So I'm here. Okay, I'm most of the way here.pheret1
, consider this your phone call. I thought about calling you, but we're 8 hours ahead, and...well, check out the time of the post if you're wondering.
I finally made it to Jerusalem, where I checked into the hostel about seven this morning. I did the very thing you're not supposed to do after traveling long distances and changing multiple time zones- I promptly crashed out for about four hours. I'm not all that worried about the jet lag thing, though. Since I don't have much of a circadian rhythm to begin with, couple that with the fact that I'm still beat, and I'm sure I have a nice, healthy 8 hours left in me for tonight.
A few gripes:
1)TSA are a bunch of buggers. When I checked my luggage, I asked them if it was okay for me to leave the locks on the luggage, but unlocked, so they could do their searches, and then lock the bags. They cheerfully said "sure!" When I retrieved my bag this morning at Tel Aviv, the locks were not on the suitcase at all. And my CPT material was gone. So I don't know, actually, if it was TSA, or if the locks got cut off either in Milan or Tel Aviv, but either way I'm pretty upset. If they removed the CPT brochures because if the "political" content, though, I'm confused why they left my "Arabic in Ten Minutes A Day" book. Strange stuff.
2)Alitalia is a crap airline. All their planes I've flown in- a total of six, now- are small, dirty, and unprepared. They constantly run out of things like toilet paper, and never have enough pillows and blankets to go around. I don't like Alitalia. Unfortunatly, they're cheap, which is why CPT keeps using them. I have a very strong hope that next time I come on project I fly Lufthansa. I hear they're practically luxury!
3)Malpensa Airport is a hole. Luckily, the mass transit system in the greater Milan area seems to work quite well, so getting out into the city, and getting back to the airport was quite smooth. But the airport is much like Alitalia itself- dirty, small and unprepared. I didn't use a bathroom all day where the toilet actually flushed properly, or the stall door closed and locked properly. And it wasn't just me, either. There was always a kind of Sisterhood of Bad Bathroom Solidarity, with all of us women going "how do you actually lock this damn thing...?" in six different languages. Eye rolling translates universally.
Okay, thanks. Had to get that off my chest. Feel better, now.
Checking in at O'Hare went easily, and I managed to move slowly enough and entertain myself so I didn't have a lot of thumb-twiddling time before I had to board. I immediately made friends with my seat-mate, a young Polish girl who had spent the summer doing a work-exchange program at Cedar Point amusement park. She was very interested in CPT's work, and since she is studying Political Science, she really is interested in our Iraq program.
Once we landed in Milan, I braced myself for my thirteen-hour layover. I made the decision to go into the city and see some sights, so I grabbed a map, got a few directions, and hopped on the train. My CTA training has served me well, and I was pleased to find how easily I could navigate their subway system, even though the only word I actually recognized was "fermata". I got off at the "Duomo" stop, and wandered around there for awhile. I didn't end up seeing a whole lot, due to a combination of a very heavy carry-on bag, pouring rain, and my own exhaustion, but I got quite a few shots of the cathedral, and wandered over into the Piazza della Scala, and ogled the opera house. I was pleased to find a monument to Leonardo Da Vinci in the square there. I feel as if I'm taking the entire Leonardo Life Tour, albeit slowly. I have very vivid memories of visiting the Clos Luce at Amboise when I was in France eleven and a half years ago, which is where he spent the last few years of his life, and died.
I got about twenty pictures, but I can't post them until I can get my laptop hooked up to an internet line.
I then headed back to the airport, where I snoozed,watched a DVD on my computer, ate dinner, and did some general thumb-twiddling until our 10:45 departure time. I ended up sleeping much of the four-hour flight between Milan and Tel Aviv, which helped my bearings a great deal. We landed in Tel Aviv at 3:30 am, where I was pleased to find that I breezed through passport control without as much as an askance look from security. I claimed my baggage, grabbed something that vaguely resembled breakfast, and went outside in search of a nesher that would bring me to Jerusalem.
I got dropped at the Jaffa Gate a little before seven. It was eerie, being back there finally, being back alone, and standing around all the closed-up shops. The air was still cool, and the sun was just starting to rise in earnest. It was a beautiful moment, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life.
The biggest plus to arriving while the shops were closed was how easy it was to find St. Mark's Road. Where it breaks off from David Street (the main road coming into the city straight from Jaffa Gate) is a staircase that during the day looks like it leads directly into a shop. There are quite a few shops that are set way back into the stone, that require some kind of creative access, such as a short flight of stairs, and this turn is almost impossible to find while the shops are open. Heading down St Mark's Road, I wearily buzzed the door at the Lutheran Hostel, and checked myself in for the next twenty-four hours. Although guests are technically supposed to vacate the dormitories for several hours in the morning for cleaning, I found myself unable to be vertical any longer, changed into my pajamas, and collapsed into sleep. Nobody seemed worried that I hadn't vacated.
After a few hours of sleep and a very nice shower (although I forgot to pack a towel- I had to dry off using a t-shirt- I think I am heading out after this to buy a towel), I sallied forth into the city in search of Mike's Internet Cafe.
Which just about brings us up to date.
The rest of the plan:
- Call the Hebron team, and set up for someone to meet me at the servees in the morning, in time for the team meeting.
- Find something to eat. Easier said than done, in this part of town during Ramadan.
- Wander the city. Check out the Arab market. Enjoy window shopping (too early for souvenir shopping- things will get lost or broken before I can get them home)
- At some point, eat dinner, relax, read (in no particular order).
- Sleep early, so I can rise early.
- Check out by 7 am, catch a servees at the Damascus Gate that will take me to Hebron.
- Join team!
And that puts us a little bit into the future.
Whew! That took so long, just for a logistical update! Hopefully once logistics fall into a semblance of a routine there will be more introspective reports.
In the meantime, Shanah Tova, and Ramadan Kareem!
**Ed. note- a slightly edited edition of this post- edited for diplomacy and basic maturity- will be cross-posted to my Big Girl Blog