Tuesday, March 16th, 2010...11:42 am
UMBC Hillel: Arrival in Odessa
We’re here. After all the discussion, planning, and anxiety, we’re here. It’s been a long day of travel, unpacking, and socializing, but we are all excited for the upcoming week.
As we drove in our comfortable charter bus with several locals to our hotel from the Odessa airport after roughly 13 hours of travel, the reality of being in Odessa sunk in. Along with slums with flaming trash cans at their center, century old buildings needing repair, and dilapidated cars from the Soviet era, we saw the fronts of new businesses and architecture, stylishly dressed people going about and enjoying their day, and a sense of the newly emerging Odessa and Ukraine. As people discussed what they saw, prejudices and reality were beginning to meet…for better or worse. We look forward to seeing how these merge.
After settling into the hotel we went to dinner with about six residents of Odessa. This was a great beginning to the week. The food was great, we were finally meeting with the people we’d heard about and they were interested in talking with us. Over the meal, we discussed topics ranging from Judaism, to Levi jeans, to movies. Everyone looks forward to interacting with them more.
As I think over the day and the upcoming days, I’m anxious to make the most of this opportunity, but not sure the best way to do so. Part says go with the flow/program, another says follow some people’s leads who are comfortable with Russian, another says focus on talking and building connections with the Odessan who are with us. I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Hopefully as the week progresses, the people and culture won’t seem as foreign, but just another piece of the unified, global Jewish mosaic.
More photos to come!
~ Richard Goldman