Not sure what to write- been busy coordinating photos and journal entries from my Baha’i Pilgrimage to Haifa Israel with my daughter Bee. Perhaps I shall post something from a note on Facebook and see if it shows up here:
Notes on Pilgrimage
Feb 23 – Quality hotel in Richmond BC – It’s 7:30pm – Bee and I just arrived back at the hotel after taking the Canada Line – with Bruce and Fern to Waterfront -where Fern caught up with Kelly (somewhere) We had all met at the airport around noon – I’d spent last night in PG at the Connaught after (finally – over an hr late!) taking bus from the Greyhound stop in Fraser Lake. The couple that run the feed store are the new depot managers and are such lovely people! Made waiting for the bus an interesting and enjoyable experience (even gave me some of their pizza)
Bee and I spent the afternoon with Bruce at Gallery Gachet and at his house – he certainly has a cache of cartoons that are quite funny! Bee and I almost froze this evening after getting back to Richmond – waited forever in the icy air (1 foot of snow on Hornby and it’s heading this way!) for a bus – turns out info Fern got was wrong so we started walking – ate supper at the The One Restaurant and managed to warmed. Think I’ll tubsoak for a while!
Feb 24. It’s a nice relaxing spot here at gate 54 on the international side of the airport. This is the quiet side of the airport- laid back even through Security it seemed. And this time I didn’t dingle through the archway as I did in PG – must have been rivets in yesterdays black cords? No full body scan or feel-up. Checkout at the Quality was at 11am but we left our bags there and wandered around Richmond Mall- I got a pair of memory insoles which I hope will be kinder to my feet in my new runners? Feet and legs and hips kinda bothered me yesterday- can’t keep up with the young ‘uns anymore! We got through Security etc 3 and a half hours before take-off. I bought a tiny Canada flag for my jacket ; invested in British pounds 200 $s plus and Israeli shekels (all she had, which was $117.00 worth)
The sun is shining through the airport windows and its fairly people-free today- reading my book and Bee’s been on her blog. My cold/virus thing keeps rearing its ugly head – glad I have the penicillin as it does help – and Advil etc. Bee is coveting my window seat – I will try to sleep for some hrs and probably change with her when sun rises early as we fly 8 or 9 hrs in easterly direction. Get there at 11:30 tomorrow morn London time. (I want to go to Canadian ‘blues’ guitar show listed as being at the Savoy tomorrow evening- only 20 dollars a head and I hope to pick up on the ambience of that old theatre where my grandmother may have spent time with her mother.
Feb 25. London England and it’s not raining – fairly warmish this evening when we strolled toward the theatre section of town. People everywhere and cars/ double-deckers/ lots of beautiful old buildings and bright lights where we strolled until my legs and feet wore out once again (getting out of the airport and onto and off the underground lugging heavy suitcases was a pain – with a capital P!) Ended up getting taxis to find Travelogue hotel (wrong building – had to go to a 2nd one and British buildings too often have stairs- Bee found a porter the first time and we were helped the 2nd time as well.) People are friendly for sure! This hotel is bare bones but seems clean – food is mediocre- but the location is great. It turned out the Nova Scotia Blues musicians weren’t at the Savoy – play was “Legally Blonde” but we saved $s by not going to it. Wandered around in the building and Bee took wonderful photos which she will email to me as my camera battery was dying. (I’ve reloaded batteries for tomorrow) Last night’s plane ride was fairly comfortable – I saw 2 movies “Secretariat” plus and an ancient black and white film about twin sisters, one of whom was a murderer. Didn’t catch it all, as I was attempting to sleep by that time. (Did a lot of attempting and Bee thought I slept for a couple of hrs – her not at all. (There’s an 8 hour time difference so we landed at 11 am but ‘twas still the middle of the night back home.)
