After last Monday's court hearing, we decided to come home during the 10-day waiting period. I was sick and Mark needed to get back to work, so spending almost two weeks back in the good ole USA made a lot of sense to us.
When we left the post-court restaurant celebration, we thought we'd be home in 24 hours. Think again. We ended up walking in our front door 60 hours later. Let me explain...
When we left the restaurant, we embarked on a three-hour car drive to Kiev. It was pitch black and the potholed roads were covered in ice and snow. With no seatbelts, the ride was less than enjoyable to say the least. We arrived at the Kiev airport at 1am and spent the night in the airport until our plane took off at 6am. Not the most comfortable night sleep I've had, especially considering that I was experiencing severe upper body pain, but we'd be home soon...right?
We took off at 6am and landed an hour later in Frankfurt, Germany. We stepped off the plane and boarded a bus headed for the airport terminal. Once we got off the bus, we discovered our connecting gate was in terminal Z, which was far away to say the least. We followed the signs to get to terminal Z, which is directly accessable only via sky train. As we approached the sky train, a sign indicated that it was out of order and, no, they didn't post any information about this ahead of time. Now the only way to get to terminal Z was to board a bus that loads at a gate in Terminal B. With only an hour left to catch our connecting flight to LAX, we had to run back to where we started, and book it to the absolute last gate (of course) in terminal B. Eventually we made it to B and discovered we had to go through the incredibly long security line again. You've got to be kidding me! And to top if off they took Mark to a special room to look at his laptops more closely. Finally, after half-running to the end of the terminal, we loaded another bus, took it to Z, and made it to our gate, covered in sweat, with five minutes to spare. Our one hour and forty five minute layover went by fast!
So we board the plane, relieved that we'd be back in Southern California in 12 hours. Ah, but as we were hoofing it across the airport, a snowstorm rolled in. As we got settled in our seats, we could see nothing but white outside. The pilot announced that airport personnel were trying to clear the runway and de-ice the plane, and that we'd hopefully take off in about 30 minutes. Thirty minutes turned into six hours. The pilot then said that the airport was now closed and our flight was cancelled. "What now?" we wondered.
The pilot said that the airport was packed with people from the other 400 cancelled flights, and that the surrounding roads in and out of the airport were closed. We were trapped. Flight attendants told us that, after getting off the plane, we were all to report to a specific service department to reschedule our flight. Poor Mark was so worried about his pregnant, sick wife that he asked if we could have a golf cart take us to the help desk. The representatives response was stone face and completely lacking any sympathy. So, we trudged on. Once we had walked only a couple hundred feet, we got to the end of the service department line--there were probably 2,000 people ahead of us! This line would take at least a day to get through. That just wouldn't do. We ended up exiting the airport, getting our German stamp in our passport, and going back into the airport to our airline's departing flights desk. We imagined it would be quicker because we'd be away from all the people trapped in line for the service department. This line was shorter, but it was still extremely long. Representatives were helping number 134 and we had number 791. Not quite what you want to hear after traveling so long and being so far away from home. After waiting awhile, Mark was able to find someone who agreed to help and sent us to a representative who rescheduled our flight. The next flight out of there? The next day at 1pm. And we were told that, because of all the stranded travelers and the fact that a big convention was in town, there were no hotel rooms within 300 kilometers of the airport. Oh lovely, another 20-hour overnight airport stay. Only this time there wasn't even a chair available to sit in because the airport was so crowded.
We took our tickets and decided we wouldn't accept defeat. We went across the street to a Sheraton. They told us they had no rooms, but Mark's persistence ultimately paid off. Finally someone felt bad for me and said they had a room for us. It was unbelievably expensive, but we took it. I was fading fast and couldn't stand up for another 20 hours. Desperate times, desperate measures. How thankful we were to have found a room.
The room was average but looked like a palace compared to what we'd been use to. Clean water? You're allowed to flush the toilet paper? There's Kleenex? A shower attached to the wall? Hot water? A matress with pillows? This Sheraton felt like the Ritz Carlton. For the first time in five weeks, we had a glimmer of comfort. Our money was actually well-spent--it gave us a few hours of relaxation. Which trust me, we needed! We had literally started to go insane in Ukraine (well, Germany).
We woke up praying our next flight wouldn't get canceled. Although our original flight was supposed to fly directly from Frankfurt to LAX, our rescheduled flight had us go to Munich, then LAX. At that point, anything to get us home was fine with us. Our flight to Munich was delayed, and our plane had to be de-iced, but we tried not to think about the possibility of missing our connecting flight to LA. Thankfully we eventually took off and were on our way to Munich.
Munich greeted us with another bus to the airport, along with two separate passport checks. Not what you want when you're running late. We got to the gate just in time and settled into our cramped airplane seats. Then it started to snow. NOOO!!!! Once again, we had to wait for the plane to de-ice and runway to be cleared. We've heard those dreaded announcements before. If anyone's seen Argo, we felt like we were sitting in the plane hoping to get off the ground before someone changed their mind. After about a 45 minute delay, we were off! Phewf. Now we only had 12 hours to go.
We arrived at LAX and I could've kissed the ground. We had to wait two hours to get out of the airport due to thousands of people in line for US customs, but we made it. We were in AMERICA.
After 60 hours of travel time, we walked through our front door. What a great feeling. Our pets had never been so happy to see us, and I slept in our amazingly comfortable bed for the first time in over 5 weeks. I had a refrigerator stocked full of Mexican food and a cleaned house (thanks, moms!). Home sweet home, with weather in the 80s.
We miss R more than anything and can't wait to see her again next week once our waiting period is over. Once we return, we anticipate another eight to ten days in Ukraine to finish up the final steps. Then all of us will be home as a family and America will have gained a great new citizen!