Friday, March 6, 2009

The flight home

Waiting in Hong Kong

Vanh's first girlfriend, Sophie

I guess he got fresh...

Bassinet babies

I have to warn you - this post is going to be one big whine. Big problems, little issues - it's all coming out. If I were a waiting parent and read this, I would think I was ungrateful and unappreciative to complain; on the other hand, if I had read a post like this before I went it might have helped, so that is why I am doing this.

I have never been someone who likes to travel. The last time I was on a plane was in 1997, and I've never flown for more than about 4 hours (how long is it to Cuba?) So I had some unrealistic expectations about the flight from Toronto to Hong Kong going in. I thought because we had informed the travel agent about Woody's height (6'7"), there would be some effort made to accommodate us by placing him in a front seat. I thought my vegetarian diet would be respected. I even thought there would be a place for us to lie down! I never dreamed we wouldn't even have seats together on the way over - the sucky suck-suck who wanted the aisle seat finally agreed to move when she realized I would be climbing over her every 5 minutes. But we survived being folded up like pretzels and reassured ourselves with the knowledge that as we had purchased tickets for the babies, we would have bassinets and the accompanying bulkhead seats for the flight home. We knew there was absolutely no way we could be expected to fit the three of us AND two babies into 3 seats for over 14 hours. (You know where this is going, don't you...)

Just in case, we arrived at the airport in Vietnam extra early - 7:15 for our 10:10 flight. Sure enough, we were among the first to check in, and the counter girl seemed to understand when we explained. She printed out our boarding passes for the Vietnam to Hong Kong flight AND the Hong Kong to Toronto flight, and told us we had the seats we wanted. However, there was a problem. Seems our babies were supposed to have paper tickets, not the e-tickets we were given. It took until 8:45 to sort this out, during which time we were not even allowed to check in, and sat in the airport wondering if we would be able to leave. Finally they let us go.

We didn't make it very far. After we passed through security, we were asked for our "documents". We offered everything we had, but the officer said, "No - the cards I gave you when you came". On the way over we filled out customs declaration cards for Vietnam - apparently we were supposed to keep them. We had kept them - for the baby books - but they were in our checked luggage. Happily he let us fill our new ones, but we had to go back out through security to get them; meanwhile Vanh had a colossal BM. So there we were, on the floor alongside the line for security, changing diapers and filling out paperwork. Attention adoptive parents! Keep the little cards you filled out on the way over, and have them ready to show on the way back!

We arrived in Hong Kong a few hours later, secure in the knowledge that everything was sorted out and our seats were reserved. When we arrived at the gate for pre-boarding there was another problem. They took our passports and said to wait "right there" - they didn't say why. So the five of us waited while all the other passengers pushed past us to board the plane. I asked what the problem was and was told to wait. So we waited some more - now wondering if we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong, and without our passports. I pleaded with the girl to tell me what was happening, and she said the babies were supposed to have paper tickets and it should have been sorted out in Vietnam, not her fault. Very confusing as we did have the five boarding passes.

Anyway, I guess we passed the waiting period because they finally let us board. And guess where our seats were. Nowhere near a bassinet, that's for sure. Remember, although it was only about 4PM, we were all seriously sleep deprived, so at this point I started to cry. The steward explained that there were 6 babies on the flight, but only 4 bassinets. I explained that as I had 2 babies, I should get at least 1. I just could not believe that we were expected to hold the babies on our laps for 14 hours. I still can't believe it, but I guess people do it every day. If I had known I definitely would have spent the few hundred extra dollars to but another seat.

Luckily there were 2 angels on that flight who agreed to give up their front seats so we could have 1 bassinet (they weren't with children). A third angel agreed to trade with Woody long-legs in another section, as the nun who was the 3rd in our section refused to move - until we sat down with the 2 screaming babies, then she graciously agreed to swap with Woody (he had a better seat anyway).

