Friday, October 30, 2015

Concert: Garbage at the 9:30 Club

Last night I got to see Garbage in DC! When I first heard about the concert (They are on their 20th Anniversary Tour), the tickets were already sold out, so I paid twice their original value to get a pair from some guy on Craigslist so my dad and I could go. My dad and I first discovered Garbage at the HFStival in 2005 (I realize this is about a decade after they were really big), and we thought they were so great that we immediately bought two of their CDs right then and there. Since then they hadn't really been on my radar, but when I saw they'd be in DC, I knew I wanted to take my dad so we could enjoy them all over again!

TORRES. Photo by Mitch Arion.
The opener last night was TORRES. The lead singer, Mackenzie Scott, is only 24 years old, and she won Best Songwriter in the Village Voice's 2015 "Best of" issue (and the band got "Best Rock Band", too!). I will admit that I think she needs some more time to perfect her craft, and the music was a bit too "teenage angst" for my taste. But what an opportunity to open for Garbage! I see good things happening for the band; all in good time!

Click here for a TORRES YouTube mix.

The suspense was killing me! Photo by Mitch Arion.
After the opening band cleared off the stage, a white curtain came down so you couldn't see Garbage set up. Once it was time for the main act, the curtain acted as a screen where videos flashed over and over: videos of the band over the years, clips of technology that had come around in the 20 years the band has been together (ex. the internet), and just weird images like eyeballs. Then the band started singing behind the curtain, so you could see their shadows. When the curtain dropped completely, the crowd went wild! Shirley Manson looked awesome with her pink hair, feminine yet tough, ruffly, black dress, and cuffs (bejeweled sweatbands?).

Shirley Manson with her pink boa (a la Steven Tyler style). Photo by Mitch Arion.
The show overloaded all of my senses! The bright, colorful lights flashed liked strobe lights and bounced off a disco ball, sometimes blinding me; the bass was so strong that I not only felt it in my chest but even in my nostrils; the music and Shirley's voice filled the space so that I felt like I was standing right next to the stage, even up in the balcony. And I loved how the band worked the stage! TORRES mostly just stood in place (with the drummer and base player rarely even looking up), but Shirley and the guitarists moved around and really got the crowd going! And I'm not sure if Shirley has a background in modern dance, but she definitely has the epileptic fit/rolling on the ground moves down! She also moved around the stage like a dancer, dragging her toes to create the illusion of height; TORRES should take some notes!

AND she plays the guitar! Photo by Mitch. Arion.
I have to admit that I was disappointed when Shirley announced that they were only going to be playing songs from 1995 and 1996. I realize that's when the band was really popular, and those are the songs from their best selling album. But I LOVE their "Bleed Like Me" album, and I was hoping they'd play some of those songs so I could sing along!

But even though I didn't know most of the songs they played last night, each song was amazing and the band completely rocked the house! Here are some of the songs from last night's set:
Stupid Girl
Only Happy When It Rains
Not My Idea
A Stroke of Luck (supposedly the first song she ever wrote!)

They also played a four-song encore (!), which included Kick My Ass, which Shirley dedicated to all of their lost loved ones. So we got to hear SO much music by the time the show was over! We certainly got our money's worth!

Here are some of my favorite songs from their "Bleed Like Me" album:
Why Do You Love Me
Bad Boyfriend
Metal Heart
Boys Wanna Fight

What an amazing show! No wonder this band has been able to last so long (well, with a hiatus or two in between). Even at almost 50 (!) years old, Shirley is an incredible performer, and the rest of the band can keep up with her energy. I'm not sure if I'll have another opportunity to see them perform again (Shirley had a morbid moment in the middle of the show talking about death). I'm just glad I got to take advantage of their show right here in DC!

(P.S. - Read this DCist article about their performance the night before).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Birthright Trip to Israel: Days 9 & 10

Model of the old city of Jerusalem
This was our last day in Israel. It started off with a yummy breakfast that included sweet grits (like Farina) and toast (until then we usually just had bread because there was no toaster!). Our first activity was visiting this Israel Museum. This was not on our original itinerary (again, because of the heatwave, we had to find more indoor activities to keep us occupied). While I enjoyed the museum, we were only given an hour to visit; in that short time, all we got to see was a model of the old city of Jerusalem and replicas of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We didn't seen any of the art, the exhibit on human evolution, or everything else that the museum had to offer!

