The First Few Weeks of Cohort 4

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My name is Ariana Finkelstein, and I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I love music, social justice, and the great beauties of the wilderness. My favorite color is purple!

Part of the group, who chose a longer hike option, on Mt. Rainier.

Part of the group, who chose a longer hike option, on Mt. Rainier.

As we are coming up on our third full week of Tivnu, I thought I’d reflect a bit about what we’ve been up to.  Last week, we returned from an incredible camping trip in Mt. Rainier National Park, which began with a quick dip into Mossyrock Park’s Riffe Lake in Lewis County, Washington.  The drive to Cougar Rock Campground was so beautiful as we winded through the hills and valleys. After waking up with the sun, we ventured on to our first hike, which was gorgeous, with a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier, icy glacial peaks, snow fields, and meadows of wild flowers.  I was very surprised we didn’t see unicorns, but we did see several chipmunks (we named one Geffrey) and marmots! The hike was super challenging, but worth it! The next day we went on another hike at the base of Mt. Rainer. According to Steve it was a “flat hike” but, we soon learned that it was ever so vertical.  After a stream crossing and lots of trail mix breaks, we reached the top of the waterfall. Even though both hikes were really rigorous, Calvin and I sang songs from our favorite musicals (Les Misérables songs especially :)) along the trail, which made it lots of fun! We sat around the camp fire sharing stories and songs, and we shared responsibilities of cooking and washing dishes.  The last day, we picked up some yummy fruit from a small stand on the side of the road and ate lunch at a lovely river/waterfall/natural swimming hole on our way back to Portland.

Tivnuniks learn Knife Skills 101 with Chef Shimron.

Tivnuniks learn Knife Skills 101 with Chef Shimron.

We began orientation in the week that followed, which included sessions with Jewish Chef Shimron, who taught us cooking skills and helped us meal plan for the week and Shabbat.  His passion for food and Jewish cooking inspired us to make Shabbat dinner, which was really fun!  We all split in to groups and were given a task, and mine was to make the soup.  I had never made soup before, so it was quite the adventure.  It ended up tasting quite delicious!  Earlier in the week, we had the opportunity to meet Shannon, the volunteer coordinator from Sisters of the Road Cafe (where I will be working two days per week).  She spoke about houselessness and poverty in Portland, something I am very interested in. That evening we went to “Last Thursdays on Alberta,” which was basically several blocks of music, hand crafted art from local businesses, and food.  I felt like I got a serious taste of Portland as I walked down the crowded blocks filled with crunchy crafters and delicious smelling food trucks.

Mea got the best seat when the group visited Dabney State Recreation Area.

Mea got the best seat when the group visited Dabney State Recreation Area.

On Friday night we had a delightful Shabbat service and dinner at our house, and we got to meet Adinah’s son again, which was such a treat!  On Saturday we all went on our own mini adventures! I tried to find the shul, but made a wrong turn and ended up having a nice walking tour of Portland.  I checked out the Saturday Market by the river, which was a little overwhelming with booth after booth of art, jewelry, food, and live music, but very worth it.  After Havdalah, we went on a “Pizza Crawl” of Portland as part of our monthly community building and went to some of the best pizza shops, which was quite tasty.  I got goat cheese on my pizza, something I never thought I’d try, but boy was it good.  On Sunday we met Steve and his daughter at Dabney State Park and we spent the afternoon laying lazily beside the Sandy River, skipping rocks, floating down the river, and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Pele and Emma hard at work during tool training.

Pele and Emma hard at work during tool training.

Last week was filled with eventful happenings! We went to our internship orientations, which were a bit stressful since we had to figure out the public transportation system.  It was also very exciting, since we got to meet the people at the organizations we will be working at for the next nine months. (Some of us got a little more lost than others).  Later in the week, we met Erik (construction coach) for the first time, and he introduced us to tool safety, saws, nails, hammering, and basically every tool you’d ever need to build anything.  As a very clumsy person, using the chop saw for the first time was super scary, but thankfully, my limbs are still intact.  Something that I found very powerful and intense was a traveling interactive exhibit about hunger that we attended, through the organization Mazon (“food,” in Hebrew).  It showcased several people who have experienced food insecurity around the country, and reminded a lot of us why we came to Tivnu.  With Erik, we went to a lumber yard affiliated with the Rebuilding Center of Portland (a nonprofit organization that offers used building materials while promoting recycling, preservation, and a strengthening of the environment) and de-nailed wooden boards so that the wood can be sold.  We then had lunch at some food trucks and took a tour of the center itself, which was an awesome experience.  Barbara Gundle, a professional photographer, also came over to the house to give us a lesson on taking candid action shots of each other, which included running around a nearby park and lots of laughter.

A whole city block, a reader's paradise... Tivnu 4 checks out Powell's City of Books.

A whole city block, a reader’s paradise… Tivnu 4 checks out Powell’s City of Books.

We ended our extremely busy week with Shabbat dinner at Adinah’s house, and Lauren and I finally figured out how to get to the synagogue on Saturday morning!  On Sunday, all of the tivnoodles plus Ellie (our fantabulous RA), went to the largest independent book store in the world, Powell’s City of Books!  I was literally in heaven and spent over three hours in the music and theatre sections! I can’t wait to go back.

That takes us to this week! As I write this, it’s very late on Monday night, and we have all just completed our first day of internships.  I went to Rose Haven, a day shelter for women, and I served food and warm beverages from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  It was a wonderful experience until one of the ladies started having a seizure soon after I poured her a cup of coffee (I’m literally never serving coffee again). Unfortunately, she had to be taken out in a stretcher and the paramedics said that she passed away.

Our tour guide Lisa showed us great hospitality as we learned more about Dignity Village.

Our tour guide Lisa showed us great hospitality as we learned more about Dignity Village.

After quite a traumatic morning, I walked to a huge craft store nearby that had every kind of craft supply one could ever imagine, and that was calming.  Once we all got back to the house, as a group we took tours of Dignity Village and Hazelnut Grove (tiny house villages for formerly houseless people), led by inspirational and multidimensional leaders.  One of the leaders, was a woman who had escaped from an abusive husband, forcing her to live on the streets.  When she gets back on her feet, she wants to go to school to become a social counselor to improve the mental health system for houseless people with addiction.  The leader of the other village was a trans man from Ohio who suffered from the evils of racism and transphobia, so he moved to Portland for a better life.  He now lives in the village due to rent being unaffordable.  Going to these villages was such an eye-opening experience for me.  Where I’m from, homelessness and food insecurity are very much stigmatized so it was really cool to see intentional communities formed to support one another. These tiny houses didn’t have running water or air conditioning, but the people were so welcoming and willing to share their stories, which I found really significant.

We are finally settled in to our house and while doing dishes is still a bit chaotic, we have a very cohesive group dynamic, which will continue to grow throughout the year.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the week’s internships!  I hope you now feel filled in on what we’ve been up to! L’Shanah Tovah!

What I learned this week (in summary):

  • -Living with 8 other teenagers is a struggle, but also fun
  • -Google Maps is my new best friend
  • -Cleaning toilets is my new-found passion
  • -Getting lost can lead to some scenic adventures
  • -Don’t try to do laundry at night (AKA you will trip on something and fall)
  • -An electric hand mixer can make smoothies
  • -Savor the Honey Nut Cheerios, because they will be gone soon with lots of cereal-loving teenagers in the house

Sincerely,

Ari

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