We left my parents’ home in America last Tuesday at 4 PM in order to make our flight at 8:30 PM. Going through the red tape, lines, and security checks at the airport are the most stressful part of the journey for us! Every flight to America and back since we were married has involved a “lap child,” a child under two years of age who costs about 5% the normal flight price if he sits on a parent’s lap the whole time, rather than purchasing a separate seat for him. And every time we fly with a lap child, some problem comes up in the seating or ticketing because of that issue. I will be glad when we have straightforward ticketing issues someday–but not glad for our pocketbook.
This flight was no different. We stood at the check-in desk for an hour while they struggled with our seats, luggage pricing, and Carson’s and my passports. We won the war, but lost a few battles, including the seating arrangement. British Airways (do they like Americans??) promised us that we could not have seats in the infant row because there were three babies on the plane; but when we actually flew, there were three single adults and an empty seat in the infant row (which is coveted for the extra leg room because they set up bassinettes for the babies).
A friend from church who works at O’Hare Airport came to say good-bye at the gate. We felt special. You could see the deer-in-the-headlights look on fellow passengers’ faces when they saw us. “Oh, please, say I’m not sitting by them!” I got four comments– “You’re very brave to travel with all those kids!” (Translate: “Crazy!”)
But I was happy with my children’s performance overall. The children slept fairly well considering they got about 5 hours of sleep. Carson slept on my lap for three hours until Seth hid him under the seats for a better rest. We reached London at about 8 AM Big Ben time, which felt like 2 in the morning for us.
Getting off the plane and through London security (very tight!) took two hours for our “crazy-large” family. London security completely unpacked four of our bags. Maybe you can imagine how tightly a missionary mom might pack each and every bag she is allowed to take to Africa with her.
We waited in a common terminal for our 10-hour layover before a gate was scheduled for our flight to South Africa. Thankfully the children enjoyed a large jungle gym there for free. At one point, Callie and Carson fell asleep on our laps. I instructed Caleb and Colin to color or play right next to us, and propped up by carry-on luggage, Seth and I had an irresistible cat-nap.
The flight to South Africa was 11 hours long, but still the children were exhausted enough to sleep for much of it. We got the infant row this flight, but no empty seats; so a stranger sat beside Caleb, Carson, and I, with the rest of the family in the row behind.
It is HARD to feed a 17-month old on your lap on a plane.
We arrived Thursday morning in South Africa. A pastor in Johannesburg who kept our vehicle for the four months we were gone picked us up from the airport. We stayed overnight with these beloved friends and left Friday noon for the 6-hour drive to our home in Elim.
1 1/2 hours out of Johannesburg, our battery died. Then the fuse blew to our immobilizer (anti-theft device), which meant the truck wouldn’t start. Ita vita African! Thankfully, being Friday, the repair shops were open, and we were on the road again at 2:45 PM.
Another hour down the road, Callie got sick to her stomach in the car. All those travels in America and she didn’t do that once. I truly believe the international flights here are an exhausting turmoil for the body.
We arrived, bought food and toilet paper, spoke with three church members (discovered our house had been broken into while we were gone–twice–but nothing important was taken, and the young man staying at our house handled the situation marvelously!), and crashed at midnight after unpacking a few bags.
Ah, home sweet home, and back to a new term in Africa!