Almost exactly one year ago I wrote this post about my travels alone overseas with Sitora. I stayed in America a few weeks longer than SuperDan so I could spend more time with my family. I flew back to Baku alone with her, for the first time in her short little life. You'd think I'd wise up a bit after a traumatic event like that and never try it again.
Nope. I didn't learn my lesson and I did it again. Back and forth to be exact.
I. am. nuts. crazy. insane. completely and totally insane.
But my family is worth is. (Everybody say "Awwww! How precious!")
The story? Here it is.
My grandfather has been sick for a while now. My heart has been aching over not seeing him. I made the hard decision to fly alone with Sitora last minute so we could go visit. I hardly told a soul I was coming back because I wanted this to be a family-only type of trip. Plus, emotionally I couldn't handle seeing tons of people. I just couldn't. And I know myself and how much I can handle, and I was totally right on with this decision. I barely hung on for this trip. By the end I was desperate to fly home to my husband and some normality in life. So for those of you whom I didn't get to see, I am so terribly sorry. Please do not be angry with me. Considering my circumstances I hope you can understand. Besides, we'll be back again this fall, so I can make up for lost time then :)
On our way to America the flights were pretty dreamy. In order to get a cheaper flight we needed to have two layovers- one was an overnight stay in a hotel. At first I was worried about stopping in the middle of the trip, but quickly realized it was a blessing in disguise! We were rested and ready for another day of travel across the big Atlantic Ocean the following day.
We were overjoyed to be in America again with the ones we love! Sitora adored playing in grass and snuggling our family members' dogs. We read books at Barnes and Nobles, climbed on playgrounds, devoured delicious American cuisine, and relished time spent with our loves. All in all it was a much-needed vacation for the both of us.
A few days into our trip Sitora started waking up in the middle of the night. I could not console her despite my most compassionate attempts (Do you want some of that string cheese you love from Wisconsin? Do you want to watch cartoons? How about some juice?) After a while I brilliantly decided to just ask her what was wrong. Her response? "I just want to go home, mommy."
You see, "my" home is not necessarily "her" home. "Her" home involves loud crazy traffic, foreign languages being spoken, fresh fruit and veggies from the market, crowded bus and metro rides, strangers pinching her cheeks and offering candy, and the familiar faces she's grown to love and know. The majority of her life has been spent on this side of the globe. This vacation was all too foreign to her, and honestly I could tell she was a bit confused.
Considering all the people she needed to become reacquainted with, she did a great job of re-learning everyone's faces and personalities. She was extremely flexible and friendly. She had her moments, don't get me wrong, but I think she handled a lot for her age. She even decided she'd sing her ABC's and count to 10 in Azeri on command most times I requested it.
But by the time our last few days in America arrived, she was spent. And so was I.
We left for the airport at noon. We boarded the plane at 4:30pm. We flew for 8 hours until we arrived at our first layover destination. We both hardly slept a wink on that flight. It felt like midnight to us, but was really 6:00am local time there. We had a four hour layover, which wasn't so bad because I found a kids play center and ordered a yummy caramel latte. But don't forget the fact that it was midnight to 4am for us during that stretch of time. (Just stay awake, just stay awake. Must not close eyes...)
We started boarding our next flight when I realized our tickets placed us in different rows. I kindly asked the stewardess at the check-in desk if she could arrange for us to be together. (Obviously. My child is two years old. What in the world where they thinking?) Her response? "You'll just have to ask someone to switch seats with you when you board the plane."
Ok peoples. I am a very nice person. Very very very nice. But for the first time in my life, I almost exploded at somebody. The reason I didn't? Probably because I had glazed over eyes and absolutely zero energy left in my system to utter a few words, let alone start a fight. I simply complied and continued boarding.
All of a sudden she came after me and exclaimed, "Why are you bringing that car seat on the plane? Children over two years old are not allowed to sit in a car seat. This flight is completely booked and there is absolutely no room for it." I explained to the stewardess over and over how my daughter had been sitting in a car seat for all of my gazillion flights and there had never been a problem before. She wouldn't budge. I simply had nothing left to give, so again, I complied and handed it over. I muttered to myself, "You're kicking yourself in the foot lady. This carseat keeps my kid under control. You want her screaming her overly exhausted head off the entire flight? Ok then. You asked for it." I then started scheming my "I will never fly with your airline again" angry customer letter email in my half-evaporated brain.
She came back again only seconds later with new tickets. "I thought about it and decided I should change the seats for you. Now you are sitting together."
My thoughts? "Well then. Some customer service after all! I guess I won't write that angry letter. I'm still upset, but I forgive you. I'm a really nice customer, I hope you know that. We paid you big money for these flights. Most people would have been outrageously furious by this point. You are lucky I am who I am lady- count your blessings."
It now feels like 5:00am to us. We are dead. Sooooo dead.
I don't remember much about that flight. It's all a blur. The only things I recall are Sitora and I zonked out in totally random positions in our seats. I also vaguely remember being served orange juice and a cheeseburger. I don't know how we got off that flight- I don't remember walking off. I think an angel was holding my eyelids open. That overnight layover in a hotel from before? Ya, that started sounding pretty good right about then.
Thankfully there was another children's play area at the next airport. We had a three hour layover there and I was beyond dead. The three hours I slept on the plane before were barely enough to keep me alive by this point. There was no way I could sleep during a layover because I had to watch Sitora and our carry-on luggage. (Yes, I was carrying the complete maximum amount of carry-on luggage possible. That's how I roll. And why do I have shoulder pain?)
Thankfully our gate for our next flight was nearby the play center, so we didn't have far to walk. We boarded the plane and the stewards (they were men) let me carry-on the car seat. I was thrilled. Oh drat- how was I supposed to carry my 50 million pounds of carry-on bags plus Sitora in her carseat (on wheels by the way... it's this totally amazing contraption) down three flights of stairs? Come-on people. Stairs are not the way to go for boarding a plane. for anybody. period! Thankfully some charitable soul adopted me as his good deed for the day and carried Sitora all the way down for me.
I don't remember much of the next flight either. It involved much sleeping and serious ear pressure pain near the end. I think my rear end and thighs had also fallen asleep by this point. Way too much of sitting in a weird position. Ouch.
When the plane touched ground in Baku, everyone started cheering. Sitora and I started cheering as well. Mostly with the thoughts of, "Oh yay! The insanity is ending!" We exited the plane, managed down another horrid flight of stairs, hopped on a bus and drove to the customs station where everyone was extremely helpful. Waaaay more helpful than anyone in America was to me in the airports. I'm just stating the facts. It's a great part of living here and I will treasure it always.
When we arrived at customs an Azeri man insisted I go to the front of the line. I was embarrassed and declined his offer. Over and over and over. Finally he started taking my things and basically forced me to the front of the line. I looked up apologetically at everyone, only to find compassion and kindness in their eyes. They too wanted me to cut in front of line because they had pity on me. I was touched. Deeply. This just does not happen in the States.
Immediately an Azeri worker helped me get my luggage on a cart and wheeled us out. We found my wonderful husband right away and he gave the courteous man a generous tip, along with many thank you's and kind words from me.
It was the longest day of my life. I never want to do it again. But because I don't learn lessons very well I'll probably end up doing the same thing again next year.
Tune in next year to the third edition of "I must be crazy, right?" Until then, I'm sure I'll have some more stories to keep you on your toes!