Saturday, May 29, 2010

Homeward Bound

May 29, 2005

Homeward Bound

(warning...this is a long one.)

Hip Hip Hooray! We're on our way home.

First stop? The breakfast buffet. Gotta load up while we can. Who knows what we'll be offered on the plane. This time, the hostess checks the list for our names and can't find us anywhere. She asks if we ate here yesterday, which we did, so we say yes. She eventually gives up and lets us go.

After breakfast, we go back to the room for the final packing flurry. We've decided that all things not vital will be left behind. Gotta cut weight from our packs (Thank goodness we ate all the goldfish crackers. We wouldn't have stood a chance then.) so say good bye to the toiletries. I keep my deodorant though. You never know.

Jupiter amuses herself by playing with my flashlight. It stopped working back in Ekaterinburg (and somehow still made it to Moscow, go figure) so I'm not worried about it. When we've checked and double checked and triple checked everything (yes, the purple book has been my carry on, of course. Think I would risk putting it under the plane?), we attempt to leave the room. Wendy has the baby bag, her Tommy document tote bag, and oh yeah, that's right, the baby. I get the suitcases. I have one. Wendy and Jupiter have two. I connect Wendy's two together and connect my own Tommy document tote bag to my suitcase. My backpack, fittingly, is on my back.

It takes some maneuvering to get out of the hotel room as it's quite narrow and two suitcases don't exactly fit side by side. I take the first one out and leave it in the hall so I can go back for the other. Jupiter says good bye to the housekeeping staff. We thank them and then thank them again as they hold open the doors for us so we can get down the hall to the elevators.

We don't make it very far when one of the ladies comes chasing after us. We look at each other, unsure what we could've possibly forgotten. She hands me my flashlight. Looks like it'll be making the trip home after all. I thank her and put it in my Tommy bag as it is the most accessible.

Some nice people hold the elevator for us and we stumble our way inside. I have a feeling it's going to be a clumsy day, which is fantastic because there's nothing like being clumsy while traveling half way around the world. Well, across the Atlantic anyway.

Boris meets us in the lobby. He comes down from the casino upstairs when he sees us. He takes the suitcases. I go to the front desk to check out. They're busy and Boris doesn't like to wait so I drop the keys off and say thank you to anyone within earshot and go catch up to the rest of my group.

Wendy and Jupiter sit in the back and I sit up front. Boris plays the radio and we sing "Puttin' on the Ritz" together. No, seriously. We did. It was great. It took my mind off being able to see the working speedometer and my abject terror of what it said. Sergei's speedometer didn't work and when we rode with Viktor, there was so much traffic, speed really wasn't an issue. Not so in Boris's car. And I'm not exactly known for driving the speed limit either.

But we get to the airport. Boris hurries us along. "Let's go!" he says. "Let's go!" He finds a luggage cart and loads everything on it. Stuff falls out of the baby bag, including the all important stacking cups, but we recover everything. The stacking cups end up in my bag. Any port in a storm. Once we get through the first round of security, we give him 2000 rubles and go find the Lufthansa desk to pay our change of ticket fees and pick up our new tickets. There are two hours before our plane leaves.

The ticket agent lady is very nice but not nice enough to waive our change of ticket fee. The machine doesn't seem to like Wendy's card so we give her mine. She gives us tickets in return and we thank her.

We have to check in next. We're practically first in line. I ditch the luggage cart and we wait. Jupiter decides she's hungry which is understandable because we didn't have the opportunity to have any lunch or tour the duty free shops like we thought we would. Wendy placates her with a cookie. All is good again so Jupiter flirts with everyone around her. They smile at her in that way that screams, "Man, I hope I don't have to sit next to you, kid!"

While we wait, we watch the poor suckers flying home on Delta. Their security check is much more invasive than Lufthansa's. I don't know whether to be worried or glad about that. I decide to be glad because I don't really need anything else to worry about at the moment. Or maybe even ever. Who knows. Ever's an awfully long time.

When we finally get to check in, we get seats at the back of the plane. She's given us an entire row to ourselves which will help immensely. We thank her profusely, take our boarding passes and everything else and move on to passport control.

The magic of traveling with a baby strikes again as an attendant waves us through the special short line and puts us through passport control before everyone else trying to get out of the country. They barely look at my stuff and focus more on Wendy and Jupiter. Which makes sense. I'm not complaining. They clear the three of us and we get to move on to the next waiting area.

