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Posts Tagged ‘Finding myself’

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” Aldous Huxley

The departure from Israel was much smoother than anything to date. So smooth that I thought I was dreaming, or perhaps it simply didn’t worry me any longer. I was catching a plane to Athens, so perhaps that made the difference?  Whatever the reason, I was ensconced in a delightful business class seat and the trip was relaxing and I zoned out fairly quickly.

On my arrival in Athens I stowed my “extra’ baggage in short-term storage. The guys there were so helpful and it was quickly done. It was certainly easier moving around with just one bag!

Athens was a brief stop. A few days to catch my breath and reacquaint myself with the Acropolis and the sites around town. I was still very much in my introspective state and was aware of the energies as I wandered around. I was still in this wonderful place of accepting whatever happened and the expanded feel of energy as I wandered around was magical.

Even though I had only a small amount of time I felt no urging to run around trying to see everything. It was more important to capture the feel of the places I visited. I saw the Acropolis and Parthenon again, the National Gardens, and Syntagma Square. It was a peaceful bubble amidst the hustle and bustle of the frenetic pace of Athens.

I was leaving Athens for another unknown experience, Geneva and eventually Fribourg, Switzerland.

I was meeting a friend in Geneva, someone I met through an overseas Pen Pal site a few years earlier. Still it was a little nerve-wracking as I asked him how I would pick him out of the crowd. “Just look for the pink shirt” I was advised, and I must admit it didn’t really help with the nervous anticipation. At least I only had one bag to “man handle” and I went through the airport so quickly I wondered what was happening. The Swiss seemed so “laid back” after the high tension of the Middle East.

#InSearchof

The BMW 6 series fast and hot!

As I left the airport proper, not having seen my friend, I saw this very tall person who looked exactly like his photos, dressed in a pink shirt next to his hot car. His two door BMW had the top down and I could see the beautiful face of a Sky Terrier peering over the seat. Oh – heaven and sadness all at once. I realised I must have looked a fright in my very casual but comfortable travel wear. However, that’s how I was and it made me, in my joggers, look like a dwarf next to my six-foot six tailored friend. Suitcase stowed away we set off – WITHOUT SEATBELTS FASTENED!

I was horrified and bemused as he explained that they weren’t used, unless the police were around. (But there was one, at least an ex-police officer, in the car!).   The drive was exhilarating as we sped (yes sped) along the main road through the byways of Geneva to reach his home.  As the car stopped outside this innocuous home, where I had agreed to spend the night, I was feeling a little apprehensive but so relaxed at the brisk temperature and the beautiful sight of spring bulbs in flower.  Memories on England sped through my mind.

 

Through the front door I was given my next breath-taking surprise. The entrance was so deceptive and inside I found a veritable mansion. I felt so under dressed, and in need of a shower and an elegant dress. Well the shower was easy, but the dress not so easy. All my good clothes which I had carried around needlessly were now in storage at the airport!  So I settled for a good change of clothes and some reasonable shoes and made myself ready to find my way through this enormous house to the computer room.

Since he was in the computer business, in a large way I should add, there were computers on computers and at least six working machines. By that I mean all going on different programs. It was an enormous array and he could follow all of them. (Feeling very below par as I struggle to get my computer to do basic things for me.)

I had my next surprise over freshly brewed coffee. I had totally lost track of days and dates and arrived there expecting just another Friday. Yes it was, but it was also Good Friday, and everything was closed. (Great timing Susan). After a few phone calls we were faced with the fact that dinner in Geneva was out of the question. Not a problem I was told, we will go to France for dinner! What?! France! How!  We drive over the border, just bring your passport.

So we set off for France. Now I admit I am geographically challenged and I had no idea where I was going. Of course France and Switzerland share the same border. A short drive in the twilight and we had crossed the border without any fuss. Drat! I had not been able to get my passport stamped in Geneva (not done due to their status) and because we weren’t stopped, no French stamp either.  Oh well. My next surprise was the number of dogs allowed inside the restaurant. It seemed almost every other table had a pooch sitting quietly under the table – or next to it.

 

#InSearchof

image from nickhardcastle.wordpress.com

It was a big day and due to my insomnia issue I was still wide awake when we returned to his home. We watched clips on the hoax or not of the Twin Towers and the plight of Palestinians and the harshness of the Israelis. It was an interesting evening to say the very least. After a final cup of coffee, very late in the morning I actually felt a little sleepy – jet lag I assumed. I was advised to take a glass of water with me as he would be setting all the house alarms and once in the bedroom wing, the door would be alarmed.

