After piling amazing amounts of luggage into a maxi van we were off to Pittsburg. We headed for the check-in counter at Delta when suddenly a certain one of our sizable party could not locate her lovely ‘pocketbook.’ Thankfully we could recover it from its resting place on the van and we also secured a number of bungie cords for the aforesaid person and her numerous articles that want to disappear. (Just kidding) 🙂
Well, checking-in with nine people and 13 pieces of luggage isn’t exactly a stroll in the park and our travel agent finds a problem. Our Israel tourist visa that we get on arrival is only good for three months and our tickets have us staying for three and a half. Well, we were told that we can get an extension upon arriving in Israel but she didn’t seem to think so. We need to have proof that we’ll be leaving the country within three months. After a call to the Embassy in DC and a lot of hee-hawing she said that she can send us through to JFK but we’ll probably run into issues there. What they may insist on, she says, is make us buy return tickets that land within the three months. Or we can just wait and try to work something out here rather than being stuck in New York. Nope, we’re going. God knows what He has planned, we have faith that he’ll get us through. We WANT to have faith anyway but wow, this is pretty scary.
Okay on to security after about an hour at the counter. Wait, did I say 13 pieces of checked luggage? Nope, we only got 12 pieces in. We must have miscounted. Oh well, that’s just another carry on. Its just a small backpack anyway. No problem. We’re standing in line and I dig out my neatly compiled bag of 3 oz. or less liquids. Oh NO, says Verna. That extra carry-on, it wasn’t meant to be a carry-on. It has loads of cosmetics and all kinds of last minute things. What are we gonna do with it? Well, its not that far back to the counter so I offer to run it back to check in. Great, there’s a kiosk open. A lady walks me through. Okay, you already have two bags checked under your name and the third one is going to be $125. Gulp. Whats in this bag? Nothing that’s worth that much is there? Shampoo might be expensive in Israel but nothing near like that. I open the bag and start digging. Cosmetics and a bunch of random thrown in articles. Oooohhhh, there’s popcorn salt and chicken soup base. Nope, that definitely won’t make it through agent number two says. Ok, so this stuff isn’t worth $125 dollars but my plane is boarding in like 5 minutes and I can’t go get one of the other boarding passes to check it in on. I don’t have a phone to call Vern. Fine, I’ll pay it. I mean, where in Jerusalem are you going to get popcorn salt? Nonexistent. By now agent number two is getting a little scared. Hurry and swipe your card, she’s afraid they won’t let me check my bag anymore. I smash in the card. She punches buttons on the screen. The boarding pass prints. “You don’t have time to wait in the line to drop your bag. Here follow me.” She hurries me up to counter to print my label. Our previous agent comes over. “Hey, don’t charge her for that bag. They have eight people traveling and have already paid $340 in baggage fees.” “Well, its already on the credit card, now what?” “I’m going to void it,” she says. Wow God, how did that just happen? Profusely thank lady. Label prints. Tear off baggage claim ticket. Thank agent number two. Race for security check point. Missy is waiting for me. The line is long. Our plane starts boarding now. I squirm in the line. Look out the window Missy says. “There’s a hill. ‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 121) Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the universe. You’re going to get us through here. Security is a breeze. We head for the gates. Concourse D. Okay, get on the train. Get to D. Battle crowds of slow people. Lets take the stairs instead of the escalator. We race for the top and I am quickly reminded of how out of shape I am. Huffing and puffing we get to the gate and head right on the board. Hey, there’s not very many people on here yet. Actually Verns just got on! We get situated with much rearranging of bags and boys. Whew, we’re off! The first leg of the journey has begun.
