• Genevieve

8. Israeli "War" Wound 2017

Updated: Jul 25, 2018

November of 2017. Just two months prior during my South Africa trip in September, I had met a girl in Johannesburg who immediately became my friend. After some great conversation and a tour of Johannesburg on the Big Bus Tour, we exchanged emails and off we went our separate ways. The following month she sent me an email giving me her travel schedule for the month of November. In there was a week in Tel Aviv.

Her birthday was during her week there and she was going to celebrate it with a trip to Jerusalem. I invited myself and asked if I could meet up with her and enjoy her birthday trip to Jerusalem together. She accepted and off I went. I scheduled myself on the standby list for the flight to Tel Aviv, packed my bag and just a few weeks later, I was in Tel Aviv enjoying the sites with my new friend.

She worked most of the time I was there but during her few hours off, we found that the bike rental stations were easy to use. They are called the Tel-O-Fun.

The ease of renting a bike allowed us to travel all along the Mediterranean coast and cover a lot of ground. Most days we were riding about 7 miles. With so many stations, we would ride a bit, park the bike at a bike station, walk around then pick up another bike at another location and carry on. We really got to see a lot of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.

My new friend had to travel on to a new county for work, so I decided to stay an extra couple of days as I fell in love with the Jaffa area of town. I found an Airbnb on Beit Eshel Street and spent my time renting the bike everyday and exploring the coast line down to Givat Aliyah.

I collect sea glass from around the world. After a bit of research, I located a small beach area that had loads of sea glass for me to collect. I found some amazing colors and pieces for my collection. Needless to say, this became a daily ritual.

On my last day in Tel Aviv Jaffa area, I woke up early to take a bike ride out to the beach one last time. Plans were to ride out to the Givat Alia Beach return the bike back to the bike station just down the street from my Airbnb apartment on Alma Beach then go get lunch at Abu Hassan on Shivtei Israel Street . This whole journey I mapped out at about 3 hours. My taxi pick up for my evening flight was not till 7 PM so I had plenty of time to shower, pack and prepare for my long flight home.

The plan changed drastically when I decided to take a short cut and drop off the bike at a different bike station and closer to the Abu Hassan restaurant. Instead of riding along the bike path along the beach front, I took the main road where the bike rental station was. Kedem Street. I rode about a mile northward with no traffic to worry about. The road then became very narrow, a lot of gravel was in the road due to construction in the area and I was going downhill. These rental bikes are very heavy on the back end so when breaking, there is a lot more momentum due to the increase in weight. There was an on coming car headed my way, a light post that was pretty much in the road because of the construction. My option to avoid a collision with the car was to go between the short stone garden wall of the house that contained lots of rubble, no plants yet and the wooden light post. As I approached the light post, I realized that I only had millimeters to spare. I hit some gravel and before my eyes, the stone wall ended with a very large stone wall completing the walled in house. In a split second, as I was not in control due to gravel and lack of room, I decided to sacrificed my leg for my head. It would not have been so bad had my continued downhill movement been slower. I didn't just hit and fall. I was at war with the wall. I had to scrape my way along the wall to finally gently fall off the bike. Control. At least it I did not hit my head. Now my leg and shin were throbbing with pain.

My mind kept saying, shake it off, shake it off. Flash backs to when my daughter use to get hurt flooded my head. That is exactly what I use to tell her when she got hurt. Looking down at my leg I knew still had about a 15 minute bike ride and a ten minute walk back to the apartment. The scrape on my shin was white. I knew before long it would start to bleed. I stood up, made sure the bike was still functioning and then checked myself over for any other injuries. Nothing. Just the pain that kept increasing in my leg as the adrenaline started to subside. Knowing I was now less in control, I walked up the road from where I just road down and took a right which would take me to the bike path along the ocean front. Once on the bike path, I sat on the bike, shaking just a bit and peddled on. As I started to peddle, I could feel the warmth of the blood start to pour down to my feet. Nothing I could do about that now. My only thought was to get to the bike station then to the apartment to clean my wound and to elevate my leg.

