Hannah and Je together

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Second Day – First Day in Class

I left SunCity hotel at 5:10 in the morning for Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.  There I got on a but to Jerusalem at 5:50.  Then I went to Damascus gate by the light railway in Jerusalem.  And this time also, I got help from a Jewish guy.  He was very caring and concerning about me, and try to give me as much tips as possible such as to buy bus ticket to travel cheaper in Jerusalem.

I got two school for this summer: Hebrew University in Israel and Bethlehem University in Palestine.  They both gave me instructions how to get there.  The Hebrew University emailed me with a map attached with has pin points on the map where I can get a bus and where we would gather and meet.  From Bethlehem University, I also got a text email just saying “Take Arab bus number 21 in Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  And walk to school or taxi if you like.”  But I don’t know where to get on the Arab bus.  I googled many times, and asked many people, but I failed to get an answer.  It took me more than three weeks to figure out what is Arab bus and where is the station.  And even in Bethlehem, quite many people do not know what and where is Bethlehem University, including a police officer.

Anyway, I got on the Arab bus 21 at Damascus gate.  I was the only passenger in the bus.  The bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was packed like sardine, but the bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was empty.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University

I went to the University directly by taxi.  And I learned some Arabic beginning with pronunciation.  McCormick travel group may remember this building.

There is another difference between Hebrew University and Bethlehem University, and it is about money.  Hebrew University has much flexibility.  I can pay in US dollar, Euro, or Israel Shekel.  They told me I can pay anytime or any day I want.  And I also can pay in cash, credit card, or cheque.  But Bethlehem university emphasized many time through several emails that the students MUST pay at the FIRST DAY in US Dollar ONLY and in CASH ONLY.

My room for one month

My room for one month

After the class, I met a gentleman from England who also stay at a family in Beit Sahour, the same town of my hosting family.  We were supposed to go to the Siraj centre.  So we shared a cab.  The teacher and staff at the University told us that it is about 15 shekel and do NOT pay more than 20.  We said that to the taxi driver.  He did not say anything at first, but be suddenly said that we need to pay 50 shekel because we are two people, so it must be double price.  We argued about the price, and he began to yelled at us.  We said that 20 is maximum we can pay.  Then the taxi driver dropped us on a street.  We thought we were at Siraj centre.  After we got off he asked again 5 more shekels from us which we did not give.  And we found out that we were not there.  We walked ten minutes to the centre.  I had another very bad experience with Palestinians.  I don’t really know why I keep having bad experiences with the Palestinians.

The centre called the hosting family, and they came to the centre to pick me up.  The family is Palestinian Christian.  They are very nice.  And the photo above is my room for one month.

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty First Day – Back to Israel

So, I got on the bus at Cairo to Dahab.  And all my plan and schedule was with enough buffer, I thought.

Typical Muslim Lady

Typical Muslim Lady

I took a picture of Muslim lady who literally covers top to toe.  If I include her glasses in her covering, she covered almost all of herself.  It is not difficult to find such lady in Egypt, which is one of the most open country in Arab world.

Daewoo Bus

Daewoo Bus

This is the bus, and it is made by DAEWOO.  How many decades ago that company disappeared?

Even though I had more than enough buffer in my schedule going back, there was two big problems.  The first is from Egypt.  Even though McCormick travel group complained a lot about Israeli checkpoint, we need to admit that there is no checkpoint inside Israel territory or inside Palestine territory.  But in Egypt, there are so many checkpoints within Egyptian territory.  From Cairo to Dahab, dozens.  And from Dahab to Taba, also dozens.  I think I crossed almost 40 or 50 checkpoints from Cairo to Taba.  Half of them just stopped the bus, and check easily.  The other half checked the IDs and passports of all the passengers in the bus.  This delayed more than three hours than the schedule.  I thought I would be in Taba around 10am, but I was there at 2:30pm.

The other problem was at Israel border.  I understand the situation of war, but they checked me and many other passengers so badly.  They asked me tons of questions.

Officer: Why do you have soaps?
Je: Because I wash everyday.
Officer: What is this?
Je: It says shampoo.
Officer: Why do you have shampoos?
Je: You don’t know what the shampoo is for?
Officer: Why do you have music CD?
Je: Because I listen to music.

Then they opened my bag and suitcase, and checked every single item, even my unwashed underwear.  I warned them but they touched.  So I advised them to wash their hands before eat anything.  The Israeli border took slightly more than two hours for me.  But I met a guy from Texas who spent four hours.  This guy is actually quite annoying, and he made some racism joke to a Singapore American.

Israel side of the border

Israel side of the border

Israel side of the border is better in many ways.  First, people line up.  Yes, the exactly same people who made chaos in Egyptian side line up.  And there are many convenient facilities including water fountain (which is very precious in this hot weather), restroom, money exchange, and so on.

Anyway when I went to the central bus station in Eilat, it was about 5:10pm.  And the last bus to Jerusalem already left long time ago.  But I could not stay in Eilat.  If I depart Eilat tomorrow morning, I would be in Bethlehem in the afternoon around 3 or 4pm.  So I got on the bus to Tel Aviv.

SunCity Hotel, Tel Aviv

SunCity Hotel, Tel Aviv

When I was in Egypt, it was almost impossible to find a free WIFI.  Even the most expensive hotel in Luxor does not provide free WIFI.  The bad hotel in Cairo has free WIFI in the lobby (not in the room), but it is only ten minutes.  But in Israel it is much easier to find free WIFI.  And I realise even the inter-city bus (EGGED bus) has free WIFI!

