Tuesday, July 12, 2011

24 Hours of Travel

5:45 a.m. (All in Pacific Standard Time): The alarm goes off. Michael and I get up and start to get ready. The boys have to be dragged from dreamland.

7:00 a.m. We make our way down to the front desk to check out and collect the eight large suitcases we checked with the bellman. When the airport shuttle arrives and sees our giant pile of luggage, he decides to head straight to the airport instead of making any other stops. The other passengers on the shuttle are also flying United, but they are in First Class. From experience I can tell you that's the best way to fly internationally, but we're not so lucky this time. We get Economy Plus.

7:30 a.m. After waiting in line for the Sky Cap, we're informed that luggage for international flights has to be checked at the counter, not at the curb. Seeing the wild look of panic in our eyes after we spy the huge line, the Sky Cap earns our forever gratitude by taking our passports and boarding passes and walking up to the counter, bypassing the line on our behalf. He returns with baggage claim tickets for us and we leave our suitcases, unweighed, with the Sky Cap. All that worrying about paying overweight baggage fees for nothing!
8 large suitcases + 4 rolling carry ons + 4 back packs = more bags than we have arms

8:00 a.m. We're through security and sitting at the gate. The fabulous gate agent announces that anyone who wishes to check any of their carry-ons at the gate should step forward. We do so, and find that if we check our four rolling carry-ons at the gate, we won't have to see them again until we arrive in Macau. We happily agree to check the additional bags. Now we're down to four back packs, totally manageable.

8:30 a.m. Airport McDonalds. It's what's for breakfast. We have front row seats to a window that overlooks the busy tarmac. Grateful I have two boys who are still into watching machinery. 

9:00 a.m. One last walk up and down the airport for the boys and potty breaks for everyone before we board the plane.

9:50 a.m. The plane takes off and Michael and I hold hands across the aisle while those tears I've been holding back start to fall. I love L.A., and it's not easy to say goodbye to your home, especially when you don't know when you'll be back.
LAX ==> SFO

11:30 a.m. We arrive in San Francisco, the birthplace of our youngest son. During the entire two hour layover he walks around proudly (the other three members of our family are all native Southern Californians, so we indulge Ben in his pride). I make half a dozen final phone calls to family, and quickly text my friends to say goodbye while scouting out an airport shop that sells those fluffy neck pillows. Michael realizes he left his totally awesome water bottle that I got especially for him on the last plane, but there's no time to go back and try to find it.

1:30 p.m. The giant double-decker Boeing 747-400 takes off from San Francisco, California, America, taking us further and further from our former home and closer to our new one. The four of us take up the center four seats, Michael and I on the aisles and the boys in the center. I think I might read, so I grab a book from my back pack, but instead I fall fast asleep.
SFO ==> HKG
3:00 p.m. The flight attendants begin serving lunch. Since this is a flight to Hong Kong, all the announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. All the meals have a Western option and an Asian option. The boys and I go for the Asian option, teriyaki vegetables and rice, while Michael goes for the Western option, beef and mashed potatoes.

4:00 p.m. They start playing a movie I was once interested in seeing, so I put on my headphones to watch. But instead I fall fast asleep. The boys do too.

6:00 p.m.  Everyone wakes up when they bring snacks. I make the boys use the bathroom and stretch. I remind them that they can't use their DSi video game systems until halfway through the flight, which means they still have two hours to wait. I see another movie is starting and think I might try to watch it, but fall fast asleep instead. I wake up later to find Nathan is using me as a pillow, snuggled up all sweetly with me. Considering he is not normally a snuggly boy, I try to hold as still as possible and go back to sleep.

8:00 p.m. Halfway point in the flight, the boys rejoice over finally getting to play their video games. I think I might try to read. Make 38 pages worth of progress and then fall fast asleep.

1:00 a.m. The flight attendants start serving lunch. Choices are a Western ham and cheese sandwich with potato chips or an Asian stir fry vegetables with shitake mushrooms and rice. Again, the boys and I go Asian, Michael goes Western.

