"Everyone make sure you're in comfortable clothes and good shoes, we're going to go for a nice walk straight away!" Said our tour guide Iftach, who we had met about 5 minutes earlier and were trusting with our lives.
Two hours later, we were scaling down a mountain.
Welcome to Israel! Where the rare use of the word "hike" should instill a certain level of fear.
Two weeks later, I learned that the route we took down the mountain is typically one which people take up the mountain, and it was, in fact, a lot harder to descend than ascend.
Lesson 1: Don't tell the Taglit kids what they're getting into, otherwise they may chicken out. If the bus drops them off at the top of the mountain and drives away before they realize what's happened, there's really no other option.
Once we made it safely down Mt. Arbel, we were told to gather in a circle and hold hands with our new best friends who we had just met 24 hours earlier, 12 of which were spent sleeping on the flight over. This was probably the least awkward of all the ice breakers. It also proved quite a challenge. Who knew a bunch of 20-somethings would have so much trouble forming a circle? Little did we know, we would have plenty of opportunities to hold hands in circles over the course of the trip.
"Now, turn 90 degrees to your right, and put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you."
Are we going to dance in a conga line?
"Begin moving your thumbs in a circular motion..."
Are we really massaging the shoulders of complete strangers? *giggle giggle* this is so awkward and hilarious!
"Now tap the person's shoulder in front of you, and say to them "You are a good person."
Well, I'm not really sure about that, I barely know these people
Disregard the fact that the first person I had to tell this to was my brother. I'd rather tell that to a complete stranger! (Just kidding, Jarrad. You are a really good person)
Once we had all rather unsuccessfully told the people in front of us they were good people (seriously, how did we never figure out that 50 people leaning forward and talking at the same time would make it rather difficult to effectively talk to each other?), we were told to turn 180* and do the same thing to the person who up until that point had been behind us. After our kumbaya session, we headed to the kibbutz where we would be spending our first three nights where we learned quickly that cats in Israel are akin to squirrels in the US; they're cute to look at, but they're wild and may or may not carry diseases. Everyone, put down the cats you just picked up.
Rest time (something I learned not to take for granted) was spent bonding with my first two roommates (they moved us around at each new location) over how sore our legs were and how good it felt to lay on our beds with our legs resting against the wall. I thought about how I had lucked out with the rooming assignments, given that I had to spend the next 3 nights with the same people, like 'em or not.
After dinner we learned that it's very windy in Israel. As each person on the trip had maybe 3 friends, including their roommates who they had really just met (has it really only been 12 hours?), we were forced to play several rounds of never-have-I-ever-musical-chairs (aka "the wind blows") in order to increase the chances we would end up sitting next to someone we didn't know.
At this point, it was probably time for count off number 1 of so-many-I-lost-count. Everyone remember your numbers! ...or forget them, because remembering one number for 10 days is really, super hard.
After the evening's activities, everyone gathered on the porch of the common area of the kibbutz to socialize...with everyone back home because this was the first wifi we had been graced with since we left New York. And then we went to sleep, because we had effectively been awake for two days...
Stay tuned for day 2!