to an Auror with pink hair and the creator of the entire HP universe…

But a part of me loves that people underestimate Hufflepuff. Being an underdog is awesome, because you get to watch everybody else have to realize how utterly wrong they were. So yeah guys, keep saying ‘Puffs aren’t smart! I’ll just wave my 4.0 GPA in your face and continue on my merry way! :)

Aaaaand end rant.

Sorry, my Harry Potter ramblings aren’t quite over yet. But it’ll end up being sort of relevant, I promise!

In my last entry, I mentioned that Bri and I were going to be camping out for the NYC premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. We did, and we did it BIG. Like, to the tune of living on the streets for five days and four nights. It was so difficult, but such an awesome experience that I treasure and wouldn’t trade for anything.



Such awesome people! LOVE YOU ALL!


How is this relevant, you ask? Passion. I’m a passionate person. When I love something, I go all out. I got called crazy so many times and watched so many eye rolls when I told people what my camping out plan was. People legitimately thought I was off my rocker. We had to endure the same stares from passers-by when we were out on the street, but after their initial shock, most people were surprisingly supportive. We had people say everything from “that’s fantastic!” to “good for you!” and even made some friends. Seriously, one night, a group of guys sat down with us because they were so blown away about how passionate we were. They were legitimately raving about how awesome it was, and they were jealous that we were so dedicated to something.

The whole thing reminded me of a birthright meeting we had before we went to Israel. It was one of those getting-to-know-you things, where we sat in a circle and answered questions about ourselves. The rabbi asked us to name something we’re passionate about. I, of course, immediately thought of the Olympics. But as we went around the circle, people were saying things like “having fun” and “my dog.”

To tell you the truth, it made me really sad. I couldn’t imagine not knowing what I’m passionate about! What kind of life is that? That may sound pretty harsh, but imagine not getting excited and fangirly about anything. I watch live streams, and read up on news, and have far too many Twitter accounts I’m following... My life would be incredibly dull without the things that I’m passionate about.

Why is being passionate viewed as a bad thing? I’m not crazy or delusional; I know Hogwarts isn’t a physical place, and these characters aren’t people that have physically existed, and I know that the Olympics isn’t the be-all-end-all of life. So why do people roll their eyes and mutter about me behind my back for being dedicated to something I love?

Seriously, if you know the answer, please enlighten me.

While this was undoubtedly the summer of Harry Potter, some Olympics things did happen. The 2018 Winter Olympics were awarded to Pyeongchang, South Korea (and I watched the decision stream live online); a member of the US ski team was suspended after peeing on someone on a plane (taking after Bode Miller a bit, I take it?); oh, and I met some members of the US Olympic team. Ya know. No big deal.



From left to right, that’s Henry Cejudo, gold medalist wrestler; Jonathan Horton, silver and bronze medalist gymnast; Nastia Liukin, gold and silver medalist gymnast; and Alicia Sacramone, silver medalist gymnast. And Chandini and me! :) They were doing a signing at the NBC Experience Store in Rockefeller Center, so we (happily) dragged ourselves out of bed super early to celebrate the ONE YEAR MARK UNTIL LONDON 2012 with some Olympians.

And get things signed. :)



They were all really nice! They all seemed genuinely happy to be there, which was great, because I hate meeting/talking to a famous person that’s a complete snob. I mean, it’s only happened once, but still. It shouldn’t have surprised me – what with my experience with Gary Hall and all – but it did.

Henry was wearing the ring he got for winning his gold medal (kind of like a SuperBowl ring, but with the Olympic rings on it instead), and I told him I liked it. We’re totes BFFs, guys.

Harry Potter and the Olympics. I’d say it was a successful summer. Let’s just hope this semester is equally as awesome!

Catching Up

Ya know, when you write blog posts for multiple hours every day for your internships, it’s very difficult to find the motivation to write blog posts in your free time. Who woulda thunk?

But anyway, hey there stranger! I’m kind of bummed that I let June fly by without writing an entry here, but that’s the thing… June flew by. As opposed to last summer, when I was counting down the days until I went back to Miami, I’m wondering where an entire month has gone. It’s amazing the difference that having something to do makes! That being said, I’ve got some updates.

1. Internships.
Heh, I never wrote about the internships I ended up getting! And yes, that is internships, as in plural! :) Internship number one is blogging for Scholarships.com. It’s virtual, and I write one 300 post a week about college-related issues. It’s super easy, and a lot of fun!

Internships number two and three are technically not separate, since they’re for sister websites. I’m blogging for lovelyish.com and healthkicker.com, which are blogging communities in the Xanga network. I have to work 15 hours and write at least eight posts total per week. So, like I said, after blogging for at least two hours a day, the last thing I want to do when I’m done is blog more. But it’s been really awesome! I make my own hours and can work from home (aka in my pajamas) or go into their office in NYC. I’ve never had an office to go to before! It’s really exciting! I’d be there all the time if it wasn’t so damn expensive to get into the city. Even though not all interns are local, we’ve had a team day for each site, and everyone is so nice! I have absolutely nothing bad to say about working at Xanga! Except the lack of income, but hey. ;) You can read all my stuff at lovelyish.com/contributors/darci and healtkicker.com/contributors/darci.

