Sunday, November 27, 2011

Airport Saga #1

This is the first of three stories about our recent travels...I have posted all three together so continue scrolling down (after this very long post) to see the other two.  

It just wouldn’t be a trip in this country without some traveling issues.  We have come to accept this and try very hard to learn to go with the flow.  This was no problem when it was just the two of us. We just knew to not expect flights to leave and to not schedule domestic travel and international flights too close together…like give yourselves a week between just in case
Traveling with Little t is a whole different breed of animal.  As much as we would LOVE for him to be as flexible and go-with-the-flow as we try to be (and granted, he does very very well) he just isn’t. Part of this is his personality but mostly it is his limited understand of the big picture that causes him to get worked up easily in situations like this.  And we usually end up paying for it with spectacular displays of frustration. 

We were scheduled to fly out of M-ville on a Saturday morning, have a week in Kbl and fly to Dubai on the Wednesday of that week. We had times with friends all planned for that week.  Friends that we love dearly but rarely rarely see. 

Saturday morning we woke up to mist and some rain.  At our house it seemed like it was beginning to clear, so we were hopeful that it would be gone by the time the plane came.  Little t woke up excited about going in an airplane (he does much better if we prep him a few days in advance for things like this) and was his jolly self all morning. We got to the airport and the fog set back in. The plane made a few passes, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to be able to land.  We loaded back up and headed back home.  As we opened the car door at the office, a scowl crept across Little t’s face.  He looked at me, slightly confused, and said, “Momma, airplane, go.”  I explained again that we couldn’t go on the airplane that day because of the weather and we would try again the next day.  He was not happy to be home and grumped around all day.  He talked about the airplane and kept asking please could he go on it. 

We heard that the plane could not be able to come the next day…or until Wednesday, the day of our international flight and we couldn’t swing that. So, the decision was made that we would go by road the next morning to the bigger city 4 hours away and fly to the capital from there. 

Little t loved the car ride and was great.  He was even excited the next morning when we woke him at 3 to head to the airport. He slept the whole flight to the capital and had a great day playing with friends. The next few days in the capital he did well, all things considered, being in a different bed, having early mornings and late-ish nights, being around so many people he didn’t know.

Wednesday morning came and it was the moment of truth.  The car came at 5 and we were out the door.  Little t once again was stoked at the prospect of going on an airplane and did great on the car ride and through all of the security checkpoints.  He greeted all of the female security personnel and allowed them to shower him with kisses.  He said hello to everyone and shook many hands.  He was his jolly self.

We arrived at the ticketing desk at 6:00 – a record for us. We had majorly cut it close the last time we flew this airline and almost missed our flight, so we were fine with being early.  The airport staff near the door to the ticketing area told us that usually they open their ticketing desk at 6:30, so we settled into seats to wait.  6:45 rolled around and Little t was delighted to see a group of little white kids walk through the door.  We didn’t know it, but the flight company that flies us around the country was also going to Dubai for their annual retreat. Half of their foreign staff and their families were on the flight (the next half coming the next day). We stood around and chatted, the kids played and ate breakfast.  Finally at 7:30, we began to wonder if anyone was going to show up to check us into this flight that was scheduled to leave at 9 am.  
About that time a random guy walked through the door and over to our group. He asked if we were on the A.A. flight.  He proceeded to tell us that he was from that airline and they had decided not to fly that day.  Some of the men kind of chuckled and asked what he was talking about.  He revealed that they didn’t have enough passengers on the flight to make it worth their trip, so they had cancelled the flight.  He had no idea if anyone had been notified of the cancellation (obviously we hadn’t…we had been standing there for 1 ½ hours) and couldn’t say for sure if the flight would go tomorrow or if they could reschedule us on it or not.  Several times he said, “thank you” and started to walk away only for one of the foreign men to press with important information regarding our travel plans. 

