LA Trip 2017 – Day 1

February 22, 2017: Day 1 Update
Greetings from Hollywood South, Los Angeles California – where the rain has been falling for too many days and although we feel right at home in the moisture, we have requested a bit of sunshine (very politely of course, in the Canadian way). 

All together and ready to go!
Thank you to all the parents who were not quick enough to opt out and drove children to the airport to gather at that most wicked 5:45 a.m. meeting time. I can tell you that everything moved incredibly smoothly through the airport and onto our flight – you would think our students were seasoned travelers or something.  Unfortunately after boarding we were told that the LAX airport was too busy for us (I think they heard we were coming and were readying the city) and we sat on the runway, at least the plane did, for an hour before we lifted off. In the early morning stupor I am not sure if the students noticed (I am pretty sure the chaperones did not).
It has been a lovely day here – the sun has indeed shone and there have been moments of, almost, heat. It is never a fully easy day, the travel day. Early morning wakeups just do not seem to work well for the average (or not so average) adolescent. Even with this disadvantage the students have done well.  Yes, I have had to use what we affectionately call in the trade, "teacher voice" (be scared) but not as often as I would have expected (I am sure they will give me more practice).  As per usual, as I type this I am just a little bit tired – I find the hysterical feeling that possesses me in these moments does indeed inform my writing.
Here comes the sun at Venice Beach…

After quickly allowing the students to go and get changed into shorts and T-shirts (the sun is out, it must be hot, right?), we found ourselves on our bus heading to Venice Beach. Is there a better reflection of what is Los Angeles than Venice Beach?   The sun, the sand, the water, the tattoos, the music, the vendors, the hallucinogenic beings walking by, skating by, skate-boarding by…. A quick sandwich, some chips and a bottle of water and we were walking on the boardwalk – truth be told, Rabbi Berger and I were walking alone – we sure know how to clear a room. The good news is that only a few of the students added tattoos, and they assured me they were temporary – though I did say I was sure that parents would have supported their need for a lasting memory of our special day together. If you have not been to Venice Beach it is truly a gorgeous, endless beach of rolling surf. It really reminds me of the beaches in Tel Aviv where you look out and white water waves cascade one after the other – it is a memory I enjoy when it reappears (and it does often, especially at my office desk…)

Finally, in the sunshine at a surprise Synagogue in Venice Beach
So rhetorical question – how long is too long in paradise? Well apparently the Talmud has the answer – or at least Rabbi Berger does, and after 75 minutes we were off to one very odd but remarkable place – the Getty Villa. Basically a very rich man left ‘oodles’ of money (that is a technical term) to build and sustain a Roman Villa (like old Roman, conquering Romans, you get the picture). We only spent 45 minutes walking the villa’s grounds but it is a place out of time with lots of artifacts and statues – though it is the architecture that is truly unique (can anyone say, Roman Amphitheatre?). So if you want a taste of ancient Rome in modern LA this is the place for you. And in case you were worried that we had not slipped in any ‘curricular content’ on this day it was at this very site we discussed King Herod, his destruction of the second Temple, and that we have him to thank for expelling Jews from Israel (I am sure there were others that helped).

Lu Winters, Ashley Miller-Bouchard and Ellia Belson enjoying a well-deserved coffee
Next stop, Santa Monica Pier. The real educational purpose here was to salvage the sanity of the chaperones – we needed coffee!  It was a beautiful place to drink coffee though the brisk wind had hair and Kippah flying (Rabbi Berger has quick reflexes).  The pier was lovely – the seagulls clearly own the pier and one eats food on it at risk of making a feathered friend. I really enjoyed the feel of the pier, more ocean surf, a ferris wheel and the feel of springtime in February – lovely.
Recap? Venice Beach. Getty Villa. Santa Monica Pier. Definitely dinner time. The bus drove everyone down to Pico Street  –  the home of kosher restaurant row. Here the students were given $17 US dollars to go explore and find food to satisfy their taste buds. It seemed that meat was very popular, as was sushi and Persian cuisine. An hour and a half for dinner and we had to get to our next destination, the Griffith Park Observatory. For those of you who recently viewed the movie La La Land you would recognize this site. Unfortunately, with LA traffic we missed the movie (stars and planetarium stuff) but we did explore this really cool and interesting exhibit.  As you can imagine an Observatory is high above the city and the views at night of LA, its sprawling lights that seem to go on forever, and of the stars (the real ones in the sky not the ‘fake stars’ of Hollywood – were spectacular – who needed a movie). Then it was time to get on the bus to head to our dorm rooms – around 10 p.m. – a solid 11+ hours of exploration.
As we get ready for bed (hoping to get students settled by 11 p.m. or so (we will have an early morning tomorrow – it is our way) I would like to commend our 34 students and 4 other staff (I have not been good at all, remember, "teacher voice") – everyone has really tried their best and I think as people drift off to sleep, if they take time to reflect they will feel this was a day worth spending together. 
All the best and looking forward to another wonderful day tomorrow…
A little cold but still smiling at Santa Monica Pier!

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