Remember how much time and effort I spent applying to internships, only to get none of them? I’d resigned myself to another summer of boredom when I got an email from Scholarships.com about applying for their virtual internship. I shrugged, thinking ‘what the hell?’, and sent my resume and writing samples. A day or two later, I got an email from the woman that’s now my boss, saying I was hired as their first virtual intern. Woo!

Similarly, I’ve had a blog on xanga.com since like seventh grade, and had been seeing posts about ‘get to know our interns!’ and I thought… hmmm, ya know, that’d be really cool. I couldn’t find any info about applying on their website, so I googled it, and sent my resume and writing samples to the email address I found. Within a few days, I had a phone interview and was told to write a couple of sample posts. A week after that, I found out that I was hired!

After all that stress and strife, I got two awesome internships that I applied for on complete whims, with minimal effort, doing something that I’ve been doing for fun since seventh grade. It’s kind of funny how life works out sometimes. Lovin’ it. :)

2. London 2012.
Let me tell you – getting tickets for the Olympics should be an Olympic sport. Neither Chandini nor I got tickets in the first lottery round, so we set our sights on the first-come, first-served second round. Then came the lies about the start time, crashed website, massive stress, blah blah blah… but Chandini got tickets! Not the ones that we originally wanted; both ceremonies were completely sold out, and track and diving were both obnoxiously expensive. But we’re going to synchronized swimming on August 6th, 2012! WOOOOO! :D I’ve never seen synchronized swimming before, it should be a fun experience. But even if the event itself isn’t, tickets were only around $65, and we’re going just to be there anyway. Now I’m going to try to contact all the Olympics people I’ve spoken to to see if I can swing anything else. I’m so excited! Eeeeek!

The money aspect isn’t something I’m looking forward to, though. Flights are going to cost us an arm and a leg, but hopefully we can find somewhere cheap to stay. So, if anyone knows someone in London that wouldn’t mind having two very quiet, very polite, very grateful houseguests that will spend most of their time away from the house, please let me know!

In a nutshell, I’M GOING TO THE OLYMPICS! YESSSSSS!



3. It’s weird not having to worry about keeping this short, or writing in a format that is understood by hundreds (or thousands, in some cases) of people. Stream of consciousness and self-centered ramblings for the win! (And yet I still do this in list form…)

4. Other fun things.
At the end of last semester, I applied for a sports journalism field experience program, and I got accepted! I think it’s a total of 40 or so hours of “skilled volunteering” over the course of the semester. We do things for the various pro teams and their special events, working with the media and such. I’m still pretty fuzzy on the details, but it’ll be really good to stay in the sports field while I’m doing opinion for The Hurricane.

The Olympics are going to be awarded to a city for 2018 pretty soon. I think it’s down to Korea, Germany, and France. Exciting and all, but I’m just waiting for the US to make another bid. *taps fingers impatiently*

Hmm, what else? Well, I’m camping out with Brianna this weekend in Lincoln Center in preparation for the Harry Potter premiere on Monday night. Yes, this isn’t Olympics related at all, but I’m obnoxiously excited that, in a week from this very moment, I may have gotten Alan Rickman’s autograph. I’ll probably have to wait until the fall (when he’s doing a Broadway show!) to actually speak to him and/or get a picture with him, but still. I’m starting to fangirl already. This is a slight problem.

It’s nice blogging about happy Olympics career-related things again! :) Happy Fourth of July!

Israel, Part 2

May 22nd

I wrote the entry for the 22nd on the bus, on the way to the Bedouin tent. Ahh, good times. :)

That morning, we had breakfast at 7:30 and then went to watch a 45-minute movie about an American who joined the Israeli army and died in battle, Michael Levin. It was really sad to watch this passionate young guy’s life be cut short, especially since he wasn’t much older than I am when he died. But I really admire his dedication to Israel.

After that, we loaded the bus and drove to the old city. It’s seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen – everything is 3,000 years old! We did a walk through a tunnel that was the water system for Jerusalem in ancient times. It was awesome! I was worried my shorts would get wet, since they were over-the-knee for the Kotel, but I rolled them up and it was fine. My cheap flip-flops worked out great, lol. It was really dark and narrow; a totally unique experience. Then we went back to the Western Wall to take pictures and put our notes in. I wasn’t as moved as I was the last time, on Shabbat, but it was still unbelievable. I still don’t really know how to pray, so I just kind of stood there in awe. And kissed it this time.



We got some time to eat and shop after that. Rachel and I got bagels with lox spread (om nom nom!) with Dafna, Sachlav, and Miriam. We sat in the square and ate, and then Rachel, Dafna and I went to shop. We got some delicious mango juice (more om nom nom!), and I got myself a Jewish star ring (that I thought I lost like five minutes after I got it, but it ended up being in my bag. Huge, huge fail). I donated 50 shekels to send soldiers care packages (since now I have soldier friends!) and got a t-shirt out of it. And we got free prayer books from a Jewish student office, I think it was.

Then it was back on the bus to head to Mt. Herzl, the biggest cemetery for the Israeli military and prime ministers and such. It was pretty special, as expected. We even saw Michael Levin’s grave, which was kind of crazy. Yogev (one of our soldiers) showed us the grave of a commander from his unit. It was so sad! It’s hard to connect the graves to real-life people, ya know? Some of the stories our guide told us about self-sacrifice made me seriously doubt my own character.

