This blog post was authored by Raquel Kelley, a member of the Tivnu 7 cohort from North Tustin, California. In her free time she loves to explore maps, have meaningful conversations, and take pictures. She interns at Latino Network in the Communications Department and enjoys Tivnu construction.
Time truly is a construct. I have been in Portland for just over three weeks and I feel like I have known the other Tivnuniks forever. I feel so grateful to be at an in-person program during these unpredictable times. We have done so much meaningful programming and learning in the time we have been together. After months of being in quarantine, finally being with a group of people is an incredible feeling.
Although there were so many positives, the first ten days were a bit difficult. We were all together, and at the same time so physically far apart. Despite being masked and six feet away from one another even in our own batim (houses) due to Covid-19, we were having the most engaging and intellectual conversations. We all described the highs and lows of our high school experiences to gain a sense of where we came from. We spoke of friends we lost and times where we felt stress and academic pressure. Although it was difficult to talk about that in the midst of the pandemic, we pushed through. By the end of the ten days, we knew seemingly everything about each other–except for what our faces looked like. The first night we all got to sleep in the batim in our own rooms, in our own beds, the first full house dinner, the first house meeting, the first…. everything without masks made me so much more grateful for the little things, even being able to sit in one room together to watch a movie. I was so grateful to see the smiles of people I had only met ten days before.
We accomplished and learned so much in the first three weeks, including the mask-wearing time. We did tool training and learned how to skillfully use power tools, we wrote hundreds of letters urging people in swing states to vote, and learned A LOT about each other. Before the wildfire smoke in Portland became hazardous, we would sit out on the porch and have long conversations getting to know one another really deeply. We realized that we are going to be living together for a while, so we might as well just share our likes, our dislikes, our fears, and our emotions throughout our first days of Tivnu.
The second Shabbat came around, which just so happened to be the tenth day of Tivnu and the last day of our mask-wearing-quarantine (check out our unmasking video below!). The ruach (spirit) that filled the living room of our house was amazing. We davened (prayed) a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat together and truly welcomed in Shabbat with open arms. With the loud voices coming together in song and the warmth of sitting in one room as the Tivnu 7 cohort, we had our first up close and personal experience as a whole. In that moment, I knew that this was going to be a good year. We had many external stressors on the program that were making it difficult to do our daily tasks and programs, like the wildfire smoke and the fear of Covid-19, so when we were all together in one room and singing loudly, all of my worries went away. In that moment, I forgot how hard it was for us to get there and how hard it was for us to keep each other safe, and I was able to appreciate how we could just be together. I wanted to be in that moment forever.
Right now we are in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (Yes, another ten day segment during Tivnu). We have just started our internships and construction, making this the start of a new year, and the start of the post-orientation, “normal schedule” for the Tivnu year. Talking to people face to face, singing together in one room, having roommates, being in a group, having deep meaningful conversations, and exploring a new place are all beautiful opportunities I have had these past three weeks and I am grateful for that – none of these experience can compare to anything that happened during the six months I was quarantining due to Covid-19.