We had a nice flight to JFK. It was fun to watch the excited, awed expressions on four boys’ faces. Caleb wondered, “are we as high as the sky yet?” We’re served the usual drinks along with peanuts that were processed in a plant that processes peanuts and other nuts. Really? No duh! We claimed our baggage and piled it on two smart carts. Piled is an understatement really. After getting directions from the cart guy we head for concourse four. The heading is slow being weighed down with burdens as we are but the boys are doing great. I’m pretty impressed. Okay, someone else tells us to take the air train/subway. Sure lets! The less lugging of bags the better. We make it to the station and wait patiently for a bus. “Are you mennonites?” a airport worker asks. “Yes, Vern responds. What made you think that?” Well, the ladies clothes, he said. We’re reminded of how watched we are and how much is expected of us. We say we’re going to concourse four for Turkish Airlines. Oh no, they’re in concourse one he says. We would have been better off just walking over from baggage claim. Frustration. Thank you God for giving us five hours here. It will be none too much.
We gather for a prayer huddle before facing more check-in agents. Lord, what will we face? What decisions should we make? Do we insist or play dumb? More waiting in line, then the agent on the very end is open. We pile around her counter, trying not to block any thoroughfares. Vern goes up and begins the process. We stand back and pray. After a while he says, “I think the waters are parting; she’s printing boarding passes!” Glory! More waiting. She weighs all the baggage. Prints all the passes. We’re good to go. Whoa! How did that happen? God, that was so smooth! Where is our faith all the time?! We practically float through security. You are amazing God!
Arriving at gate 6 on left. 1 hour and 6 minutes to boarding time. The flight went very well. We had 9 seats in front of each other so Verns were in the last three with Ravi and Missy, Brandon and I in the front and the other guys in-between. Pasta or meatballs for meal number one and eggs, peppers and tomatoes scrambled together for breakfast. The combination of which looked like something you wouldn’t want me to describe. My stomach wouldn’t put up with the sight of it for too long. I slept a little, Missy took Benadryl and slept a lot. Verns tossed a lot cause poor Ravi was very wide awake.
Touchdown at Istanbul, Turkey was around 9:15 local time. Found our gate and settled in for about and hour wait. There was lots of extra security to go through since we’re flying into Israel. All of those checkpoints went well though. Praise God!
The flight to Tel Aviv was around 2 hours. I was out for most of the way. They served a nice little meal which I totally missed. I woke up and saw Missy’s and felt like gagging at airplane food again but then I promptly feel asleep again so I was fine. 🙂 Ahh, touching down in the land of the Book felt like a dream. We are actually here! There was a bit of a bump going through passport control because of the visas but Verna and the boys got forms to fill out and they took me aside and then gave me a number to get in touch with the Ministry of Interior. Their instructions were, “Please just don’t stay here illegally.” Which is the last thing I want to do since I don’t want this to be my last trip here, plus I try not to be illegal intentionally. 🙂 The sherut ride was an interesting adventure to top it all off. There were no car mirrors detached through it all but that was nothing short of a miracle.
Our apartment is proving to be pretty cramped. There are three bedrooms two of which are pretty small. Missy and I have claimed one and there’s one for Verns that actually has a crib for Ravi and the last houses Wendall and Caleb which puts the two oldest on the couches. Thankfully there are two and they’re nice and leather so the only shift is that adult meetings after bedtime hours need to happen in our kitchen that has about 6 square feet of walkable tile. Well, something like that.
So, we all slept until 9+ this morning. Finally got some pancakes made at 11. After a trip to the corner store for a lighter since the stovetop wouldn’t work. Verns and I went for provisions for the weekend after that while Missy cleaned up and kept the apartment together. Ravi went with us. The poor soul is so confused with all the change and strange eating/sleeping habits. He wails every time his mama leaves his sight and mournfully toddles around the apartment. After spending a sizable amount of money for a small amount of food we hike home and stash it in the fridge. It feels good to have some food secured though and if we can live on pasta, fruit and peanut butter we’ll be fine. 🙂 Later on we headed into town to the school. It was a nice walk, we spent around 45 minutes on the road but that was with the children and a few sightseeing stops included. The school is in a pretty amazing location. I’m looking forward to more time spent there and in classes. Tomorrow is orientation and most of the classes start on Monday.
Well, it was 12:50am here. The power kept blinking so internet connection was bad now I’m finally getting it up. Thank you so much for praying. We feel so blessed at God’s provisions and His plan for us here.
-Rosetta for us all