Words of Wisdom from the Hostel Owner

A trip to Haifa (and the Haifa International Film Festival) changes my life.

The past two days have been relatively interesting but I’m going to back up a tad further than that and exclaim about the awesome dinner I had on Saturday night.  Kate, Daria, Dan, John, and I went out for Chinese food!  I ended up with beef, vegetables and mushrooms…and a side of egg fried rice.  It was the most expensive meal I’ve purchased so far…but I think it was worth it.

Here was a gift for Dan.  It arrived on his plate.

Sunday started slowly.  Our three friends left early in the morning.  Contrarily, Kate and I slept in.  It was this morning that the guy who I-in hindsight-came to find started the hostel way back when, started harassing me about being on my computer so much.  I immediately jumped on the defensive.  Who was he to judge?!  He doesn’t know me from Adam.  I read on my computer because it’s cheaper than buying books.  I get on Skype because I haven’t been home in two months and I miss my family.  Who was he to tell me I’m spending too much time online?!  Indignant, I went and hid in the dorm room until 2:00.

Kate and I made plans to hit the sculpture garden, Tikotin Japanese Museum of Art, and the beach after sundown.  However, no matter how hard we planned and scheduled, nothing changed the fact that we had never seen the bus stops before and we didn’t know where we were supposed to get off.

On the first leg of our journey, we were on the bus for three stops too long and ended up having to walk back.  As we got to the correct bus stand, we hopped on the next bus and went to the Ursula Malbin Sculpture Garden.  (We got off one stop too early and had to climb up the freaking mountain again.  At least it wasn’t all the way up like last time…)

In all honesty, I think we were both hoping for a bit more.  There wasn’t much special about the sculptures themselves.  I only saw one or two that I actually liked…

but I did take the opportunity to play with the settings on my camera.  Please observe and oggle all the pretty flowers!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

From there, we hopped onto the next bus and went up to Carmel Center which is sorta the center of town.  We wandered aimlessly until we came across the Tikotin which wasn’t well labeled at all.  In fact, there were numerous teenagers sitting outside smoking and socializing.  We almost walked right past it.  We also managed to get inside without paying and then turned around and went to pay.  It’s like they just didn’t care.  No pride in their museum.  And honestly, it showed.  There were four exhibits in four rooms and that was it.  The main room featured many artistic and brightly colored kites.  Here was my favorite.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The second room had maybe ten artifacts and a few samurai swords/katanas.  The third and fourth rooms had many wood drawings of old Japanese actors.  This is the only one that really stood out:

We stopped in the gift shop if only to waste time.  I came across this…I WAS SO CLOSE TO BUYING IT!

We left and realized that we had intended to spend much more time at the museum.  So we wandered around until we happened upon signs for another museum.  We followed the path down to Mane Katz…which wasn’t open.  As in, I don’t think it has opened yet at all.  But the building was hiding a lovely view that I snuck around to see.  Ah well.

We started walking back to the bus stop when I happened across the Haifa dance store!

I walked in and managed to make myself extremely nostalgic.  I guess it’s time to start choreographing next semesters piece.  Unfortunately, my dance idea matches a little too closely to one story line that it being done this semester.  So I don’t know what I’m going to do with that.

From there we walked to the bus stop and hitched a ride to the beach.  However, it was much chillier than anticipated…so we weren’t there long.  We got back to the hostel and called it a night.

Monday morning brought a new day with new plans.  Kate and I decided to spend a day at the beach and then an evening at the Haifa International Film Festival to see The Debt (Ha-hov in Hebrew).  We actually helped a British couple at the bus stop while we were waiting for our bus to arrive.  They were in Haifa for the day and had deviated from their tour with the intention of hitting the Baha’i Gardens themselves.  We informed them of which bus to take, how much it would cost, and how they would know when to get off.  We also told them the best way to do the gardens and where to get a good meal afterward.  We made sure they got on the right bus and waved as they went off.  I felt accomplished!!!

Aside from my major accomplishment at the beginning of our journey, my one goal for the day was to drink an alcoholic drink on the beach while reading my book.  This was achieved in the form of a rather poorly made frozen strawberry margarita.

It was nice just sitting there for about three hours (at least I think it was three hours…I kinda lost track of time).

We then took the bus up to the Auditorium where the movie was playing.  Unfortunately, we (incorrectly) assumed there would be much to see and do…so we got there at about 4:15.

We walked the premises a bit, went into a few shopping centers, checked out the individual arts/crafts stands that had been erected by the festival…I bought a crepe (omnomnom)…and quickly ran out of things to do in about two hours.

With little over an hour left before the movie started, Kate and I were slowly running out of things to talk about.  I made the ultimate decision to get popcorn and a drink before the movie and then I accidentally took the long way around to find the popcorn stand.  We then had to attempt to find the theater.  Theaters are structured very differently here.  Each theater has a name (The Auditorium, The Cinematheque) and seats are assigned at the time of purchase.  We finally found where we were supposed to enter the theater and got stopped.  Not allowed to take food and drink in.


