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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Learning How to Breathe Again

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

“I thought about having a proper room, breathing life into it, and nobody minding.”
― Jenny Valentine, Broken Soup

Arriving at the airport in Athens to catch the El Al plane to Israel was the beginning of something totally unexpected. The entire place was bustling despite the early hour. Needless to say the El Al departure gate was at the furthest end of the airport. Arriving in Athens I had realised I had over packed, but by then it was too late to do anything about it. After hauling my cases (2) to the El Al checkpoint I was unconcerned when I was shepherded to the side to have my luggage checked. After all, I had nothing to be concerned about. Had I?

Enter one of the most handsome men I had seen in a long time. Pointing at my large suitcase he indicated I should place it on the waist high bench and open it. OK, everything was tied down really well so as soon as I unclipped the straps the clothes jumped up another eight inches – at least. Not content with that embarrassment I was then amazed to see him painstakingly go through everything in my case, and then the second case. I mean EVERYTHING – bras, pants, the lot! By the time he had finished inspecting them there was this mangled mess of clothing and toiletries on the lids of the suitcases. Smiling beguilingly he told me I could repack my bags and join the queue to get a boarding pass.

Learning to Breathe

image from http://www.live4.com.au         Too much of a good thing is still too much!

Time – I couldn’t forget the time. It was running through my mind over and over with the idea that I might miss my connection. I knew I shouldn’t have packed so much! So when I finally got to weighing my bag I breathed a sigh of relief. A sigh which was very short lived. Over weight! On Singapore it was only two kilos over which they waived. On El Al the weight permitted was much less and I was eight kilos over! OMG. Take the bag back and haul ass to the counter to pay for the excess baggage. Of course the counter was two thirds of the way back up the concourse, a very long concourse, and I had to take my luggage with me.

Thank heavens for a very helpful Greek airport staff guy. He hauled the big case and I grabbed the second and off we trotted. The trot became a gallop as we tried to get to the counter. Of course they wanted cash which I didn’t have as I was leaving. Finally they put it through on my Visa, mainly thanks to my Greek friend and we began the mad dash back to the El Al departure point. After a very frosty look from the lady behind the El Al counter I escaped towards the departure lounge. The fun was just beginning though.

Boarding a plane is fairly standard, right? There’s the squeezing between the seats and trying to get your luggage in the overhead racks, getting into your seat and settling down. This was completely different and people were going every which way, apparently without any rhyme or reason. Seats seemed to be taken as they wished and it felt as though chaos ruled the day. Amazingly, all the seats were filled and the plane left on time.

However! As soon as the plan set off down the runway seat belts started popping open and by the time we were airborne most of the passengers were wandering all over the place, talking, from one side of the plane to the other and from back to the front, and all in Hebrew. The odd one out wasn’t even close. I huddled down and tried to remain inconspicuous. Not very likely but there you have it. I did receive some rather odd looks which I interpreted as “what on earth are you doing here”?

The trip from Athens to Tel Aviv was just over an hour long and the passengers milled around the plane for the entire trip. I’m not even sure if they sat down for the landing, and the disembarkation felt like a free for all to get off first.

Learning to Breathe

image from http://www.itnews.com.au                 Why are you here?     

Arriving at the passport check in was reasonably straight forward; just follow the queue, yet not quite. The Israelis walked through their gate at a fast pace whilst I joined a much smaller queue. I handed over my passport and then had my first ever taste of being on the receiving end of an interrogation. Why was I coming to Israel? Why was I alone? Was I meeting someone? Did I know anyone here? Had I come to find a husband? A husband?! I had just managed to divest myself of the last mistake so I most definitely wasn’t looking for another. After I explained that I was divorced she relaxed, until she asked me for my maiden name since I didn’t have my husband’s surname.

Oh! Well. Hmm. I had changed my name by deed poll after my divorce and chosen a name I liked, so I couldn’t give her my maiden name as a reference either. That didn’t go over very well so we went through all the previous questions again. It was obvious she didn’t like me and didn’t believe I wasn’t there to snare some poor unwary Israeli guy for my next husband.  Eventually, as the last person in the checkpoint left and I was there alone, one of the other men came around to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t speak Hebrew but the rapid fire statements from her gave me the feeling she would have loved to send me back. Thankfully he must have out ranked her and I tiredly walked through the checkpoint to get my luggage. I was the last person in the airport and my greeter had vanished.

