Tuesday, January 29, 2013

To Tel Aviv... Eventually

We packed up our belongings, stuffed them into a car and left our Amman life headed west towards Israel. The man who picked us up from the airport drove us to the bus stop for Nazarene bus company. He calls me Steven. I'm not sure why.

We loaded our stuff below the bus and hopped aboard with no food in us and upset stomachs. Us and a pair of nuns constituted the foreign population on the bus that would eventually fill up at Irbid in the northwest of Jordan. The nuns spoke Arabic.

Our bus driver was incredibly nice. On the Jordanian side of the border, we unloaded our luggage and scanned it. The driver asked a guard if we could eschew scanning my girlfriend's scooter. The guard said yes. My girlfriend was permitted to stay on the bus. Then we paid our 10 JD to leave Jordan and got our exit stamp. I got my girlfriend's exit visa, but passport control said they needed to see her. They stamped mine and took my picture. So I went to get my girlfriend. The driver took my girlfriend's passport, smoothed things over, and we were set.

On the Israeli side, we were ushered ahead of the others and asked a series of probing questions. My girlfriend was requested to tell about her "problem." After I hoisted our luggage onto the security belt, I was summoned by another security worker to go through the contents of my little backpack. Upon seeing the water from the hotel water that I had pilfered (it was free with breakfast), which was in a cup suited for jello, she asked, "What is this?" I told her and she laughed, "The water in Israel is good. You don't need this."

Then we moved on to passport control. This man asked similar probing questions. "What are our parents' names? Why are we coming to Israel? What are we going to see?" and I was asked why I went to Turkey. Our passports were stamped and we were on our way. I saw the passport control guy in the bathroom a little later which made him seem like a real person.

Israel is a lot greener than Jordan. People at least pretend to follow the rules of the road. And there are curb cuts, so my girlfriend is able to use her scooter. When we got to Nazareth, our bus driver found out where we needed to wait for the bus to Tel Aviv. We flagged down that bus. The driver was curt and barely acknowledged my questions. I threw our baggage underneath and disassembled the scooter before shoving it with our luggage.

My girlfriend uses a wheelchair back home, but in Amman we had to walk. It was a nice excuse for her to hold my arm as public affection among the sexes is rare in Jordan. She was amazing traversing the beat up sidewalks that decked the arduous hills. But we had finally reached an impenetrable obstacle. The first step to the Egged bus 823 to Tel Aviv was almost waist high. I grabbed her by the waist and flung her onto it. The bus driver snapped for me to pay.

We then stopped at Nazareth's bus station and the driver told me in English that there would be a ten minute break. I appreciated his telling me. He later asked where we wanted to be dropped off. At one point, a goofy looking chubby guy asked me a question in Hebrew. I ignored him. He asked again. I told him I didn't speak Hebrew. But it was nice to know I look like I fit in. My girlfriend and I were happy to finally hold hands in public once we were on the Egged bus.

We walked a mile to the hotel from Central Bus Station, which must be located in Little Ethiopia, to our hotel. The hotel, Beach Front Hotel, charged us for a day we weren't there, which is infuriating. The whole trip took about 9 hours. We then grabbed a bite from a local Italian place, finally eating something, and argued over whether the free appetizer was the actual meal or if more was coming. More came. When we left, the woman at the restaurant raced to open the door for us and pulled down my fleece that had climbed up my back. Then we slept.

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