Our first priority is to find something for the baby to eat. There's a cafe upstairs that has milk but nothing else really useful. Wendy puts the milk in the sippy cup and we move on. There's a sandwich stand selling well, sandwiches, amongst other things so Wendy gets a chicken sandwich, hoping Jupiter will eat some of that. They sit near our gate and work on the sandwich. I go to the ladies room and then wander around the other side of the waiting area, foraging for more food. I find a bar that sells yogurt. It's kiwi flavored, odd and not my first choice, but it's better than nothing and something the baby might eat. And if she doesn't eat it, then Wendy will.

When they announce our flight, we move through security. It's a little more involved but nothing like flying home on Delta last time (For anyone not aware, the last time was November 2004, on our first trip to Ekaterinberg and Serov. Russian adoptions require families to make two trips.). The waiting area here is much smaller and much fuller so we're lucky to be able to claim one seat. Wendy tries to sit with Jupiter but Jupiter doesn't want to sit so they walk around and around. I sit with all the luggage. They walk around and around some more. Jupiter doesn't want to hold Wendy's hand and screams when Wendy tries to redirect her out of a group of people. Everyone watches and probably thinks, "Please don't let me be next to them."

When Wendy's tired, they come back to the chair and I take Jupiter around and around the waiting room. She doesn't want to hold my hand either and screams when I try to stop her from running directly into people. I hang in there as long as I can but soon I get tired too and have to force Jupiter back to our chair. Wendy's turn.

We swap off until they announce our flight is now boarding. I gather up the luggage; Wendy gathers up the baby and we wait. They don't announce the boarding by row here like they do in the U.S. so it's every man, woman and child for themselves and everyone is standing in one large mass, waiting to get onboard. We're standing near the back of the pack when a representative from Lufthansa comes and pulls us out of the line and brings us to the front. Man, traveling with a baby is awesome. I've gotta get me one of them for my next trip!

Our seats are near the back of the plane and we're fortunate enough to have the entire row to ourselves. Wendy takes the window, Jupiter gets the middle and I take the aisle. We arrange our carry-ons so the necessities are within easy reach (stacking cups...check!) and then fasten our seat belts. Jupiter's in a fantastic mood and I'm not being sarcastic either. We figure she'll go right to sleep after the lunch trays come around and she's eaten.

Take off is easy. We play with Jupiter's toys while we wait for lunch. Jupiter throws her purple duckie in the seats behind us. The kind gentleman sitting there returns it to us only to have it land in his lap again. We apologize and tuck purple duckie away for the moment. We try the stacking cups. These seem to be working out wonderfully until Jupiter decides to throw them at the people sitting across from us. I catch a couple but not all of them. I then get out of my seat to retrieve the rest. Some have fallen on the floor under people's feet. I say, "Excuse me" in English and Russian, figuring they'll likely understand one of those, and duck down to get them. Everyone's so helpfully not moving their feet (yeah...that was sarcasm) but as this month had proven, I am scrappy and I persevere.

Lunch is a choice between beef or pork. Wendy gets beef. I ask for pork. Wendy drinks water and I drink coke. The pork dish comes with tomato sauce. I don't like tomato sauce really. My family will tell you how I stubbornly refused to eat any red foods for a long long time growing up and some of that (all right, most of that) has stuck my entire life. Tomato sauce is one of those things. So you know I was hungry when I inhaled my meal and then actually wanted more. Unfortunately, there was no more to have. The beef dish is lo mein. Jupiter loves the noodles. When Jupiter's full, she loves to throw the noodles. Everywhere. We apologize more as we pick lo mein off of...well, just about everything. Sorry nice Lufthansa people. We didn't mean to trash your plane. Really.

The lo mein...pre-flight

Then lunch has come and gone and Jupiter's showing no signs of sleeping. The stacking cups hold no interest nor does purple duckie. I give her my sunglasses and these work for a while but then they too become airborne. We try the iPod next. I hold onto it just in case. It doesn't work and Wendy starts walking up and down the aisle with Jupiter. We know you're not supposed to do that but no one says anything. Wonder why.

