Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The epic conclusion (not really)

Day one in Philly, back on May 29th, 2009

Last group shot of the A-17s

Mike and I hanging out in my village (background) a couple days before I left...

I said goodbye to Michael. I did this while Andrea Bocelli’s “Goodbye” was playing in my head. We woke up early, he got ready and I walked him to the metro stop. It wasn’t particularly strange saying goodbye to Michael, maybe because I know I will keep in touch with him. As I write this, I feel sad. What a great guy. Great travel companion, great friend to have in Peace Corps, and great guy all around.

Going back to the apartment, I got packed, had some breakfast, wrote some last emails and then got the apartment cleaned and ready for us to leave. We had to be out of the apartment by 11:00 because the place had to be cleaned for the next group to come. My flight was at 6. We went to the airport. Fortunately, carrying all the bags and taking the subway proved to burn a lot of time. Not this time because somehow we managed to take the express train to the airport only taking 30 minutes instead of an hour. Sweet. More time to sit on the boring side of the airport.

At the airport, we ate lunch and then I fell asleep, pretty much until it was time for me to check in. I did that, went through security and an hour later, was headed back to the U.S. I did stop at Heathrow,again, had a light dinner and then got on my flight which would take me back over the ocean. We landed around 11:30, 90 minutes delayed.

It was weird going through immigration. The lady looked at my passport and my custom’s card and she asked me how long I had been out of the U.S. I told her 27 months. She asked how I felt being back. My response: “how about you stamp my passport and let me get into the U.S. and I’ll tell you.” She chuckled and said “welcome back.” Being away for a week and hearing a customs agent say that is one thing, but I thought I was going to break down when I heard those words come out of her mouth. It was probably the best thing I had ever heard.

I grabbed my bags and headed to the arrivals gate where Lauren (my PC friend from Georgia) was there waiting with a “welcome home Danny” sign. That was great. Since it was so late, we took subways back to her place in Brooklyn. We got back at 2:30am where we just passed out. It was weird to be back. I had to start watching what I was saying because now, there was no doubt everyone around me knew what I was saying.

The next day I got up and wrote some emails and then got ready to walk around. Lauren got tickets for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart so we went to wait in line to get them. After getting tickets we went to a New York Pizza place to eat and then went back for the taping. It was interesting. Mr. Stewart is a very intelligent person. It takes a lot of talent to make the subject matter of what he talks about funny and entertaining for people to watch. The taping lasted for 50 minutes or so. Not long for a half hour show.

We left and took the subway back to Lauren’s house. We stopped and got Chinese. It tasted like Chinese food, not like spaghetti with soy sauce on it. I was pretty tired so I fell asleep shortly thereafter.

Going Home

I woke up at 4:30am. I was excited to get home. Two flights and I would be back in North Carolina. I got my things packed, wrote emails, and got dressed, then headed out the door. We had some time, so Lauren and I got some coffee. It was not on the way, and wearing a suit while carrying a huge duffel bag was not comfortable walking around. The subway would have been too complicated, so I took a cab. It was definitely much easier but at the same time, much more expensive. Armenia, to get to the airport, 7 dollars. America, 31. Actually I guess that’s not too bad since we drove from Brooklyn to LaGuardia.

The flights were simple. I hate that Delta charged me for my one bag. This is what happened in the two years I’ve been gone? Nickel and Dime everything? Geez.

So, it’s a small world and I’ll tell you why. On my flight from Atlanta back home, I was sitting next to a lady. Since I was wearing a suit, she looked over and told me how nice I looked and asked if I was flying home from a meeting. I told her I was flying home to see my parents after two years being away in Peace Corps. She said that her friend’s son just got back from the Peace Corps in Moldova. That person is one of my good friend Katherine’s boyfriend. She came to visit me back in April. That blew both of our minds. Ok, maybe not that impressive to you, it was to me.

I was nervous to be home. When the plane landed I didn’t know how to feel. I did notice that I wanted to be off that plane and the second I was, I basically ran down the concourse. I saw Mom and Dad and waved. They didn’t recognize me because they didn’t think I would be wearing a suit. When I was 15 feet away they knew it was me.

