Friday, September 15, 2006

Travel Parts I-IV

Travel: Part I – Delays (Indianapolis)

We are sitting here in the airport with our first flight delayed. It was actually very providential because we were still dealing with currency issues. God has provided and we think all will be fine. Our pastor came and prayed with us and shared a passage in Isaiah (we’ll post it later) before we left and then went above and beyond to help with the final details. (Thanks so much Michael!!) My (Alaina’s) parents and family stayed late last night and then helped with everything this morning as well – even offering to drive to Chicago if we needed! We are truly blessed and could not have done it without them. Well, we are hoping our flight will not be delayed much more – we don’t want to miss our connection to Frankfurt! We’ll keep you posted.

Travel: Part II – Connections & Showers: Not the Good Kind

We left Indianapolis on our 11:22 a.m. flight at 2:54 p.m. Yikes! Our connection was scheduled for 3:25 p.m. from Chicago (they are an hour behind us). We arrived in Chicago at 3:00 and had no terminal, gate number, or seat assignment for the next leg of our journey. We could not find a monitor and had to wait in line to talk to a representative. When we finally talked to someone after waiting what seemed like an eternity (actually probably 3-5 minutes) he gave us directions to terminal 1 and told us it was a 10 minute walk so we needed to run! We took off sprinting through the airport with 3 heavy bags bound and determined to make the flight but fearing it was impossible. As we were racing through terminal 1 to our gate way off in the distance we heard the final boarding call for our flight to Frankfurt. By this time, Andrew was ahead of me and I told him to just GO! (His long legs cover 3 times as much ground in a fast walk as I can running :)). We made it to the ticket counter and still didn’t have assigned seats. The lady quickly processed our reservations and asked someone if we could still board. They said yes and there was much rejoicing! We boarded, found our seats, and then several more people boarded after us…maybe we didn’t have to hurry so much after all! We definitely should have trained for some distance running. O’Hare is a big airport! The plane actually took off at about 4:30 after sitting on the runway for awhile.

We settled into our seats and actually had another empty seat next to us which was really nice. At the other end of our row was a lovely older lady traveling with her husband for a trip on a boat to various cities ending up in Prague, I believe. She asked whether we were newlyweds and I told her that we had been married awhile but were taking this trip and becoming parents. She was delighted and told us about her experience with international adoption – her step-daughter adopted her son from Korea. Another family sitting in front of us was traveling home to India (originally from the States); the mother has done volunteer RN work at an orphanage in India and wanted to know about our adoption. She was traveling with her two youngest, 4 year old twins (see next paragraph for more on them). Another couple of ladies told us about their travel plans which sounded very interesting! They were both pianists and were taking a tour of different composers’ homes and attending the Mozart festival. They were headed for Prague. One of them has released 4 recordings – all of them featuring pieces by Liszt. They also asked about our plans and were so excited that we are adopting. We very much enjoyed meeting the different people and were blessed by their interest in our plans!

One of the twins, Carson, turned around and bent my ear for awhile. With the storytelling came a constant shower of spit all over my face. He was trying to tell a story about Superman with lots of sound effects and gestures, all the while chewing gum. I kept thinking with horror that the pink wad of gum was going to end up in my lap. It didn’t. Only the wadded up, silver wrapper came tumbling from his hand during an especially energetic part of the story. He was cute but I was exhausted so finally told him I thought I needed to take a nap. He insisted that he needed to tell me one more story… :) He also told me about supergirl but that part was a secret. He informed me I should think about it while I was sleeping. Very cute, very precocious. His sister, the quieter of the two, was a little jealous that he was visiting with me and turned around to say hi. :)

So here we are in Frankfurt for a long layover. We were able to sleep some on the flight and hope to stay alert while we are here so we can sleep for the next part of our journey. We are headed to Almaty, Kazakhstan this afternoon. We will arrive there, Lord willing, at approximately 1:10 a.m. tomorrow and catch the 6:25 a.m. flight to Uralsk. So the flight time is far from over. We are weary but so excited! We enjoyed our flight because we could just relax after rushing for the past 48 hours. The airline is super nice, even in economy class. They served cocktails/cold drinks, dinner w/drinks, hot drinks, and breakfast all on an 8 hour flight. They brought around moist, warm towelettes for washing your hands before meals. They did seem a bit confused about the food choices: Asian/vegetarian or chicken. Andrew and I both opted for the Asian but when we tasted it, it was clearly Indian. Anyway, it was good. Some of the better airline food I’ve had.

