"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do.
God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know,
and holds us responsible to act." Prov 24:12

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Trip Home

Okay, I don't really even know where to start so I guess I will just start at the very beginning of our journey home. Vlado (the apartment manager) came to our apartment at 9:45 on Friday the 18th and took Jeremy over to the police station to unregister. When you are going to be adopting in Serbia and living there for a short time, you have to register with the police. When you leave, they ask that you unregister so Jeremy and Vlado went to take care of that while I finished up getting all the bags and kids ready for the trip.

At 10:15, Dushin (I feel bad, but I do not know how to spell his name. It is pronounced Dewshin in Serbian) arrived at the apartment to take us to the airport. Dushin is Jasmina's nephew and I want to take this opportunity to thank him and tell him what a wonderful young man he is. He picked us up from the airport initially, he drove us all over on the day of the adoption ceremony and he drove us back to the airport. He helped us with our bags, which was not easy because we had a lot of them, they were very heavy, and we lived up four flights of stairs. He never hesitated to help and he was always so nice about it. Heath just thought Dushin was the coolest guy ever and Dushin was so nice to him. He gave him hugs and chatted with Heath (which Heath loves to do) as long as he wanted. You can just see the adoration Heath has for him in the picture I included. He is a very sweet young man and we appreciate all he did for us while we were in Belgrade.

After getting all the bags down from the apartment (thanks to Jeremy, Dushin & Vlado), Dushin drove us to the airport, which is about 30 minutes outside of town. He then helped us get everything in the airport and at about 1:00, we took off to Munich. Once in Munich, the craziness began. Let me just say this before I even begin posting about Munich... I will never fly into or out of Munich again if I have a choice. That airport is a nightmare and pretty much everyone we encountered was extremely rude. Now, on to the madness that is known as the Munich Airport.

When you fly into Munich, you have already been through security but they make everyone departing a plane go through security again before you board your next plane (just in case you might have picked something up on the other plane, really?!?). But, it isn't even that simple. They load everyone up on buses when you get off your plane (which is a lot of fun with three kids, two strollers, and a ton of bags) and drop you off at another terminal. There, you face a free for all when it comes to security. There are a number of buses dropping passengers off, no official lines and only 3 security check points so everyone is just pushing and trying to get through because they don't want to miss their connections.

We were definitely going to miss our connection because of this mayhem. The lines were simply not moving and we were almost 50 people deep. Heath was acting up, Sasha and Brooks were crying and we were so frustrated because we were going to miss our international flight. Luckily, this wonderfully nice couple with 2 children who were at the front of the line saw us, and flagged us to the front even though there were 6 of us. How nice of them... seriously, they did not have to do that and it showed true kindness that they would even think of helping us out in that manner. If it was not for them, we would not have made our flight. So then, we have to get to our terminal but the way they have the airport set up there is that you get off on the ground floor and then have to go up three floors to get to the terminals. Well, like I said, with two strollers this is a pain because we have to take an elevator. But, unlike in the states where you can just walk up to the elevator and ride it, in Munich, they lock the elevators and you have to find someone to open it for you. So after we successfully did this, we raced toward our terminal.

We were then stopped again at another checkpoint to have our passports checked again, just in case anything might have changed since the two security checks we had already been through. Once again it was another huge mass of people with no end in sight. Jeremy asked the lady at the front if she could let us bypass the line because we were going to miss our flight and luckily she let us. She called us up to the front so that was a blessing. So you would think we could actually go to our gate at this point, right? Well, about 100 feet later (literally, that is all it was), we were stopped at ANOTHER checkpoint to have our passports checked AGAIN! Seriously?! And then, after all that, we made it to the gate.

At the gate, we went up to the counter with our strollers and three kids and asked if we could preboard as a family. The woman said yes. This did not happen. There was no preboarding. They just called everybody all at once and once again, a massive rush of people we faced! So we just kind of pushed our way forward with the strollers and made it through. We then rounded the corner to find that we had another 3 flights of stairs to go down if we wanted to board the plane. The elevator was of course locked but this time, there was nobody there to unlock it. Jeremy made his way back up to the gate check to only be told that we did not ask ahead of time to use the elevator (ummm, didn't we go up there with all the kids and strollers ahead of time) so we would not be able to use it and we would have to get all our bags, all our kids (2 of whom don't walk) and all our strollers down the stairs or escalators ourselves. At this point, we were just in shock at the level of incompetence we were facing at this airport and the lack of any sort of humanity that the employers had. This place was crazy! I can't even begin to describe just how crazy it is there. Oh, and if you want to buy a bottle of water or any snack or anything for that matter once you get through the FOUR security checkpoints, you have to show your passport and boarding pass to the cashier and write down your address. Seriously, no joke! So that was Munich.

Once we were on board with Lufthansa it was great. Lufthansa is a great airline and we were really impressed with the comforts of the plane and the friendliness of the staff. Very impressed. We were able to get the bulkhead seating on this flight (something we could not do on our way there) thanks to my father in law making phone calls from the states for us. We wanted this seating so Brooks and Sasha could have the infant bassinets they provide. These were wonderful! Sasha loved his and slept almost the entire flight. Brooks was a wee bit scared of his at first but then realized it was a pretty sweet place to sleep so he relented. We made Heath a bed on the floor under our feet (we did this on the way over as well), so he could have a place he could stretch out and sleep comfortably (well, as comfortable as a floor can be). It was a long flight, over 8 hours, but it went very smoothly and was quite comfortable for everyone.