I hit Tel Aviv at midnight.  And I went to a nearby hotel – SunCity hotel.  And the very first thing at the check-in was their instruction what to do when I hear siren because they have sirens and alarms minimum twice everyday anytime.  SunCity hotel is good one with nice staff who tries to help me as much as possible.  But the facility itself is quite old.  But I prefer this one rather than Le Meridien Hotel in Cairo where they have shiny facility with bad employees.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirtieth Day – Second Day in Cairo

I began today by visiting the Old Cairo, especially Christian area.

Brand New Roman Tower

Brand New Roman Tower

This is Roman Tower which is about 1500 years old, if my memory serves me right.  After seeing all the greatness and glories of three or four thousand years old Egypt, anything less than 2,000 years is brand new to me.

Hanging Church in Cairo

Hanging Church in Cairo

This is so-called hanging church which is built upon the two Roman pillars.  There are many relics and painting of St. Mark.  As Catholic regard St. Peter as their founding father, Copts regard St. Mark as their founding father.

Home of the Holy Family

Home of the Holy Family

This is the place where they believe that the Holy Family lived and hid themselves from the threat of Herod the Great.  Egyptians are very proud that they hosted the Holy Family with hospitality.

Salah Al-Din Citadel

Salah Al-Din Citadel

Then I went to Salah Al-Din Citadel.  He is well-known to the Christians too because he defeated the Crusaders.

Mosque in the Citadel

Mosque in the Citadel

This is the mosque inside the citadel.  I was told that (all) mosques have plain bottom and floor with beautiful ceiling so that they can make the people focus on their prayer.

Cairo Overview

Cairo Overview

The citadel gives a good view of Cairo.

Egyptian Cats.

Egyptian Cats.

Then I went to the oldest market in Cairo.  And look what I found!  Eventually I found Egyptian cats!  All the Egyptians told me that they have tons of cats, but I have not seen almost any.  Now in this old market, I saw several cats.

Ceiling of the Oldest Market in Cairo

Ceiling of the Oldest Market in Cairo

This is the remaining column and ceiling of the oldest market.

Revolutionary Plaza

Revolutionary Plaza

Then I went to the famous Egyptian Museum.  And right in front of it, there is a big plaza where the Egyptians began and completed their revolution.

Cairo Security

Cairo Security

McCormick Group always complained the soldiers on the streets with rifles.  How about this?

Cairo Security

Cairo Security

In Egypt, you can see not only rifles and soldiers, but also tanks and armoured military vehicles a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  They are everywhere.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

There are so many cool things inside the Egyptian Museum, but photographs are entirely forbidden inside the museum.  I could not take any.

Cairo on Fire

Cairo on Fire

One thing you can see everywhere in Cairo is the mountains of trashes where on the streets, roads, and highways.  And the smoke does not mean Cairo was under attack, but people were burning the trashes.  It is bad for the environment, and for their health too.

I went back to the hotel and rested a bit.  And when I was checking out, I had a trouble with the hotel.  I’ve never used the phone in the room and they charged me for the phone use.  Eventually I did not pay anything, but I had so bad memory about Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Cairo.  I will write another blog about the experiences in this hotel.

Nile Dinner Cruise

Nile Dinner Cruise

Then I went to the Nile Dinner Cruise.  The food was OK.  And they also charged me 15 L.E which is about $2.  Isn’t it supposed to play live music in those Cruise Dinner?  Two singers were singing but with the Karaoke machine.

I found that 80% of the people in the cruise were in a wedding reception.  It was very loud with the dancing new couple.  And actually after cruise, there was another wedding was going on in the harbour.  So I saw one wedding reception, and four weddings in Egypt.  Wow.  Is it wedding season in Egypt now?

Belly Dancer

Belly Dancer

After a while, a fat belly dancer came out and danced.  I’ve never seen such an abundant belly dancer in my entire life.  I thought the Muslim women would hate this kind of things, but actually almost all ladies (covering top to toe) were taking video of the belly dancer dancing.

Spinning Skirt Dancer

Spinning Skirt Dancer

Then a guy wearing double skirts did spin-dancing for more than ten minutes.  He spun without resting for ten minutes and he was not dizzy.  Amazing.

Bus to Dahab

Bus to Dahab

Then I went to the East Delta Bus station to go back to Israel overnight.  But I found that there is no direct bus from Cairo to Taba.  In most undeveloped countries, internet information is always out of date.  I was told from the ticketing guy that they used to have direct bus to Taba, but after they got terror on that bus (where Korean tourists were killed), the government shutdown the line.  But the websites still says the bus runs from Cairo to Taba.

They say that the bus would arrive at Dahab at 7.  From Dahab to Taba takes little more than two hours.  So let me say I will be at Taba at 10.  Crossing the border would take 30 minutes.  So I will be in Eilat around 11.  From Eilat to Jerusalem takes five hours.  And I will be in Jerusalem at 4pm.  To Bethlehem less than an hour.  So I may be in the hosting house hopefully 6pm or at least 9 or 10pm tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Sixth Day – Eilat and Red Sea

Not like the other day, I got up at five (one more hour sleep!).  And reported to the excavation office so that they know I will not be here any more and also they called a cab.

