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Monday, June 20, 2011

Pick up Trip in detail - Longest post ever

Let's see... I feel like I should at least write about our pickup trip for the boys before I forget some of it.
Sunday May 29th.
Aaron and the girls drove me to the Huntsville airport where we met Blake and Leigh Anne around 1000 am for our flight. We flew from Huntsville to Dallas. At Dallas, we had a 40 minute window to get from one plane to another and our plane was a little late. However, since we didn't have the boys, we made it to our next gate while the plane was still boarding. Near miss. Then we flew from Dallas to Houston in a very short flight. Seems like we got in the air, seat belt lights went off for about 15 min., then time to sit back down again for landing. In Houston we had about 2 hours to wait for our trip to Dubai.
While boarding our Emirates plane, we stood in line for the airplane and a man with a very large Dutch Shepard dog was walking up and down the line while the dog sniffed for Drugs? explosives? not sure, but he apparently he didn't smell anything. The flight to Dubai was around 12 hours long. It was pretty nice because even though we didn't have the boys yet, they put us in bassinet seating, which is on a front row with plenty of leg room. I think I actually slept a total of 7 hours on that flight. Even though I woke up every hour or so. However, that meant that I was very rested when we arrived in Dubai around 7pm Dubai time. We made it through customs pretty easily and I didn't have to pay the $100 each for VISAs for some reason. We grabbed a cab and told him what hotel we were in. He had never heard of it and had to pull over and call the number on our itinarary and thankfully the lady at the hotel was able to direct him to it. We didn't know that the hotel we chose had only been open a few weeks...AND you had to drive through construction, making the roads as bad and bumpy as Ethiopian backroads to get to it.
We got checked in by some very polite people, a rarity while there, we were all wide awake and decided to take the free hotel shuttle to the Dubai Mall, the biggest mall in the world. We were assured it was safe to go there at night. Unlike malls in the US, where most of the people roaming around after dark are teenagers, there were mostly adults and families there. We at supper there. I ate cheese pizza at Pizza Hut and Blake and Leigh Anne ate at a KFC. We all had enough food left over for breakfast the next morning. We didn't get the rooms with the $30 breakfast included, so we had to improvise.
Tuesday May 31
My alarm didn't go off this morning, so we ended up getting up later than we wanted and getting a late start. We took the shuttle to the mall and then paid for the Hop On Hop Off Bus tour. It was a nice way to get around Dubai and we stayed with the tour until after 5pm. Met someone from close to where I was born in IN on the bus. We only saw probably 1/3 of the things on the tour. We ended it at the mall and called our hotel to tell them we needed the shuttle to pick us up. We were told he was already on his way and would be there in 10 min. 45 min later he pulls up, drops someone off and starts to drive off. We run out there in the road and he stops for us. The driver is friendly, but his passenger, who we think may have been a friend of his, hitching a ride, was ANGRY. He was yelling on the phone and finally yelled at our driver to just stop the vehicle and let him out. So he got out on the side of the highway, ready to walk to his destination rather than ride with us? We figured that our driver had told the hotel he was on his way to the mall, picked up a buddy, and he apparently was never told we were there waiting, he just happened to drop someone else off. Anyway, we finally made it back and decided to go for a swim. That was nice and we made it back up to our room on the 18th floor and about 2 min. later the lights went out. Soooo lucky we made it to the room and weren't stuck on the elevator. It was off for over an hour. We stood in the hall and talked to people on different floors. We met a man from AL probably a couple of hours from here. He said he worked for the govt. but wasn't able to elaborate. He was real full of himself and we finally made excuses to go sit in the dark. We decided to go back to the mall for supper, since there was nothing else to do. After walking down about 15 flights of stairs with charlie horses in our calves, the power came back and the elevators started working.
June 1.