As is one of his special gifts, Little t sensed the stress pass between A and I as A relayed the turn of events to me.  We tried to not show it, but we were floored by this development and Little t deftly picked up on it.  He completely lost it right there on the floor, kicking and screaming, flailing his arms and shaking his head.  I am pretty sure every one of the couple hundred people in that room turned to look at the screaming banshee on the floor.  I got him calmed down and preoccupied playing with a toy and the moment passed. 
In that moment, a man from another airline who is quite trustworthy and also had a flight leaving at 9 came over and offered to try to get us seats on the flight.  A didn’t even have to discuss it with me, he knew that we could only handle so much more that day. Given the trip back into town during morning rush hour, the fact that the guesthouse was full for the night, and leaving meant we had to tackle the airport and it’s 8 security checkpoints another very early morning would most likely lead to several more outbursts from us all, he agreed.  We worked like mad for the next few minutes to get ourselves on that plane.  All of our friends decided to do the same thing. The airline handled it wonderfully…getting about 20 people tickets and checked in and through immigration in record time. 

Little t only had three more giant meltdowns while we waited for everything to be squared away.  He was flustered that I wouldn’t let him run his stroller into the ankles of unsuspecting travelers who were waiting in line.  When I took that opportunity away, he decided to see how many suitcases he could take down by running at them full tilt and jumping on them to tackle them.  Oddly enough, strangers also don’t like strange monkey boys attacking and knocking over their suitcases either.  And finally when an older girl took away his tractor and buggy (his most beloved toys), his true colors shone through. She was mad that I wouldn’t give her a turn to play with them, but by that time, I was doing whatever I could to keep him happy. And really a 4 year old stealing a 2 year old’s toys doesn’t go over great with me. 

We finally got on that airplane and while wedged between two very large men, Little t nodded off and took a great nap.  I was so thankful to be out of that airport and so grateful when we landed in Dubai.  Hence the crying tears of joy upon entering the hotel room

Airport Saga #2

So, we were very very hopeful that our trip back to this crazy country wouldn’t be as awful as the trip out of it, but we just couldn’t be sure. We were scheduled on a 4 am flight from Dubai with the same shady company…meaning we would have to be at the airport by at least 2 am…meaning no sleep.  If we would have known that the flight was going to go, it wouldn’t have been a problem. We have done it before and it is only slightly miserable. We get coffee and let Little T play on the playground before we board the plane and then we all pass out and sleep.

The kicker was that we could get NO confirmation that we are on the flight or that the flight was even going to happen.  And call me a killjoy, but going to the airport only to find out that the flight isn’t happening again isn’t my idea of a good time.  Finally, because of a lack of confirmation and the trouble with our ticket on the way here, we found out that our ticket had been cancelled and refunded.  We worked on booking with the reliable airline only to have credit card issues…I am telling you, it is always something. 

The next morning, we got the airport in good time and bought the tickets there.  We hung out in the duty free shop and got McDonalds before getting on the plane (that was delayed by an hour because of weather). Little t was awesome the whole time…but then again who wouldn’t be after getting to play with dancing monkeys and singing dogs and other cool toys for an hour?  He fell right asleep on the flight and it was a great time.  A and I snickered at the awful awful English in the in-flight magazine. All in all, it was a great flight. 

Because one of our bags had been stuck a few rows back and people are not so helpful, we were the last ones off the plane and into the line for immigration.  This is not unusual for us and thankfully Little t was pretty chill. He began to make friends with the one man who was behind us in line.
I sort of cringed when our struck-up conversation with this man brought about the fact that he worked for the U.S. Embassy. I was sure that a lecture was going to be the next thing out of his mouth.  Usually we hear about how stupid and irresponsible we are for being here, especially as a family, etc.  But this guy was wonderfully different.  He had lived and worked all over the world and raised his kids in some hard places.  He affirmed our work here and raising Little t here. It brought tears to my eyes to hear that from him…and even more to my eyes when he pulled out gifts of candy for us and Little t, “just because”.

