Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Day 20 Tel Aviv, and Day 21 - Home

Royal Beach, Tel Aviv

Enjoying the beautiful day on the beach!

Late night travelers in Ben Gurion

The time has certainly flown by!  Here are the last entries for my 3 week trip to Israel.

Day 20: Tel Aviv

Day 20 was an anticipatory day -- I was leaving at 530 am the next morning, which put me into a bit of a quandary: do I stay in Jerusalem and leave in the middle of the night -- hoping the shuttle or cab arrives when it's supposed to, or do I get closer to the airport and see some new sights? I opted for the second option -- go to Tel Aviv for the day, and be closer to the airport.

I had packed up on the Shabbat, taking advantage of the downtime and doing all of my laundries and getting everything together, so that on Monday morning, I had time for a little breakfast and to say goodbye to Shterny and Sensei.  Around 10 am, I departed Jerusalem, taking the train to Ben Gurion, where I had hoped to stow my luggage.  

Apparently, everyone who worked in the airport was completely unaware of this option being advertised and I was unable to be pointed in a direction to the lockers.  After an hour of searching around, and seeing my day tick on to beyond 1 pm, I grew frustrated and decided to just take my luggage with me to the hostel accommodations I had rented for the day.  

I had to take a rather high priced cab to the hostel because also at Ben Gurion, the sherut that was advertised to run 24 hrs a day to Tel Aviv had now also mysteriously disappeared.  I was a bit peeved but decided I would not think too much on it and just enjoy some time on the beach.  

The cab driver also had problems finding the hostel, but I told him the fare wasn't going to go up for his searching, and that ended that scheme.  

I arrived at the hostel at 3 pm, later than I had hoped, but the place was small and clean, and I was able to stow my luggage, get changed into my bathing suit and beach clothes, and head to the water, which was literally across the street.

I spent the rest of the day, from 3 to 6 pm, just lounging and swimming in the very calm Mediterranean.  It was a beautiful beach day with gorgeous weather, and I was happy to be able to decompress a bit before having to head back to Ben Gurion at 1230 am.  

At a little after 6 pm, I meandered the area a bit, and found a very nice outdoor restaurant, and had a yummy meal of beef medallions and salad for dinner.  I knew I had to eat carefully because the coming hours would be stressful with all the travel--eat too little, and you will be hungry and bloated, eat too much, and you will be uncomfortable and bloated.  Haha, it's a very careful balancing act!

When I arrived back at the hostel at around 730 pm, I showered up and relaxed in my bed for about 2 hours.  After, I wandered out onto the veranda and began chatting with the five women who were out there, from all different places in the world.  We talked and laughed on a number of subjects, until about 1130 pm, when I realized that I had not received the confirmation call from my driver that he would be arriving within the next hour.  

I called the service and no one had any record of the scheduled taxi ride.  I was shocked.  They had no availability for another cab, without an Israeli phone number to confirm it.  The hostel had no real "phone" number, except the mobile number of the front desk person, who was now also missing -- of enjoying the nightlife on the beach.  I had to get a cab quickly, but the streets were now quiet with none zipping by to hail, and I had no Israeli phone number to secure one online or via phone.  I felt my stomach start churning.  It was creeping close to midnight.

One of the gals in the hostel luckily had an Israeli sim and number, and we were able to secure the cab that way.  I thanked her profusely, for saving my American skin and not leaving me stranded in Tel Aviv, and within 10 minutes, I was off to Ben Gurion.

Day 21: Home

I arrived back at Ben Gurion at 1230 am, after a pleasant ride with a very knowledgeable lady cabby, which also put me at ease.  I was glad I didn't stow my luggage, because it would've required me going out of the way back to Terminal 1 to retrieve it, making things more complicated.

In the airport, I grabbed a cup of coffee in a cafe, playing the waiting game with the other airport denizens.  We all know the game.  Biding our time to check in.  I like that period of anticipation -- I might be strange, but I do.  I get things done, and I always feel excited to be heading out or heading home.  

At around 2 am, I began the check-in, which went smoothly and without issue.  The security was tight, but I had no problems, and at around 430, I was in the terminal waiting to board.  I was exhausted by then, and just looking forward to getting on the plane so I could sleep without fear of missing boarding! 