The night before, we all slept terrible. I was terrified that we would miss our flight. It was at 8:30 which meant leaving for the airport at 6am. Even though I tested my alarm clock and ordered 2 wakeup calls. We got to the airport in plenty of time. We checked in and then sat in a room waiting for our flights. It was time to board, but it was weird because there was no door in the wall leading to an airplane. We ended up getting in line for an escalator and riding down to what seemed like a parking garage. We then got herded into a bunch of busses that you stood up in holding on to a handle hanging from the ceiling. After about a 15 min. drive, we made it to our plane and had to climb the steps into the plane. I was going to take a picture of the plane, but the man scolded me and told me no pictures allowed for whatever reason. However, Leigh Anne was behind me filming, so she got pictures on tape before he was able to tell her no also.
We only had a 4 hour flight this time and we arrived in Ethiopia around 11:30. We were first in line for VISAs which are $20 each. Then got our VISAs stamped then Blake and Leigh Anne found our bags, while I changed some money over to Ethiopian Birr. LeighAnne wasn't allowed to change much money over because the lady claimed to have run out of Birr. Anyway, we got our bags and then this man working at the airport took them and put them on his cart, then demanded $5 US. This is the frustrating part. Because we would have gladly taken our own bags, we already had them on a cart, he just rearranged them> But he acted all official and told wanted to see our baggage tags...anyway, we gave him the $5, then his boss comes by and tells us to pay them $10 US. At this point, our bags had only moved about 10 more feet. Leigh Anne tells him that we have already paid for this and he questions us again, then moves on. After going through customs, we went outside and Aggie was there from the guest house waiting for us. She had us a cab ready and we stuffed our bags and ourselves in it for the wild ride to the guest house. The cab was in horrible shape. I sat up front and my chair rocked back and forth the entire time. But everyone was real friendly, like usual, in Ethiopia.
After they drug all of our bags to the 4th floor of the guest house, we went upstairs and gathered all of the donations I had brought. Then Alazar showed up to take us to get the boys. They knew we were coming because it was naptime, but they had our boys dressed, awake and ready. Seth was walking out all dressed up, with his nanny. He immediately started crying when he saw me. He wanted that nanny and Alazar said Seth was very attached to her. Then Ethan's nanny brought him down the steps. He was looking so much older. They had shaved the sides of his head and he of course was all smiles, like usual. The nannies showed us Seth's room and then we got back in the van. Alazar had disappeared inside. Well, Seth is crying this whole time, obviously knowing something is up. So we sat in the van with crying Seth until finally , since it was dragging out forever, we gave him back to the nanny and went in to Ethan's room and finally Alazar came out to leave. As soon as we were out of the transition house gate, Seth stopped crying and just looked around. We stopped at a store on the way back because the nannies said that Seth was no longer drinking formula, but was drinking cow's milk. Alazar argued with them and said no, but they insisted. (However, he would never drink the cow's milk at the guest house and I ended up giving it to the guest house cooks, so I think Alazar was correct, maybe they had misunderstood my question)
We picked up a lady who was there alone with her little adopted daughter who was leaving that night to take her home. We talked a little to her, but I never got a good look at her daughter. Now I wish I had because when I thought about her daughter's name later, it was the same name as a little baby that had been on the waiting list. I wish I had looked at her. It is really exciting to see children on the waiting list that have families, even if they aren't home yet.
Leigh Anne and Blake slept most of the afternoon and I took the boys to the living room of the guest house and hung out with the families from Germany, Wisconsin and Tennessee who were also adopting.
Finally went to bed around 10pm that night. Since Leigh Anne and Blake had taken naps, they were able to get up with the babies that night and I got a great nights' sleep with my earplugs in. It is very loud there at night. Babies crying in the neighbors' houses, dogs fighting and the muslim call to prayer over the loudspeakers.