I didn’t really know what to expect. I haven’t gone to a fast food place yet, nor a supermarket, nor grocery store. I will save that for a rainy day. I will say that reintegrating is much more than that. Although things have not really changed, my perspective and how I look at things has and being back I’m just not sure really how I fit into anything or how to comprehend it either. I think only other volunteers will be able to relate. It’s just strange. There is no better way to explain it.

It certainly is great to be home, but I do miss Armenia. I had a routine, a lifestyle, regular friends I saw, Gayane, Jason, Khashayar, etc. It has been 4 days now since I have been home and each day gets a bit easier but Peace Corps was not kidding when they said that going back would be harder than going to your PC country.

Concerning Peace Corps, this is my last blog. Im sure I may write more later on, but probably more infrequently. I know I have never met most of you who read my blog, nor will I ever, but I want to thank you for taking time to read what I had to say. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who think what I write is worth reading. I know its not the most poetic and certainly not well written, but I hope some of the stories have been entertaining. So thank you again for being supportive in your own way. This isn’t the end of the blog, just the end of a chapter in my life…

I should really take this time to thank everyone for everything. It is hard to leave for two years and basically start everything over. Language included. Thank you to all those that sent me packages, answered phone calls, wrote emails, and basically those who were there. I couldn't have done it without my sitemates and all the other volunteers serving in Armenia, come currently. If you are a U.S. Citizen and are even mildly interested in Peace Corps, I highly recommend you do it. It is scary, sure, but its something I will always look back on with a huge smile on my face. Good luck.

Until next time…

Monday, September 19, 2011

back to Paris

Eieffel's Tower after our dinner

Brings new meaning to Napoleonic Complex...

Mike and I re-enacting a scene from Star Wars in from of Notre Dame. I was winning...

The Seine at night

I will just never understand...

There is a blog posted 5 minutes before this one detailing Toulouse, so read it first even though there is nothing in that one you need to read this one...

Day 7

Again, we woke up early and headed to the airport as we had a 11am flight back to Paris. It didn’t take long and as soon as we got back, we hit the ground running (or walking at a touristy pace).

We got back to the apartment at 1:40 took a small break and headed back out at 3 to see Sacre Coure, the Dali Museum, Moulin Rouge, a park, and Michael eating ice cream.

Sacre Coure was really nice. Well, it offered a really nice view from the hill overlooking Paris. The Dali Museum was really nice. That guy was a genius. His artwork was so intriguing to stare at. Some of his works are for sale. Investment anyone? The cheapest one we found was 1100 US but for a Dali, I feel like that is a steal.

We walked to the Moulin Rouge. Sex shops everywhere. Mike and Laura sang songs and tunes from the movie “Moulin Rouge.” Borderline awkward.

We kept walking and went to the area where Mike went to school when he lived here for a month. He said there was this fantastic stir fry place so we went there. In my mind, I thought it was going to be a fantastic French-Asian fusion restaurant. No, it was a fast food noodle shop that proved to “not be as good as I remember it to be.” We got our dinner to go and ate at a nearby park, the name escaping me right now. We sat on the grass wondering why all the French citizens were not. Ten minutes into our meal when a policeman came by and very nicely told us to get off the grass did we know why. Although no one else was doing it, the grass was inviting, there were no signs, and no railing around the area. Not even a small one. How were the Americans supposed to know?

Mike’s ice cream addiction got the best of him and he walked us around half of Paris to find this ice cream shop he had never eaten at before. It was closed. Katie was angry. That was hilarious. We ended up just watching street performers on a bridge before heading home, exhausted.

Day 8

Didn’t really do anything Saturday. Too tired. Just walked around and then came back around 4 to get some long overdue things taken care of. I skyped with Brandon which was nice since he just moved to Omaha. I bet that’s fun Brandon…

Day 9

We set out around noon. Mike and I went one way, Laura and Katie went another. Mike and I went to Napoleon’s tomb and tried to go to the Rodin museum but it didn’t seem that interesting. “The Thinker” was the only thing we wanted to see. We then walked again, all around Paris to meet with Michael’s friend who he met when they went to the Balkans together 4 years ago. Nice enough guy living in Paris going to school at American University.

