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    Family Travel Abroad

    One of the recent news programs analyzing the election of Barack Obama focused on ex-patriot Americans abroad and their views on what the election meant. Many of them said when they were shy about admitting they were Americans before, they were now quite proud to be Americans at the present time with respect to the election of the first African American President.

    That reminded me of my travels abroad with my family.

    The first trip was to Israel and Amsterdam in 1978. My mother’s sister, Aunt Eva, and her husband Uncle Misha lived in Tel Aviv.  Being in Israel my first time I remember my visit to the Wailing Wall, the only existing wall of the old temple in Jerusalem. Many people would come with prayers, notes and tears to place the written prayers in the crevasses of the wall. Many religious men with full beards and payas (the long, wispy sideburns worn by orthodox Jews) were at the wall, kneeling in prayer, chanting aloud or praying quietly and it made quite an impression. I was especially moved by this outpouring of emotion and would like to think I brought the experience with me to acting, especially in the sense-memory aspect along the lines of the great Richard Pintar. He taught at Indiana University about method acting.

    There were also a lot of outdoor markets where I first came to understand about haggling-the body language, arm and hand motions and facial expressions were as important as the language used in these transactions.

    I recall seeing a well known violinist of the time at an outdoor concert there, although I can’t remember his name. But I was struck by the concert of the beautiful evening with the sounds of violin music.

    There’s something about being away from your familiar territory that makes you more observant and everything seems more striking.

    My Dad, Joe Spira, wasn’t one to haggle, and when a vender would ask a price for something, he would blithely give it rather than haggle. This made my mother crazy, as, like the rest of us, we were always looking for a deal and actually enjoyed the haggling process.

    This still rings true with me today. I’m always looking for the best deal on any item.

    In Israel was the first time I ever had humus, which is a middle-eastern dip made of ground chick peas and tahini and garlic, best served with pita bread.

    It wasn’t as dangerous a place to visit back then. There was plenty of tension in the Middle East, but not as rampant as today.  The radical terrorists who seem to be willing to blow themselves up as long as they can make a point and take some of the “enemy” with them, weren’t as common back then.

    I also remember cutting the trip short by talking my father into letting me go back to the states to have a pre-prom party complete with an open bar and alcohol at my parents house that they didn’t know about.

    I wasn’t of age, let alone mature enough to be pulling this off, but laws about being a “social host” hadn’t come on the scene yet. So I may have missed a few things in the rest of that trip that my mother and sister got to see.

    It’s funny how priorities change with time.

    Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com