I can’t believe we’re finally here! After all that planning and waiting! Here’s how yesterday (well, yesterday/today, minus seven hours with the time difference) went down:
We woke up around 8:30 am and drove from my parent’s house to the Newark airport. David likes to play by the rules, so we got there exactly two hours early, which ended up being too much leeway. Better safe than sorry, I guess. David used the extra time sitting at the gate calling his parents, while I wandered off to smell all of the perfumes at the Duty Free shop. Calyx by Clinique was the standout.
Boarding began at 12:30 for the 1:30 flight and, much to my happiness, they board the plane from the back to the front. This is the way all the airlines used to do it, and it is much more efficient than allowing people to pay extra to get on the plane first… <rant over>
So we boarded the plane in the first group. El Al was a lot nicer than I expected, with TVs in the back of every seat and bigger than normal bathrooms. Earlier, Dave and I had been laughing about the airline’s slogan: El Al is Israel. However, the longer we sat on that airplane, the more sense it made. Granted, we had nine delirious hours to come to our conclusion.
The grumpy man sitting on the other side of Dave introduced himself as Israeli, but had been living in New York for ten years. He was all “New York”, though, when he later yelled at a shouting toddler to “Sheked!” (Quiet!) and when he decided he should be the first one off the plane and pushed his way through the line of people waiting to exit (all the way from row 50).
The woman who sat behind me, a self-proclaimed Long Island Israeli, began complaining the moment we sat down.”Why did the lady make my check my bag? She screwed me out of $100! These seats are far too small! I can’t even put my feet on the ground!” *Proceeds to push my seat up with her knees* Later, she got adjusted better and was actually very nice to talk to.
There were so many toddlers on our flight, and their parents let them run around in the aisles. One little girl walked up to me and yelled “Pita-pita!”
There was a group of older religious men with white and black beards who gathered in the back of the plane to pray quietly for awhile, and a group of younger men with crew cuts who loitered around the bathroom talking for hours.
They served two meals on the nine and a half hour flight. It was eye opening just watching the flight attendants run back and forth to the kitchen stall with all the different meals catering to the countless (at least 5) different dietary restrictions.
Nine and a half hours went by pretty slowly, overall. I wasn’t able to sleep, even with the help of some Nyquil 😦 I did some sudoku, ate my snacks of granola and peanut butter, and watched the second half of interstellar with David. We couldn’t hear the audio very well, so the movie just seemed a little ridiculous. When Cooper (the main guy) and Brand (Ann Hathaway) wake up Dr. Mann and it turns out to be Matt Damon, we were like– is this a troll? Five minutes later, Damon and McConaughy are engaged in a full-on SPACE FIGHT. Anyway, movie was ridiculous. Can’t recommend it.
After what felt like an eternity, we landed in Tel Aviv, deplaned very slowly, and went through the government offices to make our aliyah official! That took about two hours. Then, we took a group taxi (those are very popular here, I’m told) to the address where our Airbnb host had supposedly left the keys to our apartment. We dragged all our luggage to the front desk, where we had been told that an English speaking doorman was holding an envelope with our keys. We were both exhausted at this point, a little queasy from the flight, and just ready to drop our bags and get in the shower.
I walked up to the doorman and explained,”Hi, I’m picking up the keys to my Airbnb. Martin the host said he left them here.” He stares at me blankly and says, “Hebrew and Russian only.”
I turn to David, gesturing for him to give it a shot. He brings up the email Martin sent us explaining that this was the building where Martin’s friend Ben Harry lives.
“Benyameen Harry!” The doorman flips through a binder and calls Ben Harry’s apartment. I turn to David to explain that the email explicitly says that the doorman, not Ben Harry, would have the keys. “Shmonim dakot,” says the doorman. Seven minutes. So we sit down to wait. The mirrors on the wall showed us exactly how gross you can look after fifteen hours traveling.
Seven Israeli minutes later (fifteen minutes), a man walks into the lobby and asks what we want with Ben Harry. He speaks English, so we explain that Martin, our host, told us to pick up our keys from the doorman. Ben Harry (may not have been him, confusing) turns to the doorman and says “Marteen Wein!”
“Oh, Marteen!” And the doorman reached under his desk and pulled out our envelope.
Despite the amount of people here who speak English, the language barrier has been apparent and challenging. Many people say they “speak English”, but it becomes very clear that they understand only one out of every ten words.
Our taxi driver, for example. After we pack the taxi and we pull away from the curb, he admits that he has never heard of the street where we’re going. No smart phones in the car, so he stopped in the middle of the street whenever we passed another taxi or men unpacking a truck to ask about it.
I’m realizing this post is really getting long! Here are some pictures to spice it up and sum up the rest of the day yesterday:
This is the terrace off our apartment. It’s actually bigger than the entire apartment… good thing the weather’s nice!
We were so tired when we finally got to our apartment, but it was only 1 pm here, so we had to try to stay awake till dinner to beat the jetlag. This is me enjoying chicken schnitzel (imagine chicken paillard made into the tastiest chicken finger ever) and white rice. It was great, although Dave and I were straight exhausted at this point. We went home after dinner and ptfo (fell asleep).
Great, and incredibly long, first day here!