Hello, friends! I have arrived safe and sound (and exhausted) in the Holy Land. I’m writing at the end of my day and somewhere in the middle of yours, is my guess. I’m starting to write this at around 10:00pm on January 8 in Tiberias while you’re probably at 2:00pm on January 8 Minneapolis (or Fridley, if you prefer).
Here I am, safe and sound!
Here I am, jetlagged and cranky.
It’s all part of the experience.
This is my first entry in chronicling my journey to the Holy Land as part of a ~70 member group of clergy, laity, and friends of the Minnesota and Dakotas Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church. Our Bishop is leading the charge and we’re touring with Educational Opportunities. You’ll find I tend to write about a lot of minutiae and if that ends up too much, well, that’s what bolded headlines are for so you can better pick and choose what you want to read.
Thank you so much for support, readership, comments, shares, and prayers over the next two weeks! On to Day #1. But first, a plea:
Help me get my photos from a Samsung Galaxy S5 to a Macbook, please!
For the life of me, I simply can’t figure this out and my good friend, the Internet, isn’t being so helpful right now. Any thoughts on this? The sooner you know how to do this, the sooner I can add photos to this and other posts. I thought I found a way to upload photos from my phone via the WordPress app, however it timed out and the process is a little more painstaking (I intended this post to show up during your day and it’s going to show up later because I let it try to post overnight for me). In the meantime, I’ll see what I can do.
From Minneapolis to Philadelphia.
Kelly and I had a chance to spend the morning together (the morning of January 7th, Day 1, and here I’m at the end of the evening of January 8th, Day 2) as I did my final packing for the trip. For those whom have experienced me leaving for a trip, I’m happy to report there was much less scrambling than usual and I was, for the most part, fairly prepared (well, we did have to go back to get my sunglasses, but other than that…). Vacuum seal bags help keep the luggage compact and I picked up a small luggage scale and ended up coming in underweight with the hope I can bring home a few souvenirs. Anyone else usually an over-packer? Yeah, me, too. This time, I purposefully packed less of the “extra” and perhaps under-packed by just a tad and I’m okay with that. What kind of packer are you? Let me know in the comments.
Kelly dropped me off at the airport at 12:20pm for a 2:00pm and it was plenty of time on a Wednesday. Let me say now that I couldn’t do this trip without her support, and thank her so much. (You’re my BFF, Kiddo.) Security was a breeze and the gate was easy to find. There, I ran into some familiar faces from around Minnesota and met many new faces, too. The flight to Philly was great. Cozy, even took a nice nap. US Airways didn’t give me the entire can of cranberry cocktail, just a cup, and I still survived. I didn’t do as well with the landing as I’d like, feeling a little queasy. That surprised me and hopefully isn’t a sign of things to come.
Philedelphia Airport: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good: I really appreciated that the airport in Philly had free wifi throughout the terminal. I haven’t flown since 2011 and this was my first experience with free wifi at the airport and I appreciated the chance to shoot off a few last-minute work emails and a chance to Skype video chat with the family. The girls were a lot of fun, screaming and squealing with delight at the video connection, to the point that Bishop’s wife, Char, could hear those screaming, happy little ones from twenty feet away!
The Bad: pizza. It looked much bigger and better on the pan. It looked much smaller and less appetizing on my plate. There must have been some magic in that old pizza oven they used.
The Ugly: I lost my FitBit and security didn’t care. To board the international flight, we had to do one more security check. I emptied my pockets, including my FitBit pedometer, into a bin and between that and coming out the other side, it was gone. I asked them to help me look for it but here’s one of those great truths in life: it’s difficult to explain what a FitBit is to a busy security person at the Philadelphia airport. I made the choice (I won’t say “mistake”) to attempt to step behind a table and was told, “You cannot step behind the table, sir!” I’d promised Kelly I wouldn’t instigate any international incidents while I’m away. I’m not sure if this near-miss national incident would have counted. But lucky me, just as I resigned myself to the FitBit being gone forever, there it was on the ground, far away from the table. I’m not the sort of person who usually blames kids for stuff, but I will say the family immediately proceeding me was jostling and messing with the bins. Hmm… Well, I picked it up and told security, “I found it, thank you.” Why did I thank them? I have no idea.
