Wednesday, July 9th:
Breakfast consisted of Nature Valley granola bars and water since the complimentary “continental” breakfast wasn’t kosher and our room didn’t have a fridge.
Michael went down to the lobby to obtain a luggage cart and assistance, but was told that the guy wasn’t on duty yet. So he dragged all 9 pieces + our carry-on’s down a little at a time and we closed up the room. The next challenge was getting it all back out to the curb (UP the ramp). Fortunately a larger van arrived to take us (and the other hotel guests) to the airport. The driver was a very strong Russian young man who lifted our heavy boxes as though they contained feathers – we were thankful and tipped him well. I felt bad for the other passengers because we just managed to squeeze everything in and they were cramped, but at least it was a short ride (less than 10 minutes).
You have to see our Luggage to appreciate this adventure! 9 – 20″ x 20″ x 20″ double wall cardboard boxes inside Balikbayan Gear Box Covers (refer to http://www.balikbayangear.com/products_cover ) + 3 laptop backpacks fully loaded + tallit/tefillin bag with Holy books + 1 insulated cooler bag full of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications + 1 wheeled laptop bag bursting at the seams with our documentation (everything from birth certificates to marriage/divorce records, medical records, etc.)
9 AM: A few other olim arrived for our 2 pm flight (we were told to be there at least 4 hours ahead of time)
First to board the plane! Yes, we were the first to board this flight because we followed instructions. As we checked our luggage we were told to immediately proceed to the gate because of the long security lines. We knew there was supposed to be an NBN farewell reception, but we figured it would happen down in the gate area. We were wrong, following instructions caused us to miss the reception – we had no idea where it was, but now Yisrael can say he was the first to board this historical flight! And we didn’t have anyone coming to JFK to see us off anyway.
We sat for at least an hour while our fellow olim boarded, the last to board the plane were the families of screaming children who sat in the rows surrounding us.
This was an 11-hour sleepless flight for us because the families around us didn’t seem to notice their children’s shrieks and tantrums throughout the night.
On the positive side, the food was relatively good (for airline food) and Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency staff were friendly and efficient in processing our paperwork.
More photos are here.