Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Journey Home

Well friends and family, we have been on one long adventure together. Our family has been back in the States for about six weeks now. Hard to believe!!  And we are fairly well adjusted. I have stopped accidently running stop signs. Seriously, stop signs are totally suggestions in Addis rather than actual rules. I usually don’t honk my horn at children playing in their front yards anymore. I had a hard time adjusting to the idea that children won’t randomly run into the road and be killed by my minivan. I felt bad for the poor kids that got a preliminary beep just in case they were considering galloping into the road, I nearly scared one little boy to death because I beeped at him while he was running through a sprinkler in his yard,  he seriously looked like he was going to cry. I have realized that carrying toilet paper in my purse is not necessary and it’s nice to know that there is always soap AND paper towels in every public bathroom! Now let's move on to, “The Journey Home”.

Our last days in Addis were busy! I tried to cram all of the things that I wanted to do and see but had put off for the year we were there into the last two weeks. I visited an orphanage. It was so sweet and sad to see all of the beautiful children that lived there waiting for their forever homes. I had a picture frame built and carved for a painting that we picked up on one of our adventures.  I bought a bunch of handmade scarves and leather bags. I spent time with friends and finished up work at the AMAZING school that I was fortunate enough to be involved with. If you for some reason are reading this blog because you are living in or will be moving to Addis and you have young kids, Head to Toe is absolutely the best thing out there! I am sad that I cannot find anything to compare with it here in the US of A. 

On our last night in Addis after the house was cleaned and the boxes were gone and the bags were packed, we made plans to eat dinner some dear friends of ours, the Aspenson’s.  Annie Aspenson became a great friend to me and I was and still am sad that I don’t get to have weekly mommy dates with her any more. We had our last supper of injera and wot, which was delish! We chatted and the kids played but it all ended too soon. We headed back to our house for a last check of all of the rooms before the Embassy motor pool car arrived to carry us to the airport.

The van arrived promptly at 7pm and as we loaded the vehicle our neighbors stopped by with some last minute goodbyes. There were hugs and waves and tears from all of us. Our day guard stayed a little late to see us off and he teared up as we hugged him and thanked him for all of the wonderful help he had been to our family over the last year. As we drove away I could not believe that an entire year had passed! I was headed back to where it had all started except now the craters in the road were home. The beggars on the street were people. I had come to love the insanity and although I was excited and happy to see my family and have reliable internet……and plumbing, I was also sad to let this part of my life go.

I wish that I could say that we flew home peacefully with no complications. I wish that I could say that the flights flew exactly as they should. I wish that I could say that we were all healthy and whole upon arrival, but if the above was the end of my story, well then it wouldn't be the truth and it wouldn't be my story. You see I am just not that lucky and I think that Ethiopia wanted to give me a reason not to be sad about my departure. Ethiopia wanted a dramatic break up and boy did I get one.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. We got through the initial security check and then wound our way to the ticket counter. We were scheduled to fly on the 10:30pm Luftanza flight to Germany with a 3 hour layover and then on to Los Angeles followed by a quick flight up to Monterey. As we approached the ticket line a tall, blonde German gentleman asked us if we were on the Luftanza flight at 10:30. “Why yes, we are as a matter of fact.” I could only hope that we had won some sort of award and would all be upgraded to first class free of charge where in our children would have their own personal flight attendants to see to their every need, what can I say, I’m a dreamer. Instead this fellow answered with, “Well I am sorry, but that flight and all of the rest of our flights have been cancelled.”  I immediately flew into panic mode. My brain responded with a few silent WHAT THE..’s and my eyes must have shown my fear because the hubs gave me the calm down eyeball. He proceeded to ask what the solution was. Solution, of course there would be a solution. It’s not like we were supposed to be flying on Ethiopian Airlines their solution is usually, “I’m sorry, this must be really challenging for you, have a nice life.” Unfortunately the solution was Ethiopian airlines. DA-da-dun…. So now we were to fly on Ethiopian to London wait around for six hours and then fly via United Airlines to San Francisco, wait around for five more hours, fly to Monterey. Oh, and this new flight does not leave until 12:30am, that is in four and a half hours, have fun with that!

I am still optimistic at this point. At least we are still getting out tonight, it’s great we don’t need a hotel and Jake should definitely sleep by the time we take off. So we waited around and bought a bunch of nasty junk food with our remaining Birr and played on our electronic devices. It wasn't that terrible and when we boarded we used a real jet way and didn't have to go outside and climb up those God awful stairs! We found our seats without a problem and settled down to endure the seven or so hour flight to London.