My sister and me with our amazing guide Shira. Photo by Jocelyn Rubin.
We went back to Ben-Yahuda Street in Jerusalem for our final day of shopping. This was our last chance to get rid of our shekels (unless we wanted to buy something at the airport). I bought a shirt, a mezuzah, cake for my colleagues, and some ice cream (with a sprinkled cone. So worth the extra 3 sheks!). We also bought some African violets for our guide since she was so wonderful. While this last shopping excursion was fun, it felt a little redundant since we had already visited this area. I would have liked to stay longer at the museum and cut our last day of shopping a little short.

Then we headed to Mount Herzl, which I was looking forward to the entire trip.  First we had a discussion with the CEO of Birthright, a local comptroller, a person who works in education, and some other people. This part was very boring. I understand what an honor it is to meet these people, but they just sat at a long table in front of us and waited for us to ask questions. I didn't feel I learned a lot, and this was especially a waste of time because these people were a half-hour late! Again, this is time we could have spent at the museum that morning, or even at the Herzl Museum, where we were sitting! Honestly, it took all of my strength not to fall asleep during this discussion. (Supposedly after this talk the men on the panel said we were a great group and asked the best questions they've ever gotten from a Birthright group, but I doubt this is true.)

Photo by Jocelyn Rubin
Photo by Taylor Arion

FINALLY we got to go to the military cemetery. It is divided into several sections: parts for different wars, others for national leaders, etc. In the older section, all of the graves look the same (like little beds for eternal sleep); they are identical to show that all of those people are equal in death.

The older graves all have rosemary and geraniums planted on them. Photo by Taylor Arion.

In the newer section, the graves are more personalized. The family can choose which plants (if any) will be planted; they can also leave photos, flags, etc. I found it amazing and sad that most of these soldiers died very young (between the ages of 19-24). Some of the Israelis in our group shared stories of their own war experiences or those of their families.

Other plants are used in the newer parts of the cemetery. Photos by Taylor Arion.
This grave is for Michael Levine, an American who moved to Israel to fight in the IDF and was killed in battle. At his funeral, more than 30,000 Israelis came to remember him. Photo by Jocelyn Rubin.
This empty space is for future graves. We hope this part remains empty. Photo by Taylor Arion.
The cemetery is actually very beautiful. Photo by Taylor Arion.
We also saw the graves of past prime ministers (including Rabin), and of course Herzl's own grave at the top of the hill (the cemetery moves upward as you go along). The cemetery itself is very beautiful, and I was so thankful that this part of our trip was not cancelled!

This is Rabin's grave and that of his wife (I'm not sure which is which). Photo by Taylor Arion.
Herzl's own grave is at the top of Mount Herzl and overlooks Jerusalem. Photo by Taylor Arion.
By this point it was already around 6pm. We drove to the Promenade overlooking Jerusalem for an informal bar and bat mitzvah ceremony. Seven people chose to participate, and although the entire thing was very rushed, I know it was meaningful for those involved (especially my friend Jocelyn).

Jocelyn during her mini-bat mitzvah ceremony
This was our last night in Israel. Dinner was "meh," including the desserts, but there was cous cous, which I love. After dinner we had one last group activity: We were to break up into groups and act out a skit to summarize each day of our trip. At first I was annoyed because I hate this type of thing, but in the end everything was an inside joke, so it was actually quite funny. I wish the night had ended there on a good note.

But no. After this, the group took a break during which people could drink at the hotel bar if they wanted to. This was such a bad idea. People came back intoxicated and were so loud and obnoxious. The last bit of the night was spent with our two American guides giving out "superlatives" to each member of the group. My sister got "Best Jewish Sister," probably because she has to put up with me. I think she should have gotten "Best Hair Braid-er" since she did so many braids for everyone during the trip! I received "Most Likely to Be Best Friends with Shira" (our Israeli guide). This is SO true. Shira was the best part of the trip, and I certainly liked her much more than most of the people in my group, including our useless American guides.

Then at 12:30am we headed to the airport. Traveling in a large group is always hectic, and the process is so slow. Once we arrived, many people in our group were saying goodbye to the Israelis, but I just was ready to go so I could get some sleep before the flight. Our first flight ended up being full of kids, which was extremely annoying. I only slept for an hour or two, and when we were served breakfast, the eggs were weird and I only took one bite of the roll. But at least our flight attendant was friendly and handsome! (I told him so, which made his day!)

