Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Travelogue - II

Last we saw our favorite family of five, they were walking into the
Amsterdam airport having flown half-way across the world instead of
sleeping... now for 'the sequel'.

We were all thrilled to walk around freely and be out of the
airplane. Amsterdam is one of our preferred airports because it is
well-organized and includes some helps for families (like lots of
baby changing rooms near bathrooms, and day rooms for those with
long layovers who NEED a good nap). We planned only a 2-hr layover,
so there wasn't much time to enjoy the place. It was midnight our
time, so we didn't feel like having a big breakfast. The boys were
very excited about getting to walk on the moving sidewalks (they
think of them as escalators really). So excited, in fact, that Joel
ran along, tripped and cut his chin open on one. We carry the bulk
of our toiletries on, so we dressed it right there in the
terminal. If it scars well, it will make a nice cross with his
stitches scar from last summer! (a week later it has all but
disappeared without a scar...)

We finally got to our gate, which was not 'open' until 30 minutes
before boarding. It was wonderful to be surrounded by various
nationalities again. The airport was very international, and there
were lots of women with head coverings. I always feel they 'out-do'
me in modesty, and wonder whether I should do more. I don't feel
bound, but rather challenged. The family of five in front of us was
Dutch - Nigerian and had gorgeous children that probably spoke 3
languages.

Flight No. 2 headed south is only 9 hrs (a few minutes less actually
because the Dutch are uber-efficient). Kent sat with the boys and
soon all 3 were konked out. Next to Anna and I was a lovely Kenyan
woman named Ann (and sometimes goes by Anna!). She was a God-send
and very gracious with Anna, helping her eat her bizarre airline
food and playing games with her. Despite having slept only 4 hrs in
24, Anna did not sleep much and was 'loopy' but cheerful. I was
pretty delirious by that point having slept only 3 hrs before
flying and about 3 between the two flights (about 6 hrs in 48!), so
I cannot recall which movies I watched as I was able - but I know I
got a couple of them in.

We walked off the plane in Africa and were
immediately met by moist, warm night air. It was warmer than I
remembered/expected. Many other things were exactly the same. The
five of us with luggage move pretty slow, especially when exhausted,
so we were at the end of a very long visa line at customs. I had
filled out most of the paperwork already, but Kent hadn't dug out
our papers yet, when a kind national man came up and ushered us into
another shorter line. It was not the one we were supposed to go to,
but what does a sign really matter? He then asked for our luggage
stickers to go check on our bags for us while we paid. Red flags
went up through my sleepy stupor, and we realized a couple minutes
too late that he was 'helping' us in order to be paid for his
favors. We declined his 'services' just in time!

We finished the visa processing and just needed to pay in US cash.
Kent presented him several bills for the exact amount (having
planned this out), and he gave back one $100 bill. He said that any
cash with a date older than 1999 is no longer accepted. Oops! We
have heard of this in the country of our work, but never here! It
turns out he had enough small change with correct dates to make up
for it, but it shocked us for a minute.

We went to the carousel where James was pulling our bags off all on
his own! And all of them were there! God is good! I never expected
something so good. We loaded it all up and started wheeling toward
the customs folks and the door, to find that there were no customs
folks at the counter! Maybe that's one advantage to traveling with
children who take forever...? Three of our colleagues were there
with hugs, keys and 2 vans to pick us all up with our gear. We
arrived at our temporary home to gorgeous roses/lilies, baked goods,
2 meals in the fridge and a schedule for 2 more coming! They took
such good care of us, and it has been good to get reacquainted a bit.

Even though it was daytime at home, it was nighttime here and we
were definitely tired enough to sleep. We all climbed under the
mosquito nets and slept great... until about 3 am! We snacked the
kids, read another story and we slept again. Sometime around 8 am we
woke up again hungry. We ate. I located the towels, the shampoo, the
soap. You may know that feeling of wanting to wash the 'airplane'
off of you... Kent climbed in the shower first, only the realize
that there was no hot water! We had completely forgotten about
needing to turn the hot water heater on ourselves to heat up the
water (which takes about 2 hours). Oh yeah! I guess we used to do
that...

So that's how we got here protected and well. Ten days later our
fatigue is still wearing slowly off. A cold shower is not so bad for
a first moment of 're-culture shock'. This house has a major ant
problem, which has not been fun, but at least Anna's not up at 4 am
singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of her lungs anymore! We've only
lost power for an hour or so, which is impressive for 10 days I
think. The boys started school up again this week, and we have
routine again. Still no internet aside from the office, but I think
it's silly that I feel like I'm in withdrawl after 7 days without
internet access!

More on transition and plans later.... hope this travelogue has been
somewhat entertaining if not informative!

2 comments:

Michelle said...

Thank you so much for the great update! I love every bit of it.

Brittany Martin said...

What a blessing to see that you all made it safely--with all your luggage, and children!