So I survive somehow through the first round of TSA security and get to the gate. I of course look silly as all I am doing everything out of a carry-on and a travel vest. I shake so badly that the TSA agent almost doesn’t let me go through and I had to explain the reason I am shaking so severely is that I don’t fly very well and am terrified of airplanes!
As I sat in the Atlanta airport at the gate, I already realised that how I rigged my phone worked. I normally have my Vonage account and cell phone set to simultaneously ring if you call my office line. I set my cell phone to forward to Vonage which would give me visual voicemail to my email address. I also set up my phone so that I could call out on Vonage over a wifi connection anywhere. And I found someone tried to call me.
As I called Steve back (I had left him a message begging for prayers) he reminded me that I was going home. He emphasized that home part.
Throughout the rest of the waiting, and then the boarding on to American Airlines (FYI, I joined frequent flier for that trip and it lets you get priority access to the plane!), all I could really do was think about what Steve said. How on Earth could I be going home? I’ve never been out of my country. Israel was just a location. Yes in theory it’s my homeland now, which Steve also emphasized, but what connection do I really have with Israel? I don’t even *speak* Hebrew. All I have seen about Israel is what I read about in my history books and what other people tell me. I turned this over and over in my mind even when I was looking out the window during takeoff. (Yes I was actually looking out the plane window!)
At some point after I left Atlanta and saw the clouds underneath me, I just sort of stopped pondering what home meant as I had more important things to worry about like surviving Chicago.
The Chicago airport was more than a little confusing especially since no one could tell me how to get from terminal 3 to 5, apparently the answer is you have to leave the airport, go on a tram, and reenter the airport. At least that TSA agent was much nicer than the one in Atlanta. At least in Chicago, unlike Atlanta and as I would learn later Istanbul and Tel Aviv, they had a few power outlets at the gate which really helped as my stuff was drained. Little did I know I would not be able to charge things again until Wednesday night! What freaked me out is that people started to talk to me in other languages in Chicago. Duuude! I can barely master English.
I had not eaten since noon and now it was very late as I sat at the Chicago gate. If I would have known there was going to be almost no food at the gate, I would stayed at terminal 3 to grab something to eat then continued on. Luckily I knew Turkish Air was going to feed us, I just didn’t know when!
It turns out I need not worry, not long after I got on the plane they started handing out little food things which I am still not sure what they are and then food was served about an hour after take-off so about 1 am. The flight attendant kept looking at me funny, but that is when I realised that the sheet of paper he had in his hand had the weird dietary requests on it so I was the kosher person. I actually was also the dork who took photos of all the food. It was a meat meal and the chicken was absolutely wonderful. Most of the food was quite good and they gave a lot of it. They also gave tons of wine, beer, and whatever else you wanted. It just kept on coming. No wonder Turkish Air is rated very highly. I had the wine as I figured it would help me sleep.
Their in-flight entertainment was pretty good, everyone had little personal screens with like 400 or something different options, lots of movies, shorts, games, etc. You could keep yourself entertained easily. I liked the fact they had ALL the Star Trek movies! But instead I settled for trying to watch World War Z which I apparently fell asleep during the middle of. I slept maybe an hour or two… just long enough that someone pulled down my window shade and my personal screen went to sleep.
A few more hours and yet more food! Honestly I was still full from dinner! The parve breakfast was wonderful although I could have done without the pineapple. (Pineapple is one of my least favourite plant products!)
The one thing that bothered me about Turkish Air isn’t even their fault. When we landed in Istanbul (Not Constantinople) they didn’t even pull up to a gate. Seriously. It was like in one of those old movies we had to use those portable stairways to deplane. Actually that is exactly what it was! We were then put on a shuttle, shuttled to a gate and then promptly did our best to not get lost. Back through the security (this time with Turkish security) and we get to the new gate get asked about why I am going to Israel. Um… pilgrimage?
Then they decided after we all went through Passport control (at the gate) that we had to change gates. And not… oh from 215 to 214. It was from like 214 (or so) to like 524! The airline dude says “Anyone who wants to go to the gate follow me” and then he rushes off! I am the only person in the entire plane that can keep up with him. Something I learned, while it is well known that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, most humans will actually make small deviations out of their way. The Turks on the other hand do not. I still do not know how my little legs were able to not only keep up with that guy (who was kinda cute) but were able to climb the things he climbed. Of course then we had to go through Passport control again. So much fun. Then get driven to the plane to go back up the plane for the hike to Tel Aviv.
On the trip to Tel Aviv, I did not get a window seat but we did get yet another meal (which was not as good as some of the others). This time I had the beer they served which wasn’t too bad. It tasted a little like Heineken. The people on the plane were a little friendlier. I caught a short documentary about terraforming Mars and then I spoke to one of my neighbours as we were approaching Israel. He comes to Israel every year and of course it was my first time. When we started to descend, I felt the tears threatening but I really don’t know why. When we landed, everyone clapped which they didn’t do any other time we landed so maybe it was just because it was Israel!
Passport control was also a pain as Israel is really interested in why you are visiting Israel. They want to know how many times you were here before, if you have family friends here, etc. They don’t stamp your passport though which I found insulting. Customs was easy, you just walk right through. Then I had a several hour wait (only 18 hours) in the airport as I was waiting for my group. Security came up to me after two hours and asked me questions in Hebrew and I was like “Pardon?” then they switched to English.
I must have done everything possible to eat up the time. I must have gone to the bathroom a million times. I called people on my Vonage line through my cell which worked ok. And the waiting begins!