Posts Tagged ‘I love L.A.’

As Shabbat comes to a close, a group of HUC students, have gathered together for food, music and merriment. Much reminicent of my days in summer camp, a guitar comes out and songs are sung, food is eaten and laughter is bountiful.

My best friend moved to Jerusalem 2 months ago to attend his first year of rabbinical school. My being in Istanbul was the perfect opportunity for me to pay my bestie a much needed visit. Needless to say, that summer camp was not on my list of expectations. It wasn’t even on the long list. And yet, here I sit, surrounded by future rabbis and canters of reform Judaism and the only things missing are a camp fire and some smores.

The night before, we had a much more intimate and traditional Shabbat celebration and feast. And sitting here today, among this boisterous group, I find the comparison between the two celebrations to be intriguing to say the least. Our celebration last night was held with reverence as age old traditions were honored and practiced. Prayer, ritual, food, and song were all abundant as was camaraderie. Conversely, today’s celebration felt more like a gathering of classmates (which it was).  There was an abundance of people, food, and wine. Laughter and jocularity were plentiful. Reverence, ritual and tradition had essentially been thrown out the window as this lively group gathered and cast off the bondage of the previous week’s schooling. And then the guitar came out and summer camp began. American pop radio songs were sung in unison with fervor and excitement. It was a new day and a totally different Shabbat.

My bestie and I discussed the comparison later this evening. Both celebrations, we found to be fun and endearing. I verbalized my surprise at the contrast between the two as well as my gratitude for having gotten to witness and participate in both. Chalk it up to another cultural learning experience stoking the fires of my religious (and spiritual) curiosity. This is a beautiful thing.

Peace and Love.


Faith, Tradition, Prayer, Song, Feast, Conversation, Friends, Laughter, Community, Celebration, Love and Light. These are the words that come to mind when I think of my first real Shabbat experience. It is Friday night in Jerusalem and Shabbat is in full swing.

I arrived in Jerusalem yesterday in the very early hours of the morning. My best friend moved here two months ago, and seeing that it was only a three hour journey from Istanbul, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit him in his new world. It has been less that 48 hours since I arrived and I am already overwhelmed by all that I have seen, experienced and felt.

Yesterday was a day of very little sleep, hours upon hours of walking in very intensive heat, and the meeting of distinctly different religions. My best friend, who is a bit of rabbi, history teacher and tour guide all rolled into one, mapped out a long day of many sights. Needless to say, we hit the ground running.

 First on the agaenda was the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the rock is a huge Muslim shrine, with a golden  dome, that is considered to be the most famous Muslim sight in Jerusalem. Built on a sacred stone, which is  believed to be the stone on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, the Dome of the Rock stands  majestically, rising up out of the Jerusalem panoramic gleaming so brightly as to be seen for miles and miles.  Built from 688 – 691AD, the Dome was not originally intended to be a mosque, but instead a shrine for pilgrims.  Today, its beautiful mosaic walls and shining  golden dome stand, as majestically as ever, in the Muslim  Quarter of Jerusalem, interestingly juxtaposed with Western Wall, one of the most sacred spots in Judaism.  While we were there, a Call to Prayer rang out and I  was struck by how different it sounded from the ones I have  become so accustomed to and enamored with in  Istanbul. My adoration was by no means lessened, but instead  grew even deeper as I heard this call that was  seemingly new to me.

The next stop on our list was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was  built in 330AD and commemorates the hill on which Jesus was believed to  be crucified and the tomb in which his body was believed to be buried. This  place was the “mecca” for anyone of the Catholic or Christian faith – chalk  full of artifacts that could be considered some of the holiest of the holy. The supposed site of Jesus’s crucifixion, the stone that his body was washed on after being removed from the cross, and the site where his body was believed to be entombed are all housed in this church. I was struck, as I walked around, by the overt displays of faith from the other visitors. People in prayer, people singing, people kneeling, and some even writhing with I guess was what they felt to be the presence of God. It was both interesting and admirable. At the same time, I was struck by my own detachment from theses same things that had brought others to their knees. Having been raised Catholic, I have been taught the stories and was well aware of the significance of the things that I was seeing, and yet, I felt no affiliation with them whatsoever. What I did feel was the intensity of other people’s faith and that was amazing to see and feel.

