After 2 long flights originating in Juliaca, Peru, we boarded our third leg (6 hours) from Miami home to California. I was tired, pretty hungry, and ready to sleep.
I boarded the plane, stowed my backpack, and turned off the freezing air blowing onto my seat. The bald man next to me with pants hitched to his chest looked longingly at his freezing air vent, so I volunteered to turn it off for him. And get his blanket out of the plastic wrap. And open his cheese stick. Through all these events, the man struck me as cheerful, grateful and engaged. He was quite chatty and continued to talk until well after take-off. He kept telling me that "Life is Beautiful" and to "always learn from your mistakes." He was talking about how "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade..." I was pinching Scott, cluing him to create a distraction and give me a break from my conversant seat partner. I noticed a tattoo on his arm, but tried not to stare, so I didn't really give it another thought. Scott succeeded in diverting my attention, but it only lasted about 2 minutes. The man was back at it, telling me about his grandson becoming a Rabbi this coming weekend- the purpose for his big trip out west. I finally decided to just engage and give him my full attention.
I asked him where he was born and grew up. That's when things got interesting.
He was born in Poland in 1925 and then his mother died when he was 9 years old, leaving 6 boys and 1 girl behind. Their family lived in the ghetto for a few years before he was taken to a concentration camp... and then sent to 4 more (The 3 I remember were Dachau, Mauthausen, and Auschwitz). He spent a total of 27 months in the camps beginning at age 17. Now understanding his background, he had much more credibility for his "get lemons and make lemonade" talk. Once I realized what an opportunity this was, I eagerly asked every question I could think of. This time I was pinching Scott to "Listen up!" and take advantage of this rare chance we had to learn about a person and an event that have molded history. The next 5 hours flew by (pun intended) and I left feeling motivated, proud, lucky and inspired to live a good life and always choose happiness and faith.
Halfway through our discussion I got out my notebook and just started writing down details as fast as I could. I don't know what I'll do with them, but I knew I didn't want to forget.
(M stands for Me, S stands for Sol.)
M: What was it like when you very first went to the camps?
S: We stand in lines and go forward. When you reach the front you put your arm out, and another prisoner will put this number on you. Now, when people wonder what this number is on my arm, I tell people this is the phone number of my first girlfriend! (He is a jokester!) So then a fellow prisoner puts the number on my arm. This is my number for my first three camps. The last two camps, I had a metal tag that goes on my chest pocket, and on my leg. They said "If you lose your number, you're dead!" When we got to the camps, we went in a shower where they put hot hot burning water that would burn your skin. Then it would suddenly turn to freezing cold water. So cold. It was torture.
M: How did you survive when so many died?
S: Life is beautiful! You must always be positive and believe in yourself. Every single time the Germans would ask who could do a certain job, I would raise my hand up very first. They say "Who knows how to work in the fields?" "I do!" "Who knows how to train horses?" "I do!" (Even though I had no idea...) "Who is good at carrying heavy blocks" "I am!" I always volunteered so they will know I am strong. Also, when you do something, look at people straight in the eyes. For example, Scott, If you want a job, go there and look at them right in the eyes and they will see that your soul is good. That is what I did.
M: Did you always have the desire to live? Were there times when it was just too hard?
S: My mother died when I was 9, my baby sister was 2. We had 6 boys, 1 girl in my family. She was the youngest. When mother died, they took her to an orphanage. After school every day, I would go visit her. She loved me and I loved her. When she was older she came to live with us. Then, on the day we were collected to go to the camps, they said "Women and Children in this line. Men in this line." My baby sister was calling my name. I can hear her voice. She was killed. So all through the camps I desperately wanted to live so that I could take revenge on the Germans and kill a little German girl. So when I was in the camps I wanted to live so I would be liberated and do this. Once I was liberated on "my lucky day" April 19, 1942, I thought to myself, "Why would I kill another innocent little girl??" So I realized not to do that. But, I did have a purpose for living during the time in the camps.
Another time, I was being transferred on a train to a different camp. They gave me a few cans of food for my multi-day journey. As I was boarding the train, the German said, "You have it better than we do." The Germans are so obedient. If you tell a German, "walk straight" and there is a wall coming up, they will walk right into the wall without stopping or turning. They are so diligent, for better or for worse.
M: Were any of the Germans (He never once called them Nazis) nicer than others? Did it seem like they knew what they were doing was wrong?
S: Sometimes, yes. For example, one day I was working out in the field. One German in the front (the place if you weren't a very good Nazi) waved for me to come in. He grabbed me hard by my forearm, and told me "I'll kill you right away." The thing to do is be silent. I only stared directly into his eyes. I was not afraid. When you let fear get in the way you cannot think clearly. Then, he let me go. So always choose to think positive and have faith because then you can think clearly.
