Sunday, July 13, 2008


The Empire Builder arrived just about on time, so I caught a cab and went straight to my hotel. It wasn’t even eight in the morning, so my room for the evening wasn’t ready. I checked my bags and headed onto the campus of the University of Minnesota. Rather than ask for directions, I followed the people who looked most like students, and was led to the main campus. Eventually I found the student union, where I was able to check my email, kill some time at a bookstore, and eventually have lunch at a bagel place I like in Kansas City (Einstein Brothers) after checking in to the hotel. On the way back I got caught in a huge storm and was pretty well soaked. I spent much of the afternoon waiting for the storm to pass, after which I took a cab to a nearby laundry mat.

The laundry mat was interesting. It appeared to be in a largely Somali (Muslim) area, as indicated by the Halal market down the street and the Somali attendant at the laundry mat. When I first arrived and tried to use the change machine, he accosted me, insisting that I only use it to get change for the laundry mat. Once I showed him I had dirty clothes to wash, he let me use the machine, and I began washing my clothes. Meanwhile, he settled into a chair, and began asking me questions in new, unpolished English. He noticed my kipah and asked if I was Jewish. I told him I was, and this led to a discussion about religion. He felt that one couldn't really change their religion, that it was somehow "in your blood." Usually when I meet someone with a radically different worldview, my Midwest insticts kick in and I politely smile and acknowledge the things they say without agreeing with them. However, when he listed gays and lesbians as two of the four things that were wrong with America (lack of religious conviction and disrespect for parents were the other two) I challenged him on it, asking why exactly it was bad. He insisted that such attraction was impossible, and was simply wrong. I worked him for a while, and got him to the point of saying that he couldn't understand it. The conversation was much more interesting and less awkward than I expected, at least until he threw a guy out for trying to use the bathroom and made a dispariging remark about "African Americans."

I spent the evening in, tired from both the train trip and the laundry. I did go out to find some Boulevard Beer. It is a local Kansas City Microbrew, and my favorite beer in the world. I knew it was available up in Minneapolis, and decided to take the opportunity (this is the closest I'll get to Kansas City) to have some while I could. I ended up the University Liquor store, where I was able to get some Unfiltered Wheat, one of my favorites.

In the morning I met my parents for breakfast and a meeting (their meeting, I just sat in and fed the parking meters with my leftover quarters from laundry day) with some people from Herzl Camp. After that, we left for camp, which will be covered in the next post. It was really wonderful to get to see my parents, as the traveling can get lonely.

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