Thursday, June 16, 2011

Visit to Belgium (part 1: why we should carry a rattle when travelling)

I promised earlier that I would write more about our visit to Belgium. There is so much to tell. I could spend a whole post on our journey. As always (we should carry rattles and cry out 'unclean' so people can hastily try and change their flights if they see us coming, there were some troubles. The first one only affected us. After my husband and I had to switch seats because the baby had to sit on the side of the plane with two seats, because of a pressure mask issue in case of an emergency, I forgot that I had unloaded some stuff already in the seatpocket. Of course after we had moved seats and trying to shepherd two children and enough carry on lugage to survive a European trip out of the small plane that brought us to Chicago, I forgot about the little pouch I had put in the seatpocket of my previous chair. And Bill, knowing he had not put anything in there, didn't check.

So in Chicao, I realized I was missing a pouch which contained two lipsticks, one mascara, some desinfecting wipes and.. my car keys, housekeys and keys to our church. Ouch. Especially the first. Because well.. how would we get BACK after our journey? And to top things off, this was one of those fancy smart keys that don't look like a key but cost over a hundred dollars to reproduce. Ouch.

Well, it was in a seatpocket. Clearly it would be found when they cleaned the plane, right? I mean, a three zippered, zebra striped fabric pouch would attract some notice, right? Up to our next flight. Which was delayed. Not that much. Just half an hour. We managed to keep the children calm and happy and preboarded. (Never preboard with children if you can avoid it. It just makes them sit strapped in longer. We only did it because we had to board with a car seat which makes it harder to get through if the plane is full.
Unfortunately after we had boarded and then everybody else had boarded... we did not move. We did not move for TWO HOURS, with strapped up children and not allowed to use electronics. First there was a storm over head, then the storm moved ahead to our prospective route, so we had to start in another direction to go around it, but of course we had to wait to get in line for taking off. This all added two hours to a 7 hour journey in a small metal tube with two children under four that were not allowed out of their seats.
Luckily they were pretty good travellers. They even slept for a few hours. No problems with passport controle or customs and we even got a number to call to the airlines lost and found in chicago. My mother waited for us and all seemed to be okay.

Seemed. We called lost and found and of course did not get to speak to a real person. There is an answering machine where you can record your lost item and they will call you back if they find it. So, don't call us, we'll call you. Maybe.
Despite fervent prayers to St. Anthony, no reply call or email. We try again a few days later. No reply, no phonecall, no email.
We need to find solution. Because without the key, we can not get home. It is a one and a half hour drive from the airport to our house. Since we have the security code of the key we hope a local toyota dealer might be able to replicate it for us. No luck. They can apparently only replicate the key, if they also have the car! We have a spare key of course, but that is in our house.
We are trying to think of solutions. A motelroom for me and the kids while Bill takes the shuttle home after a 24 hour journey and then turns around to pick us up the next day just does not sound doable. All four of us on the shuttle home would add another 200 dollars to the expense.
I get an epihphany! The mail! We are here for a full month. We will mail our housekeys (my husband's set, mine are gone with the pouch) to our neighbours. They will go in our house (and unfortunately witness the total chaos in there) get our carkey and mail it back to us. It sounds like a good plan. The neighbours are contacted, willing and able so our housekeys go in the mail. And take a detour apparently, because they appear at the neighbours house so late, it's just not safe anymore to mail something back, not even express! Especially since some tickets a friend of us has send us in the mail have completely dissapeared in the mean time. So now our neighbours have the keys, but how to get them in our hands by the time we arrive? We contemplate for a moment having them send to an airline representative on the airport but by now we are terrified of the mail messing one more thing up and then we would have NO more car key.

God be praised for great friends. After some searching around (since I can't use it in Belgium, I didn't bring my cellphone, which has all those easy contacts at hand that you would love to have with you in such cases), I find the number of my friend and fellow Youth Minister Anne. She is immediately prepared to drive up to Charlotte for an hour and a half to bring us the keys on the journey back. After a few more contacting issues, everything works out.

Our journey back is only marred by a child (not ours) screaming almost continuously (remember, this is over 8 hours of flying on that first flight back). We try to be patient and remember: there but by the grace of God go I. Another passenger is not thinking those thoughts though, and shoots off his chair, stomps over and demands of the mother who is cradling a baby in her lap, in a shout that she does something to keep the kid quiet. At that time, the father (didn't realize he was travelling with them too, but he was sitting in a seat a row further with a third child) shot up too, and the two men look ready to do battle. Air hostesses quickly descend upon the scene but for a minute, I sit transfixed and fear this plane is going to have to make an emergency landing due to out of control passengers.

The rest of our journey was actually uneventful. Next time though, I am bringing that Rattle. In comparison of some of our earlier journeys however, this one was actually.. tame. Somewhat.

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