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Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 1

12:30 AM
            We’re in Athens, and safely installed in the very nice, very close Sofitel.  Whoever made the hotel arrangements, may they be blessed into perpetuity.  This is the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, with a down bed, down comforter, and down pillows.  We’ve only got one bed, so I’m going to make a pallet on the floor for the girls.  They’re happy to have a ‘sleeping bag,’ and I’m happy to not be kicked.  Edwin has a baby crib, the most awkward, enormous one I’ve ever seen.  Europeans need to look into Pack’n Plays.  But I am happy that he has a bed, too, that isn’t mine.
            After the bus came at the airport, everyone had to show the one (!!!!!!) man their exit stamps and give him their ‘boarding passes,’ before getting on the bus.  We waited for half an hour for everyone to board before then being shuffled onto an entirely different bus.  We drove around for awhile, and then finally found our plane – a very tired looking Lotus Air plane, but one with wings, and engine, and the capability to get us out of Cairo.
            We were able to get seats behind the R, and although we were four people, we crammed into three seats as nobody wanted to leave me.  We waited for another half hour for a busload to complete the plane and then waited another hour to have a spot to take off.  When we finally were in the air, the passengers broke into spontaneous applause, and again when dinner was announced.
            The ride was pretty calm, and I was able to get Edwin to sleep.  Unfortunately, dinner came and he woke up and screamed for at least half an hour before I could get him to calm down.  Nobody ate their dinner, and I never had the opportunity to touch it, so we would have been better to have not bothered with it.
            We had a pair of college students behind us when another baby had been screaming disconsolately earlier, and I overheard their conversation to the effect that somebody should do something about that screaming baby.  Feeling for the mother, I turned around and asked them to stop talking like that.
            “We’ve all had a very long day that started early this morning, we have just been evacuated from our homes, and we don’t know when, if ever we will be coming back.  That mother is trying to do everything she can to help her baby calm down, but sometimes there’s nothing mothers can do.  Trust me, it’s much more annoying to her than it is to you.”
            Stunned silence followed, and I went back to calming the children down.  I’m not one to dress down strangers, but it had been a long day and I’ve been in that situation and known that people were heartily annoyed.  But I felt that I should defend her because it could have just as well been me.
            And, it was me not much longer, and I’m sure those girls felt the karma coming right around again.
            We landed in Athens around 9, and were greeted by the ambassador on our way inside.  I saw a photographer, and so tried my best to look under control and oh so happy to be hauling three children alone to another country.  When we were ushered inside (I think we were the first people), and very, very nice lady showed me to a room equipped with toys, cookies, games, and a movie for the children.  She gave me a bottle for Edwin and showed me where to change his diaper.  I could have kissed her.  The girls happily sat down to play, and I took Ewin out, strapped on again, to find out what to do next.
            I was directed, by another incredibly helpful mission member, to a visa table for our dip passports, and he found me a pen and some forms to fill out so we could enter Greece officially.  After thirty minutes of visas, I got in line for travel arrangements.  I made friends with the ladies around me, both from NAMRU with four and five children apiece.  We chatted and I rocked Edwin while we waited in line.  Edwin fell asleep and we continued chatting.
            After an hour and a half, I made my way to the front.  There were no flights out tomorrow, but there was a direct to JKF on Tuesday, February first.  I was happy to wait another day at the hotel to let everyone get some sleep and a few good meals before continuing on.
            After travel arrangements were finished, we had another bus to ride before one last line– passport control.  I thought that perhaps my shoulders wouldn’t last on more line, but thankfully there were up to the challenge, and blessedly, more wonderful, helpful, amazingly cheerful mission members were there to meet us at baggage.  May they also be blessed into perpetuity.
            They asked if we needed anything for Edwin, and I thought that perhaps formula would be nice, and Mr. Williams got on his phone with the CLO, and said that he would bring it up to our room later.  They helpfully wheeled our bags through customs, skipped past the waiting television crews, and trotted across the street to the Sofitel.
            We were led into a room with more wonderful, blessed Athens mission members who gave me a card to show that my hotel would be paid for, and sent me out into another line.  By this time, Edwin was screaming and crying non-stop and somebody took pity on me (or on everyone else’s ears) and took me on.  We were given room keys, times for breakfast, somebody to help with the bags, and shown personally shown upstairs.
            And so we’re here.  When Brandon told me that we would be helped by the mission in Athens and put up in a hotel, I had no idea of the amazing lengths everyone had gone to in order to help us out.  Everyone was cheerful, helpful, and kind.  I know that the last place they wanted to be that night (and all day) was at the Athens airport, and we were the first plane to land for the night.  I know that I’ve grumbled when Brandon has had to work later than normal, but he’s never had to do anything like the mission members did for us tonight.  They made our entry into Athens so very, very much better than our exit from Cairo was.  We left the world in chaos to find kind, helpful people and a feather bed at the end.


Nisa said...

What a stark contrast! I'm so glad you had kind people to help you along the way!

Nomads By Nature said...

Just wanted to let you know that I have linked your post to my blog.