Monday, December 5, 2011

Travel Journal Trip 2: Day 8 & 9

July 1-2, 2011

Homeward Travels

Dear Lil' Miss,

Where do I even begin?  These last two days of our journey home did not get any easier.

We were thankful that you slept well on our flight from Addis to Amsterdam.  However, between my claustrophobia and our shared concern for you...both your daddy and I were increasingly sleep-deprived.  We arrived in Amsterdam at 7:00am.  We had a 6 1/2 hour layover (I know...yikes, right?) so we decided to find out where our next flight would be boarding, confirm our seats, and then go make ourselves busy for a while.

There were electronic kiosks all over the place where you could scan your passport to check your flight and confirm or change your seats.  Once again, my passport wouldn't scan (we assume because of the stupid amendment I had on it when we got maiden name was causing lots of problems) so we had to find a KLM employee to help us out.  She was rather unhelpful and asked us to wait in line for customer service.  The kiosks SEEMED like a great idea...but it turned out they didn't do much...and screwed up more than they didn't.  We waited for AT LEAST a half an hour on one of the most uncomfortable benches ever (what genius thought a curved metal seat would be comfortable?) and then I finally stood and bounced with you near the window so that you wouldn't have a complete meltdown.  The call numbers were getting closer and closer and to keep ourselves entertained we tried to guess which employee would be helping us.  We kind of had a system figured out.  Two numbers left to go and then a new shift took over throwing our game off.  A tall, dark-haired man came in and called the next family to the desk.  He seemed grumpy and unhelpful and after several minutes with this family we heard him raise his voice and ask them to leave (even though they were being calm and polite in their requests...they were just trying to get their large family seated together on their flight).  And then he called our number.  GREEEAT.  He re-printed our tickets (since they were a little messed up aparently) but when daddy asked him to move us to bulk head he just flat out refused.  We told him that the Addis KLM staff had promised us bulk head seats on this flight due to them losing our luggage and not fitting us in bulk head on the way here....but he barked at us and told us it wasn't an option and that the Addis staff lied to us.  Awesome.  What happened to the customer is always right?  I bet the lady before would have approved it.  But not Mr. Cranky Pants!  I thought my tears would win anyone over, but I was wrong....and furious!  We gave up and left, and as tears leaked from my eyes, daddy tried to calm me down.  AGAIN.  (But to be fair...claustrophobic, anxious, and sleep-deprived, remember???)  We moved on.

By this point you were in need of a diaper change so we found a spot by our future boarding zone and I took you to the restrooms....although a diaper change turned into an outfit change upon closer evaluation!  =)  Although there was that nagging concern about you running out of clothes, (despite me carrying everything we owned for you in our carry-on) I am always more than happy to dress up my baby girl!  You had been in your pajamas up to this point, but being that it was now day, I put you in some striped leggings and a lime green shirt.  It had a matching cute cardigan, but your forehead was already beading with sweat...AND I was putting you back in the I decided you would be fine without it (although I'm sure your special mothers would have disapproved had they been there =).  When I brought you back to your daddy he was drooling at your adorableness!  Will the gawking at your cuteness ever get old?  WE certainly don't think so.

If you're going to be stuck in an airport for hours on end, the Schiphol Airport is not so bad.  Lots of shopping and lots of food.  As you know, the airplane food had not been agreeing with me (nor has it ever) so we decided to start our search for some food.  I carried you in the Moby (which I love more and more each day) while daddy carried our luggage (just our carry-ons).  After browsing the food selection, we narrowed it down by price and familiarity and went with McDonald's.  Not the most exciting thing ever....but MAN did it taste good!!!  We actually ordered lunch....partially because we had a small breakfast on the plane, but also because we had just wasted hours (seriously) figuring out our nearly WAS lunch time and we were STARVING!  Chicken nuggets, burgers, ice cream, soda....we ordered way too much again, but YUM!

