As many of you already know, I had surgery 6 weeks ago and finally finished bed rest 2 days ago. The surgery was female related and I will not go into detail on here. If you are curious, you can contact me PRIVATELY!
I have been dealing with these problems now for over 3 years, so as much as the surgery and recovery have been awful, I am beyond excited to live without pain again.
The surgery was in New York City at a surgical center next to Wall Street. There are only two doctors in the world that perform this surgery. The one I went to is based out of New York and Washington DC. The other is out of Tel Aviv, Israel. Obviously I opted to get the surgery done in NY, since it is the closest to my house in Philly. I am beyond lucky to live so close to these cities because I cannot imagine having to travel so far just to get a surgery done.
Since the surgery was at 7:00am, we stayed at a hotel in New York the night before. I was put to sleep for the surgery and honestly I do not remember much of what happened while we were at the surgical center. I do remember that the blood pressure machine was broken, and at first my pressure read numbers that would have declared me dead. They figured out it was broken after a third try.
Right after surgery, a nurse checked my vitals and the doctor suggested that we drive me home while the pain medicine was still going strong from the anastesia. I could not walk or wear pants. My dad pulled the car up to the center while my mom got me into a dress and used a wheelchair to push me towards the car. There I was in the middle of Wall Street, watching the business people in suits, as I was wheeled out, half awake, blood running down my legs. I wonder if anyone noticed, or if they just shrugged it off because you see much worse in NYC.
I am so glad that we got on the road home when we did. Mid-way through the car ride, the pain meds started to wear off and I could feel every stitch. I usually have a very high pain tolerance. For example, I recently got stung by a jellyfish and laughed. Blood and needles do not freak me out. This was the first time I ever was in unbearable pain and actually screamed.
The first 24-72 hours were the worst in terms of pain. Really it was not until the second week, that the pain dimmed down enough for me to go off pain meds.
The bed rest period was 6 weeks long. During these 6 weeks, I was not allowed to separate my legs, since it could risk breaking the stitches. Also, I was not allowed to sit up (like in a chair or on the couch), since I could break the stitches by putting pressure there. This meant my only two options were to lay down with my legs together, or stand up with my legs together. I am sure you are probably curious about a couple things upon hearing this, I know I was too during the pre-op.
So, here goes, hopefully your questions are answered below:
Since I had to keep my legs together, walking normally was out of the questions. Instead, I did more of a shuffle. (Yes, everyday I’m shuffling) I moved extremely slow. For the first week, I was completely bed ridden and the only time I would even move, was to go to the bathroom 4 times a day.
I was not allowed to use the steps for a week. When we first arrived home after surgery in NY, my dad physically lifted me by the shoulders up each step. I spent an entire week only seeing two rooms in my house (my bedroom and my bathroom). To go down the steps, I had to go backwards while keeping my thighs together. Sadly, insurance does not allow you to get that chair that goes down the steps like the movie “Up.”
I will let you use your imagination here. I had to use something called a “sitz bath.” You can look it up if you are that inclined. Also, that time of the month as a girl was the worst. It happened twice during the bed rest period. I was not allowed to wear anything, so it was just a complete mess. It is crazy to think that girls in third world countries do not have access to tampons or pads. I could barely last two months not using them.
Showering does not require that you move your legs apart. I stood in the shower and had help. Remember to appreciate the fact that you can shower yourself.
Since you cannot eat or digest food while laying down, eating became a difficult task. For the first week, we propped a pillow behind me so that I could attempt to semi sit-up. After that, I just stood up to eat. While everyone sat at the dinner table, I stood at our kitchen counter a couple feet away. This was actually one of the hardest parts for me. I so badly wanted to just sit down in a chair and eat normally with my family.
I had to keep my legs together while sleeping. If you want to know what that is like, trying laying flat on your back and keep your legs together straight. After about 5 minutes, you will start to feel shooting pain down your legs. After a week, I was able to maneuver onto my side, while keeping my legs together. No matter what positions I was in, my knees would have sharp pains. It is safe to say that I did not get much sleep during the 6 weeks.
Majority of my days were spent watching TV. It was hard to do pretty much anything else, since I could not sit up at all. Everyone kept telling me how jealous they were that I got to relax all day watching Netflix, while they went to work. I have to say, first of all this was not “relaxing.” My knees and legs would stiffen from not moving. My neck and back would constantly ache (scoliosis and whiplash did not help with that). My eyes would hurt from staring at the screens and I would get headaches constantly. Also, watching TV and laying down is great for a day, but soon all you want to do is leave the house.
During the 6 weeks, I could not leave my house. The most I was able to leave was a quick shuffle onto the porch and back into my living room. After week 2 of bed rest, the simplest outings sounded like a dream. I would have given anything just for a trip to the grocery store or bank.
Some days were just awful. There is not a light way to put it.
It was sometimes the strangest things that would get me through the weeks. The first was the Bachelorette, which I watched every Monday. It was a good gage of how much time had passed. Every Monday, it was exciting to say that I made it through another week. Plus, dramatic TV is a great way to forget about your own struggles. I watched every single episode of Game of Thrones, which was great. Still confused as to where Gendry is, but other than that it is one of my favorite TV shows now!
I watched the entire Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Soon I became obsessed with politics. I am guilty of posting a myriad of political articles to Facebook. Typically, I hate people that do that, but when I was so bored, it seemed the only way I could keep myself busy. It was nice though to have some time to really research politics. If you want to have a heated debate with me over candidates, I will be more than happy!
Speaking of politics, I am not going to go off on which candidate you should support, but I do want to bring an issue to your attention. This of course is female health care. It has been a debated topic and some politicians want to defund places such as Planned Parenthood.
As I mentioned earlier, my surgery was female related. The issues I had have nothing to do with promiscuity and more to do with genetics and nerve endings. I want to emphasize that because a lot of times people do not want to help women with these types of issues because they assume that it is because of their promiscuity or the fact that they are a “slut.” THIS IS NOT TRUE!
