The thing that's surprised me so far about Kallah is how dense the schedule is. I'm used to smicha week and to Elat Chayyim, where generally there's only one thing I'm supposed to be doing at any given time. Here the schedule is far more packed: in the morning, there's davening from 6:30-8am, and also breakfast from 7-8am. In the afternoons, I have to miss mincha (afternoon prayer) in order to grab an early dinner at 5:30 so I can make it to rehearsal at 6:30 -- I'm singing in a pickup choir led by Linda Hirschhorn, which is a joy. (The music is gorgeous, it's all a cappella, and she's teaching it without using the piano -- just with her voice. She's quickly topped my list of choral directors I'm glad to have sung with.) And rehearsals run halfway through maariv (evening prayer), too. I've missed several programs, some impromptu art-making, and (I think) a bunch of short films, and it's only day one! It's impossible to do everything here.
Today was the first full day. Breakfast, then a dash to davening (I chose the outdoor service led by the folks from Nava Tehila, the Jerusalem Renewal congregation I love so much), then my morning class with Reb Arthur, then lunch, then I did some homework and took a catnap which I sorely needed, then the BeShT class which lasted for three hours, then a race back to the dining hall for the fastest dinner in known history and I zipped back to rehearsal. And by 8pm? I decided I was done; there were four different evening programs happening, and instead I opted to hang out quietly with a friend. I needed downtime more than I needed more stimulation. Self-care can be tough at a retreat like this -- there's so much going on! so many people I want to see! -- but I'm not a true extrovert, and I need to know my limits if I want to make it happily through two weeks of this intense retreat spacetime.
It's been great to see friends: both folks from the smicha programs (many of whom are here, almost all of whom will be here next week) and folks I've met in other contexts. Yesterday I ran into two good friends from the 2004 Reb Zalman retreat at Elat Chayyim! We haven't seen one another in five years, but it doesn't seem to matter. And I've met some lovely new people, too: applicants to the ALEPH rabbinic program (I spent lunch today chatting about the program with a guy who'd just submitted his application), and other fascinating people who are in one of my classes or another, or who happen to be sitting wherever I plunk down my mealtime tray.
There's a latenight music thing happening now, but I'm not going; instead I'm about to put myself to bed. The alarm's going to go off awfully early tomorrow, after all, and I want to make it to breakfast before I dash to daven. Now I just have to choose which of the four different shacharit options I want to try to attend...