Double Deck Israel Railway Train

Double Deck Israel Railway Train

I went to the Pades-Hannah railway station.  And on the way while in the cab, I saw two girls sitting on the bench of a bus stop.  One girl is a Muslim because she was wearing and covering top to toe except small part of her face.  The other girl was in IDF (Israel army) uniform.  They were talking and laughing together.  I do not know whether they just met at the bus stop or have been friends for long.  But the scene was very emotional to me, especially at this time of war between Israel and Gaza, killing each other.  I saw hope, and I saw a bright future from them.

This is my first time to get on the Israel train.  And to my surprise, it is double-deck!  My train trip was from Hannah to Tel Aviv.

Are these founders of Tel Aviv?

Are these founders of Tel Aviv?

And I came to Tel Aviv, the economic capital of Israel.  One thing I do not like about Israel is that they do not announce in English at all, not in a bus nor in a railway trains.  Korean buses and subways always announce in English.

I had some problem finding where to get on the bus number 25 so that I can go to Egyptian Embassy.  I asked a girl on the street, and she was with a lady.  The lady called bus company and asked how to go to Egyptian embassy.  She spoke in Hebrew but I understood one word – Mitzraim, which is Egypt.

Again, the bus driver does not speak English, but also again, I got help from a passenger.  When I went to the Egyptian embassy, it was closed without any notice.  There was no notice in their website too.  The guard their just said, “tomorrow” whatever I asked.  So I asked:

Je: Is “tomorrow” the only word you know?
He: Yes, yes. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

I guess it is some kind of Egyptian holiday.  So I went to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, and bought the ticket to Eilat.  I bought the ticket at 9:33 and was told that the bus left three minutes ago.  Next bus is 11am.  Well, what can I do?

Highway Stop before Beersheva

Highway Stop before Beersheba

McCormick Group, do you remember here?  We stopped here last January when we were going to Beersheba.  Today we also stopped here before we hit Beersheba.  This was the first Aroma that I tasted, and was good.

Negev Desert

Negev Desert

The bus ride was almost five hours.  And the scene of the Negev desert was just wow.

Fish on  the Road

Fish on the Road

When I got to Eilat, the heat from the ground was great.  And there were many fish marks on the road.

Fish Statue in Eilat

Fish Statue in Eilat

And also many fish statues.  Eilat is the southmost city of Israel, and just before Eilat, we passed the checkpoint.  And McCormick group already experienced, two soldiers with semi-auto rifle came on board.  Maybe because of war, almost half of the bus passengers were in IDF uniform, and half of them were with semi-auto rifles.

Eilat Youth Hostel and Guest House

Eilat Youth Hostel and Guest House

I walked to the hostel and it was just 10 minutes but I was sweating like Niagara Falls.  The Eilat Youth Hostel and Guest House has very nice view.  You can see the Red Sea from the picture above.  This room is shared by five people and breakfast is served.  I booked via Booking.com and paid $30, and I got to know if you book directly, the cost is 120 NIS which is $40.

Red Sea is blue

Red Sea is blue

There is a sea and who can endure the temptation of the sea in this piping hot weather?  This is the Red Sea which Moses cut in half (but of course not at this spot).  I do not understand why the name is Red Sea.  It looks like Blue Sea to my eyes.

Because I could not go to the Egyptian Embassy or Consulate General, I will go to the border early in the morning.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Fifth Day – Last day of digging

Today is my last day of digging.  Tomorrow I go to Tel Aviv to get the Egyptian Visa, and then Eilat to stay a night.

Still Digging

Still Digging

Because it is the last week of excavation, we were supposed to clean up all week for the last day aerial photo shoot, but we were actually digging more and more.  It is OK because I am leaving now, but I guess it would be very hard Wednesday.  Photo shoot is Thursday, and they must clean up by Wednesday.

My lovely Trainers

My lovely Trainers

After I finished my digging today, I threw away my trousers and shoes.  Both I bought in Canada as work pants and work shoes, and I wore them about five or six years.

Bottom of the shoes

Bottom of the shoes

This is the bottom of my shoe.  My Nike shoes travelled from Canada to US, Israel/Palestine twice and finally died in Israel.

From Tel Aviv to Cairo is about 250 miles or 403 km.  The distance between New York and Chicago is 713 miles or 1147 km.  It is about one-third, and the airfare is over $400 and also it took 15 hours mostly because of waiting for the connection.  Stupid.

Well, anyway I need to get the Egyptian Visa by tomorrow.  And I need a passport photo, which I do not have right now.  And I do not know where I can take my passport photo in Tel Aviv.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifteenth Day – Back to Jerusalem

In the morning, we got on the mini-bus from the Kedma Village to Jerusalem.  I got off at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

Jerusalem Central Bus Station

Jerusalem Central Bus Station

People were talking about the cloud, which is very weird to have the sky covered with clouds in this dry season.  I had a brunch with Dr. Choi at Aroma.

Gloria Hotel's View

Gloria Hotel’s View

Finally I came back to Gloria Hotel in the Old City Jerusalem near Jaffa Gate.  This is the view from my new room 151.  I stayed at 178 last week.  Then I turned on the TV set to update myself with the news of Israel-Gaza conflict because I spent a week without TV and with very limited internet.  But the more terrible and shocking news welcomed me – the airplane crash in Ukraine.  They did not really say almost anything about Israel-Gaza war.

