"journeys." (my son calls them my "alternative friends").
There are weeks when I think "oh, not this week.....I'm too tired/I don't feel like cooking/I'm just going to curl up with a good book or do my jigsaw puzzle this week." (That usually happens when I have a puzzle or a good book on my shelf). And then, slowly, one person calls, and then another, and then I start doing some calling and meet people on the street and start inviting and before I know it, i'm preparing for a large group.
The "usuals" -- friends and neighbors -- have stories of their own but we have been living in this town for many years and pretty much know each other. Frequently I have outside guests -- either they're directed to call me or I meet them somewhere or they're guests who are staying in my guestroom. Shabbat lunch is a chance for me to get to know the people who are sleeping downstairs.
That happened this Shabbat -- my tzimmer guests, a Peruvian couple, joined a bunch of "locals" for a Shabbat lunch. Turns out that the wife (when I took the booking, I thought that they were a non-Jewish couple that was interested in Kabbalah) comes from a German Jewish family (mother's side) and when her mother came to Peru she just figured that since she was in a Catholic country, they'd be Catholic (well, not Jewish at any rate).
It reminded me of another pair of guests who visited a few years ago. A Polish mother and daughter, also not Jewish (or so I thought). During the meal the daughter told us their story -- the mother was raised by the grandmother in a small town in Nortnern Poland. They didn't hold to any religion and didn't have any family. The mother remembered that, in the '60s when there was a lot of anti-semitism in Poland, neighbors told the grandmother "don't worry -- if anything happens, we'll hide you again."
Another guest, from this summer, was a lady from Puerto Rico who is in the process of conversion. Her family's history is almost certainly Marrano, from Spain to Puerto Rico where remnants of their Judaism had to be hid for centuries. Now this woman is exploring her return.
I've always said that I want to write a book about what happens in Tzfat. Maybe collecting these stories will be what I do when I retire......