Arrived in the evening exhausted from the flight. I got no sleep on the plane and I’ve been awake for almost 24 hours I think depending on what the time difference does, besides occasionally dozing off randomly. I was struck immediately on the way in how similar everything is. The highway signs look almost identical to what I see in Kentucky, most people spoke English, and it just generally felt like another city. But occasionally people on the shuttle from the airport would start a conversation in Hebrew, or we’d pass large groups of men and women dressed in Orthodox garb and I’d remember I was in a different country for the first time in my life. The buildings initially looked all the same as back home, but as we got deeper into Jerusalem, the buildings took on a different mood. Large gates, wrought iron fences, barbed wire and bars over the windows. There was a crowded and oppressive feeling I couldn’t shake.
I’d met two of the team members, Anice and Angela, in Newark where we’d boarded for the flight to Tel Aviv. We met another team member, Chihchun, by coincidence on the shuttle ride here. Once we got to the hostel, we met our team leader, Cory, and one other member, Quinn. We left our things in the hostel and went out to grab dinner from the market. I noticed several spots where armed border guards were stationed, which seemed odd since we weren’t anywhere near the border yet. We get an orientation tomorrow, so I’ll get a better idea of what to expect then.
We went to a shawarma shop, which was a learning experience itself. There wasn’t a line, just everyone jammed into the counter and shouting their orders. It seemed like most of the customers were locals, the people behind the counters recognizing them and getting their by what looked like a “ah, here’s your regular” type of routine. It took a while to get my food because I kept sitting back and watching them all, it was fascinating. One of our team members had push through to get the orders placed.
Eating dinner we began with some ice breaker conversation. The “two truths and a lie” game is usually a favorite for me, but I was so tired I couldn’t think of anything. We headed back to the hostel and took an early night to bed. I feel like I should be in more shock given that I’ve never left the country before, but I’m genuinely excited about what’s to come