Our Trip to the States: Getting There

Many of you know we recently went back to the States for a wedding (Hooray for beautiful brides, amazing grooms and an exquisite location that gave us a great excuse to travel back!). We have been back for a little more than a month now (Has it only been a month or so?!), but we have been a bit quiet in that month, as our internet situation has changed. We don’t have internet at our house anymore, but I am able to go into the office about once a week, sometimes more, to use the internet. There is often such a long list of things to do, though, that it’s been hard to be consistent about updating. (On the other hand, my e-mail account is not as full as it used to be. Shocking revelation: If you don’t e-mail people and unsubscribe to all those e-mails you signed up for to get coupons for free meals for your birthday, you don’t really get many e-mails.)

So… our trip to the States.

We had a good but whirlwind trip back to the States… despite a rocky start as I travelled back with the kids and without Chris, who joined us about 2 1/2 weeks later in California. Our trip to Florida was almost a comedy of errors (though I wasn’t really laughing at the time): I got quite sick on the plane to Germany and was given oxygen, a row to myself to lie down and some amazing grace as the wonderful flight attendants and other passengers took care of the kids. I felt absolutely horrible and could barely lift my head… then when I could, it was only to throw up and use the bathroom. Usually I don’t even like having coughing fits in front of people, but this time all pride went out the window; I had no control over my body.

The kids, however, were amazing: Judah, who is quite wary of strangers, usually refusing to go near people he doesn’t know, must have sensed something (Well, DID sense something, as he later said, “Mommy, I thought you were going to die.” Poor precious little thing!), as he allowed others to help take care of him. Jovelle, who is often clingy with me, allowed the flight attendants to put her in a bassinet, where she slept a good portion of the flight.

When we got to Germany, I was taken to an on-site clinic, where I was given an IV for severe dehydration, then taken to an area where they insisted I lay down and sleep while a child care team watched the children. That lasted about 20 minutes before Judah wanted to play with ME, not THEM.

Germany held its own chaos, though: There was a snowstorm that closed down the airport, so we were stuck there – along with a convention that left minimal hotel rooms in the area (that all too quickly filled up with people from the airport who were much faster than I was to book. The line for the hotel services was wrapped around a corner until finally a worker came and made an announcement: “There are absolutely NO hotel rooms left in Frankfurt. None.” And no, they wouldn’t let us sleep in the janitor’s closet, as some people inquired. (I’m not going to lie – I was about to be one of them before someone beat me to it.)) and tons of other people. I have been in airports where flights have been cancelled because of bad weather, but this was sheer madness. The lines for customer service were at least a mile long, and the lines to get into the airline’s first class lounges were quite long as well. People were sleeping (or futilely trying to) EVERYWHERE in the airport. Madness.

…And this is where the fact that I had been sick on the plane came in quite handy. By this point I had been “released,” but I knew I could get a faint internet signal by the place I had been taken care of earlier that day. I sat outside writing an e-mail to Chris when a woman inside this room came out, saw me by myself with two kids and said, “We have extra room in here. Would you like to stay here for the night?” Amazing grace, indeed! The kids and I shared a huge floor pillow, blankets and even pillows in a dark room with 2 other families, which was attached to a room with water, snacks, toys for the kids and bathrooms with changing tables. We actually slept that night. Soundly.

Our cozy sleeping quarters in the Frankfurt airport

Our cozy sleeping quarters in the Frankfurt airport

They even let us call Chris the next morning to check in (He also wanted to tell Jovelle happy birthday. Ironically enough, we were stuck in airports because of flights cancelled due to snow for both of our children’s second birthdays. Jovelle’s ended up in some manipulation of birthdates in the computer because kids fly free – before they are two. And apparently not ON their second birthday.). Another reality check came when Chris said, “I’m so glad to hear your voice, but I thought you’d be at the gate by now.” “No, our flight isn’t until this afternoon, but we’re not even guaranteed to be on it. We’re on standby on our original flight to Orlando.”

“Um, no you’re not. Not according to the airline’s website, anyway. I’ve been checking your account, and you guys leave in about an hour for Miami.”

WHAAAAAT?!?!? Despite my passport having been entered in the computer in the room where we were staying, despite several inquiries about our flight and whether we could, well, even GET one, no one had even MENTIONED this flight as a possibility to me, much less confirmed it.

The birthday girl - two years old (Well, one year and 364 days, according to her new birthdate given by the airlines....)

The birthday girl – two years old (Well, one year and 364 days, according to her new birthdate given by the airlines….)

