Six weeks after Marv’s death, an unsolicited email arrived from Road Scholar announcing a trip to Israel and Jordan leaving in two months. Immediately, I wanted to go. It seemed like a special idea to go to Jesus’ sites the year that Marv went to heaven. I reasoned a trip that soon would give me a deadline to plow through the after-death paperwork. And, Marv had never wanted to go, but I’d been interested, so I was sure getting the email was a sign I was supposed to go.
Besides, he’d told me over and over to take as many classes and trips as I wanted. Once, he’d even added, “Live high on the hog.”
When I called my daughter, she said I could rationalize anything. (Probably true.) When I called my son, I could feel his approving shrug on the phone: “Go for it.”
So, I signed up.
Not wanting to depend on our smaller airport for a timely connection with my international flight, I chose to fly out from Chicago to Munich, then to Tel Aviv. I flew to Chicago a day early, and on the way home (Tel Aviv to Frankfurt to Chicago) I stayed over two nights to sleep off some jet lag and see friends. The view from my O’Hare Hilton Hotel:
I intended to blog my way through the trip, but found the itinerary so physically active that I usually fell asleep right after dinner. Also, our guide talked nonstop, plus we had four lecturers–Muslim, Jewish, Bedouin, and Christian, so my head ached with the overflow, and, come evening, I couldn’t think of anything but pillows and comforters and safety locks.
Very soon I realized I’d not be able to concentrate enough to take notes, not easy for a known compulsive note taker, but I consoled myself that none of my seventeen fellow travelers was taking notes either.
So, over the next few blog posts, I will try to recall and piece together the highlights of my trip. Arriving on United to Munich airport (Flughafen Munchen), the second busiest airport in Germany, on November 18, I looked down to see this tiny hamlet among rolling fields:
Of course, the Munich Airport was BIG, I’d had two hours sleep on the eight and a half hour flight, and I wasn’t still where I needed to go. Gluing my eyes to signage, I race/sleep-walked more than 46 gates to make it to my Lufthansa connection to Tel Aviv. Sweating, with pulse thumping, I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare.
Reaching the Tel Aviv airport (Ben Gurion) nearly four hours later, the terrain presented mountains of desert surrounding this “White City.” Our guide (and Wikipedia) explained “The White City refers to a collection of over 4,000 buildings built in a unique form of the Bauhaus or International Style in Tel Aviv from the 1930s by German Jewish architects who immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine after the rise of the Nazis. Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in the Bauhaus/International Style of any city in the world.” In 2003, UNESCO declared Tel Aviv a World Cultural Heritage site.
I will have more pictures of Tel Aviv at the end of my trip, but for now, enlarge the photo below and note the long pleasant sandy seashore along the Mediterranean. (To enlarge, click on photo.)
At Ben Gurion, I had to breath deeply as the crowd carried me from my arrival gate out to the entrance. Many folks were waving placards high in the air alerting arrivals to their rides. There was no Road Scholar placard. There was no place to park myself to open my backpack to find the directions should I need to find my way by cab by myself to the hotel in Jerusalem, 57 km away. There was no time to panic because I had to stabilize myself, or I’d get carried along to the outside that was darkening at that hour.
Just as I was taking another breath and talking myself out of panic mode, up and awake now, you realize for more hours than I care to recall, I spotted a tall man with dark hair, eyes darting over the top of heads in the crowd, and I thought I caught a glimpse of a red rim around a placard he had clutched face down to his chest. Barreling my way through the crowd, I yelled, “Are you Road Scholar?” He lowered his head to see where my frantic plea was coming from and he headed toward me. “Are you Louise?”
Of course, I’d answer to anything at that point to get out of the throngs and safely to my scheduled ride to Jerusalem.
He deposited me with a swarthy-looking cab driver who also called me Louise. I asked to see his docket so I knew he was supposed to take me and not some real Louise, and there it was, Lois Roelofs. I was very, very happy to see my name.
It was rush hour. The highway did not appear to have lanes, there were a lot of curves, a lot of weaving in and out, and a lot of slamming of brakes.
In the backseat of the cab, I giggled to myself. Here I am, I thought, nearly 77 years old, careening dangerously with a stranger through Israel’s rush hour, and I was reminded of a phrase I used to say when folks wondered about Marv’s and my safety when we moved downtown Chicago. I’d assured everyone, after years of wanting to live downtown, that if I was raped, robbed, mugged or murdered, just know I died happy.
I was sorry to think I’d not told my kids the same thing before I’d taken this trip. And I was ever so happy when I finally arrived at the designated hotel in Jerusalem and found fellow Road Scholars in the lobby. I’d made it; intact, and by myself. My first international trip alone. I knew Marv would be proud. More to come…