May 2014 - Israel
Thank God for Google Maps and roaming data because if it weren't for you today I may have missed my first flight of four on my way back home.
We were on our way out of Jerusalem when I realised we had taken a wrong turn, after turning on Google Maps I saw the traffic report on the highway that we wanted to be on... We did not want to be on that highway. So we detoured along another major road which came complete with an exit (which we didn't take) stating that you were entering Palestinian controlled land and that Israeli passport holders should not enter - a sobering sign and a reminder of the tension in the region.
The first check came before the counter; a fast and furious twenty questions scrutinising EVERY single stamp in my passport, especially those that were from Arab countries. They wanted to know it ALL, why I travelled there, who I met, if I went home with anyone. I was thankful for my smiling parents standing about 10 metres away when I was explaining that I hadn't been travelling alone.
But that didn't stop me being placed in the 'singles' line at the security check where I observed an American taking exception to being stuck in a queue because of his Arab sounding name. They were not very quick to start processing anyone and I'm afraid to say that guy was still waiting to be check when I had finished. And what an ordeal that was. My passport was taken away from me and placed behind the security screening; the lady asking me to remove all electronics from my bag. Maybe at that point she realised I wasn't harbouring any ill will towards the process or her country because I replied with a laugh and a, "That's everything in the bag." I'm not sure if she believed the statement at first but I'm sure once she saw the extensive electronic contents of my bag I made her a believer. She swabbed EVERYTHING, inside everything, every empty pocket... EVERYWHERE! I watched as the clock ticked on, scared to look up to see my parents on the otherside of the security glass because I might roll my eyes and God only knows where I (and they) would have ended up next. At the end of the bag unpacking ordeal the lady did offer to help me repack my bag which I thought was really nice. I wonder if that American guy ended up with the same courtesy?
Meanwhile my suitcase, currently unlocked due to regulations was undergoing the same methodical swabbing. Why they cannot lock the bag afterwards I do not know because imagine you are flying Tel Aviv to Istanbul, then Istanbul to Dubai without seeing your unlocked suitcase until you landed at Dubai airport. I felt like a ticking time bomb until I was able to check that the suitcase and all its contents were still there. Kudos to the inspector who used a sock to wrap my spare camera lens and who took the time to ensure all my clothes were still folded neatly.
Then there was the ticket drama at Istanbul airport. I was too early for an Emirates representative to be there and the people that were ticketing me couldn't quite understand the concept that I did not have an American address because I was flying through the US back to Canada! I ended up giving them the address of Four Seasons Seattle to expedite the process, which didn't happen. I was at the counter for the better part of a hour. It wasn't as if I was flying to the states on this leg either. I was flying to Dubai, then onto Seattle after a 6 hour layover where I would leave the airport to sleep!
To this day I will breathe a sigh of relief that me, my suitcase and all its contents made it back to Canada. Four flights later and a 2 hour bus ride back up the mountain I was VERY glad to be home, but that was one awesome trip I will never forget!