We left him and walked to the Picasso museum only to find that it is closed for renovation until 2012, or 2013. So, I didn’t get to see the grey guitar…

It was approaching 6 at this point and we had already made arrangements to meet Laura and Katie by the Eiffel Tower. They were 45 minutes late so we got in line. Don’t know why because we had already been up this thing before. Halfway through, the girls show up. We get out of line because we are not that excited about going up and there were grey clouds everywhere. Instead, we sat on the park, staring at the tower and had a small dinner (which was actually not small at all).

We left there to see the Louvre at night and then went to Hard Rock Café so that I could get my pin. With all that taken care of, we came back home having spent a great last day in Paris and my last day on this continent.

Day 10

Mike packed last night and this morning I watched him get the last of his things together and head out the door. He is flying direct back to Dallas from Paris and left this morning. I guess it just hasn’t hit me yet but he has gone back to be with his family. Something I will do in three days, after being away for 27 months. Don’t know what to expect. Although I leave tonight, I still have two days left in New York with Lauren before heading home. I feel like I will be a tourist going home…

Until next time… (back in the U.S.)

Home of Airbus – Toulouse, France

Michael's addiction...

Mike and I going secret agent style to get this photo of an A380 being built

Prepare the pie...

Place and rub pie over face...

Enjoy the fruits of your labor...

Day 4

We took our time getting out of bed. We had a 3:30 flight out of the old international terminal of Orly. After packing up our things, eating breakfast, straightening up the place heading out the door, it was almost 12. Yes, we needed almost two hours getting to the airport because trying to use the most cost-effective method when you don’t really know what you’re doing is a horrible idea.

With minor strings of confusion we got to the airport and took the easy flight down to Toulouse, home of Airbus. When I booked tickets to go down there, I don’t know why I made them three nights. Toulouse is nice but there really isn’t anything to do there.

We found our hostel, easy enough with the help of a man from Senegal who was studying in Toulouse. Really nice guy who walked us all the way to the hostel. Whatever hostel we stayed at, it was nice enough. We spent enough time changing into shorts and t-shirts and heading back out. We walked around Toulouse and eventually found a place to eat.

The French are interesting. Or France is interesting. We had a 3 hour meal. Mike and Laura went fancy. I did not. We all got the menu of the day, but I didn’t get the fruit glazed duck. Oh, and everything was served in a crepe. It was interesting. Fortunately, I know both Laura and Mike well enough to know they can’t usually eat everything on their plate, so I got a taste anyway. It was a really nice place.

That was about it for the first day. Getting to the airport, flying, walking around, and eating…

Day 5

The day again started really early. Most of you don’t really know anything about me other than what I write here and whatever you can deduce or extrapolate but I have always been a huge airplane fan. When Laura said she wanted to go to France, “Airbus factory” just flashed in my head. So I managed to book tickets so far in advance the dates weren’t set, and my only other option was to call/email them. I was ready to go. Something I was really looking forward to. Mike went with me and we took the thirty minute tram ride out to the Airbus site. The site itself was really impressive, the tour center was not. It honestly looked like a makeshift tent structure someone just set up in two hours time. Also, some of the tour was cut out because they were filming a movie. To offer compensation, they gave us 10% back (all 1.40 euros) and took us on a bus tour. It was not exciting and, the lady didn’t have all her facts straight. You may think I am being pretentious here, but the FAA is not the Federal Air Authority. That is something a tour guide at a major airline company should know. This is one of many examples of the lady lacking as a tour guide. She spoke in an outrageous French accent though, which basically nullified any care I had to learn anything…

There are a lot of things you cannot see at Airbus…

Afterwards, Mike and I went to the giftshop. Don’t worry Dad, I bought maybe 3 small things. We headed back to Toulouse and walked around. Mike and I saw churches and bridges and got a general sense of the city we were traversing. We met Laura and Katie later on. Mike is a character though. If you can picture a heroin addict, that is Mike with sugar. Being in Frace, there are pastry shops, desert shops, etc. everywhere and each time I have to try and distract Michael before he runs over and puts his mouth and hands all over the nicely cleaned windows. Even right after he finishes eating a 2500 calorie desert, and claims to be full, he still talks about other pastries…

That night we ate at a lasagna place. Well they had more stuff but that is what I got. Mike and I had a conversation about Italian and French food. I prefer Italian… Don’t know why I told you…

Day 6

For whatever reason, I didn’t have socks. I thought I packed two pairs, but I didn’t. North Face does a great thing and offers PCVs a discount on merchandise so I bought some shoes in addition to other things. North Face shoes are super comfortable and roomy, but don’t for an instant think you can go more than a day in them without changing socks. Your eyes will water…

For this reason, I had another pair of socks. I couldn’t find them. I panicked. I made the executive decision to go to a store and buy socks, but leave the hostel… barefooted (I mean with shoes on but not wearing any socks).

