An interesting group of Jews

Ya know how people say there are Jews in every country on Earth? I bet some of the obscure countries just have a bunch of American immigrant Jews. That seems to be what the case is in New Zealand, at least.

Yesterday, Michal (my Orthodox flatmate) and Maria (my Danish flatmate who has a minor in religion) decided to go to the local synagogue for services and a potluck dinner. They asked if I wanted to come. I was exhausted, but I thought it might be cool to meet other Jews and see what services are like on the other end of the world, so I resolved to take a 20-minute powernap and asked Michal to knock on my door when she was ready to leave.

At 5:20, she knocked on my door. I woke up. But ya know that awkward stage when you’re awake but not really, and your mouth decides to move faster than your brain can manage it? That happened. I stood by my door and started talking, fully aware that I was talking really fast and not really saying much anyway, but unable to stop myself. Awkward.

The synagogue was a couple minutes’ walk down the street. When I say “synagogue,” that is a pretty loose interpretation of what it actually is. So the city of Dunedin has about 120,000 residents, not including students. I don’t know how many Jewish communities there are in town, but I can’t imagine many. But there were only about 10 other people sitting when we walked in. Funny though, almost all were American. And almost all had curly, brown hair. Way to perpetuate the stereotype, eh? A woman came over to us and handed us a prayer book, warning us that it was the first time they were using this particular book so it might be a little disorganized tonight.

Disorganized is putting it lightly. The man leading the service was not at all qualified as a rabbi. I think he was just a guy from town who showed some sort of interest in leading. But he seemed to have no clue about the chronology of the service, which is really weird, coming from me. He asked the “congregation” about times when it was right to open the ark. Whatevs. The door was left open during the service, and we could hear traffic outside.

The service was only half an hour long and then it was time for dinner. People apparently had not gotten the message that it was a potluck dinner, or if they had, they really weren’t on top of that. Michal had made noodle kugel and cauliflower, which were both good, but the only other food was this weird fish spread and bread with jelly. I ate a lot of kugel. For dessert, there was a fruit salad. That was ok.

It is a small, small world out there though. We introduced ourselves to a woman who asked us our majors. She feigned “interest” in the others, but when I told her I studied neuroscience, she approached me with a smile and put her arm around me. “Ah, neuroscience. I am the _____ of the department.” I don’t remember her actual title, but it was something pretty cool. She took my email address and told me I could come to the conference in June. Sweet as.

But it’s an even smaller world. I sat across from a woman who went to school at Simon Rock, in Great Barrington. WEEEEIRD.

The highlight of the night, though, must have been what came next. So this woman from Great Barrington had a couple of young kids. One of them, an 18-month-old girl who we thought was a boy, started eating a glue stick. The mom saw her daughter eating glue and said to her husband, “You sent her over to me eating glue? She’s the paste kid. Nobody wants to be the paste kid.” And yet, she did nothing about it. She fussed over her “paste kid” daughter but continued to let her eat the open glue stick. The neuroscience woman said something about wiping the glue off, not wanting to open it later to see things growing on it. She looked over at Michal, who studies public health, and said, “public health.” And yet, still, nobody did anything to remove the glue stick from the girl’s mouth. Michal, Maria, and I exchanged a number of confused and bemused glances. It was then that we decided to leave.

We got back to the flat and hung out with Cleo for a while. Then Cleo and I decided to watch the “Jesus Camp” documentary, which she had just downloaded from a friend’s computer. It was terrifying. Watch it if you want a good horror movie.

Today is the Hyde Street festival. Drinking starts at 5am, pretty much, and goes until people pass out. It probably resumes when they regain consciousness and goes until they pass out again. Hyde Street is one street where all the flats have themes and people come dressed up for one of the themes. Then they go from house to house, drinking something in each one. It’s a shit show. Probably comparable to Colgate’s Spring Party Weekend. The neuroscience woman warned us on our way out not to go, it was disgusting and there was vomit everywhere.

Pfft, I go to Colgate, I’m used to disgusting places with vomit everywhere. Maria and I are going to take a leisurely stroll down the street in a couple of hours, just to see what it’s all about. It’s probably going to be gross. But hey, when in New Zealand…

And then I’m nerding it up a little. The two girls I met from my philosophy class and I are meeting for a philosophy and lunch date. We’re eating lunch and discussing Aristotle’s understanding of the universe. Classy, right? We have an essay due in a week and we’re all screwed for it.

Aaaanyway… back to bed for a few hours before Maria and I venture over to Puke Central.


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