Long-haul travel with two small children (one small child and one infant, really) redefines the term "tag team". While both Grace and Noah were as good as could be expected on our 18 hour journey (door to door, that is), Kristoffer and I were by far the busiest people on our 8 1/2 hour from Nairobi to Amsterdam (which was followed by a 6 hour layover and then a 45 minute flight to Billund, DK and then a 45 minute drive to Farmor's house). Grace didn't have any meltdowns on the plane until the last 20 minutes when she really wanted me but couldn't have me because I was trying to nurse Noah, who initially refused to nurse and therefore had pain in his ears on our descent. Their meltdowns - the only one for both of them, actually - overlapped by 5 minutes during which everyone the plane hated us I'm sure. But such is life. Noah was an excellent baby the whole trip, although wanted to be held more than he wanted to be in the bassinet or car seat, leaving us with little "hands free" time. We took shifts changing diapers and walking around the plane and entertaining Grace. I was seated next to a really nice Dane, and Kristoffer and Grace had 3 seats all to themselves right behind me. Overall, it went really well.
There were some other moments of our trip to share, categorized as: nerve-wracking, interesting, or sweet!:
- Having to wake Grace up at 5 am to leave for the airport; thought she'd be grumpy but instead she couldn't stop beaming about going on the "biiiiig airplane" to see Farmor, Hans, and Oldemor. The only times in her whole life that I've had to wake her up were on days when we travelled so early in the morning! Category: sweet!
- Being told that we didn't have seats together on the flight, even though I was promised that we did. Category: nerve-wracking
- Ending up with 4 seats instead of 3, even though one was separate, which gave us a lot of extra room for Grace and all her "stuff". Category: sweet!
- Almost not being allowed to take Noah out of the country because of his lack of passport. This is sort of a long story: Noah's US passport hadn't arrived yet and we didn't apply for a Danish one yet. I was told at the US Embassy and by the airline KLM that Noah could travel on his birth certificate; however, I did not check with Kenyan immigration officials and they were not so cooperative. In this situation, when suspiciously questioned by the first immigration officer, I maybe gave him a little too much attitude. Same went for the second more senior officer who also didn't like getting lip from a YOUNG, MZUNGU, WOMAN and very nearly denied our exit (in the moment I thought I was just being assertive but I do realize in hindsight that my tone of voice was a bit too aggressive for Kenyan man) . Luckily I married a more calm, rational, able-to-sense-when-a-disaster-is-about-to-happen-because-my-wife-has-a-little-bit-of-a-temper kind of guy who showed the necessary (although completely ridiculous) deference and apologized in just the right way that we were allowed to leave Kenya. Of course that came with a warning that without some kind of UN letter or regular passport Noah will not be allowed back into Kenya upon our return. Note to self #1: try to get the kid a passport ASAP! Note to self #2: keep temper in check when dealing with immigration authorities, particularly those who are middle-aged men. Category: nerve-wracking x 10
- Seeing a woman on the airplane who we met at a dinner party 3 years ago. At the time I was pregnant with Grace and she told me that I shouldn't worry about it if I had hostile feelings towards my child because at some point, "you will hate your baby." I was not a fan of hers then and this time around, when she sat between two other people near us on the plane and didn't stop talking for almost the entire flight, I was so glad she didn't remember us! Category: interesting
- Meeting a Scottish family in Amsterdam who were on their way back to Seoul, Korea where the husband/dad works for the government. They had a daughter just a little older than Grace and a baby boy who was born on the same day as Noah! They were ten-weeks old exactly! The mom and I had a great chat about having two kids and living abroad. Loved that family! Category: interesting
- Eating McDonalds. I know, I know. It's crap. And I never eat it in the US (and, in fact, boycotted for a long time because of a weird incident I had in college). And it shouldn't be a big deal just because I can't get it in Kenya...but it is! And I loved it! Category: sweet!
- Experiencing the adoration and humor of airport security in Amsterdam, who completelyfell in love with Noah. There was no line in the lane we picked and the security workerswere all young and maybe a bit bored. We are a nightmare going through securityusually: a baby, a toddler, a pacemaker, liquids and computers. YIKES! One of the guystook the stroller for us and said, "Can I borrow your ferrari?" Then they let Noah stay in his car seat and while they were "searching" him he started smiling, cooing and almostgiggling. Well, they all just melted and couldn't get enough of him. One of the guys inparticular was from Turkey and said he wanted to keep Noah. "I think I'll call himAhmed...but not like the terrorist!" Another worker said, "Is he [the Turkish security guy] the baby's first Turk?" to which I replied, "Well, he [Noah] was born in Kenya and has met a lot of different kinds of people...but maybe never a Turk before!" Then they allwent crazy, "He was born in Kenya?! That is so cool!" When the Turkish guy found out his name was really Noah he said, "No no, Ahmed is much better I think." We hung outwith them for several minutes as they ooed and awed over Noah. They really didn't wantto give him back to us! Overall, a very positive security experience I'd say! Category:sweet!
- Being "entertained" by an extremely, extremely, extremely DRUNK Norweigan in Amsterdam. He started singing "Here Comes the Sun" to Kristoffer as he poured a beer all over the place; I took Grace for a walk because I was afraid of what he might do or say near her and I am generally very uncomfortable in situations like that. He and his friends were on their way to Mozambique, via Nairobi. He was some kind of "artist". Category: interesting
- Watching Grace run and run and run around the airport shouting such things as, "Mama, look at the biiiiiig airplane" over and over again. Other people's reactions to her were quite sweet. She was wearing a tshirt that says "big sister" on it and so people would say, "Hi big sister!" and she would wave to them. Category: sweet!
So now we are here in Varde safe and sound after a tiring, but good, trip. We have travel-lag, but no jet-lag. Grace is happy to be with Farmor again. Noah and Kristoffer have been napping for the last 2 hours. It is vacation. Life is good.
p.s. Our second flight from Amsterdam to Billund was flown by a female pilot; first time for both of us ever having a female captain and we thought that was pretty awesome!