The Journey Home

Yes it has taken me over 3 days to get to this post … I promise it is a doozy … 

We woke up at 3 am on Friday 4/21. Ari had not slept well (he was so fussy I ended up putting him in the stroller and moved the stroller back and forth and he ended up sleeping there).  We were all tired when getting started and just ready to get home. 

We met our driver and guide at 4:30a in the hotel lobby, making our way to the Guangzhou airport. Now, let me stop and say that yes, I had heard all of the suggestions about not leaving from Guangzhou. Everyone was saying that the GZ airport always runs late … but everyone thought we would be safe since we were the first flight out in the morning. We got through security (always so fun with a child who is unable to walk/hold his head up/looks different and tons of people staring at him) and made our way to the gate. There were a TON of people in one area waiting on about 6 different gates. There were no seats at first … we had to wait for a plane of people to leave to find a seat. After about 15 minutes, they reported overhead that our flight would be delayed by 1.5 hours, it was going to be close, but we should still be able to make our international flight. We sat and waited for our plane to come … waited and waited and waited. After the 1.5 hours were up, the announcement changed, “this flight has been delayed due to ‘air traffic congestion’ and departure time is unknown at this time. Further updates will be given when available”. Fantastic … 

Around 11:30 our plane was finally there to board for Shanghai (we were supposed to leave at 7:30) … we landed exactly when our international flight was scheduled to take off … fabulous. We were thankful that we weren’t racing to catch a plane that we may miss anyways, and hopefully we would get a later flight. By the time we got our luggage and got to the ticketing desk, it was almost 3 pm. I started by explaining we had missed the international flight due to our first flight being delayed. In stead of offering to help us, the lady at the counter told us that the next flight to the US wasn’t until Sunday and if we wanted anything else we would have to call the airliner. She  gave us the number and said, you will have to call them … well, that would be very easy if I had a phone, but instead we had to find a phone at the business center of the airport where I had to pay a ridiculous amount of yuan to make some international calls to the travel agency to figure out what to do. Of course, it was like 2 am in the US and I was able to contact them but felt bad for waking everyone. This was the point where we used a lot more money than we had expected and we’re starting to run low on yuan … never fun when you don’t know for sure when you will be able to exchange money again. 

We ended up back at the ticket counter where I had to let Michelle deal with the craziness … I literally couldn’t tak to another person without getting very angry and crying. So, Michelle calmly killed them with kindness. Eventually we found out they have flights from Beijing to the US every day and convinced them to send us to Beijing. The only issue, however, was that the flights from Shanghai to Beijing were full. They offered to put us first on the standby list to get us to Beijing (it took 3 hours of standing at the ticket counter to get to this point). The next flight out was that night at 10. We didn’t exactly have any choice, so we said ok and sat outside the ticket desk until 9:20. They then decided there was enough places left on the plane and gave us tickets, telling us to run or we would miss the plane. 

We still had to go through security and of course Ari and I got held up due to something not being right on our tickets … they continued to tell us to run .. haha. We had to get down the terminal 50 gates away … it was ridiculous. We made it to the plane (even with people yelling at us, “You must hurry” and, “you are 45 minutes late” as if it was our fault). It was single handedly THE WORST experience I have EVER had in an airport. I would prefer to just forget the whole thing. 

We were thankful we made it to the flight and to be on our way to Beijing. It was around 2am when we got to Beijing and we went to the customer service desk (after collecting our luggage) to get the hotel room that the people in Shanghai said they were going to set up for us. Of course, the lady at customer service had no idea what we were talking about and was greatly struggling to speak with us in English. She ended up pulling out a translator app (which did a poor job translating properly).  She ended up getting us a hotel and we got on the shuttle to the hotel. 

While Ari slept, I was talking with the travel agent through email. She was unable to find where the airline has changed our tickets to reflect us being on the flight from Beijing to Seattle on Saturday afternoon (even though the staff in Shanghai said they got us 3 seats). She had even contacted the actual airline and they had no record of the change either … of course.