For me, I am very lucky! First of all, I have a very supportive family, who were open to talking to me about any issue. My parents were willing to put their lives on hold to take care of me. This surgery requires that you have full time help. I could not shower by myself or make food. For the first week, I needed help just walking to the bathroom. Most people do not have parents, family members, or friends that can take off work to help you.
Second, I just graduated college with no job. I did not apply to any jobs on purpose, because I knew no place would hire me knowing that I could not start for at least 2 months after surgery. For a lot of people, taking 2 months off of work is impossible. This is not a surgery where you can return to work with ease. You need at least 6 weeks to recover and a lot of times, women must decide between getting surgery and keeping their job. Some women with my condition will live with pain their entire lives because they will never be able to take enough time off work and keep their job. Taking 6 weeks off, probably unpaid, also leaves most people in a very bad situation. Again, I was lucky to be living at home and not having to worry about paying rent during these months.
Third, I have the financial means. This surgery, like most female surgeries like it, was not covered at all by insurance. Of course the male version of the surgery was covered, which I could rant about for days, but I will spare you here. This was not just the $10,000 out of pocket cost to get the surgery, there were also the travel and medicine costs. The cost of gas to get to and from NY as well as the parking, hotel rooms and doctors appointments can add up. I was able to have help from my grandparents and parents so that we could afford to get this surgery and everything that needed to be done for recovery. Most people do not have that kind of money to lay out.
As I mentioned earlier, there are only two doctors who perform this surgery. I learned throughout this entire process, that there is little to no research done on female health care. Most of the time, I was taking trial medication, because there was not even a known cure yet. Thousands of women struggle with the same issues everyday and sadly do not have the same opportunities as myself. When politicians want to defund places such as Planned Parenthood, you are taking away the opportunity for a women to live a pain free life, who may not be able to afford the initial visit to the only specialist in New York. There is so much research that needs to be done and so much sexism and bias that surrounds the issues.
My hope is that one day, after more research, women like me will not have to take trial medications for 2 years with awful side effects. Maybe women will be able to heal quicker after surgery or a cure will be found that does not require surgery.
My post-op was on August 4th. It was my first time walking, sitting and leaving the house after a month and half. The only problem was that I was still in extreme pain. It turns out that I was the lucky one whose dis-solvable stitches did not dissolve. They were painfully plucked out with tweezers before I could even say the words “pain meds please!”
After that, slowly, but surely, things have gotten better. For starters I am able to walk and sit upright. There is still some pain from the stitches, but each day there is less pain. Hopefully within a week, I will be pain free.
The other problem is that I am exhausted. My leg muscles especially are having a hard time adjusting. I have to laugh at myself though. Earlier today I tried putting a shirt into a lower drawer. As I bent down my entire leg gave out and I toppled to the floor. Always a fun way to start your morning.
Now I wait to slowly get back on my feet and after about 3-4 weeks, I can start physical therapy.
Just want to take a moment to thank my family and friends who have supported me through the entire process, especially my mom, who put her life on hold to take care of me for 6 weeks straight!
After everything is said and done, I have really learned to love everything that you do in a day. This includes simple things, like going out to eat, or walking around Target or even just taking a long shower. Things are starting to get better. They always do.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me enjoying the great outdoors while on pain meds…
We had just finished up Birthright in Israel and were now headed to Athens. The Birthright trip allows you to extend your stay for up to 3 months. The only catch is that you must fly back out of Tel Aviv.
When we landed there were actually a bunch of Birthright kids who were extending on our same flight. This is probably because Tel Aviv to Athens is such a cheap flight. It is always great to meet new people and travel with them.
I learned quickly that you only need a day to do Athens. Luckily we had a flight the next day to Mykonos. Once you see all the sights, then it is just a regular city.
First we went to Acropolis. Of course, every site costs a lot of Euros, but you are willing to pay because when in Greece. Acropolis was the most worth it. An acropolis is a settlement that is built on elevated ground, used for defense. The most famous acropolis is the Acropolis of Athens because of its historical associations and the famous buildings atop it, such as the Parthenon.
The hike up to Acropolis is actually quite long and hard, but it is so worth it to get a view of Athens. From the top, you can see a bunch of other ruins through out the city. It reminded me of Rome.
Later, we strolled around the city and had the chance to see other ruins such as the Temple of Zeus and the Olympic Stadium.
Our flight to Mykonos was at 6:00am, meaning we had to be up at 3:00am to take the bus to the airport and check in for our flight. Our friends from the Tel Aviv airport that also flew to Tel Aviv were also on our flight to Mykonos. It is a small world!
Although Mykonos is not Santorini, I felt like I was in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. All the buildings are white and blue, cast upon the hills overlooking the crystal clear waters. I have never seen such clear water in my life. Our hostel was in Mykonos City on an adorable tiny cobble stone street.
Since the island is so small, you can easily rent some kind of motor vehicle and explore. We decided to rent an ATV and drive it to the only vineyard in Mykonos for a wine tasting. Soon, we realized as two young looking girls, that the world is still sexist. We wanted to compare rental prices and went into at least 6 different ATV rental places. First they asked for our ages, but then asked if we knew how to drive. If I were in that store with a man, even if he was younger than me, I would not have been asked 20 questions. Luckily, the old men allowed us to rent an ATV.
Since most of the streets on the island are unmarked, we got a bit lost. The streets look like the ones on the Aran Islands, lined with stone walls, and mostly dirt roads. Also, our ATV was the cheapest on the lot, meaning it could not make it up hills. It’s like Mia’s mustang in the Princess Diaries. There was a brief couple minutes where we physically pushed the ATV, but it’s the price you pay when you are trying to find the only winery on the island.