It's not a long flight from Moscow to Frankfurt, which we appreciate. The plane doesn't pull up to the airport and we disembark from the back exit and get onto a bus. Wendy and Jupiter sit near the door and I stand next to them as there are no other seats left. The drive to the airport is a considerable one and it is here that Jupiter finally falls asleep. We wonder if they could possibly keep driving around the tarmac until our next flight. When we get to our gate, I pick up all the carry on luggage and Wendy carries the baby.

We're scheduled to leave from Gate 87A which is on the other side of the airport so we start heading in that direction. Everyone else's plane seems to be leaving from the other side of the airport too because there's a mass exodus heading for the escalators. We work our way on. We're about half way up when someone starts screaming bloody murder. It's crowded and chaotic and no one knows what's going on and no one wants to find out. The people ahead of us try to back up while the people behind us are trying to push forward. My primary concern is preventing Wendy and Jupiter from getting trampled which is hard when you're only one person.

We get to the top of the escalator and the scene isn't much better. The escalator lets off right in front of the passport control line, which is currently enormous. The people waiting in the passport control line are irritated and concerned that the escalator people might be butting in line, and I'm sure some are, so they're pushing and everyone else is pushing. I start pushing too. When in Rome, right? Or rather, when in Frankfurt. I imagine myself a blocker in football and try to clear a path as best I can. I like to think I'm mildly successful. I'm not saying the Pats would draft me but they should consider it at least.

We make it through the major crush and find ourselves able to take a breather. We check a map to find out how to get to Gate 87A. We're on the right track. Bonus.

Jupiter's amazingly still able to sleep and we slow it down and take our time getting to our destination. We're now the only people in our particular hallway. But not for long. Another group, not so interested in taking their time, come and invade our nice quiet walkway. They're also not interested in moving to one side of the large empty hallway and come close to trampling Wendy and Jupiter. I want to yell, "Hey! We're walking here!" but decide against it.

To get to gate 87A you have to take a train. We go up another escalator to get to the train platform and wait for it to show up. Wendy says she hopes they don't decide to change our gate number as they did when we were here the first time because she's gonna be pissed if we have to go through all this again. I hope they don't decide to change the gate number either because I don't want to have to tell Wendy we have to go through all that again.

Checking out the view

The train is quiet, clean and not crowded. Wendy sits with the baby. I stand. We make small talk with an American standing near us who thinks Jupiter's a beautiful baby. We have that in common. We're all headed toward A gates. Guess where all the America bound flights leave from! The pushy group is also on our train. They're going to the A gates too. We hope they're not on our flight. Or if they are, we hope they see us getting to board first. Ahead of them. At least I do. I know my maturity's always in question anyway so I'm not worried about seeming petty.

We get to the A gate terminal, which I guess is called terminal A if you want to get all technical. We check the departure board only to find our flight isn't listed at all. This does not make Wendy happy. We walk down the hall looking for a ticket desk or any sort of Lufthansa desk where someone might be able to tell us where we need to be. We find it and I go to ask. The gentleman tells me we're still in the correct location. It's just too early for them to put the flight on the board. He points us in the direction of the gate and off we go.

On our way, Wendy sees a group of lonely luggage carts. She looks at them longingly.

"Will you get one of those carts and push me the rest of the way?" she asks.

"Why bother with the cart," I say with only mild sarcasm. "Just jump on my back."

Before you get to the gate, there's security. This is the take your shoes off we're going to confiscate this nail file kind of security. I hand off all the tickets and passports to the first lady and then start loading our bags and outerwear onto the belt.

"Do you have anything in your pockets?" the lady asks, handing the tickets and passports back to me.

I check. I have crumpled up tissues and chapstick in my pockets. She indicates that I should put those in a bin and send them through the X-Ray machine. Seems weird but I comply. My shoes are next and, after being patted down by Security Lady, I am free to go through the metal detector.

Meanwhile, Wendy is trying to get the security people to let her go through the process with Jupiter still sleeping in her baby carrier. It's a losing battle as the security people want the baby carrier to go through the X-Ray machine so they take Jupiter out. She's suddenly cranky and screaming. Wendy's suddenly cranky too but she doesn't scream even though I'm sure she wants to. I throw my shoes on and tell Security Lady to give me the baby and she does, which helps abate the crying.

"Are you sure you don't want me to undress the baby?" Wendy asks.

