Saturday, January 08, 2011
It was January 19, 2001...but just barely. The alarm went off at 2:30 AM so we could be to the St. Louis airport with our family (all 7 of us at the time) by 5:30 AM - an hour or so before our flight departed. This pre-dated 9-11, so arriving 2 hours ahead for international flights wasn't really necessary. Back then, they still mailed out paper tickets - we had received our tickets a couple of weeks earlier, along with the itinerary from the travel agent that arranged the flights. We kept the tickets in the nice little holder that they arrived in, and consulted our itinerary. Wow, what a mistake that turned out to be. When we stepped up to the airline counter at 5:30 AM, five sleepy-eyed children and two overwhelmed parents, the lady behind the counter typed our reservation number into the computer and said, "Wow, you are here REALLY early for a 6:30 PM flight!"
GRRrrrrr....are you kidding me??? She double checked - but her computer was correct and our itinerary was wrong; we were not leaving at 6:30 AM as it so boldly dared to incorrectly inform us.
She did her best to find an earlier flight for us, after we explained our predicament, but the best she could do was a flight that left at 3:30 PM, so we still had about nine or more hours to wait. Thankfully, my parents were along to say good-bye and take the vehicle back home, so they offered to get a motel room for us all to rest in for a few hours. Nine people in one motel room...well, there was a little resting, but not much.
At 2:30 PM - 12 hours after the alarm went off - we headed to the airport a second time. We left without a hitch, but the flight only took us as far as Memphis, where we once again had to wait. About five hours later, however, we were finally in the air, headed to Amsterdam - our last stop before heading to New Delhi. Ah, but what a last stop it turned out to be...
Upon arriving, we quickly consulted the screens to see if our departing flight would be leaving when it was supposed to - we should have only had a couple of hours to wait. There it was - in blaring digital numbers that made our blood-shot eyes ache even more. There was a 14 hour delay due to smog in New Delhi. It might as well have been an eternity.
By now and in this part of the world, it was January 21st - our daughter Lydia's 9th birthday. After wandering around dumb-founded for awhile, and double checking screens in a couple different locations just to make sure we really had read that 14 hour delay thing correctly, we found a room designed for children. It wasn't much - a small room with a few baby beds and desks, and some little wooden toys. We claimed it, laid our sleepy 18 month old Rebekah in one of the beds, and wished they also had beds for bigger people. We got out the 2 or 3 birthday presents that we had managed to hide away in our carry-on luggage and celebrated a very low-key 9th birthday.
Did I mention that I was about 4 months pregnant? Or, did I mention that I can NOT sleep sitting up-right. Thus, airplane travel, even for 9 hours over the Atlantic, does not allow me to rest.
Nate decided we should leave the child's room haven and go looking for an area where perhaps more of us could sleep. We finally found it - a large area full of recliner/cot chair things. However, most of the other people in the airport had also found it, and there was nary an empty seat. We stood there awhile, impatiently waiting, until one became available. No, we couldn't all sleep on one cot, but Nate knew how sleep-deprived I was (he usually has no trouble sleeping on airplanes) and declared that I should stay here and sleep, and he would take the kids back to the room.
That was a bit discomforting, no matter how tired I was. I am terrible with directions, etc., so I had no idea how to get back to where we had just come from. No problem, he said, you just stay here, rest, and we'll come back and check on you in awhile. Okay, I was tired enough that I didn't care that he was going to leave me sleeping amongst a bunch of people from all over the world...just give me those earplugs and I'm out.
An hour or so later he showed back up with all five children still in-tow, and stated that we just HAD to go see Amsterdam, since we still had several hours to wait. He had done some checking while I was sleeping, and found a train that went to the city from the airport, and it would be leaving shortly so we needed to hurry.
Everything about this trip was out of my comfort zone - and this was definitely WAY out. I immediately started saying, "But what if we miss the train back to the airport?" "What if we get lost in Amsterdam?" etc, etc. The last thing I wanted to do was miss that flight and have to wait several more hours again for another one.
Of course I was outnumbered...everyone was ready to go. After all, they pleaded, it's Lydia's birthday and it would be so cool to go explore Amsterdam for her birthday! No mom can argue with that kind of logic for very long.
It was nearly dusk, very cold, and about all I remember of Amsterdam is that it seemed to be a very dark and depressing place. I'm sure that's not how it is at all...but through my travel-weary eyes that had never traveled outside of the USA, it's just the way it appeared. We walked around for a few hours, stepped inside a few various places to get warmed up...then went back to the train. No, we didn't miss our flight, and everything was okay (just like it normally is when my husband asks me to trust his judgment, even though I don't want to.)
About midnight of the 21st, Amsterdam time, we were finally on a plane headed to India. The most memorable part of that flight, besides my weariness? Flying over the Himalayas...even at night, they were very distinct and absolutely forbidding and beautiful, all at the same time.
In Delhi, a couple of guys were awaiting our arrival so they could escort us to our final destination - a five hour train ride and 1 1/2 hour taxi ride away from Delhi. They also had been waiting and waiting, thinking our plane would arrive 14 hours before it actually did. When we finally got there, sometime early afternoon of the 22nd, we so desperately wanted a bed and some sleep, we could barely think of little else. However, they had planned a "treat" for us, to welcome us to India. They found a couple of taxis, managed to get us and all of our luggage crammed in them, and off we went to a local YWCA, where we would spend the night. We weren't staying yet, however, just getting our room and dropping off our luggage. They were both so hungry and assumed we were too, and they knew where a real Pizza Hut was located, and wouldn't it be great to go get PIZZA, even though we were in India? And it was even within walking distance of the YWCA, so no need to hire taxis again! Okay, okay; we were honestly too tired to put up much of an argument.
Off we went, half-asleep and dodging beggars, cows, bicycles, rickshaws, all manner of filth, etc., all the while amidst such a clamor of honking and noises as I had never experienced. It woke me up a bit...but I can't say that was a good thing.
Once at Pizza Hut, we ordered our pizzas, and then the girls all promptly fell asleep. They just all leaned on top of one another in the booth, not caring that the pizza would soon be there, or that our hosts were wanting to ask all sorts of questions and get to know us better. I greatly envied the freedom of childish abandon and rudeness, and wished I could do likewise.
Around 4 PM we finally did make it back to our room-full of about 10 different beds. Everyone claimed a bed, not caring too much about the lizard that slithered quickly up the wall, and fell into a very deep sleep. We slept and slept, until about 2:30 AM when we were all suddenly wide awake.
Exactly four days after that alarm went off, I finally felt a little bit rested and ready to tackle the next adventure. It's a good thing, because when our taxis got separated at the huge, Delhi train station that very morning, and we had to help push another taxi up the final leg of our mountainous journey that afternoon...I needed at least a bit of rest to endure my induction into this place where adventure so often finds you.
Posted by LA Kohl at 1:19 PM