I was alarmed – I am a night wanderer and I was being told I would be in one tiny wing of bedrooms and unable to leave. No! I trusted this gentleman and would have to content myself with iPod and book! The slate shower was much colder to enter so late in the morning as it had absorbed the chill from the air, but the hot water was magnificent. The bed was so soft and warm under the doona that I eventually fell asleep.

Unbelievable! I slept in! Not only did I sleep in, it was 9am when I woke up!  I was so embarrassed and hurried to get ready so I could leave my room and see my host, who had volunteered to drive me to Fribourg rather than catch the train.  Yet it was no trouble, I had a leisurely breakfast with more freshly brewed coffee, an entrancing walk through the grounds of his house, entranced by all the spring bulbs growing freely throughout his lawn before we decided to leave and head for Fribourg.

We drove with the top down all the way, but it’s what happened along the way that was so unexpected.

 

Next week…..Fribourg and Home.

 

Blessings, Susan ♥

© Susan Jamieson 2014

 

If you would like to read more of the story, here ar a few of the earlier parts to the story….

In search of… Part 21

In Search of…Part 20

In Search of…Part 19

 

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In Searcdh of...Jerusalem

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

It’s taken a while but I’d like to explain why I use this image for each of my entries “In Search of”, The simple reason is that the title of the work is “Spirit Elements” and it seems fitting for my story. I hope you like it a much as I do.

Once on the coach at the Dead Sea Hotel we traveled through the Hebron Valley towards Bethlehem. After many calls and ‘agreements’ our guide had been given the all clear for those of us who wished to go into Bethlehem, to do so. It was explained to us that it would be our own decision and no responsibility would be held by the tour operators. Since Bethlehem was inside the West Bank, a Tour Guide from inside there had been arranged and he would look after us whilst we were there. There was still a set protocol to be followed to visit Bethlehem. At the time it seemed slightly odd, from the perspective of hindsight it was a trifle more ominous.

The tour bus driver was allowed to drive up to the West Bank access point, whilst the tour guide had to exit the bus a couple of blocks before the checkpoint.  The driver had been given instructions that he was not allowed to leave the bus under any circumstances, although we were not totally aware of the magnitude of that little statement.

Arriving at the checkpoint I noticed the high concrete wall around three sides of the ‘square’ and the shapes of armed soldiers along the top of the wall, all carrying machine guns! An ominous start. The access area looked, for all the world like a cattle grid, or the gates at the entrance to the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. Once off the bus the driver left immediately, and we were on our own. We moved towards our  entrance. There were swarthy looking characters watching our every move. It was increasingly tense as our every move was carefully watched.

At the other side we were met by the West Bank tour guide, Ibrahim. We later found out that the real tour guide was Ibrahim’s son, but since the recent conflict, the tourism trade had been badly affected and he had therefore decided to take the tour himself.  After the time we had spent in Israel it felt like a different world completely. The buildings were, for the most part, covered in steel grills and the windows or glass in the doors was papered over also.  Everything seemed dustier, the people less cheerful and much more aware of our presence. We were escorted to a restaurant for lunch and had little option but to order something. We were not leaving until we had eaten! We saw Hezekiah’s tunnel, the Church of the Nativity and spent some time being closely scrutinised in a large square in front of an official looking building.

The ‘tour guide’ seemed to disappear into the surroundings as we reached the square and we were left milling around wondering when he was coming back.  Finally, he strode into our midst from within a group of soldiers. We were hustled up the street quickly. The very unfriendly looks made for a tense atmosphere. At one of the unremarkable doorways we were ushered inside. It was a souvenir shop which appeared to sell religious knick knacks of a huge number. The women in the store had coffee, sweets and savouries which they pressed on us at every opportunity at no cost. We had been told that as soon as we were ready to leave we should ask the tour guide to radio ahead for the bus to be at the check point to pick us up. The driver was allowed ten minutes to be at the exit and collect us so timing was critical. However, despite being asked by more than half the group our tour guide was in no hurry to allow us to leave, in fact the door had been locked and bolted – for our protection! It soon became apparent that unless everyone bought something from the shop – which he owned – we weren’t going to leave any time soon.

