Monday, June 14, 2010

Travel Journal Part One: The Trip to Ethiopia

Wednesday, June 2nd - Thursday, June 3rd

  • Left home at 8:30 AM
  • Drove to my parents' house
  • My mom took us to the airport and dropped us off, and then took Madeline to Daniel's mom where she stayed for the first half of our trip
  • Flew from Nashville to Cincinnati, Cincinnati to JFK, JFK to Dubai, spent 12 hours in Dubai, flew from Dubai to Addis Ababa!
I was oh so excited to finally leave home. Finally, everything was done. All of the rushing around in preparation for our trip, all of the work and busyness of our adoption during the last year and a half was DONE. WE WERE OFF!

I was so sad to leave Madeline, but I knew that she was in good hands. She loves her "Ga-Ma" and her "Bop", and I knew that she would be too busy with all of their fun plans to even think of us while we were gone.

In the Nashville airport (This is Daniel's "I don't want to have my picture taken" face.)

I love the perspective that travel brings. I enjoy the rapid jump from one place to another when flying - being picked up in one part of the world and quickly transported and plopped down in another far away place. I love the reminder that this huge world is going on all the time. Meanwhile I tend to believe that the whole world is MY world, forgetful of the 99.9% that is going on everywhere else. It's as if it doesn't exist just because I'm not there.

Being up in the air, I'm thankful for the reminder of how very small I am. I am amazed to think that God knows every thought and hears every prayer of every single tiny dot down below, barely even visible to me. He is so big. I am so little.

As I walked around the JFK airport, it began to set in that this was literally the last time that our family would ever be able to just blend into the crowd. From here on out we would be a family that would attract stares. I don't know yet what that will feel like and how I will deal with it. I admit, it's pretty scary. I'll get used to it, I suppose. I will grow to care less as I love our little guy more and more. Who cares what anybody thinks - he's my son! But really, that's how it should be, right? We should stick out. As Christ followers, we're not supposed to just blend in with the rest of the world. I succumb too easily to the temptation to just blend in and not draw attention to myself. I'm thankful for this, that I am being forced to look a little more "different" because of my faith and the life that I am called to live. Sweet baby boy, you are worth it. And dear Jesus, you are too.

It is great fun to hang out around the international flight section of a major airport. Surrounding our gate, flights were departing for Mumbai, Bogota, Singapore, Germany... Where else can you go and observe so many cultures, so many colors in such a condensed area? I make a game of watching people and guessing what country they are from.

The flight to Dubai felt eternal. At about 3 am, I was ready to jump out of the plane. And that was only 4 hours into the 12+ hour flight! I was in between Daniel and a guy from India who didn't have quite the respect for the "personal bubble" that we Americans are used to. He had no problem taking up the whole arm rest and didn't mind a bit if I touched my arm to his to subtly send the message that he was invading my personal space. I, however, could never relax if I was physically touching someone I didn't know, and so I ended up with my arms crossed and all my muscles tensed. It was hardly a position to sleep in. I did end up sleeping for about 2 hours, from 4 am - 6 am.

However, the airline, Emirates, was incredible. When our travel agent gave us our flight options, it only cost about $100 more to fly Emirates instead of Ethiopian Air. It was $100 well spent. We each had personal TV's with literally 100's of movies and TV shows to choose from on demand. They gave us eye masks, socks, pillows, and blankets. The food was good and plentiful. And the exotic flight attendants were fun to talk to. We made friends with attendants from Dubai, Sweden, Philippines - all who were interested in our adoption. (On the way home they were so helpful with Benjamin too.) The whole experience felt so exotic. We were very blessed on the long flight to be at the front of a section, which meant extra leg room and no one sitting in front of us, leaning their seat back.

Extra leg room!

The Dubai airport. It was immense and luxurious. Everything was shiny, and there were palm trees everywhere.

We were so thankful to have the 12 hour layover in Dubai. We rode a shuttle to a nearby hotel and got a good eight hours of sleep. It felt so wonderful to lay down after all of those hours cramped in the airplane. We went right to sleep and woke up ready to go. It was great to arrive in Ethiopia somewhat refreshed instead of exhausted and out of it.

Our hotel room in Dubai

On our final flight from Dubai to Addis Ababa, we were given a delightful, unexpected gift. We were upgraded from economy class to business class! I have no idea why! We arrived to the gate a little later than we should have, and the agent checking us in told us that we were in trouble. I thought he was serious and asked what was wrong? What did we do? He just smiled and said - don't worry. You will be fine. I'm taking care of you... When we walked away, we noticed that our tickets said we were in Zone B. Did that mean business class? Surely not.... Yes, it did!

Wow! What an experience! The cushy chairs were wide enough to sit cross-legged, and they reclined enough that you could almost lay flat. They had a built in massage-chair feature, and there was a privacy screen that could be raised in between each of the seats. We were given extra food and drinks, feather pillows, toothbrushes, noise canceling headphones, and many other little luxuries to enjoy during the four hour flight.

Sitting in business class on the way to Ethiopia

Reading in comfort. Notice the adjustable LED reading lights.

Check out the fancy hats that the Emirates flight attendants wear.

I kept asking myself - why me? Why were we given this gift when we are so overloaded with blessings already? Why not the other passengers, any of them, who have so much less than we do? I have no answer, but I know that we did nothing to put ourselves in a place to be given special treatment. The only explanation I have is that God's hand is on us. What can we do but just smile and say, "Thank you, Father." As I reclined in my comfy seat, I pictured myself climbing into his lap like a little girl, giving him a hug, and saying thank you. What a reassurance to feel his favor upon us as we were about to begin an extremely challenging week.

As the little clip-art airplane on the overhead screen approached Addis Ababa, my heart filled with joy. I felt giddy as I contemplated all that was about to happen. I tried to read a bit during the flight, but I just couldn't concentrate. My life was much more interesting than fiction! I had no need to be distracted from real life. We were almost in Africa, closer than ever to our boy and about to embark on an adventure.


3 Blessings said...

Love it! Can't wait to

Melanie said...

So exciting! Wow! I feel like this is a novel where you're leaving us hanging. I can't wait to read the next chapter....

G said...

Completely loving reading about your trip! Thanks for sharing all the details--it helps us know what to expect. And, so cool that you got to fly Business Class-that is a very fun gift. :)
And love the idea that life is so much more fun than a book. :)

Eastiopians said...

Oh my gosh, you brought back my feeling of excitement as we were landing in Addis. Awesome feeling!!!! I'm glad you are posting your love love these posts.

Kathryn Lewis said...

I've been checking all day so excited to read about your journey! Looking forward to reading more and praying for your transition and bonding to happen smoothly. Benjamin is SUCH a cutie! Makes me so excited to finally see our sweet boys face =)

E.T.'s Mom said...

I love this story!

We had a similar experience on a flight home from a campaign in Hungary. We never knew why we got bumped up in the technical sense, but we knew it was an AWESOME gift from our Father.

I, too, love that you don't have to escape life because you are really living it!