I guess as adoptive parents we are expected to be so happy to finally have our children, it should be a privilege and a pleasure to hold them for 14 hours straight at the end of 24 hours of travel? Whatever. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but after a few hours my arms start to hurt and I am in danger of droppage. So I cleverly made the other baby a bassinet out of our carry-on bag, lined with soft blankets, secure between the wall and the seat. (Nowhere for us to put our feet/ legs, but that we could deal with). I was feeling pretty good about my ingenious solution until the head stewardess, aka the Dragon Lady, came along and told me that my baby was not safe. I told her that he was safer there than in my arms - at this point it was about 3 in the morning and I couldn't hold my arms up, let alone hold something in them. So she went away - but I didn't feel very good about my unsafe baby.

Just in case you are visioning us happily settled with 2 babies in bassinets, you should know that every time the seat-belt sign came on, we had to lift them out and strap them in to these mini-belts that attached to our belts. Of course, this happened every time they finally drifted off to sleep. We think Dragon Lady was doing it on purpose, because the turbulence stayed pretty consistent. They did NOT like the belts. Again - if only I had known, we would have had an extra seat which would have given us room to move and they would have been a lot more comfortable, even when in our laps.

It does get better - customs in Toronto was a breeze - we had rice stalks from Tra Vinh which I declared and they got through. The security check for the Toronto to Ottawa flight was the first place we had to fold up the strollers and put them though the x-ray, but the staff had such big smiles and were so happy for us it was a pleasure. The plane was half full so we had lots of room, and they had no baby torture devices, I mean "safety straps" (there is nothing safe about a waist belt on an infant).

I still think I prefer a 14 hour flight to 14 hours of labour - but like many new parents, right now I swear I would never do it again.

Are they worth it? You're kidding, right? A million times over they're worth it. I have to add that they were quite good on the planes, considering. When we got on the plane to Ottawa Vanh had a little meltdown - I think he thought we were up for another 14 hours - but all in all they ate, pooped, looked around, slept, responded to cuddles and bounces, and were very good babies. The best babies! I love them to bits.

I don't see a lot of blogging in the future - I gave up the chance for a shower to write this one - but you never know. Check us out on Facebook if you miss us!


Leslie & Shaune said...

i appreciate your account of event. omg Samantha i am dreading the flight too. i have flown a lot but never more than 5 hrs, most the time it is a 2 hr flight to Florida... which still seems too long for me to SIT STILL.

i've never travelled on a flight with a young baby - my kids always have their DVD player and their Nintendo DS's and colouring books, etc... lots of distractions and bribery for good behaviour. I realize we are not going to be able to do this with a 5 or 6 month old baby. lol. i'm scared!

glad you are home and your boys are so precious.


Chantal said...

Merci beaucoup pour tous les conseils que vous nous avez donnés, autant avant le voyage, pendant et après !

Je suis désolée de voir que le retour à été pénible mais au moins vous êtes enfin à la maison.

Est-ce que vous avez pris des photo de la bassinette dans l'avion car je suis curieuse de voir ce que ca à l'air. Et avec quelle compagnie vous avez voyager?

Bon retour!

S R Morrison said...

You are here, they are here, in a little while you will laugh about the whole thing. And the first time you fly with them when they are old enough to understand... they will be good.

Oooo, verification word for this is "colic"

Samantha & Woody said...

The company was Cathay Pacific. I forgot to mention they also battered our new strollers and we got them back with pieces missing.

We are so over the flight already - too busy dealing with 4 people on 4 different schedules due to jet lag. And don't worry, we laugh about everything!

Will add a few photos as soon as I can!

Chantal said...

Merci pour les photos !
C'Est très petit la bassinette, il ne reste vraiement pas beaucoup de place pour vous!

Vous avez voyager avec Cathay Pacific, merci pour l'info car je croyais que c'était une compagnie aérienne très ''recommandable'' Moi aussi je suis végétarienne alors je vais penser à m'apporter des choses à manger dans mon sac car c'est ca va être long si il me servent de la viande!

bon retour et j'ai déja hâte aux prochaines photos


Stefanious said...

Oh my gawd I just read this now, how crazy!!! Glad you are hooooommmmeee where you belong xox

Stefanious said...

...Rice stalks?

Donna said...

Welcome home! Sounds like it really was 14 hours of labor! But just think -- no stretch marks! ;)

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