Saturday, May 5, 2012

Day 1 and 2--Fear of Flying

I used to have a very severe fear of flying.  I pretty much got over it the year we went to China to bring Grace home.  Twenty-one hours straight on a plane will do that for you.  So I don’t exactly fear falling out of the sky anymore, but the whole process does make me very anxious.  It’s not the fear of heights or the unlikely risk of becoming fodder for a disaster film, it’s the little stuff.  From checking in, to worrying about whether my luggage will arrive.  From missing connecting flights, to concern about whether a nun or a mass murderer will end up sitting next to me.  But my biggest stressor is a pretty severe case of anxious claustrophobia.  Fear of getting stuck in the middle seat.  Fear of being trapped on the wrong side of the food trolley when I really need to go to the bathroom.  Fear of having to poop in that horribly tiny hot noisy little bathroom when a line of grumpy looking business men all want to do the same.  And most especially fear of boredom.  The idea of being trapped on a plane for 8 hours with not enough to keep my very busy brain occupied is terrifying, made worse by the fact that I CANNOT sleep sitting up.  So for this entire plane ride I will be awake and TRAPPED.
So far our trip has gone like this:
Before we ever got to the airport I was in a state of crisis.  We found out at the last minute that we were going to be delivering another family’s adoption binders.  Not something we minded doing at all, after all our binders were delivered by one of the families in the last batch of travelers.  But when we got the paperwork it completely filled one of our carry-ons.  And we didn’t get the binders until about 20 minutes before we were leaving for the airport, so I stood in my driveway sweating like a maniac and trying to decide what was not coming on the trip with us since all of our other bags were at maximum weight capacity, too. 
All this put us getting to the airport about 30 minutes later than we planned which probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal but apparently there was some sort of humongous convention in town this week.  Like so big that every hotel room in town was booked.  And apparently all the people that went to the convention were leaving town the same time that we were.  So there was a line a mile long to check in with the airline and the same line to get through security checks.  Well, Brian and I got through security, but one of my carry-on bags did not.  They ran it through x-ray twice and then decided to open it up and inspect my large can of baby formula.  The first thing that popped out like a jack in the box was my bra!  They didn’t open up the can, but they did do some sort of swab test of it and the inside of my suitcase.  I guess I passed.  The security officer shoved everything back inside, complimented me on being such a neat packer and sent me on my way. 
By now we have just a minute or two before they start boarding our flight.  I run to use a full size bathroom one more time before being trapped in mini potty world and when I get back Brian is already in line to get on board.
Our first flight takes us to Newark, New Jersey.  It’s a 4 hour flight.  Brian gets a window seat.  I am next to him (stuck in the middle) and next to me is a flight attendant on her way to her next assignment.  She was very pleasant.  Chatted but didn’t talk too much and she didn’t make irritated noises when I had to climb over her to get to the restroom.  Three things that have changed since my last flight: you don’t get a meal on this flight (if you want food you have to buy it), nobody gives you peanuts anymore (just pretzels which are not nearly as filling), and you have to pay to watch the TV.  What is this world coming to???
Our layover in Newark is long enough to grab a slice of pizza, charge our Kinshasa phone for about 10 minutes, and hop on the next flight.  This time we are headed to Brussels, Belgium, which has to be the most boring airport in Europe.  Our flight will be 7 hours long.  AHHHHHH!  On international flights they do feed and give you access to free movies and games.  Each seat back has a touch screen in it.  I settled in for several hours of Bedazzled and Brian got started on a game of trivia.  He was having a bit of a problem with his touch screen.  It took quite a lot of pressure to get the game to register his answers.  After a few minutes the woman sitting in the seat in front of him turned around and said “Are you going to be tapping on the back of my head for the next 7 hours?”  Ugly Americans?  How about Snarky Europeans.
On this leg of the flight Brian got the window seat, I was in the middle again, and the seat next to me was a Hispanic boy in his early 20’s who clearly did not wish to be engaged in conversation.  His only carry-on item was a pair of headphones and his phone.  Wish I could travel that light.  Our meal was a choice between pasta or chicken.  I chose the chicken.  It was slathered in barbeque sauce and served with rice.  Who serves rice with barbeque?  Clearly their chef is not from Texas.  I watched the movie Chronicle.  Had no idea what that uplifting little flick was about.  I watched about half of Sherlock Holmes before my eyes wouldn’t stay focused anymore.  Then I shifted around in my seat for another 2 hours.  Remember, I CANNOT sleep sitting up. 
We arrived in Belgium to very overcast skies.  You couldn’t see the ground until we were about 10 feet above it.  Brian got his Belgian chocolate fix.  Then we headed to a little sandwich stand to grab some drinks.  Two Cokes and two waters were $22.00.  Seriously!!!  One more potty break.  Discovered something that made me giggle while on the loo (or whatever they call them Belgium).  The trash can in the stall had a brand name on it—Rentakil.  What we would think of as murder for hire is a trashcan in Belgium.  Next we headed out to “the terminal at the end of the earth”!  This is where you go if you are taking flights to India or Africa.  You have to go down to ground level, get on a bus and ride it for 10 minutes to another building with nothing in it but gates.  No restaurants, no shops.  Just chairs. 
Here we wait another 45 minutes or so and drink our $6.00 bottles of coke as we wait to board our final flight from Brussels to Kinshasa, DRCongo.  This time I scored an aisle seat (yippee) and there are lots of empty seats so Brian is not all squeezed in on his side.  We start to taxi out to the runway, but it feels like it is taking forever and we might actually be going in circles.  As it turns out we were.  There was something wrong with the plane (don’t you love to get that news as you sit impatiently on the tarmac) and we had to go back to the terminal to get it checked out by the mechanics.  An hour later after they have changed the battery on the plane (nope, not making that one up) and refuel, we finally are on our way.  This flight will be 8 hours long. 
I had kind of hoped that there might be a small chance we would get the girls tonight, but now that we are running at least an hour behind schedule I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.  The flight to Kinshasa has a very different feel to it than other flights.  Everyone is very relaxed.  They don’t check to see if your carry-on is stowed under the seat.  People are walking around chatting with each other.  It’s much noisier with conversation than any flight you’ll probably ever take.  At the end of our row is a Congolese woman who now lives in Switzerland.  She is coming home to visit family.  But she doesn’t speak any English and our French is disastrous.  It has been has been over 25 years since I took French in high school with Ms. Beppler.  I am very, very rusty!  But Brian has managed to communicate to her that we have 6 kids.
For lunch we are served beef or fish.  I pick beef.  It is called beef tagine.  Sort of an Indian-ish dish.  Not amazing, but they do serve it with a wonderful roll and a little personal size Camembert cheese.  Yummy!  For desert they bring around ice cream bars, like Eskimo Pies, but covered in Belgian chocolate.  Double yummy!  So now I am full and sleepy and oh so uncomfortable.  Every time I change position one of my body parts falls asleep.  Just not my BRAIN!!! 
So we are now checked into the guest house where we are staying.  The rest of the flight was fine, but we waited for over an hour to get our luggage off of the slowest conveyor belt in the world.  Our poor guides had to wait for us at least 3 hours. The Kinshasa airport looks like it was started in the 1960’s, never completely finished and never renovated.  For anyone passing through, do not plan on using the ladies room.  It’s a scary little room with no lights and no toilet paper.  A pitch black smelly closet.  Worse than the ones on the plane J
So tomorrow is the big day.  My girls will arrive just after breakfast.  I don’t know if I will be able to sleep tonight.  I haven’t slept in 2 days, but right now all I can think about is morning.  Good evening from Kinshasa!
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