We have survived a long, cold night in the Bedouin tents! It was worth it for our morning experience:
camel riding. Well, camel and donkey
riding. We got up early in the morning,
had breakfast, and then saddled up. On
the first leg of the trip, I rode a donkey.
In my humble opinion, he was the cutest donkey, but he was also,
unfortunately, the tallest donkey, and my 5-foot-2 self had to use a chair to
get onto the saddle. After that little
mishap, though, we had a 15-minute ride through the desert on donkeyback. The ride went fairly smoothly, and when we
turned around, we switched to camel riding.
Liana and I shared a camel (also the cutest camel), which was a
significantly…taller experience. It was
well worth it, though, for the view; you can see the entire desert from that
vantage point. It might seem like the
Negev is just sand and rocks, but there’s something incredibly beautiful, and
humbling, about seeing it stretch out forever around you, unobstructed.
We also look pretty flippin’ cool on camelback:
After our camel ride, we left for Masada, the ancient
fortress on top of a cliff. The story of
Masada is an interesting one: it was first a fortress for King Herod who built
it around 37 BCE, and later it was the last stronghold of a small group of Jews
who were fighting the Romans in 66 CE. After they were outnumbered and siege was laid to the fortress, they decided that they would rather burn the fortress and die than be captured.
If you’re interested, you can read the whole story here: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Archaeology/Masada1.html
While the tale of Masada is pretty depressing, the hike was
spectacular. We took the steep way up;
it’s about a 20-minute walk up a steep stair path (but there is a
railing). At the top, there is, of
course, another breathtaking view. More
powerful for me, though, was the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony we had for the
students who had not yet had them.
Traditionally a Bar Mitzvah (for guys) and Bat Mitzvah (for girls) takes
place at age 13, where the student officially becomes and adult and a member of
the Jewish community. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah
can happen at any age, though, so about 7 students decided to have theirs today
at the old synagogue on top of Masada.
It was a short ceremony (and unfortunately no candy-throwing, a typical
Bar/Bat Mitzvah tradition), but it was pretty cool to realize how this
trip has affected people: these seven students decided to have
this ceremony, traditionally done before close friends and family, with a
group of people they didn’t even know seven days ago, in Israel, far away from
After the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, we all received letters
from our parents that they had written for us before the trip. My mother’s letter included pictures from
when she was at the top of Masada 34 years ago.
I know my mother is reading this, so Hi Mom, thanks for the letter.
In the spirit of family competition, I tried to
take a picture in the same place my mother did.
Here’s the result:
And here’s another view from the top:
That’s the path we climbed up.
This post is getting long, so I’ll cut it off here. In part 2, I’ll talk about Ein Geidi and the
My favorite part about Caltech is the Houses! The easiest way to describe them is as Hogwarts houses: each has their own personality and group of people and the first thing you do at Caltech is go through a “sorting” process. The people are what makes the Houses at Caltech so great. As a frosh, it’s amazing to be able to come in and immediately have a group of 100+ people to support you. Because the Houses have students from every grade, you make friends with upperclassmen and can ask for help on tons of things like:
It’s crazy to think that it has been four years now since I was applying to college. I remember it vividly. This week we’re spending some time reflecting on our personal admissions processes, and how we ended up at Caltech. There’s one question though that I wanted to spin out into a separate post: “what advice would you give to the admitted class of 2025?” And I think the best way to do this is to tell a more detailed story than I did in my other post.
These past six months have been a whirlwind- from having to move out of Caltech housing in March within a week’s notice due to COVID-19, to starting the first term of my junior year, I’ve definitely experienced a lot of change. When I went home in March, it was to a completely new state-my family moved from Chino, CA to New Jersey in January (great timing, huh?). While I missed seeing my friends from home, it was fun to have the chance to explore a completely new place. The pandemic obviously limited what I could see and do, but I got to experience walks through nature and along rivers normally foreign to a SoCal native and had some time to focus on bioinformatics research for the lab I work with on campus.