29  Tibet and Israeli folk dance and birds – Love from the Golan Heights

I spent three days in a tiny hotel in Metula on the border of Lebanon. The location afforded a terrific hike, as well as easy access to Hula Valley, one of the world’s primary migration sites for birds

click on “Hula Birds” for video to download:  Hula Birds

Migrating birds visit Israel in the spring and fall, drawing huge crowds from throughout the country.  Sweethearts, families, retirees, and good-buddies eagerly plan a day of bike riding, walking, or riding electric (golf)carts on this huge nature reserve.  I enjoyed visiting 2 different Nature Reserves with a friend and her family.


Perfection.  Why is it that natural seems unreal to me, and therefore man-made, or Disney-like!

The birds poised as props, alternately entering and leaving the scene, and the ever-changing picturesque views filled eyes and heart.  I felt as though on a movie set.   And yet, I do believe the scene’s beauty was engineered, not merely a fantastic occurrence by chance.


https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/nature/israels-hula-valley-bird-paradise  is the best description with terrific photos.

There were more birds than I could begin to name – so here’s the link for those of you who know these names http://www.science.co.il/Birding/Hula.php


My iPhone’s camera is surely a disappointment to any serious bird watcher or photographer, especially you, Joanne, but hey, they’re beautiful in my eyes.


Star Trek’s Borg’s motto: We will adapt!    While enjoying the Hula Valley, I was introduced to a small animal from South America, whose migration/immigration story resonated with me in a peculiar way.

נוטריה (nutria) ‘s story is about being transplanted and making the best of it. Pioneering investors brought some to Israel from South America to begin an industry for their fur – but it didn’t work because in this heat their fur didn’t grow plush, so they were released and/or escaped (I’m finding different accounts, so probably both)

They now live along Hula Valley’s water and streams, where the birds come, feeding on vegetation.  They have adapted to their new home.  If you must know, the נוטריה  is also known as Coypu, or river rat.  Not a fan of rodents at all, but I warm to their adaptation to their environment.  This season of my life is daily adaptation, and I appreciate their success, as long as they and their rodent-ness stay far from me!   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coypu

I moved so often as a child, I thought adaptation to be something everyone except me does well.  It was overwhelming to enter new classrooms, try to find new friends, learn new neighborhoods.  I don’t remember expressing those feelings, and always embraced the hope (AKA: Fantasy!) that this was the last move and this new home would be forever, that I would have forever-friends.  My not-having-the-skills-to-adapt behavior was to hide and try to not look as lost as I felt.

Even today, my impression is that failed miserably on all counts of adapting, although I obviously survived.  It didn’t occur to me until decades later that being moved almost every year for the first 17 years of my life was an extremely difficult thing to navigate. Thanks to God, wise advisers and personal growth during adulthood helped me process the moves, and the girl I was.  Now, I’m doing everything I see to do to NOT HIDE, to reach out, to LIVE.  I imagine that I’m getting a do-over at those challenges, being a much changed and more able gal. Thanks to God.

Hotels, Kibbutz Guesthouses, Hostels, and B&Bs are comparable with those in the U.S., ranging from luxury to simplicity.  However, nothing compares with the Israeli breakfast.

While my simple, thin-walled motor hotel in Metula reminded me of inexpensive hotels in U.S., the breakfasts here stand alone at any level.  The comparable hotel in the U.S. might offer oatmeal packets, oranges, and nondescript muffins.  The most modest Israeli breakfast includes a selection of raw fresh veggies, salads, one or many fish selections (salmon, herring, tuna, anchovies…), along with eggs, assorted breads/pastries, yogurt, fruit, and juice.  I recognize salads unimaginable are not the typical American breakfast, but for me it’s a little bit of heaven.  Here’s the extremely simple, smaller than usual layout at the thin-walled hotel.  Next opportunity I have to capture a higher-end hotel morning banquet, I’ll post it.

click on this to download  modest breakfast

One morning I strolled a few kilometers from the hotel, along the Israel/Lebanon buffer-zone fence, to see the streams and waterfalls I’d been told were must-see’s.

Peeking through the camouflaged fence border into Lebanon:


Four hours later, I returned satisfied after a hearty hike, eyes happy from beautiful vistas, nature’s kaleidoscope, waterfalls, and weary muscles.  Also amazed I’d done it without a water bottle!  Not smart planning, but I kept telling myself I could turn back if need be, until I learned the mid-point had water.

click here to download video:  starting Metula hike

At several junctures along the way, I ran into a group of 60 or so Arab teens, led by a Jewish guide/teacher and accompanied by another big strong fellow with a gun, also Jewish – the security guard.

By the way, many tours of Jews include security on the bus and at each site, and my experience is that they take their jobs very seriously.  also, I’ve never seen a large group of children on a trip, Jewish or Arab, without a gun-toting guard.  This one asked me why I was videoing the kids.