After that, we were supposed to go to a bird sanctuary and plant a tree, but we were exhausted and running late, so that plan was scrapped, and we headed straight to the Negev desert for our night in the tent.

I sat next to Tal (one of our soldiers) on the bus all day. She’s so nice! I asked her a lot of questions about the army – random stuff, like what kind of jewelry girls can wear – and we bonded over TV shows. We both watch Friends and That ‘70s Show :). And she translated the ring I found at the gym for me! It says “many people come through your life, but friends leave footprints.” Tal and I seem pretty similar, and I sort of see her as who I would be had I been born in Israel. We’re both 20, but because she was born there and I was born here, she’s in the army and I’m in school. We come from such different worlds, and yet we have so much random stuff in common. It’s kind of crazy! I never thought I’d have this much common ground with someone with such a different life. I’m so glad I got to meet these people and find this out.

I slept most of the way to the tent. We got there after it was dark, so it was already cold. The desert is FREEZING at night! We left our stuff in the tent, changed into warm clothes, and went to another tent for dinner. We sat on mats on the floor and ate six to a table… and by “table” I basically mean “tray.” It was a bunch of bowls put on a big, round, metal tray, and we all ate out of the bowls. Talk about sharing each other’s germs! As if we weren’t all sick enough already! (Did I mention that my sore throat turned into a stuffy nose the day before? SO not fun!) But it was cool, very different!



After dinner, we got yummy tea and baklava for dessert (heh, dessert in the desert!), and listened to a Bedouin guy speak in another tent. Their culture seems really interesting, but his English wasn’t great, and he was a terrible storyteller. It was actually kind of hilarious. He played an instrument at one point, though, so that was pretty cool.

Then came one of the things I was most excited for: stargazing in the desert. We felt our way out into the desert in the nearly pitch black and talked about how significant the desert is to the Jewish people, and then got to find our own space and sit in silence for 15 minutes. It was so amazingly beautiful; I had to lie down on my back and look up at the sky. I felt really small and insignificant, but then I started wondering if there was another 20-year-old girl lying on her back in the desert thousands of years ago. I felt this weird kinship with this hypothetical girl. It was kind of powerful. The stars were so bright, I seriously wanted to sleep out there.

But alas, we came back to the camp (I guess that’s what it is, since there’s more than one tent) and we were told there would be a bonfire. It ended up being really laid back and chill, with no more than half of us there at any point. Benny brought his guitar, so some guys played music, including the Israelis. I love their music; it’s so pretty! The whole time was really fun. I left grudgingly at around 1:45 am, only because I was about to pass out.

May 23rd

I woke up with the sun that morning (after a surprisingly good sleep on a mat and sleeping bag on the ground, sans pillow), but got up at 6:40-ish for our 7 am camel ride! AMAZING! Aaaaahhh, so much fun! I shared my camel with Dafna, who said she’d ridden a camel before, but not a horse. We come from such different worlds! We rode for about half an hour, and it was just all kinds of awesome. Riding a camel through the desert, and it wasn’t even 8:00 in the morning yet. Such a cool experience!



Then we had breakfast (eggs with Nutella, mmmmm) and headed out into the desert for our hike. And this is where things kind of went to hell. It was great at first – the scenery is GORGEOUS. But at one point there was a tricky jump that I botched, and hurt my left big toe. Jon and EJ thought it was their fault, since they were supposed to catch me and didn’t, but I’m fairly positive it had nothing to do with them. They felt so bad, though! I felt kinda guilty about that, but I’m glad they’re such nice guys. But anyway, walking was a bitch after that. It was soooo painful, but I could move it, so I was hopeful it wasn’t broken. (A week later, though, I’m not all that hopeful anymore. It’s still a fun shade of purple.)



After the hike, we went to David Ben Gurion’s grave, which would’ve been much more awesome if I was able to get ice for my damn toe. But no, we looked at the tomb and the view (which was breathtaking), had an awkwardly held discussion, and watched a bizarre movie about the man. I think it was supposed to be informational, but there was sort of a plot, and some weird romantic tension between the characters… I don’t know, it was weird. I think I’m the only person who didn’t fall asleep during it, and only because of sheer will.

So by the time we left for the next town (apparently Miami’s sister city), it was four hours since I’d hurt myself and I was on the verge of tears from the pain and utter frustration. But we stopped for lunch (sweet potato ravioli in sauce – delish!), and I got ice and an ace bandage from Eyal (our security guard and medic, aka the guy with the gun). So that definitely helped things. Then we did a little crafty thing and made some kites, which was actually pretty fun, and saw some loose camels. Ya know, the usual.

