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A Refreshing Taste of Palmer (and Kazakhstan) in Central Park
June 4, 2010 by Howardb

HB Biking in CRNE
As you can imagine, the days leading up to camp are exciting and action packed.  For the Tikvah Director, who doesn’t work out of the camp office, there is no period of “packing up the office and moving to Palmer.”  So, when the office is in transition, my computer is still on and with me.  And I receive many calls from Tikvah (and even non-Tikvah) families—seeking information from a person about bus departures, luggage tags, etc.  But, for the most part, I am putting finishing touches on the Tikvah Program and the Inclusion Programs for Kayitz, 2010.  It is crunch time! 

This week alone, I met with Ariella, our rosh edah, sent out Tikvah bunking, interviewed an out of state Tikvah family (at an NYC kosher bagel and pizza store!), spoke with counselors, a newspaper reporter and a funder, did tons of paper work, and wrote and answered hundreds of emails.  You know it is countdown time when emails sent to my camp colleagues—Ed, Davey, Josh, Rhonda, Hagit, Erica, etc--are returned instantly—even at 11 pm! 

Yet, sometimes the best way to prepare for camp is to take a break from camp!

Today, it is a hot, sunny day in Manhattan.  After a few hours of doing camp work and staring out at the beautiful weather, I decided to get away from camp by getting on my bike and heading over to Central Park.  The park is closed to car traffic starting at 10 am.  So, at 11:30 or so, I put on my biking clothes, grabbed my helmet, pumped up my tires and hit the park.  The “loop” is six miles, and the runner and biker lanes were packed with others who had the same idea.  The park was packed with school kids having picnics, color wars and attending the marionette show.  And there were readers, tennis players and sunbathers galore. 

I was at peace, almost in a dream state, as I neared Tavern on the Green on the West Side, in the 60s.  All of a sudden, I thought I saw a t-shirt, identical to one I have and actually wear quite often—a gray staff t-shirt with RAMAH in big orange letters on the front, and “Tzevet (Staff) 2008” on the back.  But I was relaxed and pedaling 22 miles an hour.  Couldn’t be.  Why would a pedicab (bike cab) driver in Central Park in New York City be wearing a shirt from my camp?!  My curiosity got the better of me.  I slowed and stopped in front of the “cab” and asked the driver where he got the shirt. Well, “Ilya, the pedicab driver, was “Ilya the kitchen worker” two years ago at CampRamah in New England!  “Where are you from?”  I asked. â€œKazakhstan,” he replied.  He still eyed me a bit suspiciously.  I asked, “Oh, you worked with Meital and Randy?”  He smiled.  I invited him to come visit.  I reached in to my pouch and forked over the one piece of identification I had on me—my CampRamah in New England-Tikvah Director business card. â€œCall me if I can be of help,” I said. His smile got bigger.  I got back on my bike and went back to dreaming—this time of bike rides, in just a few weeks, with my many camp friends—including my kitchen staff friends--to Quabbin Reservoir