Back at our gate, Daddy was trying to hook my laptop up to WIFI so that we could Skype our family back home.  That is my one complaint about the Schipol Airport....the internet is a pain in the butt!  You have to be in certain areas and it takes FOREVER to get a connection, even after paying.  We didn't have any luck in the boarding zone, but we were perfectly content making googly eyes at you and letting you move about.  An Ethiopian family (all ladies....a mom and her four daughters and their aunt), who we recognized from our flight here, were gazing in our direction as well.  I fought the urge to be self-conscious and we ended up in a lengthy conversation with them!  We found out they were returning to the U.S. after visiting family in Ethiopia.  The daughters all spoke very clear English and were very Americanized.  The youngest kept asking her mom for money to buy this and that and her mother teased in her thick accent that "this is what happens when your children grow up in America".  She didn't say it in a condescending way at fact it made us laugh!  During our conversation, however, there was a small Italian woman eavesdropping.  She kept making circles around us, obviously curious about our situation...but she was making me rather uncomfortable.  After a short while she butt into our conversation talking about Italy (not sure why...none of us were).  She was sweet, but nosy.   She would come up to you and get right in your face.  I kept making excuses to hold you close or turn you away from her...and when it came down to it, even walk away.  We kept to ourselves, with the excuse of feeding you a bottle, until she disappeared for a while...and then we started talking to the Ethiopian family a bit.  The mother asked to hold you, and we couldn't say no.  I mean, we COULD have...but we knew that this was Ethiopian culture...not to mention you were just LOVING her.  She held you briefly and then handed you right back with a smile and told me how beautiful you were.  Her daughters all agreed.

Daddy and I moved back to our seats to play with you quietly.  We both had a hard time knowing where to draw the line with letting people hold you...but agreed that once we were on this next flight, you were only ours to hold.  =)

I got a little (okay a LOT) antsy sitting there doing nothing and BEGGED daddy to take me shopping.  I knew we had just spent a lot of money on these two trips, but I couldn't just sit here for hours on end and then board another 10 hour flight.  One of the young girls agreed to show us where the gift shops were and even helped us find a toy plane for your big brother!  We wanted something to give him from you when we returned home.  Call it bribing if you must...but if there was anything we could do to convince him you were worth keeping (even though he had zero say on matter!)....we were game!  We got a laugh out of the two young girls with us as we looked around the gift shop.  There were so many Dutch souvenirs that they were loving and we knew we could find them just down the street from Grandpa and Grandma's house (for those of you who didn't know, we come from a small Dutch town)!  I'm sure many people find Amsterdam fascinating, but having grown up with such a Dutch family and in such a Dutch town, it felt like I had already seen it all!

When we wandered back to our seats just as the flight before ours was just boarding...and already the seats were starting to overflow with passengers obviously on our flight.  We decided to set claim to some seats for good now.  So from this point on, one of us stayed put with our luggage while the other looked around or went to use the restroom.

Time seemed to drag on forEVER.  When they started the security line, we were one of the first to jump up.  And officials actually grabbed us out of the line and PUT us in the front because we had a baby.  They were very helpful getting us through security...especially since you had just fallen asleep in the Moby (strapped to me).  They didn't even make me go in the huge scanner (which seemed mandatory for everyone else)!  They just had a woman scan my entire body and pat me down (which they did to everyone anyway).  Unfortunately you still woke up going through the security process with wide eyes.  Daddy and I found some window seats and let you stretch and you instantly calmed down.  We took turns running to the bathroom.  I combed my hair, washed my face, and brushed my teeth.  I still looked over-tired and ridiculous...but I felt at least a little better.  Daddy took his turn as well and of course came out looking ravishing!  How is it even fair that I am married to someone so good looking?!?  LOL!

After making it through security, the younger two daughters of the Ethiopian family came to sit with us and chatted our ears off.  On any other occasion I might have longed for a little space...but I knew I had 10 hours of silence ahead of me and I was DREADING it.  The little girl (who was maybe 7?) asked to hold you, and I handed you over.  I must have looked panicked though, because after about 10 seconds daddy said to her, "I think mommy wants her baby back now."  (Have I mentioned I love him??)  She quickly gave you back to me and you and I were BOTH all smiles!  I seriously wish I had snapped some pictures of these girls though!

They went back to their family after that and daddy and I took turns snapping pictures.  Another adoptive family came up to us and asked about you.  It was fun (as always) to exchange stories.  The Italian lady had her eyes locked on us again, but perhaps she had finally got the message as she finally kept a little distance between us.  The room started getting rather cramped and my anxiety was growing by the minute.  I had been hopeful (for a short while) that this might be a smaller flight, but there were now so many people crammed in the room that I was beginning to feel claustrophobic!  There weren't even chairs for everyone.

Double (TRIPLE) checking that we didn't forget the all-important immigration packet this time!!!

And had to take a picture of her picture because we knew that we had to turn it over to immigration.

