Roger Reini's Bahá'í Pilgrimage Journal
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January 2, 2008

My wake-up call was for 4, but I was up before then.  I saw some of the Rose Bowl on ESPN; USC won big, 49-17 or something like that.  Having packed yesterday, my final packup didn’t take very long, and I was checking out around 4:15.  As I checked out, there was a knock at the front door.  The taxi driver was here.  When I told him my destination, he said the Merkaz station would be closed now, that I should go to the Hof Ha Carmel station instead.  Knowing there would be a train leaving there at 4:35, and knowing how early we were, I consented.  We went through parts of town I hadn’t been through before.  The ride was farther, thus more expensive (52 shekels), which I paid with ease.

At the entrance, the guard asked to see my passport, which I had this time, so I gave it to him.  He let me pass and board the train.  This was an express train, with fewer stops than the one on the way up.  It took around an hour to get to the airport.  When I got to the departure area, there was a long line at the incoming baggage screening area.  I was asked to move up, though, so my wait was reduced.  Both my bags were X-rayed, and then my checked bag was given a thorough examination in my presence.  I checked in, got my boarding pass, then had a bit of breakfast at McDonald’s (a pastry and hot chocolate).  I learned how difficult it was to swallow pills with hot chocolate!  At the bookstore, I bought today’s Jerusalem Post and yesterday’s Daily Telegraph.  Then I proceeded through passport control and the metal detectors, where my carry-on bag got the full treatment.

Now I was in the waiting area and duty-free area.  I saw a fountain that “rained” and took video of it.  I took advantage of free Wi-Fi and sent a quick e-mail to my sister and aunt & uncle.  I went inside some of the stores but didn’t get anything else.  Indeed, I wondered how some of the items at the electrics store, such as flat-screen TV’s and full-size appliances, could be taken on a plane.  I exchanged my Israeli money and got back $57, more than I was expecting.  Then I went to the gate.

Our flight left on time.  It was a full one, and the three of us sitting in my row were all fairly big men.  The guy next to me had a Moldovan passport.  Our breakfast or brunch was an omelet, which was very good.  The seat seemed very hard to me, and my rear end got sore.  At one point, a Jewish man was by the exit, praying (facing Jerusalem, I presume). 

I knew that some of the German Bahá’í pilgrims were on this plane.  At one point, I got up to use the restroom, then proceeded to recite my obligatory prayer.  It may not have been the ideal spot, but it was private; and after all, “Blessed is the spot... where mention of God hath been made....”!

At one point, I could see we were flying over the Alps.  It was 1:45 when we arrived in Frankfurt.  I wandered around and got today’s Daily Telegraph, finally using that €10 bill I got in Detroit when I left (the paper cost €3.20).  I decided to eat lunch at a sit-down restaurant, where I had some French onion soup and a chicken Caesar salad.  Food was good, but service was a bit slow.  When I finished, I proceeded to my gate in section A, taking a tram to get there.  The line at the gate was very long and was barely moving.  I was in the line for half an hour or more, during which time boarding began.  At first, the gate agent said I was too late.  After I’d told her I’d been waiting for at least 20 minutes, she did a lot of processing and checking.  I wondered if I was going to be bumped.  I was -- bumped up to Business Class, that is.

The seats were much more comfortable here than in Coach.  I could adjust them automatically to any orientation, including flat for sleeping.  The meal service was excellent; we were served hors d’oeuvres, (cod & lentil for me), lasagna for first dinner, and a cold plate of roast beef & marlin with zucchini for second dinner (this was timed for dinner in Detroit).  Much of the time, I watched our flight path as we flew over the Netherlands, the North Sea, the UK and the Atlantic, passing pretty close to the tip of Greenland.  I listened to an audiobook of Kahlil Gibran, perhaps trying to hold onto the spiritual mood of my pilgrimage.  I laid down and tried to sleep, but I don’t think I actually got any sleep.

As we got closer to Detroit, it was clear outside.  It’s possible I saw the lights of Toronto from afar.  We got closer and closer.  Eventually, I saw the Detroit River but not downtown or the Ambassador Bridge.  We went south of town to set up for landing.  At 7:40, we were down on the ground.  Then came the taxiing to the gate and the big rush to Immigration and Customs.  Visitors went in one group of lines, US citizens in another.  The immigration guard asked me the purpose of my trip and, when I told him, how it was.  “Wonderful - tiring but spiritually fulfilling,” I responded.  He stamped my customs declaration form, and I went to wait for my suitcase.  My suitcase wasn’t too long in coming off the plane, and I got through Customs with no trouble.  Then I arranged for a tax.  We went home via the same route the first taxi used to pick me up.  The driver was impressed by my condos and picked up the For Sale information from my neighbor’s condo.  By 9:05 PM (4:05 AM Israeli time), I was back home.

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Contents ©2008 Roger W. Reini

Written by Roger Reini
Revised January 3, 2009