I think the kids and I have problems getting to America. Our time at San Jose airport was going swimmingly and then the shit seemed to just hit the fan. Our 11 am arrival at the airport was probably not the most well thought out plan in the world. I had assumed we could check in our luggage and go into San Jose to explore, but as soon as we arrived at the airport we were told that check in could not happen until 3 hours before our flight. Which meant no exploring and a 12 hour wait at the airport before we could even check in. Surprisingly the 12 hours were not too difficult. Amazing what a soft drink and WiFi can do to ease away the hours. Archie cleaned up his iPad, I did some work and then we watched a movie and some you tube videos. The last couple of hours dragged a little, but by then we were happy to find some slightly comfortable chairs and read whilst watching the clock.
I was feeling like a seasoned traveller. I had completed whatever forms I needed to complete to leave the country. I had checked that I had done everything I needed to do. Not a care in the world. I was a citizen of the world. I had not donned my deranged Pollyanna face once in 12 hours. I was Lara Croft. I was a thing of calm, controlled beauty. Of course at 11 pm everything went completely fucking pear-shaped and I returned to the deranged lunatic with a perpetually happy “Nothing is fucking wrong with this situation” Pollyanna look on my face, whilst muttering to myself, “what the fuck is it you think you are doing with your life?”
At 11 pm we were ready for check in. We had been ready for 12 hours. Naturally at this time we were also on the verge of being very tired. So check in opened and I was reminded that I was in a third world country. The self-check in kiosks were all closed or non operational. The barriers set up for the line for check in seemed to offer nothing but decoration as people surged and pushed and ignored any semblance of order. The girl sitting halfway in the seemingly non-existent line to check people’s immigration and departure details, ignored the non-existent line as well, as she served people before us, behind us and people at the back of the airport in yelling distance before she served the idiot gringos standing patiently in front of her.
First time I got the girl’s attention I was told that we had filled out the incorrect forms and were sent back to the Siberia of the airport to complete new forms. I told her that an airline representative of the airport had given these to me when I was Lara Croft 12 hours previously. She just shrugged, took them off me, gave me new forms and pointed to Siberia. So I retreated, completed the new forms and lined up again at the point where I could guess there was a line. My previously angelic kids were doing strange contortions on the floor and stressing me out. But I knew they were on the verge of being really annoying kids so I tried to keep my irritation in check. Next time we got the girl’s attention she asked me about departure tax. I told her nobody had mentioned departure tax and I asked her why she didn’t tell me about departure tax when I was given the forms. She shrugged and again pointed to Siberia. I found a man behind a counter and he told me I owed him what equated to 150 odd Australian dollars. It felt like he was making it up but I was too tired to ask for clarification. I paid it, got my receipt and again went and joined the throng.
It was fascinating to watch the two check in clerks work at a snail’s pace whilst we all dealt with a supposed line which in fact felt like chaos. I was mesmerised by a third check in clerk who sat at the desk, doing nothing but chewing gum and glaring at everyone in front of her including us. As 90 minutes passed, it was probably the only time that I did not appreciate, “Pura Vida.” In fact if someone had of said to me, “Pura Vida” I would have smashed them in the face. By the time I got to the airline check in counter I wanted to check our connection which seemed to me, to be unfeasible. 60 minutes in Fort Lauderdale to clear customs, collect luggage, put it in transit and catch the next plane. The amazingly unfriendly man shrugged and told me that the airline would not have booked it if it did not work and that you only needed 15 minutes in Fort Lauderdale. I clarified this several times before he started to get annoyed with me. Then he told me that I needed to pay for check in baggage. This was despite the fact that I had a receipt showing that I had paid for check in baggage. The only thing that completely stopped me losing my shit was the fact that Rissie was standing next to me having a quite sob. I paid for the baggage that I had already paid for and told him that his airline was revolting. I did not know what else to say. It was probably the height of immaturity but I felt better saying it. Your airline, you cad is revolting. Just revolting.
I think by that time I was so desperate to just get on the plane that I would have paid for anything. Suffice to say that in Fort Lauderdale, despite the fact that once I got our luggage the three of us literally sprinted to transit, a perky little airline lady laughed when she saw our boarding passes and told us that our flight had left ages ago. I could have kicked her in the ankles but I was too tired. By then the three of us were so placid that it did not really matter how many flights we had to catch as long as we were heading in the right direction. 2 more flights later and some 36 hours after we arrived at San Jose Airport we touched down in Boston. It was freezing, it was grey, we were exhausted and when Strachan picked us up I was so happy, I could have cried.
After sleeping on the floor of Penn Station the first time around and our monumental effort the second time I can only assume that we have challenges getting to America but the final destination is worth it in the end.
It is amazing to compare our worlds from one week to the next. This morning I woke to streets and footpaths that were covered in snow. Yesterday it was about minus 8 degrees and I struggled to feel my legs. The kids have given up on walking with me. I had told them the first night that if they were awake they could come walking with me, but if they were asleep they could stay at home, knowing that either Strachan or Veep were downstairs. The first morning I stuck my head in and there were two very still, silent little bodies. I asked them if they were asleep and from the depths of the blankets I heard Rissie’s little voice say, “No Mummy, but please don’t make us go for a walk.” I replied to her, “I wasn’t going to Riss, I was just going to give you the wi-fi password. ” At that, both of them sat up, completely wide awake and gave up any pretense of being asleep. They have not attempted to walk with me since. To be honest I like the solitude, especially on mornings like this morning that were snow covered and a little bit reminiscent of a picture book.
First thing on the agenda was getting some winter shoes as thongs were just not going to cut it. Strachan had organised us a coat rack with coats to borrow for myself and the kids (thank you Strachan and Kris!). So all in all we were welcomed back to our little American family and home with open arms. I know it has only been a few days but the cold is a welcome treat and I suspect I am a cold weather person and it is perfect for my black little heart. I am not even going to think about Cambodia and the 40 degree heat next year.
We went looking for a Christmas Tree yesterday and I could not get images of the Griswalds out of my head. Today we had an unmitigated treat. Sally organised for us a visit and private tour of the Providence Athenaeum with the Head Librarian of the Children’s Library and one of the Directors of the Library. Conde Naste Traveler has been quoted as saying the Providence Athenaeum is “one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.”
Outside there was still remnants of the morning snow and standing there in a truly beautiful building, surrounded by books and ladders I was reminded again of how lucky the three of us are to be having this amazing adventure.