Feb 26 Worn out and confused half the time! Had fun last night walking thru the theatre district – ended up going thru the Savoy but didn’t catch up with the blues musicians. Today it rained so we bought umbrellas and proceeded through to the Oxford St district- had to extend our check out time from hotel– cost 10 extra pounds, but well worth it. A friendly fellow from Heartbeat country named ‘Richard’ let us store our baggage until about 5pm at no extra cost. My feet and legs and hips should be well broken in for Mt Carmel but there’s still aches and pains and tonight after miles of airport strolling – can’t believe how huge Heathrow is! We are finally at the Boarding compound at gate 32. Just checking in was an experience – Security begins immediately at the El Al Airlines site. Had to pass on my Baha’i card to prove I was on a pilgrimage. And there was a guard standing there with an assault rifle in hand. He noticed Bee’s photo of me included him in the background and came over. Was friendly and noted the pic was blurry. (Was ok with that)Bee took tons of pics of downtown London and will upload them on my computer. I managed to get an email to Fern and Cath tonight letting them know we’re still alive. There is a perfume in the air here and my throat is acting up.
Feb 27 – Well we are here in sunny Haifa – was quite “springy” today when we drove up with Josef who is Bee’s artist friend who lives in Tel Aviv. The plane arrived at 5am local time and I had to sort out the funny money which is “shekels” here (In England it was pounds/pence etc) The hotel room is quite small – no bathtub but a shower- had one and there’s plenty of water. Had to pay to get my laptop hooked up to the different electrical system and to the internet. But I get some of it back when I leave. We’re just sitting here sipping on complimentary tea and there’s complimentary cake as well. Had a nice meal earlier in the day – shops are scattered about intermeshed with beautiful white buildings – everything seems to be on top of the mountain here – sort of in layers. Haifa is a pretty big city but less population than Tel Aviv. Tomorrow I will register for my pilgrimage – There is a beautiful view of the sea not too far from here. Tomorrow should learn more about bus schedules etc. When we came in I noticed the parameters of where that huge forest fire was last fall- pretty close to the city (closer than our fire was to Fraser Lake, I think)
Feb 28:today was the first day of Pilgrimage – met the couple across the hall from us in the hotel and they are long time Baha’is from Northern England- nice couple who were also at the breakfast that the hotel serves for free. Great breakfast! Included potato and salsa-type salads, besides the standard eggs and cereal etc. There are around 400 on pilgrimage with us- many, many Persians including one lady from Pitt Meadows and a Persian Canadian mother/daughter from Ottawa. Quite a contingent from France and many we met from USA. We’ve met more browns and blacks than whites and only the one couple from Britain.(Many Americans of all ethnic races) We woke up to thunder and raining like crazy which alternated all day with beautiful sunny warm periods. We’re in group B of 5- grouped according to language. There is a long languid period of time between ventures out to the sites- this afternoon we all trekked to the shrines and it was so beautiful with greenery and many strange looking leafy trees and palms with trunks that looked like elephant trunks – really thick trunks and sort of pear shaped. At the Shrine of the Bab there are many sets of terraces, which stretch far up the mountain and then down toward the lower streets. Very beautiful! Bee took pics – not inside some of the buildings or places where prayer sessions were happening. The view was perfect! Dark sky with the sun peeking through and reflecting on the city’s buildings which are mostly white in colour. And there was a rainbow stretching across the sky. We could see the sea in the distance with ships floating about..Flower gardens everywhere/ green grasses and pebble stone pathways, some reddish in colour. And green budgies fluttering in the trees- we could smell flower scents and hear various birdcalls- very sensory- which added to the spirituality (for me and most others I’m sure)So tired – got to get used to this ten hour time difference. I woke up at 2 am after only 2 hours sleep. That was fine until this afternoon when it was nightime at home. Now my computer tells me it’s 9:05am in BC (-23 below in Fraser Lake) Here it is 7:05pm and MUCH warmer than at home.