The ride seemed much longer now due to my injury but before long, the bike was parked at the bike station and I was back in the apartment.

I washed my leg gently now realizing that it was worse than what I had imagined. Luckily, I carry a small bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide with me so I was able to disinfect the wound properly. I sat there, hungry and tired. To not think of the pain, lunch started to sound good. Why not stay on track. So I got dressed and continued with the original plan for lunch. Off I went to Abu Hassan restaurant where I decided to order take out. It was a 20 minute walk there and back and it took about 10 minutes to get my order. There is no menu here. Just a long list of different hummus dishes. I went with the famous masabasha, a hummus that is garnished with whole chickpeas, paprika and lemon-spiked tahini. An order of pita bread came with this fabulous dish. It was warm and had a wonderful smell to it.

On the way back to the apartment, I stopped off at a small convenience store on Yerushalaim Avenue and bought a bottle of red wine. This would be my pain killer for the afternoon. It was now around 2 PM. I put my leg up, poured myself a glass of wine and started enjoying the Masabasha flavor with the pita bread. With a full stomach and the wine kicking in, I set my alarm for 6 PM. I dozed off and had a peaceful long nap.

Waking up, I packed up my bag, took a quick look around the apartment, and headed down to wait for my pre-scheduled taxi. I had had a fabulous day. A couple of hours on the beach, a fabulous local lunch, an unexpected run in with a stone wall on my rental bike and a good nap. I was ready for my long flight back home to Atlanta.

My adventure was not over yet. It was just beginning. As a stand by passenger, there is a chance that one will not get on the flight, even with 30 empty seats. This is because of a system called payload optimized. This is when the plane is carrying not only passengers but cargo as well. When the aircraft weight limit is reached, the plane becomes payload optimized. Myself and 19 other standby travelers were told that no one was getting on this particular flight. As with all my travel adventures since marrying my airline pilot, I always have a handful of backup plans for each trip.

Step 1. What were my chances for getting on the next flight. In this case for the follwoing day a big fat Zero.

Step 2. How soon could I get onto another fight. Again in this case, 4 days from now. Too long.

Step 3. Make a choice. Stay another couple of days or find another way to get back home. I looked up at the clock. It was around 11 PM. I ran over to the departure board to look at all the flights leaving in the next few hours. I was shocked. This airport never stopped nor did it take a rest. There were flights leaving and arriving at all hours throughout the night. Unusual as most airports more or less close down for a few hours. Not here in Israel.

My choices at midnight at the Ben Gurion Tel Aviv Airport boiled down to two options. Get a hotel nearby and rest or keep going which meant buy a ticket to somewhere in Europe where I could then get home on yet another standby flight. With my wonderful husband on the other end of my phone, we decided to buy a ticket to London on Aegean Air with a layover in Athens Greece. With only 5 hours till that flight, surprisingly the ticket was around $199. That was cheaper than a cab ride and hotel room for the night in Tel Aviv.

I managed to kill 5 hours by having a coffee, walk around the airport to get some exercise and researching a new set of backup plans once in London. Flight to London was scheduled for 5:30 AM. By now, I had been awake for 23 hours with a nap following my stone wall bike accident. Oh yeah, my leg. Still hurt like crazy. Keep busy, don't think about it.

The check in process at the Tel Aviv airport is very unique. First you get in line around three and half hours prior to the flight at what looks like a normal line for the baggage ticket counter. Quickly this line fills up with many other people from other flights. It moves slowly. Very slowly. As I had been paying attention during my five hour wait, I managed to be up at the front of the line. When they say security takes forever at this particular airport it is because this is where the security begins. Security first, then check in at the ticket/baggage counter. One by one, passengers are called up to one of a few unassuming podiums with a security person. There, after close inspection of ones passport, a few glances between passenger, monitor and passport to see similarities in face of passenger, the questions begin. They are many. While this is going on, another security person is studying body language. If all goes well, you are asked to get into yet another line designated for one's particular flight. If not, passenger is pulled aside, additional security personnel show up and more interrogating takes place. This process took about an hour since I was near the front of the line. Longer if I had farther back in line. Past security then with boarding pass in hand, off I went to clear customs. This is all automated now in Tel Aviv. A small machine reads ones passport, a facial recognition machine matches your lines with passport photo and off one goes. Luggage is sent through the usual x-ray machine and voila. End of process.