When they began loading I could feel panic creeping in, and yet we moved to the front of the line and slowly made our way onto the plane.  We found our crowded seats and prayed we would have good neighbors.  You were awake for take-off which had me a ball of nerves again....but you didn't seem to mind at all!  I shoved a bottle in your mouth and you took to it with a smile and went right back to sleep again.  Such a little angel!!!  The flight was long...I don't know what to tell you.  Over-crowded, bad food, leg cramps, boredom, and tears.    Pretty much the norm for me.

You're a U.S. citizen now!!!  Welcome to America!!!
As we neared Minne- apolis, I got some energy back.  I was ex- hausted ...don't get me wrong!  But we knew this was going to be a short layover.  We were landing at 3:30pm and had an hour and a half to get through immigration and customs and hop on our flight to Seattle.  It was GO time.  You were wide awake for landing and didn't fuss one bit!  I think you sensed our excitement about finally landing on U.S. soil....and officially making you a U.S. citizen as we did!!!!  The flight was landing a little bit late (and was making us a lot bit nervous).  But as we fought our way through the crowd of people, we learned that nearly everyone had a flight they were trying to catch.  Thankfully we had quizzed the attendant on where to go once we got off and he had informed us that there was a special line for adoptive families.  When we arrived at the lines for immigration, there was only ONE person in our line!  THANK YOU JESUS!!  We breezed through, I cried tears of joy, and the immigration officer was VERY nice.  He showed us every picture there was of you in the packet, including one that must have been taken of you when you were released to the orphanage because you were SOOO TINY!  Even smaller than your referral pic!  He couldn't give it to us or let us take a picture of it though.  I tried to hide my disappointment, but I didn't do a very good job (when we received your Certificate of Citizenship though, that was your picture on it - yay!!!)  We got through in MINUTES (crazy, right?) and found our luggage RIGHT away and ran to go back through security.  We breezed through that as well thanks to more helpful security officers.

THEN the puzzle was finding where we had to go!  And of course, having not eaten almost anything in the last 10 hours, I was STARVING (and noticing a trend in this post, haha)!  There were a million restaurants and my stomach was growling as we passed every single one...but daddy insisted we find out gate first.  It felt like we wondered EVERYWHERE before we finally stopped to ask someone...and they sent us back in the direction we had just come...UGH!  You were awake and fussy and daddy and I were both dripping with sweat as we were literally running all over the airport.  We arrived at the gate we were told to go to and NOTHING!  We finally went to the desk and asked the employee and they told us (are you ready for this???) - our flight was CANCELLED.  NOOOOOOO!!!!!  How could this be?  Seriously....we had only a two hour flight from home and NOW we're stuck????  We were sent to the Delta desk to wait in line...again.  I sat on the floor feeding you a bottle with my stomach growling.  Daddy's back was tensing up more by the minute.  After a LOOOOOOOOONG wait, daddy got up to the desk and the Delta employee told him she couldn't help him and that he would have to use the phone (which was right there) and call the Delta hotline or something and they would help.  So he did.  They said THEY couldn't help...and instead of the employee saying "Sure!  Come back up here and we'll figure this out together"...they sent him to the back of the line AGAIN!  I was barking, and uttering some very not nice words under my breath (oooor perhaps it was very loudly...but you won't know for sure ;) and daddy was literally clenching his fists and I could see the vein in his neck protruding.  You fell asleep in my arms, and then my arms fell asleep.  And I stood there, rocking you in the airport and crying like a little baby.  At this point we should have been boarding our flight, and we were still waiting to find out what had HAPPENED to our flight.  I called my mom and my AGCI mama's to spread the word NOT to come to the airport, while trying my darndest not to have a meltdown.  (Thankfully my mom was at my house with the Lil' Man preparing for our return and was able to tell the rest of our family not to make the two hour drive to Seattle just in time).  Meanwhile I was STARVING and SO mad that we hadn't stopped to get food yet.  (Aaaand possibly cursing Delta under my'll never know;)

Eventually daddy came out of that line.  I didn't have to ask to know the news was not good.  We were on three standby lists for a flight to Seattle and were given food vouchers as well as hotel vouchers to stay the night in Minneapolis tonight.  Daddy gave me a pep-talk and held me (as I was holding you) as I sobbed.  But now it was time to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.  We put our grumbling bellies behind us and ran to the next gate that had a flight departing to Seattle.  As soon as we got there, we knew there was no chance we would get on...but daddy asked anyway.  Nope, booked.  We started towards the next gate...but this time I INSISTED on food first.  We did a quick stop at a Subway where daddy ordered a huge meatball sub for us (which the vouchers did not even cover...awesome, right?).  Then we ran to the opposite side of the airport to find the other gate, and one look at the billboard and we decided to give up and go home.  We were #16 on the list and we could already see a line ahead of us.  We decided what was best for you, was to go to a hotel and get some rest, and start over tomorrow.  So we headed BACK to the Delta Kiosk (on the other side of the airport...still sweating here!) and booked a flight for the following morning.  Then we headed to catch a ride to the hotel.  You were awake by this point, and my sub was still in my hand calling my name.

