Thursday, December 17, 2009

journey to Israel

Finished teaching for the semester. Collected most of the papers and went home on Tuesday to finish packing. Some bulky presents, but not a lot. Some warm clothes, but not nearly enough (the MN folks will bring us some warmer clothes!).

On the way home from the university, I asked the driver to arrange a cab to take us to the airport at 6:30pm for our 9pm flight. We stopped at a taxi stand and he talked to a driver -- arranged the price, told him where we live, all in Bangla so there wouldn't be any confusion.

Home and packing. Cooked lovely paratha with corn and mozzarella cheese, saved half for later, but the ants got it first. I hate little ants.

We finished and were ready to go on time. Go downstairs and at about 6:35 call the cab driver who says there's a big traffic jam and it will take him a few more miniutes. Go back upstairs to get mosquito spray since sitting downstairs we are just big tasty targets. Call the cab driver every 10 minutes and he keeps saying "big traffic jam" and that he'll be there in 10 minutes. I have other people, one of the other renter's drivers call to clarify in Bangla that the driver is indeed on his way. By 7:15, I'm really scared. We are only about 10-15 minutes from the airport, but everything in Dhaka depends on traffic. If there's a "jam" on the way to the airport, we have to leave early, accordingly.

We walk out to the bigger street to see if we can find a CNG or cab. Of course not. We'd have to go back towards the center -- where the jam is much worse -- to find one. I am so scared that we'll miss our flight that now my brain is working on last resorts. Oh yes, friend at the Radisson, they might have cabs there -- so I call her. She says she'll have one sent immediately. We walk back to our apartment building since 19 rickshaw drivers have offered to take us, even though they are not allowed on the main road to the airport.

At the apartment building the driver-who-didn't-show calls to say he is not in the right neighborhood. I give my phone to the (latest new) apartment manager and ask him to tell the driver that he doesn't need to come. (actually I think much nastier things to tell the driver who had, at that point, over 3 hours to find our apartment building since we arranged for him at 4pm to pick us up at 6:30pm, but I refrain). I start to cry very softly. Waiting for the Radisson guy to come. Now it's 7:45 and our plane leaves in one hour and fifteen minutes. The guard, the other renter's driver, the apartment manager all stand there. Finally they say, here, go in this renter's car and we'll work it out. We get all loaded into that car and the Radisson car comes around the corner. Yes, there had been a train and that blocked traffic for 5-10-15 minutes around here. So we get in the Radisson car and start on our way.

We're at the airport by 8pm (it really is very very close to our apartment), and then race through the lines. The check-in people say we're very lucky since the hold is being closed but they call down to hold it for our suitcase. In this chaos, I lose the book Matan was reading. Pretty sure it stayed at one of those three counters that we were shifted around there. Immigration -- we totally cut the line since our flight was boarding. People were not happy with us.

Boarding as we get there. They separate the men and women but I insist that Matan boards with me. Then we discover the book is missing and I turn around and go back -- but only as far as immigration, can't go out to the ticket counter. No book. Good food, good movie, good sleep -- what more can we ask for? Ok, so getting up at 3am in Bahrain is not ideal, but it's before midnight there. Very orderly procedure for getting to hotel (including transit visa), but squeezed into a van with a few too many people. Nice talk with a woman from Dhaka who is at a different university. Hotel is fine, we go to sleep, I had a nice shower, but no hot water for Matan! Have a buffet breakfast and a beautiful ride back to the airport. What a different city that was. Traffic is orderly, streets are clean, there are sidewalks. Buildings are built. The airport was loaded with things to buy buy buy that you had to walk through to get to your gate. Changed a bit of money and bought someone some fast food...

(not my picture)

Next flight to Amman was pretty quiet. More cosmopolitan than the flight from Dhaka. Also not 98% male.

In Amman we have to change money for the taxi to Israel, and, it turns out, for single-entry visas. So they are $15 each, and once we leave the country (in 2 hours), have to get new ones next time. Still, everything seems to work well. We get the cab and set out. Looks so much like Jerusalem. Zoom through the urban areas and then have stunning views (I'll try to upload the pictures) before we drop below sea level coming into the Jordan valley. Agriculture rules! We also saw a few too many sheep hanging in the meat market. I'd prefer future food to not have heads attached. I got a little green. Matan was also getting carsick from the speed and the sharp curves. By 3pm we were at the border, and then there was a process of walking, cab, walking, bus, walking, through the different stations. They wanted an exit tax from Jordan but I guess my weary objection worked -- we'd only been in the country 2 hours!

Then we waited in the bus for another half hour until we were driven over to the Israeli side. Took awhile to get through immigration -- I don't remember them even asking for the "other" passport before -- usually we just arrive and hand over the Israeli passport as though we've landed from outer space. Nothing since our last exit from Israel. I suppose our American passports are starting to get interesting: visas from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bahrain and Jordan in the last six months...

Finally we get out and look around and don't see anyone waiting and someone says, go that way, your parents are just outside the gate! And indeed we could see Chava and Yehuda from there! We start to walk toward them and someone yells (in Hebrew of course), no, you have to go back and walk around a different way, and so we do, finally getting out to where we were met.

Lots of hugs -- it's been nearly 2 years since I've been here, and Matan grew 4-5 inches since he was here in July (!) -- and then we get on our way. Stop for shwarma, the boy has been dreaming of this -- and we have wonderful salads. The route to Gvulot is only 3.5 hours now, even with a food stop, on road 6, and we're at a huge family gathering with new nieces I've never met and so many other people who have grown in the last two years.

Slept well, woke up to a sand storm and am glad to be here.


  1. It must be wonderful to be someplace so familiar after being away from home so long. I hope you really enjoy your break!!

  2. Amen to the above comment. That you two are home safe and your telling of it brings tears to my eyes. I have been waiting and looking for a message that you and Matan were in Israel. What an adventure! The saying is true, enjoy(?) the journey as well as the destination. Have a wonderful visit.

  3. Enjoy your stay! So glad your travels have taken you back to more family.