It's been a while: but having now finished my stint in upmarket, "iz too expenzive fohr us" Europe, achim sheli are back! Like South America, Thailand too is one of the world's hotspots for young, IDF-complete, weed-smoking, shag-seeking, stingy-as-hell hordes of Israelis looking for a good time. And in Bangkok's Khao San Road, the yehudim do make themselves known. Reminiscent of such cities as Cusco and La Paz, here in Bangkok you can see Hebrew cardboard signs in shop windows, you can hear Hebrew being spoken as you walk along the street, and you can eat a falafel for every 50m that you cover (if you're crazy enough to not take advantage of the cheap and delicious local food, that is).
Paul Bempechat is Janine's older brother, and hence also my dad's first cousin. Paul's a pianist, a writer, and also a Harvard professor. We saw him at the barmitzvah; and today, we also had lunch and a university tour with him.
Adam and Becca's cousins from New York are great guys, and they came up specially for the occasion. Can't remember the name of the 15-year-old kid and his friend, but Josh is 17, and is endeavouring (with little success) to master a good Aussie accent. These three boys kept me company for much of the celebrations — good to have some mates around, since I didn't know many other people here.
Buenos Aires is the most Jewish city in Latin America, and one of the only places on this continent where you can find kosher restaurants lining the streets, and orthodox Jews roaming the sidewalks. As part of my bike tour of BA today, I also included a tour of "kosher street" — otherwise known as "busca al yok" (lit: "spot the yok") :P. Just as Sydney has O'Brien St in Bondi, and Melbourne has Carlyle St in Caulfield, so too does BA have Calle Tucumán in Once. Everything Jewish you could ever want is here: religious bookstores; orthodox schools and kindergartens; and best of all, kosher parrillas (steak houses)! Dad, if you ever visit BA, now you'll know where to go.
One of the very few South Africans that I've met in the Latin World, Ari is a veteran backpacker who, like myself, is down in Buenos Aires for Rosh Hashanah. He's a real character: he's been travelling the globe intermittently for about 10 years; and he's really into music, especially some of the more alternate local music that they have around here. He's lived in Israel before, so he's fluent in Hebrew; he's also working on his Spanish at the moment. He's hanging round the Chabad House for the new year, keeping the rest of us company.
Menachem is the Rabbi in charge of the tiny "Chabad La Metayel" ("Chabad for the traveller") synagogue, here in downtown Buenos Aires. Originally from Israel, he's now living down here, along with his wife and his new-born son. He's a very friendly guy, and he's also fluent in English, Spanish, and of course Hebrew (he prefers the latter two). He's been very welcoming and very hospitable to me, during my stay here for the New Year.
Sunset this evening marked the start of Rosh Hashanah, and also the start of the Jewish year of 5768. To begin the New Year's celebrations, I went to a communal dinner this evening, organised by Beit Jabad (known to us English-speakers as Chabad House) of Buenos Aires. The event was held in the function room of a big hotel in the middle of the city, and it was set up primarily for all the Jewish travellers who happened to be in town. No surprise, then, that the dinner consisted of the Rabbi, myself, 4 other English-speakers, and around 150 long-haired hippie Israelis.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers of my blog a Happy and a Sweet New Year. Shana tova, and gemar chatima tova. May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may you all find somewhere to celebrate the New Year, as I have, no matter where you happen to be on this planet for it.
This brother-and-sister couple arrived in Patanuk today, and they're staying for the rest of the week. They're both from Colorado: Sarah still lives there, but Jordan's living in LA, where he's going to "school" (i.e. Uni) at UCLA. As with all Coloradans, they love their mountains and their mountain activities. They're here to do a bit of hiking, a bit of snowbaording, and a lot of partying.
Tonight was an experience like none I've ever had before: a seder night in Peru. With the help of my dad, and of my rabbi back home in Sydney, I had organised to go to the Chabad House here in Lima. In fact I ended up going to the rabbi's house, which was probably even better. Seder in Peru is in many ways the same as it is anywhere else in the world — except, not quite.
In the two hours that I spent in Miami Intl Airport this afternoon, on my way from San Francisco to Lima, I observed that there are only three groups of people here. Group one: African-Americans. Group two: Hispanics. Group three: orthodox Jews. I half-fit into the last of these three groups (Jewish, but not terribly religious), which was kinda good. I think I ran into the Pesach crowd when I got here, because I saw literally hundreds of religious Jewish families, in the 15 minutes or so that I was walking through the airport. Looks like the entire Jewish population of New York (and related cities) has flown down to see the grandparents for Pesach!