Travel


Workshops, presentations, and networking filled my days at the STC Summit. I learned from the best in the field. During early morning breakfast gatherings, I met with colleagues. We used lunch time for SIG meetings or to take part in Speed Networking. In the ever-present Exhibition Hall, I learned about software applications and upcoming events. STC even filled our early evenings with business meetings and an award ceremony.

Constant activity and noise. Sometimes I felt saturated with information. I needed quiet. Where could I go to relax and think through the insightful material?

There was my hotel room. Somehow the room wasn’t conducive to letting my mind wander. That’s it! I wanted a venue where I could just be; simply let my mind wander through the recordings inside my head of the enlightening sessions I’d heard.

But where?

Late one afternoon, I headed down toward the National Harbor boardwalk. 20170508_172812-National HarborAlthough a river cruise sounded lovely, I knew there would be a band and more noise. That wouldn’t work.

As I got closer to the water’s edge, I spotted a small white wooden boat.

Water Taxi

“Where does the Water Taxi go?” I asked the cashier at the pay station.

“Alexandria, Virginia.”

“What’s there to do?”

“At this hour, mostly check out the eateries.”

Hmm…not what I had in mind…that would be more noise. “Could I just ride without getting off in Alexandria?”

“Of course! The Taxi’s leaving soon; wanna buy a ticket?”

I happily handed over my cash and boarded the Water Taxi.

The Water Taxi glided along the Potomac. We passed dark green forested areas and small white houses.

Greenery and White House

Closer to Alexandria, we viewed the urban center along the water’s edge. This SoCal Gal wasn’t dressed for Spring in DC, which was a lot colder than in LA! I chose the cushioned seat inside the heated cabin. I relaxed and watched the video about the city’s history and tourist attractions. Other than a few hushed conversations and the video, I had a quiet ride. The sunlight over the Potomac changed slowly to dull yellow and orange.

After we passed under the highway bridge, I spotted Old Town Alexandria.

20170508_183707-old town alexandria

The Water Taxi slowed as it neared the shore. I excitedly watched one of the crew jump onto the dock. From my camp experiences, I knew what was next: tying the boat to the piling. Once secure, the crew lowered the gangplank and some of the passengers disembarked.

I walked to the cabin door and checked the outside temperature before I left the warm cabin. Funny. We weren’t all that far from our point in the National Harbor yet the wind had subsided. Weather in Old Town Alexandria was warm with a light breeze. I strolled onto the deck to enjoy the fresh air and scenery: more greenery and wood-planked walkways lined the area. Behind the Water Taxi was a paddleboat, fresh out of a Mark Twain novel! From another side, I saw a floating wooden gazebo next to docked boats—perhaps a gathering place for the boat owners? 

Picturesque and peaceful.

I spent the return trip on a deck seat and enjoyed the scenery without a window barrier. The gentle gliding motion of the Water Taxi soothed me. The lapping sound of water against the boat reminded me of earlier times when I’d sailed or canoed. I smiled at the memories.

After I returned to the hotel, I realized I hadn’t thought about the workshop material. Yet I did notice less noise in my head. This Water Taxi ride readied me for another day of learning and hob-knobbing with my fellows!

 

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While in Israel, I needed two adapters for my American chargers. I knew what the adapter looked like but didn’t know the term in Hebrew. My cousin suggested that I might find the adapters in the local hardware store.

I easily located the store a couple blocks from my temporary Jerusalem home. I couldn’t translate the information on sign. The window display of light bulbs, hammers, and extension cords gave me clues that I’d found the store!

The customers waiting at the counter blocked the entrance. I waited semi-patiently until there was an opening in the crowd.

In my limited Hebrew, I asked the cashier if he spoke English.

Lo.” (“No”)

Uh, oh. How do I ask for this now?

Visuals to the rescue!

On the counter, I saw an appliance that had a plug similar to my charger. Using my stilted Hebrew, I pointed to the plug. Slowly I explained that I have something from America that has a plug and want to use it in Israel. Where is something I can use with this plug?