After taking some rest, I went to the Tour Information to ask about the transportation to Tel Aviv tomorrow which is Shabbat.  But the information booth was closed at 1:30 because Shabbat begins this evening.

Empty Western Wall

Empty Western Wall

I wanted to the church of ascension, and went by the Western Wall.  While I was approaching the Western Wall, there were series of gun shooting sounds, and almost every was backed up.  And there were so many police cars and vans there.  You can notice that almost no body was at the wall praying, in comparison how it is packed with people especially Friday.  I asked someone what was happening, and was told that the muslims in the mosque are praying with shooting the guns with blank bullets.  But I’ve been in Western Wall a few Fridays, and heard nothing so far.  The orthodox Jew told me that they do not usually but when there is high tension, they do.

While the war is going on, and there are gun shooting noises, I found an airship in the sky.  And the city was as usual.

Pater Noster

Pater Noster

Before I went to the church of ascension, I went to the Pater Noster where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.  There are Lord’s Prayer in a few different languages.  This one looks like Hebrew, but it is Chaldean.  There was small admission fee of 8 NIS.

Church of Ascension

Church of Ascension

Then I went to the church of ascension, and was very disappointed.  Not like the title on the map, it was not a church but a mosque, very small mosque.  You have to pay 5 NIS, but almost nothing to see.  It is said that the foot print of Jesus when he ascended into heaven.

Tomb of the Prophets

Tomb of the Prophets

Then I went to the Tomb of the prophets, but was not able to enter because it was locked.  According to the Jewish tradition, it is the tomb of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Church of Mary Magdalene from Dominus Flevit

Church of Mary Magdalene from Dominus Flevit

Then I went to the Dominus Flevit.  It is Latin means “The Lord wept.”  And they found Second Temple Period and Byzantine tombs.  The above picture is the church of Mary Magdalene viewed from the Dominus Flevit.

When I came out of the Dominus Flevit, I saw a Palestinian old man begging.  He said, “I am poor.  Give me some shekels.”  So I gave him 14 NIS which was all the money I had then.  Then he said, “Give me more, give me more!”  And I told him that I do not have more.  Then he angrily said, “20 dollar more! I am poor! 20 dollar!”  I lost my words, and just walked down the hill.

Focaccia Salad

Focaccia Salad

I got some more rest, and went to Kikkar Zion (Zion Plaza) on Jaffa Street and Ben Yehudah Street to meet some people dug together at Tel Lachish.  I was worried because the Shabbat already begun and I see the whole city is stopped without any visible restaurants open.  They brought me to Focaccia Bar in the back street, and wow! The whole city is like divided into two, either synagogue or here.  We met Professor Yossi there too!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Sixth Day – Golan Heights

For the first time in this trip, I used tour service.  Until now, I just walked around by myself in Jerusalem, but today, I went to Golan Heights Day Trip.

Jerusalem trip this time was a little bit different because I did not use any modern transportation except to the Museums.  Through the last January McCormick trip, I realised that the Old City Jerusalem is very small, along with other friends in the travel group.  But this time, I am surprised that Old City Jerusalem is way smaller than that I realised before.  Last time, we walked in part here and there, but we used bus to travel between the sites, for example, we were on the bus from Gethsemane to the City of David.  So the parts of walking experience, which is Jerusalem geographical knowledge, were not connected each other but scattered in my brain.  But this time, I walked any and everywhere.  I now have complete Jerusalem knowledge in my brain.  I walked and circled Jerusalem a few time on the wall, along the wall.  I walked inside the Old City, I walked outside the Old City.  Circling the Old City took less than four hours including stopping and resting and everything, but if the people in the past (or even I now) hurried and ran in an emergency, circling Old City Jerusalem, I bet, would take less than two hours.

And the city which David built, and it not included current Old City Jerusalem, is very small and possibly one tenth or one eighth of Jerusalem size.  Now I realised that when we think and talk about the city in the old day, we should not think about modern-day cities such as Seoul or Chicago.  In the ancient days, even a modern block or two could make a city.

I am sorry to say that but it was possible because I was alone.  I am not talking about my wife but any one.  If I had any company, even a strong guy, I could have not walk this much.  I used to walk two hours everyday for six years to and from school for Middle and High school.  I think during this trip I walked the most except the military marching training.  Until now, I walked from 7am until 6pm except for lunch.

Baptismal Site

Baptismal Site

So I went to Golan Height by Bein Harim Tourism Services.  They picked me up at David Citadel Hotel which is around 8 minutes walking.  They were supposed to pick me up at 5:50 but they came 20 minutes later, which is typical here.

Then the bus went to Tel Aviv where the people from everywhere were reorganised by their trip destination.

My group was small of six, or seven including the guide/driver.  The guide is Jewish guy, but the strange thing is all other tourists are Jewish except me.  Some are Jews from America (New Jersey), some are Jews from Iran (but good English-speaking), and some are from other part of the world.

And I realised that most Israelis does not like President Obama.  The guide who claimed himself as centre right told me that he was almost fighting with “his” tour group from Chicago.  But this kind of composition gave me the opportunity to listen to whole new perspective.  The Palestinians tend to think about the relationship between Jews and them, but the Jews (right-wing or centre right Jews) think more about the neighbouring countries, Palestinian problem is not the big thing to them.