We stepped out of the airport and I gasped for a breath and immediately broke out in a sweat (again).  It was July Minneapolis...during a thunderstorm...and it was well over 90 degrees with insanely high humidity in just the parking garage.  We escaped back into the shelter of the airport while waiting for the shuttle.

It was maybe 10 minutes before it arrived...I hopped in, just to have another panic attack.  We were in America...driving...and we don't have a car seat.  It was one thing to be in a third world country without a car seat....but another thing entirely in the United States.  I strapped the seat belt around us both and you BURST into tears.  I hadn't heard you cry like this were FREAKING OUT!  And I don't blame was hot and unfamiliar even for me!  Daddy pulled you out of the Moby and you were DRIPPING in sweat. I insisted on putting you at least under the seat belt.  Thankfully once the AC started cranking in the backseat and we started driving you calmed down quite a bit.

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was raining and windy.  The storm was starting and we were desperate to get inside before the predicted hail kicked in.  We checked was a very small hotel, but the room was just fine.  Two queen size beds and a shower made me a happy woman (and I wasn't exactly disappointed about the TV either).  I was a little concerned about where you would sleep so they brought in a portable crib (pack 'n play).  It was hot in the room too so we turned the AC on high and we all undressed.  You in your diaper, and daddy and I in our underwear...all laying on the bed with the TV on.  You had an instant smile!  Daddy broke out the sub sandwich but it was over before it started.  Even with a toasted sub, the marinara sauce had made the bread completely soggy.  I picked out a meatball, and then turned to my baggie of chips to satisfy my hunger.  We decided to order food from the restaurant next door, but you had zonked out before we had even decided what to get.  So yes....I sent daddy out in hail, wind, and a thunderstorm to go get us food.  While he was out, I called my mom to check in.  It felt so good to hear her voice....and Monkey's...  They were making cookies together.  Even though Lil' Man had a sad voice and said he wanted mama home, (just break my heart already!) I was very proud of how brave he was being.

Daddy came back with an armful of food.  He ordered A TON, but we ate not even half of it.  Point is - we went to bed with full tummies.  You woke up for a bottle, and we quickly put some lightweight pajamas on you...but you were out again in no time.  I didn't feel comfortable having you sleep in a pack 'n play in this strange hotel, so daddy slept in one bed, and you and I snuggled in the other (can you tell I get nervous about co-sleeping?).  I laid on one side of you and padded the other side with pillows.  You were definitely able to roll over at this point and I was a little worried about falling into a deep sleep and you rolling off the bed...therefore, I didn't get a lot of sleep.  Not to mention you woke up a couple times crying for a bottle.  But thankfully daddy did so at least ONE of us was thinking clearly in the morning!  We woke up early so that we could give you a bath and each take a shower.  Of course we still didn't have any toiletries so I was stuck using hotel shampoo again (and even though we asked at the front desk, they didn't have any conditioner).  My hair was a DISASTER...and I didn't even have any make-up in my carry-on so I was REALLY feeling crummy.  BUT...we had our matching shirts on and I was excited about that!  I tried to style your hair all cute, but your hair was still in knots and the coconut oil was just not enough for your head of hair!  I was feeling EXTRA guilty about not grabbing the Tangle Teezer out of our "lost" bag in Addis....not that it would have done much good without conditioner anyway.  Daddy took all our stuff down to the lobby.  I had you and the diaper bag - and a huge smile on my face!  We were going HOME!  And I had to crummy as this situation was nice to have a little sleep and a shower under our belt before greeting our family and friends at the airport.  We ate a small breakfast - but it included FRUIT!  AMEN!!!  And then it was back to the airport!