After a hurried discussion we all bought a small trinket and the guide called for the Israeli bus. We made our way back to the gates under the watchful gaze of the locals and a soldier or two. I am rarely uncomfortable when out and about but it was with a very odd sensation between my shoulders that I made my way through the exit. The Israeli bus was a very welcome sight. We drove several blocks away and collected our Israeli guide, which is when we finally learned of the tension surrounding our visit to Bethlehem. If we had known I doubt that as many people would have gone.

From Bethlehem we drove to Jerusalem. It was such a strange transition, driving through lush countryside after the drab and desolate surroundings inside the West Bank. I am not making any criticism of the area, either the people of the place, yet I can say with all honesty that the only time on my trip I felt at all uncomfortable was whilst I was inside the West Bank.  The air of “something about to happen” was very real.

Jerusalem was yet again a completely diverse mix of modern and ‘ancient’. We saw the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. Nothing was as I expected, probably from too many movies. We, that is Mel and I, had an exciting trip to Ben Yehuda mall to find a new suitcase for me. Pulling an empty suitcase over a paved or cobbled area was hilarious. We were so hungry we stopped for Schwarma in the mall. The looks we got were priceless and watching the flow of people as we sat there was enough to write fill a novel. We managed to find a nifty little store that was crammed with everything imaginable and I bought a few laugh a minute items for my children when I got home.

On the way to the hotel   we stopped at a little coffee shop. They were really nice letting me drag this large suitcase inside with us. We had the most delicious chocolate mousse filled with hot syrupy chocolate. It was so delicious I could have scrapped the plate clean!

The next day we set off for a tour of the old city. We walked from the Western Gate to the many churches and the ‘birthplace of Christ’. There was so much to see and not enough time. We stopped for a while at the Wailing Wall and walked the length of the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of the Cross”.  Stopping at a sidewalk café for drinks and something to eat seemed surreal and at the same time so ‘every day’ that I wondered if I was just an observer in a strange land.

After an exhausting day we went back to the hotel and, being the first two in the business centre, Mel and I hit the computers to write home and keep a running diary of events.

The next day was spent exploring further and a haunting visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. It was impossible not to be moved by the enormity of all we saw.  Mere words and photos cannot really do our time in Jerusalem justice. It could easily fill a small book.

The next morning we packed up and the bus headed for the airport at Tel Aviv, the Ben Gurion airport for the next leg of our tour in Egypt. But first we had to get through customs!

All around us was so much history, it was impossible not to try to capture as much as possible so we could have our memories with us later.

It was a beautiful and challenging visit. The two sides to the same coin, but the differences were so great. After the tense and uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem, it was difficult not to make judgement calls….. rightly or wrongly, we were all glad we were in Israel. I felt I had been protected, and I also felt that ‘we all’ would be safe. It was good to have an angel on my shoulder.

I hope you have enjoyed this…. previous chapters are located throughout the archives. Please use “In Search of..Part “..” and you can catch up if you need to.

Next Week –  Airports and Cairo

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image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
From an Irish headstone”    Richard Puz

 

.

Traveling to Mum’s house that night felt surreal. I felt as though I was wandering through my own personal nightmare. I drove along and had no real recollection of where I was going or what I was doing, it felt as though I was on auto pilot. What would have happened if anything unexpected occurred I have no idea. I suppose I should thank my angels and Dad that it didn’t. I could sense him from time to time but I knew he would be with Mum.

Going through the front door was indescribable. Yet another part of the nightmare, never ending. There was this horrible feeling of disconnect. Nothing felt real. I felt like an interloper and I seriously wanted to leave. For the first time I can remember I felt lost, adrift on some strange ocean with no bearings to guide me. Yet I was expected to be the same person I had always been, capable, competent, organised – for everyone else. It felt as though any feelings I had didn’t exist for anyone else. Their tears poured but I felt I couldn’t, or shouldn’t. When I was told I was a co executor of Mum’s estate I cringed inside. The other was my brother.