Because our first flight left late, we only had thirty minutes to get to our next gate. But we had to go through security again (why?!), and our gate was so far away we actually had to take a shuttle to it. And then there was MORE security for some of us who were "randomly selected" (yeah, right. I guess being American?), so it's a miracle all of us actually made it on the plane. On this flight my headphones did work (although only in the right ear), and I watched Interstellar (very weird and not worth the hype). The lunch was partially frozen: mixed veggies with lox (I didn't eat the fish), "minced meat," and carrots with cous cous. We did get a "non-dairy" ice cream product for dessert, which was quite good (though I'm not sure I actually want to know what was in it). We also received falafel, which I thought was a funny way to bring this whole trip to an end, full-circle.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Concert at The Mint in Los Angeles, CA

While I was visiting my sister in California, one of my favorite bands, The Wind and The Wave, just happened to be performing at The Mint in Los Angeles. So of course I bought tickets!

Gestures & Sounds
This is the first headline tour for The Wind and The Wave, so there were two other opening acts before we got to see the main event. The first band was Gestures & Sounds. They are very young (maybe still in college?), and it showed in their music. Their playing definitely could use improvement, and their voices aren't up to par (the keyboardist, Jory Federighi, should NEVER sing). I appreciated their interesting lyrics, and their song "Coach" had a Doors-like sound about it. But all in all, I think they need A LOT more practice before performing in front of an audience.

The lead singer, Eric Fashingbauer. Photo by Taylor Arion
The keyboardist, Jory Federighi. He reminded me of a girl I went to college with...

The bassist, Brian Legoo, was the eye candy of the group. Photo by Taylor Arion
Next up was The American Spirit. Online it looks like a group, but at least for this performance, just the lead singer, Gabe Strycharz, was on stage. The difference between his show and the first band was like night and day. He has obviously perfected his craft over the years. His melancholy voice reminded me of the pioneers or someone who was part of the '49 Gold Rush. His voice just sounded so wise and sad, like it came from someone who had experienced decades of hardship. His music is soulful with a dash of country-twang. I really enjoyed listening to him sing, and it was too bad that there were a lot of obnoxious people in the crowd talking while he was performing; even when he called them out on it, they didn't shut up. So that was annoying! But I did like listening to him and appreciated his work. After listening to some of the songs online, I actually prefer his solo acoustic sound! ("Alcohol" is my favorite.)
Gabe Strycharz from The American Spirit. He reminded me of a young Willie Nelson (without the pigtails).
And then it was time to see The Wind and The Wave! Since I've seen them so many times (here's my blog post about the first time I saw them), I immediately recognized Patty Lynn, Dwight, and Nick (their cute new drummer!) when they were walking around the venue before the show. They did not disappoint! I loved singing along to their original songs, and they also performed a few cover songs for their encore. Check them out on YouTube! They're the best!

Photo by Taylor Arion
Patty Lynn looked lovely as always. Photo by Taylor Arion
Me with the band. Photo by Taylor Arion
I was so excited to buy their tour poster (which they signed) and to get a picture with them! I'm such a groupie... (Yes, I'm wearing a shirt that my sister made for me specifically for this band...Maybe the band can get her to make them some to sell? *wink*)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Oddball Comedy Festival

While visiting my sister in California, we went to the Oddball Comedy Festival (presented by Funny or Die) at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. I wasn't sure how good the show would be, since what's considered "funny" is subjective.

At first I was a little taken aback by how crude and graphic a lot of the comedians were; I'm not sure how many times I heard the words jizz/dick/cum/vagina/etc. Bridget Everett took it to a whole other level with her provocative performance. She sang this song at this festival (in that same dress). Scary! I have to admit, all I could think of was my ex, since he's a chubby chaser (Don't ask me why he ever dated me then if that's his type!). She did flash the audience at one point and walked around the crowd, rubbing people's heads and pushing her boobs (and other body parts) into their faces. CRINGE!

John Mulaney was my favorite. His main jokes were about the saying, "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" (in reference to getting married). His performance showed that clean comedy is just as funny (if not funnier). Well done!

Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari were the headliners of the night. Amy looked like a mess (granted, she had performed on Saturday Night Live the night before and then flew across the country!), and her jokes about vaginal discharge took things a little too far. But I was pleasantly surprised by Aziz, since he can be hit or miss. I thought he was very funny, especially when joking about his love of bacon.