Then we drove to the next hotel, showered, and had a program about Israeli and Arab hostages. It was really interesting. We never really talk about this kind of stuff. Zak, Rachel and I had a really good discussion about it at dinner. After dinner, our soldiers ran a really fun program. There were games and food, but I had to sit out of the game my number came up for because of my toe. :(

There was also an intense debate about the next day’s activities, which ended up being so completely moot. But I had to rush to get to bed at 11:15 because…

May 24th

…we woke up at 4 am! It was just as painful as one would expect, but we’d all heard seeing the sunrise at Masada was worth it. It took awhile to get everyone up, ready, and on the bus, so we left a bit later than we’d planned. The sky was slowly but surely getting lighter as we were driving, and I think we were all getting nervous that we’d gotten up early only to miss seeing the sun break the horizon. When we got there, we literally ran up the mountain. We went from sleep-deprived zombies to speed demons in nothing flat. It was really impressive! I wish I knew our time! Lol. The climb hurt my toe a little, but it was the only part of me that didn’t want to be there, so I dealt with it. Brittney offered to help me walk if I needed it – so nice! Thanks girl! :)



Seeing the sunrise up there was really awesome, but I didn’t feel like it even came close to being my favorite part of the trip. Seeing the sunlight hit all these ancient relics was beautiful, though. We stayed up there for a while and toured the site, which was really cool. But what came next really might’ve been the best part of the trip. The night before, our big debate was about whether we should wake up early to see the sunrise, or go later to watch a ceremony to induct new soldiers into the army. I desperately wanted to see the ceremony, but that option lost in favor of keeping our schedule the way it originally was. But we ended up being there to see it anyway! We got to cheer them on as they finished their 60 km run/hike; just thinking about their faces as they finished gives me goosebumps. They looked so happy and proud! We got to get really up close to the ceremony (basically on top of it) and talk to some of the guys. There were so many Americans! I couldn’t believe it. They inspire me so much!





The hike down the mountain, however, isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. 45 minutes of stairs and downward inclines, and on a broken toe? OWWWWWW OW OW OW OW OW. The night before, Dana told me I’d be fine. Yep, she totally lied.

We ended up being on the mountain for like five hours. The day was so long already, and it was still the morning! We had breakfast boxes on the bus and then went to an Ahava factory. That’s where they make Dead Sea products – lotion, face wash, etc. It was all too expensive for me, and I like what I use already, so I didn’t buy anything. It was all really nice, though. I tried one of the lotions and it was quite fantastic.

From there, we drove to the Dead Sea! I can’t even tell you how excited I was! We got to slather ourselves in mud first, which was awesome (and really exfoliating! Lol). The hike down Masada killed my toe, so walking in mud and flip flops was SO painful. But it didn’t matter when I was in the water! Seriously, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! I wasn’t expecting it to be so shallow, nor the rocks to be so damn pointy and painful (battle wound FTW!), but the floating was exactly like I imagined, but cooler because it was real! It didn’t even burn too badly, it was just a little bit uncomfortable. Nothing like the excruciating pain I was expecting. Does that mean I have healthy skin?! ;) After the sea, we went in a warm sulfur pool, which kind of stank (hello, sulfur) but felt delicious, and a cool fresh water pool.

Then we drove to Tel Aviv to say goodbye to our soldiers. :( Soooo sad. Well, we saw most of them again, but still. Their time with us went so fast!

From there we drove to Bat Yam to shower, change, have dinner, etc. before going out. I wasn’t planning on going into the club because of my toe, but right before we left I suddenly felt like I had an ear infection. I had one at camp in 2006, and it was the same level of atrocious discomfort. So that sealed the deal for me. I was planning on just doing my own thing while everyone else was inside, but then Robyn told me I’d have to be with someone. I was mad, since who would want to forgo what’s apparently the coolest club in Tel Aviv?

I ended up walking around with the rabbi, which was actually pretty nice. He’s a cool guy! He said he hates trendy bars and thanked me for getting him out of staying at that one. I’m glad I could do my part, I guess? Lol. He was meeting up with a family friend down the strip, and said it was okay for me to tag along, so I did. I felt kind of bad that I crashed their night, but they didn’t seem to mind. We sat at a waterfront cafĂ© for a bit, where I got a delicious hot chocolate and tried to be inconspicuous as they talked about their families and lives. :P

We wandered back to the club after a while. Kim called me and said she and Dafna had left and were at the coffee shop next door, so I went and hung out with them and Eyal. I’d called home and left a message earlier about my ear, and my parents called me back then. It was so good to hear from home, especially when I was feeling so lousy! Calls cost 39 cents a minute so we didn’t talk for long, but mom made me a doctor’s appointment, and dad told me Randy Savage died. :O

By then it was almost time to head back, so our drunk group slowly stumbled out of the club. Kim and I made a friend in a really cute random stranger outside the club. He’s from America, used to live in Israel, and is now doing volunteer work in Ethiopia. Such a fascinating life! And he was so nice! Bummer we were leaving as he was just getting there.

I was ready for bed as soon as we got back to the hotel (yay being sick!), but everyone else wanted to party and say goodbye to the Israelis one last time, so I stayed out for a bit. When I finally decided to go back to my room, there was an… um… shall we say, interesting roommate situation to deal with. Looking back on it I’m chuckling, but it wasn’t something I wanted to deal with as my toe was throbbing, nose was stuffed, and head felt lopsided. But I used someone else’s bathroom, went to sleep listening to my iPod with the sleep timer set, and it was totally fine.