Learning to Breathe

image from jewishcentralvoice.com                       Tel Aviv

After many phone calls and what felt like a long wait but was probably only a half an hour I was met by a nice guy who shepherded me to his vehicle and we set off for the hotel. I was thrilled to have a running commentary of all the sights and history as we traveled into Tel Aviv.

The strangest part of all, despite the language barrier and the quasi interrogation at the airport, there was a real feeling of coming home. I took my first deep breath in a long time and realised I had started to feel relaxed. It really felt quite strange.

Next week – A blend of new worlds

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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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

 

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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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image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

Recollections of that Christmas are strange, some vague and others thrown into stark relief. At times I felt alone in a darkness so profound I wondered if I would ever emerge again. I can remember desperately wanting to make it as happy and carefree as possible, easy and light, a remembrance of all the beautiful Christmas’ we had spent together. Above all it had to be as far removed from the reality of the situation as possible.  Despite the strain in Mum’s face, she was happy. Her family were around her and the love was overflowing. It was all I could have asked for. I was grateful my prayers were answered.

As though Christmas had never occurred it was back to ‘normal’ as soon as the New Year came around.  Hubby had spent plenty of time fuming over my response and as a result I wasn’t too surprised when, early in the new year, he advised me he wasn’t interested in trying to make a go of things, he wanted a divorce. It was a bad move on his part. I had a strong feeling that I should move and quickly. I haven’t felt such an urging before so I did exactly as he asked. As soon as the courts opened for business in the new year I went in, filled out the paperwork and less than three months later it was all over. He got his divorce finalised (the decree nisi) on his birthday. It wasn’t planned that way by me, but I have a feeling Spirit, and of course Dad had a lot to do with the speed of things. I had more important things on my mind. The darkness was drawing in. I also decided to change my name – I needed to sever the ties to him completely.

In early March Mum was rushed back into hospital and we, at least I, had been told that she wouldn’t be going home again. She hated the hospital and couldn’t rest. I was called earlier each day because she was calling for me, so I was there from 5am or earlier until 7pm when my brothers arrived for their hour-long visit! All day I made sure she received her morphine shots to ease the pain.  When they wore off during the night she was too ‘out of it’ to ask for more. My brothers thought she was doing okay because they only saw her after a day with regular pain shots. She was alert and pain free for their short visit. They refused to accept how dire the situation was. Several falls from bed and very nasty injuries and the hospital talked hospice. Mum was terrified since, even in her muddled state, she was aware what it meant. She wouldn’t be going home. It was prophetic that she had always said she would die in a hospital and that had made her more concerned about hospital visits during her life.

image from blog.iloveqatar.net

I was taking some enormous risks. I wasn’t sleeping, hardly eating and began having strange ‘black outs’ as I was driving to the hospital. At 120km/hr it was scary, and yes I was exceeding the speed limit.  They had begun when she was at home but I wasn’t going to say anything. She needed me with her. I was the one who bathed her and changed her clothes, helped her into and out of bed. I held her hand and prayed as I sent Reiki into her frail body. I think by then I had stopped thinking about anything else. I had to be there.

The day I was informed she was being transferred to the hospice was horrendous. I had been there again since 4am after she had fallen from bed and had seriously hurt her arm. It was heart wrenching to see the nurses try to dress the wounds, finally admitting when they couldn’t remove the dressings that it didn’t matter if they were changed.  My universe was collapsing.

The day was a nightmare.  The ambulance transfer was a trip from hell. Once we reached the hospice I helped get Mum changed and into her new bed. She curled up and “went to sleep.” I continued to give her Reiki until my brothers began to arrive.  They arrived around 7pm. After a half an hour they decided to leave since Mum was obviously “asleep”. My gut told me to stay. My car was back at the other hospital. Despite knowing I shouldn’t leave I allowed myself to be persuaded to go to my car and go home. Something inside screamed at me to stay, but out numbered and feeling cornered I felt I had no choice. I was so wrong and I can never forget that.