THIS JUST IN: Large number of Hassidic Jews arrived at our gate. They donned their prayer shawls and phylacteries and are singing, praying, and bobbing/bowing in the corner and otherwise. Sometimes in unison, sometimes individual. Interesting to observe and hear. I can’t quite imagine having so much ritualism and requirements to worship and serve God.

Travel: Part III – Two Words: Eat & Sleep.

The flight from Frankfurt to Almaty was rather uneventful. We really did sleep quite a bit but made sure we ate the meal and drank plenty of water. I think we watched one movie during dinner and maybe part of another as we were preparing to land. We stopped in Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) but did not have to exit the plane. We arrived in Almaty right on schedule at 1:20 a.m. We were exhausted but so glad to be in Kazakhstan. We went through customs and did not have to declare anything, which was a big blessing.

We went to the luggage claim area and pretty quickly realized one of our bags had not arrived. Andrew searched the whole area while I watched the rest of the bags. Then we decided he would go to the lost and found desk while I took the rest of the luggage and connected with our coordinator. Evidently, the airline already knew our bag was still in Frankfurt and had already filled out paperwork but hadn’t told us. So the long and short of it is that we won’t receive that suitcase until Monday. This was one of our large ones and has most of our toiletries in it. However, our clothes are here and we are able to improvise with the things that did arrive (like using baby toothbrushes and paste for ourselves). The biggest blessing in all of that was that we were not charged for any extra weight on our flight to Uralsk. We also won’t have to pay anything for the bag that comes on Monday even though we were many pounds (or kilos) over the total allowed weight and number of bags. So we are very thankful for that provision but will definitely be looking forward to Monday.

Anyway, I met up with our coordinator and her daughter. We also met another couple who is here to adopt as well. They are from Oregon and are very nice. We spent the night in the airport (not sleeping) waiting for our flight to Uralsk. Another family arrived early this morning so there are three total families that are sharing the driver and translator. Everyone is very nice.

Travel: Part IV – Final Destination

We boarded our flight for Uralsk at about 5:45 a.m. this morning and arrived here at 8:35. It was a direct, 3 hour flight for which we were grateful! They served breakfast which was interesting but we were so hungry we didn’t care. :) I slept most of the flight and Andrew read. Oh, I have to mention that we boarded the plane out on the tarmac and had a chance to see a bit of our surroundings in Almaty…BEAUTIFUL!! There were mountains with snow covered peaks. Uralsk is quite different – very flat, not bad, just different.

We arrived at our hotel around 9:45 a.m. and have had a chance to clean up and un-pack. I was just told that we will go for our interview at the ministry of education at 3:45 this afternoon. We have to do this before we can go to the baby house. We can’t believe we are here!!!

Our hotel seems great! We have a kitchenette, living room, bathroom, dining table, and bedroom. We have 2 TVs, a DVD player, and a VCR. Our kitchen has dishes, cutting board, refrigerator, sink, stove, and freezer. We have some cabinet and drawer space. The floor throughout the suite is red tile. So we are semi-settled in our home for the next couple of weeks. We will stay here until Sept. 30 and then move probably to an apartment due to there being a meeting of Presidents here in Uralsk.

We will write more later. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts as we continue on this incredible journey.


steph said...

So glad to hear that all the flights worked out! I'm praying for you. Oh, and what a blessing about the weight for the flight to much concern over the overages charges and God just took care of it all. :) He is proving Himself faithful once again.
Love you and miss you.

Jen said...

Yay! Praising God that you made it there safely and are only waiting on one bag. :) Hopefully with your long travels you will be able to sleep well tonight. Praying with yous!

Catherine said...

I'm so glad your trip went (relatively) smoothly and that you're getting settled in. It's great to hear the updates! We're praying for you guys!

Jen said...

Wow...I am tired just reading all that, but I am SO HAPPY you all are finally there! I know this has been a long journey already. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness in working out all the little details. Can't wait to hear more!!

Amy K said...

YAY!! You've made it!! Thanks for posting details of your journey. You've had an interesting trip so far. You guys are in our prayers!!


Michael & Heather L. said...

Fantastic! Your descriptions are great. Heather and I could visualize each leg of the trip as we read your post together -- even wincing a bit at the wet-storytelling and envisioning the stroll across the tarmac surrounded by the mountains. Praise God things have gone so smoothly for your journey. We will be in prayer for your meeting at the DoE, and everything that follows. Enjoy the hotel room!

Anonymous said...

Your description of Almaty and Uralsk made me recall photos from The Soul of Kazakhstan; also thought of the Rockies and contrasting plains of western KS. Thanks for your vivid descriptions of settings, hotel and people - helps us visualize and walk along a bit with you in these precious days of your family growth. Love you, ef

Jeremiah said...

Quite eventful! God bless!