May 25th

I was woken up at 4 am by Blair’s phone alarm going off (it was still set from the day before, lol) but we got to “sleep in” until breakfast at 8-ish. We had to pack everything for the plane and load the bus for the final time; it was really bittersweet. Though I did get to laugh at everyone trying to do it while hung over!

We started the day at Rabin Square. We broke up into groups to go interview Israelis on the street about Yitzhak Rabin. Jen was really gung-ho about it and said she loves interviewing people, so I’m totally recruiting her to The Hurricane ;). She’ll be awesome at it! At the square, we got to see where and how Rabin was assassinated and talked about what he meant for/to Israel.



After that, we had lots of shopping time in the shuk. I finished my souvenir shopping for my family – finding a Hebrew Yankees shirt for Nolan took FOREVER (of course, I saw one in every other city but decided to wait until the last day so I didn’t have to carry it around. It WOULD take forever to find), but I did it! Rachel, Kim, Jen, Zak, Eyal and I found a cute pizza place to eat at, and we were eventually joined by Dana. It was really nice!

After shopping, we went to Independence Hall, where Israel was declared a state, and promptly fell asleep. Well, I didn’t, but again, it was only because of sheer will. It was really cool to be there, but far too sedentary for people who’ve been run ragged for nine days.

From there, we went to the beach. The Mediterranean Sea is gorgeous! I didn’t go in because I didn’t want to burn or be really gross on the plane for twelve hours. So Rachel and I sat in the shade, ordered ice cream, and chatted. It was a very nice, relaxed way to round out the trip.



We had dinner at a nearby hostel. And Dafna came! She had gifts for some of us and wanted to say goodbye for real. She gave me a long-sleeved shirt from a friend’s sergeant’s course because she remembered how cold I was in the desert :). I LOVE HER! Why must she live so far away? Ugh, it was so sad saying goodbye.

We had our final program after that, to share our reflections on the trip and get our t-shirts! We said goodbye to some members of our group who were staying in Israel, and then headed to the airport (probably a tad too late). More people left us when we got there – those were the lucky ones. The line for check-in was HUGE and completely stagnant, but of course Dana got in there and got things moving. Leave it to Dana! Haha. We had to say goodbye to her and Eyal before security, which was really sad. We’d gotten through really late, so it was lucky that our flight was delayed.



Over an hour later, though, we were singing a different tune. We got food, Chad and I went on a failed expedition for NyQuil, and half our group fell asleep on the floor of the waiting area before we could finally board. But we finally did, and I’m pretty sure I passed out before we took off. I woke up and had no idea what was going on. Pretty good for someone who can’t sleep on planes! I was EXHAUSTED, so I actually got a decent amount of sleep on this flight. I had no idea what time it was at any given point, so I have no idea how much I actually got, but I felt decently well rested. I slept through the on-flight dinner, but was awake for breakfast… though I only had yogurt and granola, so I might as well have slept through that too!

We landed at Newark at around 6:15 am… and that was it. We all got our luggage and said our goodbyes, and then I went out and met mom through customs. And then I went to the doctor and found out I had a massive ear infection and broken toe! WOOOO! :P I’ve never broken a bone before. It’s kind of exciting that my first time was somewhere cool.

So, yeah. The end. If you read this entire novel, I don’t know whether to thank you or apologize profusely. Either way, I can now do both in Hebrew! Toda, and slicha!

:)

Israel, Part 1

Shalom!

So, it’s been forever and a half (or a month and a half, same thing) since this little corner of the interwebz has been updated, and I’m feeling kind of bad. There’s been some activity on the internship front as well as in the London saga, but I’ll get around to that on a later date.

I just got back from Israel a few days ago, though, and I think that deserves some attention! Granted, it’s not exactly Olympics related, but I think anything involving going to another country is a little bit related, right? And it did change my perspective on things. Either way, it’s my blog, I can write what I want, and I want to write about Israel!

This is for everybody who’s asked me “how was your trip?” or has said “tell me about your trip!” and expected more of an answer than “it was amazing.” Seriously, how do you respond to that? I was overseas for 10 days, there’s no way I can summarize that into a socially acceptably short answer. So if you want details, this is the place to get them – I’ll be (more or less) transcribing my journal entries from every day (and embellishing a bit, as I wrote as I was falling asleep at night. Seriously, I sacrificed sleep for that thing).

Anyway, onward! Welcome to my birthright adventure!



May 16th/17th

I’m not going to write my journal entries word-for-word, but just read what I open with…

“Wow, it’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve kept a journal. And I really don’t think I’ll have much time, energy, or will to do it properly now, but Israel is probably a good enough excuse to try.

“Keeping that in mind, I haven’t slept in god knows how long, it’s 11 pm, and I have to wake up at 7 am tomorrow. Needless to say, this shall be brief.”

LOL. I slay myself.

Our flight was scheduled to leave JFK at 7 pm, but for some godforsaken reason, we had to get there five hours early. We were supposed to meet at the airport synagogue (did YOU know airports have multiple places of worship?), and luckily I ran into Amy when I got there, otherwise I would’ve been hopelessly lost for a long time. There was a lot of sitting around and group time and all that good stuff. Getting through security was an adventure and a half – we were all questioned and screened. It was really intimidating! Don’t mess with the Israelis!

