I got some leaving pictures on Sunday. Complete with some hazy shots of Wynona Judd leaving for New York on the same flight we were supposed to take. It was not to be.
Kris’ mom flew in from Florida while we were waiting and she and I were able to eat lunch together before Kris and the boys called to say they were at baggage claim waiting for her. As soon as I left her and walked down the ramp to our gate I found out I wouldn’t be leaving. It sure would have been nice to have just run to the car right then and go home with my family, but I had to wait for our new tickets and find out what we were doing.
The delay brought on by weather in New York brought about a domino effect that wouldn’t quit. Changing our flight out of Nashville until Monday meant splitting our group of 24 into three groups. I was to leave with the early group at 8:39 a.m. which meant leaving the house by 6:00. No problem. Saying goodbye to the boys one more time wasn’t too difficult, Aron was still sleeping so a soft kiss on the cheek was all he got, Ivan was still in bed but roused enough to ask if I would “be back tomorrow?” Aw…this was confusing for the poor guy. Owen was available for hugs and kisses, but was content to have Grandma and the excitement of daddy taking him to school instead of me. I am glad my kids aren’t too terribly dramatic over things like that.
Arriving at the airport again had me feeling much less jittery and much more confident that I was on the right track. Where I was supposed to be and able to handle this thing called international travel.
Also…I saw Eddie George at check in and then again at the gate across from ours.
Our flight to Detroit went smoothly enough. We arrived knowing we were to have a long layover. The rest of the group were flying out of Nashville at 11:30 and 1:30 (ish) and then the new schedule had us splitting into two groups. One leaving Detroit at 6:10 and the other at 7:20. I was in the 6:10 group and after a leisurely lunch and stroll (don’t lean against the fountain) through the airport I thought I was ready for my first flight over the sea.
I had no idea how taxing that flight would be.
I was tired. I hadn’t slept very well Sunday night and nerves and excitement wouldn’t allow me to relax well. I am also not good in tight spaces. We had a very full flight, lots of families with little ones and babies. Lots of smells and noises and little comfort. I sat next to a very nice and polite but large man and thankfully I was on the aisle. I knew I should get up and move around but I didn’t know how awkward it would all be. That first flight nearly ruined me for international travel. I was more miserable than I ever would have imagined I would be. I may have cried a little. Thankfully this was the worst of all of our long flights and I learned a few things that helped with the others too. One thing was, just do what you gotta do. I was so worried about disturbing all the people that seemed to be able to sleep (I couldn’t do that at all) that I tried extra hard to be still. I learned that people who can sleep in an airplane seat aren’t that easy to disturb. Get up, stretch, move and even sit down on the floor somewhere and do stretches. It helps. I did that on all the other long flights and it was a big help. Also…time of day is a big factor. If my body is used to being up, I can endure the long hours in a seat, but when my body thinks it should be lying down I literally ache to stretch out. Like real pain. I won’t diagnose myself, but I have for years dealt with that itchy, achy leg issue when I’m tired (restless leg syndrome maybe) and a long ride on an airplane at bedtime magnifies that discomfort greatly.
I prayed my way into Amsterdam and begged God to please make our last leg a little easier somehow. I wasn’t sure what I wanted but I hoped that He would have a solution for me. Turns out He did, but included an extra flight and a visit to Finland. No problem.
When we changed our flights to travel on Monday we were assured that though we did not have boarding passes for our last leg, our flights from Amsterdam to Delhi were confirmed. When we got to Amsterdam however, we found that our flights to Delhi were in fact standby. Oops. Pastor Jeff wasn’t real happy with our airline at this point. We mingled about, waited for the second group from Detroit and had a little tea and muffin at the cafe’ upstairs. We gathered again to get the update on tickets and found that we were able to get part of our group confirmed and the rest were rerouted again through Finland. I secretly hoped to be rerouted because I knew it would make my final leg to Delhi just a little bit shorter. And…I wanted to see Finland, even if it was just the airport. I was also wagering that a flight from Helsinki to Delhi would probably be a lot less full than a flight from Amsterdam to Delhi. My hope was for open seats to stretch out on. Sure enough, God was patient and kind to me and I was on the second group flying through Helsinki. That little bit of relief proved a real security for me. I was beginning to feel a little lost in all the shuffle and really missed my husband at that point. My nice big shoulder to lean on was missing and wanted it about then. I reminded God that He and I had done really well without that shoulder for many years and that I was counting on Him to be everything I needed with or without Kris. He remembered that too, and seemed to prop me up nicely when I conceded to lean in the right direction.
The only hiccup that followed was when we went through customs to board our flight to Helsinki one of our group couldn’t get through. She is from South Africa originally and required a visa to get into Finland. The rest of us were ushered through and Miss Gail was left waving goodbye. The silver lining here is that beautiful Gail has been a world traveler and was fully capable of taking this turn without any assistance or even complaint. She was a trooper the entire trip and I had already become enamored with her peaceful presence though I had only met her on Sunday. She joined us again in Delhi after finding a flight through UAE. Emirates is the finest of commercial airlines I’m told.
The relatively short flight to Finland was pleasant enough. I ate the sandwich I was offered and enjoyed watching the takeoff and landing on the cameras mounted near the landing gear. That was new to me. All of these flights also had maps and information on the screen to show you where you are, how high you are flying, distance traveled, time at origin and time at destination. I loved that.
Once in Helsinki I enjoyed our short layover by shopping. There were multiple places to spend all my money very quickly so I had to limit my choices. The exchange from dollar to euro is pretty disturbing too, so I tried to be very, very discerning as to what was worth the price and the hassle of packing. I decided to only spend at one shop and got three items. A decorative plate, a candy dish and little something decorative that I could easily mail to my mother-in-law as a thank you for staying with the boys. The store was called Pentik and There were oodles of worthwhile things, if only they weren’t so expensive. I wanted this pitcher really bad…but getting it home again might have been troublesome.
Not wishing to spend all of my shopping money in Finland I limited myself and ran from the temptation as quickly as I could. The temptresses I traveled with continued to wave lovely things in front of me but I stood my ground.
We ate a little at a cafe’ area just past the customs desks and then found our way to our gate to wait for the flight. There were lounging areas and even a cute little play area for kids. Our very tired group got a little punchy and I’m afraid our laughter echoed a bit in the large gate area. No one gave us dirty looks…at least not to our faces…and we tried to remind each other to keep it under control. Once on the flight we were blessed with a very new looking cabin, pretty colors, a very good attendant to passenger ratio and plenty of room to stretch. The only disappointment was that the arms of the chairs only went up 45 degrees. I guess they discourage the whole stretching out thing. We found a way though and I did get a little tiny bit of sleep before we arrived in Delhi.
In each of the airports I was able to get free wi-fi which allowed me to at least send an e-mail to Kris and sometimes even upload a picture to facebook. I loved this little luxury. Detroit and Finland airports also had charging stations available for my phone which I took advantage of as well. I was very thankful for technology on this trip. Timing didn’t always work out to communicate directly with my family, but I could at least send messages and read the reassuring responses from home.
I made it to Delhi after almost a full 36 hours of travel. Some traveled fewer hours depending on which group they were in. As I was in the first group to leave Nashville and the last group to arrive in Delhi I was one of a handful that had the distinction of having traveled the longest. Despite the hours. I was very grateful and had become very excited. Sometimes delays and roadblocks hold significance. I don’t see it as good timing as much as I see it as preparation and motivation for all that was to come.
To be continued.