The winery was called ΜΥΚΟΝΟΥ ΒΙΩΜΑ, or the Mykonos Vioma Organic Farm & Vineyard. The first thing that stood out to me were the short vines. The owner of the vineyard and the waitress told us this is due to the wind. Mykonos is known as the windy island, therefore the vines have to be short so that the wind doesn’t knock them over.
As I have said earlier, this is the only vineyard in Mykonos and is only 15 years old. The roses that you can see throughout the vineyard also serve a purpose. The roses are an indicator of how the vines are doing. They act as an early warning sign for any threats that the vines might face. Also, they are beautiful!
The vineyard also places classical music all day. This is because a famous scientist (I am not sure of the name) found that sound can positively effect the growth of the vines. First of all I want to know how I get assigned to research this. Listening to music all day while sipping wines for research sounds like a dream come true.
The next day we decided to rent a car and go to some of the beaches. Of course we faced the same sexist problem in every car rental place. They were weary of the fact that either of us had the ability to drive then asked 20 questions. Again, I have seen guys, probably our age walk in, and get handed the keys no questions asked. Even when we returned the car in one piece, the manager was in shock. He kept asking where our men were to drive us. Anyways before I go on a rant, I’ll get back to the more interesting part, the beaches!
Mykonos has numerous beaches all around the coast. Mykonos town, where our hostel was is the tourist center, where it is more like a pier, not a beach. There is also Paradise Island, but it more of a spring breakers type of feel. At this point it traveling we wanted to relax. From suggestions, we went to two beaches, which were more private. I forget which order we went in, but the two beaches were Ag. Sostis and Kalafatis. The water was crystal clear and the background included views of other islands in the distance. This is what paradise must look like. No worries, these waters did not have any jellyfish.
That night we decided to get a nice dinner on the pier before another day of traveling back to Israel.
The real backpacker experience happened on our way to the Mykonos airport. We had made an itinerary on Google Docs that had all our information including flights. Sometimes when you are copying and pasting, the numbers of times (military times) get mixed up. We had missed our flight, which had taken off an hour before we arrived. $500 later, the mistake was fixed and we were set to leave on the next flight. Shit happens right?
I’ll go into detail about our last days in Israel in my next post.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of the adorable dog at our wine tasting…
I am sorry for not finishing up my Israel blogs sooner, but there have been so many world events going on recently. It is terrible to hear about all the horrible issues going on around the world and even in our own country today in Orlando.
My birthright trip had just been to Tel Aviv and we could have easily been at that market the day of the shooting. Any kind of shooting, no matter where or who is involved, is a tragedy. For these reasons, writing a blog about Israel was a difficult task for the past days.
To continue where I left off…
We first arrived in Jerusalem after our desert canyon hike. We were given an amazing view of the city from Mount Scopus Overlook.
The next day we headed to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum. Since this day would be so emotional, we had a group discussion the night before. People shared wonderful and tragic stories about the Holocaust, including family member’s personal stories and just their thoughts on the visit. At the end, we all came to the conclusion that this event was a catastrophe. As we have learned in history classes, history tends to repeat itself. The best thing we can do in this generation is to have these discussions and educate everyone on how these events came to be. I saw a quote on a door when I was touring Auschwitz that read, “the one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.” (George Santayana) This essence of this quote stuck with me as I visited Yad Vashem and talked with my peers.
After the Holocaust museum, we hiked to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery and which is located right next to Yad Vashem. It is named after Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, and his tomb is at the top of the hill. This was again a very emotional experience, since Israeli fallen soldiers are buried here. One of these memorials is called the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial which commemorates all the victims of terrorism in Israel from 1851 until today.
The days before we had spent hiking and swimming in the dead sea, so it was an eye opening experience to learn more about the history of Israel. We had felt so safe our entire trip and as I mentioned before, education and remembrance are the most important things.
The next day we started with a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter and learned about the Old City. I have traveled quite a bit, but as I said earlier, there is something so crazy about walking the streets of the Bible. These streets date back to over 2000 years ago. No matter your religion or beliefs, there is something so incredible about that.
The end of the tour was at the Western Wall, or known as The Kotel or Waling Wall. The wall is an ancient limestone wall, but is only a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient wall. It was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great, which also resulted in the natural, steep hill known as the Temple Mount.
The term Western Wall and its variations are mostly used for the section traditionally used by Jews for prayer, and it has also been called the “Wailing Wall”, referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site over the destruction of the Temples.
A recent tradition that started was to place notes inside the wall. Most are either prayers or wishes, since this is one of the holiest sites for most religions.
Visiting the wall was again a very emotional experience. As I have mentioned before, I am not a religious person, but there is a type of feeling you get by being there that is unexplainable. I went in first to touch the wall. The stones on the bottom are smooth, while the ones a couple feet up are rough. This is because so many hands have touched the bottom part of the wall. That is when it all hit me. This wall has been standing for 2000 years. People, just like me had been passing it and touching it. It is almost as if the wall holds all the secrets of all the people that have ever been near it. Then, I looked around at all the other people praying, from all different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. It was ironic to me because we were all praying for the same thing, peace. Every religion preaches love for one another, and there we all were, standing in the same spot, just praying for peace. I thought about how the day before, we had visited the Holocaust museum and the tombs of fallen soldiers. Now, as I am back home there are even more tragedies happening everyday. It all takes me back to that one moment when my hand left the wall and I felt this feeling of oneness. I was scared that it would never come again. People would continue to fight and hate, but in that one moment, I watched the world in perfect harmony. It may be far fetched, but it is the only way I can describe the experience.
I left my note in the wall and stepped back to look at it in full. It is mind blowing to even think that you are across the country, staring at the wall that is so infamous.
The only thing that really stood out to me is that the wall is divided between men and women. Women are given a smaller section than the men to pray in. There are many religious reasons for this, but for me it was a bit uncomfortable. Some people argued that they felt a female power experience, while others felt as I did. I will not go on about my opinions, but just wanted to point that out.