Still on my ‘nice people’ high, I didn’t think much about the two young local boys who were playing and inching closer and closer to Little t.  I encouraged him to tell them hello and he played shy.  One of them…probably 4 or 5 years old ran over and hit Little t on the back.  It didn’t seem all that mean, just like he was trying to get his attention.  I saw it happen again and Little t didn’t know what to think but was curious by them.  While slightly distracted by the ongoing conversation with Embassy man, out of the corner of my eye I saw the little boy come at Little t again and this time begin to claw his face. Little t started screaming as the kid clawed him.  I ran over and moved his hand away as I yelled (in local language) “what in the world are you doing? Get your hands off him! Why would you do that? You are a bad boy!”  His sister at the same time gave him a hearty slap across the back of the head and drug him kicking and screaming off to his father who was at the head of the immigration line.  Once again, all of the people in the building were looking at a screaming Little t…but this time his screams were totally justified.  Or maybe they were looking at his bear of a mother…who knows. 

Thankfully, we finished our airport business quietly and made our way out of that place. 

Airport Saga #3

By the time we were done with our week of meetings, etc. in the capital, we were ready to hop on the plane to come back to M-ville.
Bright and early at 5 am the car came to get us and we drove through the still sleeping streets of the capital city. It was an unofficial holiday for a large gathering of leaders from around the country and because of that, not many shops were open and people were at home.  We quickly got to the airport and began the security dance.  More kisses for Little t, more pat-downs, and more in and out of the car.  

Somehow we always end up with an extra bag coming back from Kbl and were having trouble managing them all. Thankfully our teammates were with us and helped us juggle them.  

We got to the first ‘ticket checkpoint’ and as we were waiting in line, our team leader asked if we had our printed tickets.  A and I just looked at each other.  We had totally spaced it.  Thinking that because we were all booked together, we would all be on one, we hadn’t even thought of printing it out.  We frantically tried to figure out how to get through that checkpoint. Our teammates (oddly, the other three were on one print-out and we weren’t) went through first and motioned that we were with them. We hoped it would work but just in case...had an old print-out for a flight to Dubai and decided that we would try to use that and hope for the best. Thankfully the guard glanced at the paper and all of us together and waved us through.  HUGE sigh of relief.

After some arguing that we wanted to walk to the terminal, we consented and got on a bus, only to be very thankful we had gotten on the bus as we realized that we passed right by the checkpoint where they really closely look at your ticket. We probably would have been stuck. 

We got in and through security with minimal problems.  A questioned the guard on why he had let a man keep his cigarette lighter, but was told that the man worked there and he needed to relax…even though he was carrying a bag and went to the terminal…shady.  Our teammate got in trouble by the security guard for taking a photo of the sunrise.  He chuckled as they insisted he delete it and said, “every time I take a photo here they get really upset.” Huh.  Like I said, minimal problems. 

Upon arriving at the hanger for our flight, I changed Little t’s clothes and diaper and gave him some breakfast.  He was in a good mood and ooed and awed at all of the planes.  I got to talking to a local woman waiting for the flight and she was delighted to discover that her firstborn son and Little t shared the same name.  She was very sweet and later,as she got out one stop before us, held my hand as she looked down at Little t sleeping in my arms and said, “I will never forget you or your precious boy.” Wow.

Time ticked away and when Little t got antsy we pulled out the computer to watch a movie.  When the failed a friend of our who works for the flight company gave him a ride on the lawn tractor.  When that (and a second round of the movie) failed, we went exploring.  The hanger for this company is at the end of the airport and behind is a small field with some old trucks, etc.  Right up Little t’s alley. 

Being Little t, he seems to find people wherever he goes. He walked up to a little old man who was fixing a cart.  The man picked Little t up after he greeted him, gave him a big kiss.  Little t smiled away and chatted with him.  As he put him down, the man stuck a 20 afg bill in Little t’s coat pocket and kissed him again.  That right there was probably his lunch money…and though I insisted Little t didn’t need the money, the little man just smiled.   