Every ‘rule’ of executor ship was flouted and trying to say anything I was over ruled on the pretext that he was so upset because Mum had passed away. Oh – wasn’t she my mother too? I was over ruled and out voted. Meetings held without me regarding Mums prized possessions (sentimental), before her hospitalisation had seen me ‘disenfranchised’. My children were simply excluded, and I had the feeling it was because they were the only grandchildren. I was being torn apart piecemeal, no one to turn to and I was still supposed to take control of the situation, even being accused of being an “Ice Maiden”, without feelings, because they didn’t see me cry. I had a dam inside and the tears couldn’t be allowed to get past it. I didn’t want them to see it either.

image from http://www.theguardian.com     Such a vital piece of paper

The more I learned about how the Will had come to be drawn up, its contents and the meetings which took place without me, the more I felt cut off from my family. I was lost in the darkness and there was no way out.  Once the funeral was over, the wrangling with finalising the estate began. Months of arrangements and meetings, and more and more blackouts as I traveled to ‘Mum’s’ house started to widen the cracks. When I was finally told, after I organised the estate tax return, that it would be another 12 months until it could be finalised I reached “the point of no return”.  Denied Mum’s mementos, denied access to the house proper to see her things, despite everything I had tried to do and I had reached the time to say, “Enough!”

I needed time. I needed space. I needed to find out who I was again. I had been mother, daughter, sister, wife for so long that I was unsure who I was. I booked a 12 week trip to the Middle East and Switzerland, had a long talk with my children and left to find myself. My children understood and were old enough and cared enough to wish me well, however. I didn’t leave a happy camp behind. I don’t believe my brothers really understood how fragile I had become.  I tidied up everything with the solicitor so nothing would need attending to in my absence and left.

Perhaps it was prophetic that I went to the airport alone and had no one to see me off. My very first overseas trip, the only trip I had ever taken alone in my life and there was no one there to say goodbye. As the plane rose into the air I felt an enormous weight suddenly detach from me and I felt lighter than I had for so long. I had a long way to go but I had made a start.

image from http://www.travelhouseuk.co.uk           Fly away little bird.

There was a strange feeling as I walked into the Singapore airlines lounge, which felt something like, “So this is what ‘they’ were talking about. There was a feeling of freedom, of being looked after, and after the previous couple of decades it was almost unbelievable. The people there were so friendly and helpful, and despite the fact that it was their job, they made me feel as though I was special, something truly unusual for me.

The long haul trip to Singapore tested out my back despite being in Business class, a luxury I had decided on simply because of the injuries to my back. Unfortunately we arrived at 11pm so apart from a walk, a very long walk to the Singapore airlines lounge there were very few shops open.  Yet the two hour wait for my connecting flight to Athens was still full of surprises.  I had rarely seen so much food available outside a restaurant and staff who were only too happy to help. The shower facilities were a blessing and it felt really good to refresh myself after sitting on the plane for so long.

image from http://www.airreview.com             Business Lounge in Singapore

Back on board again it seemed only a short time before we were landing in Athens. I had been too excited to sleep much so the on-board films were a good distraction. I was collected at the airport – Yes, I had someone standing in arrivals with my name on a piece of cardboard! Whisked through the airport, the Greeter insisted on handling my entire luggage (I over packed) and I was in a taxi and speeding into Athens.

The driver, whose name I never did get, zipped in and out of traffic like a bee hopping from flower to flower. The nonstop information was brilliant, but I could only take part of it in. The sights and sounds were amazing. Once we reached Athens the traffic was phenomenal. So many vehicles all going flat out, horns honking, drivers waving their arms at each other and the roads – they seemed so small! It was a thrill a minute.

View of the Acropolis from outside the hotel

View of the Acropolis from outside the hotel

The hotel was an oasis of peace and calm from the bustle outside and once I was in my beautiful suite I suddenly felt exhausted. Tired or not I had to explore since I was only there for a couple of days on the way to Israel, my ‘final’ destination. I’m sure the Major D was surprised when I hurried through the doors so soon, asking for directions. I walked for hours before finally stumbling back to the hotel where I declared it exhaustion treat time and ordered room service.

One beautiful hot bath later my meal arrived and I settled down to find an English speaking news channel so I could find out if the Middle East was still peaceful.  The lure of the soft and gigantic bed was too much and I slept until breakfast the next morning.  A full breakfast was on offer but I didn’t want to waste time so off I went sightseeing and gathering all the brochures I could for my return trip.

image from news.gtp.gr     Athens Airport

 Picked up bright and early the next morning, (They even got the staff up early so I could have breakfast before I left) and I was whisked out to catch the El Al Plane into Israel. That was where the fun really began.

Next week – Learning to breathe again

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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