Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a minaret

This minaret was right outside my window. The calls to prayer were through a loudspeaker, and early in the morning it was better than an alarm clock. The nun in the Austrian Hospice where we were staying said that the early morning call to worship was good advice. She was able to translate it from the Arabic to mean: It is better to rise early and pray than to stay in bed and sleep.

day 1 in the Holy Land

My husband and I are on the Mount of Olives, with Jerusalem behind us. Notice the Dome of the Rock (golden dome) between us. The weather was cold and windy, but despite the blue sky we had a downpour just a few hours later, followed by a brief hailstorm. Later in the week, though, we could leave our winter coats behind.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

travel report 3

Still continuing the "day" we travelled from Vancouver to Tel Aviv: Our taxi driver didn't take us directly to the hospice. He hummed and hawed about it being in the Old City, and how taxis couldn't go in. I knew they could get to the hospice and I said so, and he mumbled something about only certain times, certain gates, etc. I said I had heard that it might be difficult (or impossible) on the Jewish sabbath, Friday evening to Saturday evening. February 3rd was Wednesday. Nevertheless, the driver took us from the Damascus Gate to the Lion Gate by way of the Mount of Olives. But as we couldn't get into the hospice just yet, we didn't complain. We enjoyed the view from the sacred place, looking across the Kedron Valley to the Golden Gate. Here began the first of our three hundred plus photos we took on this journey--I plan to get the best of them on this blog as soon as possible. First I have to learn how to do that.
Eventually, though, the driver did take us to the Austrian Hospice, 37 Via Dolorosa, in Old Jerusalem. Our first mistake? When he said, "Pay me tomorrow. I'll take you wherever you want to go. How about Bethlehem?" we didn't object. Of course we wanted to go to Bethlehem. We were too exhausted to argue and too fuzzy-minded to think that this might not be the best way to arrange our visit to Bethlehem. Now, not having paid him for the trip from the Damascus Gate to our accommodation, we were obliged to him. Not a good thing!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

travel report 2

You may have noticed something about me by now: I can't count. The first of these travel reports actually was written in Jerusalem; this is the second report written since arriving at home. Still, I hope you don't get too caught up in the numbers and will be able to follow along anyway.
I mentioned in report 1 that I'll never again go away for six weeks in a row. Another "never again" will be trying to lump several places into one trip. I just feel that once I'm on the other side of the continent and Atlantic, I really should take advantage. But if I do that, sometimes the route gets complicated because the airlines have their rules and regulations that do not take customer convenience into consideration. (Why would they worry about customers? Like many businesses, the airlines have totally forgotten that the customers are the REASON for their jobs and earnings, NOT merely an inconvenience or interruption to their money-grabbing.) The inconvenience for customers I refer to is the illogical itinerary I stupidly signed up for. I really should have paid closer attention, but I was being told that this was the only way British Airways would take me to my desired destinations.
This trip (pilgrimage, actually, as we were commissioned as pilgrims in our church before we left) was to Jerusalem and Assisi and Northumbria. (Northumbria was more of a visit to relatives than to sacred shrines, although we did a little of that, too.)
The route to Jerusalem from Vancouver was like this: Leave YVR roughly around 5 or 5:30pm on February 1st, and arrive ten hours later at Heathrow somewhere around noon their time, February 2nd. Then we had to hang around Heathrow for seven hours before our flight to Tel Aviv. Now, first thought is, hmm, could I book a hotel room and sleep for a couple of hours before the flight; or maybe take the tube into downtown London and walk about for a while. No. Can't do that, because as we're en route to another country, we don't actually LAND in England officially. We're in transit. So we mustn't leave the airport--not even the "not in England" part of the airport. This was a bit of a problem, because my husband's walker was sent on to "England" instead of "Israel" because if we're seven hours in the airport, he's going to need his walker to get around. Without going into detail, let me tell you that it took a couple of hours just to get someone to take me down to the luggage area to get the walker for my husband. Through security, shoes off, the whole bit, just to get the walker for him. We finally got on our flight to Tel Aviv and arrived there around 5:30 am, February 3rd. How many hours is that? I don't do numbers, as you may recall, but I know this was far too long to go without even seeing a bed. But we aren't there yet! We still have a bus ride to Jerusalem, and a taxi ride to our hospice, and can't book in until 3pm.

Friday, March 19, 2010

travel report 1

Finally, I can get to my blog and report on what has happened over the past six weeks. This is likely to progress slowly, because I want it to be easy to follow and easy to read.
This trip began with a blessing and commissioning as a holy pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Assisi, and Northumbria. The journey itself began on February 1, 2010 and we arrived home in Vancouver on March 16, 2010. My first comment is that never again will I go away for six weeks. Some years ago, we took eight weeks, and I knew that was not a good idea, but now I say that anything more than a month is too much. That's for me. Other people might do better than I do with long journeys.