March 2 -It’s 5-something am and as usual my sleep-time ended at 2. Hope today isn’t anywhere near yesterday’s comedy (in retrospect) of errors. I found myself stuck inside the all-sexes toilet at a cafe restroom for about 15 minutes- locked in – before anyone became aware of my banging on door and “hallyoooing” in a very loud voice- Bee thought I might have been taking an extra-long load off, before finally realising there was a problem. The Israili waitress and I had a language problem- I wasn’t sure whether she was telling me to “lift” the handle as she tried to unlock with a key, or to turn the stripped inside lock to the “left” When Bee arrived she was able to tell me what to do
It had been an early start to yesterday’s (March 1st) journey to the Pilgrim’s Reception Centre (7:15) but once again we were able to leave via a 10-passenger sherut ordered by one of the Beth Shalon tenants- Only thing was Bee and I missed out on breakfast time (made up for the lack of caffeine later! Our day trip to the ancient prison city of Akka where Baha’u’llah was imprisoned for many years was a wonderful time – the weather was warm and sunny and the grounds about the Shrine and other Holy Places there were absolutely spectacular. Bee wandered about taking pics after we reached the Shrine of Baha’u’llah and I went in to the prayer rooms, which were covered with beautiful old Persian rugs and walls with similar ancient tapestries. Very quiet respectful and spiritual experience – no prayers read or spoken aloud and each of us left on our own to take in the amazing and spectacular gardens- strange looking and unfamiliar trees plants etc intermingled with beds of petunia, pansies and other mostly familiar flowers. Birds sang and fluttered about – quite a few similar to crows but with odd shades of black and grey. And smaller – some brightly coloured birds as seen yesterday. Really amazing experience! One fellow passed by me and whispered “This is Heaven!”
Marcia was our group leader-African American lady – smartly dressed in brightly coordinated, but business-like attire that flattered her slim figure. Back at the PRC she had informed us of plans for our entire Pilgrimage. For some reason I became inordinately fatigued and told Bee I just couldn’t make it to the UHOJ session following. There was perfume in the air and it may have been an allergic thing – took a pill for that. Just felt absolutely exhausted. (That was shortly after the delicious lunch at Japanese restaurant -followed by my toilet imprisonment.) Marcia is humorous but has a kindergarten way of imparting information and Bee agreed the rather long spiel was hard to understand. (I learned her style during later times and she’s actually very good at doing the guide thing) Anyway this day I decided to relax in lounge area at PRC – but then a lovely lady originally from Vancouver Is. came along and said she’d arrange for transportation for us to the site- Along came Marcia in her car and advised me that I was most likely dehydrated which was probably true. As it turned out I enjoyed meeting the house of justice members amidst the roomful of people from so many countries (big continguent from Norway in our group)
We skipped the evening session – went back to hotel and later, walked up the street, checking out where Bee may have lost her jacket. Had a dessert and mocha in a mall just up the hill from the hotel- I had a shower went to bed at 8pm and fell asleep before 9 so actually had 5 or 6 hours sleep!
March 2nd: Seems Israel doesn’t want me to leave…today we once again went to Akka to stroll through historical buildings that are relevant to the Baha’i faith. Bee took a zillion pics so we will have a pictorial narrative of our adventures! The bus let us off at the ancient prison where Baha’u’llah was held by the Turks in the time of the Ottoman Empire. Walls made thick with stones and even some iron pins in places, with a wall around what is now a dry moat. Baha’u’llah’s cell was our prayer room and later we were shown through many rooms, reached by stone staircases throughout several floors of the ancient structure. Kind of exhausting keeping up with the group and Marcia, who was B group’s tour guide- guess we lingered in one spot too long. But then we followed Bianca and Josef from Brazil who as it turned out, were as turned around as we were. We clambered up and down the stone steps thither and yon – Bianca had noted where the group had disappeared, but suddenly there was no access out of that door or out of any of the other doors. After some stressful minutes, she hailed a cleaning women, and requested that I speak to her in English. The woman didn’t understand English any better than Portugese, but she had a key and eventually managed to escort us to the correct door and unlock it for us. After being let out of jail and observing the rest of the prison with the group, we proceeded down the route where Baha’u’llah had also walked many years earlier. We ended up at the house where he’d been imprisoned for a few more years, before being exonerated – also through a second house (furnished quite a lot in original motif) which had been attached to provide room for Abdu’llah Baha, his wife and 9 children. The bus took us back as far as the hotel around 3 in the afternoon. Bee and I then had a delicious fela fel lunch after dropping our laundry off at the “wash and dry” laundry. (‘That was a mistake. Clothes were sort of greyish and worst of all smelled of perfumed rinse- they really like perfuming everything here- had to request hotel maid service not use room deodorizer- bothers both of us!) After many frustrating tries with a phone card and finally receiving advice from hotel clerk, I was able to get hold of Leon on the phone. He sounded a little down- guess he misses me. It’s depressingly cold at home. Told him, “Guess I should feel guilty as we have similar temps – only there on the plus side of the thermometer.” He replied “Yes, you should [feel guilty]” Apparently Dr Beever’s contract is not being renewed by Northern Health which is also depressing for Leon. They’re replacing drs with nurse practitioners, he said.
