Travel Hero: I Was Sick in a Foreign Country

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Betty Thesky

The word "hero" often conjures up images of muscle-bound, cape-clad champions, but those lucky enough to have experienced them in real life realize heroes come in more unassuming forms.

For Betty Thesky, hers was a wrinkled old woman wearing a babushka.

Thesky, a flight attendant, is no stranger to travel. Despite her job, she had never been to the Middle East before, and after a week-long stay at a yoga retreat in Egypt with another flight attendant friend, she decided to maximize her trip-she would stay behind for 10 days to visit Jordon and Israel solo, while her friend flew back home. She had never traveled alone before, and was a little hesitant.

After crossing the border into Jordan, she immediately booked a budget hotel near Petra. She marveled at the city carved into the pink mountains, her eyes tearing at its beauty. The city, and all she experienced during her four days in it, emboldened her in her decision to explore a new country on her own.

But on the fifth day, things took a turn for the worse.

While on a bus headed for Jerusalem, Thesky's stomach began to twist in knots. Her face pale, her head spinning, she knew something was wrong. She got off the bus at a rest stop and tried to find somewhere to relax. She checked into a hotel, where she spent 24-hours suffering the effects of food poisoning.

"I was in a strange country in the Middle East, sick and alone, without any idea of what I was going to do," says Thesky. "It definitely qualified as a low point."

Despite being weak and dehydrated, she boarded the bus to Jerusalem the following day. Looking out the bus window with a blank stare, her misery was written on her face. She was just hoping she could make it to Jerusalem, to try to salvage what was left of her trip, when an unassuming wrinkled old woman took the seat next to her.

"You don't look so good," the woman said in broken English.

Thesky explained her situation and how she had been up all night sick. The woman, concerned, asked where she was staying once she got to Jerusalem.

"I didn't have a clue what I was going to do. I had no hotel reservation and didn't know if I had the strength to find a place to stay once I arrived in Jerusalem."

Noting Thesky's condition, the woman became alarmed. She offered to take her home, but Thesky didn't think she could manage the extra four hours on the bus to get there. She politely declined the offer, but the old woman persisted in her efforts.

The woman told her she would get off the bus with her in Jerusalem to take her to a safe place where she could stay until she got well again, and Thesky agreed.

Once off the bus, the little old woman led her through the streets of the city until they came to a gate. Behind that gate, pushed back from the road and surrounded by a quiet garden, sat their destination: the Rosary Convent Guest House and Hostel.

"She took the time to get off her bus, escort me to the convent, introduce me to the nuns, explain my situation to them, get me settled into a room, and then catch another bus home," says Thesky. "That is what I call going above and beyond the call of duty, all for a total stranger."

Thesky had never stayed in a convent before, but found it to be the perfect place to convalesce. Over the course of four days she grew stronger as the sisters paid her special attention, nurturing her, and nursing her back to health.

While Thesky did pay for her stay-the nuns support the convent by renting rooms for a small price-she was touched by their hospitality and attention, and of course she couldn't forget the woman who brought her there to heal.

"Sometimes you don't know you are hitting a turning point in your life while it's happening. Not only did I regain my physical strength at the convent but I gained the knowledge that I could rely on myself and strangers, that I could travel alone and thrive," says Thesky. "Because of a wrinkled old woman, whose name I don't even know, I honestly believe you truly can rely on the kindness of strangers."

Thesky isn't the only one who has experienced the kindness of strangers while traveling.

Last month we told the story of Elsie Clark, a 79-year-old Canadian woman who was panicked after missing her flight home. Clark, who is wheelchair-bound when traveling due to a bad hip, missed a connecting flight after an airport employee left her waiting at the wrong gate for hours. Clark, who lives on a fixed income, was contemplating sleeping on an airport bench until a Good Samaritan stepped in.

Dean Germeyer saved the day, taking Clark to his home for dinner, putting her up in a hotel, and arranging a car to take her back to the airport to get her rescheduled flight the next morning.

"He even gave me a new toothbrush and toothpaste," said Clark. "I just sat down when I got to the hotel and I cried and cried and cried. Everything he did for me was just so beautiful."

Have you ever encountered a real life travel hero? Tell us your story at Travelcomments@aol.com.
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