So, we had to decide if we were going to book new tickets (and pray we got reimbursed by the insurance we had on the flights) or go to the airport earlier than we had planned to make sure we had seats to Seattle. Since the insurance reimbursement wasn’t a for sure things, we decided to get up and get to the airport earlier than expected. We decided to get some sleep since it was already 4 am. So Saturday morning we were all awake by 9, we got some cash exchanged at the hotel and then changed our van time from 12:00 to 10:00 to go back to the airport. We would have had to pay extra for breakfast at the hotel and really didn’t want to do that (plus Chinese breakfast wasn’t sounding too appealing) – we decided to just grab snacks at the airport. We caught the 10:00 van from the hotel to the airport. 

Once back at the airport, we had to sit outside the ticket office again until 4 hours prior to boarding … so we had to wait until 12:00. We found some food and set up our camping area. 

When it was finally 12:00, we went to get in line, only then realizing that the line for the desk we needed wound through the barrier guides and then around to the next ticket office behind it!! They were trying to check in people going to both Toronto and Seattle at the same time and the line was taking forever!! After a hour, we finally got to the ticket desk. We had to explain the situation, give them our passports, a paper that Shanghai people had given us and the packet for US immigration for Ari. Thankfully it was all a go and they gave us our boarding passes. 

So, off through security we go (3rd time since starting this insane journey). We make it through and head to the gate. Thankfully, this time it was much more leisurely. We had no idea how we were going to get to Dallas from Seattle, but we were just thankful to be getting to the US. 

After the 10 hour flight (where Ari got a little fussy at times but slept decently), we landed. Michelle went through immigration on the US side, but Ari and I had to go through the “immigrant” side … which took 3x longer than the US side. I was so thankful that I had decided to bring Ari’s carrier on the plane, it made standing in line while holding him MUCH easier. Ari slept through the entire thing – he was a citizen and didn’t even know anything had happened.

Once through immigration, we headed to the ticketing desk to figure out how to get to Dallas. I was SO thankful to be back to the US, where I understood everything that the ticket agent said and she completely understood us. It was THE easiest rebooking of tickets. The unfortunate thing was that it was 12:45 and the next flight to Dallas wasn’t until 11 pm that evening. We were SO very thankful that we just happened to know some people in town. Our pastor and his wife had just moved to Seattle a few months ago and they were right there at the airport waiting for us. 

We ended up taking a tram to the space needle and then going to their apartment for some down time. It was so great to see them and we were SO thankful to not have to spend 12 hours in the airport!! 

We headed back to the airport around 7:45 (it took about 45 mins to get there). Once there, we got through security easily (4th time for those counting) and were on our way to the gate. The ride was uneventful and Ari even slept. We got into Dallas at 5 am. Ari loved his car seat and just had a big smile on his face as we drove away from the airport (knowing I had promised him no more airplanes for a minimum of 6 months). After 54 hours of travel, we were so ready to be where we were supposed to be!!

On our way to Michelle’s family’s home, we stopped by a donut shop. I got Ari a sausage kolache and a chocolate chip muffin (wasn’t sure what he would eat). He LOVED the kolache … I should have gotten 2!! He also thought the muffin was fantastic. He had THE biggest grin I have even seen him have when it came to food. He kept saying “mmmm”. 

After he ate and played a little bit, we tried sleeping. He slept from 10:15-2 when Michelle woke us to go eat lunch. 

We went to a Mexican restaurant (something Michelle and I had been craving). I was really unsure how Ari would do with Mexican, but thought we would give it a try. I ordered a chicken taco for him and at first he wasn’t all that interested … but, we tried the refried beans and he was hooked!!  He loved his first Mexican meal!! 

After lunch, Ari and I headed to the Mitchell’s home .. where we are staying until we go home. Sunday night Ari woke multiple times very upset. At 3:45a he ate his left over chicken tacos and watched some Sesame Street. Around 5 am he decided he was tired again, so we went back to bed and slept until 8. 

Today he has been pretty happy unless hungry. We napped from 12-2:30 and then he went to bed tonight at 8:00. Let’s pray tonight is better than last night and that he begins to transition to his home time zone. We have his dr appointment tomorrow afternoon, very ready to see what they may have to say. 

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