18 hours. 50 shekels. I arrive in Jerusalem. Dropped off on the correct street in a small quiet neighborhood I drag my 45 lbs luggage through a white iron gate down 5 stairs to stand in front of building 6. My new home for 3.5 weeks. I’m looking for any literal sign that I’m in the right place and take the dead pigeon guarding the courtyard as a clue. Must. Not. Panic. For those that know of the significance birds seems to play in my life you can imagine what ran through my mind at that moment. But I’m sure it’s not hard to guess dead birds don’t usually mean good things in many cultures. Not to worry. No fateful episode followed. I hauled my life back up the stairs and found that only 5 paces up the street presented a much more welcoming site. A literal “Welcome to Jewel” sign posted on a door. As one of the last to arrive I quickly drop my bags in one of the few open spots by a bed and am lead to another building where “ice breaker” activities are taking place. Somehow I walk in just in time to be the first volunteer. With an ice cube in my mouth I’m supposed to introduce myself to a large group of tired, overheated girls. This ice cube proves to be a good choice both because it’s 85 degrees at 8pm and also you can’t help but laugh at yourself as you slur through an awkward introduction. The rest of the evening is formalities and hookah on BenYehuda Street for some of the girls. Tempting. But I pass on account of experience and the mantra repeating in my head. Must Sleeeeep. An exhausted 2 hours later I’ve picked a bed, met my teachers, chatted up some roommates and showered off the days traveling adventure.

Jerusalem sunrise from my top bunk.