Monday, November 16, 2015

The Journey – Day 1, November 14-15

We arrived at the Tampa airport at 4:30 am Saturday morning. I was very thankful that the airport wasn’t crowded, because it was quite a process scanning and checking all 7 passports! We got some breakfast and had a few minutes to eat it at our gate before boarding. Leading up to the trip, I wasn’t sure that Lily actually understood what we were telling her about going to China. She didn’t seem excited about it at all. But let me tell you, the girl was pumped in the airport! She was jumping and singing all over, and kept saying “Go China, get David?” We boarded our plane and had a quick and uneventful flight to Houston. Our layover in Houston was quick, so we just went to our gate and waited for boarding. The second flight was 4 hours long, and everything went smoothly. We arrived in San Francisco early, and hungry! It was quite a trek to the international terminal. Once we got there we found a deli and got sandwiches and salads for lunch. I was also able to watch/follow online the fourth quarter of the Florida game. I couldn’t pass up my weekly opportunity to experience high blood pressure and exasperation!

For the first two flights we were switching which kids sat with which adults. We weren’t able to get seats all together, so we were usually in twos or threes near each other. This time I sat with Lily and Caroline, Brian sat with Matthew, and we gave my parents the opportunity to be kid-free! Brian and Matthew ended up with an extra seat next to them, which really came in handy. Everything on the flight started out well. The kids hooked up their headphones to the in-seat screens and started watching movies and shows. There was a little concern when we thought that my parents’ seats didn’t have tvs because there were no seats in front of them, but they discovered that they come out of the side of the chair. I was pretty tired from my 3:00am wake-up call and couldn’t get comfortable in my seat, so I traded Brian and stretched out a bit in two seats. I slept for a few hours, and was woken up with the sound of Caroline doing a choke/cough that resulted in her throwing up. All over herself. And the plane seats. We were trying to be discreet about it, but it was a little tricky with her crying and the not-so-pleasant smell. Thankfully I had packed an extra set of clothes for everyone in our carry-on so I took Caroline to the bathroom to change and wash up. In case you didn’t know, Caroline has a thing with clothes and she was not happy with my selection of pants. So a bit more crying ensued. I managed to get her back to her seat and settled watching Inside Out and my dad and Brian cleaned up the plane and got her clothes and sprinkle blankie in a bag. This all happened at about hour 5 of our flight.

By hour 6 I was pretty sure that there was no way that I could make it through the rest. I kept staring at our plane on the little map and we were only over Alaska. The flight time remaining countdown kept taunting me with its 8 hours and something minutes. No matter what I did I couldn’t get comfortable, and every time Caroline breathed funny I was on high alert with a barf bag to catch any further vomiting. I was pretty sure death was imminent. To get out of my head I literally had to tell myself that no matter what I did, time would go on, and I would be getting off the flight eventually. I basically gave myself a survival pep talk. Then I decided that sleeping was obviously not working, so instead of trying to sleep and being continually frustrated I would just stop trying and watch a movie. That worked for a while. A few hours later Caroline got sick again, but this time it was all contained in an air sickness bag. None of the adults were able to sleep much at all, but Lily passed out across two seats for a huge chunk of the flight, and Caroline slept quite a bit too. Even Matthew managed a few hours when I made him stop watching the in-flight entertainment!

We did eventually land in Chengdu, and I could not have been more relieved. I had been dreading the flight. No one should be in a tiny space for that long! In our rush for freedom we almost left Matthew’s suitcase on the plane, but thankfully Brian realized it at the end of the jetway and went back. The Chinese are always ever so helpful in their input about clothing, and the man sitting across from us on the plane made sure to tell us that Caroline needed a jacket on. It wouldn’t be China without unsolicited advice! After making our way through two customs stations (read, attempting to stand in line while simultaneously boxing out anyone who tried to cut in front of us) we met our guide Susie. She took us to our van and we embarked on a 50 minute drive to our hotel. We could not believe how much traffic there was on a Sunday night! Without traffic I doubt it would have taken us very long at all. It didn’t take long for us to be indoctrinated back into China driving. It’s basically a continuous game of chicken with lots of honking involved. I think we almost took out at least 4 bikers and a few scooters, but somehow managed to make it to our hotel unscathed. Susie told us that we would be meeting David at 9:30 in the morning and to meet her in the lobby at 9:00! We didn’t get to meet Lily until 5:00 in the afternoon, so I was feeling a little unprepared and overwhelmed with it all. I still had to write questions for the caretakers, put together some gifts, pack David’s backpack, and breathe. But at that point I was so tired it was all I could do to make it up to our room and go to sleep. I think by 10:30 we were finally in bed.

I wish I could say that I had a great night’s sleep, but I woke up around 2:00 because I was so hot! No matter what I did to the thermostat the temperature wouldn’t change and the fan was not blowing any air. I think I lay there for an hour in misery, contemplating what tomorrow would bring, and to be honest, kind of having a bad attitude about everything. I wanted to be back at the Garden hotel where we stayed before, where things were a familiar. I didn’t ever want to set foot on another plane again. Too bad that’s happening all too soon. And to be honest I kind of just wanted to go home. As I was laying there having a pity party for myself about how uncomfortable I was, I felt God very clearly speak to me. He said “Erika, how much did I sacrifice for you when I adopted you as one of MY children?” That stopped me dead in my tracks. Wow. Surely I can handle a little heat, strange food, and not much sleep for a few days. I mean, God gave his only Son for me. And Jesus gave HIS LIFE for me. All out of love. How cool that I get to experience a tiny part of that through this adoption. My small sacrifice of comfort is bringing life to a little four year old boy half way around the world.  

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