June 2
Got up this morning and I got ready to go to embassy. We had decided that Leigh Anne and Blake would stay with the boys. I had misunderstood and didn't realize the babies had to go. So I got the van and Alazar was like "where are the children" I told him and he said "no, no, they have to come". So I trudged up the 4 flights of stairs, did I mention the 8000 ft above sea level altitude of Addis? So I finally got upstairs, caught my breath enough to eeek out "" So we threw together diaper bag stuff and ran back down to the van. We picked up a very sweet girl who had our paperwork and was the CCI secretary in Addis. She didn't speak a lot of English, but she was real nice. Seth loved her and sat in her lap the whole way there.
We didn't have to wait too awful long for our turn. I met a couple from Dallas while there, taking their baby home. I answered a few questions from the US worker from Rhode Island. She was real nice and not intimidating at all. I would guess her age around 25-30. Then we had to wait a few more minutes and then we were ready to leave. Alazar picked us back up, dropped off the girl, then dropped us off.
That afternoon, we were very brave and decided to do like all the other visitors at the guest house and catch a cab to the Friendship mall. We took a card from the guest house with a map on the back. We walked to the main road and stood there. Finally, a cab that was almost full stopped, and this real nice man, who was getting into the cab asked if we needed a cab. We told him yes, so he said he would tell this cabdriver to come back for us. So he relayed to the cabdriver where we wanted to go and sure enough a few minutes later, he was back. He offered to stay at the mall and wait for us. We told him no, since we had no idea how long we would be there. We shopped a while and I found the same blankets they had at the guest house for sale. They are so thick. Anyway, we finally found the pizza place in the mall and I ate my 4th order of pizza for the trip. (#1pizza on Emirates plane, #2 pizza at Pizza Hut in Dubai, #3 pizza at guest house) We made it back to the guest house and spent the evening chatting with other guests.
June 3
We spent the morning at the guest house. We thought about trying to leave a day early, but couldn't get the computer to work well enough to do it. So we called Daniel, our driver from last trip, to get him to take us shopping. We went to this place called The Postoffice. I have no idea why because it is a bunch of shops in tents on the side of a street. We shopped there for a long time. After Daniel took us to the coffee shop where I bought a huge bunch of coffee for gifts. After we finished shopping we wanted to eat. Daniel took us to a nice restaurant called Island Breeze. There were other white, English speaking people there, and a US embassy car there, AND Daniel assured us that the food was safe for us to eat. It was so good. We bought 3 pizzas (pizza #5) and 6 bottles of cokes for probably $20. After that it was getting late and Daniel took us home. Daniel was a lot more outgoing this trip and pretty funny. I thought he walked to the guest house, but then we found out he lives 9 miles away. He has to catch a bus.
June 4
While talking to another adopting mom at the guest house, she told us about this place they had shopped where women with HIV make jewelry, some of it out of coffee beans to sell for a living. So we had them call Daniel for us again and he found out where this place was after some phone calls. Leigh Anne wanted to stop by the orphanage, so we went to the Resurrection Orphanage where Seth lived and where Ethan had spent some time. That story I have blogged on a few posts back. After we left there, we made it to the HIV jewelry store. That was nice and we bought a lot of stuff. I bought more coffee that they ladies had ground. The HIV ladies were not there. They actually lived up on some mountain close by. There were lots of English speaking missionaries there playing with the HIV ladies children in the courtyard. The worker told us that the bus the kids in a few times a week for school. After we left there, it was lunch time. I kept asking Daniel if different places were "close" I was lost and didn't know if we were close to some landmarks I knew. He kept saying "no" like it was crazy question. FINALLY, we realized that he thought I was asking if these places were "Closed" not "Close"by like I meant. When we realized the error, the restaurant Antika that I wanted to go to was closeby and we ate lunch there. Pizza #6.
After this, Daniel dropped us off and we said goodbye. We then went and finished packing and they had about 2 hours to hang out while waiting for our ride to the airport.
