January 3, 2015
Shavua tov and happy new year!
The last days of the cruise included:
1. The 3-mile walkathon on December 31. Three times around the deck is one mile, so here I am holding the sign for our last lap.
2. New Year’s celebrations. (This is the first year in several that I actually was still awake at midnight!) I hear that I missed something special by not already being back in Sydney on New Year’s Eve, however. Since it is the largest city that first rings in the new year, they apparently do it really big with grand firework displays over the harbor and opera house.
3. My meeting with the ship’s captain on January 1. This was not a relished event (though I did want a photo for posterity’s sake). When the captain had made his daily announcement on December 31, I found it to be reactionary, offensive, potentially racially charged, and utterly perplexing. I felt I had a moral responsibility to respond, even if it means I don’t get invited for future cruises. I asked the cruise director what to do and he arranged a meeting. The captain graciously met with me to discuss the matter and then went back on the air to make a more acceptable new year’s greeting. Score one for speaking up!
By the way, when I first thought I might title this post “O Captain,! My Captain!” I googled it to remind myself of the Walt Whitman reference. I had forgotten that the captain he was referring to was Abraham Lincoln navigating the USA and exulting in the end of the Civil War and of slavery.
4. A wonderful performance of traditional Filipino dances presented by some of the Filipino staff onboard, including a mesmerizing bamboo dance in which the bamboo sticks are rhythmically tapped together while the two dancers skipped and danced in and out between them without getting hit.
Chaim and I disembarked from the ship yesterday (Friday) morning, took a cab to our hotel in Bondi Junction with a cabbie who shared his family’s fascinating story about growing up Chinese in Vietnam, having left everything behind in China under Mao and then again in Vietnam because of the war before coming to Australia to start all over yet again. His daughter’s name is Emily for Emily Bronte and his son is Jackson for Jackson Pollock! Everyone has a story; I’ve loved some of those I’ve unwittingly happened upon.
Chaim and I settled into our wonderful little studio apartment in a trendy neighborhood (at least 5 organic and health food stores AND an Apple store within 5 blocks) and then walked in really hot and humid weather to shop for today’s Shabbat lunch in a kosher market. We didn’t need to prepare for dinner as we had a Shabbat dinner invitation with Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins and his wife Caz.
It turns out that Chaim didn’t join me for synagogue and dinner as I made a boo-boo and had us walk in the wrong direction to Ocean Street in Bondi rather than Ocean Street in Woolahra (two different neighborhoods in Sydney with the same street name?) where the synagogue is located, and it was so hot and humid that Chaim was wiped out by the time we made it home (where I had to locate the rabbi’s home address in case I missed the end of the Shabbat service at the synagogue and to pick up a credit card to take a cab now to synagogue in hopes of making it before the end, which I did!).
Jeffrey Kamins is the American-born, HUC-trained rabbi of the 1500+ member Emanuel Synagogue which has both a Masorti (Conservative) and a progressive (Reform) service each Shabbat, as well as an occasional Renewal service. Jeffrey and Caz are great hosts, great company (another HUC colleague, Jordan Cohen, who is here on sabbatical from his Canadian congregation joined us, as well), and great cooks. We had a wonderful time learning about each other and talking differences in Australian, American, and Canadian Jewry.
Chaim and I started at the Masorti service this morning which Rabbi Kamins was leading and where Bert and Dina, two of my “congregants” from the ship, attend, and then went to part of the progressive service, as well. I was particularly impressed by a beautiful prayer for “traditional land owners” which they add to the end of each service, which recognizes the aboriginal First Nation peoples of Australia and the sacredness of the land on which we walk. I wonder if any of the progressive synagogues in New Zealand acknowledge the Maori population in the same way. And I also wonder what it would mean to add such a prayer in the US acknowledging Native Americans.
After lunch and a Shabbos shluf (nap), Chaim and I walked in the beautiful Centennial Park and wandered the side streets to locate good examples of Sydney lace, the metal lattice work found on the upper porches of many homes.
Bert and Dina will be picking us up early tomorrow morning to take us on a little tour of the city’s sights before our flight back to NY (where I see that the weather will, unbelievably, be in the 60’s and less shocking than I would have expected returning to).
If I end up with any good last-minute photos of Sydney, I’ll post from NY. Otherwise, I can’t predict when I will be blogging next. I am a sporadic writer, as you know, though it’s been so much fun!
Blessings to all for 2015!