Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bringing Christy Home, AKA Overcoming Obstacles One by One!

Our wake up call actually came when we were both awake already, which was surprising since our wake up call was at 3:45.  We needed to meet the cab at 4:15 and we were hoping to arrive at the airport before 5 am.

I needed to take some things down to the front desk and we needed the suitcase trolley.   When I got out of the elevator I found the lobby full of men in the boxer shorts...Yeah, not what I was expecting AT ALL.  Approximately 20 British drunk rugby players. Talk about awkward.  But I could not wait - we had a deadline!  So I forged ahead and placed the items behind the desk and tried to get the one hotel staff person's attention.  It wasn't happening.  Here I am trying to not look at all the (basically) naked men in the room, and yet I had to take care of our needs.  So I made my way up to the bar (it's open in the lobby), much to cozily between two of these Rugby players and asked if we could get the luggage cart.  But he just could not get past the language barrier/noise level to understand what I wanted.  I did the best I could and then felt it was time to abandon the attempt and get out of there before anything really embarrassing happened.  So I turned to go towards the elevator, but to my great dismay, there were already several nearly naked rugby players in the elevator.  Needless to say, I was NOT going in there!

So I headed to the stairs and went up two flights.  At that point I checked out the elevator and watched to see what floor the elevator went to - of course it was the 6th floor.  So I gave up completely and went up all 7 flights of stairs.  Then we got everything ready to go onto the luggage cart, and still no luggage cart, so we gathered what we could and Daryl headed down to see what we could do.   Everything is kind of a blur now, but eventually we got the bill paid, the luggage in the cab and avoided any further encounters with the naked rugby players, except for hearing from the hotel clerk that they had broken into fights in the hallways and upset other guests and we could still hear them outside through the upper floor windows.

So we are finally in the cab with the grumpy cabby who can only speak on word in English, "No."  All settled in, Christy in her car seat and all our luggage in the back.  Then the cabby tries to start the cab and the battery is dead.  He tries again, same result.  After a couple more tries, the cabby gets out and heads to the hotel...Daryl and I are fervently praying now as we are already leaving much later than we had hoped!  Soon the poor hotel clerk is coming out, following the cabby - they are going to do a push start (the street ahead of us is slightly downhill) as, thankfully, the mini van type cab is a stick shift (unheard of in the US, but common over there!).  Just as we get to the end of the block and the down hill section the cab finally started...we both breath a sigh of relief!

The next hurdle was that we were unable to determine which terminal we needed to be dropped off at.  So he took us to Terminal 1.  We got there and got unloaded and fixed up out luggage so the two of us could take it all with us, which was a lot - 3 large check in, 2 carry on, a car seat in a bag with a shoulder strap, three "personal bags" and Christy.  Thankfully two of the check in bags and my rolling backpack had piggy back straps and that made it possible, but it was difficult to manage so we wouldn't want to have to go very far.

Once we got into the terminal, it took a while to figure out where we needed to be, but eventually we got help and determined that we actually needed to be at terminal 2!  And because of our early flight, there were no shuttle buses available and we would have to hire a cab.  This was a problem as I had spent the last of our Bulgarian cash...but there was an ATM and I got out 50 leva and we went back outside and hailed a cab...everything back in and off we went.  Once at Terminal 2 we unloaded and paid the cab (only 5 leva...how was I going to use up the rest???).   I was able to get preferential treatment due to traveling with a child - no waiting in any lines - skip to the front at check in, security and at the gate.  This was really what enabled us to even make out flight as by now we were running quite late and the airport was surprisingly busy (it was a Saturday morning).  We did find that the first flight would not allow us to use her car seat, but they did allow us to check it at the airplane so it would be available for the rest of the flights.


Our first flight went really well.  Christy did so much better that I had dared to hope - she sat in her own seat with just the seat belt like she had been doing it all her life!  She was so good and seemed to enjoy the flying experience even!

Our first layover was at Heathrow, London.  It was a long layover, and good thing.  We accidentally went through customs and ended up having to get our gate tickets reprinted and go through customs/security again.  We just took it slow and got through everything eventually.  We still had about 30 minutes to wait until the gate was announced and then 30 minutes to wait at the gate, so really it went very well.  I was able to exchange the Leva to Pounds and had enough to purchase a nice lunch while we waited for the gate to be announced!