March 3:I just wrote on face book: “Doris Ray is having an amazing, uplifting and Joyous experience”…that is so true! The weather has been absolutely perfect! This morn I had an early breakfast – hotel’s breakfasts are so good! Then as our group (heading once again to Akka) wasn’t leaving the Pilgrimage Reception Centre until 10:15, went for a walk. Found a bank and ATM machines but wasn’t sure enough of them- with all the Hebrew lettering- so went into bank proper. A clerk came out pressed “English” on the machine and – lo and behold – I was back in familiar territory – except that shekels came out of the machine rather than dollars. Found a second laundry – not open yet- but our clothing seemed not as stinky as last night, so won’t bother with re-washing.
Before leaving, I spread my clothes out on the bed and opened all the windows. Much better now although still slightly aromatic- I’m having reactions to perfumes indoors, and pollution outdoors (in heavy traffic) Breathing deeply and allergy pills definitely helps. We visited beautiful gardens and two historic mansions today- lots of stuff to assimilate. Left on 3pm bus, which dropped us off at our hotel. I had a shower and Bee went strolling – more pic taking- many beautiful ones so far. I took far fewer pics but we’re sharing.
Mar 4: day off from touring- stores mostly closed as it’s the half-day Sabath (Fri) and all-day tomorrow (Sat) until 6pm. Josef came and visited with Bee – after the three of us had viewed Baha’i gardens from above and lunched at the Spoon Cafe. I was suddenly exhausted and felt queasy and bathroom – bound (unbound) for awhile. I did make it to the Terraces at around 4pm – went down 3 or 4 levels before going back up again. (Spectacular view!) Actually is easier in some ways, going back up than down. (Easier on the knees anyway)The entranceway to the top level above the Shrine of the Bab happens to be via the promenade that is just across the street from our hotel. Too bad the dome is under repair right now – certainly not as beautiful when it’s all bandaged up- but as Marcia (“Your guide” as she always referred to herself in the 3rd person) explained to us- we were privileged to view the dome the one time that it wasn’t there- (words to that effect) Think I’ll catch a cab to the Teaching Centre event at 8pm tonight.
March 6- We did most of our shopping for momentos for kids and grandkiddies on this day. Also lucked in after meeting with Richard and Joyce from Buffalo NY who’d rented a car and invited us to accompany them to Badgi. After arriving home I trekked off to the ATM for shekels and found a nice warm sweater for new baby from the GOLf store in the little mall across the street from our hotel.
From Bee’s Buzz: (March 6) As it was Saturday today, we had a day free of pilgrimage-related activities; we went to Acco to explore on our own. This was my first real experience of being in a thoroughly different culture!
Akko is a Muslim city; the Jewish cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv are more western in look and feel, although the architecture is of course different, with many crumblingly beautiful old buildings.
We had toured the old prison in Akko a few days ago, but rushed through the town just quickly enough to be intrigued; I had snapped the photo of the woman on the left as we rushed by. Today, we heard the muezzin call to prayer and saw many women wearing beautiful clothes like these, with brightly coloured fabrics, lush velvets, swirling patterns, sparkles.