I quickly got off the phone and turned to the woman at the desk to do some investigating, and yup, we were leaving for Miami and not Orlando (which meant yet another delay, but we’d deal with that later). Soon. And Judah was still sleeping in the dark room, no one was dressed, and….

Turns out Germany was actually an hour behind, so we had less than two hours before the flight and not one, but we tore from the room and proceeded to the gate, stopping quickly to get breakfast on the go with our meal vouchers.

…And then our flight into Miami arrived over an hour late and without several of our bags, both our car seats and one stroller. The crew made us wait to confirm that our bags had not made it, while I listened to what could only be the magnified sound of the clock ticking away. No one thought to mention that we had to go through security lines again, no one escorted us, despite the airline’s fault of the delayed flight and luggage…. So I hauled myself and a carry-on, a backpack and two kids to security, trying to find an employee who could help. Let’s just say that European customer service was looking mighty good at this point, as I found lots of computerized check-ins but only a handful of actual people.

Finally someone came to help, and I was in a panic. They tried to rush me through security, but it still took a while. A couple TSA agents tried to flag down a guy in a golf cart to take me to the gate – which was, of course, on the clear other side of the airport – but he refused, saying we had not filled out a form. They finally convinced him, but by the time we got to the gate, the plane was gone. Long gone. And the next one that I could get on, as I was kindly informed by the not-at-all-helpful-or-friendly customer “service” rep at the American Airlines counter (Not feeling the American Airlines love these days….) was the last flight of the day to Orlando around 10:30 pm. Six hours to go. With several of them spent with non-helpful counter reps who didn’t seem to care that I really did not miss this flight on purpose, no, honestly, I did not. I could, they suggested, leave the secure area and talk to someone who might care about this, then go back through the security lines, but otherwise, too bad. In Germany people were offered meal vouchers, though certainly inclement weather is no fault of theirs, and yet in this situation, there were no vouchers offered, never mind that it was dinner time – but beyond that, there was not even an attitude of helpfulness. (That was me not whining and complaining and being content in all circumstances – can’t you tell?)

Since our stroller didn't make it, we improvised and loaded up a luggage cart... and since we had a bit of time before our flight in Miami, we road the train.  A lot.

Since our stroller didn’t make it, we improvised and loaded up a luggage cart… and since we had a bit of time before our flight in Miami, we road the train. A lot.

Nightmare. So much for good ol’ American customer service.

I just bawled. It was about all I could take at this point – so close, yet so far away. Driving there would take less time than our wait in the airport.

At the end of it, though, something cool did come out of it: I got my first peek in a first class lounge, courtesy of a kind soul. We took (free) showers, had (free) snacks in the lounge and checked (free) e-mail (Most of the messages were from Chris and my best friend, an exchange that basically amounted to “What on earth is going on out there, Christie?!”).

Konked out in the first class lounge

Konked out in the first class lounge

And finally, finally, in Orlando after a quick flight (Well, 60+ hours after leaving and about 2 days after we were supposed to arrive.), then to my parents’ house around 2 am (an hour drive from the airport, delayed again because only one of our bags made it).

They were so excited to take a bath the morning after we got there (We don't have a tub) - the waaaaaay too early morning - that they climbed in pajamas and all.

They were so excited to take a bath the morning after we got there (We don’t have a tub) – the waaaaaay too early morning – that they climbed in pajamas and all.

Whew. Well, I’m tired just writing all this, so I will end and continue with more updates later.

And don’t worry – the trip got much better!


5 thoughts on “Our Trip to the States: Getting There

  1. Wow! I never did hear the whole story! So glad you had some angels with you! I’m also glad I got to see you- short as it was. Love you guys! Praying for you! Did you ever get your luggage back?

    • Yes, all of the luggage eventually did arrive over the course of several days, I believe. Some damage to the stroller, though, including a missing tray that was always quite helpful…

  2. Wow Christie! Quite the “adventure!” I can see what a miracle it was that your kids let other people take care of them without much fuss. I hope you didn’t have malaria or get sick on your next flight? When I traveled home with Elijah on my own, we had a bit of “drama” but I wouldn’t even bother to tell the story next to this one:) We too were blessed by some helpers. A mission team that helped me unload my baggage and a US customs agent that stepped away from his booth and pushed my cart down to the airline counter! God always takes care of us though maybe not how we want to be taken care of…haha! We miss you guys so much! Stephanie

    • Thanks, Steph, we miss you all too! Really hope we’re able to connect the next time we’re in the States.

  3. Pingback: Our Trip to the States: Being There | Those Winklers

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