As a controlled circus I think we completed our journey to South Africa successfully. Our plans were both ambitious and careful for the 35+ hour trip. I drew from the wisdom and experience of seasoned travelers who also have small children (thanks Melinda and Shelly!). The first leg of our journey included more airport time than flying, and it felt so good to finally get on the plane from Spokane to Seattle. In Seattle, the 3 hour layover was just long enough to sort out an issue with mine and Evangeline’s plane ticket, and the kids played with their new toys. The flight from Seattle to London was an hour shorter than expected, which left us 3 hours to try to sleep. The moods were high and happy, Gabrielle chatting it up with the friendly flight attendants and the rest of the kids enjoying the personal video entertainment. At one point, as dawn broke in the air, Etian turned to me and asked if we skipped night time! I thought that about sums it up! We landed at Heathrow wiped out and dazed with the mass amounts of people, everyone moving so fast! I really felt like the Beverly Hillbillies with our train of children and mismatched luggage among the smartly dressed, heel clicking, eyebrow stenciled mix of international travelers.
We hoped to enjoy some sights in London during our 9-hour layover. When we heard how complicated it was to just leave the TERMINAL, let alone the airport, and with most of us functioning on less than an hour of sleep from the previous night (or lack of night) we decided to stay in the airport. So how do you kill 9 hours in an airport?
Have you ever seen Tom Hanks in The Terminal?
We can relate!
The hours passed quickly enough. We read books, the kids enjoyed their activity sacks strategically reserved to stay the inevitable crisis of extreme boredom and exhaustion; and Gert and I sipped on one last Starbucks made by an Indian fellow. We learned exactly how unfavorable the exchange rate of dollars to pounds is (you don’t want to know how much we payed for our dinner). We made our camp next to Etian’s salvation…a play gym with supervised activity directors! We watched huge jets take off and land. We pretended to nap while wedged between armrests and hard seats. We took about 80 (or it felt like) separate trips to the bathroom, because, strangely enough, no one ever has to ‘go’ at the same time.
The last leg of our journey was definitely the hardest. Already dizzy with exhaustion, eleven hours on another plane seemed unbearable. This is when I relied on your prayers the most! Gabrielle passed out in her seat before the plane even took off. The other kids nodded off one by one, even survivor Chloe finally gave in to some much needed sleep. But about five hours into our flight, when the whole plane was darkened and I was locked in a middle seat, trapped by the baby bassinet, video screens, and a Very Large Man who was draped over my seat, Evangeline woke up with no sign of returning to sleep. Even my sure and certain trick of nursing her back to sleep didn’t work! Aahh! I almost panicked. Fortunatly at that time Gert woke up from his nap, and in his aisle seat was able to rock her back to sleep. Thank God.
I didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes on this flight, an accumulative of about 1 1/2 hours of sleep in 36 hours. So when we landed in Johannesburg I was primed and ready to turn on the waterworks. Somehow it didn’t hit me until we’d loaded our luggage on the carts that MY FAMILY JUST MOVED TO AFRICA. I acutely felt the great distance between North America and Africa. I’ve learned to take things one step at a time, and God releases his grace to me one step at a time. So the last two days have been full of me trying to mentally adjust to this great change.
Our kids are running around with their cousins, Gabrielle is pretending she speaks Afrikaans and it is so cute! They seem to love it. Gert is so happy to be home, and it brings me great joy to see him with ‘his people’ again. Now its my turn to be the foreigner! Its still another couple of weeks til we settle in Cape Town…how I long to unpack and set up our house and arrange a new routine and meet our neighbors and walk on the beach!
So to my family and friends in America…I miss you so much my heart aches. But thank you for releasing us into God’s hands. To my family and friends in Africa…I am so happy to be here! But cutting heartstrings is hard. I’ll call it delayed-post-relocation-syndrome 🙂
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! Love to all.