Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Finishing up our first day in Israel

We got to my parents place less than 2 hours after landing (it was now 5PM Israel time.... we left our house the day before at 2PM NJ time). They came out to greet us with hugs and it was so great to see them after mroe than a year. My mom took the kids up with her, and Ian and I continued on with my father and most of the luggage to our new house in Arnona-Talpiot (a neighborhood a bit further South in Jerusalem - neer Baka). We had not seen it yet at all (other than via my mothers descriptions) so we were both excited to see it and unload our luggage there etc.... Of course - it had no furniture yet (we will be staying here at my parents place for the next week or 2 as we set up shop), but it was our first chance to see the house that would be our home for the next year... I gotta say - I was a bit underwhelmed at first.... The phrase "what were we thinking?" has come up quite a bit - but it was particularly prominent during the first few minutes touring the vacant house. All the empty rooms - though technically exactly as my mom had described seemed somewhat smaller than I thought they would and also somewhat shabbier. The lower level room seemed more removed from the rest of the apartment than I expected as well - making play room plans seem less sure.... However - after a few minutes I collected myself and started visualizing where furniture would go and where we could hang some nice tapestries or inexpensive art that we might find and the excitement returned. The place really is great. The kids will each have their own room (for the first time since there were 3 of them) and we have an extra guest room (we do want many guests to visit!) and the dining room is nicely open to the Living Room which is on the other side or a glass walled balcony and 6 steps down. From the LR there are sliding doors to a really cure courtyard and garden (the grass has not been watered in a while though - so it was a bit crunchy!). There is also a lower level courtyard/parking area where the kids can play as well.... All in all a nice place.

By this time we were exhausted so we took a quick walk around the neighborhood (we found a nice shopping center 5 minutes walk away) and got a cab back to my parents place (15 minutes ride)....

The first day was ending. My mom gave us dinner (yay - mom's cooking).... ok - it was leftovers from Shabbat when both my sisters and their clans stayed over - but still yummy. We gave the kids baths and tried to put them to bed, but that took a while (it was the afternoon according to their bodies - even if they did barely sleep the day before!)

I passed out on the couch - eventually moving to my bed, but it was musical beds all night.... eventually everyone settled down though. Tuesday we got an early start on shopping with my mom and getting cable, phone, internet set up. I will try to give more of an update Tuesday later - for now I need to take advantage of a sleeping family and join them!

Layla Tov -

Landing in Tel Aviv - Airport Hillarity

Hooray - we landed in Israel. The kids clapped (actually everyone clapped - do people do that on landing in other places?). We waited to get off the plane last (we still had a bunch of bags and 3 little kids). Eli was really helpful in carrying a back pack and wheeling a carryon luggage piece throughout all our transfers and airport treks. He only complained a bit at the end that he was tired - and I do not blame him at all - he still helped like a trooper. We made it through passport control smoothly as well (hooray for getting student visas in NY in advance... oooh - more successful advanced planning!) although while we were on line Yonah and Tamar started to get silly and run around in circles clearly annoying the half of the crowd that were not distracted by how adorable they were or how appropriate that reaction to being cooped up for hours and sleep deprived should be... fortunately - the clerk at the passport stand was in the group that was impressed with the adorable factor (also surprised that we were Masorti and not reform.... hmmm).

Since we were the last off the plane - spotting our luggage was easy and even though we have never travelled with this much luggage before - we got it faster than ever. OK - another adventure begins... at Newark - an attendant came to curbside with a big wagon and packed up ALL our bags while we took the kids, AND Ian's parents were with us. Here - we had to get out of the luggage area and find our driver (my mom arranged a car service with a giant van that could take us all and all the luggage) on our own, with only the tiny airport carts to help. OK - we managed to get it all into 4 carts... but only 2 grownups! Eli took one cart - he was so cute! The luggage was piled up higher than him so he really could not see where he was going and it was heavy so difficult to steer - but manage to do it he did. (Each time he almost crashed into a little old lady or a baby I felt compelled to yell at him to look where he was going - but that was more my nerves being shot than him being irresponsible. When did he turn into such a little man? (cue the Fiddler music?) ... OK so Eli took one, and then Yonah and Tamar tried the next cart - but Yonah just wanted to run with it and Tamar wanted to zig zag or have a ride... at first Ian and I tried to corral them by sandwiching their wagon between each of our own trying to steer for them - while Eli went ahead on his own (I also had to keep yelling to prevent him from getting too far ahead). Then Ian and I started bikeriung about how to manage Yonah and Tamar - who were quite out of control with the wagon - so that I ended up carrying Tamar and pushing my wagon with one hand - and Ian somehow got between the 2 remaining wagons and navigated with both of them while also getting Yonah to take a ride on the back... so we get out of the luggage area and find the guy with our name - actually we pushed the carts right passed him until Eli said something like "hey - that man has a sign that says 'Chefir-Teran', that sounds a lot like our name - but its different"... so we turned all 4 wagons around and made our way back to the spelling challenged driver (with all kids in tow) and he took one look at us and said (in Hebrew) "all that luggage? I hope it will fit!" and we said "we do too". He said - follow me, and took off (with one wagon) at high speeds across the arrivals hall to an elevator. so now Ian only had one wagon and Yonah, but we took another 10 or 15 minutes to dodge all the people and catch up to the driver.... It was a scene that the videographer should have captured for comic relief - but alas, it was not to be. (He did make me promise to take lots of video pics, but my hands were not free!)

