I’m in Acco!

It’s a wonderful feeling to be back at Manof. In a way it feels like I never left. Everything is set and ready for the incoming wave of coaches, CITs, and campers. I can’t wait. Here’s how I got here…

My journey began in the early morning on Thursday, 6/20, at my brother’s apartment in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston, MA. My first waking thought was to mentally check over everything I had packed, which was followed by a quick physical inspection of my carryon bag. All was set and by a little after 8am, Jesse and I were on the road.

We worked our way through a bit of traffic, said our goodbyes at the curb at Logan, and then I was off into the airport. After a bit of shenanigans getting properly checked in for me 3-leg, 2-airline flight to Tel Aviv, I cleared security and got myself comfortably ensconced at my gate. A short flight later I was in JFK, which I was happy to find felt much nicer than I had remembered. It then took working my way out of security, a short train ride, and a trip back through security to get to my next gate. On the plane I found myself sitting next to an 11 year old gear traveling by herself to Hungary. Way cool. I used some of my basic Hungarian, which she actually understood. The couple on the other side of me was on their way to Paris to take a river cruise to Prague. That’s definitely on my list of things to do one day. JFK to CDG (Paris) was smooth. I read, slept, watched a couple mediocre movies, and caught a second short nap right before landing.

I would have loved to been able to at least see some of Paris, but my short lay over combined with the heavy fog meant that I didn’t get to see anything. After chatting with some friendly travelers at the gate, I boarded and got back to my book (Inferno — Yah, Dan Brown is pretty fun). Not long after, I slept and woke up shortly before landing in Tel Aviv.

Walking off the plane, even at 5:30am, the weather was warm. I made it to passport control where I spent a little while chatting with a family who was on their way to Jerusalem and Jordan. After getting my stamp, I made my way over to the luggage carousel… where my backpack did NOT show up. Sigh.

I made a claim over at the desk and they said I should get my bag up in Acco in the next 1-2 days. I always tell my kids to never check their cleats. I’m so glad I didn’t! At this point I tried to use the international cell phone I had purchased before the trip… and the sim card was inactive. Hooray. Fortunately, my carryon bag was well packed and I didn’t have too far to go to get to Acco.

Right outside the airport, I boarded the train, made sure I was going north, and settled in for the 2 hour ride from TLV to Acco. At a little before 4pm I was at the Acco train station where I caught a 3 minute cab ride to Manof.

After clearing the Manof gates, I made my way to the main building where I found three CITs — Ali, Raz, and Asma! All three were in MA in April for the US tour. It was wonderful to see them all again. I then connected with Tomer, Mickey, Zolo, and Ben. Moving into my room (with Abe!) was easy, considering I had one small backpack to unpack.

For the next several hours I caught up with people, worked on various tasks, and helped setup. Around 7pm we all drove to the old city center and had a very nice dinner overlooking the water. An hour or so into dinner Linda, Bob, and a bunch of other people showed up. Our numbers are growing!

Fully stuffed with hummus and chicken, I got back to Manof and returned to working on my coaching training slides. Karym showed up a bit later, and he, Tomer, and myself ended up spending several hours late into the night working in the main office.

So far the morning has been pretty relaxing. Lots of tasks have been done, but the overall feeling is that everything is ahead of where it was last year at this time. The big thing we’re waiting for is the incoming wave of coaches and kids! As I was saying to Mickey earlier today, it’s nice being at Manof when it’s quiet… but it’s going to be so much better when we’re at full capacity and everything is in motion!

Haifa and Rest

On Monday morning I enjoyed being able to sleep in. Having my own room, especially one with fantastic air conditioning is wonderful. After hitting my snooze button a few too many times, I got cleaned up and then went downstairs to forage for breakfast.

I ended up hanging out in the main office administrative area with Zolo and Tomer for a few hours, learning about camp and having a great time bring around the energy that is the Zolo-Tomer connection. Maggie, Zolo, and Nathan took care of putting up banners, and then at around noon Tomer drove is to the train station where Maggie, Nathan, and I took the short ride south to the Haifa.

Out in the bright sun of Haifa I was reminded of being in Nice. We walked west, soaking in the rays and dodging some startlingly unlabeled construction areas. We passed the Maritime museum, and made out way up several flights of stairs to Elijah’s cave. There we found another beautiful vista and many people lounging in the shade eating lunch. Inside, the cave has very straight, milled-looking, sides, and a partition to separate men from women.

Next, we walked back down the flights of stairs, manuevered across some large roads, and found our way to the base of the small gondola that we took to the top of Mt. Carmel. The ride up was quick and along the way we were afforded another spectacular view of the coast line. At the top, we found a small pavilion that had a short audio recording built in that told us about the region. After listening for a while, we turned around the street and began waking further up the mountain towards the Bahai Gardens. Along the way we passed many gorgeous houses and absolutely perfect views. We imagined they cost about 10-20nis a piece :)

We finally made it to the gardens only to find that you can’t walk through each level without being on a tour, and the last tour had left an hour earlier. Regardless, we did get to walk around the upper level, which was quite beautiful. On the way out we got information on how to take the bus to the lower level of the mountain, and soon made our way to the German Colony area, way at the bottom of the gardens. On the street we found a very nice restaurant (Fattoush) and dove into a round of Sharwarma. We ate a leisurely pace and relaxed as the sun went lower on the skyline. Next, we made our way to the nearest train station, scooted back north to Acco, and then took a taxi back to Manof where we found that Bob and Linda had arrived.

A couple hours, everyone headed out to the old city of Acco for dinner, so naturally, Maggie, Nathan, and I had to join them. We ended up having dinner (the second one for some of us) at a spot overlooking the bay. It was a wonderful vista and the social time was grand.

Tuesday was a day of rest. We spent the day walking the grounds, and working on various camp prep tasks. Later in the day Maggie and I explored the very large farm area of Manof and saw many chickens, goats, sheep, other birds, dogs, and horses. They have quite the facility here! Later in the night, Zolo, Tomer, Bob, Linda, Maggie, Nathan, Karym, and I gathered for a pizza dinner, enjoying the last calm evening before the true storm.

At least 12 more staff members are making it into Acco today, with the largest wave coming in tomorrow. All the prep work is going well and everyone is excited for camp to begin!