Also, the Germans would give us a little food, and water from the toilet.
M: Did you ever come home from a day working and find that your friends who were prisoners had been killed?
S: Not really. I was at work camps. We worked. When they found weak people they transferred them to death camps where they did that. So friends would disappear, but I think to a different camp.
M: How are your English and Spanish, Russian and Polish all so good even though your first language is Hebrew?
S: Learning a language is easy. You just hear a new word and you repeat it over and over and over. If you don't use your skills you will lose them. When learning Spanish, use your skills. If you are doing a sport, practice or you will lose that. If you want to be a good cook, use your skills, or you will lose them. So in bed, use your skills or you will lose them. (TMI, I know.)
M: Is it hard for you to talk about this? To answer my questions, and bring all these memories back into your mind?
S: No! I want to share because I want people to know what happened. This way it will not happen again. After today I want you to tell your daughter and all your people so that they will know what this was like. I do not want people to suffer, so we must learn from the mistakes of the past. Also I want to use my mind to remember. If I don't use my brains, I will lose them!
M: What was it like on the day you were freed?
S: I was liberated on April 29, 1945! This is the day I was born again! I remember they put a large pill on my tongue like this. And then when I woke up it was May 5, 1945. I don't know what happened then, they put me out of it. After I was liberated I went to Palestine. Later my brother sent mail convincing me to go to America. I went to New York and met my wife. She was a waitress in the Bronx. I married her in Brooklyn 69 days after we met. She is Cuban. She wanted to go live in Cuba. So we lived there for 12 years. When Castro came, I thought "Miami is only 80 miles away... no communism there." So I sent my wife and children there, and I sent all my money there. But I stayed in Cuba to finish my business. I sold women's clothing. I was selling all my products for cheap so I could finish the business and go to Miami. But the government liked the taxes from my business, so when they found out that I tried to close my business they put me in jail. But I got out and went to Miami. Then my family moved to Palestine. But my wife didn't like Palestine so we went back to Miami.
Always remember "A SMILE a day keeps the doctor away." Apples are good too, but smiles are better.
I feel really lucky to have had this chance to talk with Sol and for his willingness to share his experience with me. He is an example of choosing happiness even in the worst of circumstances. He has always kept his mind strong and chosen faith instead of fear.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Here is our "at-a-glance" itinerary:
Day 1&2. Explore, make bookings, cooking class, salsa dance class, hot stone massages, San Pedro Market... --Slept in Cusco
Day 3. Paragliding, Hotel Andenes, explore new town, ruins --Slept in Ollantaytambo
Day 4. Abra Malaga downhill bike ride, mother's day festival, good food, train ride to AC.-- Slept in Aguas Callientes (Machu Picchu Town)
Day 5. Machu Picchu Day, Aguas Callientes Hot Springs, Train back --Slept in Ollantaytambo
Day 6. Church in Urubamba (9am), Moray, Maras, Salineras, -- Slept in Cusco
Day 7. Tour Peru bus to Puno (8 hours), Explore, fancy dinner -- Slept in Puno
Day 8. Boat to Uros Islands, then to Amantani, Sunset hike, dance night -- Slept in Isla Amantani
Day 9. Boat to Isla Taquile, the boat back to Puno -- Slept in Puno
Day 10. Explore, call home, shower, transfer to Juliaca for our flight home --Slept (read: Didn't sleep) in Airplane
Tips for Travelers going to Peru:
- If you can at all help it, go in the month of MAY! Great weather, cheaper prices, less tourists, more opportunity to do activities because they are less busy... Maybe September or October would be equally good (the end of high season), I don't know...
- Try Alpaca Saltado! It is absolutely my new favorite dish! Seledonia's restaurant in Cusco is fairly priced and very delicious!
- Book tours on arrival for the best prices. Treks to Machu Picchu and through the sacred valley cost at least $550 searching online before, but if you're flexible and brave, book once you arrive for around $200. Travel agencies line the streets of Cusco offering hikes beginning as early as the next morning. (Of course, none of this applies to the Inca Trail hike which you must book 4-6 months in advance. We made friends with people who used Llama Path for their hike and ate like kings and loved their time!)
- As far as packing shoes... I would only really bring tennis shoes and maybe a thin pair of flip flops. These are high altitudes and it gets really cold- I wouldn't have been caught in my beloved Chacos. Please pack light! We took 1 school size backpack each and it was actually more than enough. We were so free to move and do what we wanted bc we weren't weighed down!
- This is definitely best as a childless trip. We have taken our >1 yr old on plenty of trips and aren't afraid... but this location is really best if you can leave the babe with Grandma!