We were allowed to go off on our own for a bit to get dinner (and booze, apparently) before meeting at the gate. The flight ended up being delayed for about an hour, and some of that time was spent while we were sitting on the runway. Let me tell you, 10 hours is a longggg time! Yeesh. I tried to sleep and utterly failed, so I ended up watching five episodes of Castle on my iPod (what? I was sulking about missing the finale!).

Upon landing, we all had to get our luggage and get through customs, and then loaded onto the bus. We drove for a bit to this foresty kind of place (yes, Israel has trees!) for lunch, getting our phones, and exchanging money. Then we drove some more (with an impromptu stop for Blair to pee on the side of the road) to an old, adorable little town called Zichron Ya’akov. Because our flight was delayed, our originally planned hike was cancelled, so we got to wander around a little bit. Everything was so quirky, I loved it!



Then we drove to the kibbutz where we were staying. Everyone seemed to have a big problem with the food, but I thought it was decent enough. The rooms were pretty sweet! A kitchenette, hot tub, two flat screen TVs, etc. We had time to shower before the program at night. It was fun, lots of group bonding stuff. But we played Never Have I Ever – fun and rather hilarious, but it always makes me a little bit uncomfortable. Way, WAYYY too much information. Awkward turtle (or, in Hebrew, tsav mavich! :D But I didn’t learn that for another few nights).

May 18th

Again, my opening line…

“Two words: oy vey.”

Hahahaha. Maybe not the best idea to write at night! :P But alas, I had no choice. This day definitely warranted an “oy vey” or two, though!

I roomed with Rachel (one of two) and Chloe at the kibbutz, and that morning we woke up at 6:45 to a frog in our toilet. Lol, gooooood times. Rachel and Chloe were freaking out, and I just felt bad flushing it, so we called Robyn and the rabbi to come help us. Robyn came and flushed it, and the rabbi followed her and videotaped the whole thing. -_______________-

Breakfast was at 7:30, and the bus left at 8:15 for the winery. The ride was an hour and fifteen minutes (as it is everywhere in Israel. Seriously). We had a quick tour and did some tasting, and I drank all three wines they gave us! It was probably less than a full glass in total, but that’s more alcohol than I’ve ever had in my life. I didn’t like it very much, but hey. I was proud of myself! :P

From there we went to Tzfat, which is an AWESOME old city. Seriously, it’s so cool. We saw a little show with two musicians playing some old world instruments, and then went to a talk by the artist David Friedman. His stuff is amazing – it’s mindblowing all the connections between Kabbalah and art he makes!



We had lunch in a little square after that. I had shwarma, some turkey thing in pita with sauce and veggies. It was good, but nothing life changing like I was told it would be. From there we went to do volunteer work in a park. I got to help collect rocks and put them in a wall they’re building. We were there for awhile, and at the end we talking about Israel being green, and doing community service. I paired up with one of the Zacks (:P) for the partner discussion, and we went on an expedition to find a spot to discuss in. We ended up finding a bench with a really awesome view!

After that, we went to see a synagogue. We talked about the idea that it doesn’t matter where you are, it all depends on the idea and the people you’re with. It’s pretty interesting to think about. Then the boys went to their mikvah (naked swimming. Not kidding) and us girls had this Hebrew letter tai chi thing. It was weird. The lady was uber spiritual, and it was just so not my thing. But hey, it was an experience! Afterwards we had some free time to wander and shop. I got myself an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) sweatshirt with my Hebrew name on the back. :) I’m kind of obsessed with it.

Then we drove back to the kibbutz for dinners and then showers and such before a surprise night out on the town. But room 45’s good old frog friend was back, and yours truly was the lucky one to discover him. In the shower. >.< We called Robyn, and she scooped him up into the garbage can and let him out outside. Our hero! :)

After dinner, we went to a local club. Or was it a bar? I don’t do this stuff at home, so I have no basis of comparison. But it was open air and right on the water, so it was nice! I didn’t drink, but tried a sip of Rachel’s cranberry juice and vodka. It was actually pretty good, lol. I danced a lot, too – look at me! Alcohol and dancing! :P I got elbowed in the head a lot, and had some drinks spilled on my feet, but it was really fun. Some members of the group got a bit TOO drunk, including one of my roommates, so that was interesting. I’ve never taken care of a drunk friend before, but by the time we got back, she was okay enough and just went to sleep.

Ooooh, I was writing all of this at 1 am, and had to wake up at 6:45 the next day. No wonder I was oy vey-ing!

May 19th

“So tired, but so much to write. Holy crap.”

HAHAHAHA. So apparently leads are my strength? Good to know!

Oh, but wait, there’s more!

“Breakfast this morning was at 7:30 again, and we did NOT have a frog in the bathroom! Hooray! Lol. Man, this morning feels like so long ago…”

Damn, I was delirious! This is far too entertaining. But it’s true. The days over there felt like a week!

Anyway, we left the kibbutz for the final time at 8:15 and drove the obligatory hour and fifteen minutes to our hike. That thing was INTENSE. Oh man. It was about three hours long, steep, and effing difficult! Dana told us there might be some water to walk through, so we should bring water-safe shoes if we had. I didn’t bring my crappy flip-flops, and it didn’t sound mandatory, so I wasn’t worried. Well, I was cursing myself when I was wading through butt-deep water on excruciatingly painful rocks, barefoot. Ouchhhhhhh. My feet were so unhappy. :( So yeah, not at all what I was expecting. Rewarding to finish, but really painful to actually do.

