Sunday, April 03, 2011

Israel - Chapter 3

On Sunday, March 27 at 3 a.m. it was time to leave the luxurious Notre Dame of Jerusalem House and make our way to the Ben Grunion Airport, which was an hour away.

When my turn came to get my boarding passes I was told I could get a boarding pass to the Madrid airport, but I couldn’t use my ticket from Madrid to Mexico City because the plane was full. I could wait in Tel Aviv or I could go on to Madrid, either way I’d have to wait twenty-four hours to travel from Madrid to Mexico City. I chose to wait in Madrid.

Off I went on my way to Madrid. I’d need to deal with my flight to Mexico City the next day. I proceeded to security. My checked luggage was to go through a scanner before baggage handlers would put it onto the plane. Before it went through the scanner a very polite Israeli security official asked me all kinds of probing questions. She must have been told she should smile because throughout my mild interrogation she smiled and smiled and smiled. Her face must be really sore at the end of a shift.

It was a long and interesting walk to my gate. To my left, as I sauntered along, I read the English written on the huge murals that hung on the wall. The murals gave those walking by a history of Israel’s troubles, what it has endured and what it does endure. The poster asked for financial help. Then came the display celebrating stupid.

Well, I’ll be darned, there are other people in the world who think like me. I’ve been shocking people for quite sometime by freely admitting I’m stupid. I’m committed to being a seeker of knowledge rather than a possessor of it. When partaking in social discourse I’m likely not to express an opinion because most of the time too many people are already pontificating, whether knowledgable on the subject or not.

I celebrate stupid.

I arrived in Madrid. The Madrid Airport is huge. After gathering up my luggage and making my way through the immigration area I found an information booth, strangely enough the people staffing the booth weren’t allowed to give any information, except for flights in and out of the airport.

I did manage to learn that Barajas was the pueblo that was close to the airport. Madrid city center was about an hour away by way of the metro.

I thought I’d find a hotel in Bajaras. Then I planned use the metro to get to the Madrid Zocalo. Although the information person strongly suggested I take the metro she was unable to tell me the name of a hotel, or how far it would be from the Bajaras metro station to a hotel.

I decided to find a cab. I went outside and found the front of a very long line of cabs. Few people were waiting because the taxis got a fare quickly and quickly drove off. My turn came fast. I explained to the taxi driver that I wanted to go to Bajaras and that I needed help finding a hotel.

“Muy mal. Muy mal,” he said. Then, “Arriba, arriba,” while pointing up. I looked up and was amazed. On the second story, high in the air was another street in front of the airport, and up there were more taxis.

Okay I said as he got my suitcase from the trunk of his taxi. I went back into the airport and rode a glass elevator to the second floor.

Outside on the second floor, I explained to a very young cab driver what I wanted. Apparently he couldn’t oblige because he walked over to the taxi behind his and I watched as he talked to the driver.

The third cab driver accepted my request and off we went. He’s an engineer from Cuba who has lived in Spain for twenty-four years. I ask how an engineer ended up driving cab. He tells me he worked in his profession for a long time. I assumed he’s retired and the cab is a way to make extra money.

“Where did you learn to speak Spanish?” he asks.

He was very accommodating, and turned off his meter when I went into the first hotel. It was too expensive. We went to another hotel. When I was in the hotel negotiating price he decided to come in. He checked, how close the hotel was to the nearest metro station, knowing of my plan to go into Madrid. He also asked if the rate I was quoted included all the taxes. When he’s convinced this hotel met my needs he and I went back to the taxi where he gave s me my suitcase. I thought I should give him a tip.

“What is the custom in Spain? I don’t know. Do people tip?”

He hesitates, then decides to honestly answer my question. “Not usually,” he says.

“Well, I’d like to give you a tip anyway because you’ve been so helpful.”

Everyone I met during my twenty-four hours in Spain were charming. I’d move to Spain if I could afford it.

Midmorning the next day a hotel shuttle took me to terminal four, which is totally devoted to Iberia flights. I was about to stand in a line to get my boarding pass when an Iberia employee told me it was the wrong line. I thought she was pointing in a certain direction and there. Then realized I needed a boarding pass to move through that line.

I returned to the Iberia staff person and asked, “Where is the line where I can get a boarding pass for the plane leaving at 12:55 for Mexico City.” I had no other information because I didn’t have a ticket. I had only the personal guarantee of an Iberian staff person working in Tel Aviv.

The Iberia staffer checking to see people didn’t stand in the wrong line said something I don’t understand and pointed in the direction of several lines. “Alli, alli, alli ,” I say. (There, there, there.) Not having a clue which there (line) I should be standing in.

I asked a cleaning person. Sometimes they’re the wisest people in an establishment. She told me that line with ticket booth numbers 21 through 40 will get me a boarding pass to Mexico City. As I moved toward the end of that line, I suppose she thinks she might be wrong and doesn’t want to steer me in the wrong direction, she tells me I should go to the information booth. “Alli,” she points. I look. “Oh, Alli,” I say.

Eventually I get my boarding pass, check my suitcase and board the plane.

I arrived in Mexico City. Took a cab to TAPO bus terminal and asked when the next bus left for Ciudad de Oaxaca. I’m told it leaves in five minutes. I’m rushed into buying a ticket and rushed onto the bus. The baggage handler puts my suitcase into the baggage area of the bus. This time I’m on a regular ADO bus, the movie screen is not on the seat in front of me and, I don’t get personal earphones. I don’t have a blanket or pillow. I don’t get a free bottle of water. The seats are smaller and cramped.

Not having water is a problem because the bus will not stop for six hours. I have maybe a few swallows in my water bottle. A fellow passenger offers to fill my bottle,

It’s a long ride. I arrive in the city of Oaxaca Tuesday, March 29 at 3 a.m. A cab ride home and my journey is complete.

I get my money from ATM machines, and much of what I get is in $500 peso denominations. Change in Mexico is always a problem. When purchasing anything, merchants and service providers usually ask for exact change. I think I have only a two hundred peso bill and the ride to my place only costs 40 pesos.

The cab driver doesn’t seem to understand. I don’t need change, I need a ride and only have a 200 peso bill. Does he have sufficient change? Can he except my fare? I’m tired. I’m stressed. I must been shouting because he covered his ears. Eventually he lets me and my suitcase into the cab because as it turns out he can give me $160 in change.

While driving to my apartment, I discovered I had a $50 peso bill. He doesn’t need to change my large bill.

Because I must have been shouting, although I didn’t mean to, I gave him the entire $50 peso bill and tell him to keep the change. I’ve given him a tip of less than $1 Canadian. The way he smiled and thanked me you/d have thought it was $20. He was delighted and I was home.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Welcome back! I hope you plan to stay in Oaxaca for a long time... our experiences are similar in so many ways.

I plan to add your blog to my blog list, and to thank you for adding mine (Adventures in Mexico) to yours.