Later that night we prepared for our last Shabbat as a group. This time, the harmony of our group was so different. After only 10 days, we had become so close and it was great to see everyone smiling together after such a long and hard 2 days.
The last day we had the option to attend synagogue. I typically do not attend services, but I decided that it was such an interesting opportunity to see a service in Israel. We went to an orthodox service, where the men and women were separated. First of all, this is so different than what I am used to. There was a wall in between where they faced each other and a tiny lace cloth. You could see though the lace, but not well. It was frustrating to me because it was so different from what I know.
After we visited the Israel museum. I took a picture of the Ahava sign, which means love in English. I found it awesome since the original love sign is in Philly, my hometown.
Then, we were back at the hotel, since everyone had to be ready to leave for the airport at 6am. Since I was extending my stay, I did not need to be up and ready, but of course I was going to say my goodbyes. Also, we had to be out of our rooms.
That day we walked around Jerusalem some more since our flight to Athens, Greece was not until 7:30pm. The next blog posts will be all about my time extending in Greece.
I know that this post was a lot more serious than my past blog posts. It was difficult to share and I hope that you can feel what I felt. This world is full of hatred and if only we could love one another, this world would find peace. Walls would not separate people, but bring them together.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me asleep on a giant apple sculpture in the Israel museum…
And here goes the next post…
As I mentioned in the last post, we had a 2 hour bus ride to the kibbutz where we stayed the night. A kibbutz is a communal settlement, where everyone takes part in the betterment of the community. We were only in the kibbutz to sleep, so I cannot give you much information on how they function or what they were like. I can tell you about the giant cockroach and two spiders that were in our tiny shared room. After my cockroach infestation in New York, I was a bit terrified and did not get any sleep.
Early the next morning we hiked Masada. For anyone who is interested, we hiked up on the Roman Ramp and hiked down on the Snake Path. At first we were angry that we were not hiking both ways on the Snake Path. After just the hike down, I am so thankful!
The fortress that is Masada was actually build by the Roman King Harrod. He was known as a builder, and of course his most famous building is Masada. Because of the dry weather on the mountain, scrolls and leather were preserved. Many of these texts have been so important since they date back to 2000 years ago.
One of the most famous stories about Masada is the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. Legend has it that the people on top of the mountain knew that the Romans were coming and would make them all slaves. The group decided that they would rather die than become slaves and committed a mass suicide, where family and friends were killing each other. Only two women and 5 children were found alive. Whether you think that this mass suicide was the heroic choice or not, it makes for an interesting moral dilemma.
Masada overlooks the Dead Sea, which is where we headed after hiking down. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. The water has 34.2% salinity, which means it is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, and the world’s saltiest body of water. Now just as pouring salt water on a wound hurts, imagine submerging your entire body into it. Every cut on your body, ones you did not even know existed, begins to burn. Once the initial shock is over, the burn goes away, and you can enjoy the water. This is why the water is said to hold healing powers.
The best part about the salty water is that is has a density of 1.24kg/liter. (Yeah I found that on Wikipedia, but you get the point). This means that swimming feels like floating. For me, it is what I imagined space feels like. Your body immediately floats on the surface. It is very difficult to try and not float.
That night we were staying at the Bedouin Tents. These were tents made out of goat hair, that housed 100 people. Our entire group was in one tent, where we were given tiny mattress pads (no pillows) and slept on the floor. For somebody with scoliosis and whiplash, this was a challenging evening without a pillow, but such a cool experience.
The Bedouins are nomads who live in the deserts. Their name literally means desert wanders. One of the Bedouins came to talk to our group about their culture. He said that their society focuses around respect and responsibility. One interesting aspect was that when a child is 10 years old, he is sent out to make it on his/her own with 60 camels. I know this sounds crazy, seeing as I can’t even imagine caring for one camel at 10 years old, but they are still doing it. They live off the land and create no waste. Livestock and herding, particularly goats and camels, comprise the traditional livelihoods of the Bedouins. These animals are used for meat, diary products and wool. Watching this community function in 2016 was amazing to me.
We were also given a Bedouin dinner, complete with tea and biscuits at the end. This was hands down the best meal I had my entire trip. Honestly, I am not even sure what I ate, but I know that it was delicious.
After we had a group bonfire where people shared stories. (Remember that Bedouins tents do not have wifi) Nights like these are always my favorite.
The next morning we did a desert canyon hike (Ein Ovdat). This included the grave of Ben Gurion, the primary founder of the State of Israel and the first Prime Minister of Israel. His grave leads to a beautiful hike around the desert canyons.
After this gorgeous hike, we rode on camels. Camels are a lot taller than you’d expect. To mount the camel, you have to wrap your legs around and hold on tight because when the camel stands, you might get thrown off. I found it especially exciting because we were riding the camels on Wednesday…HUMP DAY! The irony was making me so excited. The ride was only 2-3 minutes, but honestly that is all you need.
The next days were spent in Jerusalem and included a visit to Yad Vashem (The Holocaust museum) so I will end here to leave time to speak on those topics.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of Shoko B’Sakit, otherwise known as chocolate milk in a bag. It is surprisingly delicious…
As promised here is the next blog post!
The next day we went to the Golan Heights. (Remember when I mentioned that in the last blog post) These mountains are surrounding the Jordan River and are the boarder between Israel and Syria. The exact trail was called Nahal Banias if you are curious to look up more about it. The hike was beautiful and included a waterfall at the end.
Next, we headed to the Jordan river for some casual rafting. I mean CASUAL. There was only one semi rapid. Although, I am not against a more lazy river type journey.
After we departed and headed for Netanya, where we were staying for the night. Our hotel was the nicest of all the hotels we stayed at throughout the trip and of course it was our shortest stay. It was right next to the beach and each room had a balcony view.