- I would say book a tour to Machu Picchu. My first choice would be to hike it (4 days), but if you don't have the time, I'd say do an overnight tour. You would sleep in either Ollantaytambo, or I would highly suggest spending the night in Aguas Callientes before you Machu Picchu day. There is a LOT of red tape getting to the site. We spent the better part of a day running around Cusco making all our reservations: Bus/taxi to Ollantaytambo where the train starts, hotel for the night, the train tickets, the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu, the bus between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu... It's possible (obv, this is what we did...) but very logistical. I think you would save money and be less stressed, and make a few friends by doing this with a tour group.
- Go EARLY to Machu Picchu! I think the buses start at either 4:30 or 5am. You must get up there for the sunrise, and to beat all the 1 day tourist groups. The best light is during the "Golden Hour" just before the sun rises and for a few minutes after. The other best time is between 2:30- 4:30pm when the site closes. The middle of the day is hot and very crowded. We found a shade tree to eat our lunch (bring food for sure!) and take a nap for 2-3 hours during the middle of the day.
- I liked Staying in Cusco for a few days to acclimate for Machu Picchu. Then going to Puno/Lake Titicaca next since it is even higher!
- Don't feel like you HAVE to buy the Boleto Turistico. It's the tourist pass to all the historical sites and churches. They make you feel like it is your only option... If you have questions about this specifically, email me!
- If you go to Puno (port city for Lake Titicaca tours) stay at the Intiqa Hotel. That $50 hotel room was a highlight of our trip. We stayed in room 502 (I'm pretty sure!) which is on the top floor in the corner, making it large with a view. Great breakfast, they deliver a hair dryer when you call the front desk... great experience! We booked a tour for this leg of our trip which did not come with this hotel in the package, but we insisted that this is where we wanted to stay, so Sacred Valley Tours in Cusco called them and bundled this hotel into our Lake Titicaca tour.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for tips!
Just 1.5 days after we returned from Costa Rica/New York, we left for a quick overnight to Palm Springs with our good friends the Pearsons. They were so good to invite us and we loved connecting after months apart!
We decided to hike in the hot hot weather... luckily the pool at the waterfall was reallllly chilly!
Scott and Vessie. Friends for life.
Then pool time back at the house! Harper and T watched sharks and minos from their float.
And we ended with a little Mexican food downtown on the "strip."
We had some breakfast in the morning, then back to the Hathaway house for a ride in the wagon.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
I will be playing a major blog catch up now.
We just finished a 25 hour road trip between LA and Seattle. We did it over 4 days which made it manageable for T. We were so happy to spend 2 nights in Napa Valley with my mom's mom BestaGirl. Upon arrival in Sammamish, my sister Heather + family decided to drive in to see us (yay!) and my sister Noelle who is close came with her fam too (yay)! So we had a wonderful memorial day weekend together. Now, Tuesday, things are settling down (just a bit) and I am sitting down to look at my computer for almost the first time in weeks. So, I am realizing that I have TOTALLY and completely dropped the ball on blogging, which, I am really not okay with since this has been the most varied and thrilling year in quite some time. We have lived out of a suitcase for almost 5 months now and have about 2 more to go!
I would love to do a post for each day of our layover in New York.
But, I am not going to.
I am not claiming to know the first thing about this huge city, but hopefully after a few months of living there I'll be able to give people tips about where to go for brunch and which subway app is best.
Until then, here is our visit tourist style!
Our host, Brenda was so kind to pick us up at the airport, trailer and all! It was lucky she had that because we had a few suitcases coming home from Costa Rica with us!
We did a food tour of Chelsea Market. We weren't too impressed by the tour/guide, but chelsea market was really amazing. We have about 20 more things to try there, and about 6 items to eat again. Very impressive. We met Sarabeth (famous baker) there and found a really fresh meat shop and some delightful chocolate milk. Scott's oysters and our lobster bisque at The Lobster Place are two items we recommend for visitors. Also, there is a bread shop with SUPER cheap, delicious sourdough. And, a produce store that sells brocollini and other rare veggies you never see at your local maceys... (Did I mention we are really glad to get more and better produce outside of Utah?!?)
The second floor of the market is home to Food Network Corportate Offices.
(If I could spend one hour with any current celebrity, it would be Carla Hall.)
Our heads are sort of lost in the sky, but we loved the highline- a chill place to relax and people watch. Lots of good food to try up there. I hear they do summer movie nights with popular shows projected onto brick buildings..? Anyone have more info on that?! (P.s. It looks like we'll be in NYC starting in August, so hopefully we can do some NY activities before the cold winter comes.)
While we were at Chelsea Market/Highline, our host/friend Brenda watched T. When our guide asked where our daughter was, I told him "Oh, she's at brunch with her nanny."
That was possibly the most posh moment of my life.
Like I said, we didn't really jive with our tour guide, which is perhaps why I felt so comfortable being smart with him :)
But really, she wen't to brunch with Brenda and a few friends!