In general, I found the comedians funny (though some were more clever than others). And oddly enough, there was an interesting coincidence of the number of jokes about Family Feud, feet, and Rosa Parks. Below is a list of the other people we saw perform:

Sebastian Maniscalco (his jokes about his family were hilarious!)
Anthony Jeselnik
Donnell Rawlings (I laughed SO hard at his pregnancy/baby jokes!)
Rory Scovel
T.J. Miller (spent half of the time spraying himself with water)

This was a fun show, and other than the crazy-crowded parking lot, this a great venue; it's like a larger Wolf Trap! I was impressed by how serious the security was. People were not allowed to take pictures or video during the performances, and some people were thrown out just for heckling the talent! Intense! Good for you, Irvine!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Play Review: Alice in Wonderland

Image found here.
Last week I went to see the play Alice in Wonderland at the Synetic Theater. I bought my ticket from Goldstar, so I paid a good price. Goldstar usually sits you in the very front row, but because this wasn't a packed night, I was able to easily get a free seat closer to the back (and near an outlet where I could plug in my phone!).

The Synetic Theater always adds a modern, usually dark twist to classics (see my blog post about their version of The Picture of Dorian Gray). Alice was no exception (though not as dark as I was expecting). The set was mostly made up of metal obstacles (like twisted jungle gym parts); the characters would climb on these or move them around the stage to create the feeling of confusion. And other than Alice's traditional looking costume (which seemed a little Lolita-esque with a woman playing a little girl), the costumes had a goth/Halloween feel to them. The cat and rabbit (pictured below) don't even look like animals! This was definitely NOT based on the Disney version. Everything had an eerie feeling about it, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Image found here.
I was surprised how much this performance focused on movement. Synetic is known for its silent Shakespeare plays, but Alice was not promoted as a wordless play. There was some dialog (with accents that came and went, which is interesting since Kathy Gordon who played Alice is from England...), but the characters were created more by their movements than what they had to say. The rabbit hopped (more like stomped; Tori Bertocci is not very graceful.), the cat (played by Alex Mills) was slinking around the stage like an feline acrobat, and Humpty Dumpty showed his awkward struggles of being a huge egg on the go. There was surprisingly a lot of dance in this show: The Mad Hatter, March Hare, and the Dormouse did "The Robot;" there was a beautiful dance between the Lobster and the Dodo (NOT in the Disney movie), and both the Caterpillar and Humpty Dumpty randomly broke into dance for no rhyme or reason. The actors' movements, rather than the script, created the insanity and whimsy of the characters.

The Mad Hatter (played by Dallas Tolentino) looking mad as ever. Image found here.
The Caterpillar was made up of several actors to make all of his legs! Image found here.
I think one of the most talented actors was Vato Tsikurishvili, who played both the Caterpillar and Humpty Dumpty. He was very funny, and his hookah skills were quite impressive!

This play was very creative, which I appreciated. For example, when Alice grew larger to reach the key for the door, dancers and lights distracted the audience as another actor held Gordon up as if she were on stilts and the second person was hidden under a longer skirt. Then when Alice was crying because she was too large to fit through the door, her tears were portrayed by blue, hand-held lights that flicked on and off; even as she pretended to squeeze water out of her hair, these lights were like drops of water coming off of her ponytail (along with water sound effects). How neat is that?

Renata Veberyte Loman as the Queen of Hearts. Reminds me of Cruella. Image found here.
It's quite a short play with no intermission, so that's nice if you're a really busy person or just can't sit still for too long (both apply to me). So if you have a free night this fall, I would recommend checking Alice out!

Here's a sneak-peek video in case you're interested:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Restaurant Review: The BBQ Joint in Easton, MD

Image found here.
I love barbecue (in case you missed my blog post on Mission BBQ, which is my favorite). I was on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and had a hankering for BBQ, so I looked on Yelp and found The BBQ Joint. It's a small, quaint location in a cute Shore town. The servers are friendly and welcome you with a smile, and the sawdust shavings on the floor give the whole place a warm, country feeling. Three of us went out to eat, and we easily split the the Jr. T-Rex platter (photo below).

The Jr. T- Rex platter. I don't even want to know what the full T-Rex looks like...
The food was amazing! The corn bread muffins were lovely, the mac & cheese was extra cheesy, and the chicken was so tender. The potato salad was also very good, and I enjoyed the sweet taste of their coleslaw (I think they use apple cider vinegar?). And the sweet tea was super-sweet, just how I like it!