Little t marched a little farther to a large fuel truck and the door opened to reveal another old grandpa type man sitting in the seat drinking tea.  He motioned for Little t to come up and join him.  He put Little t in the driver’s seat and he went to town pretending like he was driving…the biggest smile on his face. After he got out of there, the first old grandpa led him to an old stair truck and let him drive that.  The man grinned just as big as Little t did as he watched. I on the other hand wasn’t grinning as much as I was very nervously eyeing the keys that were left in the ignition.  I told Little t to not even think about it but the little old man shushed me, saying, “go ahead and let him start it, let’s see what he can do.” Ha! He had no idea what he was talking about. I mean, we are talking about Little t here and I fully knew what he was capable of. Mentally I was preparing myself for him starting that baby and driving it right into the side of the giant plane sitting in front of us. 

Our plane decided to leave at just the right time (an hour and a half late because of bad weather in M-ville…as always) and rescued me from finding out what my son was fully capable of in the stair truck. We walked away, waving goodbye to our new friends and Little t blew them very dramatic kisses...the smiles on their faces were painfully wide.  

We boarded the plane and after a few minutes of convincing that he couldn’t fly the plane, we settled into our seat and Little t fell asleep.  We landed in a wet and muddy M-ville 2 stops, 2 short naps and a few hours later. We were glad to be home. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Whoo Doggie!

(To quote my father)

It has been a while, hasn’t it?  

Sorry to leave you hanging like that…I meant to jump right back into writing when we jumped right back into life…but then we jumped right back into life. And had the week we had and that just didn’t happen.  We had yet another doozie of a trip back up here that totally wiped us out…and then Little t got sick the day after we got home, so being up with him all night for two nights totally wiped us out even more. 

And then it was the workweek!

A jumped head-first back into budgets and proposals and meetings and deadlines. I got sick and tried to keep up with Little t who was feeling better in spurts. He would go from super clingy to don’t touch me to wailing on the floor to laughing hysterically every 5 minutes. Needless to say, it was a challenge to keep up with.  He has seemed more like himself today and we are all thankful for that.

Now we are deep in Thanksgiving preparation mode. Like the pumpkin pie and one of the appetizers and a few other things are made, the turkeys are butchered (all 5 kilos of them) and 17 people are coming over tomorrow deep.  It should be a good time and we are excited for it. 

So needless to say, we have been back a week, but it feels like longer than that! 

We had a great time out.  We usually find that while we are here on the ground, we don’t realize how much we will benefit from a break until we get out and look at each other and say, “I am so glad we are out of there for a while!” I think that is a good thing? Not sure, but it is what it is.  We are pretty focused while we are here and I guess that is good. But let me tell you…once we got to Dubai, we were SO happy. Like, I walked into our hotel and started crying happy.

We didn’t do a ton there…I will write another post about the trip when I have more time, but we had a great time.  Little t loved the freedom to walk and run around…let’s be honest, we all did.  I walked whole three blocks to the grocery store by myself, without my head covered, when it was DARK.OUT.  Wow. I almost panicked when I came out of the store…but told myself that I was just fine, that I was a big girl and could walk the three whole blocks back to the hotel. And I did. And lived to tell about it.  All in all, it was a great trip.
Our week in the capital after was good as well…we made some fun new friends, had a great time catching up with old ones at the conference we were at and all got a nasty virus, so we can’t complain! Kidding kidding…sort of!

So, now we are back and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I have been a slight pouty-pants the last few days. I have really been wishing we could be home with our families…or just enjoy my mom’s cooking instead of going to all the work myself?!?  And I have pouted about first-world problems like not being able to make A’s favorite corn cassarole or pecan pie, and our turkey weighing a whole 5 pounds, and a crabby kid and slow internet and being overwhelmed with the amount of guests we have in the next few weeks…

But today as I puttered away in the kitchen, God kept bringing to mind memoires and realizations of how good He is to me and to those around me. I just thought through time after time in my life where I have been so richly blessed by His abundance and care and provision and faithfulness and…and…the list goes on and on. I was stopped in my tracks and deeply humbled as I realized how much I have.  What a good God He is. 

So, the next few days will be crazy busy, and we will only eat regular corn, and maybe each get only a bite of turkey, and miss time with our families like crazy. But we will revel in what we DO have. A warm home, more than enough food, work that we love (even when we hate it), each other and a very very faithful God.

Be blessed this weekend and bask in His goodness.