After enjoying a perfectly lovely Christmas, Brandon and I had to finish off packing the next day in preparation for our early Monday morning departure. Everything went reasonably well, and by seven that evening our four car seats and seven suitcases were waiting by the front gate, everyone's shoes, socks, and jackets were waiting by the door, outfits for the morning were laid out, and the children were in bed. I've finally done this enough times to know how long things actually take and not how long I think they should take.
By two thirty the next morning we were all up, ready, and loading into the van that would take us to the airport. As we drove through the silent city, the children bid farewell to Dushanbe for the next few months. "Goodbye, street sweepers. See you later, run down buildings. We'll see you in March, crazy drivers."
We managed to get all of our things to the check-in counter where, after a lot of weighing, the agent announced that we were thirty-five kilos overweight. Brandon waded in to do battle and argued them down to eighteen kilos by convincing them that really, charging for car seats was kind of ridiculous if we could take them in the cabin free of charge. Of course the $200 in fees could only be paid in cash and I silently thanked Brandon for insisting that we bring lots of cash with us. I felt like I should have been more incensed as I had actually weighed all our bags while packing, but it was too early in the morning and we had much too long to go and I didn't have any spare energy to spend on moral outrage about something that I had no control over. So instead we went to our gate.
Our first flight was a little exciting when the passenger sitting behind Edwin got sick right after take-off and spent the entire flight passed out, moaning, or vomiting everywhere but in a bag. Thankfully he survived and we were able to move seats.
We landed in Dubai at seven in the morning. Our first flight, being a cheap regional carrier, did not code share with our second flight, a Lufthansa flight, so we had to hand our bag tags over to the very helpful Marhaba lady who had them pulled and tagged for our onward flight on Lufthansa. Next we took a shuttle to another terminal to find our hotel. We found the hotel, but after talking with reception, realized that it was not the right section of the hotel. Twenty minutes' marching later found us the right section of our hotel (turns out that there are three different concourses in terminal 3, and all three concourses have their own section of the hotel) and thankfully, beautifully, our rooms two hours and fifteen minutes after landing in Dubai.
At this point the children had not eaten a meal in eighteen hours. I had booked rooms in the 'executive' level which included meals so we marched over to the executive lounge for some breakfast. A plateful of pastries, four or five yogurt cups, five or six pieces of toast, four glasses of milk, some more of water and juice, several oranges, an apple or two, a box of cereal, one plate of pancakes, five of french toast, and an omelette later everyone felt much better.
But we still had fifteen hours until our next - the second of four - flight took off. So Brandon got sent to one room to sleep while I stayed with the children in the other. They rotted their brains out on Disney channel and Nickelodeon and Eleanor and I got some sleep. Around three, with ten hours left in our layover we took the children swimming, bathed them, got dinner, and put everyone to bed.
Which is really kind of a joke when your check-out time is 11:30 pm. "See you in the morning" was more like "see you in about five hours," but any sleep is better than no sleep when you're traveling halfway across the world. Brandon and I actually got to shower, change our clothes, and get three or four hours of sleep ourselves before getting up and starting the whole monkey rodeo over again. As Dubai isn't terribly further east - and quite a bit more southern - than Dushanbe, we had almost as far to go after not quite twenty-four hours of traveling as we did when we started.
After a frantic search for Eleanor's jacket, which was never found, we checked out mostly on time, found the appropriate transfer desk, got on the right shuttle, and located the connections desk that could print out our boarding passes for the next three flights. The desk, which closed an hour before departure time, closed right as they finished finding our bags, checking us in, and rearranging our seats (oh yes, you'll definitely want to sit together!). Then it was only a short hustle to our gate, another trip through security, a short wait, and we were on our way to Frankfurt.
Seven hours later we landed, for the twenty-first time since joining the FS, and made our way to the McDonald's for several hours' of play place with our traditional Frankfurt breakfast of french fries and milk shakes. After eighteen hours in Dubai, five and a half in Frankfurt positively flew by.
We made it on time for our penultimate flight and were so worn out with making things happen that we didn't even bother trying to rearrange our seats. I won out, only having Eleanor for the 8 1/2 hour flight (although it was regular economy), Brandon got stuck with three of the children (but in economy plus), and Kathleen was all by herself on the other side of the economy plus cabin.
The flight was again, thankfully, uneventful, and we made it to Newark with sufficient time to clear passport control (wow, that's a lot of passports!), customs, and security (for the twentieth time). Two or our bags never showed up and the rest had to be retagged (turns out that RDI and RDU are not the same three-letter abbreviations) but still we had enough time left in our 2 1/2 hour layover for Edwin to fall asleep in his chair while waiting for our last (last!) flight of the trip.
Once more everything went fine on the flight and we even landed thirty minutes ahead of schedule. My parents met us with their minivan and truck and claimed that they were happy to see us. My mother and I went home with the children while Brandon and my father located the bags, which had made it to Newark, just not to our baggage carousel. And then, after some dinner and catching up, we finally, finally, finally got to go to sleep for our first full night's sleep in three and a half days.
And so now we're here. Well, most of us. Brandon, after rebooking flights when Turkish cancelled his original flight into Dushanbe, showed up back home on Monday morning, a week after he left. But the rest of us are here and not flying on any airplanes for three months. And that is something I am very happy about.