August 31, 2010
I wasn’t sure what date to put on this, since I’m not quite sure what the date is. I guess I should have put September 1st, since it will be 2pm on September 1st when I land, but I thought I’d give a shout out to Tash. Happy birthday sister!
Anyway, as implied, I’m currently on the plane. We’re over eastern Europe, right near Belgrade, the little plane icon tells me. We are 1188 miles from our destination, 2 hours and 9 minutes remaining of our 14 hour excursion.
Man, how about that security at El Al! The weird thing is that what we think of as security, the metal detectors, take out your laptop, take off your shoes, blah blah blah, was exactly the same as normal, if not more lax. That part felt like the Hartford airport, my cutest most favoritist airport in the entire universe. But before you get to that joyous part full of only people who HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO AND TAKE FOREVER TO DO IT, you have to get through your interview with the nice security people at the check-in counter. So I got in the terminal, wheeled my giant bags over to the counter and waited in line. A blonde woman, about 30, called me over to her when there were a few people ahead of me in line. She pulled me into another lane with no people in it, and started asking me questions. Why am I traveling to Israel? What kind of program? What kind of volunteering? How did you find this program? Who have you met from this program? Who do you know in Israel? Why don’t you speak Hebrew? She seemed very unthrilled that I had found the program through Google, I speak no Hebrew, I don’t know my volunteer placement, and I’ve never met anyone from the program. Then she asked if I ever did anything Jewish, so I said I went to Jewish Sunday school, a “super reform” community (sorry Sholem.) She asked how we did the holidays, and I mentioned that we do all the holidays, like Rosh Hashona and Passover, and we have a Passover seder. She asked me what was on the seder plate, which I thought was hilarious. I told her, including that I hate parsely. I thought that might give it the human (aka not bomber) touch she was looking for. After a while, she went over and talked to her supervisor, a pretty brunette lady about the same age, who then came over with her. The supervisor asked me some of the same questions and some new ones. They were very insistent on why I chose Tikkun Olam over other programs. Super not thrilled with me. The supervisor told me straight up: “I’m concerned someone is using you to bring a bomb on board.” I was like…well how do you respond to that? “No?” I mean, seriously. No answer sounds good in that situation. But the supervisor finally left and the blonde lady asked me for another 5 minutes about whether anyone else had access to my bags or if there was anything in them I didn’t already have before. I declined to mention the billions of things I just bought, and all the people who had been in our house lately and had access to my suitcases. It worked, and finally I was allowed to check in and go through the limited regular security. I thought there might be extra security at the gate, since the metal detector was for all international flights, not just El Al, but there wasn’t. It was super chill once I got through. I had a hot dog with the most creepy and brilliantly hunter green pickle relish I have ever encountered, and then got on the flight.
Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, there is no one in the middle seat, so Chaim, my seat mate, and I get to stretch out. It’s awesome. So far I’ve watched “Remember the Titans,” which never fails to make me cry, and half of “The Backup Plan” with J-Lo (!) until it turned into French. All the movies on here have one channel in English and one in French, both with Hebrew subtitles, which I find slightly strange. I guess more movies are dubbed into French than into Hebrew. I’m just glad they have them in English.
It is very weird being in an environment where I don’t speak the language AT ALL. They tend to make most announcements in Hebrew then English, but some are just in Hebrew. I hope they aren’t saying anything I need to know. I just keep telling myself to remember how much I don’t know now, so I can dazzle myself when I fly back with my awesome understanding. The guy next to me, Chaim (or Chaim Potock, as I think of him,) asked if I spoke Hebrew. I said no, and he said: “You’re going to Israel. You should speak Hebrew.” I was like, thanks for the opinion, Chaim. Way to be useful. Just, thanks.
However, the good thing about this flight is that they served us food! Real airplane food! And it was pretty good too. I was happy. There was a brownie. And hummus, shocker, but with nothing to dip in it. I was confused. It was Sabra hummus though, so that was fun. Good bread.
I think there is youth group here on their way to Israel. They are going into their senior year of high school, and are, as you expect, rather annoying. Two of the guys were talking about what they would do if they came home and their dog started talking. One guy said: “I’d literally shit my pants, and then beat up my dog.” What a winner.
Well, they have turned the lights on and are starting to serve “breakfast” (WHAT TIME IS IT???) so I should put this away. Hopefully the rest of this flight goes quickly, and there is actually someone there to meet me from Tikkun Olam! And hopefully I get through customs without any hiccups. I’m sorry I don’t speak Hebrew, future customs person! If you let me in, I will! I promise!
P.S. Odd fact: yesterday (WHAT DAY IS IT???) when I was using the coinstar machine to make all my coins turn into real money, I found one South African penny and one restaurant token for a place in Indiana. It was strange.