I got yelled at for not being dressed decently when we tried to go into a mosque (where we had been directed to go to find a toilet, wrongly as it turned out). In the rush to find the bathroom, I had missed seeing the sign that said, ‘Holy place, must be decently dressed’. My hair and shoulders were uncovered, which was not acceptable; to be fair, they did have shawls hanging on hooks by the door that I could have donned in order to meet the standard. It was kind of like a restaurant that won’t let you in without a tie, but will offer you a tie at the door because they really do want to let you come in.
Once it was clear that this was a mosque and not the route to the WC, we left. Finding a toilet was a series of misadventures, up stairs and down, in and out of blind alleys, from one side of town to the other. A good lot of our wanderings about Acco were in search of the facilities. Finally relieved, we found the market, and the ocean, in that order.
The Akko market proper was a surreal experience! We thought we had seen the market; every street was lined with food stalls and umbrella vendors selling all sorts of goods. As we were leaving, we asked how to get to the ocean. We were told, ‘through the market’… um… market? You mean the street vendors? Shocked, she gasped, “You haven’t seen the market! You must see the market!”
She directed us into a labyrinth of tunnels, not easy at all to find, and it was a bizarre bazaar indeed. Surreal! It wound indoors and underground for what seemed like blocks, with fish stalls, food stalls, people selling goods of every conceivable type, crammed with so many people that when we wanted to purchase something we had to plant ourselves firmly to avoid being swept away.
I was more comfortable diving into the fray than Mom, so I spearheaded our journey against the flow of the crowd, which all seemed to be headed in the opposite direction from us. What fun! And yet, it was so thoroughly hidden that we had difficulty finding it again when we wanted to show some friends who had also missed it.
Thus far I am thoroughly impressed with the people here. Even the security guards that search my bags going into the mall have had a sweet smile and a friendly word to offer. I think I love it here, though I hear that summertime is not nearly so wonderful. Everyone loves spring… I do believe I got a sunburn on my nose today.
March 7: Yesterday was our final tour in the city of Akko and the place called Badji where the shrines and gardens are commemorating the history of the Bahai Faith. We visited the two houses that were residences of Baha’u’llah and Abdul’baha and where Shoghi Effendi was born. Then visited the Garden of Rizvan. Today we toured the buildings on the Arc –walked down the terraces from the PRC as far as where they are located. This afternoon we went to residences on H. Street in Haifa which were residences of Abdul’Baha and later Shoghi Effendi – Marcia talked about the women (including Maxwell women from Canada) who were important in the early history of the Faith,
March 8: Woke up at 3:30am and took 2 anti-nausea pills which put me to sleep for an hour or so but woke up with the aching nose thing I haven’t had since leaving Fraser Lake. Bee has an aching ankle from all the climbing down the Terrace steps yesterday so I went to the PRC with Sandy and Bruce (he seems to be not that well physically but I think he’s in better shape than me) We walked to the Archives building this morning and I took pics with all buildings lined up in a row. International Teaching Bld; House of Justice; (research +) which will also contain a library and the Archives bldg. Our guide was a very nice lady with an accent – I think Persian? She opened the various cupboards where the viewings were stored. The first contained an actual photo of Baha’u’llah, a set of 3 drawings of him and the final was a portrait of The Bab. The first photo impressed me most. The other cupboards contained memorabilia pertaining to the three most important men and also women (Baha’u’llah’s sister- Greatest Holy Leaf) everything from clothing, shoes, hair and nail clippings etc. as well as actual writings in Persian. (?) A Persian woman now living in Florida interpreted some of the wordings: most interesting to me was some dialogue written katycorner in the a shape of a star. Think it was composed by Abul’u’baha (or perhaps his eldest son Shoghi Effendi who collected and compiled most artifacts and effects from previous eras. Shoghi Effendi married a Canadian woman, daughter of architect Sutherland Maxwell of Montreal.)
Tonight is the farewell at the PRC and we need to check out of the hotel this evening as well.