Fish in the Baptismal site

Fish in the Baptismal site

Our first destination was the Baptismal site on Jordan river, right south of the Sea of Galilee.  Speaking of Galilee, the Lake Superior is a lake in modern term, but the Sea of Galilee is a sea in ancient term which we can guess about their term of city.  The tradition says that John the Baptist baptised Jesus here, but many scholars do not agree now.  But it is true that somewhere on Jordan river.  It is very beautiful place, and there are lots of small fish.  When I put my feet, they came and kissed and tickled me.  Actually they tried to eat me, but it is just that I am too big and they are too small.

Three countries in one sight

Three countries in one sight

Then we went to some place on the way to the Golan Heights where we can see three countries of Israel, Jordan, and Syria.  On this picture above, we are standing on Israel land, the other side of the valley is Jordan, and the mountain area in the far back is Syria.  Golan Heights are right above the Galilee, and Syrians used to fire rockets to Israeli Galilee from the Golan Heights using the escalated heights when they had this land.  According to the guide, Israel government suggested the peace agreement offering the Golan Heights, but Syria refused.

Scribe in Qazrin

Scribe in Qazrin

Then we went to Qazrin, the Talmudic village which is after the Biblical periods.  Israeli archaeological scholars found and excavated this village after they annexed Golan Heights.  This is the scribe’s room attached to the synagogue.  He is real scribe whose main job is copying the Torah and side job is writing the blessings for the tourists.  But it looks like his main and side job switched.  It was fun watching him writing some Hebrew words.

Olive Oil Lab

Olive Oil Lab

This is the lab of Olea Olive Oil Factory.  They grow their own olive trees, use only their own olives to make their products.  They showed us a short film about them, and I liked the demonstrations.  Their olive oils are so tasty, but I did not buy.  They also make many different skincare products from the residue of olive, and I bought two for my wife.

View from Golan Heights

View from Golan Heights

Then we went a few more places to see the scenery.  This is the place adjacent to Syria.  But the road up there was so steep, and I was worried if the van full of bags and people can climb up that steep hill.  And the bad feelings always come true.  The engine stopped when the guide tried to shift from the second gear to the first (yes, the van is standard shift).  The guide tried to start the van like ten times, but failed because it was too steep.  There was almost no traffic which was good for us, not blocking any traffic.  But almost all cars stopped and ask if we are OK.  Even a car before us came back to see if we are OK.  The Jewish guide became so happy and said, “This is typical Israelis.  We care each other, we love each other.”  Finally the guide reversed the van and went to a less steep runway in the corner, and the van began to move in the first gear.  We stayed in the first gear until we climbed all the way.

It was nice because the Golan Heights was not covered in the last McCormick trip.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Another Half of Second Day – Arrival

The flight from Zürich to Tel Aviv was good.  I still had emergency exit seat with enough legroom.  I had playful and delightful twin babies.  There were a few babies crying in the plane, but everybody around me was normal – no kissing, no drinking, no loud talking.

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel

Finally I landed at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport.  The immigration lines were long.  I guess this is because of recent violences in Jerusalem.  The officers were asking so many questions to people, including when and where they are planned to stay.  After long wait, I went to the officer.  I told him that I am taking summer course at Hebrew University and I am from America.  He just checked my passport and flight ticket, and let me go without asking any other questions.

Bathroom Sign in Ben Gurion Airport

Bathroom Sign in Ben Gurion Airport

This is bathroom sign in Ben Gurion airport.  It looks normal, but I think the Hebrew writing is funny.  Women in Hebrew is Women, but Men in Hebrew language says Warrior.

There are two ATMs in the airport, and one of them was broken, which caused huge line formed.  But six people in a row failed to draw money, and they said, “it’s not working.”  Instantly the line disappeared, but I decided to try, and it worked.  I’ve got my money.  And again, the huge line formed instantly after me.

Shuttle or Shared Taxi

Shuttle or Shared Taxi

My actual plan was to ride a taxi to Jerusalem.  I have to ride taxi when I come back to this airport because that would be around midnight.  But now, it is bright daylight, not even 4pm.  I thought there must be cheaper transportation to Jerusalem.  And I found a shuttle or shared taxi.  It costed me 64 NIS (New Israeli Shekel), roughly less than $25.

City Wall near Jaffa Gate

City Wall near Jaffa Gate

This is the city wall near the Jaffa Gate.  But I could not find my hotel easily, so I asked the security soldier with machine guns.  They pointed with fingers, “there.”  And they pointed another place, “or maybe there.”  Nice.  Thank you for being playful with a tourist.  You guys are very entertaining.  Then I found an information booth, so I went in and was guided.  It was really close.  Oh I miss Google Maps. And my wife more.

Glorious Gloria Hotel

Glorious Gloria Hotel

My original booking was Knights’ Palace around New Gate (still in Old City), but they emailed me two weeks ago, saying they will maintenance shut down the Knights’ Palace, and would like to move me to Gloria Hotel since they have same staff, same service and same owner.

After I unpacked, I just walked in the old city.  Today is Sabbath, so when I was in the Taxi, the West Jerusalem looked like a dead city with nobody on the streets.  But in the city market, so many people walking and living.  I just walked without any plan, destination.  I just walked just to be lost in the market.  But I was not lost.  When I looked around after a walk for a while, I found myself outside the Damascus gate where the White Sister’s Guest house is.  My McCormick travel group stayed there, and we walked always through this gate to go back to the guesthouse.  I think I just remembered the way to the guesthouse.