We boarded promptly at 5 am for our 530 flight, and I was so happy to see my upgraded seat into business class so now I could stretch out an additional 2 inches, haha.  I put on my little neck pillow boomerang, popped in my earplugs and put my hoodie over my face and went off to sleep  immediately, looking forward to arriving in Kiev at 830 am -- and slightly concerned about the short layover there -- it was only an hour -- but, knowing that Kiev was a small airport, and I was on UIA through the whole flight, which would not require a terminal change, and I was now onboard the plane, meaning no delays -- I was safe and would not miss my connection flight back home.  I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I woke up about an hour and a half later and was surprised at the great time we had made to Kiev -- wow.  One and a half hours instead of three!  I looked around and noticed something was wrong.  The doors of the plane were open.  Hasidic people were very agitated and yelling at the crew.  I became confused.  I scanned the area, and there was a flight attendant sitting quietly in the corner two seats away, looking sullen.  I asked her, "What's going on?" She just looked at me.  I stupidly asked her, "We're not in Kiev?" She shook her head no.  I became agitated and incredulous -- "We're still in Tel Aviv?!" I blurted out in shock.  She nodded her head and said, "Yes. We have a delay."  

We have a delay?  Huh??  My stomach dropped out.  I would miss my connecting flight home.  And, this time around, I didn't take flight insurance. The panic of sitting in Kiev waiting for an available flight in the coming DAYS fell on me like a dead weight.  I gulped.  "Why???? Why are we delayed?? Why?!" -- the words came out harsh and demanding.  

She looked guilty as if she had personally delayed the plane.  I felt immediately sorry for my reaction and composed myself.  "Please.  I am sorry, but I am very worried.  I have a connecting flight to JFK.  What will happen now? If I miss this flight, what will UIA do? How will they correct this situation? I can't be stranded." I felt exhausted and miserable, with the thought of being stranded in Kiev, waiting standby on some floor in the airport for a "next available flight".  I shuddered.  

Others who were pacing and complaining heard our exchange and came over to chime in too, desperate for reassurance they also would not be stranded in Kiev.  The flight attendant seemed overwhelmed for a moment, and then asked each of them -- "are you all catching the connection to JFK?"  They nodded and said yes.  She said, "No worries, over 100 passengers on this flight are connecting to that flight, and they should wait." That placated them, and they murmured amongst themselves.  I said, "Hey wait a second, you said 'should' wait.  What does that mean -- does that mean they may NOT wait?" She replied, "That's possible." My throat tightened again.  "That's possible??? When will we know?" The flight attendant shrugged.  "When we get there." 

I felt creeping rage and frustration.  "Listen, that's not acceptable.  I have my ride coming to pick me up, and he's driving *3* hours -- you need to let us know so that we can make arrangements" -- the crowd had come back and I had now become their spokesperson.  "Yes! Yes!" they began to say urgently.  "This is not right!" The flight attendant said, "No, please, they will wait in Kiev." That quieted us momentarily, and she slipped away, as we stood in the galley by the door, discussing all the ills of the situation.  

Apparently, luggage without an owner had made its way into the hull of the plane, and the entire plane had to be emptied, security checked, and reloaded.  We all fumed about this.  "How did this happen, with all of the security?"  We all talked and groused, as people do in these situations.  Then we agreed to pray about it in our seats, and back we went.

At 730 am, two hours later, the crew began to shout for everyone to buckle up, and very quickly, the loudspeaker crackled, and the doors were sealed, and within a few minutes, we took off hurriedly to Kiev.  

We made excellent time, but had to be fast-tracked through security, and lo and behold, our plane had not left without us.  We were only 1/2 hour late, due to the hour layover and the fast time the pilot made up for in the air.  We were all herded on board, and we took off a half an hour later, making our delay now only one hour.

It was a 10.5-hour flight, and we were all so happy to be onboard, at not waiting to be squeezed onto other flights back and the headache that would entail.  I was so thankful at that moment when our flight to JFK lifted off.  I had just dodged some major discomfort of that missed connection, and I was tired to my bones.  I knew the next 10 hours would be very uncomfortable -- long flights always are -- but I was so thankful for heading home, nothing would dampen my enthusiasm.

I arrived in JFK one hour later than originally scheduled, but I was full of gratitude to be home! I went through the security clearances, and lo and behold, my luggage also arrived, not lost in all the confusion.  And, my commute back home was without traffic and in excellent company, so it was a very positive end to my trip!!

Moral of the immediate story: Always be prepared for the unexpected when traveling.  Seriously.  Traveling will test every skill you have, but particularly, your patience!

Moral of the entire story: Take chances, laugh a lot, be grateful for all things even when you don't want to be, and trust God! I am very grateful that I was able to visit Israel -- God's special land -- and that I was blessed with a wonderful trip and memories of it!

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