Immediately a huge group of us wanted to go to the beach before sundown (in about an hour) to take pictures and put our feet in the water. The tour guide said for liability reasons, no one was allowed to go near the water. So of course, we went into the water.
I have to say that karma can be a real bitch. We happily took pictures of the beautiful beach and stripped down to our sports bras to jump into the waves. As we were running, I felt something glide across my leg. At first I though it was a piece of trash or maybe a shell, until 5 seconds later when a stinging pain swept across my entire leg. Without warning, I began running out of the water. My leg was covered with red lines and was beginning to swell.
In total confusion and pain, I burst out laughing. I was just stung by a jelly fish. This is maybe the liability thing our tour guide was talking about. I even remember ironically yelling about how stupid that rule was as I took off into the waves.
I know what you are immediately thinking…Did you get peed on?
Well we all gathered around my leg, figuring out what to do. We all remembered that Friends episode where Monica was stung by a jelly fish and came to the conclusion that somebody would have to pee on my leg. A very nice friend, whose name due to privacy I will not just lay out, agreed to do the act.
Thank you so much friend! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
I limped up the stairs, trying to not get caught by our tour guide. We went into the bath tub and it happened. It only semi worked. The swelling was going down, but the pain was still there. Once someone pees on you, there is nothing to do but laugh. I couldn’t help it. Eventually the Aleve kicked in and the pain dimmed.
After the whole jelly fish fiasco, we had only a short amount of time to get ready for our night out in Tel Aviv. The trip only allotted one night where we were allowed to leave the hotel at night and go to the bars. Of course it was the night where I could barely walk without pain. Luckily wine helps with these kinds of aches.
We had a crazy night out , but our hotel was a 40 minute bus ride from the street we were allowed to go out on. This meant we were bused to the bars and then had to be back on the bus by 12:30am to get back to the hotel. Just imagine 39 drunk college kids on a coach bus in Israel. You get a very nice picture of how the bus ride back was going. Since the people who planned this trip really wanted to mess with us, we had to be packed and out of the hotel by 7:30am. Not sure why our night out was planned for the night before one of our longest days. Everyone made it out alive!
The next day was Taglit Day, meaning there were a myriad of activities planned for us all day. All of the birthright trips were included in these events and there were hundreds of birthright people running around the city. Of course it was like a giant camp reunion. Everyone knew everyone, whether they went to camp with your cousin, or somehow are actually related to you. The program gave us all matching shirts. It was like Taglit had thrown us a giant bar-mitzvah and these shirts were the give away. You remember in middle school when that next day everyone would wear the give away and you would feel so left out if you weren’t wearing the give away because then you knew you weren’t invited? Of course that was never me? Right?
This was the day that we met our Israeli soldiers. For the last part of our trip, Israeli soldiers, who were our age, joined our trip. This happens for every birthright trip and makes it very special. We were only with our soldiers for 5 days, but I feel so close to each of them. I feel like I was able to learn so much about their country and life just by talking with them. It was an honor to be able to get to know them better!
The Taglit day was interesting to say the least. They wanted to expose us to Israeli culture and set up stations for each group to visit. Our first was a music station. A local DJ was set up in a basement bar. It is was supposed to have a club feel. Instead of having a cultural impact, the DJ was promoting himself, in a bar where everyone was sober and awkward. He told all of us that we should come to his show in Moscow, Russia and then went on about his Instagram likes. It was strange hour.
Next, a group that was semi like the Blue Man Group did an activity with us. The room was split into 4 sides. One side had two giant sticks, the other had drumsticks and a bucket, the other had diver fins and my side had nothing. I guess you can say that my side had the gift of clapping and slapping our bodies. Each side made noise from their objects and of course, all the noises meshed together to make music.
The final event was my favorite. We were given time to play volleyball on the beaches and there was a Zumba class and music. Do not worry, I put my feet in the water and did not get stung again. After, all the birthright trips were taken to a central location for a concert. A big Israeli band played for us and we danced the night away. Again, what’s a bar-mitzvah without a cool band and swag?
Then we embarked on a two hour bus ride to our Kibbutz. I will talk about the Kibbutz in the next post since this one is getting long.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of the girl that peed on me…
Before I begin sharing all my Israel and Greece adventures I want to give a disclaimer. There are a myriad of political and religious aspects that are included in my blog posts. These are just my opinions and I am hoping to remain unbiased. I am not taking sides, but only relaying what I observed. If you have an issue with anything that I write, please message me privately, instead of commenting on any social media.
Now that the disclaimer is over…
The first part of my adventure was through Taglit Birthright. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a non-profit organization that gives Jewish young adults an opportunity to go to Israel for 10 days, all expenses paid. If you are curious about the organization, then you can search them online. Since there is so much to say, I am splitting up my blog posts from the trip.
The first days of our trip were spent in a hostel/hotel in Tiberais. Since we arrived the day before Shabbat, our time spent there was very different than other Birthright groups.
We spent the first day in a town called Tzfat. There, we met a Rabbi, who gave us information about the Talmud and told us about his views. Fun fact, this Rabbi also owns his own winery. His main focus was on Kabbalah, which means to know how to receive beyond what you don’t know. He related this idea to the Tree of Life. When we look at the tree, we mainly see the trunk and outer parts, even though majority of the tree (roots and such) go unseen. There are many ways to interpret this, but I held onto the idea that when we look at existence, we only see externality and do not understand our roots. I personally am not a religious person, but this idea really stood out to me. I thought about it as if the tree was a person. We do not fully understand a person just from the parts we can see. I thought this was a beautiful way to look at the world, whether you are religious or not. One of my favorite books growing up was The Giving Tree, which now makes sense.
After, we had time to explore the city itself. There is an alley where it is said that the messiah will eventually walk through. The entire trip I felt as if I were walking through the Bible. Every stone, building, and object had historical, cultural, or religious importance.
