Monday, January 24, 2011

The Long (Long LONG) Road Home (pt 2)

Recap of yesterday's post:

Hours 0-3 were spent traveling to the airport, making our way through security, narrowly avoiding an international incident, and then boarding the plane.

Now it's time for things to get tough.

Hours 4-14 (1:00pm to 11:00pm Moscow, 4:00am to 2:00pm Minnesota)

Our flight from Moscow to Washington DC began better than expected. Aleks seemed to be comfortable in his seat, and didn't mind the takeoff as much as we expected him to. He was a bit squirmy in his seat, but initially he was entertained by his toys, and giving him small food treats.

We kept expecting him to be lulled to sleep by the hum of the airplane, but he seemed to be running on a high energy level. Once we were airborne, he made a point of switching between our laps at least every 10 minutes, so that neither of us could sneak a nap in.

At one point, Aleks was curled up on Alan's lap. He was just falling asleep, when we tried to slide him over to his own seat. Unfortunately, he woke up immediately and became fussy. We expected him to calm back down fairly quickly, but it wasn't to be. Except for a short 45 minute nap at the start of the flight, Aleks stayed awake for almost the entire 10 1/2 hour flight. Which meant that so did we.

During that time, our movie choices cycled through 5 times. Although Aleks prevented a complete viewing, Alan saw parts of Iron Man 2 five different times, along with Toy Story, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Clash of the Titans.

We were very happy when our Russian flight was over. Departing the plane, we were so excited. We were back on American soil, and we had our baby with us! Despite being very tired, we proudly walked to customs, ready to declare our gift to the USA.

Hours 15-16 (11:00pm to 1:00am Moscow, 2:00pm to 4:00pm Minnesota)

As we gathered our luggage in Washington, our ears were very happy. All announcements, overheard conversations, and security instructions were in English. We'd gotten used to hearing Russian, but it was very nice to be back in familiar surroundings.

After collecting and rechecking our luggage, we moved on to the security checkpoints. The Customs agent who helped us out was very nice, and congratulated us on our successful adoption. He welcomed us to the country, along with our son. After our last experience with Russian security, it was a very pleasant change.

We stopped to grab a bite to eat at one of the airport restaurants, called our parents, and then it was off to our next flight. After seeing the number of people getting on to the flight, we inquired whether we would be able to get Aleks on early. The very b*tchy gate clerk (we could have sworn she was the aunt of the Russian security guard) told us that we could not, and we would have to move back to let the self-important Gold Flyer level people board. Welcome to America.

Hours 17-20 (2:00am to 5:00am Moscow, 5:00pm to 8:00pm Minnesota)

When we boarded, the plane was very full, and very restless. Aleks was starting to get very crabby from lack of sleep, but he could not settle down enough to fall asleep. We tried rocking him, but he wasn't having it. What started as whimpering and crying turned into full volume screaming, and we became "THOSE PARENTS".

Here, I would like to apologize to all THOSE PARENTS that I have quietly complained about over the years. I still despise those who let their kids run wild through the lanes, but to those with a screaming child that will not calm down, I apologize.

As Aleks' screaming became louder, he began coughing and wheezing as well. We finally got him asleep, but then disaster struck. The plane began taxiing away from the gate, went approximately 300 yds, then stopped. We sat without moving for about 10 minutes, and then heard the engines powering down.

"Hello ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I wanted to give you a heads up to our situation. Apparently there is a storm front moving through parts of the US right now, that is clogging up the air lane we are about to fly. Air traffic control is telling us that they can't let us take off until traffic clears up, and they can't tell us when that will be. Based on my experience, I'd guess we'll be sitting here about an hour. Once again, my apologies."

Aleks stayed asleep through ALMOST the entire time we spent on the ground. Less than 5 minutes before the captain restarted the engines, he woke up again. This time he was very disoriented, still very tired, and managed to cry even louder.

The rest of that flight was pretty much a blur to us. Aleks was very crabby, and Kathy spent most of the flight soothing him. Alan tried to help, but the lack of sleep and stressful travel were weighing heavily on him. In addition, we were now an hour behind schedule, with only an 80 minute layover in Chicago. We had no idea if we would make our connecting flight, and we really didn't want to have to try rescheduling a later flight.

As we landed, our pilot apologized once again for the delays, and asked that anyone who did not have a connecting flight, stay in their seat. Being true American jerks, no one stayed seated. As Alan was trying to get Aleks into his Baby Bjorn, one particularly rude man pushed by. He made it a whopping 6 inches before stopping. There might have been some sympathy, except he was busy complaining to his cell phone that "the plane is late, and the taxi ride from O'Hare is going to be a pain in the ass. And there is some brat whining next to me".

I was definitely not parent of the year material on this flight, but that comment really got my blood boiling. I made sure that for the next 10 minutes, no matter where that A-hole moved, Aleks was directly behind his ear, screaming his little head off. I think I may have even crossed between aisles to follow the jerk.

Hours 20-23 (5:00am to 7:00am Moscow, 8:00pm to 10:00pm Minnesota)

As we departed the plane, we tried to find where our connecting flight was located. Of course, it was in a different concourse from where we landed. We had about 25 minutes before takeoff, so we took off through the halls.

Aleks seemed to sense the frustration and exhaustion, as he became quiet and smiley once he was off the plane. Dragging our carry-ons, we rushed through O'Hare as quickly as we could. When we arrived at our gate, we were safe. It turned out that about half the flight was connecting from another late flight, so they would be waiting for everyone. We got seated, and called Alan's parents. We let them know that we had made our connecting flight, so we would be able to see those people who came to greet us at the airport.

Surprisingly, the Chicago to Minneapolis flight was extremely uneventful. Aleks was awake but quiet, Alan was able to catch his breath, and Kathy was just happy to be a mom. The flight was a short one, and soon we had landed at MSP.

Leaving the plane, the enormity of the situation began to hit us. After 5 months of paperwork, medical exams, fees, itineraries, trains, planes, and cramped little white buses, our journey was complete. We were parents to an amazing little boy, and we were ready to begin our life at home.

And so ended our second trip to Russia. We were gone 22 days, and our return trip took ~23 hours. I am very happy to say that no matter how stressful it got, Aleks makes every day worth it.


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  2. Thank-You for Sharing this amazing story of bringing your son home. I enjoyed every moment. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!