I debated, for the longest time, about going back to her, but I hadn’t seen my children and I was feeling drained. I arrived home as the phone began ringing. My mother had passed away ten minutes after I left her. I don’t remember the drive back, only coming back to myself when I arrived at the hospice as saw my brother there. I was angry. He had arrived first and had decided to sign all the paperwork. He didn’t want to stay at all. He didn’t want me to stay either, but he did want me to go back to Mum’s house with him  (where he was living) to talk about what ‘we’ had to do. A new nightmare was about to begin, one which would threaten to drown me.

image from bleeding_eye_by_flauschvampire91

image from bleeding_eye_by_flauschvampire91

That walk through Mum’s front door felt like a knife wrenching through my heart. Inside my head a scream reverberated. I wanted out! I wanted a little space to think! I needed to find something to hold onto! I was adrift in uncharted waters and I was drowning already. Somehow, some way, I had to find how to keep going and stay sane. I felt I was faced with a stacked deck, just how much that was true was to come to light soon enough.

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Next week – A New Nightmare Begins.

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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It's partly cloudy, outside and inside

It’s partly cloudy, outside and inside

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.  Albert Einstein

It’s been a strange day, partly cloudy with sudden showers and then fine periods.  That’s the weather forecast, and they managed to get it right – which is a novel experience.  There are days when you feel it’s almost ‘flip a coin and choose an option’ to see what kind of weather we’re going to see.

It’s also been a very apt description of the kind of day I’ve had, partly cloudy (brain fog) and fine periods when thought has been sharp and clear. Needless to say when the cloudy periods hit I’ve been a tad frustrated because it has stopped me doing things I wanted to.  Like this blog, and in deference to “Clear Thinking” I am delving into a time when Lyme dis-ease hadn’t overtaken me.

I decided to escape for some ‘me time’ and organised a trip overseas. For many years I had wanted to visit Israel and since Mum had recently passed away I decided it would be a great chance to take her with me in spirit. I didn’t do much pre-planning, I walked into my nearest travel agent and sat down, telling her I wanted to go to the Middle East. Several hours later I walked out with my plans formed and told my family I was flying out in three weeks.

The  Acropolis, Athens

The Acropolis, Athens

After a short stopover in the middle of the night at the airport in Singapore I landed in Athens.  Jet lag not withstanding I only had four days here before my next leg of the trip. It passed in a whirlwind of sights and sounds. Madly driving vehicles rushing past, risking life and limb to jay walk across the roads.

Athens

Athens

It was with mounting excitement that I headed out to the airport after being thoroughly spoilt by hotel staff and everyone I met.  My next experience was unexpected.  Arriving at the airport I was shuttled off to the side and asked to open my suitcase(s)! Oh No!! They  were packed to the max – and it was a struggle getting everything in, in an orderly fashion and the case closed. Not only was I scanned and dope tested (my suitcase!) my case was thoroughly examined. Everything, and I do mean everything, was taken out and checked. Not only did I have to then hurry to try to pack everything back in, I had to rush back into the terminal as I was over my allotted baggage limit.

Once more I had a wonderful Greek attendant  guiding me along to the right place and then back to complete my check in. My first flight on El Al was an experience I have never had anywhere else. Everyone was talking to everyone else (except me – I think I had a stamp flashing saying ‘foreigner’), and standing up, walking around and generally behaving as though we were on the ground and not in the air.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, a walk around this city is a walk through history. From moment to moment you see ultra modern hotels and history side by side. It truly was walking with the past as we went to major historical sites with our guide and listened to the origins of each place from Byzantine, Romans, Crusaders and Israeli history. Magical.

Tel Aviv was the starting point. The tour visited Capernaum, Haifa, Akko, Jerusalem, Masada, Nazareth, Bethlehem, The Dead Sea where I proved it was possible NOT to float, and with so many incredible sunsets. Here is a snapshot look at this incredibly historical land ending with one of the magical sunsets.

On top of Masada

On top of Masada

Jerusalem at night

Jerusalem at night

A frantic rush through Jerusalem was necessary to buy a new suitcase. Damaged beyond further use I had no option but to replace it. Kebabs in the mall and chocolate mousse, sinful and delicious made the visit even more exciting.

The Old Town, Jerusalem

The Old Town, Jerusalem

Walking through the Old Town, along the Via Dolorosa, The Way  of the Cross and seeing the bazaar stalls was stepping into another world entirely.

Israel, history at a glance

Israel, history at a glance

The old, truly historical land and the modern at a glance.

Glorious sunset over the Mediterranean.

Glorious sunset over the Mediterranean.

I was gifted with more glorious sunsets like this than I could count. Each time I thought it couldn’t get better – it did! A fabulous way of ‘ending’ each day.

“You can learn as much about the history from reading about the present as you can vice versa, that is learning about the present through history, which is what I do for a living.”     Ken Burns

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