When we left Shenyang at the end of December, I had a horrible experience traveling. We left in the morning, but we were not sitting on the long international flight until late afternoon. Then it was half a day of sitting in a dry, noisy environment with a very crabby and tired baby. Around 10pm, Shenyang time, Willow (who was up past bed time) had had enough. She couldn't get comfortable. Couldn't eat without distraction, and couldn't sleep either. She started a screaming fest that lasted at least two hours. She hardly took a break to breathe, an screamed as loud and as hard as she could. It was very stressful for me since this was during the time that all the passengers were supposed to be sleeping. I felt like we were getting on everyone's nerves! Also, the airline company had sat Adam and I separately, which is so stupid. Fortunately, a man traded tickets with Adam, and was a good enough sport since he traded for a worse seat. Back to the screaming fest. Finally, I took Willow into one of the bathrooms, and stood in there with her until she calmed down and fell asleep. We had a bassinet for Willow, but she would only stay asleep if I would hold her. My back was aching by the end, since at that time Willow was over 18 pounds. And of course, that meant no sleeping for me. I was very bored too--I don't know why, but I didn't watch a single movie on that flight. Willow only slept about 6 hours, on and off, throughout that whole flight. The other hours, she was fussing and crying or having blow out diapers. One of the only good things about this flight was that there was minimal turbulence so we were able to get up and walk around with her when she would get upset. On the flight with us were a few other teachers headed back to the States for Christmas as well. It's always fun to know a few people on the flight. They were also helpful with all the luggage we had to bring along.
We left with 5 big suitcases, 2 large carry-ons, a backpack, and a diaper bag. However, only three of the suitcases had clothes and Christmas gifts in them. We were bringing extra luggage along so that we could bring back costume pieces for Little Women and more clothes for Willow. Adam also needed a few things for his classroom too.
On the trip back to Shenyang, our original flight was canceled. In retrospect this was probably a good thing. The tickets we had bought were for a flight that left at midnight. For adults, this is ideal, since you can sleep better on the long flight over the ocean. However, now I know that for Willow it is difficult for her to sleep on a plane and she would have been screaming all night long. Our flight was postponed to a later date, and left in the morning. This worked out really well because Willow was less crabby on the trip, and although she took a few naps, she wasn't sleep deprived. We landed in Seoul, checked into a hotel, and Willow was able to sleep through the "night", which also happened to be about night time for Korea too. So, when we woke up, well rested, we almost completely over jet lag already. And our baby was ready for the next flight--clean, happy, and not at all sleep deprived. On our long flight over (14 hours!!!!) we sat next to a woman and her little baby. He was the cutest baby I've ever seen--I wish I had a picture of him to show because he was so precious! He was about 10 pounds and only three months old. He was very serious and had the cutest little face. He talked a lot, and Willow and he had a few long conversations that were so funny to observe. I want a Filipino baby just like him.
The hotel that we stayed at was actually in the airport. It was a good thing that Adam reserved the room because our layover was over 18 hours long! We had the room for the majority of that time, so we were able to eat dinner, sleep, watch some Mythbusters, play with Willow, and get cleaned up. It made the whole airport experience survivable and more enjoyable; was totally worth the money. I think I would have lost my sanity if we had been out in the terminals with Willow during that whole time. We had stayed at this place once before when I was pregnant with Willow and we had another long layover. It was a lot nicer this time, since they had recently remodeled, and I was coveting after the bathroom. I feel silly admitting it, but the shower, fixtures, and tile were all really nice.
We had breakfast at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts (can you guess who went where?), and I had my last white chocolate mocha with raspberry drink...it tastes like cheesecake in a cup. Adam ate his favorite donuts, which they don't happen to serve at the Chinese Dunkin' Donuts. We went to sit down at a random gate, but then realized that we had actually chosen OUR gate. What are the chances of that? Also, all these people we knew from our community were on the same flight. We counted about 10 students and their families that we knew.
The short flight to Shenyang went all right, and Willow managed to not be a terror. When we landed, I was immediately reminded that I was back in China. I wasn't even in the airport yet (that thing that attaches the plane to the building...whatever that is called), and some Chinese bystanders were telling me that it was too cold outside for Willow. I was about to say something snide or make an excuse when I realized that it was TOO cold outside. We experienced such mild weather in the Chicago are while we were visiting that I forgot how cold Shenyang is! When we left O'Hare, it was probably in the 40's. But in Shenyang it was below 0F. Suddenly, I also remembered that there is no heat in this airport, and that the little coat an blanket Willow already had on was not going to be enough. I remembered that her warmer things were in our checked baggage, and started praying that none of our suitcases had been lost in the international shuffle.
We were the last people to go through customs because we forgot our stroller when we exited the plane and had to go back to get it. When we finally got to the baggage claim, some Chinese lady stole the cart that Adam had found to put our suitcases on. People were shoving us around, telling me that Willow was too cold, and I was reminded that China is not Korea, and China is not America. Another family that goes to our school, who had been on our flight, didn't have a ride to their complex--which is actually the same place where we live. They were planning on waiting an hour and a half for a private driver to come pick them up (the driver was first going to drop another family off at their home and then come back). So, we said that they could come with us. We saw our driver and began the ten minute walk to where he parked in the lot. Dodging traffic with thick puffs of toxic exhaust, and freezing temperature, we finally made it to the van. Our hearts sank a little when we saw his vehicle, because we thought he would be driving a bigger vehicle and not this little mini van. We had 6 people (plus Willow), a stroller, 8 carry-ons, 1 guitar, and 10 suitcases. Somehow, we made it work and arrived home in one piece.
We walked through our front door, and I could see a thin layer of fine dust on everything. We ha only been gone a month, but it looked like the apartment had been abandoned for a year--but I guess that's living in China for you.