Sham, b’mageivot,” and he pointed in a general direction down the aisle.

I’m grateful the cashier pointed, because that was all I initially understood. As I walked down the aisle, I repeated his instructions. I knew that sham meant “there”. OK. I wracked my brain’s RAM and figured out that mageivot meant “drawers”. Progress!

Down the aisle I found drawers—lots of them—and all neatly labelled…in Hebrew!

My ability to read Hebrew is slower than my conversational ability. Methodically, I read some labels to figure out the system: From Location Name (such as Europe) to Israel. Finally, I found the drawer for America. Success! I pulled out two of these precious adapters. I clutched them as if they were my trophy for winning a marathon!

 

After I paid for my trophies, I asked the cashier, in Hebrew, “How do you say this item in Hebrew?”adapter

“Ahdaptor!”

 I learned a new word!

charger-and-adapter

“May I use your cell phone?” my bus seat mate asked, in perfect Israeli Hebrew.

Huh? She doesn’t have one? I thought everyone had a cell phone!

“I need to call my daughter. May I use your cell phone?” my seat mate persisted.

“Oh, sure! Here.”

“Will you be charged for the call?”

Confused by the question, all I could say is “Huh?” She repeated the question and added, “I’ll pay for the call.”

“Oh! No, need. The calls are free,” I responded in my broken Hebrew.

That settled, my seat mate called her daughter. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, yet couldn’t help overhearing the exchange with her daughter.

“Hi, dear,” my seat mate said in the Queen’s English! Mother and daughter chatted quickly about meeting details or something. After she ended the call, she handed me the phone with a pleasant Toda (thank you).

“No problem,” I responded in American English. “We could have done the initial conversation in English!” We giggled about the conversation and chatted how we were both trying to be Israeli. A lady standing near us joined our laughter and conversation. The three of us heaped blessings on each other for a year of health, joy, blessing from our families, abundant income, and anything else we could we could think of.

Where else would a cell phone loan lead to blessings?

**

The four double-busses, packed with passengers stood on the street.

egged-double-bus-from-egged-website

Nothing moved. Clearly I wasn’t getting on a bus anytime soon, so I took a seat on the low cool stone wall outside Jerusalem’s Old City…me and hundreds of other bus-less passengers.

“Hey! That lady has a cell phone; ask her to use it,” a 10-year-old boy said to his buddy in colloquial Hebrew.

[I don’t know their names, so let’s call them Yishai and Doron.]

Doron turned to me and in rapid-fire Hebrew asked if he could use my cell phone. From my previous experience, I knew that question meant he didn’t have a cell phone. Without questions—my Hebrew is no match for a 10-year-old—I handed Doron the phone. He punched in a number and waited. No answer. Doron closed the call, and sighing returned the phone to me with a quick Toda. Yishai said something to him that I couldn’t understand and we parted ways.

I decided to trek back through the Old City and head home via the Jaffa Gate. That meant hiking up the road inside the Old City in 90 degree heat, without water. (Why had I forgotten to take bottle of water?) As I walked up the hill, I realized I had lots of company! Part way through the Old City, the police redirected us to a different exit route. Unfamiliar with those roads, I asked a friendly-looking woman if she knew the way; she did. I tagged along with she and her family.

I kept my eyes on this woman, intent on not getting lost. The shrill ringing I heard shocked me. I wasn’t sure what rang and looked around expecting some emergency vehicle to show up! Finally I realized that the persistent tone was my cell phone. I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, and planned to press the Reject button.

Oh! Wait! Maybe it’s the person Doron called from my phone! I answered the call. Sure enough, it was Doron’s mother. She spoke in the same speedy Hebrew as her son. I patiently explained that I’m not fluent in Hebrew and Doron’s Mom slowed down.

“Did you see my son? Is he with you?”

“No, he’s not with me now. We met at the bus stop and he used my phone there.”

“When was that?”

“About 40 minutes ago” I guessed.

“So he got on the bus?”

“I don’t know. None of the busses were moving. I left the area to walk home.”