 The final place on our agenda yesterday was the Western or “Wailing” Wall. A  site that is considered to be one  of the holiest spots in Judaism. The Western  Wall is a section of the western supporting wall of the Temple  Mount that has  remained in tact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple approximately  2000 years ago.  To an  outsider, the wall is just a wall, but from what I understand, the Western Wall is believed  to be a site where  the  Divine Presence of  God is always present. Among the cracks and crevices of the wall, as high as the average  man  can reach, there are scraps of papers that have been crammed into the wall’s spaces – each bit of paper a prayer or  letter or poem of some kind to God. At any time of the day or night, you can find people there praying  This was  an  interesting thing for me, an outsider who has no knowledge of the jewish  faith or history or  tradition. While I  happened to be there, there was also a large group of young women, that were obviously all in  the same group,  and all were in prayer. Girls were swaying back and forth reciting prayers from  a book. Some of those  girls (the  ones  that could push their way to the wall) had their faces pressed against the  wall as they prayed and  others  had their  faces buried in their prayer books. I asked someone what that was about  and she said that it was  a way  to avoid  being distracted by outside things when praying.

While writing this, again I am struck by how profound I found my experiences at the Dome and the Wall were and  detached I was from any experience at the Church. My exposure to these traditions and faiths has tapped my curiosity and I find myself wanting to learn and understand as much as I can about these things that I know so little about. I find the devotion, the persistence of tradition and the intensity of faith to have tapped my thirst for further knowledge.

Peace and Love.

This is it! I am finally done. My profile is written, my photos are done and, the biggest thing, my multimedia project is done!

This past week has been a whirlwind. Interviews, filming, shooting, more interviews, more filming, more shooting, followed by a lot of crying and multiple moments where I had to fight to not throw my computer against a wall. I was thoroughly convinced as I had to start my piece over for the third time, and find a whole new topic, that there was no way that it would be possible for me to actually produce a finished piece. I am still in disbelief that it is done… and that I am actually really pleased with how it turned out.

Here it is!!!!!!

This past month has been a lot of things: amazing, hectic, spiritual, insane, beautiful, frustrating, fun, intimidating, sleepless, romantic…. the list goes on and on. I can’t even begin to describe how much this experience has meant to me or how much I feel like I have changed because of it. I have learned so much about myself, my trade, my passions, and my beliefs. Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, this has been a life changing experience. All the stress, the fear, the doubt, the questioning, all of it are by far outweighed by the things that I have gained while being here.

I was talking to someone about this today. I have received so much more from this experience than I ever expected or thought possible. Not only did I learn to improve my writing and photography, not only did I learn to shoot and edit video, and not only did I learn a little Turkish, but I also gained new perspectives, ideas, and beliefs. Previously held conceptions and ideas have been smashed. My eyes and my heart  have been opened  in a way that I never thought possible. I feel happiness, love and contentment in the depths of my soul.

Priceless gifts that have been given to me. Grateful doesn’t even come close to describing the way that I feel.

Peace and Love.

The countdown has begun! We officially have 4 days left to finish our projects and hand them in and I am definitely feeling the pressure. I have 4 days to edit, translate, and splice my multimedia feature piece together and I don’t feel like I have made much headway. I am totally intimidated by Final Cut and I feel like I don’t know where to begin. I guess I just have to start somewhere.

Today, I went to see Janset, the pantomime, in order to pick up some music tracks from her for my feature piece. After that I spent several hours watching my computer convert all of my usable video clips into files that Final Cut can read. All in all, a semi-productive day. It’s a start at least. I have made peace with the fact that sleep is not an option (or at least much of it) if I am going to get this piece done by Tuesday.

I have been thinking a lot about my time here and the fact that it is coming to a close. I feel like I have learned so much from this experience. I have faced many fears, experienced a lot of firsts and immersed myself in a culture totally different from my own. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and I am sad to see it coming to an end. Although I miss my son, my family and my friends, I know I will be leaving a piece of my heart here in Istanbul. I hope to one day return, maybe even to live, and I absolutely want my son to experience the magic that is this place.

Until tomorrow…

Peace and Love.

The last couple days have been a whirlwind of interviews, transcribing, filming, photographing, editing, heat stroke, and not nearly enough eating or sleeping… However, I feel like it’s paying off. The intimidation of the world of multimedia is lifting and I am starting to feel more comfortable with the new elements of my trade. If that’s the only thing that I gain from this experience, it will all be worth it. Of course that’s not the only thing I have gained from being here, but it is a big one.