Then I bought some postcards with international stamps.  They are not cheap at all!  After supper at the Gloria Hotel, now I am dying of fatigue or Jet lag.

2nd Holy Land Trip – First and half of Second Day – Flight

It is my second time to travel to Israel/Palestine.  There are two major differences: I was in a group, and now I am alone.  I flew Lufthansa, and now SWISS (I will say Swiss Air).  And consequently the comparison of Swiss Air and Lufthansa is inevitable.

Swiss Air

Swiss Air

Before I begin the comparison, I ate lunch at Chicago O’Hare. The restaurant named Big Bowl was expensive, untasty, and little amount.  I would not eat again.

Many people in my last travel group said that we were so spoiled by Lufthansa, and I totally agree, but Swiss Air also runs AirBus and the planes are equally good, or slightly better in a few ways.

Hanger Sign

Hanger Sign

In Lufthansa, I had hard time to figure out what the small button was, which was actually just a hanger.  But Swiss Air has bigger hanger and also has hanger sign on it so that I can know it easily without any hard guess.

Hat on hanger

Hat on hanger

And as the picture above, I hung my big hat on it.  The thing was, people walking in the narrow airplane aisle touched and dropped my hat almost forty times.

Hat in the pocket

Hat in the pocket

And finally, I began to put my hat in the wall pocket. Problem solved.

Swiss Air’s entertainment system was equally good as Lufthansa, but its control was better.  Lufthansa has touch screen which did not function as it should be while Swiss Air has wired remote which is easier to control.

Baby Bassinet

Baby Bassinet

And I think Lufthansa also has this, but I’ve never seen airplane wall hanging baby bassinet before.  In my second flight from Zürich to Tel Aviv, I sat next to twin babies.  They were so cute and adorable, and amazingly they never cried, but pleasantly playing and laughing the whole time!

Enough Legroom

Enough Legroom

The best of the Swiss Air was that I could choose my seat when I booked the flight, and I got the emergency exit seat which comes with more spacious legroom than business seat.  Having enough legroom is so great and amazing, I understood why people pay a lot to buy upper-class flight.  But still, I would not pay the first or business class.

But the flight was not that pleasant, especially the one from Chicago to Zürich.  I checked the option of Automatic Check-in when I booked, and the night before I got an  email from them notifying that the automatic check-in failed.  So I went to the airport a little bit earlier than that I planned.  And I asked the person behind the counter when I checked-in:

Je: I got an email saying such and such.  What does “Automatic Check-in failed” email means.
He: Automatic Check-in failed means that automatic Check-in failed.
Je: Why?
He: We don’t know.
Je: Is there any problem with me?
He: We don’t know.
Je: Is there any problem with your system?
He: We don’t know.
Je: Will this happen again on my flying back?
He: We don’t know.

Wow. Very kind, eh? And our conversation continued:

He: Sir, you can upgrade your seat.
Je: Oh, really!?
He: Yes, with just $500.

I think he should learn how to make them one sentence.  Then a few hours later, I was at the gate, and when people began to form a line, I was actually the first in boarding line.  I know that all airlines let the families with babies and/or people need help board first (mentioning the business or first class is needless).  And then the lines usually moves in, so I tried to go through the gate, and the lady said, “Go back! We will call your seat number.”  And they really called the passengers by the seat numbers in small range such as “seat from 45 to 49.”  And they called my number the very last!  I understand that they are extremely well organised (more than the Germans), but I was very unpleasant.  Well, being well organised is not wrong, and this is not their fault.  Did Jesus once said, “the first shall be the last?”

But that was just the beginning.  I loved my seat with enough legroom, but I was surrounded by some not that normal people.  Right next to me, a huge lady sat, invading my space the whole time.  The other side, a couple (middle-aged man and quite young girl) kissing and touching the whole time.  Their kissings were so loud and watery.  If you have heard them kissing without know what they are doing, you would have thought they were eating Ramen or something.  And behind me, two good friends talking so loud for more than ten hours (I guess).  And the other side of the huge lady, a middle-aged man was drinking wine whole time (which I guess more than thirty or forty cups), and finally he got drunk and could not even hold his cup right and spilt the wine.  The worst is yet to come.  There were several infants and babies crying and screaming hours and hours.  I felt sorry for the babies but it is fact that their crying and screaming is nerve-touching, especially when they are not your babies.  All these spoiled my plan to adopt the local time and minimise the Jetlag, because I was not able to sleep at night on Israel time.

And another thing I found is the flight crews are prettier than those of Lufthansa, but they do not really smile.  I prefer smiling normal face to unsmiling pretty face.

Donation Globe

Donation Globe

The painful flight was over and I landed on Zürich for the first time.  The airport was very impressive.

Design!

Design!

Switzerland is famous for the unique design.  And I could feel it even in the airport.

Even Payphone is cuter!

Even Payphone is cuter!

The Zürich airport is much smaller but cuter than Frankfurt airport.

Kids' Playground in the airport

Kids’ Playground in the airport

The playground was impressive.  There was only one kid in the picture because it was 6am local time, but I saw more kids playing later.