Nothing was open yet so I had to delay my purchse. Finally things opened and I bought socks. Interesting huh? I snuck to the dressing room and put them on wondering if I was committing a crime even though I was clenching the receipt to immediately prove to a policeman that I was indeed the rightful owner of the socks.

They were the best socks ever because they were super expensive. I don’t care if they had needles in the bottom, after what I paid, they are the best socks ever…

After that disaster was averted, we went to a tourism office and figured out how to leave Toulouse as Airbus is all there is to see (and we know how much of a failed expedition that was). It really is a pretty city, you don’t need more than one full day there. Anyway, we talked with the lady and decided to go to Auch. So we walked to the train station and off we went. 90 minutes later we were in Auch with not a clue on what to do. So, just like anyone else, we walked toward the church and as expected it led right to the middle of town.

There we went to the tourism place and asked questions and received enough maps to keep us entertained for days even though I first told the lady, we only had three hours… We began walking around and then were approached, many times, by disgusting college kids covered in trash bags, paint, whipped cream. Basically they wanted to have a huge college party and according to tradition, they need to go around the city asking for money. No matter how much money you give, if you give it, you can throw whipped cream into someone’s face. So naturally, I took this opportunity to do this. – refer to pictures…

We spent the rest of the day just walking around, staring at Michael freak out at every pastry shop, and seeing how much we needed to spend to get a can of duck liver…

We then said our goodbyes to Auch and headed back to Toulouse to eat at the restaurant we ate at the first night. After a whole day without eating, I got the menu of the day, again. It wasn’t the same though and that was a shame.

Until next time... (like 5 minutes...)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vive la France

Our lady

The Tower of Eiffel



After passing out for most of the flight to London, we went through a little food area and bought lunch before making it over to the gate to leave for Paris. I slept the whole way to Paris. The full 50 minutes. We got our bags and walked to the metro area.

We found the train we needed and went to the ticket machine to buy our tickets. It was 9.20 euro for each ticket. Interestingly enough, the money had to be in change, no bills. We can a combined total of 2.40 euros, Mike portion being 2.40, mine being 0. The change machine didn’t work and all the surrounding shops certainly didn’t want all their change gone so after thirty minutes of walking around, Mike went into a hotel and got some change. I don’t know what he did to convince the person to give change, but with a broad smile he returned with several euro coins.

It was easy enough to get to the metro stop but hard to find the street we were staying on. I went up to ask a guy if he could help us and he just completely ignored me. His girlfriend looked at him in a very suspicious way and stopped to help us. The man eventually came back and apologized because he thought I was selling something. I was carrying two bags and clearly looked like a tourist. Anyway, they were both really nice and walked us all the way to the apartment.

We took the elevator made for one up to the floor and knocked on the door. I heard Katie and Laura on the other side of the door but much of the excitement went away as it took forever for them to open the door. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I am exaggerating. After two and a half years, we finally met.

We stayed around in the area that night going to the store and buying dinner and just catching up more or less. They had arrived only three hours before us so they were tired as well. We all went to bed early.

Day 2

We got up pretty early the next day. I went online to see how much it would be to rent a car because Mike wanted to go to Normandy and getting a bus, etc. would be a huge hassle. I found a car and we made a reservation for the following day. Soon thereafter we headed out the door.

Katie made breakfast…

The weather wasn’t the greatest but we had to go out. We went to the Notre Dame and walked around the surrounding area then headed to the Musee d’orsay. The line was super long so we went to a small restaurant to eat lunch. I don’t have a clue what I got but it resembled an inside out grilled cheese with an uncooked egg on top. Afterwards we bit the bullet and got in line for the Musse d’orsay. The line was super fast and thankfully so as the second we got under the overhang, the heavens opened and water doused everywhere.

