Saturday, April 19, 2008

Remembrances of the Holy Land (Homeward)

PHOTO: Google Images

Morning came way too soon. I wanted to make time stop so we could spend see more of Amman. Getting on the plane meant returning home and the daily routine of driving to Benicia, talking to customers on the phone all day, before driving home and doing it all over again the next day.

We lost another trip member as TS was going to stay for a couple more weeks before checking out Egypt for a possible pilgrimage. We were all sad to be leaving him here, and I think he looked a little sad as we pulled off as well. I imagine being solo in Jordan is not nearly as fun an experience as being with a close group of people for over two weeks.

Check out was fairly early because we had a morning flight from Queen Alia International Airport. The short drive to the airport was  the quickest 20 miles I'd ever ridden!

Just as we were nearing the airport I saw a really highway sign that I wish I could have grabbed a photo of. It was one of those green signs that lists destinations and how far they are. In this case it listed Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia!! Unfortunately, by the time I noticed it, we were passing it too fast to get a decent shot.

We arrived at the airport in what seemed like plenty of time to catch our flight. That was until we got in the door and saw the departure lines. Absolutely insane!!

It took forever just to move a few feet. Then we sat in line for a while. Finally we reached an inspection table. They went through my camera gear and didn't question anything except for all my loose AA batteries, which they confiscated. I tried to explain I needed them for my camera, and even showed them how to load the camera. But, that didn't seem to matter. At least they didn't take the batteries that were already inside the camera.

I thought we were done, only to find out this was a preliminary check. Like the TSA agent that takes your liquids and toothpaste here in the USA. (Though no pat down or machine that showed your underwear).

The line was even slower than the first because they needed to check through everything. Our plane was supposed to be taking off at that moment, and I had visions of us having to hang around the airport for another flight.

Apparently someone somewhere decided that since our group accounted for  28 of their passengers they'd hold the airplane until we completed customs and boarded. (Try getting that done in the USA!).

To expedite our clearing customs, they had one of their woman inspectors going through men's luggage. I felt really bad for her as mine was packed with all sorts of dirty smelly laundry which were going to wait for the wash at home, not to mention that it was packed tighter than a drum. On top of that, women normally only deal with women's luggage, and men with men's.

She went through the first layer of stuff, and then gave up, and left me pack it all up.

Once on board, we were ushered to our seats with some haste, and the plane quickly took off, sending us homeward bound.

After departing, Royal Jordanian goes around with a Duty Free listing of beer, wine, alcohol, and other things you can buy and get away with not paying taxes. I debated over and over before deciding to buy a sleek blue bottle of Jordanian Arak, an anise liquor.

The bad news is they only had one bottle on board, and it was already spoken for. The good news is that GC bought it! (She'd later share it at our trip reunion party. Was pretty good stuff).

The flight attendants must've hated our group. Not only did we delay them nearly an hour, but we kept playing seat roulette. I don't anyone actually sat in their assigned seat once the seat belt signs went off.

And I'd bet some of the other passengers were irked with us too. Within a short amount of time all the complimentary red wine had been consumed. Not to let that stop the fun, CB broke out a bottles she'd bought in Jerusalem, and an impromptu party started on the other side of the plane.

I was comfortable not moving around, since there was nobody sitting next to me for a change. A little while later CH came over and we chatted about the trip for nearly an hour. No particular reason, but this was the first time we'd really talked to each other for any amount of time. Just didn't happen, and I was glad she made the approach.

As it happened our flight path took us over southern Austria, which is where one of my grandmother was from. I swear that there thick cloud cover opened up just at the right time to see a city. Was it Klagenfurt? I tell myself it was, but I have absolutely no proof. The cloud layer came back just as fast as it had dissipated.

The rest of the flight mercifully passed, for the most part, while I was sleeping away.

International Customs, at JFK, went surprisingly fast for me. Perhaps five minutes at most. Not so much for my friend StL, who apparently shares a name with some guy on some Watch List. He said he gets hassled regularly when flying.

We said good-bye to RV and RC. RV lived in New York City so what pretty much home. She went around and gave each of us a great big hug before disappearing into the long terminal. RC was staying so she could visit with someone on the East Coast.

We had about five hours to kill before our domestic flight, and a few of us seriously considered catching the subway for a trip into Manhattan just so we could say we were there. However, a concierge quickly dissuaded us because Pope Benedict XVI was in town, giving a mass at Yankee Stadium later that day.

Normally, it's an hour each way to Manhattan. Then add time to look around, and we'd have been hard pressed to make our flight on a good day.

Not sure why, but on our return leg we flew American Airlines into Oakland International Airport, rather than SFO. DB had been feeling pretty bad and just after the plane left the ground you hear that unmistakable sound. Amazingly, the flight attendants let some others in our group get out of their seats and give her a hand with cleanup. Mind you this was done at something like a 400  angle during ascent.

On the flight back, SeL first sat next to me, then someone else switched with him, and then someone else, before they moved elsewhere, leaving the aisle seat empty. Someone might've developed a complex. I was just happy for the extra room.

Having learned a unique sitting position on the way to Jordan, I sat leaning my head into the seat back in front of me. It may not have looked comfortable, but it worked! The six hours weren't noticed.

Just after 11:30p we touch down in Oakland. Everyone was quiet, and said our good-byes. My sister was waiting for me when we arrived. I hung around a bit to make everyone got rides since BART turned into a pumpkin at Midnight.

A short 16 minute ride home, a brief hello to the dogs, and it was off to bed. Morning, and work, were going to come way too soon. Surprisingly, I really didn't have any jet lag when I got up.


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