Of course I had some great food! There is a spice they use there called Za’atar. All I have to say is that you should go to an international supermarket and go find it.
That night and next day were Shabbat, which is the religious day of rest. My family has never celebrated Shabbat, so for me this was an out of body experience. I think a lot of people do not realize how unique Judaism is since you can be Jewish without being religious. Since my mother was Jewish, technically I am Jewish, regardless of how religious I am.
During Shabbat in Israel, the entire country shuts down. There are no cars on the road and everything is closed. Almost like Easter here in America, but this happens every week for Friday night and Saturday morning. During Shabbat we were told to relax, so this is what we did. All Friday we spent drinking wine and getting to know each other. On Saturday we all hung out by the pool and again just got to enjoy each other’s presence. Remember that we could not go anywhere, since everything is closed and our bus driver was celebrating himself, meaning he could not operate a vehicle. Not that I am going to start celebrating Shabbat every week, but I definitely think taking a break from life each week is healthy and needed. America is constantly moving and it was nice for once to have time blocked out just for the purpose of relaxation.
Later on Saturday, we were able to visit the Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel. Fun fact, this is where it is rumored that Jesus walked on water. Again, you are basically walking through the Bible everyday. The area we went to was super touristy and filled with a full boardwalk type area of shops and restaurants. The backdrop of the sea is the Golan Heights. We did get to hike them, but I will talk about that in the next post.
This area used to be part of Syria until 1967. Israel won this area in the 6 days war, which is the first war that Israel ever started. When we were in this area, it was the first time that I was presented with a plethora of information regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I am not going to give a history lesson in this post, but I would highly suggest educating yourself on the conflicts happening on this side of the world. I always knew the basics, but I was angry that my school never taught me about these conflicts in much details.
My biggest take away was that every story has two sides. Whether you agree with one side or the other, it is vital to be highly educated on both points of views. This is a difficult task when so much of the media we read today is biased. Just be sure to check where you are gathering your information before coming to an opinion.
I know this post was short, but the next posts are filled with so many more stories and thoughts. There will be one coming every day for the next 6 days so get excited!
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of Shabbat candles shaped like baby penguins…
Well last night I attended my last ever college class. Yes, I still have finals, but it was my last time sitting and learning in an actual classroom at Alabama. At first I was excited, seeing as I was about to have a break after a long and hard semester, but yesterday I felt so sad.
I looked around at all these people in my class, realizing I will probably never see them again. Now every time I see somebody on campus, I can’t help thinking the same thing. There are people I see everyday, but now I can’t help thinking about those people who I happen to run into every once and awhile. I am never sure whether to say goodbye, or wish them good luck on their life endeavors.
I guess I keep imagining that this is like every other year, where I move my stuff to storage, run off to some city for an internship and then come back the next year into my new apartment. Maybe it will truly hit me in August, when I can no longer make the 14 hour trek down to start classes.
I really hate goodbyes and endings. People keep trying to tell me the same corny phrases, “this is the beginning of a new chapter,” “all good things must come to an end,” and “you have so many great things ahead.” Frankly, I am sick of hearing them. I am sad about leaving and that is it.
Also, if you have been on Facebook lately, you may also feel awful about your life after college. Everyone is posting about their new jobs or masters programs. Then there is me, reciting Parks and Rec quotes while enjoying puppy videos.
You might be asking yourself, well Bonnie what are your plans after graduation then unless you plan on re watching Parks and Rec again?
And here they are:
- Next Monday, I will drive back to Philly with my dad.
- On May 18th I will be traveling to Israel on the Birthright trip.
- I decided to extend my trip till June 6th. My friend Risa and I will be going to Athens, Mykonos and a couple other cities in Israel.
- I will be getting surgery on June 24th in NYC.
- I will not be off bed rest until mid-August. During this time I will be applying for jobs with winter start dates.
- There is a 90% chance that I will re watch Parks and Rec.
- I am hoping to write a lot during bed rest.
- The next 2-3 months, I will be in physical therapy.
- I will most likely pick a week in September or October to go down for an Alabama football game and visit friends.
- Hopefully by November/December I will have a job that I can boast about in a future blog post.
For my last week at Alabama, I will be finishing filming my short film this weekend. We purchased 7 tickets for an Amtrak train from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham and are preparing to shoot on the moving train. Then we will begin editing and hopefully soon, I can share the final product with you.
Other than some finals, I will be attending my final Wine Wednesday and Houndstooth Bingo.
Also, I have been to so many “final” social gatherings and ceremonies, so I felt it necessary to post some pics!
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of my room mate hoisting me onto the Alabama sign to get that perfect picture. It is a lot higher than it looks, especially in a robe and wedges.
It feels like I haven’t written one of these in forever. I have been so busy traveling and working, that I forgot to send some updates.
There are so many amazing things happening right now in my life, but all I can think about is the fact that I have to graduate in a month. Do not get me wrong, I am very happy to be graduating on time and to finally take a much needed break from school, but there is always a part of you that is sad when a chapter of your life is ending. Suddenly every thing you do becomes important. You cannot help thinking “this will be the last time I ever do this” for everything you do. (Yes, I think about this every time I play Bingo Thursday nights at Houndstooth )
It is getting to that time in the semester where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Teachers have listed out everything needing to be done till the end of the term. Social organizations have put out dates for their final parties. Emails about graduation parking have been sent out. It seems that the months are moving quicker than they ever have before.
I keep thinking that I will magically return for another year after summer. That I will see all my friends, hang out, go to new classes and continue cheering on the football team. I picture myself here next year doing what I have been doing for the past 4 years. To picture doing anything else (let’s not go back to high school or below) sounds strange.
