Friday, July 18, 2008

What I did for love...

It's a good thing Thomas was wearing his little harness and leash. We saw all sorts of very intriguing things that demanded his immediate attention on our trip here, and he would've been lost 10 times at least.

I was so worried that he'd hate the harness. Hardly. It has a firetruck on it and he wanted to wear it all the time. He brought it to me this morning to have it put on, though I talked him out of it.

You'd think that he wouldn't exactly be excited about wearing it anytime soon, especially since at one point I tied him to a luggage cart (he didn't mind at all, by the way!) so we could get all our luggage off the conveyor belt. Retrieving 7 suitcases, 3 boxes, and 2 car seats, in addition to the 4 carry-ons, briefcase, purse and diaper bag that we carted around is not an easy feat and I beg you not to judge me too harshly on this toddler restraining technique.

In Seattle we practically had to get down on our knees and beg for help with our luggage. Not that everyone was unhelpful, but there was a definite case of 1. not my job and 2. if I ignore you you will go away going on. We killed them with kindness and moved on. The check-in line for NW Airlines at SeaTac was 5 1/2 hours long if you were trying to fly coach. It was a nice moment to be flying first class. No waiting in line for us. More importantly, no missing our flight.
Pretty sure many of those poor folks did indeed miss theirs.
The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was just great. On both flights we had bulkhead seating in the first row of the plane, but we were better able to appreciate it on the first flight. That plane was damned near luxurious. Everything went as smoothly as one could possibly hope for. Lollypops did indeed do the trick during takeoff and Mt Rainier gave us an auspicious setting-off memory, glowing with sunlight.
10 hours later we were still in good shape, hardly having used any of the kid distractors we brought. Thomas had eaten lots of his all time favorite food,blueberries and was a happy camper and good sleeper, thanks to Mike and his impressive child-putting-to-sleep skills. Bethy loved getting to play with the movie player at her seat. There was no crying or vomiting or even a poopy diaper.

When we landed both kids giggled: "WHEE!!!"

In the airport in Amsterdam we checked out the lounge (niiiiiice. I could seriously get used to the First Class lounges). I especially appreciated the spigot specially designated for Heineken.

Silk teabags, croissants, a nice selection of liquors and wines...

We took the train to downtown Amsterdam, much to train-obsessed Thomas' delight. We ended up walking (and walking and walking) with the kids through Amsterdam. The canals, bicycles, flowers and architecture were wonderful, but with time constraints and kids tired of being dragged around we didn't get to enjoy it even a fraction of what it deserved. There were Heineken signs as ubiquitous as Starbucks signs in Seattle, cats casually strolling the narrow cobblestone streets, but no potties for little kids, and for some reason it seemed as though everything was closed. So we made our way back to the station and found a pay WC for Bethy.

I loved this sign:
Back at the airport we changed and cleaned up. Thomas got his new Thomas the Tank Engine shirt with sound button and played nonstop with it. Bethy loved her rainbow butterfly wings and wand which she promptly put on for flight. We were all shepherded through security and then a waiting area, and boarded the plane.

The second flight was all about trying to get the kids to get some sleep, for their sakes and so we could get some too. Thomas had his one and only crying fit and then conked out. We were so tired we were struggling to keep our eyes open, though we wanted to make sure we ate. I think we each got some of one course and then fell asleep. The flight attendants were especially thoughtful this trip and did all they could to make us comfortable.

Four hours later we were flying over Baghdad, watching the miles go by on the monitors on Dutch-labeled maps. We woke Bethy up an hour and a half later to choose the four souvenir china blue-and-white Amsterdam houses they give you on each KLM flight (she has decided to start a village). Thomas woke up a little bit sad but by landing the two of them were squealing "Whee!" again, Thomas begging for "More! More!"

In the airport we went through customs and immigration quite easily. The security officer was actually quite apologetic as he looked thorough some of our luggage that had been flagged for inspection. (My telephoto lens, the CDs, and our router caused the concern). Then he carefully packed it all back in again. Interestingly, many of the security inspectors were women, wearing the traditional black Abaya, their hair veiled, eyes lined with kohl.

In contrast to SeaTac, there was a definate willingness in Dubai to help us with our luggage. It was chaotic but not uncomfortable. Our company driver, Ali had brought a regular car, so we got a taxi for 2/3 of our luggage and Mike, and I went with the children and the last third of our luggage in Ali's car.
It was indeed hot outside, with a beautiful moon. Ali helped me figure out the new car seat, was kind to the kids, and negotiated the drive skillfully, pointing out the landmarks and answering my numerous questions. He confirmed the few words of Arabic I thought I had down, correcting the pronunciation as needed, and told me a very interesting thing; when I mentioned that I was surprised to see all sorts of trees besides palm trees, he told me that the other trees are native but the palms don't naturally grow here, they're imported. Who knew?

All the way to the Greens, the kids were good, if quite silly from being so tired, (they couldn't even concentrate long enough to even look at the city, which is indescribable in it's scale, overwhelming even) and by midnight we were happily ensconced in our new home.
Long, happy sighs of relief.

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