The museum was great. It was not like the Louvre. The Louvre is too big and can be very overwhelming. The d’Orsay was really nice because it was manageable and had a lot of great paintings in there including Renoir, Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh. Really like Van Gogh and it was really nice seeing those paintings.

The weather got a bit better so we took a stroll down the Avenue des Champs to the Arc de Triomphe. There we saw some kind of ceremony. Looked like some kind of veterans day thing but we weren’t really sure. More or less got bored with it an left.

After being out the whole day, we were ready to come home. We bought some wine, cheese, spread, and cuts of meat and had that for dinner.

Day 3

I think what surprises me more than anything is how nice people are here. Everyone says “Pardon” if they even barely graze you. Always a thank you, and a smile especially if you try and speak French. France has been great.

So, after waking up super early, we headed over by metro to the AVIS car rental place. Forty five minues later, we were on the road.

Mind you that the last time I drove on a highway or in any kind of traffic was before I went to Peace Corps 26 months prior. It was a bit overwhelming for me to get back behind the wheel of a car, during rush hour, in the middle of Paris and drive us out of the city. Later on, it really caught up as when we were driving back, I was just exhausted. We drove for 4 hours to Caen, went to the tourist office to find out we hadn’t gone enough, drove another hour to Omaha beach and finally could relax, for the time being.

Walking from the parking lot and looking over the beach, it was just beautiful and peaceful. Hard to believe that close to 65 years ago this was not the scene here. Nothing really hit me until we got to the cemetery.

You can’t help but get emotional as you walk through row after row of white crosses and stars in perfect unison as far as the eye can see next to where the fighting had occurred. Basically kids, younger than I am, coming all the way across the ocean to fight, dying in battle. The ones that were really hard to see were the ones labeled “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” Really inspiring.

After walking around for 45 minutes, we got back in the car and drove straight to Paris so return the car by 7:00pm. With 15 minutes to spare, we got back. I didn’t think we had time so I dropped it off half empty but then the man said he would have to charge me service fees and two euro per liter. I asked if I could take the car and drop it off again. He said he would wait so I drove the car to a local gas station and filled it up.

Basically again, we got back to the apartment and passed out after a short while of hanging out.

Was it worth the time we took to drive to Normandy? Yes, absolutely. Sure it would have been nice to take more time there but the eight hours of driving was certainly worth the 45 minutes we spent there. Also, it allowed me to use a rental car to relearn how to drive and the best way to get into things is to just be thrown in there. I don’t know if there is a better way than to be thrown into Paris traffic…

Until next time...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Israel take 2

The big day... at the Hopa

Me, Eva, Gini, Rob - The people I spent most of my time with.

The Bennett's at "the town of Jesus."

Tiberias, the city. I think my Dad will be the only one to appreciate this.

A Motley Crew

Day 4

Another day I woke up early. (Actually every day turned out to be like this). I spent a lot of time just hanging out with my new friends which made it difficult to function. I walked over to the other side of town to meet another group of friends and did some errands. I ended up just getting postcards and a fridge magnet. Nice and simple.

After buying the postcards, Gini and Rob went to get coffee and Eva was nice enough to go to the Wailing Wall with me since I didn’t get to see it. She took pictures of me there. I didn’t know really what to feel. I was feeling more awkward than anything else because clearly I was a tourist there and there were a lot of devout Jews praying there bobbing back and forth. I just touched the wall, said a quick prayer and turned around and walked back, putting back my borrowed Yakima for someone else to use. Men have to have something on their head.

Eva and I then met with Rob and Gini and went to Shorashim which is a shop which only sells merchandise based on scripture. So if there are drawings they have something to do with the Bible. We spent about an hour speaking to the store owner because he really loves to debate. I am too ignorant in theology to debate so I just asked questions, which led to even more questions. I eventually had to cut myself off because the other three were getting pretty tired of waiting for me. It was really fascinating to me and I now I better understand the conflict between the Palestinians and the Jews. Its definitely not something that they can just “get over”… If you think otherwise, you are not well versed in what’s going on over there.