Towards the end (before the climb up the mountain stairs from hell – seriously, who needs the gym?), we sat in a cave silently for 15 minutes to think about time, what we’re making of ours, what we think of who we’re becoming, etc. It’s weird to say, but I got a little emotional during it. The whole hike reminded me of the first day of Endurance, and in the cave I thought about what I accomplished and how well I handled everything. I’m much more awesome than I give myself credit for, and have to try to remember that. If I could do that, I can do anything. I need to stop holding myself back.



Okay, mushy moment over.

After the hike, we drove to a touristy mall thing for lunch. I had pizza and a coke, lol. So American! But I really wanted to try Israeli pizza. It was very ehhhh. But I found that I can read sherutim (bathroom) in Hebrew! Yay! Lol. I had my first language adventure of the day at lunch, too. Rachel, Katie and I were in line for pizza with a girl from another birthright group. She asked the lady behind the counter (in English) where the grocery store was, and the lady didn’t understand. But we’d heard her speaking Spanish earlier, so the girl broke out her Spanish and they had a conversation!

From there, we went to kayak (aka raft) on the Jordan River. It was really fun!! There was a lot of splashing and shoving, and for some reason, the rabbi had it out for me. :P My sneakers got soaked and I had to sit in them for the rest of the day, so that was kind of a bummer. But I had my second language adventure! One of the workers that kayaked down the river with us only understood Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian. My raft wanted to figure out how to say “concussion” in Hebrew (because Jen whacked Zak in the head with her paddle), so I asked him “come se dice concussion?” He asked “parla italiano?” and I answered “un po’.” SO EXCITING! :D Later on he was trying to say something to the group about returning the rafts, and he said it to me to translate. And right before we left, I was coming out of the bathroom after changing, and he was there. He said “ciao!” and I grinned like an idiot and said it back. I can’t even tell you how excited I was! Who would’ve thought I’d use my deteriorating Italian skills in Israel?!

After rafting, we had a two-ish hour bus ride to Jerusalem, on which we all passed out. It was a rather exhausting day! Dana woke us up as we were entering the city, and this is what I pictured Israel to be. Old buildings, sand, and an overwhelming feeling of holiness. “Seriously,” I wrote, “I already feel more Jewish. The rabbi was talking about how basically every Jewish prayer involves remembering Jerusalem, or praying that we’ll get to Jerusalem… and now we’re here. It’s hard to wrap my head around, to be honest. Kind of amazing.” We had a quick opening ceremony out in the cold (seriously!), and then came to the Leonardo Inn, where we stayed for three nights.



After dinner, we had a program with an Israeli filmmaker, Patik (can’t remember her last name). The film of hers we watched was in the Tribeca Film Festival, which was cool. It was pretty powerful. We watched one more film (both shorts), got our new room assignments (new roomies Blair and the other Rachel), and dispersed for the night.

May 20th

Shabbat Shalom!

Breakfast that morning was at 7:45, and right afterwards we went to meet the Israeli soldiers we travelled with for the next five days. First we had a speaker from a bone marrow bank speak to us and a bunch of us registered, but then we had some getting-to-know-you things with our soldiers. The point was to show us all that we’re really not that different from each other. It was really interesting, but I ended up learning that on my own. More on that in a few days. Heh.

After that, we took our bus to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum. It was honestly one of the most powerful experiences of my life. When we first got there, our tour guide Mordecai showed us a video of a survivor from Greece. Nothing I’ve ever seen or read about the Holocaust has ever made me cry, until this. Seeing him standing over his sister’s grave and sobbing was one of the most heart wrenching things I’ve ever seen, and it made me think about the unimaginable pain I’d feel if my family was ripped away from me like his was. And I cried. No joke. Walking through all the galleries was equally as powerful and amazing, especially the childrens’ memorial. So, so powerful. Oh, and the hall of names! I WISH we were allowed to take pictures!

But the great thing is that I really took it to heart. As we were leaving, my feet and back hurt from standing for so long, and it was 2 pm so I was super hungry… but I couldn’t make myself complain about it. Seriously, I was about to head to a nice, air conditioned bus that I would sit on, and that would drive me to lunch. Holocaust victims had to march for weeks on end in the dead of winter, and got no food. My uncomfortableness seemed obnoxiously trivial after that.

From there, we went to the shuk (aka market) in Jerusalem for lunch and shopping. It was so awesome! Super crowded, but so cultural and bustling and amazing. I broke from the group with Rachel (not my roommate) and Zak. We got some delicious falafel at a stand for lunch, and bought some little things at some souvenir shops. We reconvened at four to go back to the hotel to relax (gasp!) and get ready for Shabbat.



We got on the bus at 6 and were taken to the outer wall of the old city. We sat in a circle and each got to talk about what this trip has meant to us so far. Everyone really opened up (I think), and the rabbi called us the perfect birthright group – respectful to speakers, on time, knows when to have fun, etc. Dana echoed his statements, and I kind of agree. We’re a really good group!