Even though we were leaving at 12:30am the flight attendants still served a dinner. I wasn't particularly hungry and considered not eating the meal but decided to pick at it anyway; OK, I ate the whole darn thing. Jake on the other hand had almost nothing. He must have had a sixth sense, someone was watching out for him, maybe he has spidey senses, maybe I stuffed him so full of crap while we were wondering around the terminal for four hours that he honestly wasn't hungry, or perhaps he just had a feeling that eating that food was a BAD idea. I wish that I had had the sense to say no thank you and go to sleep! Within two hours my tummy was rumbling, in four hours I was very uncomfortable and by the time we landed I was ill and not just a little bit. I was so sick that I had to visit the airplane restroom before landing and then again after we touched down. After we got off of the jet way I needed to go again. Every 10 minutes I had to quickly find a potty. I desecrated nearly every public restroom that was on my path. It was hell.

We finally got to a place where we could sit down. There was a play structure and many seats surrounding this play area. After staking out our territory directly in front of the ball pit and scoping out the closest toilets, I lay down on the seats and watched Jacob beat the crap out of two smaller boys inside the children’s area. No one wants to be the parent of the bratty American bully; you especially don’t want to be that parent when at any moment you may have to shoot off at the speed of light to the public bathroom where you are solely responsible for the unspeakable things happening in the unsuspecting restroom stall. Unfortunately, I was that parent. I pushed myself up and slowly made my way to the play attendant to discover the reason behind the brawl. Apparently there was some miscommunication about the rules of some game and who was to do what and then Jake felt as though the boys were not participating appropriately or some such nonsense and walloped them both. Well GREAT! Now I had to do the responsible thing and drag his heavy sorry butt out of the play area kicking and screaming all while trying not to make any sudden movements that might leave me needing to change my clothes! Eventually Jake saw the error of his ways (he didn't want to be in time out with grumpy mom any more) and apologized to the boys, all was forgiven and the kids played for the next several hours and I promptly passed out.

When it was time to find our gate I was not feeling much better but the intervals between potty breaks had increased to about 20 minutes which was marked improvement. I should also mention that the Hubs and Brenden were also suffering from food poisoning as well. While they were not as miserable as I was, they were unhappy enough to be grumpy man children the both of them. Our sick and sad troupe made its way to the gate and waited to board. Once on the plane, we again settled into our seats for our long flight home. Eleven and a half hours! After we were at altitude the flight attendants once again appeared with offerings of food. I was still so sick that I told the attendant no thank you. She replied by telling me that there would not be another meal on this flight. I looked at her and said, “I flew to London on Ethiopian Airlines.” With that she answered, “Say no more, say no more. I will get you some ginger ale”.  Apparently serious food poisoning, courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines, is a well known and documented fact in the airline world. I’m thinking that Ethiopian Air should use the poisoning of their paying customers as a selling point, “Fly Ethiopian and finally kick those stubborn pounds!”

I didn't eat a thing the entire flight. I could barely sip the ginger ale. We flew on a big plane so there were about six bathrooms and I tried to spread my visits to them out because I thought that if I kept going back to the same toilet the people sitting near it would get freaked out.  By the time we landed in San Fran I felt nearly human. The need for potty breaks slowed and I thought that I could probably hold onto some food! We had a five hour wait in San Fran. Yes, I know, Monterey is only a two hour drive south but we had been traveling for about thirty some hours at this point and most of us were getting over a very intense illness. So we uncovered the San Francisco USO, grabbed some grub and we all fell asleep. I have NEVER in my life slept as well as I did on the pull-out couch at the USO. The hubs woke me after I had been out for about three hours to tell me it was time to go and it felt like I had just barely lain down. The last flight! OH joy! Oh RAPTURE! We made it to Monterey late that night, 10:30pm or something close to it. The car that we rented was too small to fit all of us and the ten bags plus carry-ons that we had. Unfortunately we had to take two trips but once we were settled into the blessed Navy Lodge it was wonderful to fall asleep….. with a calm tummy.

How to Survive international travel with a family:
1) Be sure to bring entertainment for the kids
2) Be sure to bring entertainment for yourself
3) Be flexible, you never know what is going to happen
4) ALWAYS, always, always carry Pepto-Bismol
5) Every single person in the family should have an extra set of clothes with them
6) NEVER ever eat the food on Ethiopian Airlines, I’m not joking here I am totally serious!
7) Bring your own food so that you don’t have to eat the airline food just in case you accidentally end up on Ethiopian Airlines!
8) Don’t get too worked up if your kid is the bully at the international terminal kids play area. Everyone knows that you have probably come a long way and they are usually willing to be forgiving. You still have to make them sit in time out though!
9) Most of all, no matter where you are or what is happening, a sense of humor makes everything a little bit easier to bear!

Well, friends and family that is it. My journey to Africa is over!  We may go back someday and if we do you can be sure that I will resurrect this blog as a way to keep you all informed of our adventures.

Until next time friends and family!!!!

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