(Back at Highline a second time, a few days later)
I took one photo at Ground Zero with a serious face, and one smiling, just for good measure.
And, the serious face ended up looking really awkward.
My biggest regret of the trip was not taking the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty. Looks like I'll have more opportunities to make that happen.
Did I mention that the purpose of this trip was for Scott to stop in at Columbia University to meet the admissions committee? We had a layover through JFK on our way back from Costa Rica, and it worked out quite nicely for him to make some contacts and take a campus tour. I really believe that Scott's almost immediate acceptance to Columbia was in part due to this visit, which would never have happened had we not gone to Costa Rica in the first place. Heavenly Father totally has a plan for our lives!
Our little lady is such a love.
We brought some volcano mud mask (like, they scoop up mud at the volcano, but it in a bag, and sell it to tourists. All natural.) and did them with Brenda and her sister Cara. Those girls kept us up WAY past our bedtime!
They live in Astoria- a great place still on subway line, but a bit farther out near a city park and with street parking!
Times Square was smaller than I imagined it. Still large and impressive, but I think it looks bigger on TV.
I think this was one of T's first and only times in a large, quiet public library. She tends to scream.
Getting their M&M personalities read.
I thought the Shake Shack was a lot of hype... I didn't really make eating here a priority, but was glad when it worked out to go there for lunch. Turns out I absolutely should have planned this into every single day of our trip. It was really, really delicious. Flavorful meat, perfect, soft bun, great toppings, it is just a really good burger. Here is Scott shaking:
And Central Park! One travel tip: If you have something you really want to do while in a certain destination, DO IT FIRST. Places close, parades happen, weather changes, other plans come up, your trip ends early... lots of things happen that could get in the way. We had central park planned for our last day, but when the first day was sunny, we changed up our plans and played at the park and went for our boat ride that day instead. And the rest of the weekend turned out to be rainy, so we were really glad we changed plans!
Poor baby was so tired. NO NAPS for 4 days directly after being hauled around hot Costa Rica and loooong plane flights. T is an all star and has learned to sleep when she can!
Are we really moving here? Totally not real yet.
This was our fanciest meal. Everything ordered a la carte in a teeny tiny narrow place. I had all T's snacks and food on a portable plate, while she ate sitting on my lap. When the waiter came to refill waters he accidentally poured the entire pitcher of ICE water all over me, the last of our food for T, T herself, and her blanket and extra set of clothes, and even inside my diaper bag. Big disaster. T was crying and tired. We were out of food. I was cold and wet. The waiter felt terrible and was apologetic, but didn't even give me a free drink! Obv he didnt do it on purpose, so I tried to be polite and make everything seem fine, but I was a cold, wet mama with no food or clothing for my baby. Not the best.
Our day at Columbia! We took a campus tour and Scott met with 2 teachers/program directors. It was a completely different feel from BYU.
People were pretty good about giving me a seat on the subway. One time when nobody offered, another lady standing shouted "Um, did you not see this mother and baby come on? Who will give her their seat right now?!?" She stood up for me. I was fine standing, but I took the offered seat since she made such a big deal about it!
Look at all that cheese. I'm already excited for our new NYC friends who will inevitably be invited over to share a cheese plate with us.
Josh and Katrina met up with us for a wander around town and dinner at Grand Central! We love them and reminiscing about our Utah days together. Thanks for making the trip into the city to see us! We look forward to many more fun days together!
It was between Cinderella and Newsies (which will be our next show...) and we were glad we went with Cinderella! The costumes (and costume changes, especially) were fantastic! It was fun and funny and nice to see a familiar story on stage.
Snapped this pic before the crazy-strict usher got to us. I wish I could have dressed up for the show, but we'd been out since 6am and had no time to go home to change.
Here is how T slept.
Union Square market! The variety of fresh produce was unbelievable. I can't wait to go back and buy succulents and hopefully herbs. You won't believe how many varieties of basil they have- at least 50+!
We got some hot cider and pastries!
And for lunch, traditional NY pizza! It was really good, very traditional, but I do love Papa Johns... (Scott is going to kill me when he reads this! Ha!)
And the famous lobster roll. Warm bun, cold lobster. The pickle was the perfect side. These are expensive- like $15. We shared one roll between the 4 of us!
Brenda works at Sephora and took us on a tour of her Soho store! She is good at what she does. Brenda did my make up for my wedding!
The Waffle & Dinge truck is soooo good.
We went to the New Years ball, its right in Times Square. Thanks to my friend Heidi for the tip!
We even left a confetti "Hope or Dream" to be dropped next year!
T LOVE LOVED the carousal ride! It doesn't look so much like it in this pic, but it was the highlight of our day. Some kids were crying while T smiled and waved!
We had an incredible time and we're coming back to stay!It will be quite different long-term than as a tourist, but I'm feeling more and more up the challenge every day!