Afterwards, I came back and took a nap and then got ready for the rehearsal dinner which was put on by Nomi’s sister’s friend (I think). It was a lot of fun because it was about 30 people who just met but had a common tie to Graham and Nomi. Mr. Bennetts youngest brother made it to Israel and those two together was just hilarious. It is apparent where Graham gets his sense of humor. However, the mood was subtly changed when Mr. Bennett got up to talk about Graham. There were some tears shed. He said many moving things.

Afterwards, the four single people went out to a bar and had a bachelor/ bachelorette party since there wasn’t one. We were regulars at this one bar and the owners were super nice to us always talking to us and making sure everything was fine.

Went back, fell asleep for the big day. Not mine, but Grahams.

Day 5

Next morning, I got up and Rob and I headed over to Gini and Eva’s again. I’m assuming you are wondering “why didn’t they just stay closer to each other”. Well since our hosts were so nice, they put us up in church-oriented places. Therefore, there would be no girl/guy mingling, which was fine because it was a free place to stay, and our host, Tim, was awesome. An Irish guy who works at the church who was so welcoming. I wish I had been able to speak to him and get to know more about his story.

Anyway, we met up, and ate lunch. Eva, Gini, and Rob had to leave early because they were setting up for the wedding. I went back to the church and took another nap before Tim work me up, offering to take me to the hotel so that my wedding clothes wouldn’t get sweaty. So I got dressed in twenty minutes and Tim drove me to the hotel.

I got to the hotel and met with Graham and the other groomsmen. The other groomsmen were Mr. Bennett, Mr. Bennett’s brother, and Graham’s brother… then me. I felt honored to be a Groomsmen with his family, but then again, I was the only one from NC to be there. We helped each other get ready and then waited around for pictures. James, the photographer, came by and got everyone together. All dressed, the four groomsmen, eight bridesmaids, and the bride and groom walked around the Old Town taking pictures. It was really funny. James was hilarious. He is really good at his job. This is what he does back in Seattle. He is a wedding photographer and he knows how to get people to be relaxed but also be assertive. He just has a really good way of doing it without being offensive and asking people to wait when we were taking pictures in the middle of the street. Really fun.

I thought it was funny that when we were walking around, tourists would stop and take pictures of us.

We then went back to the hotel and got in vans which took us to the wedding place at Yad Hashmona. It was beautiful. Looking down the aisle, through the Hopa and seeing the beautiful background at sunset. It was perfect. We all got ready and boom, it was show time. It was an awesome wedding.

Graham, the genius that he was, told the wedding planner that I would sing at the wedding because they didn’t have enough guys to sing the deeper parts. Well, I lost my voice and he didn’t tell me I was singing until the day before at the rehearsal dinner. I was very self-conscious because I didn’t know when my voice was going to go out. It didn’t. Praise be to God. I was self conscious the whole time.

There is something about seeing one of your childhood friends get married. I regretfully wasn’t able to head back to Jon’s wedding last year. Jon is the closet thing to a brother I will have but this was the first time when I really got to be there and see this. It is weird. Who would have thought… Couldn’t be happier for him and his new wife though.

The reception was right down the hill and it was awesome as well. Graham made a nice slideshow showcasing his and Nomi’s childhood and then both of them together. Graham found some pictures from middle school with me in them which was certainly a surprise as I had not seen them before. My new friends were kind enough to point me out…

After the wedding, we got a ride back to Jerusalem with the pastor who led the ceremony. Really cool guy, Lindel. It took a while because when someone went off to find someone else, that person would get lost and then someone else would go off to look for that person, not realizing the first person came back. After 40 minutes of this, we had everyone and off we went.

Again, we hung out and talked about Graham and then passed out. Long day.

Day 6

After the night of the wedding, it was hard to get out of bed but I had promised Lizzie and Mike that I would meet them at 9 the next morning. I got ready and walked out the door. I had to take a friend across town first and as I did, I saw that there was a “Jerusalem hotel” across the street from a bus terminal. I kept this in mind because Mike had told me they were staying at this place. So as I came back, it was ten till 9, and I walked into the hotel asking where Lizzie and Mike were.

