Travels (and Travails) enroute to Megiddo

David Colón-Margolies writes:

July 2nd:

Yesterday was my last day of work at the bleak 40 hour a week desk job I have been holding over to make this trip financially feasible. After sitting through the excruciating stupor of slowly and meticulously plugging contact after contact into a large Microsoft Excel spread sheet, I completed my preliminary four week tour at Brandeis as a research assistant. The car ride home was one of the most freeing 45 minutes of my entire life. After working a 40 hour a week job for the first time, any time off is like a blessing from Adonai. What I had not yet realized was that the next 48 hours would probably be more grueling, and testing than any work I had done while at Brandeis.

After spending the entire morning sorting and shuffling all of my clothes and digging equipment into a suitcase (which had been purchased last minute 3 hours before my flight) I loaded all of my things into my fathers teal Ford Escape hybrid and embarked on my perilous journey. As we arrived at Logan International Airport, slowly a feeling of nervousness and anxiety began to creep over me. This was my first time traveling international completely on my own. I had no idea what to expect. Sadly my expectations turned out to be more optimistic than reality would permit. My parents and I spent 45 minutes waiting in line to get to the ticket counter for Alitalia only to find out that my flight from Boston to Rome was delayed 2 and a half hours. This one issue would reverberate through the following few days and create a domino effect that would have me trapped in Rome for ten hours, and not appreciative.

Due to the fact that my flight from Boston to Rome was delayed two hours, it would cause me to miss my flight from Rome to Tel Aviv the morning of the second. The only next available flight would not fly out of Rome until 10 pm Friday night. This meant that I landed in Rome at 11:30 am, and was stuck there until 10 pm the same night (virtually 10 hours to kill in an airport). Furthermore when I finally boarded my delayed flight I was dismayed to find it was not an Alitalia plane. It seemed that the cause of the delay forced the Alitalia staff to switch to a flight on a much older and different plane than they had advertised as my flight. I was stuck crammed into a window seat on a plane built in the 90’s for 7 hours, with no stimulation other than conversation with my seat partner. Luckily enough for me, my partner turned out to be Bruno Sestito, an elderly native Italian man who had moved to Nantasket MA. Bruno was visiting family in Italy, and when I say he was a native he was quite authentic. When ever we conversed he would thrust his hands in the air to help transcribe his broken half english half italian. I found it much easier to attempt to communicate with Bruno by simply using my hands and english nouns, than to attempt to converse with him in my broken italian or completely in english. We talked about the World Cup, or as it is referred to in italian Il Coppa Del Mundo, Italy, food, wine, and many other things. He even spent 20 minutes explaining to me how horses are the driving force behind how airplanes are able to fly (jokingly). For being stuck on a 7 hour flight crammed in a window seat, Bruno was the perfect remedy. Before leaving the plane I asked Bruno if he would take a photo with me. Here are Bruno and I minutes before exiting that god-forsaken flight:

Sadly, the flight from Boston to Rome would not be the end of complications in my travels. After arriving in Rome I quickly made my way to the Alitalia customer service desk. In Boston they had promised me a hotel voucher and meal voucher in return for my troubles. When I asked the Alitalia personnel on the other side however, they refused to supply said accommodation. After about 20 minutes of discussing my options, it seemed that I was stranded in the Rome airport for 10 hours, and that my only choices were to sit and wait, or to go through customs and enjoy the city of Rome for a day. I chose the latter. After getting my passport stamped I purchased an international calling card and immediately called my parents. They were thrilled to hear from me, but upset by Alitalia’s actions. After a series of another 10 phone calls, my parents and I had gotten Alitalia to reimburse us for a hotel. My parents booked it, and I grabbed the first cab I could.

I spent four hours, sleeping and organizing myself that afternoon in rural Rome. It was such a breath of fresh air, and the beautiful Italian countryside wasn’t bad either. That night I caught a cab from the hotel to the airport and painlessly made my way through airport security. It finally seemed like things were working out. I caught my flight from Rome to Tel Aviv landing at 2:30 am. 12 hours later I would board a bus to one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet.

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