When we finished, we walked into the old city and to the Kotel, the Western Wall. I can’t even put it into words. Simply mindblowing. To be at THE holy site on Shabbat is honestly beyond words, and I’m not even religious at all. We split up into boys and girls and went to our respective sides of the wall. Our group did some singing in our own little circle before merging with some other groups to form one massive circle. There was lots of singing, it was really fun! But then we actually went up to the wall, and oh. My. God. Most powerful experience of my life. I was touching this ancient wall that’s seen so much history, been the object of so many wars, and to think about all of the generations of people that prayed to get right where I was standing… I cried. That’s twice in one day, folks! It was the closest I’ve ever come to believing in a god. There’s something special about that place, be it the holy spirit or the human spirit. Whatever it is, it’s incredible. I was sure, right then and there, that I’m Jewish, meant to be so, and damn proud of it.

A-ma-zing.

By then it was pretty late, so we headed to a nearby restaurant/dining hall kind of thing for dinner. There was a lot more singing – the other birthright group that was there must’ve been wondering who the obnoxious group was, lol. But we did the ‘Canes cheer! :) I sat next to Dafna, one of our soldiers. I clicked with her immediately, she’s so nice! It was really interesting to hear about the Israeli-Muslim issues from her point of view.

After dinner, since it’s Shabbat and we’re not supposed to use electricity, we had an hour long walk back to the hotel. Rachel, Kim and I walked with Dafna. We talked about everything from the army to school to TV shows and spoilers. :)

By the time we got back, I had a monster sore throat, and my entire body hurt from standing all day. So instead of hanging out with everyone, I stayed in with copious amounts of water and Blair’s Advil.

May 21st

“Sigh, I love Shabbat in Israel. First last night, and now the chillness of today. This is the first time I get to write (at least part of) an entry earlier than 11 pm. Excellent!”

Hahaha, I’m so amused by myself.

The night before, I was writing until 2 am, but that’s okay, because we got to sleep in until 11 am! Well, we had to meet at 11, but sleeping until 10:30 was delicious. There were some hangovers amongst the group, and my voice was all but gone.

But anyway, we met at 11 and walked to a local synagogue. Julia, Mackenzie, and Chloe got Hebrew names, and Alyssa got Bat Mitzvahed. Wow, how do you spell that? Mitzvaed? Mitzvah’d? Ew, no, they all look wrong. Well, whatever. It wasn’t anything like a typical Bat Mitzvah, though I have no idea what else she did for it. All she did was read her speech, which almost made me cry. Seriously, what is with me?! But I was really moved – I was witnessing a friend get Bat Mitzvahed in Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world. And Alyssa’s speech was really special!

After that, we walked back to the hotel for the Kiddush and lunch. There was a brief hora, and Alyssa, Julia, and Mackenzie went up in the chair. Then we had the rest of the afternoon free! All or most of us went to the pool. I think I was there for a little over an hour. It was so hot out, and the water was really refreshing. I talked with an Israeli guy named Re’em for a bit. I’m not really sure who he is… maybe a soldier with another group that was there? Either way, I love Israelis! They’re so fascinating and nice and chill! We talked a bit about American politics (he’s in favor of the Republicans, and Sarah Palin came up :P) and his beliefs about Muslims. But it was hilarious to talk to him about the apparent end of the world. He said he’d heard someone say that they recalculated a new date of May 21st, 2012 (aka a year from the day this conversation took place). He said he’s got it all planned out what he’s going to do – he wants to rebuild the world after the apocalypse. I told him I’d keep in touch, lol.

After the pool, I showered and relaxed for a bit before we walked to the rose garden between the Parliament building and the Knesset to do some Shabbat reflections. The garden is gorgeous, and the whole thing was really nice. Then we went back to the hotel and had dinner, and then an hour to get ready for our night activities. We celebrated the end of Shabbat on the balcony of the top floor of the hotel, and then drove to Ben Yehuda street to walk around and do some shopping. I bought a bag to carry my overnight stuff for the next day, and some cheap flip-flops to use as water shoes the next day – no more barefoot for me, thanks! I split off and spent the time with Rachel, Kim, and Dafna. I seriously love Dafna! She’s adorable and funny and interesting and so, so nice. The two of us split from the other two at one point to search for my flip-flops. Walking through Jerusalem with an Israeli friend was so surreal, and so awesome.

After shopping, we went to a Lag B’Omer bonfire with some friends of Bar, one of our soldiers. SO MUCH FUN! And I had my first ever beer! It wasn’t good, and I didn’t finish it, but I was drinking a beer! Lol. Dafna came up with the brilliant idea to ask someone she knew (they’re in the same military unit) if she had marshmallows, so we roasted them :). Her friend seemed really nice, and is so jealous that us UM kids are in school – she wants to study, not be in the military. I got such perspective on life from that one moment.

We spent the entire time just hanging out around the fire. Someone had a guitar and was singing, and during the night, people played both Time of Your Life and Wonderwall – both of which we sang at camp, Wonderwall even at a bonfire. I got such goosebumps!

Oh, Israeli soldiers are taught a little bit of krav maga. So awesome!

It was such a good night! Though I smelled like fire for the next two days…



TBC