We all fit easily into the van (amazing how much extra room there is when the driver neglects to bring car seats or booster seats!) and we were off to Jerusalem. Some intra-child bickering in the car... ok some intra-adult bickering too, but as we reached higher altitudes and entered the mountains around Jerusalem - the van quieted down and I suspect we each drifted into our own thoughts (or exhaustion).

The Flight - Smooth Sailing

The flight to Germany was smooth. The kosher airplane food was actually decent, and at least Yonah fell asleep pretty quickly. Neither Tamar nor Eli would sleep though for most of the plane ride, but they both behaved remarkably well (I am so proud of my babies!)... Good planning re activities to bring along (yes - we do plan ahead sometimes - this time by buying leapsters for Yonah and Tamar and 'encouraging' Grandma and PopPop to get Eli a GameBoy) and the fact the the movie was "Hanna Montana" (we had nothing to do with that one) helped keep them calm. Once the movie was over though - Eli was restless and would not sleep and Tamar could not get comfy (she was sitting with Ian). Eli fell asleep about 10 minutes before the put the lights on for Breakfast (Ah yes - the 6 hour time change)...

Transfer at Germany was fine - though when we landed the airport was somewhat desolate. The security check for planes to Israel was not even open yet so we had to wait around in a weirdly empty space for a bit. Closest bathroom was upstairs and quite a ways off (near emergency for Yonah - but we made it in time... no accidents for anyone the whole journey!). Eventually we made it through security again and started the next wait for the second plane that would take us to Tel Aviv. The kids were great - the grownups were getting a bit cantankerous though. We bought overpriced coffee (with dollars and got change in Euros) and that took the edge off a bit - but we also showed the kids Pocahontas on my computer. (Hooray for mind numbing technology. I remember travelling with my parents and being told to read a book - but whatever works - right?

Final flight was fine, and the kids slept a couple of hours. Landing was a bit rough though so as I was snapping pictures of the Tel Aviv beach and ski line form the airplane window (I will try and upload in the coming days), Tamar (still sitting with Ian) through up... but just a bit - and she recovered quickly. Sorry to Lufthanza for using the lovely blankets you gave us to clean it up - but they did a brilliant job!

Leaving New Jersey

Things at our house in New Jersey were down to the wire in terms of preparations (big surprise) and we were still packing and repacking into the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday AM... (We had plenty of space for all the stuff we decided to bring in the luggage allowed by the airline - but getting it into the weight limit was another story! In the end - we pulled out most of our winter stuff. One friend's mom graciously agreed to bring a suit case for us in a couple of weeks (thank you!!!) and the rest went into boxes (along with a box of books) for Grandma and PopPop (aka Steve and Judy) to ship when the get a chance... Big surprise, in that the USPS no longer does Parcel Post to Israel so it will be tres expensive, but such is life.

Sunday AM we awoke to torrential downpours (not unusual given the summer we had been having) and relieved to note that it almost never rains in Israel until the fall! We still had some last minute errands (pick up medications at drug store, drop off more storage at our friends' attic, get the car into the garage and unplug batteries etc..., put more stuff for storage in the garage - sweep out and clean up the whole house, etc.. etc..., but we did have time to eat some bagels (thanks again to grandma and pop pop who took the kids for the Am and returned with food in time to load up the cars for the airport!... we also had a few minutes to talk with our friend Eli who was videotaping the chaos and interviewing us for posterity! We said good bye to the house (Daniel thought it was sad) and headed out to the airport with Ian's brother in one car and Ian's parents in the other car with all the luggage. (Yes - we now travel in caravans!)...

I was really nervous about what the scene would be like at the airport as we were pushing the weight limit on all our bags and also had very large "personal bags" for all 5 of us that needed to get into the plain in addition to the full size carry-ons. We also hoped none of the kids would wonder off during this time (none did - though at least 2 tried to at one point or the other). Thanks again to Ian's parents who kept the kids at bay while we dealt with the luggage. Thanks also to the cute (flirty?) Lufthanza rep who put all of our bags through and even let us check in 2 of our carryon bags (at no extra charge) so we had more free hands to get us all to the plane with. It actually went so shockingly smoothly - that I think I was surprised at the speed with which we found ourselves at the security barrier saying goodbye to Ian's parents. Grandma was holding back tears and the goodbyes were over before I realized it. It was real - we were leaving people who love us and care for us and a life that - while always challenging - had grown weirdly comfortable for us, and we were heading off as a family into the unknown. If I had more time to appreciate the moment I think I would have become somewhat paralyzed with emotion, so it was a good thing that we had to get through the next series of challenges.

Security was ok - except that Yonah suddenly wanted Elmo (aka half-eye - for those ini the know) and had a minor melt down (Elmo of course was safe in the carry on bags we had with us - but no way was I opening the bag until we were seated by the gate!). We got through security smoothly as well, waited a while to board the plane - got our seats changes so we were no longer in the back row and took full advantage of pre-boarding for families with children to get settled in.

We have arrived!

OK- We have successfully arrived and are relatively unscathed with the exception of one minor snafu (read below)... It is hard to believe that we are actually here in Israel for the year - let alone, that we managed to box up and store all of our belongings and pack up everything we needed for the year and set up our Joisey house for the new tenants and get ourselves, the kids and all of our stuff on the plane, through the plane ride and the transfer in Germany - and then in to Israel, and to my parents house (thank you saba and savta!)...

Yes -we are a bit shell shocked and I am somewhat exhausted (it is now past midnight here in Jerusalem - and Eli is still not asleep!) - but basically no worse for ware.