They weren’t there. Apparently they were at the “Jerusalem GATE hotel” which is near the NEW bus terminal on the other side of the city. Crap. So I got on the tram and took it to the other side. When I got there, I didn’t have a clue what my next move was so I just walked around. Unlike the old town, no one here knew any English. Asking around proved to be futile. But what else do you expect from the holy land than for divine intervention to come down upon me. Somehow, I ran right into the hotel. I found the room and visited Mike and Lizzie.

Mike’s experience of Israel had not been as good as mine. Not nearly. It was complain after complain, albeit funny. They wanted to leave to go back to Tel Aviv so I went back and had lunch with the wedding party. Shortly thereafter I got went back to the church and packed my stuff, to be stopped by Tim asking if we would help more furniture. We were on a schedule, but how do you say no to a guy like Tim who had gone way out of his way to help us out?

So, after helping him move, we then made it to where we were going to meet Eva and Gini, some forty minutes after we had agreed on. But, with good reason.

We took the one hour bus/taxi ride to Tel Aviv. We didn’t know where anyone was, so we went over to Eva’s friend’s house for the time being. Mike and Lizzie weren’t at the hostel, so I went with Rob, Gini, and Eva to the beach to meet the other guys.

Beaches at Tel Aviv are amazing. Though I ran into the same problem I did at the Sea of Galilea, it was still awesome. (By problem I mean going 30 meters into the water only to find myself up to my knees in water). Sweet. We were there for the sunset. It was a great way to cap off my week with my new friends.

Afterwards, we took showers and then everyone helped my take my stuff to the hostel where I was staying due to Mike and my flight out in the early morning.

After dropping off my things, I went out with them again walking by the water to a restaurant to have dinner. I had a burger after Kent convinced me it was the ride thing to do. He was right.

Walking back it was sad knowing that I had to say goodbye to this awesome group who I had become friends with. They all live in Vancouver, so there isn’t much chance that I will see them regularly. However, now remembering Israel, I will always remember this bunch and the amazing time we had there.

Day 7

After two hours of sleep in the hostel, Mike and I got up at 4am and got ready. We had our things packed and ready to go, so we just shoved everything into the taxi. At 4:30am, taxis in Tel Aviv are not cheap, especially to the airport. The taxi cost us 40 dollars for a thirty minute ride. I guess to most of you reading this in the States that is not much, however for someone who had to pay 6-7 dollars to go to the airport in Armenia, which was out of the city, 40 dollars is outrageous…

At the airport: this part is awesome.

So everyone knows that security at Ben Gurion Airport is one known for its security. Before you even get to the check-in counters, you are met by an Israeli lady who asks a million questions. Since Mike and I were traveling together, she was asking questions to find some discrepancies in what we were saying. She found none, but asked if we were partners, as in gay. I don’t know what business of hers it was but I wasn’t about to tell an authority figure in Israel that I was offended (I wasn’t anyway-whatever). After the Spanish Inquisition, our checked bags were X-rayed, then hand searched, the security officer swiping almost every piece of luggage in my bag for explosive residues. The man was super nice and I looked over to Mike and he and his security lady were going back and forth about Texas or something.

Then we waited for about an hour for the counter to open since we had gotten there during the suggested time, three hours before our flight, only to find we were the only shmucks to have done so… We got our tickets and headed toward security. Real security.

Depending on your “threat level” of when you went through the first screening, you are assigned a number 2-6. Two being nothing to worry about, six being – take off your clothes and hold onto your ankles. I very quickly went though. I didn’t even get my bags searched. It was super fast. I went through passport control with no problem and I was in the duty free area thinking of ways to spend my 20 shekel coins. After 40 minutes, Mike came through. He found me sitting in a chair around the center. Mike’s experience was not as great. Apparently, they found some kind of explosive residue somewhere on his bag, or passport or somewhere and made him check everything. He met me with only his passport in hand. Nothing else. They told him it would be a security threat.

Then he went from being a “2” to being a “6.” He was interrogated and asked to “undo” his clothing for them to check him out. He refers to the security guards as the “Tailors of Israel.” Needless to say, he was ready to leave Israel.

I was so tired, I passed on in the terminal, shoveled myself onto the plane to again just pass out for three of the 4.5 hours we were flying. As I mentioned in my last blog, during our 2 hour layover in Heathrow, I ate and tried to write as much as I could. Here am I now finished with Israel and in Paris France. I’m going to try and get those done soon.

Until next time…