Day 3 - Train (small)

Today was a day for traveling far, both geographically and ideologically! This morning, after the earliest wake-up on record,* we took a long-distance train from Kishinev to Odessa. We passed through numerous country villages, and stopped a few times in the imaginary republic of Transnistria, but the real highlight of the trip was the opportunity to observe real residents alongside us on the train. One couple seemed to be Odessa-bound for a weekend holiday, and other travelers appeared to be on regular work trips. As we crossed into Ukraine, we had a mini-adventure with the Border Control, involving a lot of Russian and three separate officers, but our guide Dasha expertly managed the situation, and we were on our way before long. This entry might not be the place for a poetic dissertation on the romance of long-distance train travel, but be sure to ask for my photos and stories upon our return. 🙂

Day 3 - Beach (small)

The Hornstein group shivers at Odessa’s beach, currently decorated with snow!

Here in Odessa, we used the lunch time for our first processing session, traveling philosophically to explore our personal perspectives on the Former Soviet Union. The group paired up to discuss how we’re each approaching the trip, listing the questions that we’re asking ourselves about the sites we visit and the people we meet. We also explored how our personal backgrounds color our perceptions, as we shared about how we each established our Jewish and national identities. This processing session, which Levi and I created together, focused on the questions that we’re asking ourselves, and the next session will focus more closely on the answers that we discover here.

Day 3 - Migdal JCC (small)

Later in the afternoon, after an extensive and thorough tour of the city (I even saw the Black Sea for the first time!), we met with local young adults who are leaders at Odessa’s JCC Beit Grand. They work in different types of youth and young adult engagement, so we split up into “interest groups” to discuss camping, grassroots organizing, youth outreach, and Aliyah. I was fascinated to discover that we all experience similar challenges, despite our continental differences, but I also learned a lot from hearing about their programs, and they from mine. It was an incredibly practical and useful session, and we’re looking forward to seeing them again at Shabbat dinner on Friday night. Today was a day for stretching boundaries both mental and physical, and I’m excited for our remaining three days here in Odessa!

*in the last few days, at least. Not counting the day we left the United States.


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