When we were about 15 minutes outside of Chicago, making our descent, we hit a bunch of turbulence and the plane was jostled all about. It was making a lot of people sick. Oh, if you don't want to read about vomit (I mean, how can I have a travel post without vomit, LOL) then I suggest you skip this paragraph because it's pretty gross. Brooks was on my lap and he started crying and then all of a sudden he puked. I was able to catch it once again (just like our flight over there) in my hand and then the flight attendants who were sitting right there in front of me, rushed over with paper towels and puke bags. I got it all in there and waited for more vomit. Meanwhile, I myself was not feeling well and kept trying to tell myself that I was not going to throw up. I mean, I really cannot remember the last time I had gotten sick on a plane. But, no such luck on this day. As I am waiting for Brooks to puke again, I start throwing up in a bag. Right as I start doing this, Brooks starts massively puking everywhere! So here I am, throwing up in a bag with a toddler on my lap throwing up everywhere and I can't do anything about it because I am sick as well. And to top it off, we were landing so the flight attendants were not allowed to get out of their seats to help. So they were just throwing me a bunch of paper towels and bags to try and help but it was everywhere. It was all over me, it was all over Brooks and let me tell you, it was not fun. We were not the only ones throwing up either, the row behind us was throwing up, a few people behind them were and Ami was not doing too well either (she escaped any vomit though). When the plane landed, we let everyone get off first while I tried to clean up. The flight attendants were great. They felt so bad and brought me a whole box of warmed up wipes and all sorts of things to clean up. They were very sweet and I really appreciated their kindness.

We then had to get everybody and everything off again and take another elevator down to customs. I was still not feeling well and thought at any moment that the vomiting may return. We had to wait in a huge line for customs and then go to another area after that because of the adoption. After we got through all of that, we started racing toward our gate because we were on the verge of missing that flight as well. We got stopped in security though because of all of Sasha's baby food. We had about 6 jars left because he eats a lot and we had to be prepared. They had to take each individual jar and put it in a special box to get analyzed... one... at... a... time. And each time, it took about 2 minutes and the machine kept breaking down and not working so they were trying to reboot it after ever couple of jars. Halfway through, Jeremy found the supervisor to inform him that we were going to miss our flight. He looked up our information and said that no, we were not going to miss our flight that was scheduled to take off in 17 minutes because it had been cancelled! What?! Yep, cancelled! And there were no other flights going to Omaha that night.

So there we were. We had been traveling with three small children for about 15 hours, it was 9 pm and we were stuck in Chicago. United would not help anybody and sent everyone on that flight to the airports customer service which was 500 people deep. Seriously! We would have been in that line for hours. So, we decided to rent a car and drive the 7 hours back to Omaha because all the flights to Omaha the next day were booked as well so we would have been stuck in Chicago for at least two days. We could not believe all of this was happening when we had gone through so much and we only had one, 2 hour flight home. That's it. We were so close.

So at 11:30 pm, we finally had a van rented (thanks to my father in law making a bunch of calls), with three car seats that I installed and were ready to head out. It was stormy, very stormy with lots of rain and lighting and we were all exhausted. None of us had slept in 17 hours! It was not a good situation. And poor Sasha, he had been such a trooper up until that point but finally, after 17 hours, he broke down when he got strapped in the car seat (they do not use these in Serbia so he had never been in one before and I am pretty sure it was hurting his dislocated hip). We felt so bad for him. What an experience he had to go through! I cannot even begin to imagine.

Ami drove a bit but was too tired so Jeremy took over. She stayed awake to make sure Jeremy would stay awake and I tried to take a nap so I could drive next. I dozed on and off for a couple of hours and then Jeremy was just too exhausted to continue. So then I took over and Ami stayed up as copilot. I drove the rest of the way home, about 5 hours, and it was HARD. I did not want to be driving. I was so tired but I knew we just had to persevere to get our family home. We then hit some pretty heavy fog for about 2 hours which was not fun. It was really hard to see and the defroster on the rental car was not working well and the windows kept fogging up. It was a really hard drive but… 27 hours after we left our apartment in Serbia with Dushin, we arrived home at 7:30 am and it felt SO good. So, so good to be home!

5 comments:

  1. Oh good Lord, what a trip! That is unbelievable!!! Lufthansa still owes Shelley and I money from when when they refused to reschedule our return flights with another airline due to the volcano. They owe me about $500-$600, and Shelley more than that. I bet I never see it. They were horrible to us with the whole volcano incident, saying there were NO airlines flying east, when we were looking right at airlines with flights that were flying...ummm...EAST! The rest of Lufthansa staff was ok though. Moscow airport was HORRID! I think almost everyone has an airport horror story LOL I can't imagine that drive home though after all those hours. I CAN identify with the desperation though! I'm just so glad you're home, and can have a few days to regroup and catch your breath!

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  2. I am glad to hear your family got home in one piece. I wanted to give you these links before I forgot. I think this is what you are looking for so Sasha can "hold" a bottle or sippy cup on his own- http://www.bottlesnugglers.com/ or this might work too - http://www.extrahandproducts2.com/

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  3. So glad you are home! I am right there with you on Munich. I would have nightmares about that place, but I think I have completely blocked out the memories. I am surprised that you had good luck with Lufthansa. We thought they were horrible. Actually, I guess from Germany to Detroit was good, but on the trip over- scary, yelling flight attendents. Our first trip we were spoiled rotten on KLM. My little man threw up every time there was turbulence.:(

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  4. We're glad to hear you made it home. What a difficult trip home with all your little ones...we hope you are all catching up on sleep and can relax now.

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  5. Oh my goodness!! What a trip home. At least you are home and now have that special little guy you have been waiting SOOO long for.

    Congrats!!

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