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Lady Flames' Israel Journey: Back in the USA

June 18, 2014
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Mickayla Sanders (left) and Katelyn Adams are happy to be back on American soil!

Two weeks after departing for Israel, the Lady Flames are back home in the USA. Ashley Rininger describes the team's lengthy return trip in today's entry.

Well… We have FINALLY made it onto the train that will take us back to Lynchburg! In this trip back to the ‘Burg that seems never-ending, we left Israel 34 hours ago, and have a mere 8-hour ride until our final destination! There was a point when I thought I was going to lose my mind, and that we weren't going to make it, but we're on the home stretch now!! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Let me rewind a little bit to tell you about our travel time.

Yesterday morning (Tuesday) we had to check out of our hotel room at 11 a.m. (Israel time), and then we sat in the lobby for an hour waiting for the bus to come pick us up. We drove through the Negev Desert on the way to Tel Aviv, and about two hours into the trip we stopped at this mix between a gas station and a fast food restaurant to eat lunch. It was a little sketchy and flies were all over the place, but it was a … culturally enriching experience. Throughout the entire trip, I have been really into trying all kinds of foreign treats, and this stop provided the perfect opportunity to purchase some. I got some chocolate (with who knows what in it because the wrapper is in Hebrew) and these hazelnut wafer things. They were delicious!

When we got back on the bus, a bunch of flies decided that it was a good idea to get on with us. Although we originally thought that it was annoying, we later found out that they would provide us with some much-needed entertainment. There had to be at least 20 of them, and Catherine, Audrey, Jasmine, Emily, Ben, Katie and I chased them around the bus, trying to kill them. The task of killing flies seemed impossible to me at first, yet we actually ended up being pretty successful in our endeavor.

Shortly afterwards, the majority of us fell asleep until we arrived at Italiana nella Stazione, a really nice Italian restaurant near the Mediterranean Sea. The food was great, but I have to admit that my favorite part was definitely the dessert. I got semifreddo alla catanese, which consisted of "half frozen" layers of toffee sauce, hazelnut and macaroon crumbs. I was a little skeptical when I got it and afraid that I would regret my decision, but it was the best dessert that I had in Israel! And trust me, I had plenty of desserts while there! I think I had at least three desserts every lunch and dinner… But shhh!! Don't tell Coach Green! I don't normally eat like that, but you only go to Israel once, right?

Anyway, after hanging out for a while we headed over to the airport in Tel Aviv where we spent three hours going through security. Our flight left around 1 a.m. (still in Israel time), and after 12 hours we arrived in New York around 6 a.m. After making it through customs and getting all our luggage we headed to the train station and made it there around 8. Everyone was originally under the impression that our train would be leaving at noon, but to our dismay we found out that we would not be leaving until after 2. This was a low point for me, and I felt like we would NEVER make it back! However, the time did pass, and now we're on the final portion of our trip.

Even though the travel time is exhausting and somewhat overwhelming to think about, it was well worth it! I would do it all again in a heartbeat! I wish that I could summarize the trip in a few short sentences, but there are too many great experiences to narrow it down. Audrey told me an analogy that fits the situation perfectly. Asking what my favorite part of the trip was would be like asking my favorite flavor of ice cream. There are just too many wonderful flavors to choose from!

People always say that going to Israel brings the Bible to life and that you will never read the Bible in the same way again. I must admit that I was uncertain. I knew that it would be a great trip, and I agreed that it would teach me a lot of things, but other than that I really had no idea what to expect. However, I can tell you now that it really was an experience of a lifetime. When I read my Bible, it really does come to life, and I can picture what Jesus saw and where he stood because we went there. We stood in some of the very places that Jesus stood! I cannot begin to wrap my mind around that!

Then when we traveled to Eilat for the Friendship Games, it was entirely different than the beginning half of the trip. We were surrounded by people from multiple different countries, and Coach Green told us that he wanted us to make friends. Once again, I was skeptical of the idea and reluctant to branch out. Yet all of the people from the other teams were so endearing and friendly that they reached out to me (which I need because I am a natural introvert). It was so much fun to meet all of them, make friends, and hang out. And of course it was great to win the championship!

I do love trying new things though, so Catherine and I were adventure buddies on the trip. One of the things we did was try different food together. For the most part, the unfamiliar substances were pretty good. Except for that one time when we ate chicken liver… Sick! I also went tubing for the first time on the Red Sea, and then the following day Catherine and I went parasailing! I could literally talk forever about all of our experiences, but I have already written more than enough! All in all, I am so incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity. It was an unbelievable blessing and I can never say thank you enough for this chance to travel and play in Israel.

So yes, the traveling can be long and painful at times, but I wouldn't trade it for anything and it's sad to see this experience come to a close!

For the last time, Shalom friends!