Friday, August 26, 2011

Home, sweat, home

We awoke in Israel, and spent Thursday buying stuff. Julie got a ride to Talpiyot and took Maddie as they went to the Emanuel factory and then to the mall for lunch, while I took Talia back to Cafe Cafe -- she had pizza and fries and I started with crispy eggplant stuffed with cheese and served in a cream sauce, followed by a toasted Italian sandwich (mozzarella, red peppers and something else which I forget but not tomatoes on a flat sesame seed pita/roll). Talia had a Belgian waffle and I had coffee. We were stuffed. We walked to Machane Yehudah so Talia could find some gifts. When Julie called to ask where we were, we told her to come to the shuk and we'd find her. A needle in a hay stack, but it actually worked. We kept walking around and we found her! And then we spent half an hour in a candy store.

We walked out and about, down King George (plus some side streets) and came back up through Ben Yehudah so we could hit all sorts of stores one more time and eat some more Moshiko's felafel. We made it back to the house at 7:30 which left us and hour and a half to finish packing. I had found a guy driving an actual minivan cab and set up to have him come at 9PM for (what I thought was) a 1AM flight. He showed up on time and we had a great ride. If you need the name and number of a quality Israeli cab driver with a minivan, let me know. On the way, I realized that the flight was at 12:30AM but I didn't let that panic me. We still got to the airport with 2:45 to spare.

Then the lines began. First there was the line to get to general check-in so that our backs to be checked could get a security tag. Julie had to get the VAT back on all she bought so that was another line. Then another, longer line to actual check in. There, we were told that our checked bags were too heavy (we tried to balance them but it didn't work out). Our carry-on baggage was also deemed to be too heavy so we had to go to another security line before getting our boarding passes so that we could have that same security check in to add our 2 other bags to the "checked bags" list. Then back to the check in line for boarding passes. Then, into another room for a security check and passport stamp.

After the passport check we were herded (and I use that word intentionally) in a room with the metal detectors. There were no lines or guidance. Just everyone from every current flight leaving the airport in one room moving somewhat forward. People who were running late for one flight asked to jump ahead in line. But there was no line. For an airport which has such tight security and professionalism, this was insane. And the clock kept ticking. Suddenly, we weren't so ahead of the game. We made it through the metal detectors and still had to go towards the gate and stop in the duty free/VAT area to get the VAT money. At that point, our flight was already moving from "boarding" to "last call." We RAN to the gate. Have you ever seen those families running through the airport? We were that family. And just to clear up your thoughts -- we were there on time, even for a 12:30 flight. The lines were crazy and everything went wrong on line. But we were there in time, dagnabit. Stop judging.

We ran to the gate (which was, of course, the one farthest away) and when we got there, we asked if we were last. The woman smiled and said "no". The woman next to her, in Hebrew said "they are last." Just so happens that we speak enough Hebrew to know that we were on everyone's not happy list. As we ran down the tunnel, people were asking us our name to confirm who we were. We made it on board and settled in to the 777 and then all of us on that flight sat around and waited another 30 minutes till we could leave.

The flight started fine and after our mystery sandwiches, everyone settled in to a movie or tv show or sleep. Then, once everyone else was comfy, the turbulence began. Not only was I crazy nauseated, but I was also pretty much convinced that I was going to die. I don't like flying. I like turbulence even less. On the plus side, I was able to make space for another meal rather effectively. Julie calmed me down so I could get a little sleep but the whole experience was rather, well, unsettling.

We landed in Newark by around 5:45 and made it through the customs, passport control, security, baggage claim, immigration and getting to our car within 45 minutes. Then, the drive home so we could start laundry, unpacking and readying for an apparent hurricane on its way. So now I'd like to move from the play by play to the color commentary.

I love Israel. Let's start with that. But I am a spoiled American. I like things the way I like them. Houses, streets, drivers, cultural norms...all of it, I like as it is. And while I respect and admire those people who can up and go and live in Israel, I just don't know how to do it. Maybe if we had huge amounts of money and could afford to buy an apartment in a luxury condo or buy a home in a tree lined, not hilly neighborhood somewhere, then maybe. But aside from the spirituality (which, yes, is palpable) and the ease of eating out (which is great but guaranteed to drive one bankrupt) there is so much that just isn't in my comfort zone. And that's ignoring the bureaucracy and the paperwork. There are so many things that I am just used to.

We have already told the girls that if they want to go back and study or go for a summer then great. But if they move there, while that's all well and good with us, and we visit, we are staying in a hotel and coming over during commercials. And I can't be sure I can stomach the flight without scads of Xanax or stronger.

I was torn when I got off the plane -- what would I say if someone at the various check points said "Welcome Home." Would I say "thanks" as I kiss the ground and use money I understand, look at the temperature I understand, watch the traffic I understand, the television shows I understand etc, or would I say "well, I'm back, but Israel is my home." No one said anything but I'm still all confused. If you'd like to simplify things by giving me millions of dollars and inventing a teleportation machine, then I'm game.

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