Monday, May 25, 2009

Headed home

While I was sad to leave, the general consensus was that the bare minimum time in my childs birth country is enough. We has a noon flight out of Moscow, and would arrive in Cincinnati around 7:00pm.

Our driver was coming at 9:00 to get us, but had a track record of being early, so we were ready at 8:30. As expected, he arrived at 8:30, and we packed the van to head out. Since it was a holiday weekend, there was minimal traffic. We wanted to record the drive, just so people would believe the stories we told about traffic, but there was nothing to report.

We arrived at the airport about 9:15 and headed for the green channel through customs - nothing to declare. Best line ever, except that everyone goes through that line, so the wait is about 45 minutes. Fortunately, while in line, I recognized a couple who was on our flight from Atlanta to Moscow the week before. This time, they had a little boy with them. I introduced myself, said how I recognized them, and we struck up a conversation. Turns out the little boy was their son they just adopted...and they couldn't have been more glowing that morning. This was their third trip to Russia. The judge in their region did not waive the 10 day waiting period, and the orphanage told them they would not be able to see their son during that time, so they went back to the US to wait. They actually said it was cheaper to come home than to stay in Russia for those 10 days. We shared stories and experiences while we waited.

At the end of the line for the green channel all of our bags went on a belt to be scanned (security check number one). We then proceeded to a line for the Delta ticket counter. After another 15 minutes in line, we were greeted by a checkpoint that verified our passports, checked our destination, and made sure we understood the regulations of flying an American airline. The couple we met said that at this point we may have our bags searched (security check number two). We then proceeded to the ticket counter. At this point we waived our checked luggage goodbye and hoped we would see in at JFK. After we got our tickets, we waited another half hour in line at passport control. Here we had our visas stamped saying that we officially left the country (security check number three). From there we went on to the traditional airport security - remove the shoes, liquids in a baggie, electronics out, etc (security check number four).

Two hours later, we finally made it to the gate. Fortunately for us, if we had come 15 minutes later, we would have had to enter a random security checkpoint at the gate. Four was enough. We found a seat and began to relax. At this point, we were ready to park ourselves in a seat and fall asleep. Then we hear our names as we are being paged to see the gate agent. The only thought in my head was "what is wrong with our checked luggage." The gate agent wanted to trade our seats for upgrades to business class! *Side note - I travel a lot for work, and have enough status with Delta that I get complementary upgrades and companion upgrades if available.* What? Upgrade? OK! Since I used my miles to pay for the flights, I wasn't supposed to be upgraded, but I wasn't going to complain. 10 hours in coach was not what I called fun.

Our seats weren't next to each other, but the gentleman next to Steve offered to switch. As we got comfortable, Steve looked at me and asked if this was how I lived when I flew. Not even close. On international flights, the seats recline like la-z-boys, you get multiple meals on fine china, noise cancelling headphones, large blankets, down pillows, unlimited video entertainment options on a personal TV, and all the alcohol and snacks you can eat. Steve, how originally was ready to sleep for 10 hours, was now ready to enjoy his in flight experience.

We arrived at JFK on time, and more ready to make a potential sprint as we didn't have very long before our flight to Cincinnati. We got off the plane and navigated the many tunnels to passports control (security check number five). After that it was on the claim our checked luggage. Lucky us, our bags came in on a different carousel than posted. After about a half hour, Steve started looking at the other carousels. By this time, all the bags had been pulled off and were laying on the floor. After the 4th black bag, we found ours and moved on. At JFK, to make a connection from an international flight, you must re-check your luggage, and go through airport security again (security check number six).

We made it through and found our gate, only to learn the flight was delayed, and then the gate was moved to the other side of the airport, and delayed again. We finally made it to Cincinnati around 7:45, and home about 8:30 (made a couple stops). My own bed, and my own shower never felt so good.

Despite the time change, we only slept for about 8 hours. We were up and ready to go to church at 9:30 on Sunday morning. The dogs were really excited to see us, and so were our friends. The weeks since have been a blur, but that is another post for another day. Now the waiting game begins, again.