We arrived Tel Aviv 3:30 AM on Saturday, after what you might call a Swiss sandwich: two red-eyes with a thin slice of Zurich in the middle. “We” in this case are the girls, myself, and my mom, who joined us at the Zurich airport. I was very proud of myself for actually getting the girls to leave the airport, take a train into Zurich, and walk down to the lake – no small feat given that Rebecca has 17 new Kindle books on the iPad, and Leah was perfectly content to go around the airport putting stickers on other people’s hand luggage for six hours. Neither of them particularly wanted an excursion, but I won, and they earned the stamps in their passports.
It is a core part of my travel ritual to leave something important on the airplane, usually a coat, but this time I disembarked in Israel with all of our possessions. To make up for it, I forgot the car seat at baggage claim and didn’t realize it until we were in line for a taxi. This may not seem like such a big deal if the word “airport” brings to mind a place like SFO , but just try getting back into baggage claim after passing through customs in Tel Aviv. It would take a diplomatic escort, a solid foundation in black ops, and the ability to dig a tunnel without anybody noticing. So we convinced ourselves that Leah would be OK for the 20-minute ride to Tel Aviv and got in a cab. She was fine. We’re still trying to retrieve the car seat. It’s Tuesday.
Other than that, it’s been a great trip so far. We’re all struggling with the jetlag – it’s hard to convince a four-year-old that you should try to go to sleep, even if you don’t feel sleepy – and by the time I’ve cajoled her into bed at 2 AM, my own body clock is not so cooperative. But the apartment rental is working out great, the kids love the beach, and they’ve started to explore beyond Tel Aviv with my mother (who, while perhaps out of practice with things like forcing a trip to the bathroom before you are nowhere near one, seems to be enjoying this). Yesterday, the girls were tearing around the hippodrome at Caesarea, pretending to be horses in an ancient chariot race; today, they’re doing the Dig for a Day program at the Beit Guvrin Archaeological Seminars Institute. Everyone who has done this program tells me that it’s an experience they will never forget. They’re having fun, and I’m trying to retain my position that just being here is an adventure. Coming home to them at the end of the workday is admittedly more exhausting than flopping down with room service, but the ache of maternal separation that I usually feel when I’m overseas, waking up every day just after their bedtime, is blessedly absent.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit in running, but I made it out yesterday morning, petting cats and gazing out at paddleboarders along the way to Old Jaffa. At the top of the hill, I stood on the Wishing Bridge. According to the sign (and Wikitravel), legend holds that if you grasp the statue of your zodiac sign, face the sea, and make a wish, it will come true. It sounds like a legend that the Ministry of Tourism conjured up, but who am I to pass up an opportunity to pause connect with what I wish for? I cycled through all the usual suspects, recalling the scene in Groundhog Day where Andie MacDowell says “I always drink to world peace” – but I decided to wish for my kids to have a good time on this trip. I care about this more than whether they learn anything, deepen their appreciation for other cultures, or eat something other than toast in the next two weeks. It’s somewhat related to world peace, as there is a tiny voice in the back of my head reminding me that I’m in a volatile part of the world – but mostly, I just want them to look back on this trip and say, “That was fun.”
So far, it seems as if my wish could come true.