I, ladies and gentlemen, want it known for the record that for the very first time in my life I had to sneak popcorn INTO A MOVIE THEATER.  o.o

Also, their theater isn’t a theater at all…at least it isn’t laid out in the typical movie theater manner.  It actually looks like a theater.  Like Music Hall at Fair Park.

As we took our seats (with my contraband concessions) we recalled reading that the filmmakers were going to be present at this particular viewing.  I could barely contain my excitement as they listed off previous works of the directors’.  Movies like Shakespeare in Love and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

They then invited Director John Madden onto the stage and I snapped a blurry photo of him:

And then he invited even more people on stage…so here’s a picture of the director, producer, someone important (>_>), and one of the actresses from the film.

We then enjoyed the movie (I highly recommend it).  Apparently it’s a remake of an Israeli film (Ha-Hov) that I’ve never seen…but either way, I thoroughly enjoyed this version of it.  Apparently there was a meet and greet session with the director afterwards, but we couldn’t find where it was so we gave up and headed back to the hostel.

Here are the decorations in the subway station.  Do they not look like they’re in agony? o.O

By the time we got back, I was in the early stages of an Asthma attack.  I hurried back into my room to find my inhaler only to begin panicking when I couldn’t find it.  As I post this, I still have no idea where my inhaler is…but I was having such a hard time breathing that I went downstairs and visited the pub across the street with the intent of asking for just a cup of warm water.

Unfortunately, they were packed…so I didn’t go in.

Fortunately, the owner of the hostel was on his phone outside and drew me into conversation.

I explained my problem to him and he unlocked the kitchen to let me in.  He gave me a cup of warm water and we started talking…about school, about work, about life in general.

About twenty minutes later, he offered to make me a cup of hot chocolate.  I gladly accepted and we went for a walk…at 11:00 at night…cause I’m a rebel.

We shared in delightful conversation for nearly two hours.  He heard my life story…about how I was going to graduate in 3.5 years but instead I’m in Israel postponing the inevitable graduation.  About how I have always been the one to plan, plan, plan because I’m the kind of person who needs a plan.  I explained that I was in Israel trying to relax and attempting to learn to live without a plan (and that it was slowly driving me nuts…but HEY!  I’m workin on it!).

He harassed me about missing life because I was spending too much time on the computer.  I, once again, became defensive, trying to explain my reasoning for spending so much time in front of my HP screen.

And then he told me, straight to my face, that I needed to learn to relax. Ouch…

He gave me a quick walking tour of Haifa.  We crossed the street and he explained about the government renovations.  He explained that Downtown Haifa (where we’ve been staying) used to be the hotspot in Haifa…the place to be.  However, then, shopping centers were built.  These shopping centers got a huge discount on taxes because they were so “resourceful” with their space, so all the individual shops couldn’t compete with their prices and couldn’t afford to stay open.

He explained that the government, over the course of 15 years, is giving money to the city to renovate and bring it back to life.  They’ve added bus lanes that will eventually become light rail lanes, they added street lamps to make people feel safer, they’re renovating the buildings, the streets, adding trash cans, etc.

He explained about the ports and the effect of the British occupation during WWII.  He showed me manhole covers from 1933 (back when Israel was Palestine) right next to much more recent ones.  He showed me two monuments of bombings and the end of the British occupation.  He showed me two college campuses that were hiding behind recently-renovated dorms…totally GORGEOUS walking paths that are hidden by old buildings.  He showed me a brand new youth center for children to come and get on the internet or play games or get help writing a resume, etc.

He told me of a festival that Haifa hosts once a year towards the end of summer in an attempt to drive young people to the district and bring it back to life.

I have never heard someone more passionate about a city than this guy…and I never even caught his name.  (I feel bad about that…I really do…)  I learned more in these two hours than I did doing all of my research and traveling to all of these hugely famous destinations during my six days in the city.

And I learned it at 11:00 at night…in the dark…with a man whose name I don’t know…completely at the spur of the moment.

He spent the last few minutes of the evening attempting to convince me to stay a few extra days for the festival.  No matter how politely I explained that I already had booked a hostel in Eilat for the following three days, he just kept asking.  I begged off and went up to my room instead.

But I must say, my most meaningful experience of this trip (so far) came from so far out of the blue that I don’t really know what to do with it.

I’m going to have to sit down and process all of what he taught me tonight.

I know there was a life lesson in there somewhere…

I can’t help but think that Feris Bueller sums up my post-conversation thoughts the best:

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

2 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom from the Hostel Owner”

  1. Lovely pics. You really should not be talking to stranger in the middle of the night. I am glad you learn something at least you rebel. I miss you! Take care and please be careful. 🙂

  2. This is by far my favorite. Slow down Ferris is right. As you get older you realize that “the days are long, the years are short.” Gretchen Rubin The Happiness Project.
    I highly recommend her book . Have fun enjoy, and keep writing I love reading about your adventures.

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