I’d passed the kids earlier, and they greeted me with a chorus of classroom english and laughter – How Are You? Hello. Nice To See You. GooD MorNing. Where Are You From?

click to download Arab teens  You can see my unprepared attempt to capture some arabic for you miserably failed.  I’ve been thinking about strategies for the next opportunity.

Along the hike, this Israeli Army jeep was scooting along the border – see the flag? It doesn’t appear to be Lebanon’s or Israel’s.  I’m asking those in the know and will edit this when learn whos flag it is.       click to download: israeli jeep


Memorials of battles are everywhere – sons and daughters lives’ lost in the quest:




The above bridge could tell stories.  It’s been blown-up and rebuilt on several occasions and has played minor and major roles in assorted conflicts, even used by desperate Jews escaping into Palestine in the early 1900s.  Sadly, entrance was prevented after 1934. Their entrance could have meant life, instead of death camps.

Making Friends:  Email and phone connections with those far away in Israel or U.S. fill my heart, but still there are times I’m compelled into face-to-face interaction because of prolonged alone-ness. Other motivations include wanting to make friends, practice Hebrew, learn about the people and land, etc. I seem to be capable of only so many hours alone before exploding into conversations with strangers.

First impressions reflect the grid through which we look, don’t you think?  I’ve been thinking about “false-starts” with people from long ago and present. Friendship-chemistry is always welcomed, but I sometimes presume more connection – chemistry – than is reality; it seems my hopeful imagination is greater than the connection actually made.

  • MY perspective: potential friend
  • THEIR perspective(it seems):  momentary encounter

It seems some people get enough of me in the initial visit(s) and are not as interested in reuniting as am I.   Imagine That!!  

Is that because their lives are already full enough with friends and family?  Or that while they may have enjoyed the encounter, they have no need for more (like enjoying a good show but feeling no need to see it a second time?) Or that I’m “intense” and they get their fill, so to speak?  Not everyone likes to drink from a firehose.  Or they learned I’m not who they initially thought, and backed away?

I used to quickly offer my email to be in touch to visit again, but am rethinking that strategy, and these days more often wait on the other person to initiate interest in exchanging emails or phone.  However, some of my closest friends came from me jumping in with “Let’s go to lunch” after a brief conversation.

I don’t have this worked out, and it’s probably higher on my radar than you think it need be.  But it’s about navigating a crucial aspect of life which I’m acutely aware I’ve not mastered.

At this point, I don’t have a lifetime left to learn much of anything without being intentional and focused.


With regards to established friendships, in August three amazing women – as different as could be in lifestyle, faith, and geography – each gave me a purse-sized journal/notebook.  Stephanie has been a friend for 35 years of life’s ups and downs; Carol and I became friends singing together in 2006 and share precious mutual friends; and Marcia and I met in Hebrew language school less than 2 years ago, here.  Still, it seems they thought as one: that I need to be taking notes of thoughts and experiences… It’s always lovely to be loved.

Shall we dance???  What no ballroom?  How about Israeli folk dance? 

I checked into new lodging in Rosh Pinna, and the owner told me about folk dancing at a nearby Kibbutz, so that evening I went to dance the unknown. Would I find the Kibbutz, and then the right building in the dark (signs only in Hebrew, of course), and would there be many or few, what skill level, how humbled would I be not knowing any steps or dances?

I do not overthink, I go.  Still, I’m aware of the questions.

Unknowns aside, I entered the Kibbutz dining room cleared of tables and chairs, except one table for the leader/DJ playing music for the few already dancing. The evening began with 5 men and 15 women, and grew to approximately 70, with a 60/40% women/men distribution.  Not bad.  The outer and inner circles (not holding hands as you might imagine) mostly knew the dances while I stayed outside the outer to follow steps.  Fortunately, nearly everyone knew the dances so turning any which way usually pointed me towards another dancer doing the correct next step… I laughed at myself, and perhaps wasn’t the only one laughing.

click to download dancers

I couldn’t help but think of years ago: I’d have felt like a loser to not know the steps, and disappointed in myself to not learn them all immediately.  As though all worthwhile human-beings are BORN knowing Israeli Folk Dance steps.

No longer am I chastising myself for being a dummy, unable to do things I’d never been taught.  Like the line on the wall, marking children’s growth, I saw my “growth” in the arena of self-expectations.  My spontaneous, happy laughter at myself, and happy heart, made me all the more joyful at how healed, how changed I am this past decade.  No longer am I the girl who isn’t enough.

I would have enjoyed so much more of life, were I to have been then who I am today, but alas, we’re not born with wisdom or understanding.  At least I wasn’t.

After nearly 2 hours of nonstop folk dances, the music changed to 15 minutes of ballroom as I know it: waltz, tango, east coast swing, rumba.  Most sat while 12 couples danced with a reasonable level of skill.

