Recently, my Dad and I went overseas for almost two months to visit family, friends and get away after a truly traumatic year. Upon our return, people have been asking "What was the highlight?" and the answer I give them is that there wasn't just one highlight but, over those weeks, many memorable experiences, occasions and moments. This included catching up with relatives and friends around the world (some of whom I'd not seen in many years), meeting many new people, seeing new places, eating out, touring, shopping, relaxing and generally having a break from the pressures of home.
I was lucky enough to meet a few bloggers in LA, NY and Israel and it's great to have met some of the personalities that I, previously, only knew from my computer screen. Hope to meet more of you next time!
Now to the story of the Shofarot. We stayed in Israel for around two weeks and had an amazing time. (My brother particularly enjoyed taking us to various restaurants, mostly because it made a nice change from Yeshivah food!) During that time my Dad was determined to find a new Shofar or two that he would have ready for Elul as he is the Ba'al Tekia at our Shul during the week. Unfortunately, he was not well with a slight dose of pneumonia which was aggravated by a particularly hot, crowded and unpleasant flight from Madrid. (Despite that, my brother and I dragged him around town, to the Kotel and Tunnel tours and restaurants but, Baruch Hashem, a bit of medication fixed him.)
So, he spent two huffing and wheezing days in Meah Shearim looking for his perfect Shofarot. (I went along on one of those days.) He must have blown dozens of them - where they could be found out of season (not quite close enough to Rosh Hashanah that there was a lot of stock). He finally found two Shofarot in different shops. Mission accomplished.
Of course he decided to do the right thing and declare these religious items at customs upon returning to Australia. But we flew back via Hong Kong, where we stayed for five days. (No J-Bloggers there that I knew of!)
In Hong Kong, my Dad packed the Shofarot in bubble wrap and put them on top of the clothes in one of his suitcases. He also had a bottle of duty free whiskey in each case because of the restrictive carry-on laws.
We arrived home from Hong Kong after a 8 or so hour flight (plus the delay of three hours), at about 11.00 pm. My cousin kindly came to pick us up. The bags came off the carousel and Dad found one of his by the fine aroma of 12 year old Scotch which had smashed in the case and leaked out everywhere. (He was still smelling like a pub come Shabbos because he didn't have time to wash his tie or shirts.)
Having declared Shofarot as religious items, we were directed to the appropriate region of the airport. The bags were scanned and then taken to be opened to check said items. (Note the drug sniffing dog staggering about after sniffing the whiskey suitcase. Never knew dogs could smile like that.)
Anyway, Dad opened the case and put his hand in to take out said items where he knew he most definitely packed them in Hong Kong. They were not there. He started pulling everything out and was getting quite agitated, not so much for the monetary loss, but because he had put so much effort into finding two Shofarot that suited him and were not replaceable. I took my phone to call my cousin to say we are delayed and almost copped a $2000 fine for using a cellphone restricted area. (Which I hadn't realised was restricted. Oops.) Dad still couldn't find these Shofarot so I sigh and start rummaging around his suitcases to look for them too. Couldn't find them. By now we're convinced he's left them in Hong Kong.
The customs fellow in charge then has a go at the bag. Also finds nothing. We repack the bag and put it back through the scanner for the second time. Nothing. He tells us to go and sorry about my loss(es) including the booze as he laughs himself silly. (Must have been a slow night.)
We head to the car, happy to see my cousin but Dad is upset about the missing Shofarot. In the car on the way home he calls the hotel in Hong Kong. Try to explain to a Chinese night desk supervisor what a Shofar is over the phone. My cousin and I are in fits of laughter because Dad is waving his hands around his head trying to will the image of a Shofar into the mind of a Chinese lady back in Hong Kong by phone. Have to tell you - it doesn't work... "A Horn. It's a Horn. Like on a sheep" he is saying while making hand motions to indicate a horn "H. O. R. N. Packed in plastic bag."
So apparently the Chinese secretary gets houskeeping to check all the junk we left behind. Dad calls back 20 minutes later. All they found in our room was a bottle of shampoo... hope they enjoy it.
We arrive home. Dad is quite despondent and let down after this double blow of loss of booze and his Shofarot.
We plonk his the suitcases down in the lounge room where whiskey runoff will do the least damage. My cousin waits around with me as Dad again opens the bag that was supposed to have the Shofarot inside.
He puts in his hand... and pulls out two bubble wrapped Shofarot. Right where he said he'd put them in Hong Kong!