The farewell evening for the pilgrims on Tuesday night was at the original small Pilgrim house, a short distance from the PRC. We milled about for awhile and I got new friends to write their email addresses down for me. Met a young man from Vancouver and earlier a couple – Diane and Alex – from Toronto. Several pilgrims are on Facebook as well. Lots of warm and cheery exchanges and Bee took more pics – I took a few. Earlier in the day we’d finalized arrangement for a tour of Jerusalem leaving from the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Tel Aviv. It was to leave at 7:15am so clerk at Beth Shalom called for a cab to take us to the train station- had to leave by 5am to get there on time. We squared up our account with our home away from home after being there for 11 days. I would gladly recommend them for the wonderful breakfasts alone that we had there every morn for no extra charge.
Bee and I have lined up a tour of Jerusalem via a Tel Aviv based company for tomorrow. The tour leaves Tel Aviv at 7:15am so we have a cab to the train coming at 5am tomorrow morning. We can bring our bags on the tour bus (had to get bobby pins to act as locks on 2 of our bags- should stop most would be opportunity thieves. Couldn’t find a hardware store anywhere near our hotel to buy more suitcase locks)
March 9, taxi came on time and no problems on the train ride. The commuters sitting next to me answered my queries re arrival station in perfect English. Very few problems communicating with others in Israel as so many speak at least a smattering of what’s becoming the ‘universal language’ Our tour guide that day was a perky young woman who spoke English well with only a slight accent. She explained that Tel Aviv is a relatively new city having only been in existence since 1909. There had been a settlement nearby- in what remains of some stone-faced construction on the city’s outskirts in an area known as Jaffa. As we neared Jerusalem there were a series of housing developments in the distance on the hillsides (everything is up and down in this country) The motif of the newer buildings is similar to older style- limestone facades with rounded, domed edges in white and cream colours are still the favoured architecture in most parts of Israel.(Except for Tel Aviv with its western style hotels and office buildings.) Our guide said the land on these suburbs of Jerusalem city had originally been part of Lebanon (preceding 1948? can’t recall what wars were with whom?) There were several sites along the road where relics of military vehicles and equipment had been preserved in honour of soldiers who’d died in wars with Arab countries, such as the 6- day war with Egypt (in 1967?)
We began our tour in the old city of Jerusalem, strolling through myriad alleyways and ancient buildings with stone floorings as old as during Christ’s time – so many remnants of the past but also restorations of ancient structures of historical significance to Jews, Muslims and Christians – many within arm`s length of each another. The so-called ‘wailing wall’ (Western Wall) our guide explained, dated back many years. It had been destroyed – much of it- in the various military skirmishes over the centuries. There are now two stark looking, uneven sections of the wall reserved for people to pray- one section strictly for the Muslims and the other section for those who practice the Jewish and (I think also Christian?) Faiths – (We weren’t shown the Muslim section) Bee walked over to the wall to join those who were in prayer- there were bits of paper stuck between cracks all over the wall – written prayers placed by individuals, Rabbis, etc. I waited nearby in a plastic chair –at the time the weather was cold and windy- possibly contributing to my somewhat depressed state of mind? as I contemplated upon the schism between two religions – both worshipping the same God.
(In retrospect, we noted that during our tour the pouring rain seemed only to occur while we were indoors- as quickly as we opened our umbrellas the rain would stop!)
Our guide led us through walled alleyways that combined Muslim marketplaces featuring stalls similar to what we’d seen in Akka with the ever-persistent – and very loud- vendors attempting to sell their wares (prices sometimes went down to almost zero but few buyers.) Their stalls were intermingled with intriguing doorways leading to churches, including one called the Via Dollerosa, maintained by Fransiscan monks (They’d who`d made it through the milling crowds earlier lugging a huge wooden cross.) Later on, one popped by and distributed thick smoky fumes from a container while we visited. The most significant part of the tour for me was making our way through the huge, magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was extremely dark and low ceilinged where we entered – quite frightening for me as I could not get my eyeballs adjusted between the darkened tunnel and the candlelit areas- there were stone steps here and there with no railings to cling to. Bee had to guide me along as we crept through the narrow passageway. The church was enormous with many rooms. Our guide told us four or five Christian denominations continue to worship there to this day. Originally constructed during the 12th century, it had been almost totally destroyed. It has since been rebuilt and restored with colourful mosaics all over the walls and ceilings- final completion of mosaics in the 1920s and 1930s. One large panel in the ceiling we photographed was actually part of the original 12th century artwork. The rooms all featured many colourful chandeliers and tapestries, with numerous displays portraying the life and death of Jesus.
