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Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 8, Saturday - Amsterdam to Beirut

Another travel day! And this one has quite worn me out. Let’s start from the beginning: I got up at 4:30am to dress and pack away a few last things before heading to the airport. Uncle Mark, Aunt Julie, and Cora all got up to say goodbye (thank you all!) and then I headed out. Once I got to the airport, I learned that I could only carry on one bag. I usually check one and carry on two, as I have put most of my valuables and breakables into one bag to carry on and then another “purse” bag for easily accessible things. Well, in Amsterdam, they are very strict about what you can carry on, so I had to check the two bigger ones and carry on the smaller one. This made me a little nervous as I had a connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany, and I hoped they would make it safely. 

I had arrived rather early so I kept myself busy for a while at the gate, but I noticed it getting closer and closer to boarding time and no one else was showing up. I also had a security guard ask to see my boarding pass, copy some things down, hand it back, and leave (not sure why). Well, I eventually discovered that the gate had been changed, but it was just the one over, so no problems there.

The flight to Frankfurt was rather short and I had fun listening to all the different languages and drinking a mini Sprite.

 Once I got to Frankfurt I had to switch planes. Looking at the schedule, I didn’t think there would be any problems. When I got off the plane, I check to find my flight and the departing gate, it was B33. I came out around A35 or so (I didn’t check right when I got off), so I started following the signs to B. Well, turns out, to get there, you have to walk a mile, go down a few flights of stairs, walk another mile, go back up some stairs, and just as you think “Good, I’m at the B gates” you run into a huge group of people going through passport control (I may be exaggerating a little on how far I had to walk, but I was in high-heels and a suit, plus I am sick with a cold, so while I know it probably wasn’t a mile each part, it was very far).

 I stood in line for at least 20 minutes without moving more than two feet. I got chatting with the guy next to me and when I mentioned that my flight was boarding at that time (after we had just been commenting on the huge line in-front of us), he told me I should just cut the line. Well, I felt terrible about doing it, but I really didn’t want to miss my flight, so, I went to the front of the line and told the gentlemen standing there that my flight was boarding and would it be alright if I cut in, they were nice enough to oblige. I got through that check-point and headed to my gate. From there I went through another short passport check, then down some stairs to a bus which drove us waaaaay out to the plane. Once on-board I could relax a little. They served amazing little pancakes and offered a drink every five minutes. 
On the bus waiting to be driven out to the plane
Once in Beirut, I thought I needed cash for a visa, turns out that if you are American, you can just walk right up and they will give you a one month visa no problem. After collecting my bags (they came through no problem as well) I found the taxi driver who took me to the youth hostel where I am now staying. The hostel is run by some French ladies, which means I have actually used more of my French than Arabic so far! 

Once I got settled in a bit, and after checking-in back home, I went out for a walk. 

*Little side note here: I have learned that it is important to feel connected wherever you go. Now that I am in a new country, where there are new surroundings (I have never stayed in a hostel before) and a language difference (though, between English, French, and Arabic, I can generally get across my meaning), and no fully designated host, being able to connect with home helps me to feel stable. I am so thankful for the internet. (Which is a bit slow, hence the delay with the blog.) Even though I have traveled before, every new place, especially one that is so different from home in many ways, takes some getting used to. I am inserting this side note after my second day here, and I am finally starting to feel a bit comfortable, but I will write more about that in Day 9’s post.*

Since I do not have a map yet, much of my walk was spent trying to remember how to get back. I found a main street and followed it. I found lots of little stores and restaurants, and eventually I could see a large mosque with a blue dome. I had decided to walk towards the mosque when I ran into  a group of protesters. I do not know what they were protesting and I decided to go around that block because I didn’t want to get tangled up in it. I made it to a main street, across from which was the mosque. I could also see the corniche from where I was, so I walked towards it a bit. It was around that point that I decided I better find my way back because I was a little worried that if I made too many turns I would get confused. 

On my way back I walked by a dog that looked like a tall, skinny, German shepherd type of a dog that was clearly looking for food. Well, I walked by him and a few seconds later I felt something touch my hand. I pulled it away and looked out of the corner of my eye to see that the dog was following me. I was careful not to look directly at it because I figured that it would be more inclined to follow me that way. Anyways, it followed me for a while and it took me crossing the street and going into a “alley” with restaurants for me to finally lose him.
Back in my room, I got on the computer for a while and at one point could hear some loud popping outside of my window. It sounded like fireworks, but I still don’t know what they were. I plan to go to bed soon and catch up on my sleep as it has been quite a long day.  

And that was my day traveling from Amsterdam to Beirut!

P.S. Sorry about the lack of pictures, it's hard to think about photography when you are trying to get on  the right plane. :)

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