This time we knew exactly where to go so it didn't take long.  You slept through the security lines, but low and behold we arrived at our gate to notice that our flight was now DELAYED!  You have GOT to be KIDDING!!!  When would our luck change?!?  We had to believe that God had a plan for these delays...but I still don't know the reason behind it.  Maybe we never will.  They gave us more vouchers and daddy picked me up a giganto coffee from Starbucks.  Although it didn't compare to Kaldi's, I was very grateful.  He also grabbed us some food from fast food place, but I wasn't really enjoying it despite his best efforts.  I was ready to be HOME...with REAL food!  Once again we had to place some phone calls to let everyone know we were delayed.  More and more people were saying that they wouldn't be able to make our homecoming...but I stopped caring.  As long as we GOT home...TODAY!  And I saw my little man...and slept in my own bed...and had my family together for the first time...THAT was all that mattered!

As we sat...bored...unable to get on the internet...I called my friend Karee.  She is little Yosi's mama and was in our travel group for trip #1 AND....she lives in Minneapolis!  I just had to tell her that we were in the same city!  Had they been home for more than one week and had we known about our delays...we might have made plans to meet up.  It had only been 5 weeks since we had seen them...but who knows how much longer it will be and I missed them already!  She told us how Yosi had been doing and gave us an idea of what to expect our first week home.  We were SO ready to get started!

EVENTUALLY our plane arrived at the gate.  Then they had to clean it.  Then they had to load the crew.  And THEN they let families with infants come up to the gate.  Thankfully they made the boarding INSANELY quick.  Had our flight gone out as scheduled that morning, you would have been sound asleep like we had planned.  But after a 2 1/2 hour delay, you were (of course) wide awake and looking a little freaked out.  This plane was the smallest yet, but I just reminded myself a dozen or so times how short it would be.

"We're going home...we're going home!!"

Daddy got your bottle ready while I wrapped you in a blanket.  Our row had three seats, and thankfully a really sweet lady was sitting next to me.  She didn't have a lot of stuff, seemed to like kids, and was rather friendly.  As our plane took off you were calm, but your eyes were darting back and forth.  You guzzled your bottle way too fast and it was gone before we had hit the proper elevation.  I was worried about your ears, but propped you up on my shoulder to burp you.  And then it happened.  For the first time ever.  You THREW UP!!  During TAKE off!!  ALL over me, yourself, your blanket, the back of our neighbor's seat (thankfully she had sprung forward and you missed HER)!  I was mortified!  Daddy quickly cleaned up the neighbor's seat with baby wipes and a burp rag and then started stripping you down to your diaper.  You were DRENCHED.  As soon as we had leveled out I ran to the bathroom and quickly changed you.  You were MUCH happier with that out of your system.  I brought you back to daddy and then ran back to try to clean myself up.  Puke in my hair, down my bra, and on every layer of clothing.  So much for matching shirts! So much for clean clothes!  Since the seat belt sign was still on, I sat back down and ordered daddy to get yesterday's clothes back out for me ASAP.  He thought I was being ridiculous....but I don't think he realized exactly how bad you got me either!

Daddy climbed out of his seat, grabbed his backpack, found my clothes (on the bottom of the bag, where else?), you exchanged hands once more...and I disappeared into the bathroom getting that "Oh hunny...I'm so sorry" look from the rows of elderly people grumbling behind us.  In the tiny little bathroom I was stripping off layers and literally rinsing them in the sink.  I would lift it up to my nose and smell...seeing if I could save enough of the shirt to be able to wear it at homecoming....but of course, it reeked beyond belief.  Instead, I took the loss and sealed it in a ziplock bag, and saved the laundering for home.  I put back on my dirty clothes from the day before and just dealt with it.  At least I smelled better....except for the puke in my hair.  =(

This flight was really hard.  Besides the rough start, you were just SOO over this whole flying thing.  You fussed the entire flight (and I don't blame you one bit).  Daddy said I was being just as childish though.  To be fair...he had much more sleep than I had the night before....but it was one of those times that I knew I was losing it and I couldn't stop the behavior...ever been there???  My claustrophobia had had ENOUGH and my anxiety level was maxed out!  Once we landed we PEELED off that plane as fast as possible.  Since probably the 5 rows on either side of us had all heard our story, they were cheering us on as we walked off that plane.  As soon as we got off, we let out a huge sigh of relief and parked our luggage at a small bench to change you into your homecoming outfit (you were in pajamas until now).  You had fallen asleep again, so I had to wake you up a little.  Forget wide-eyed and were completely shell-shocked!  I changed you into the onesie I had made, a tutu, babylegs, and a big pink bow on your head before we started towards our welcome party.  We walked down the familiar hallways (at last), down the escalator, onto the little train thing, around the corner...and then...