Although jumping into the unknown is scary, there is so much to look forward to. (Finding a job, finding a home, paying bills, maybe living in a cardboard box in the middle of New York…okay maybe not too much) There is excitement though in moving to a new city, starting a career path towards your dreams and figuring out how to fend for yourself.
People are always shocked that I am so torn on graduation. I have lived on my own before in Los Angeles, New York and even Ireland, but in the back of my mind I always knew what the next step was going to be. After LA and NY, I knew that I would be coming back to Alabama. After graduation, I know I will be going back to Philly to get surgery, but after that there are so many unknowns.
I plan everything in my life, so when there comes a time that is unplannable, (I think I just made up a word, but you get what I mean) I find myself lost. I sit there, staring at the wall repeating over and over again “about one month away.” I know I will be fine and that life will be fine, but things are just starting to get real for me.
In my last month at Alabama, there are so many exciting things happening. First, I will be directing a short film that I wrote earlier in the year.You may remember from a previous blog post, that I had the opportunity to visit Poland and the concentration camps while studying abroad. After this experience, I was inspired to write a script based on my family ties to Poland, and my relatives who had survived the Holocaust. We have a Go Fund Me page (www.gofundme.com/Grosz) for anyone who would like to donate to the film or read more about it.
We start shooting this weekend and hopefully by the end of April, I will be able to share the final version with you all!
Also, I will be attending our last date party for Delta Gamma as well as our senior night. I love and hate goodbye parties. It is a great opportunity to gather all your friends for one last celebration, but at the same time, I hate never knowing when the goodbye will actually take place. It is always strange to be celebrating, while at the same time, you just want to hug everyone and cry. Anyways, it should be a fun time.
Lastly, I wanted to tell you about my spring break adventures in Florida. (Sorry I know that it happened over a week ago) Dillon and I decided to get in my car and do a “tour of Florida,” which later would be known as “seeing Florida from a car while dealing with extreme exhaustion.” The drive from Tuscaloosa to Miami is 12 hours, which we split into two days. Later we drove to Clearwater, which is 5 hours, and then had to drive another 10 hours back to Tuscaloosa. As you can tell, it was a lot of bonding time in the car.
After driving through 32 states, I have learned to love road trips (well not the sketchy bathrooms and fast food chains part). There is so much you learn about the US simply from driving down a road and stopping along the way. Plus, there is something relaxing about having hours with nothing else to do, but listen to podcasts and music.
The highlight of our Florida tour was Key Largo, where we did a snorkeling boat trip. It is always so crazy to see the Atlantic Ocean down here, compared to the Atlantic Ocean near me in Jersey. The color of the water is bright and blue. I felt like I was on a commercial for a cruise line, as I jumped into the water and was able to see a turtle drifting along. I was able to bring my GoPro with me while snorkeling, so I was able to get some really awesome photos.
Another cool thing we did was go to the Phillies Spring Training Camp. I had completely forgot that Phillies Spring Training took place in Clearwater and that it was happening as we were there. It was not until I saw a wave (pun intended) of Phillies fans out at the beach, that I figured it out. It just so happened that our last day in Clearwater the Phillies were playing the Pirates (Dillon is from Pittsburgh and that detail might show why this game was so ironic). We got cheap tickets and attended the game. Sadly, since we had so much driving to do that night, we had to leave early. The Phillies won by the way!!!
It is now time to buckle down and finish the semester strong. Sad to say, but graduation photos are coming soon.
Until next time, enjoy this photo of Dillon being a bingo unicorn…
Lately I have been getting the same question over and over again: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO AFTER GRADUATION?
I DO NOT KNOW!
If you are graduating soon then you understand the very real struggle of the dreaded question. Some lucky individuals have a job lined up, but for some of us we are unsure of what we will be eating for dinner tonight.
Honestly, I will be getting surgery done that will require a 6-week bed rest recovery period, meaning I physically cannot have plans for after graduation right now. If you want to know more details please message me privately.
Having surgery in any capacity sucks, but I could not have asked for a better time to have it done. For the first time in my life, I have no school, no job and no crazy travel plans. (Well I am planning to go on the Birthright Israel trip, but the doctor is willing to wait for my return in June). It is a little crazy that I have never had a 6-week period of free time long enough to get this done.
So now that we answered that dreaded question, I’ll get into the more exciting stuff about my final semester at Alabama.
First of all, I decided to leave my job at that Japanese restaurant, and start a new job as a desk assistant in the Telecommunication and Film department. I could not be happier with this decision, not to mention the money I’m saving getting soy sauce out of my clothes.
Also, if you have read earlier posts of mine about the car accident, then you can be happy to hear I bought a new car. It is a red Toyota corolla named Bonsai. (My past two cars have been named Bonfire and BonVoyage if you cannot pick up on the theme here)
In January, it was officially a year since I left for Study Abroad. It is strange to hit a time where my photos from Ireland are now on my Time Hop app. I still miss everything about that trip dearly.
We had our formal for Delta Gamma called Anchor Ball. Yes, that is my junior prom dress that I am wearing! I am proud to have worn that dress to 5 different events in my life. Anchor Ball was held in Birmingham and it was such an amazing night!
Lastly, I have been crazy busy, but decided that I had time to paint a cooler for Dillon’s formal. It is tradition that if you are invited to a fraternity formal, you supposed to paint them a cooler. For those of you who have never painted a cooler, it is not an easy task!
First you have to spackle the cooler, meaning you have to fill any holes (logos) that would cause an uneven surface. After, you have to sand the entire cooler. This sanding process could take hours, but it is crucial in making sure the paint sticks. I sanded so hard, that my thumb nail sanded off and took 2 weeks to grow back . Next, you prime the cooler then spend countless hours painting the details. The pictures are below so please appreciate them, knowing that a thumb nail was lost in the process.