The next flight was the longest one - 7 + hours.  To us this was a late afternoon evening flight so Christy took a long nap during the earlier part of the flight.  When she woke up she was quite upset.  I applied peace and calming oils and some peppermint (her nose was very stuffy) and then went to find a bathroom to change her diaper.  It took a while to find one that had the changing table and she was fussy the whole time - I was beginning to think the rest of the trip was going to be a long one!  One in the bathroom, the minute she was in a dry diaper she was back to her happy self and even making herself laugh right there in the bathroom!  The rest of the flight was spent trying to entertain her in the dark - we tried a glow in the dark bracelet, but she bit a tiny hole in it...so I cleaned out her tippy cup and put it in there and that worked.  I also had a spinning light up toy that helped a lot too.  Soon we were preparing to land in Philly and beginning to stress about collecting all our luggage and going through customs AND immigration and then back through security and we only had just over 2 1/2 hours.  Everything went as planned, with a couple of exceptions....

When we went to go through immigration, we were told that everyone would be served in the order that we came in.  That was not what we were told - we had been told that as US citizens (and Christy was a US Citizen as soon as we got on US soil) that we would be moved to the front of the line and processed immediately.  I explained this to the gum chewing agent (he seemed to have a superiority complex like someone from a movie or something) but he said no exceptions.  So we sat not so patiently waiting for our turn (there were about 10 files ahead of ours).  Eventually a new agent showed up and we could hear the first agent asking if what we said was correct, and yes, we were right.  So only after about 20 minutes of suspense we were processed quickly and moved on to collecting our check in luggage so we could go through customs.  Due to our delay, all the luggage was already off the conveyor belt.  But one of ours was missing.  We eventually found out that we would have to file a claim in Seattle and moved on.  Customs was a breeze, really nothing at all.  Security was a long line and we were not allowed to move to the front.  Eventually we made it to our terminal and we actually made it in time.  They had begun to make announcements, but no boarding yet.  We thought about trying to grab dinner, but just didn't have time and hadn't seen any restaurants that seemed like a good choice for food, and neither of us were particularly hungry.

There was no priority boarding again for families with children/babies, and since we ended up loading later we were also not allowed to bring our carry-ons with us either.  We had to do some re-arranging as all the baby toys were in one of the carry-ons.  I do not recommend flying into Philly on an adoption trip, that is for sure.

Our last flight was 6 hours and had to be one of the biggest rip-offs of all our flights.  No in flight movies, no blanket, no pillow, no nothing!  We were given 3 opportunities to have the standard drinks (pop, coffee or tea) but there was no even one snack, and you had to pay extra for the meals.  By this time we were tired and a bit grumpy.  The plane was a smallish one, and the noise level was bad.  We were sitting right in front of the bathroom and all the sound from around us seemed to intensify off the wall behind us.  For us we had now been traveling for nearly 24 hours, but those around us were not so tired and there was a lot of conversations.  Daryl was able to sleep, and so was Christy, but sleep evaded me.  I had only gotten about an hour's sleep on the last flight, so I was getting pretty miserable. Eventually we made it to Seattle and we even beat the sun - the longest Saturday ever - 29 hours and counting by the time we landed!

But we weren't done yet....we collected our baggage, and then went to file the claim for the missing luggage.  Due to not being able to find the original first flight gate pass, it took over an hour to process the claim.  Finally we were able to tell Jessica to come and pick us up.

Christy had been a gem, and had only cried that one time on the second flight.  She played contentedly with Daryl while I was doing the missing baggage claim.  What a blessing.  I was so wasted by now, that it would have been very, very trying if she had been fussy at this point.

The only thing left was the drive home.  2 1/2 hours later, we were entering our home for the first time just 8 hours less than 2 weeks.  Only problem was it was 1:30 am at home, but our bodies were still on the other time zone, which was 11:30 am - so very tired from traveling, but Christy was no even remotely ready to sleep!  So Daryl went to bed and after a few hours we swapped places.




In the morning we had the wonderful privilege of introducing Christy to the family, and getting lots of loves from our little girls who missed us so very, very much.  Everything, every moment was something to cherish.  That day was like no other and God's blessing and grace were nearly palpable.  God had brought safely back home.

"Is she my sister"  "Yes she is all yours!"