“But do you think he got on the bus?” she anxiously asked again. I really wanted to help her even though I didn’t know her. If it were me, I’d want as much information as I could get!

Calmly I said, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what he did. But he was with his buddy and I’m sure they stuck together. There were lots of people; none of us could get on the bus.”

“Ah. Good! He’s with his friend.”

“Yes. I’m close enough to walk home so I decided to leave the bus stop. That was about 40 minutes ago.”

“OK. Thank you so much! Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday!)

I’m sure Doron and Yishai made it home safely.

**

Where else in the world would I loan a child my cell phone? Where else in the world would I take a call from an unknown person and try and piece together what happened?

And where else in the world would the person I couldn’t help thank me enthusiastically and bless me?

Only in Israel!

Bus photo from egged.co.il site

I arrived in Israel right after Rosh Hashanah (early October). I sensed the spirit of the chagim (holidays) as soon as I landed when I saw the Shanah Tovah (loosely translated as Happy New Year) signs at the airport! My Israel Adventure had begun!!

And it’s been quite a spiritual and physical adventure! Here’s the wrap-up:

  • A long-time friend met me at the airport—her beaming smile warmed my heart! And off we went in our private taxi to my Jerusalem cousins.
  • Friday early afternoon, I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) and merited to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayers) there. kotel-first-friday-afternoon-erev-shabbos-shuva
  • Early Tuesday morning, I travelled to Alei Zahav and spent Yom Kippur with other long-time friends. I enjoy the spirituality in this place, and the view from their porch grabs me each time, since I see the Mediterranean in the distance! alei-zahav-view-from-the-porch
  • Sukkah-building got underway; I heard hammers and drills late into the night after Yom Kippur! My cousins fill their sukkah with original paintings and decorations. As a friend put it, “You are eating in an art gallery!” What a privilege. sukkah-with-succos-painting                                             Artist: Elya Succot
  • Being at the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim (public priestly blessing) is my favorite Succot activity. This year, I was one of the 70,000 who attended! The thunder of that many people answering Amen to blessings inspires me for many months! And in the midst of the crowd, the doves peacefully watched over us. birds-at-birkat-kohanim-blog
  • The lighting effects, fireworks, and sound during the concert in Brechat Sultan (Sultan’s Pool) blew me away! Real feet-stomping and hand-clapping music—with many people dancing in the aisles!lights-brechat-hasultan-concert

 

dancing-in-aisles-breachat-hasultan

  • And then, I travelled to Tzefat (Safed) for the Shabbat during Succot. I toured part of the Artists’ Colony with a friend—and made some purchases, of course! artists-quarter-sculptureOne night a few of us drove to a quiet spot near the Jordan River…we chatted and enjoyed the gurgling of the rushing river. And the stars! WOW—millions of them! I could even pick out some constellations!
  • Back in Jerusalem, a friend and I took in the Valley of the Gazelles…right in the center of the city! gazelle-running
  • I’ve even done some mundane activities such as food shopping, clothes-buying, and helping a friend declutter!

Although my cousins put away the sukkah and the chagim are over, the festive spirit continues. We have a family wedding this week! Our dancing shoes are ready! If you hear loud lively music this week, it’s coming from that wondrous simcha (joyous occasion)!

Wishing all my readers a year full of health, success, joyous occasions, and exciting adventures!

Birch Aquarium. For over 20 years I’d seen the sign. For over 20 years, I drove past the entrance, on to other sites in La Jolla. Why? I like aquariums! They’re all about the water!

Enough of just looking at the coastline…ocean view of coastline

…the time had come to personally discover Birch Aquarium. aquarium sign2 (2)

I meandered through the exhibits, appreciating colors…orange fish in tidepool

Big Blue Bass

Butterfly Fish

…and the curators’ creativity.

sunken boat with fish

I learned about fish who blend into their environment. Some fish look like plants…tidepool…others look like the surrounding flora.

Dragon Seahorse

Birch even boasts a nursery—for fish!