As you can guess, after painting the cooler, we then headed to New Orleans this weekend. It is only a 4.5 hour bus ride. I had already been to New Orleans before, but it is still one of my favorite cities in the US. We did some of the typical tourist things, such as Cafe du Monde, Jackson Square and Bourbon Street. For lunch on Saturday we went to a restaurant called Pierre Maspero’s, originally known as Pierre Maspero’s Slave Exchange. During the 19th century the building was used as a meeting place for Jean and Pierre Lafitte and their men to plan escape. It was also the site where Andrew Jackson (7th president of the U.S.) met with the Lafitte brothers to plan the defense in the Battle of New Orleans (the battle where the British surrendered to the American troops led by Jackson). Anyways, it was really good jambalaya and atmosphere.
We also decided to go off the beaten path a bit. A lot tourists stay around Bourbon, but a lot of the surrounding neighborhoods are beautiful. The houses are colorful and have amazing architecture. After a little detour, we found The Spotted Cat Music Club, where a live jazz band was playing. To me this is the best part of New Orleans, relaxing with a beer in my hand, swaying along to some local jazz.
Before we got ready for formal, Dillon and I went to the roof top of our hotel. There was supposed to be a heated pool, but of course the pool was drained and the door was locked. We are still not sure how we gained access to the roof…but look how beautiful these views were!
Saturday night was the actual formal (only reason I would dare wear a dress and heels on Bourbon). The fraternity rented out a bar on Bourbon street and we had access to the balcony. On the balcony we threw out beads to strangers. There was a full buffet and an open bar tab.
The DJ in the bar blasted Dixie Land Delight. If you are not familiar with tradition, there are choice words that Alabama fans scream in between the lines in the chorus. The music was so loud that it poured down Bourbon and a myriad of other Alabama college students and fans joined in. For maybe one chorus, we had the entire section of Bourbon screaming “fuck Auburn,” and there was no sound more beautiful.
Then on Sunday it was time to head back to Alabama, because believe it or not they except you to do school in college. Seeing as midterms are in two weeks, it is probably best that we got home on the early side to recover.
Until next time, enjoy this selfie I took with a horse on Bourbon street.
Well if you are looking for a way to procrastinate studying for finals and you have already completed all the Buzzfeed quizzes today, then I guess you can read my blog.
It has been a good bit since I wrote one of these, so here is what’s going on in my life.
Since I had an important doctors appointment in New York City scheduled for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I got to re-live my extreme study abroad travel days, where I ran around a giant city with my luggage all day. On this excursion, I took every mode of transportation (except boat) in one day. How you ask? Well it started with a 3 hour drive to Atlanta airport (car). Next, I took a plane to LGA (airplane). After, I took a bus to get to the subway entrance (bus). Then, I took the subway to Grand Central (train). Lastly, I wandered around New York (walking). Oh yeah and then I took a bus again to get back to Philly (bus again).
My luggage was too big to fit through the subway turnstile so it got stuck mid way. As I struggled with my luggage nobody seemed to care or help. (typical New York) After a minute of intense pushing, a homeless man stopped and helped me get my bag through and told me to have a lovely day. I hope wherever you may be homeless guy, that you as well are having a lovely day!
So there I was in Washington Square Park, with no winter coat, holding all my luggage and eating a slice of artichoke pizza. I really regret not bringing a coat. The doctors appointment was at 4:00pm, but my bus did not leave for Philly until 8:00pm. I figured I would spend my extra time doing all my favorite NY things from this summer. I got my favorite pizza, sat in my favorite park and got my favorite coffee. I was really impressed with myself, because I did not have to look up directions for any of the public transportation while I was there. I guess I still remembered most of it from going on intern runs this summer.
Exhausted, I made it back to Philly around 11:00pm.
After a short break, it was back to school to take finals. I always hated how short Thanksgiving break is, especially for us out-of-state students who have to use two of those days off for travel purposes.
When I returned, I went to my last DG Tacky Christmas party. I am really starting to get sentimental about all these things lately. I wore a tacky Hanukkah vest because I am cool like that.
The best thing that has happened in the past few weeks was the SEC Championship in Atlanta. First of all, if you do not know, Alabama beat Florida and won back to back SEC championships. This means we are going to the college football playoffs. I got the pleasure of attending the game.
We decided to stay at a motel on Friday night, so we could wake up early to stand in line for tickets. (Remember it is a 3 hours drive to Atlanta people) In a last minute decision, we booked rooms at a Motel 6. I think the police circling the parking lot every hour should have been the first red flag that this motel was a bit sketchy. It was not util a man creepily grinned at me as I fumbled with the hotel room card to open the door, that I was truly scared. I did what any girl alone in a hotel room would do; lock the door, close all the curtains, dead bolt the door and prepare my dying wishes. (Okay not that extreme) I just watched some Masterchef Junior until I passed out.
Well the sketchy motel payed off because we were able to secure 9th row seats at the Georgia Dome for the game. We then went to a giant room, which was set up with games, food, and booths. It was called “fan fare.” We did most of the games, such as kicking a field goal and throwing a ball into a tire 20 yards away. Again, I proved to myself that I am not good at sports that don’t involve a racquet.
We then entered the game. The experience was incredible! It was amazing to see so many fans and to cheer on the tide with that much energy. I think my age is really starting to creep up on me. At Alabama, the student section never sits down (unless its half time or a very long time-out/commercial break). My freshman year, I could have stood up cheering all day. Now, only a quarter into games, my back starts to hurt and I dream about watching on a comfy couch, but I still stand there for the tide!
We won the game and confetti fell from the ceiling. Saban (all hail Saban) held up the trophy and the crowd erupted in Rammer Jammer as well as the fight song. It was really just an amazing feeling to be part of such a crowd! ROLL TIDE!
Now, I am back to reality and finals. Only one more final left and then I am free. I guess writing this blog post might have actually been my way version of procrastination.
Until next time, enjoy this advertisement I saw on the subway.