Monday, July 4, 2016

DAY 18 - Amsterdam, Houston, and HOME!

54 days ago, we left for the Middle East. It is hard to believe.

I feel encouraged and motivated, along with persistence, faith and prayers, that anything is possible. Overcoming fear, doubt, and language barriers, we were able to see countries we had only read and dreamed about. It was not a vacation, but a learning experience. Even in the midst of confusion and being uncomfortable, we rank this experience as one of the top highlights of our life. Knowing what I know now, I can only wish I had done this trip sooner. My daughter and I agree we would do this trip all over again. We are already dreaming and planning on another trip to the Middle East!

I have finally placed (not all) most of my photo's on a music video. Included are some short clips of cab rides, the Nile cruise, belly dancing, Khan el Khalili market, and a bus ride past the Dead Sea.

Now on to the last leg of our trip...

I think we were dropped off at the wrong airport.
We only saw signs for Egyptair inside the terminal. Nothing looked familiar.
At our second counter, and feeling fortunate he could speak English, we were informed that we needed to catch a bus!

Outside the terminal, we waited for our bus. I was apprehensive. After climbing onboard, we drove a couple of miles while the bus emptied itself of passengers. Pamela, myself, and another man was the only ones left. I walked up to the driver and asked him for the second time if we were really on the right bus.
We were. We were the last stop. To my huge relief, we were issued our etickets inside the terminal.
With a few hours left, we grabbed a snack and waited until we were allowed to go through security. For some reason at the Cairo airport, they didn't do early check-ins. They had us to go through customs, security checks, and pay our exit taxes at the last hour. After passing inspection, we were allowed into another room where we waited for another bus.
Just before we left, a group of smartly dressed Dutch stewardesses appeared in pretty blue dress suits. They took the first bus, then we were allowed on the last two. We were taken to our plane outside, and there we huffed and puffed our backpacks up a steep flight of stairs. Pamela and I were crunched in the middle isle of the plane. We tried to sleep the almost 5 hour flight to Amsterdam.
Three hours later, we were served scrambled eggs, sausage, yogurt, and a fruit cup. I think I had managed about 5 or 10 minutes of sleep all together.
Amsterdam departure

Arriving in Amsterdam! We had a traffic jam leaving the plane. I guess security was extra firm since we were arriving from Africa. We were individually questioned and searched while holding up the line. I also had less than an hour to catch my connecting flight!

We were disappointed we didn't have time to look around. We were literally running to catch our plane. But we had another hold-up. Up ahead were those full body scan machines. I was not too happy about that. A man asked for our passports and started asking us questions. Unbelievably I couldn't get the name of my hotel right when he asked where we had been staying in Cairo.
Palace Garden!
I mean Garden- something...
Rose Garden...
What was the name of the hotel Pamela??!
(thus the curse of the hotel again)

The man smiled and waved us on. A lady was waiting to pat us down.

By the time we arrived at our gate, passengers were boarding.

We were pleased to see that our plane was HALF EMPTY. Everyone spread apart, some taking three seats, lifting up the arm rests and making beds. I couldn't believe that some slept the entire 10 hour flight!

Lunch - amazingly good.

Was really surprised to be fed another meal. It was going on 1pm, Houston time. We had finally gained back our missing 8 hours. Still no sleep for me... I watched two movies on the plane.

We were excited as we hit the runway in Houston. Airport security was extreme. I learned it is harder to enter America, than the 5 countries we had visited. It was even announced on the Houston intercom that we could be arrested for jokes. After clearing customs, and security, I couldn't believe we were finally free!

Since we had no baggage checks, we headed straight for the bus to catch a ride to the Rental Car agency. We spent 2 hours going from one rental booth after another trying to find a rental car. Unbelievably they were all sold out. I did not look forward to returning to the airport, buying tickets to Austin, and stepping on yet another plane. We were just plain exhausted.

The last booth we checked was Advantage. They had a car, but my lack of planning (advance reservations) had cost me. $260 later, we were pulling out in something black and sporty.

I drove less than a mile and pulled over. I had to pull myself together. Sleep deprivation was blurrying my vision and I could barely read my map. I was confused by the toll roads. I would stop somewhere and get me the coldest and largest Coke I could find, turn on the radio, any music station, and stay awake. Only 180 more miles...

We were on the highway somewhere outside of Houston and I realized I hadn't seen any trash on the sides of the road. It was a sight for sore eyes - open green fields, rolling hills, and lots of spring flowers in bloom. I fell in love with my country all over again.

It was good to be home! We did it!

Egypt, Israel, Jordan from Helen Ruth on Vimeo.
~Music video of trip - Singers: Natacha Atlas, Michael W Smith, TobyMac


Daisy said...

I just want to tell you that I really enjoyed reading about your trip. Every post held my attention. That must have been a great experience for you and your daughter. Thanks for sharing it, it was nice to be transported to other countries through your blog.

Patty said...

What a full trip!

I am still surprised you were able to drive home after everything.