I interviewed my subject for my feature again today; this time with video and sound. It was my first time ever doing anything like this and I have to admit, I was incredibly intimidated. My subject, Janset Karavin, is a pantomime performer and she performs almost every day on Istikal (an extremely busy shopping promenade in Taksim). We interviewed today in her home, a little flat just off of Taksim Square, and aside from the man outside her window tearing the roof off of a shed and then replacing it, all went smoothly. Janset was very much at ease and easy to interview. She was agreeable, patient, cooperative, the perfect subject for my first video interview. I am so grateful to her for being so willing to work with me over the past 3 days. It has really been a great experience.

After our interview, we made our way to Istikal for her performance, which was really beautiful… Unfortunately, my filming of it was not as successful as I would have liked. She moves around a lot, and does so very quickly and I felt the whole time like I was scrambling or missing things. Additionally, I was having a hard time with the tripod I was using. I eventually got frustrated and gave up on the filming, which I figured it would be ok because I was much more successful filming yesterday’s performance, and I just sat and watched her perform. That was what I really enjoyed. Her movements are so calculated but graceful and the music she performs to is insightful and beautiful.

I was thinking about this whole experience today as I was watching her perform and how grateful I am to be a part of it. I have learned so much since I have been here and not just about my trade, but about people and cultures and religion and art forms and faith and courage and most of all, myself. My heart is happy.

Peace and Love

Monday morning, back to the grind that is student life. After a long weekend of doing a whole lot of nothing, the grind doesn’t feel as comfortable as it once did and today contained more challenges than the average.

I am finally finishing up my profile piece on Ferat Şahin, the director of the Children of Hope Association. Good thing too, because it is due in full tomorrow. I am really happy with the written piece, but less than thrilled with the images (can’t win ’em all). Regardless, it’s done and it has to be done. It’s time to move on to the multimedia piece. That would be the problem…

This afternoon I found myself sitting in the hallway outside our multimedia lab feeling quite discouraged and overwhelmed. I had hit a brick wall with my feature ideas and I was almost feeling ready to quit. Luckily, I have too much pride and ego for that. Instead I sat down with my advisors and tried to figure out a way to pull my dying feature from its deathbed. The conclusion was to find a new subject. Not necessarily what I was hoping for, but it has to be done.

So my new feature piece will be on a street performer (or a group of performers) and I have made my peace with that. Tomorrow, my interpreter and I hit the pavement in search of a subject. The bright side is that it will be more visually appealing, the downside is that I have 7 days to get it done. Perseverance is key.

I feel a lot of doubt, fear of failure, and stress. These are all emotions I have felt before. Such is the life of being a student… or at least my life as a student. I am grateful to be present enough to feel these feelings and know that they are not fact and I am grateful for the amazing support I have received from my advisors. If nothing else, I have found in this experience a new strength and  the ability to ask for help. Those are valuable things to possess.

Regardless of how I feel about my new topic, I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether I like the reason or not. I know that there is potential for something great. And who knows? This could be the story that I am meant to tell.

Peace and Love.

Coming back to Istanbul, from Ankara, yesterday felt like coming home. When I saw the expansive city scape come in to view I could barely contain my excitement. My love for this city has grown exponentially with each passing day. If it weren’t for the suitcases stacked in the corner of my dorm room, I might actually believe that I live here.

Our weekend in Ankara was filled with much needed laziness and gluttony. My classmate and I stayed with her friend and her parents in their comfy apartment. Her mother enthusiastically fed us as much and as often as she could. Her cooking was fantastic – some of the best meals I have ever eaten. It was really nice to be in a warm and welcoming family atmosphere.

Ankara is a lovely city, but it’s not Istanbul. We took a leisurely day checking out Atatürk’s tomb and an ethnography museum. That afternoon we sat in a patio bar drinking milkshakes, smoking hookah and playing backgammon. The next day we went to the lake and sat at a cafe and drank tea and sodas and talked. A simple weekend of much needed nothingness.

The bus ride back to Istanbul was long, but not as challenging as the one to Ankara. There was one screaming child (instead of several) and one woman that was unpleasant (instead of a row full) but neither of them managed to dampen my spirits as I anxiously awaited being back in Istanbul.

It’s good to be home.

Peace and Love.