Baby Seahorses

Juvenile Moon Jellyfish

Juvenile Moon Jellyfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathing in the salty fresh ocean air energized me. And viewing the grey whale statue jumping out of the water reminded me that I too, can jump up and move!

 

grey whales (2)

**

All photos (c) Sherri Leah Henkin 2016

 

 

“Welcome to Kiev.”

Three words I never thought I’d hear in my life. The KLM plane had just touched down at Borispol Airport.

I had flown with a group of women from the US. In Kiev, we met a group from Israel and Europe. Our spiritual journey to the birthplace of Chassidus was about to begin. For me, the trip was a family reunion of sorts, since I met up with my Israeli cousins and friends.

**

Kiev, Berditchev, Mezhibuzh, Breslov, and Uman had not been on my list of places to visit. I’d studied about the former USSR and learned about the roles these cities played in Jewish history. Over the last few decades, I’d heard the first-hand stories of visitors to this part of the world. While the experiences interested me, I never expected to travel to Ukraine.

So what changed?

A suggestion here: “I’m going to Uman in July; why don’t you come with our group?” Debbie had asked. A hint there: “It’s a healing, life-changing trip!” The emotional video on the Holy Journeys website drew me. And Hashem [G-d] created life circumstances that made the trip possible.

I traveled through time and physical space to a mystical—but very real—place. Learning, praying, laughing, crying, dancing, and singing—all the raw emotions rattled my core and catapulted me into a positive direction. With immense gratitude to Hashem [G-d], I share with you some of the photos from this trip.

Tomb of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev

Tomb of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev [For historical description, see: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1007604/jewish/A-Brief-Biography.htm.]

Berditchev Cemetery from Sara

Berditchev Cemetery (Photo Credit: Sara Melman)

 

 Baal Shem Tov

Tomb of the Baal Shem Tov and others (Mezhibuzh) [For historical description, see: http://www.chabad.org/generic_cdo/aid/388609/jewish/The-Baal-Shem-Tov.htm.]

Hotel in Mezhibuzh on Left

Hotel building in Mezhibuzh

Night Sky En Route to Mezhibuzh

Painting of Night Sky en route to Mezhibuzh

In Uman, we prayed and learned at the tomb of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. I was drawn to the exquisite beauty of Gan Sofia (Sofia Park).

Fountain near entrance                        Lily Pad                                        Waterfall

**

Photos (except Berditchev Cemetery) and painting (c) Sherri Leah Henkin 2016

Packing for a Trip

Sandy Lim discusses on-point packing tips. Use layered clothing, go digital, and “Buy what you need when you get there.” Great stuff! Like Sandy, I prefer to pack light when I travel.

When I prepare for a trip, I prioritize what goes into that suitcase and hopefully I pack what’s important to me. Sometimes, like Sandy, “I’ve gone on two-day trips with a week’s worth of clothes and shoes I didn’t end up wearing.” I didn’t think carefully about what I needed. I didn’t always pack light.

Life’s Suitcase

On life’s journey, I also pack a suitcase. This one, though, isn’t a physical item that contains things. Instead of clothes, books, and toiletries, the Life Suitcase contains experiences and feelings. I’m still in charge of what I pack; yet like the overstuffed weekender, I may not prioritize the contents. I pack contents as they come my way, haphazardly tossing them into the case. Do they fit? I don’t stop to think. Do I need these for this trip? I don’t think about that either.

And suddenly, or so it seemed, I discovered I lugged around a heavy steamer trunk. One day I stopped because I simply couldn’t lug that cumbersome trunk another step.

  • What have I got in here?
  • What do I really need?

Packing Life’s Suitcase

As I evaluated and prioritized the contents, I began to take charge of what’s inside the Life Suitcase. I tossed what I no longer needed. I recycled what I could. And I ended up with only what’s important to me for my journey. Instead of that weighty steamer trunk, I have a sleek, light-weight case. My suitcases now—physical and virtual—accurately reflects what I need for the trip.

So…

Is it time for a suitcase inventory? What’s in your suitcase?

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