On Sunday we had plans to all go to the beach for the day and then do our Ulpan homework later on in the evening. Unfortunately that plan was put to an end when we got the infamous random text to meet in the Moadon (meeting room) of the Absorption Center. So after class all the Otzmanikim and I headed there and were told to meet in the parking lot at 2:55.

When we met in the parking lot we met our volunteer leader for the day, Dodi (pronounced Doo Dee – if you’re thinking what I’m thinking then you can call us both a bit immature). Dodi told us we would be painting houses for the day. Unfortunately since I have yet to fully understand people when they speak in Hebrew I didn’t comprehend more details than that. I’ve learned to ‘just go with the flow’ (Zorem in Hebrew) and do what I’m told when I’m told to do it. My group had to wait for our ride because Dodi brought the other group their apartment first. About an hour later he came back to get us (a little miscommunication had us sitting for about 30 minutes too long).

When my group and I showed up at our apartment to paint I almost threw up in my mouth. The place was the worst and most disgusting place I have ever seen in my life. I’ve only seen places so bad in movies on TV. Nonetheless, Dodi gave us our jobs and we went to work. I and another boy in my group were told to paint the bedroom. And by bedroom I mean, room with a bed in it.

The floor had cat balls everywhere and the stench from the bathroom lingered throughout the apartment. Fortunately once we started painting the smell of that overtook somewhat of the other smells. Plus it helped that when I went to go use the roller on the ceiling a lot of paint dripped off onto my face.

I have to admit as Jeremy and I were painting the place started to certainly improve in its appearance. Of course we made a few mistakes here and there. But I learned that day that a little bit really can go a long way.

Upon taking a break Jeremy and Austin figured out that we could make our way up to the roof via a ladder in the apartments hallway. It was in that moment that I realized no matter how much paint was splatter onto my body and face, or how gross this apartment was that I was in, life can be beautiful. The area we were in are very lower class apartments, but that didn’t take away from the cool night air and beautiful landscapes beyond that we could see. Maybe it’s because I am Israel that everything just seems better than would be at home. But either way I loved being on that roof.

Once we took our break we got back to work. We had made quite a mess and had to clean up after painting, which was a bit of a drag. At one point I had to bring the garbage downstairs to the outside dumpsters and the man we were painting for was sitting outside waiting for us to finish. He had never made eye contact with us when he showed us his place. He barely even made eye contact with Dodi when he was speaking with him. He is probably in his 70’s and looks like he has lived a hard life. I couldn’t help but wonder what his story is. He had to have immigrated here at some point, I wonder where from? He had a picture in his apartment of a woman in an IDF uniform, the painting looked like it was from the 1940s or 50s. It made me sad to think it was most likely his wife. We made eye contact at that point (I think he must have remembered me) and I could tell that although he most likely is a very sad and lonely old man, he was happy to have someone help fix up his place. That moment of eye contact with him was enough for me to know that sometimes good deeds do not always need to go unnoticed.

After 4 and a ½ long hours we finally finished for the day. Unfortunately I don’t know how much of our work will show through, since Dodi told us our apartment was so bad the professionals need to come in.

As the night continued we made our way back on a bus and stopped at a pharmacy first to get nail polish remover to get rid of the paint on ourselves. I had so many people coming up to me laughing and saying Hebrew words I couldn’t understand. I simply responded “Mitnadevet!” (Which means volunteer in Hebrew). After getting home, scrubbing, showering, and getting back to my regular self I reflected on the day and realized just how wonderful it was.

Although our group can no longer go to our apartment to paint we still have other apartments to fix up. Yesterday (Wednesday) we went to another one, and this experience was a lot different. I can’t necessarily say better because I think the last time was so much more rewarding. This apartment was a lot cleaner and the woman living there was very thankful to have us helping. I have found that I really enjoy painting and it can be really relaxing. It also is super enjoyable when someone has music playing off their phone or iPod for us to listen to.

Yesterday it was my job to do the hallway. Today I helped to paint the kitchen, scrub the paint off the floors and broom them. After these three days I’d like to think although I still haven’t been taught the correct technique for painting I have improved my skills. How you doing Sherman Williams?

This week we also had two optional educational seminars, which I decided to go to. The first was on Jewish leadership and we talked about the differences between charity and justice – both aspects of Tzedakah. There was a smaller group of us since it was optional but I think it made for a better and more intimate discussion. The other seminar was more about biblical stories, and while it was interesting I have to admit the biblical stories I’m not so knowledgeable on. Many things the teacher was saying were going over my head but I hope as I continue to go I’ll be more understanding of everything.

Tomorrow we’re waking up bright and early to go to Jerusalem for the Yom Kippur weekend. Should be very interesting to spend the holiest holiday in the Jewish religion in the holiest city in the world. Tomorrow we’ll have three educational seminars, and the first one is going to incorporate yoga, which I’m really looking forward to. The fast starts tomorrow evening at 5:03 p.m. and will end at 6:03 p.m. on Saturday night. Should be a meaningful and hopefully relatively easy fast.

My friend Vanessa read a quote to me the other day that I want to share with everyone. I think it is a great way to end this entry. “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” — Clifton Fadiman