I stayed standing, moving to the rhythm like a horse waiting for the race to start, making eye contact at every opportunity.  Finally a fellow stopped dancing with a gal and headed towards the chairs; I (brazenly) caught his eye with a gesture of “What?! You’re done?!” It worked! We danced 2 dances. It was a nice break, to be back in my zone of experience and reasonable confidence, even if only for a few moments.

Then the dancing progressed to couples folk dancing – more memorized steps.


click to download couples dancing

I happily watched with the remaining few along the sidelines as most coupled-up and danced.  There had been an exodus of many of the women without dance partners, and I wondered if all that remained for the evening was couples dances, but there was more circle dancing and the DJ even taught us steps and a new dance. The evening was a tremendous gift.  The freedom of dance, even with my participation limited by not knowing the steps, is pure joy.

This sort of experience is what I’m hoping for at many levels.  What happens in Israel’s “remote” places?  What do people do for socialization? How do they meet, absorb new folks, etc.

Some have sought to encourage me: “Don’t worry. You’ll find a place you want to live.”  And, again, I explain this vagabond journey of mine isn’t about where my home will be, or decision making, but about LEARNING.  I’m compelled to know the people, learn the culture, visit the places, experience this nation that sings to my heart… Some days are tough, but mostly it’s only an hour that’s challenging, and then I find myself in another amazing conversation or living a moment of revelation of God’s hand, the loneliness forgotten, or at least set aside.  I can’t explain why this exploration trek is so important, but I’m certain that if I don’t do this, now, while I’m able, I’ll wonder why, and what I missed.  Life is too short to let fear or convention hold me back.

A few more particulars from CHINA

Bamboo, yum!  click to download China’s Panda’s panda 1  panda 2 mealtime.


newborns, in incubator.  I wish they’d put a measuring stick or something to give a sense of their size.


TV shows and theater movies must pass government mandated criteria and many from the U.S. are blocked due to drugs, violence, and other influences detrimental to society. Sounds pretty good to me, given the deterioration of U.S. TV, but obviously, the lines of wisdom vs freedom are endless debate.


Regarding child labor abuses and the sex trafficking industry, I was told Chinese citizens hear about these issues only through their U.S. contacts abroad. Also, that employing children (eg, in parents’ factory or business) isn’t abuse, but rather character building for future responsibilities such as being a serious-student, work ethics, etc. That wasn’t said as “party line” or self-delusion, but rather from the heart, and certainly was not experienced as traumatic.

On that same subject, while we don’t want children anywhere to HAVE to work, it makes sense to me that children working in factories is an opportunity in extreme poverty situations.  Otherwise the poverty leads to them being sold or seduced into the sex-slave industry.  Not much choice there….


universal appeal sign at the Chongqing Zoo!



Tourism is now the foremost economic growth of Tibet. Consensus of those on my tour was that the Tibet History museum emits an aura of propaganda (from the Mainland government) about absorbing Tibet in 1951, the Tibetians I met say all these years later that they have benefited from the improved education and employment opportunities, that they do not support the “Free Tibet” movement.  They say that the Movement comes from those who left Tibet years ago and have not returned to see how it has improved.  Another debate without clear conmsensus.

Mao Zedung is revered as a great leader with monuments and memorials, despite having murdered more than Stalin and Hitler combined. I was told by a city dweller that he is more revered by the farmers, because they don’t know as much as city folk.


Good Propaganda?  Government posters and other media urge care for parents, offering seats to elderly, and other respectful behaviors in a nationwide campaign directed at young adults.  The intention is to turn them from generational self-centeredness to the community-support values of their parents. Can’t argue with that.

According to a Christian convert, Freedom of religion includes the Buddhists, Christians, and Jews, while beliefs with religions and practices considered Satanic are forbidden.

Chinese Opera in Beijing

We arrived early to watch one of the star performers apply makeup and the assistant “dress” him in his costume.

Click to download: Chinese Opera before show

The elaborate process made the performance makeup and costuming of my Sweet Adeline years seem simple by comparison



The chording and harmonies for Asian music is entirely different, and ear-twisting to many westerners.  The first few minutes seemed screetchy but then my ear adjusted and by the end of the performance I felt I had a sense of the sounds’ beauty.

See if you can “stand” it.  click to download and hear:  chinese opera 1   chinese opera 2  Chinese opera 3


Several readers have commented on the subject of Courage… and my venturing forth in various ways.  Here are a few thoughts you might enjoy http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/courage

Living Once.  Live Now.

After an evening of Tibetan Opera (see end of last blog) the performers led our group in a Tibetan folk dance.  I was dumbfounded when everyone in my tour group participated without any coaxing.  Even the men!!

Good naturedly they let themselves be instructed and led, and I realized why: they didn’t want to miss a thing.  They’d paid and planned for this trip; for some it was a lifelong dream, while for others it was one of many trips on every continent.

I recognized the spirit: I want to live life that way – that each event…opportunity…encounter is one to LIVE.  So please LIVE life while you have it.