Security Lady shakes her head, not realize Wendy was being more than mildly sarcastic.

While Wendy's getting felt up, I try to collect our bags. Security Man is holding my Tommy tote. This cannot be good.

"Is this your bag?" he asks.


"There's something metal in here."

I really want to say, "No shit. Really?" or "Yeah. There's a lot of metal in here. Want to be more specific?" but once again, I say neither of these things and open the bag, the carefully arranged for easy accessibility of vital things in a small cramped space bag, and start pulling stuff out.

Digital camera? No.

Alarm clock? No.

Cell phone? No.

Game Boy? No.

The other Game Boy? No.

Soon I have taken everything out of the bag and find, at the very bottom, the flashlight that was nearly left behind. I pull this out and Security Man nods.

"Do you need to open it?" I ask. "Turn it on? Anything?"

"No," he says.

I smile because I'm so happy that I've taken everything out of the bag so he could discover the metal flashlight at the very bottom of it and then not even care enough to check anything on it. But it's all right. We're going home.

"But we do need to do a special test on something," Security Man says.

He pauses. I wait.

"Anything in particular?" I ask as I shove all my belongings back into the bag. Which is, by the way, not easy to do one handed.

Jupiter is being fantastically good through all this. Wendy's still going through security. Fortunately, she's also being fantastically good through all this. Especially when you consider how much and how hard she probably wants to kick the security people.

Security Man holds up purple duckie who had been clipped to my backpack. "This," he says.

"The duck?" I ask.

He nods.

"You have to test the duck?"

He nods again.

This strikes me as hysterically funny. They don't care about all the metal and electronic stuff in my bag but they have to test purple duckie. What the hell. If it gets us home, you can test whatever you want. Wendy gets through security by this time and takes Jupiter back from me. I have a feeling she's going to love the purple duckie thing.

"They have to do a special test," I tell her.

"On what?" she asks. She's still not happy.

"Purple duckie," I tell her.

"Tell them to keep the damn duck," she says.

"It's fine," I tell Security Man. "Test away!"

Loading up in Frankfurt

I gather up our bags and we go to the special testing area. A woman swabs purple duckie down with a cotton ball and then puts the cotton ball in a machine. While we wait, another passenger is sent over with a teddy bear. Hmmm....anyone else see a pattern here?

Purple duckie is cleared for take off and we high tail it out of there. Wendy tries to put Jupiter back in her carrier but the security people seem to have mangled it somehow and rendered it useless. We make for the family changing room up the hall so we can regroup and put ourselves back together.

I repack my bag. Wendy changes Jupiter into her fleecey pajamas. We both work on the problem that is the baby carrier. What did they do to it? We have no idea. We ultimately have to undo every strap as much as possible and start over completely. Go team.

Food's the next priority. Our only option, without going through security again (no, thank you) is a small cafe that sells sandwiches, drinks and baked goods. We're happy to see they'll accept payment in American funds as we have only have that and rubles. No Euros. I have some at home but since we're not there, it's not that helpful. Wendy orders milk and a muffin as they are out of all the sandwiches on the menu board. I get a coke and a muffin. We go to the end of the bar to eat. There Wendy sees a container of yogurt and returns to the counter to buy it.

Jupiter's tired of sitting and wants to run around. She's not much interested in eating either. This stresses out both of us, Wendy more so than me, because we don't want her to be starving and screaming on the plane. The next ride's a little longer than the first two.

But Jupiter moves through the airport, smiling and flirting with everyone she meets. One of them is the young lady whose teddy bear was considered to be suspect back at security. She's a college student who's been vacationing in Germany and is now on her way home. She'll be on our flight and doesn't seem to be frightened by the prospect of Jupiter. Neither is anyone else who's sitting at the cafe with us. We hope everyone will be this nice.

When we've given up on the food thing, we go to the gate and get in line to get into the waiting area. There's quite the crowd growing around us. Most people like Jupiter even though she's getting slightly fussier. Wendy puts her down and they walk. One lady actually says, "Keep her away from me!" which irritates Wendy greatly.

