William's visa came on Tuesday after it was issued bright and early Monday morning. While on the phone with Air Canada unsuccessfully trying to get all eight of seats assigned together ("Well, it looks like there are only middle seats left. Sorry about that"), I checked our itinerary again. We had had all our flights changed to be one week later, exact same flights. But as I was looking through the flights I realized that 06:10 is not the same thing as 18:10, something I had failed to notice at 4 am when I told the travel agent to book our tickets.
I had changed Brandon's tickets before noticing the am/pm problem - for the low, low price of $522 - and was looking at a fifteen-hour layover in Toronto by myself with six children. After a thirty-second debate with my inner Scrooge who was dying a slow painful death over all the money we've been using to all of our problems, I laid down another two hundred so that Brandon could share the pain. I'm very generous, I know.
So at 3:30 (Hey, at least it's not 2:30 or 11:30, Sophia cheerfully pointed out) Thursday morning we crawled out of bed and began the Great Return. The six am flight had us arriving in Canada at 8 am and out at the shuttle bus stop for our hotel by 9. After some research had I narrowed options for surviving a 15-hour layover to 1. Take ninety minutes (one way) of public transportation to go to a local science center, 2. Shell out $770 (but hey, it's Canadian dollars!) for business lounge passes, or 3. Shell out $350 (American) to rent a hotel room for two nights. Turns out when the check-in time is 4 pm they won't let you check in at 9:30 am.
It also turns out when the free breakfast ends at 9:30 and you show up at 9:35, there is no more free breakfast. But good news! Domino's pizza is open at ten in the morning. When you haven't eaten in seventeen hours and you're nursing a baby, pizza sounds like an excellent breakfast.
Two pizzas, an order of cheesy bread, an order of cinnamon sticks, two liters of Sprite, three hours of napping, an hour of swimming, an order of singapore noodles, sweet and sour pork, chow mein, five fortune cookies, a couple of showers and a lot (and I mean a lot) of stupid TV later, we were ready to return to the airport. In the snow. Because, Canada. Remind me never to live in a country where its southern areas get snow at the end of March.
After our newly-purchased-for-a-fifteen-hour-layover stroller tested positive for chemicals (which ones? we don't know), all six backpacks, my purse, the baby car seat, and our rolling carry-on got to be inspected by hand and run through the x-ray machine where, once again, it was found that Kathleen had put scissors in her backpack (When you asked me if I packed them, I forgot they were in there!). Along with nine Breyer horses (well, I didn't want to wait until they came in the later shipment, okay?).
Even though we had spent about forty-five minutes going through security, we still made it in time to wait around for our 11:10 (pm) flight. Thankfully when I had checked in Wednesday morning I made the happy discovery of a whole block of unassigned seats and assigned ourselves seats all together so nobody had to ask seven people to move so that they didn't have to spend a twelve hour flight seated next to one of our children. The flight was long, uneventful, and many movies were watched. William and I slept, some of us with the aid of sleeping pills.
We had taken off an hour and a half late because of late incoming passengers and de-icing. Our layover in Dubai had only been two and a half hours to begin with and so we didn't have much time to 1. get off the plane 2. get our stroller 3. get new tickets for our next flight 4. get our baggage transferred to the next flight (non-code share flight means our bags and tickets were only to Dubai, not Dushanbe) 5. take a shuttle bus to another terminal 6. go through security and 7. find our gate. Thankfully nobody made us take William, who was sleeping so peacefully, out of his car seat and he slept through the whole thing.
We made it to our gate just in time to get into line, board the shuttle bus, and squeeze into the cumin-scented cattle car that is a FlyDubai flight. After boarding the flight attendants politely informed me that FlyDubai doesn't allow car seats for any child under six months old. At that point I didn't really care what FlyDubai's policy was about car seats because William was going to be spending the flight peacefully sleeping in his car seat and not on my lap. Which he did.
The flight, in contrast to our previous Fly Dubai flight, was once again uneventful even if it did take off an hour late. What did I care? We didn't have any more airplanes to catch.
When we landed the expeditor walked us passed the crowds thronging passport control (who knew the Dushanbe airport was such a happening place at 3:30 am?) so that we could wait for our luggage. After forty-five minutes of waiting the expeditor asked if maybe we would like to wait in the embassy van (oh yes, what a nice suggestion. Was it my toddler sprawled out on the floor while I did absolutely nothing that gave you the idea?) while Brandon waited for our eight suitcases and three car seats that were never going to come - and weren't going to come until four days later.
As we staggered into the house, Kathleen announced that she didn't want to go on any more airplanes for at least six months. And I am much inclined to agree. While sitting in one of the four airports on three different continents while clutching eight passports, I asked Brandon if he had considered this particular combination of long-distance travel and multiple children when he thought about becoming a diplomat. He confessed he had not. It's probably a good thing neither of us did. Because I'm not so sure he would have signed up. It turns out traveling the world isn't nearly as posh when you're hauling six children along with you.