October 29th, 2014….
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home”
We can sum up the 25+ hours of travel time in just one word….exhausting. However, it should be said that the children were extremely well behaved! We were really, REALLY nervous about how Mei Li would fare on such a long flight, since her first flight from Wuhan to Guangzhou (which was only an hour) was a complete disaster, but she was GREAT!
Leaving China was bitter sweet for so many reasons. While we were excited to get home, we were taking Mei Li from her birth country. We decided to think of that in a more positive light….”We’re not saying goodbye to China, we’re saying hello to the world.” (It’s funny, after we got home from China, we happened to be watching a PBS show, and I couldn’t help laugh at the lyrics of the show’s song, and how similar the words were to how we were feeling about showing Mei Li the world!) (Dinosaur Train Lyrics)
Leaving China also meant that we were separating from the close friends we had made in the past two weeks. When we arrived at the airport, several families were going one direction and we were heading in another. It was time to say goodbye. James’s new friend, Jay walked straight over to James and gave him a big hug. They had bonded quite well over the past 15 days, and experienced becoming big brothers in such a special way. Their embrace is something I will never forget.
Flight #1 – Guangzhou to Shanghai – Many adoptive parents fly from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, but after looking at the itineraries Adoption Airfare presented to us, the flight sequence travelling through Shanghai and then to Detroit was more desirable in terms of timing. We did break into a panic while waiting on the tarmac for departure as the pilot said the flight time was an hour shorter than was listed on our itinerary. We quickly pressed the call button for our flight attendant, thinking we were on the wrong plane, but she assured us we were not. Phew! Mei Li quickly fell asleep after take-off and James worked on drawing and coloring. So far…so good.
Flight #2 – Shanghai to Detroit – For the first time since landing in China 15 days ago, we are completely on our own. We no longer had a guide to help us find the correct departure gate or to translate questions from the locals. It’s quite unnerving. After a short struggle, we managed to find our departure gate, but the attendants were not checking in passengers for another 2 hours. We lumbered around the airport with 4 carry-on bags, 4 backpacks, and two small children….making a stop at the restroom and finally parking ourselves in a quiet corner behind a small snack kiosk. I wish I had taken a picture of what we were hauling, because we can laugh about it now. It felt horrible to be hauling all this luggage around. The decision to do “carry on only” was made to ensure we’d make a short connecting flight in Detroit to our home city, while getting our new daughter through US customs for the first time. “Carry On Only” was difficult with two small children, but in the end, we would still do it this way again.
We felt secluded behind the kiosk, where Mei Li and James could enjoy a snack without too much noise, or stares from nosy passerby’s or just the visual stimulation of this huge airport. This “secluded feeling” lasted only a few minutes when several people stopped to stare for several minutes or more at our family. “Ni Hou!” I would call out….which usually prompted them to say “Ni Hou” in return and then walk away. One man, however, took my acknowledgement of his stare as a cue to try to sell us an iphone. “Bù, xièxiè!” (“No thank you!” …I don’t want your stolen iphone, sir!) haha….
Finally, it was time to check in at our gate, but it certainly wasn’t a quick process. While Jim and James waited to check in, I put Mei Li in my Ergo carrier and walked her around and around the center area of the airport. She fell asleep on my back after about the 20th time around. Jim and James finally got our boarding passes and we headed for our departure gate. Seeing that we were toting a sleeping toddler and what felt like 40 carry-on bags, the security check personal let us cut the security check point line. This was great, until we realized we hadn’t filled in the departure cards that we were given 15 days before! Opps! Nevertheless, the security officer was patient and we slipped through the security check without any issues. I breathed a sigh of relief that we were one step closer to home, but inside I was absolutely a mess, because the only way to get home was a 12 hour flight! I had no idea how the next 12 hours was going to go….and the kids held all the cards!