The Tel Aviv airport is pretty simple. A few small duty free stores and vending machines here or there, but that is it. Nothing as lively as the Istanbul airport where I do not mind having a few hours in between flights.

I started feeling tired just as we boarded the Aegean flight to Athens. I did manage to take a nap on this very short two and half hour flight. The connection in Athens Greece was crazy to say the least. Pouring down rain, we had to walk down the steps to exit the plane onto the tarmac and ride a bus to the terminal. Mayhem ensued once in the building. Hundreds of people were running around in circles not knowing where to go. Flight connections were tight for everyone it seemed. There were three areas to choose from for connections. With the flight information board changing very slowly from Greek to English, I only saw a sign that read connecting flights and rushed over to get in line. I should have taken my time as this was the wrong line. Fortunately there was a flight board close by where I realized that I needed to be in another line. I rushed over, pushing my way through a flood of people moving against me. A few people followed me who knew they were on my same flight to London. Arriving at the security baggage area, everyone became crazy. With only 20 minutes left to board our flight, a few very anxious people decided to jump the line and rush over to the security x-ray machine where our luggage was being checked one more time. The security guard did not like this action. He immediately yelled at the two guys, showed the back of the line and said wait your turn. English seems to be the universal language when chaos happens at the airport.

Now past the luggage x-ray, I ran to the gate. Again, tired,short and my leg not feeling all that well, I made a few more errors trying to get to my gate. Not being able to see the end of the line and not knowing the airport gates, I waited in line for what I thought was my gate. What I found out five minutes later was that the line I was in was for gate 2 and 3. I was headed to gate 1. You must be thinking by now that I have really lost it. Just imagine one small glass door, a large crowd of people and the sign above which reads Gates 1,2, and 3. What would you do? What changed my mind to move forward was I saw a couple pass by me that were also headed to London. I followed quickly behind them. We pushed your way through a crowd of people who were blocking the door I could not see to Gate 1. Once there we noticed the boarding process had already begun. Onto the short flight to London which allowed me a small nap I badly needed.

Flying over the French Alps kept me awake and alert after my nap. Arriving into London, my connection was a short hour and half. Once off the flight, I ran to catch the bus from terminal 2 to terminal 3. This must not be a very popular terminal since four buses came and went for terminal 4 before one ever showed up for just a small gathering of about twenty passengers. Once there, I had to clear customs which took over 30 minutes. An hour and fifteen minutes had already passed. After yet another security baggage check, I ran to the Airline counter where I was told that 10 minutes was not enough time for me to make it to the gate for my flight….Not a surprise.

Again, my back up plans kick into motion. By now, 30 hours have passed and I have had only 2 short naps. It is hard to think when the mind is not rested. I proceed to my first step of backup plans. Check flights for standby numbers for the next day. They looked good so I put myself on the standby list. Check online for hotel rates once again. Pick a hotel, book the hotel and proceed to hotel. Luckily, there are 4 different choices at Heathrow London Airport. I picked one that had great reviews and only required for me to walk about a mile, take a train and voila, a room to rest for the next 16 hours.

I had not had much to eat, so after arriving to my room, I took a shower, washed a few clothes in the sink and proceeded downstairs where I sat down for small meal. The dinner menu at the restaurant was not available for another hour so I choose the salad with salmon with a glass of red wine. What a feast after a very long travel day.

The rest of the trip went as planned. Lucky me. My only issue was my ankle and leg that quickly started to swell due to the long hours up at 36,000 feet and little to no exercise. Once home however, my leg healed quickly with a few ocean swims and some many good nights of rest.

My travel adventures are many and they are not always pleasant nor exciting but I do always manage to stay alert, have several back up plans under my belt and never give up to try and find the bright side of any place, situation or moment to make me smile.

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