Zebene, the owner of the guest house, came to tell us goodbye and take a picture with me and the boys. He was so nice. He sent us off to the airport in an extended cab pickup truck. Which was the nicest car I rode in there. As soon as we got on the road, the traffic stopped and our driver told us the Prime Minister was in town and traffic would be stopped for a long time. Thank goodness for the 4 wheel drive truck. He put it in 4 wheel drive and drove over the median, and took us the back way to the airport. This time a nice young man put our bags on the carts and pushed our bags up hill to the airport. He helped us all the way through and didn't "demand" money like the other guy. I really don't think we could have made it up the hill with 5 carryons, 5 heavy bags, and 2 babies. So, we gave the guy extra money because he was so sweet, didn't demand it and after we saw how hard he was working to get the bags up that hill, we appreciated him so much more.
We finally got on the plane for the 4 hour flight back to Dubai. That wasn't too bad. Of course, the boys had diarrhea this entire trip. We had 2 hours in Dubai. Whew, it was so hot in the Dubai airport. Maybe it was humidty that made it so bad. But we were all sweating like crazy. After a 2 hour layover, we headed out on our 16 hour flight to Houston. The boys were really wonderful. But 16 hours on a plane with to babies in diapers with diarrhea is not fun. I kept Ethan with me since I was sitting in a separate section. We were all on the same row, but I was alone on the other side of the aisle. Leigh Anne and Blake kept Seth with them. We got into Houston with less than 2 hours before our next flight. Our plane in Dubai had left about 30 min. late. We went through customs with 5 bags and 2 babies and no strollers. They had put them on as baggage and not Valet, so that was a mess. By the time the Barry White lookalike customs man slowly opened the boys packages and looked at them I was getting antsy> Then we found out we weren't done. I was "escorted" to another room by a lady who wouldn't let Leigh Anne or Blake come in the room with me, but I had to take the boys. Both boys had dirty diaper and the diaper bags were not with me. So the lady told me to go out and get them and change the boys. So I had to lie Ethan down on a blanket in the bathroom so I could change Seth. Yuck! That took time and delayed us even more. She finished her part and sent me on my way. At this time, Leigh Anne had already called Michael to see what other flights we might get on. We made it to our terminal about 5 minutes late. Which was so maddening, but the plane was gone.
This put us in Houston for a 3 hour layover.
By this time, Seth had pooped through all of his clothes and was walking around the airport in a tshirt, diaper and socks. When I called Aaron to tell him of our missed flight, I started to describe our trip and broke out into hysterical laughing/crying that Leigh Anne had to take the phone and let him know that she didn't know if I was laughing or crying, but I couldn't talk at that time. I finally composed myself enough to talk.
We ended up having to fly to Chicago. Well our plane leaving Houston left late, so we were eventually scheduled to land at the same time the last flight of the night was scheduled to fly to Huntsville. I was talking to the flight attendant, who had told us he was on the flight to Huntsville too. He didn't think we would make it.; I told him that if we missed that last flight, I was going to cry. He said "don't cry" I however affirmed to him that I WOULD surely cry if we missed that last flight and had to spend the night in Chicago. At this point we were already getting home 5 hours later than planned. And it didn't help that we had been counting down the hours the whole time and had to add more hours on to the end. As we were getting off the plane I begged the flight attendant to do something to stall the next plane. I was towards the front of the plane with Ethan, and Leigh Anne and Blake were on the last row, so I took off out of the plane, in hopes to run to the next gate and beg them to hold the plane for us. But when I looked up at the screen with flight info, I saw that our flight home had been delayed and we had 20 min. to spare. So I stopped and waited for Leigh Anne and Blake to give them the good news. What a blessing, the pilot for our last flight was running late. Thank God. So we made it on that last flight, all 5 of us on the last row. Leigh Anne was sick to her stomach, thankfully this flight was only 1 hr 15 min. She took some zofran and felt a lot better by the time we landed.
We got off the plane and picked up our strollers. It felt so wonderful to walk down the hall and see my family standing there with welcome home signs. My mom and Sandra Burch were also there to welcome us. But the drama wasn't over. Our bags were still in Dallas. So after making arrangements for that, we finally got in the car and headed home. What a trip. I don't think I would climb into an airplane right now if you paid me.

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