After many days of hard goodbyes, we found ourselves at the airport Tuesday morning saying one last goodbye. My aunt and uncle drove us to and dropped us off in Houston about five hours before we were supposed to fly (asante sana Papa Joe and Ollie!). In a way, arriving five hours early seemed a little overkill, but in hindsight, we are so glad we did. First of all, we had seventeen checked bags, nine carry on bags, three pillows, five jackets, one car seat, and a double stroller (not to mention the passports, cell phones, boarding passes, banana bread and baby food we would also be trying to keep up with through the airport). In addition to the time-consuming luggage situation, we also had a great amount of frustration at the ticket counter.
We were the very first people in line. We had all seventeen bags stacked nicely by the opening of the line and we had to wait for the KLM personnel to show up before we could begin the check in process. As we waited for someone to show up at the counter, many people joined in line behind us. You can probably imagine our frustration when someone jumped to the counter ahead of us when the first agent began to serve customers. You can also imagine the anxiety that began to well up in me when I heard this man request a bassinet for his young baby. Those things are limited and I was already trying to suppress the fit I wanted to throw if we had just lost our chance at a somewhat less chaotic flight because of this dude who clearly bypassed us.
As we were waiting for our turn, another agent opened his line opposite the direction we were facing and another family waltzed right on up as if they were next in line. By the time we noticed, they were halfway to the ticket counter with all of their belongings already ready to go. So we continued to wait with backs a little straighter. Another counter was opened and we finally made our way to it. I optimistically handed over our passports, eager to know how we would be seated. Unfortunately, what followed next was less than encouraging.
The young woman who was helping us seemed to be having a hard time. She called over some help and soon they informed me that our youngest daughter didn’t show any record of a ticket. I pulled up the ticket number that our travel agent gave us, they entered it and still said it was not right. I asked if there was something I could do to help them find it. They suggested I call the travel agent who booked the flight and maybe she could help us straighten something out. I called. No answer. Twice. Three times. I emailed. No response. It turns out she was out of work because of a medical emergency and we would not be hearing from her at all.
By this point, they had asked us to step back and let other customers be helped while the manager was trying to call the Delta affiliate to see if they could locate the ticket. As we waited, two more families with small children approached the counter and requested a bassinet. The fury was rising, y’all. The manager eventually waved me back over to the counter and essentially told me Delta was useless and could not help. So I asked, “What are my options? Can I buy another ticket and be refunded later when we figure out what happened?” He told me he didn’t know if I could be refunded but I could possibly buy a new ticket. But he also said, “Our purchasing system is down so you cannot buy a ticket here.” I said, “Excuse me but I’m going to need another option. I am not leaving my baby and I will be on that plane.” He said, “Oh yes, yes of course, I will just need you to go to this other line and we will call Delta again to see if you can purchase a ticket with them.”
Now guys, I would expect this kind of customer service in Africa, but we were still in Houston. What was happening?! As I stood in this line I watch more families with young children approach the counter and I began to grieve all my plans of having a bassinet. I was grudgingly trying to come to grips with the fact that we would be holding Raelyn in our arms for the next 24 hours. The manager came by again and I stopped him and explained to him that we were the very first people in line and that several people have requested a bassinet. I told him I was worried that because of all of these delays we would not be able to secure a bassinet which was really important to me because we were traveling with three children under three years old and we all needed to be together. He told me he would go ahead and try to reserve our seats.
Feeling hopeful again, but still stressed about the whole ordeal, I waved Jonathan over and asked him to pray. He hugged me and began praying and mid-conversation, we were called to the counter. I finished that prayer in my head as I made my way up to over to be helped. The man took Raelyn’s passport and got on the phone with Delta. As he began the steps to purchase a ticket over the phone, whoever was on the other line found her ticket!!! Thank you, God!!! We didn’t have to buy another ticket and were directed to the original counter where we were given all of our boarding passes, finally got to weigh and check all of our luggage, and were told that we had seats all together WITH a bassinet. Again, we praised God!
While we were struggling with all of this, my dad, aka Papa O, aka Grandpa Of The Century, was chasing the kids around, or containing them in the stroller, or singing songs, or bribing them with marshmallows and it was wonderful. I do no know how we could have done it without him.
From there, security was easy (well, all things considered), boarding the plane was mostly uneventful (except that time when I spilled sweet potatoes all over everything) and our flight attendants were great. After two eight+ hour flights and lots of pillow pallets on the airplane floor, a very sleepy family arrived in Tanzania. Jonathan and his excellent East African accent got us through customs without much trouble and all of our baggage made it! We were greeted by some Neema Volunteers and Immanuel, one of the drivers. The guys tied all seventeen pieces of luggage and the double stroller onto the roof of an eight-passenger van and we headed to Neema Village!
Since arriving, we have stayed up at the Volunteer house where we will remain until we are ready to move into our house with our new big kids. For now, we are getting to know those kiddos, and getting a feel for what all goes on around here. There have been a few changes with our house situation and we plan to move into the UCare house instead of the Montana house (pictures next time). Everyone is so great and we are so glad to be here. Except for the jet lag, the big kids are adjusting very well and they love all of the new friends to play with. Raelyn is still sick (pneumonia) so keep the prayers coming for her. She is on antibiotics and we are starting to see some improvement so we are thankful for that!
The food is good, the water is clean, and the views are amazing. We can’t wait for y’all to visit 😉