The final leg of our tour was of the Holocaust Museum in New Jerusalem. It was a huge building divided off into oddly and narrowing shaped sections with disturbing content throughout. I could not handle too much of it -although it was a very well set up museum with photos, films and artifacts of that horrific period of time in human history. I did find the Nazi media propaganda of the times interesting -although deplorable. One newspaper cartoon depicted a large boot with a Nazi insignia on the sole– there seemed to be a joyous attitude about how much fun it would be to step on a tiny insect-sized Jewish person. Really creeped me out!
We were let off the bus on the outskirts of Tel Aviv where our guide had called a cab to take us to the airport. We were under the mistaken impression that our heavy bags could be stored there overnight. We ended up taking another cab to Josef`s and storing them in his car til the next morning. He stayed over at his girlfriend`s next door, while we slept in his upstairs apartment. Josef is a nice very hospitable person- but like most artists, he`s not well off financially. I had given him a copy of my book and in exchange he wanted me to have one of his paintings. But the painting was in a thick heavy frame so can’t take it home. He said he’d mail it …?
March 10th- our travel journey began at 5:20am with a cab to the airport. Security for people leaving Israel was more lax than when entering- the guards did not carry assault rifles – merely pistols this time. The processing began with putting bags through a scanner and my big suitcase did not pass the test. It needed to be searched by hand at a separate counter where two agents regarded me with stern expressions on their faces. “Do you have some soil or maybe sand in your bag,” one asked. “Or perhaps some seeds?” “Only rose petals” I replied. (Marcia had given us rose petals as memorabilia) “Nothing else organic.”
“Someone may have put something like that in your suitcase?”he suggested. “No,” I answered firmly. I was beginning to panic. They stared at me stone-faced as I sifted through jumbles of clothing in search of the rose petals that I’d stashed in a plastic bobby pin container. “No need, we found the item,” my interrogator said. Despite his stern face he must have been a trifle embarrassed when he pointed out the felonious article – the weighted false boob I’d packed as a spare to fill the empty left side of my bra. It had been stuffed with barley or similar kind of grain. Bee and I managed to keep from giggling. For me that turned out to be the funniest and most comfortable part of the journey home. We gave a thumbs up once again for El Al Airlines for their delicious meals, cushions, blankets, entertainment.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief and exhaustion when finally on our AC flight to Toronto from London after a harrowing tour between terminals at Heathrow Airport. The place is as big as a small city..a nightmare that I don’t want to repeat –ever! And that was the end of many of the perks too- It was 8 hours of discomfort for me, finally ending in Toronto where we caught up to our suitcases which had been tagged in Tel Aviv. Bee’s suitcase must have had a harrowing time as well, as it needed to be duct-taped and plastic bagged because of a significant tear. But we were certainly pleased to see them! A fellow pilgrim and Canadian from Fort Mac had told us Air Canada lost her luggage on a trip in December and they’d still not recovered it – 4 months later.
March 11th- Travis, Bree and baby picked us up in Edmonton last night – plane was a half hour behind schedule. Baby Taylor is cute – very strong and wiggly -with lots of hair. He’s a real night owl. Bree has to catch up on her sleep during the day. Jennel’s birthday bash tonight, but we couldn’t make it. I ordered in pizza and it was good. Penny works tomorrow so I’m staying here – sleeping in Corey’s big comfortable bed in the basement. Corey may be too ill to drive down tomorrow after work for my planned get-together of cousins after so many years apart -and now living in the same city. It would be nice to see him again. Terrible earthquake in Japan overnight and tsunami – 8.9 on scale. When I called Leon he said “Good thing you weren’t in that country.” End of my overseas travels to anywhere, I’m thinking. I really enjoyed the sunshine this morning as it illuminated the unusually high snow-banks for Edmonton this time of year – made me feel warm and cosy and ready for hibernating at home.