Charging Station

Charging Station

Free cellphine charging stations are easily found here and there, and was impressive because many people have hard time with their cellphone battery in Chicago airport.

Buy Buy Buy our watch!

Buy Buy Buy our watch!

Switzerland is very famous for the watch and clock industry.  Even I am wearing one.  And there are so many watch commercial and advertisements.

Standing Tram

Standing Tram

I had to use the tram to go to another gate (not terminal), and there was no bench in the tram (actually there were small ones at the both ends of the car).

Sky? Really?

Sky? Really?

You can see the tram’s name in the above picture.  And I don’t quite get that name.  The tram runs underground the whole time (it has only two stations), and the name is SKY-Metro.  Is it some joke that I don’t get?

Carmel Smoking Lounge

Camel Smoking Lounge

I saw Camel Smoking Lounge in Frankfurt, and now I saw the same thing again in Zürich.  Is this brand common across Europe?

The international travellers these days are desperate for the WiFi since we do not have network connection out of country or continent.  Chicago O’Hare airport has 20 minutes free internet which I also used for my laptop.  Frankfurt has one (I don’t remember any time restrict), and Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport also has unlimited free WiFi.  And guess what, I found 60 minutes free WiFi in Zürich airport!  But you cannot use it, well, least I could not.  To gain the free WiFi access, you need personal code which they send you through cellphone text (SMS).  And my phone is not working being out of the country.  I looked around and saw so many faces changing from “Yay!” to confusion and finally to anger.  What the heck is this?  If I have cellphone connection, why do I need WiFi so desperately?

Because there are so many people having this problem even that one morning, thousands of people would have the same problem, and I guess, in that case, there must be some solution for this.  So I decided to ask for help.  I walked to the information desk and asked.  As soon as the guide in the desk figured out that my question was about the free WiFi, he cut me while I was still speaking and said with so cold voice, “There is nothing I can do for you about that.”

I was so shocked.  Wow, people in this country have so awesome attitudes, even the people working in the service industry.  So disappointing, and I guess this airline, this city and this country will never be in my favourite list.

The WiFi is so stupid.  The first sixty minutes is free, and you need to buy to use more.  But because you cannot get the first free connection, you cannot purchase it.  Because they send you the code through cellphone text message or email.  But how can you check your email without connection?  They are so dumb.  I do not care that John Calvin was working in this country.  I judge by my own experience, and I had very bad experience even from Chicago, and in the air, and in the city.  Swiss Air is like a Air Canada, and Lufthansa is like a WestJet.  Canadians would understand what I am talking about.

In Frankfurt, a gate was assigned only for the flights to Israel, and the security check was literally extreme.  But in Zürich, there was no specific gate.  Actually the gate was not assigned until one hour before the flight departure which I think stupid because I had no idea where to wait.  But the security check was just normal.  But after the gate for the Tel Aviv flight was assigned, two Swiss policepersons came to the gate with machine guns!  And I thought, “now it looks normal to me.”

Frankfurt airport has two languages for signs.  I understand because it’s Germany speaking German, and English is international language.  Zürich airport also has two languages – German and English, which I do not understand because Switzerland has four official languages, then they must have five languages for signs.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Israel Trip Seventeenth and Last Day: Flight Back

We couldn’t even stay one night at the very good hotel because we got up at 12:30am, ate 1am and left there 1:30am for Ben Gurion airport at Tel Aviv.

Beginning of annoying and paranoid Israeli security

Beginning of annoying and paranoid Israeli security

When we were entering to the airport area, we passed the initial security. The guy on the picture has a machine gun. It was just the beginning of very annoying Israeli security. They are paranoid because they know what they’ve been doing.

Not like other airport security, we had to go through the security with our check-in baggage. They scanned everything, and many of us, including me, had to go through another manual check by opening the baggage. They found four mud packs from my bag, and asked me:

“WHY DO YOU HAVE MUD PACKS?” – “Because I bought them.”

“WHERE DID YOU BUY THEM?” – “Qumran gift shop.”

“WHY DID YOU BUY THEM?” – “For my wife.”

“WHY DO YOU GO TO AMERICA?” – “Because I live there!”

What stupid questions, and why do they care? Because I did not have US passport, I was checked my green card three times. Once they took my green card and went somewhere and came back in ten minutes.

The security opened a bag of a girl in our group and checked all the books and literatures and read to see what was written.

Many people go to Israel once and no more. I see why. Basically the Israel government is saying to all the tourists, “Don’t you dare come back again!”

Airport Synagogue

Airport Synagogue

There is a synagogue in the airport. I thought it is interesting. Are the religious Jews supposed to be in the airport on Sabbath? Why do they need a synagogue in the airport? Secular Jews don’t care, and religious Jews don’t come to the airport on Sabbath day.

BAYER

BAYER

This is of course Germany that we can see huge BAYER sign. Frankfurt airport is so huge, ridiculously huge. We rode an airport bus, and walked thousand miles after that. I do not mind walking a lot, but I do mind the timing. I walked fast and I reached the gate first in our group, and already people were boarding into the plane! Even a flight attendant in the first plane advised us that we may make it to the connecting air plane but we need to move fast.

Smoking Zone

Smoking Zone

This looks quite interesting to me. There are many smoking zones in Frankfurt airport, I could not take photos because there were always many people inside the box.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa

If I remember right, Frankfurt is the home airport of Lufthansa. I don’t like long flight, but I am quite satisfied with Lufthansa.

