Monday, September 13, 2010

We're Here!

I'm sure you're all waiting to hear how our flights went.  After the last disaster to Nicaragua, we have quite the reputation to uphold.  Or destroy, whatever the case may be. 

We really set ourselves up for success by leaving the house at 5 am…and it just us and our 11 closest friends, I mean suitcases as well as 7 carry on friends.  All told it was well over 500 lb. of luggage.  Seriously.  We had an airport shuttle guy coming for us and Mark had talked to him a couple of days prior and advised him how much luggage we had.  (It's excessive, I know.  But three of the suitcases were full of Mark's work stuff and two of the checked bags were car seats, so we were technically well within our limits).  Mark explained how much we had and the man said that he's bringing a Honda Odyssey so we'd be fine.  Mark suggested that he consider taking out the back seat in order to fit all of us.  

When the driver showed up it was clear that he had not heeded Mark's advice.  Five minutes later it became clear that we would be taking our bus to the airport as well.  FRUSTRATING. 

The kids woke up well and were happy (largely due to the copious amounts of fruit loops given to them) so as soon as both vans were loaded we were off.  Mark driving Gus and the boys and myself with the poor planning driver.  

Once we got to the airport, Mark unloaded our stuff and then ran over to help us.  Ran over where, you ask?  Over to the other side of the median.  Company cars are not allowed to pull up curbside, so we had to make 3 trips back and forth to grab our luggage.  With two boys.  And car seats.  Without carts.  

Once we got all of our luggage into one place, we then had to bring it all into the airport.  We were thrilled that the US Airways line was empty!  We haul our stuff in and the lady tells me that the flight has been changed to a United flight and we have to haul our stuff another 6 miles to the United counter.  

All of our luggage, minus one lost bag.

I mustered up a smile and started trying to push two carts, a stroller and pull two carry ons.  All with a backpack on my back and holding Tate's hand.  The nice lady from US Airways took pity on us and pushed a cart for me.  Mark had left to put the bus in long term parking, but at the last minute he turned around, saw what was going on and had pity on us so he risked a parking ticket and helped.

We just put all of our luggage down by the corner of the check in area and I went to stand in line.  People from every side were either glaring at me or giving me looks of sympathy.  The line was all the way out past the rope divider, so I thought it would be a while.  I grabbed bag tags and started filling them out.  Then a nice lady informed me that before I got in line she needed to weigh all of my luggage.  I told her that was fine, but it was over by the corner of the counter.  The only (ha!) things I had with me were our two rolling carry ons, a backpack, Tate's backpack, my purse, the stroller, two car seats and one bag we intended to check.  She weighed all of that and then told me that she'd just hold everything but the carry ons so we could maneuver through the line easier.  I was thankful. 

Much to my dismay, the line moved quickly.  I barely got the bag tags filled out because every 45 seconds or so I had to stop and take three trips back and forth to move our stuff 3 feet.  When we got to the front the lady there asked where my bags were.  I pointed to Mt.  Luggage in the corner.  She gasped.  "Th-th-those are all yours?"  "Yeah.  Unfortunately we'll be gone for a couple of months.  And my husband's work had to send stuff, too."  She narrowed her eyes and looked at the 25 feet between me and my bags.  "You know you're supposed to be in control of your luggage at all times, right?"  She asked.  I remembered that it's September 11th.  The absolute worst day I can think of to be in the air.  I kicked myself.  "Yes, ma'am.  I have been watching them while I stand in line.  My husband had to park the car and with the line this long we couldn't risk losing our spot."  She rolled her eyes at me.  I seethed.  "Look, ma'am.  I'm doing the best I can with the cards I've been dealt.  I'm sorry that I couldn't bring the bags over here, but it would take up half of the length of the line and I would never stay on top of-" "Oh honey, I can see you're doing your best.  I'm sorry I snapped.  Let's just move you over to your bags and when your husband gets here we'll check you all in together, OK?"  

I sagged with relief.  If this lady was on my team I knew we'd make it through in one piece. 

I hauled all of our carry ons over to Mt. Luggage and waited for Mark.  I was able to tag all of the bags, paint my nails and teach Tate the history of Pi while we waited for Mark.  

When he showed up we ran to try and grab my new friend.  She directed us to the kiosk nearest to us, we gave her our passports and she went away to get us checked in.  She came back a couple of minutes later and asked for our Visas.  Mark and I looked at each other in panic.  He hadn't needed one before, but now we did?  Mark explained, "I was just there a couple of weeks ago and didn't need a Visa."  She said, "Well, aren't you staying for a few months?  Anything over 90 days you have to have one, and you only have a one way ticket."  Mark and her went back and forth for a while, until she understood that we would be leaving before the 90 day mark, we would possibly have to come back but we'd be leaving before our time expired.  