Although we scrimped and saved to afford this trip, we did splurge on this leg of the journey and upgraded our seat to what is called, “Delta Select”. These seats are still located in the coach class area, but have greater leg room, power outlets to charge electronics, and seats that recline a bit more. We felt, (for our sanity and the sanity of nearby passengers) the extra leg room alone was worth it!! Turns out…it was completely worth it! Prior to our trip, we also selected our seat assignments, and were limited (based on availability) to three seats in row one and one seat in row two. After having the two kids together for the past 12 days, we realized this was a mistake. Both kids were craving individual attention and the parent in between the two kids would be going insane within minutes. Thankfully, a business man in the second row, center seat, wanted an aisle seat. So we moved James to the second row to sit with Jim. Since I was in the first row with Mei Li, I had a ton of extra legroom which I thought could be used for a temporary napping area. After take-off, Mei Li seemed exhausted, and I told her to lay down in that area on a cushion of blankets. She did so without complaint and started to fall asleep immediately. That is, until the flight attendant came by and told me I couldn’t lay her there because of safety reasons. Hmmmmm…..Our seats did not have moveable arm rests to provide more space for her to lay down because the tv screen pulled out from the arm rest in this first row of seats. The seat wouldn’t recline enough for her little body to get comfortable (she kept sliding down)….so in the end….out of sheer desperation, Jim and James swapped seats with us. When they lowered the lights on the flight, I again placed numerous blankets on the floor for padding, told her “Shuìjiào” (to sleep) and she willingly went on the floor. I put the tray tables down and used additional blankets to “tent” the area. She slept for 9 hours straight. In the row ahead of me, James also slept for 9 hours! Thank you, God!!
When Mei Li woke up, she crawled up on my lap and her skin was ice cold. I had two seats to spread out my legs, and I wrapped her in a blanket and pulled her up on my chest. She happily snuggled on my chest for about an hour. At this point, I had to use the bathroom so badly that I thought my eyes must be turning yellow! I didn’t want to go when she was sleeping, in case she woke up and freaked out that I was gone. Additionally, there was a business man on the aisle seat of my row snoring soundly, so I was basically “trapped”! Once she was awake, I didn’t want to go because she was snuggling so sweetly, I was soaking up each and every moment. But, I couldn’t hold it any longer and I passed her to Jim. This was the one and only time she cried on the entire journey home. I could hear her screams from the bathroom and I couldn’t get back to my seat fast enough. She quickly settled down after Jim passed her back to me, and I knew that would be the last solo bathroom trip I would take until we got home!
Landing in Detroit was so surreal. Our journey was nearly over. We had about an hour to clear customs with our little Chinese citizen and get to our next flight. We were back in America!! Wow, did that feel good! It appeared that we had ample time to clear customs, and so we quickly ditched our carry-on bags and checked them. Poor Jim was so tired of managing all 4, plus the kids’ backpacks and our backpacks. In our haste to check them, we didn’t pull out our “freshen up” kits or a change of clothes. We had been in these clothes for over 20 hours now, and the kids were still in shorts and tee-shirts. Climates had completely changed and they would be cold once outside the airports. We also smelled! Oh well…our family waiting to greet us would understand our stale smell and wrinkled appearances! We cleared customs in 20 minutes and headed to our new gate…our final flight.
Flight #3: Detroit to Buffalo – One hour from our home town, and although the kids were a little more agitated, they were easily amused with stickers and lollipops. Overall, this leg of the journey was uneventful. Thank you, God!
Nearly home – Walking through the Buffalo airport toward the area where our family would be waiting was so amazing. Each step brought us closer to people who were just as excited about meeting Mei Li as we were 12 days earlier. The kids walked holding hands and Jim filmed us from behind. James shouted out, “Grandma!” and Mei Li in her usual fashion…jumped in to this unfamiliar situation with both feet and smile. This girl is amazing!
Over 25 hours later……. Home…it’s where you want to go when you’re tired and someone will tuck you in bed. Home…it’s where you want to go when you’re sad, and someone will hug you. Home…it’s where you want to go when you’re happy and someone will be happy right along with you. Home…it’s where you go when you are hurt and someone will comfort you. We’ve brought Mei Li home, and we are the “someones” who will always be here for her.
Welcome Home Mei Li: http://youtu.be/Ti2aHfo1j_Q
Summary of our journey to and from China: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORKM7-W_AxA