Not like on the way to Israel in Frankfurt, there was no security check this time on the way to Chicago. In Chicago, there were three different immigration gates: one for US Citizen, one for Green card holders, and the other was for everyone else.

After long flight, I landed on Chicago O’Hare airport. While the plane was landing, at the right moment that the landing gear began to touch the runway pavement, my wife Hannah called me that she is waiting at the airport terminal 5. She was not supposed to come and pick me up, but she skipped her work.

I’ve always driven to Chicago, never landed on Chicago. Chicago. This is what home feels like. During this trip, I saw many things, I felt many things, I learned many things, and I realised many things. But the biggest thing is this: I realised that I truly love my wife, Hannah.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Israel Trip First and Second Day: Flight

As part of school course, I took Israel Trip in this J-term. Its departure was from O’Hare Airport at Chicago Wednesday 8th of January, 2014.

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Lufthansa – German Engineering

It was my first time using Lufthansa. It was good overall and I noticed that the flight attendants are healthier than other airlines, and they smile less.

Waiting for the flight. I was lively at that moment.

Waiting for the flight. I was lively at that moment.

After the two painful flights, I realised that the flight is the worst part of the good trip. But if I think about how much time I can save and how safe it is than in older days when people travelled by ships, I am so thankful about the painful flights.

The plane from Chicago, USA to Frankfurt, Germany was so big with ten seats on a row and it is even double-decker. Ten seats on one row means only two can have window view while other 80% of the passengers cannot see outside. And Lufthansa did something for the poor 80% passengers.

Window view for everyone

Window view for everyone

On the personal screen, you can see the window view as if you are on the window seat. The only thing not right was that it showed daytime view when we flew during the night. And by the screen there was a button.

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And it even comes out like the shown picture above. I had no idea what that is for. I discussed with my classmates sitting next to me. I spent hours in vain to figure it out. Finally I asked a flight attendant, and she said it is for coat hanger! We were all shocked and said that it is true German Engineering which Americans can never understand.

Meal on the way to Frankfurt

Meal on the way to Frankfurt

The flight is painful, mostly because of the insufficient leg room. But what makes it better is of course food. The meals were very good overall. They asked me if I wanted vegetarian meal and I answered that I wanted predator’s meal, and I’ve got chicken.

Frankfurt Tram

Frankfurt Tram

We landed on Frankfurt on time. And we walked a lot to gate C13. We walked, walked, and walked. Then we got on the tram to another terminal. And after the tram, again we walked, walked and walked.

What was impressive to me was smoking zones – glass boxes. And I went into a rest room and found the manager’s picture for that rest room.

The one in charge of the rest room

The one in charge of the rest room

The gate C13 is dedicated to the planes whose destination is Israel. I always thought the American Airport security check is the worst in the world, but Frankfurt gate C13 security check is even worse than any American airport. Professor Ted said that it is because the planes are going to Israel. Other gates whose planes are going another places, the security checks are not like that. This one reminded me the special (in good and bad aspect) situations of Israel.

Frankfurt gate C13 after the security check

Frankfurt gate C13 after the security check

The plane to Israel was delayed about an hour. So we waited a bit. I think it was kind of nothing. On January 1st, my niece waited six more hours at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

Walking on the cloud

Walking on the cloud

In the plane, I was sitting next to a Jewish guy. He is very kind and nice even though he was wearing all black and hats. A big hat, and another small one inside, called Kipa (כיפה). He explained that kipa has many different colours and patterns and that means something, like dark black is orthodox Jewish.We talked a lot during the flight. He strongly suggested me to visit Masada. He also taught me Toda Adonai (תודה אדון) which means Thank (you) Lord. One interesting thing was that he distinguished strictly between the religious Jewish and secular Jewish.

Finally ארץ ישראל (Land of Israel)

Finally ארץ ישראל (Land of Israel)

Finally I saw the Land of Israel with the Mediterranean sea. I was goose bumped and thrilled just to see it down from the sky.

Cute Village near Tel Aviv

Cute Village near Tel Aviv

And finally we landed on Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. It was very nice airport, probably better than most Airports in America.

Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel

Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel

Before the trip I was told, the immigration may stamp on separated paper in case I ask for. It was necessary for those who want to travel to other surrounding countries after Israel because those countries will not let you in when they find the Israeli stamp on your passport. So I asked for it just in case, and they replied that they do not stamp any more, instead, they gave me a bar code.

With Ted Hiebert

With Ted Hiebert next to the bus

Ted Hiebert is the leading professor for this trip with his wife Paula. He is the OT professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, and one of the greatest OT scholar of our times, and the translator of Genesis for Common English Bible. He recently promoted to the position of Vice President at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

The Bus was very good. It even provides free Wi-Fi.

This Bus is so good.

This Bus is so good.

We went from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by this nice bus, and checked in White Sisters Guesthouse in Palestinian area of Jerusalem. After check-in, some of us walked outside along the Wall of Old City where the Gate to Damascus is. This gate is very probably St. Paul stepped out when he began his journey to arrest Christians. Not the same exact gate, but the gate at the same place.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

After we saw the Notre Dame Cathedral, we went back to the Guesthouse and had dinner.

Dinner at Guesthouse

Dinner at Guesthouse

This was just the humble beginning of the glorious meal.

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