Then came the fun of tagging all of our bags.  It wasn't a problem until we got to the boxes and tote that had Mark's work supplies in them.  The suitcases had all been around 50 pounds so we didn't have to pay.  The two boxes were a little under 50 but the tote was 135 pounds.  You aren't allowed to check anything over 100.  The great shuffle began.  We somehow managed to stuff 35 pounds of stuff into the other boxes.  $800 dollars later we were on our way (we'll be reimbursed, don't worry). 

Next stop: Security checkpoint.  On September 11th.  With two children, two rolling suitcases, one backpack, one laptop bag (with two laptops) one rolling child's suitcase, one purse, one stroller, two blankets, two neck pillows-all without coffee.   Somehow we managed to make it through the checkpoint without any disasters, in spite of the fact that I didn't get my liquids bag out of the suitcase.  No one caught it.  We made it to our gate with 5 minutes to spare for boarding which is just about perfect!  

Once on the plane we got the boys situated.  I thought to myself (for the millionth time) how wonderful it is to be traveling with Mark.  Not only for the pleasure of his company, but also because I get a break from the boys!  I can go to the bathroom in peace!  

As soon as we took off Tate announced that he had to go potty, despite having gone on the way to the airplane.  The flight attendant wouldn't let him get up, so while I prepared an airsick bag, Mark tried distracting him.  Luckily it worked and within 5 minutes the seatbelt sign went off and we were able to get him to the bathroom in time.  Both boys decided that sleep wasn't a part of their itinerary, so we just kept them occupied.  Theo did manage to fall asleep with about 30 minutes to go, so he was well rested for our layover in San Francisco.  

We landed early and headed off to find breakfast.  We walked the entire International Terminal and the only thing to eat were Coach purses and Swarovski Crystals.  Since neither of those sounded particularly appetizing we opted to leave the International Terminal to find a restaurant.  It was a good choice.  We were even happier when we got to go in the special "you have kids and therefore need to be separated from everyone else" line when we went back through security.  We were able to skip right to the front and get through no problem!

Tate and Theo thoroughly enjoyed the layover, taking full advantage of the ability to run around and climb on everything…and I do mean everything. 

The boys pretending that the side of the escalator is a slide

The flight from San Francisco to Seoul was 12 hours.  TWELVE HOURS.  

We were pleased to see that we had 4 seats for the three of us when we boarded.  We used every inch of space we were given.  Theo spent much of the flight walking around greeting everyone and trying to get food.  Tate spent most of the flight zoned out watching Chicken Little (yes! for On Demand video entertainment for FREE!). 

The flight was a blur, but here are a few highlights that I'll never forget:
-Mark talking to Theo, very seriously.  Theo is facing Mark, Mark's holding onto Theo's hands saying, "Theo, it's time to sleep.  You've only slept 30 minutes today and you were up 3 hours early.  It's bedtime, you need to sleep."  Theo was dancing, smiling, shaking his head and saying "no. No. NO. no. nooooo. No" as Mark was making his speech.  It was priceless. I admit, I laughed out loud. 

-Mark asleep and Theo on his lap while we're going through turbulence.  Theo is clapping his hands and yelling, "WWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" over and over again at the top of his lungs.  So funny.  I also laughed out loud at this one. 

-Mark giving Theo a child's sleeping supplement (from the natural path) and it having the opposite effect on Theo.  

-Tate falling asleep with his feet from right below his knees down in the aisle. 

Theo did finally fall asleep for about 5 hours, but it took a long time and a lot of patience (and lest you think that Mark did all the work, I was the one that finally took him and forced him to sleep).  When we got into Seoul we were the last ones off the plane.  We went through Immigration fairly quickly because we were directed to the "persons with Special Needs" line.  I'm not sure what that meant, but I didn't care at that point.  

We collected most of our bags quickly, minus one.  It just so happened that the bag we were missing was the one with Theo's crib in it.  After his sleeping antics, I must admit that I shed a few tears.  We had to walk about a mile (it seemed) with all of our bags to get to our rental car counter.  Luckily a nice Korean man helped us, otherwise I think I would have collapsed due to exhaustion.  We'd been on the road for about 26 hours at this point.  

As soon as we arrived at the counter they knew that our luggage wasn't going to fit in any rental car they had.  We anticipated this and planned to hire a taxi to take some of our luggage and we'd go in the rental car.  It took about 2 hours, both of us and 8 Koreans to decide that this was the best plan.  During these two hours I became "That Mom" who let her kids play and wrestle on the floor.  Oh yes, I did. 

Finally at 10 at night we arrived at our hotel.  The boys went right to sleep and we collapsed as well.  We were lucky that Mark didn't have to go into work on Monday morning. 

So, there's the flight story.  Nothing terribly dramatic, but there were definitely some great moments.  We're here, we have some food and have even more stories to tell.  I'll just start with this one, though.  

Doesn't Korea look good on me?  Or not. 

Peace and love,