My travel to Israel is truly a memorable one. Six months have already gone and I still vividly remember the weeks and days before it and the travel itself.
The countdown was tediously long. First, I waited long months before receiving the final confirmation about my job in Tel Aviv. And boy, was it a long, uneasy wait for me. Why? Because I had already psyche myself into already having the job in Israel, yet was still having negative vibes of not really making it at all.
So the day finally came when I had to go to the Embassy of Israel in downtown Manila to get a visa. Oh, how I wish I was a tourist, it would have been much easier. (The Philippines belongs to the list of countries whose citizens are not required of a visa if entering Israel as tourists.)
There was a line for visa applicants outside the Embassy building, and I waited for almost an hour before a got my turn to proceed to the office. Inside the receiving room, a giant picture of an ancient city of sorts hanging on the wall caught my attention. Immediately, I wondered if this is Tel Aviv, because I surfed the city on the Internet many times, and the city in the picture doesn't resemble Tel Aviv in any way. Then I thought it could be on Tel Aviv's outskirts. Upon taking a closer look of the picture and being able to the caption, I realized that the city is actually Jerusalem. So it is Jerusalem - why didn't I bother to check on it too. I decided right there and then once I get settled and have to chance to go touring around Israel, Jerusalem would be on top of my list of destination. To date (after almost 6 months), I have had 7 tours around Israel, 3 of them in Jerusalem. Not bad for a non-tourist, and is actually working his brains off here.
Next thing I did as prerequisite for my travel to Israel - call tour agencies and airlines for cheap tickets to Tel Aviv Israel. Well, I do wish I succeeded. In the end, I got myself a Lufthansa ticket (one of the more highly priced). Lufthansa means having to travel 20+ hours with stop-overs in China (1 hour or so for re-fuelling) and Germany (4 hours). If there is one thing I loved about this airline is the excellent food and its gracious flight attendants. My employer later told me that El Al tickets, Israel's national airlines, are several dollars less -- and more importantly, less flight hours (with one stopover in Hong-Kong or Bangkok). Admittedly (and unfortunately) I did not use much of my time to search for cheap flights to Tel Aviv.
The day before my flight, honestly I was still not packed. I am a first time international flight traveler - is this normal, just ok? I packed a few hours before my schedule. I packed some jeans and shirt, a few pair of footwear; I was really careful on what and how much to bring - lest I might have excess baggage (I am allowed 20 kilograms, my luggage reflected only 17. Damn, 3 extra kilos down the drain. I could have brought along my favorite, thought-of-as-heavy-as-a-dumbbell Bulldog shoes.)
Somehow one side of me would not accept the fact that I am leaving. The days after the confirmation, I still did my usual routine, hanging out with friends, spending hours in front of the TV or the computer. I believe that I did not want the reality that I was leaving the country to sink in on me. It was not when I was in the airport that I finally said this is it. I said some last words to my mom and brother. I reminded them of my roaming number, and also told them never to call me on my Israel number as it will be expensive for them. And I reminded my brother of my pet fish, to keep the aquarium water from becoming cloudy by using the pump non-stop. And I told them to just keep safe.
Six months, and so far I am doing great here in Israel. I have settled without any hitches. I have made nice friends and am still making friends here, both with fellow Filipinos and Israelis. Looking back, it interests me to note that my travel to Israel, and my preparation for it was not actually easy. Nonetheless, it is worth all my effort. Israel is such a wonderful place to be.