But we can't talk about barbecue without mentioning pulled pork and the sauces that go with it. The meat was pretty good (and we got a double order of pulled pork because they were out of ribs), so no complaints there. But compared to Mission BBQ, these sauces were a little bland. They had sweet, spicy, medium, and swicy (sweet AND spicy). For one, they didn't get creative with naming their sauces like Mission BBQ did. But more importantly, the flavors were just "meh." I liked the medium best; the sweet wasn't that sweet, the spicy was too spicy for my liking, and the swicy was just weird.

I appreciated the wide bar stools: I didn't feel like I was perched on some tiny thing about to fall off!
All in all though, I really like this place. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun, and the food is delicious and cooked right in front of you! So, while Mission BBQ is still #1 in my mind, I think the BBQ Joint is a close second. Now I need to try the Joint's DC location!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Birthright Trip to Israel: Day 8

Palace on Mount Masade. Image found here.
Again, we were supposed to start this day with a sunrise hike to Mount Masada, but because of the heat, that didn't happen. So we had a later breakfast at the hostel (there was chocolate cake but sadly no pudding) and then headed to the Mount Masada visitors center. We learned about the history of the area in the first-century of the Common Era. We talked about King Herod and the palace he built on Mount Masada (which included a dance hall, spa, and swimming pool!). He was a very paranoid king, and he killed his wife and sons so they would not take his power. After he died, the palace was deserted. Eventually (around 65-70 C.E.) a group of ~300 people moved in and established a Jewish community there. Over time, the Roman Empire was growing, and the Romans wanted to kill the Jews living on Mount Masada.

This is how the story goes: The Jews knew that the Romans were coming and that they would not be able to escape from the mountain. So the community members decided (with the suggestion from the rabbi) that they should take fate into their own hands and kill themselves. Eleven men were chosen to kill the other Jews and then themselves. BUT there are two problems with this story:
1. If everyone was killed, how do we know about this story? The Romans wouldn't have known about this discussion about the Jews killing themselves; they would have just found the dead bodies.
2. Only 27 bodies have been found by archaeologists, not 300. So where did they all go?

After hearing about this history, we were given amble time to look around the gift shop. The store had everything: Dead Sea beauty products; jewelry; kitschy souvenirs, etc. After shopping, we headed to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth, and it is quickly disappearing. From the little resort near the sea, the group had to take a shuttle to actually reach the water because the sea had shrunk so much (several hundred feet every year!). The group floated in the water and put the mud on their skin (it supposedly has nutrients in it). Just don't get the water in your eyes! The water is so salty that it stings your eyes, any cuts you have on your skin, and even your lady bits (so some girls on the trip said).

Our first view of the Dead Sea from our bus. Photo by Taylor Arion.

This is my friend Jocelyn floating in the Dead Sea.
The group getting into the Dead Sea mud. Photo by Taylor Arion.
Then we traveled to an open-air market (which was surprising since it was still very hot out). Although this was fun, we did not need the several hours they gave us. Once you had been along one "aisle" of the market (i.e. walked around for less than 20 minutes), you had kind of seen it all: fish guy, baklava guy, fruit stand guy, spices guy, souvenirs guy, and repeat. I bought some baklava (which was delicious) and some halva for my colleagues (NOT delicious. It did not travel well at all and actually completely melted by the time I got it to the States! Ew.). It was too bad that we went to this market so late in our trip: we were leaving in three days, so we couldn't really keep much food, and I was afraid some of it would be taken away at customs. I was sort of annoyed by this excursion (seeing as we had to skip our hike but could still be outside for this), so I ended up just buying some French fries and sitting myself down somewhere until it was time to leave.

Fish for sale at the market. Photo by Jocelyn Rubin.
We then went to the Caesar Hotel, which was quite nice. Our first activity at the hotel was a discussion about the conflicts between Israel and Palestine and with the rest of the Arab world (presented by the Middle East Learning Academy). I did not learn any of this history in school, so I found it very interesting. Israel started off as the under-dog when it was a new country, but over the years it has been viewed as a bully, a country with a very strong army killing innocent bystanders, etc. The presenter, Iftach Burman, addressed both sides of the issue, which I thought was very important; he was also funny and had us give each other back-rubs so we would stay awake during his talk. We could have continued the discussion for hours, but we had to head to dinner in the hotel. This buffet actually mixed things up and served things like lasagna and other pasta dishes. The dessert bar was also very good, especially a yummy dessert cup that tasted like a piƱa colada! 