The Lufthansa people check our tickets and passports and we get through to get our seat assignments. There seems to be a problem here. Or maybe there isn't. They keep saying there isn't a problem but their furrowed brows don't much reassure us. They direct us to chairs near the ticket counter so they know where we are while they work on the non problem. We sit there and wait, trying not to explode with anxiety. We're so close. We just want to get on the plane! I prepare myself to tell them to just get Wendy and Jupiter on the plane. I'll take the next one.

College Girl comes and sits near us. We chat continuously. I keep checking the ticket counter to see if I can divine what's going on. Nope. Seems my powers of premonition aren't working today. Or any day really. The Lufthansa representative finally returns to give us our boarding passes. She explains she was trying to get us an extra seat. She can't guarantee it, but she's going to try. We're just happy to know we're getting on the plane and thank her for that. Next she tells us to go with the man with the red button on his jacket. He'll take us to the plane now so we'll have plenty of time to settle in. We thank her again. I'm almost sad that the baby privileges will be running out soon.

Red Button Man takes us and two other passengers into a special elevator where you need a special key and a special code to go anywhere. It leads us to the jetway which takes us to our plane. Our big beautiful plane that's going to take us to Boston.

Our seats rock. First of all, there's a television right in front of us so if there's a good movie playing, no one will be able to block my view. They're also the bulkhead seats, the kind where you have some serious kick ass leg room. I almost cry when I see it, recalling how much I wanted to cut my knees off on the last trip. We take out the essentials and store them in the cargo nets in front of us and put everything else in the overhead compartment. The flight attendant comes by to say hi. She tells us she will bring us a bassinette for the baby once we've taken off. I think Wendy wants to hug her but restrains herself.

We sit. I sit in the third seat, the seat the ticket agent was going to try and keep open for us. I want to look like I belong there. We put Jupiter in the seat between us but she opts to play on the floor. Since we're not going anywhere, we let her do it. The flight attendant brings Jupiter a Lufthansa kid's pack and gives her a rattle. Jupiter takes it, plays with it a moment and then throws it at her. We apologize and tuck the rattle away for later. I just hope they're not serving lo mein for dinner.

Everyone else is boarding now. People hesitate when they get to our row. I worry that they all want my seat but no one does. It's just "Great. There's a baby on this flight" stuff. A man comes and sits next to me but no one comes for my seat. Wendy and I are much pleased by this.

Wendy holds Jupiter during take off because the seat belt won't tighten enough for her to stay in her seat. She comes and sits with me for a while and then goes back to Wendy. She's starting to get tired but perks up again when the first round of snacks comes by. It's a package of cheesy crackers. Think elongated cheese-its. They're good. Jupiter thinks so too. She eats Wendy's bag and then most of mine.

I check the movie listings and find out the in-flight movie is In Good Company with Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace. It's a movie I actually want to see, I tell Jupiter, so if you could sleep during that, that'll be great.

She's apparently in an accommodating mood because as soon as the attendant sets up the bassinette and Wendy lays Jupiter down in it, she's asleep.

Dinner's a choice between beef and turkey. I'm torn. The flight attendant asks what I would like and I can't decide. The man next to me gets turkey. He asks if I would like to see his meal before I decide. I tell him yes and he laughs and then doesn't show me his dinner. Tease. I take the turkey and hope for the best.

It's BBQ turkey tips with some kind of potato like thing. It's all right and I eat most of it. My seat buddy asks why I don't eat more. Obviously he doesn't know what a big deal it is for me to eat food with sauce on it. I forgive him his ignorance as he's never met me before.

Jupiter's still sleeping when the movie starts. Wendy opts for a nap. I put my headphones on and watch. I'm the only person laughing. Seat Buddy looks at me funny. Wendy looks at me too only I think she's annoyed. I try to be quieter. Jupiter sleeps on.

Our seats are located near the bathrooms so there's a constant stream of people walking by. They all stop to smile at the baby. I watch them like a hawk. I hope I am giving off a "if you wake her up, there will be hell to pay" vibe. They see me watching them like a hawk and they all tell me how good she is and go on their way. No one wakes her up.

Jazzy DJ Jupiter

We are about five hours into the flight when Jupiter does wake up. Wendy wakes up with her and they cuddle together. They're currently showing a documentary on chimps. Jupiter's fascinated by the monkeys and doesn't take her eyes off the screen. When it ends, we listen to music. She's drawn to the ballads station. I keep pushing the rock and roll channel, but she's just not interested.