Flying Over the Atlantic with Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Captain America, and Restless Legs.
I’m a fidgeter and a 9 (10?) hour flight across the Atlantic doesn’t go well with that. I tend to shuffle, move, and readjust quite a bit if I’m sitting more than an hour and this was no exception. The jet was one of those big ones with three rows of 2, 4, then 2. I was in the left aisle of the middle 4-seat row, so I had plenty of space. I found getting up every once in a while was helpful and broke the flight up into sections. People who are worried about my tendency to be “that guy” in public will be happy to know that when a group of 30+ college students all wearing Maryland gear showed up for the flight, I did not ask them if they go to Maryland. It was hard, but I didn’t do it.
Also had a chance to catch up on my 2014 films with free in-flight movies. First I watched Skeleton Twins with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig and I really liked it. Some tough material in there, some funny moments, and great relationships. I also finally saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and thought that was a blast. That film is an example of the wide, expansive world building Marvel is doing in their film universe and the vastness of the evil plot ol’ Cap has to take down was rather clever. Since having kids, we really don’t see a lot of movies anymore and this flight bumped me up to 8 films in 2014, I think, a new high, in my parenting years.
Airplane food gets a bad wrap. This food was decent and of course, how cute it is in those tiny single-serve containers. I am Jack’s utter sense of satisfaction. However, the queasiness returned during the landing. No thanks. What’s your experience of airline food? Yay or nay?
Finally, while I fidgeted the entire flight, we did end up arriving one hour early. Thank you, “good tail winds in Europe.”
Educational Opportunities at Security.
I got through security, no sweat, as did most of the group traveling today. One member of our group was pulled aside for extra questions and since they were the last person in the group I elected to stay behind and assist them or at least serve as a familiar face. It took a while, like over an hour. I got to speak with a lovely representative from the Department of Ministry Internal and a security person who did not appreciate one of my answers (“Do you know this person?” “Like, do I know-know them?” “I did not ask you a question with two knows.” “No, sir, you did not. Allow me to clarify…”). In the end, they were free to go and everything worked out. We ended up meeting a bus of people on our tour who were taking another flight, this one transferring out of Newark. Likewise, I’ve heard our original bus spent a long time just, well, sitting on the bus. I’ve already done plenty of sitting in long metal tubes today, thanks, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, in that regard. I am hopeful my exchange with the security agent is the closest I come to invoking an international incident. And, just in case the NSA is reading this, that is what is called a “joke.” Anybody out there have a memorable airport security story?
I had a friendlier chat with another security person in which I asked what local foods I should try. I’d read the three to definitely try are falafel, hummus, and shawarma. I’ve had all three, but something tells me they’re going to be different (and hopefully better) here than in the US. Without telling him the three options I’d read about, he said, in order, to try the falafel, the hummus, and the shawarma. Good! TripAdvisor and the locals agree! Anything else you’d recommend?
Spending the night in (James) Tiberias (Kirk).
Okay, so Captain Kirk’s middle name has a “u” instead of an “a” but that’s where we are, Tiberias. The plan was to kick off our stay in Bethelehem for a few nights and come to Tiberias for one night in the middle of the trip. However, there’s a snowstorm in Jerusalem and if we go there now, there’s a good chance we’d get snowbound or even have the bus get stuck. Again, no thanks. So here we are, up north in Tiberias.
The hotel is nice and the food is incredible. The beef melted apart on the fork and the fresh-baked bread was unbelievable. I spent most of my time and plate space at the salad bar, though, where there was plenty of fresh hummus, cucumbers, banana peppers (great spice to them!), and one of my favorites, tabouleh. The desserts were excellent and if tonight’s taste of local cuisine is an indication of what’s to come, I’m all for it!
And still more to come!
Tomorrow brings us an early morning. The Tiberias roads are closing at 6:00am for an annual marathon run around the Sea of Galilee so our wake-up call is 4:30am and we’re out the door by 5:45am to check out our first sites. Think I’ll wake up in time? Here’s hoping my roommate, Duane, is better at early mornings than me.
Thank you for reading, I appreciate it very much.