Wow - where to begin. Today was our first day with the babies all day (on the plus side) and one of the worst days we've ever had. It was the travel day from hell and we're just now recuperating enough to write the post. To describe this as exhaustion would be just a good start!
We were picked up at 8:00AM for our morning flight. We went to the baby house and the Director greeted us to tell us Good Luck and that the babies were ready to go. Jim went upstairs to get Kai and Carla went to get Sierra. They hadn't dressed them yet (because it's so hot inside the baby house and there were many layers to put on them). Both kids had a dirty diaper so we needed to tend to that prior to dressing them. We took a minute to get them ready, packing them in about 4 layers of clothes. People here are very particular about the babies being extra warm outside. We had read from many people that they actually put them in snow suits to go outside in the summer months so you can imagine the paranoia in the winter.
We were finally ready and left the baby house for the airport (by the way, Kai did ok with a hat on his head but Sierra hated having one on - or a hood for that matter). Sierra did fine in the car on the way there. However, Kai was a little unsure of things. He started to fuss a little bit but Jim calmed him down and once the car got going, he did well (he didn't like it when the car stopped though - he'd start crying again). Once at the airport, we went in with the children and the drivers helped unload our baggage. Olga sent us upstairs to wait and they took care of checking us in. It's weird here how you don't need to be present to show your ID. They let Olga and the drivers check us in without seeing us - this would never fly in the US.
Things were going well upstairs (other than the flight being delayed somewhat - at this point). We walked the kids and they each fell asleep for a little while. We were stared at from all directions (and not in a good way). One elderly bitty (in her big fur coat and hat) actually came up and was trying to tell us that Sierra needed to be covered more. As it was she was sweating from all the clothes. We were told to expect total strangers to come up to us telling us how to care for the children (or actually to point out what you're doing wrong). The lady continued to stare at us after this.
Then the day of fun really started. Sierra had the biggest melt down we've ever seen. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and we couldn't figure out what was wrong. Olga and Masha were suggesting different things to try but nothing was good enough -- (keep in mind, at least 30 Kazaks were now glaring at us as if we were somehow hurting her)
- The juice was too cold and the nipple in the bottle was too small.
- Her diaper was clean.
- The food was too cold, but she finally took an entire jar.
After eating, she finally calmed down a little. However, by this point, someone at the airport had been notified and came up to see what the problem was. Thank goodness Assia, Masha and Olga were still with us. Since the flight was delayed (at this point, they were only delaying it by 30-45 minute increments), the lady took us to the family room in the airport. There was a bed, crib and some chairs. They also let another family come in (a pregnant lady, her husband and child). We were able to change diapers and get some food in them.
After probably an hour or so in the room, we got word that the flight was delayed until 5:00PM. Assia and Masha called the drivers to come get us and take us back to the apartments. They were in the middle of eating lunch, so they said they'd be a minute. In the meantime the kids were fussing. They hadn't had naps and it was turning in to a long day already. We were about to get a cab when they finally arrived.
Once at the apartment, we tried to put them down for a nap, which was a joke. They were just happy to be out of all the clothes they were in. We let all the sweaty clothes dry and played some. We also fed them (our goal was to keep them "over fed" so we didn't run into any more "food" fits). We were supposed to get picked back up around 4:20PM for the airport, but started getting calls pushing that back because of further delays. They finally came to get us about 5:00PM. We got back to the airport and waited some more. Sierra had additional meltdowns and was inconsolable. Finally after screaming her head off, Keely gave her some juice and she calmed down a little. They were so tired and cranky from being out of their routine.
Loading the plane is an adventure. They don't call row numbers here, have pre-boarding for business class or having children - it's a cattle drive and the vast majority of folks demand on being in front of the herd! The drivers stood in line for us so we didn't have to with the children. We squeezed in when it was our turn. This was now the point we were on our own. We said goodbye to everyone and headed down the stairs. It was a pain hauling off the carry ons and putting them through security while holding the kids. We were all pooped by this point. Everyone was still staring at us like we just killed someone - we were having loads of fun....
After waiting in a small smoke-filled room, they finally announced it was time to board. Everyone raced towards the door. We tried to get in the mix as best we could - no one cared that we had children, they kept pushing their way through. We had to walk outside to the plane and it was freezing - kids now crying again from the cold and commotion - (It's a lot to take for your very first time out of the Babyhouse) We walked around the side of the stairs to see if someone would let us up. Finally a nice older lady saw us and started shouting at those in front of her to let us in. One man held the mob back so we could get up the stairs. That guy will never know how thankful we were for helping us. We got up the stairs and told the lady we were in business class. The crappy plane they had brought to pick us up in didn't have business class. She did route us to the bulkhead seat in the front which was great. Jim and Carla settled in this row with the kids and Les sat behind them. There is no concept of waiting for you to put your bags away. People just keep pushing and pushing. We finally got settled.
In the meantime, Jason and Keely got to the stairs (still outside) and they were told the couldn't go up because there was something wrong with the stairs. They were stuck outside in the cold with the two babies and carryons. Because of the language barrier, they didn't know if they were being told that they couldn't get on the plane. Finally, they were let on. Jason grabbed the seat beside Les and Keely got the one behind him... at this point, baby and mom brought to tears by the situation.
Our flight was only an hour to our connection in Asterra. We were suppose to have to deplane with all our stuff and then reload. Les begged the flight attendant (who spoke some English) to let us stay on because of the kids. It was such a nightmare fighting the mob the first time, we couldn't imagine doing it again. It was already about 7PM at this point. She was so nice. After everyone deplaned, she brought the ticket agent on the plane and had him check out passports and tickets while we were on the plane. Jason and Keely were able to get the other bulkhead row beside us so they could spread out. We were able to feed the kids, change diapers etc. in between flights while no one was on the plane. This was the high of our day and we were extremely thankful to the flight attendant for bending the rules and allowing us to stay on the plane.
We had diapers changed and babies fed by time they loaded the plane again. At this point, it was 9:00PM or so. The flight to Almaty was touch and go. We were able to get the children to sleep some, but they would wake up and have a melt down. We now got to experience being on the other side of the screaming child and not being able to console them. It looked like a bomb went off in our row - between changing diapers on the tray table and bottles/toys everywhere. Needless to say, we didn't get to eat ourselves, but at this point, we didn't even feel the hunger. But we were almost ready to land in Almaty and we'd be asleep in a couple hours.... right?
When we were suppose to land (around midnight), the plane started to descend and then seemed to be circling. After a minute the pilot came on and announced something. The only thing we understood was the word Astana (which is the capitol). We found the English speaking flight attendant and asked her what was going on. She said there was a fog problem in Almaty so we were being re-routed to Astana for the night. We would arrive there in 1 1/2 hours. We're wondering what in the world we'd do. We don't speak the language and Carla's cave man Russian wouldn't get us that far. When we asked the flight attendant what would happen next, she said she didn't know - we would have to see when we landed.
We landed in Astana at about 2AM. So at this point, we've been up since 6:30AM, can't understand anything in Russian, and we don't know when we'll ever get to Almaty. All of us are now exhausted and beginning to feel sick due to the lack of food.
To be continued on January 14th page...
Pictures from today are below (notice that they start out with many smiles)