After dinner we had another group activity, mainly to discuss changes to the schedule (a later breakfast, for one). The small sub-group of us met to discuss our readings for our trip to Mount Herzl, and I kept thinking how I hoped my reading of the poem would do the poet and the fallen soldiers justice.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Birthright Trip to Israel: Day 7

We woke up quite early from the Bedouin tent and headed to breakfast almost immediately. There was a separate building for breakfast, and this included tables, benches, and a buffet. This was the saddest breakfast of the whole trip. (The scrambled eggs were always weird in Israel, but these took it to another level.) I ended up just having some cereal, a roll with some jelly, and more pudding (duh).

My sister and I on a camel. Photo by Becca Pomerantz.
Right after breakfast we got to ride camels! There were about 30 Dromedary camels, and each one had a special saddle that would seat two people. All of the camels were roped together (head to tail), so there was no chance of a camel running off away from the group. So we just all walked in a line around the area (pretty much in a big circle), and we were done within 30 minutes (which was good because 1. We were already starting to feel the heat even at 8AM, and 2. That saddle is not particularly comfortable after a while. We weren't allowed to pet the camels, but their funny faces were quite cute! This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was like riding a horse, but we were just higher off the ground!

Then we got back on the bus and went to an organic farm that is on the "salad trail" in Israel. The farm is about five miles from the Egyptian border and five miles from Gaza, so it's right in that little corner of Israel. We spent the afternoon tasting all sorts of delicious things: herbs like lavender and mint, ripe passion fruit, and the most amazing little tomatoes I have ever eaten in my life. They grew so many different varieties of tomatoes, and each one had its own delicious flavor. They also grew cucumbers and honeydew melons in the same greenhouses. We could just pick everything straight from the vine, and we ate ourselves silly! We also made some matzo-like bread (I made my dough very thin, Silly Putty-style).

Herb Garden
Tomatoes! They grow vertically at first, but then the farmers move them to be horizontal. Then the plans naturally start growing vertically again, so the farm can get twice as much fruit!
Our guide making matzo
And as usual, there was some sort of history lesson to go along with the visit. We learned that drip irrigation was invented in Israel, and that desalinization is done a lot there to get fresh water. The farm had some pigeons, and we heard the story about how carrier pigeons were used from that site to send messages to Tel Aviv when this little town was attacked by Egypt when Israel was created in the late 1940's.

Afterward, again because of the heatwave, our hike was canceled and we (you guessed it) went to another shopping mall. However, it was an outdoor outlet mall, so we were still outside, so this really made no sense. My sister and I split a mediocre shawarma sandwich and ate it quickly so we could go shopping. There was a store selling lotions and such, which reminded me of Bath and Body Works. There were several clothing stores that I had seen at the other malls, too, like FOX and Castro. We did up finding a fun store where I bought a beautiful green, lace dress; it only cost about $25-$30, and it looks awesome!

View from our room in the Masada Guest House
After lunch we headed to the Masada Guest House, our next hostel. The rooms were almost just like our first hostel except that we had a balcony. We had the rest of the day to ourselves, which was greatly appreciated. Many people went swimming in the outdoor pool, but it just was SO hot that I did not want to be outside. So I relaxed, taking a shower, writing in my journal, and reading. After all of us had cleaned up, we headed to our buffet dinner. There were two kinds of couscous (yum!), and fresh fruit (plums or figs...), so that was nice. We had a brief group activity where we talked about Rabin and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. When the group was dismissed, a few of us were asked to stay behind; I knew it couldn't be something bad because the handful of people who stayed were the most mature, respectful of the group. We were told that we would present poems/stories when we visited Mount Herzl, the military cemetery in Israel. I was told that one of the boys in the group and I would read a poem together ("The Missed Chance" by Yair Laipd; our version was slightly shorter). I was very glad that our guide Shira had included me in this group; I'm used to being the "teacher's pet," and I was glad that someone finally acknowledged my good behavior!

That night we learned that our hike to Mount Masada for the next day would, of course, be cancelled. Most of us were really looking forward to this hike, and before I left on this trip, everyone I knew who had been to Israel said that I needed to do that hike. So this was very unfortunate. But at least we could sleep in!