We're close enough to home now that the in-flight entertainment is over and has been replaced by the map that shows where the plane is in relation to your destination. The next screen tells you how much longer it'll be. It's not long now. Wendy and I are beyond excited. Jupiter goes back to sleep.

She officially becomes an United States citizen the moment the plane touches down. Jupiter sleeps through it but I snap her picture anyway. It's an important moment, even if she won't remember it. We don't hurry to get off the plane. There's no point really. We put all our things back in the appropriate bag and leave behind the disposable sippy cups. We thank the flight attendants for being so wonderful and step off into Logan airport.

Jupiter's first photo as an official U.S. citizen

The line at customs is huge. Wendy gets pulled aside because of the baby. The official tries to herd me into the impossibly long you'll be here 'till you die line but we beat her at her own game. When we filled out our customs paperwork on the plane, we only filled out one for the three of us. Ha! She has no choice but to send us all together into the special Advance to Go line. Woo Hoo!

Our customs man is nice. He looks over everything, flirts with Jupiter and then walks us down to the next counter where Wendy has to go. He gives me the task of waiting for our luggage. I get a cart and stand by the carousel to wait.

Since we were the first to check in back in Moscow, our luggage takes a while to come out. I'm forced to keep moving around because the baggage area attendants are pulling unclaimed suitcases off to make room for the rest trying to come out. Everyone's still stuck at passport control, so there's quite a back log of baggage. I find an unclaimed spot and make it my own and wait. Wendy and Jupiter come back and still, I'm waiting. The first suitcase shows up and I grab it. I can see the second one coming so I stand close by and wait. A woman is struggling with getting her own suitcase off the belt so I help her. Ever the good Samaritan. I claim our second suitcase and we wait now only for the third. It comes and I grab it. I arrange everything on the cart and we head for the exit.

As you can tell, she's thrilled.

No one looks in our bags and we're free! We walk out into the waiting area where people are waiting for their loved ones. We know Omar's driving around, waiting for our call, so we go past everyone and claim some empty chairs so we can make some phone calls.

We love our cell phones. We've missed them. Wendy calls Omar and tells him we're here and ready to be picked up. I call Joe to tell him we're in Boston so he can meet us in Windham to pick me up.

"Did you bring the dog?" I ask. "Not that I didn't miss you too, of course."

"Right," Joe says.

Wendy calls mom to tell them we're home safe and sound. Jupiter and I walk around the airport and greet everyone who was on the plane with us and is now going home. They wish us luck.

We go outside just as Omar is pulling up. He pops the trunk and I start dragging the suitcases over. We manage to fit them in. Wendy sits in back with the baby who doesn't seem to care about her car seat and just wants to go back to sleep. I sit in the front. Omar has brought me Poland Spring Water and Chips Ahoy cookies. He's so good. He's also brought Wendy Evian.

On the way home, we stop at Taco Bell because I am having a taco craving. We get tacos and burritos. I get a Sprite because I swore I would quit caffeine as soon as we got home and well, here we are.

Thanks to the Taco Bell detour, we get slightly lost trying to get out of the city, but eventually find our way. I manage to stay awake a lot longer this time than I did on the first trip. Jupiter sleeps the whole way.

We're back in Windham before Joe. We unload everything from the car. Wendy and I are now wired. Excited to be home and wide awake because hell, it's 8am Moscow time. I dig through my bags and find Omar's gifts. I don't want to leave without giving them to him. We get the cameras out and show some of the pictures. There's a lot so we don't get through them all.

I run out the door as soon as I see Joe pull in the driveway. We don't bring Sebastian inside because we don't want to overwhelm the baby so I hug him outside in the rain. Then I hug Joe. I swear I missed you, Joe. Really.

We put Sebastian back in the car and go inside so Joe can meet the baby and we can get the suitcases. I apologize to Wendy because I'm sure in his excitement, Sebastian peed all over her driveway. But she doesn't care. She has a new baby.

I give Wendy a hug and accidentally step on her foot in the process so I apologize for that and tell her we'll get out of her hair so they can settle in. I give Jupiter lots of hugs and kisses, suddenly finding myself struck with a severe case of separation anxiety. I wonder if Wendy will let me move in with them. I promise to see her soon and we go.

I miss Jupiter already.

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