The best kind of flight is an unmemorable one. We were making memories before we’d even left! It started with Ella-Rose forgetting to pick up her backpack. Not a big deal, but it DID contain Every Single Thing she’ll need for the next two months. And it would turn out to be foreshadowing of things to come! Once we’d got through customs – with five packs – the kids started clamouring to hold their own passports and boarding passes. How unreasonable a request is that when we’re already in the departure lounge and only need to wait a few minutes? Those moments passed and we joined the queue. Standing quietly together, Ella-Rose noticed we were holding passports and she wasn’t. It wasn’t in her backpack (which this time she had remembered to pick up), it wasn’t anywhere along the short route we had just walked, it wasn’t where we had been sitting. Serious concern was written all over her face, her voice was quivering and I was chiding myself when a loud voice called out, “Would you be looking for this?” He was waving a little black book with silver insignia on the front and a white boarding pass was poking out from it. In the relief of that moment I decided that I would hold all documents from now on and the kids’ responsibilities would be limited to navigating us around the airports. We made it to Guangzhou and they found toilets and boiling water so we could make cup-a-soup for our eight hour layover, so we’ll clock that up as a success.
As it was fast approaching midnight NZ time and we had been up since just after five, I suggested we find somewhere to sleep the wait away. The seats were non-sleepable, being well endowed with hard metal immovable arms. I found a choice spot on the floor – carpeted, out of the path of traffic, in fact, you could even call it secluded, but Micaiah objected, “I have my pride Mum”. Thankfully he also had reason and in a few moments everyone was lying down, even if they were grumbling. Soon a number of other people had joined us and it made me think of refugees finding whatever spot they can to bunk down at night, never safe, rarely properly asleep, on constant alert. And vulnerable – it was at the last minute that I thought about that. When there was only an hour left until boarding I decided to set an alarm just in case I dropped off. When the buzzing roused me from a scarily deep sleep considering the circumstances, it struck me just how vulnerable an exhausted refugee is, especially a parent who is travelling alone with children. At some point you do have to sleep and will not be able to be Protector. But there was no time for further contemplation – there were four even-more-deeply-asleep-than-me children to rouse. All rolled over and kept sleeping when I shook them, but to their credit as soon as they grasped the situation they bounded into action – Tessa even picked up Ella-Rose’s pack for her and E-R was ungrumpy enough to be thankful.
On to leg two to Amsterdam, twenty minutes longer than the first at eleven hours forty minutes. More memories! Two sets of kids each stuck in the middle of a row of four, one of the pairs three rows ahead of me. Me wedged in the middle of a three seat row with a big guy on one side and a mum and toddler on the other. Our row was movie-less (first world problem), but we had inflight entertainment in the form of a pretty bumpy ride – at first we were told to fasten seat belts and hold on if we were in the lavatory. Eventually we were forbidden from using the loos for a time – which I considered my punning friends would think is no different to “holding on”! I guess I was a bit tired by this point;-)
Mercifully, the toddler slept most of the flight, the Big Guy got up for frequent walks and the bumps smoothed out so Tessa could put her sick bag away unused and the toilets were back in action! In short, it was mostly an unmemorable flight.
Arrived Amsterdam as the sun was rising. Predictably, the view was all flat agricultural land, canals, mostly bare trees and a few pink blossoms. Oh, and tulips…