3:00 a.m. Our plane arrives in Hong Kong. I get a lump in my throat, thinking about how this was our home six years ago when my babies were just 2 and 4 years old. Then realize the lump in my throat might actually be from the tell-tale scent of Hong Kong: a little sweet, a little sour, a little arm pit, a little cigarette, a lot overpowering.

3:30 a.m. We follow the signs leading us to the Ferry desk, and present all our luggage claim tickets. They give us new claim tickets and bright red stickers to wear on our shirts. Someone from the ferry company will go down to luggage claim, collect our 12 checked bags, and put them on the ferry for us.


4:00 a.m. We find a spot to sit down while we wait for the ferry, Michael logs into Twitter and Facebook to alert the folks back home we're back on solid ground. I notice the boys are getting a bit punchy and weepy, so I leave Michael with the backpacks and his iPad and take the boys to go explore the airport, promising them a treat if we can find one. Though it's 7:00 p.m. local time in Hong Kong, the airport is practically empty so the boys and I play a silly game of follow-the-leader that involves a lot of leaping and jumping and looking like fools. It puts a smile back on their faces, as do the chocolate donuts and smoothies we find at Pacific Coffee Company.


4:45 a.m. It's time to que for the ferry. We take an escalator down several levels, get on a driverless subway train, and wind our way through a few tunnels, ending up at the pier. They tell us to take any seat on the ferry. The boys choose to sit up front. It's nearly empty. Michael fills out customs forms for our arrival in Macau, and then we both fall fast asleep during the one hour boat ride.

TurboJet! We're almost home!
6:30 a.m. The boat docks in Macau, and we step off onto the land of our new home. We make a quick bathroom stop and then figure out which line to go through at customs. We all get our passports stamped, then pass through to the luggage area where we find all twelve pieces sitting in a row, waiting for us. We go through a small comedy of errors trying to move 12 suitcases using 4 people. We end up playing a version of leapfrog where each person takes two suitcases and jumps to the front, waiting for the last person to pass them. Even though I'm ridiculously tired, I laugh when I see a group of Chinese tourists watching us and try to see it through their eyes. I stop laughing when we get into the waiting area and don't see the two drivers we've arranged to pick us up - one van for us, one van for our luggage.
Finally in Macau - where oh where are the men holding a sign with our names on it?

7:00 a.m. We find the drivers and get into the vans. We start the drive from the Macau Peninsula across the bridge that takes us to our flat on the island of Taipa. Though Michael and the boys have perked up, I start to feel a little grumbly. My feet are swollen up from the flight and my body is hurting from the crazy positions I've been sleeping in for the last 12+ hours.

7:30 a.m. We arrive at our flat. The drivers help us get all our luggage to the lift (elevator). Michael and one driver go up with half the luggage in one lift, leaving me with the boys, the second driver, and the other half of the luggage. When the second lift arrives, we get in. But I have no idea where we're going. We take a peek at where the other lift stopped, and press the 8th floor button hoping for the best. We get out of the lift and find the other half of the luggage in the hallway, but no Michael or first driver. My grumbly-ness goes up a couple levels. Michael has gone back to the lobby to get us, realizes we aren't there, comes back up.

7:45 a.m. Michael lets us into our new home. We pull all the luggage into our entryway, tip the drivers, and let Michael give us the grand tour. I realize that photos don't do this place justice. It's huge, gorgeous, and so far beyond my meager expectations that I have to dismiss my grumbly feelings and embrace pure happiness. Especially when I look out my window and see this view.

8:30 a.m. We manage to unpack enough suitcases to find sheets to cover the beds. Discover that the air conditioning in the boys' room isn't working, so move them into the guest room while we have them take showers.

9:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m. the next day, local Macau time) Kids have passed out on the queen sized bed in the guest room. We've forgotten to have Nathan take his allergy medicine, but nothing we do can wake him. So Michael and I drag our own weary bodies into bed, where we follow the boys into dreamland.

1 comment:

Matt Ma said...

Great post. I can totally relate to this travel day. One trip we had a 22 hour travel day from SFO to HKG to Beijing. Although we had way less luggage than you guys!