June 25, 2011

My Solo Flight to America!

By M'Lynn

People said I was crazy to travel back from China by myself with two kids. But, I had people to help along the way and only had to pass through one airport with happens to be one of the world's best. Harbin to Seoul, direct on China Southern was my first flight. The big challenge there happened right after saying goodbye to Jeremy. I was pushing the cart with my two bags to check, a backpack and a stroller while Kanyon and Corbin walked beside me. As soon as I turned the corner, I had to put all of the luggage through the x-ray machine by myself before I could even go to the check-in counter. Brilliant. So I threw the bags on the conveyor belt, rushed to the other side in time to toss them back on the cart as they came out the other side. And to tell the truth, I'm not quite sure what the boys were doing while I was juggling luggage. I think they were running in circles playing Lightening McQueen! That's the only time I wished I had Corbin on a leash. After checking in, I had the stroller, a backpack and a purse so the load was a lot more manageable through security.

It was a two hour flight to Seoul. We passed the time by exploring the airline magazines and safety info and eating bon-bons (weird little China bread-puff snacks we have named bon-bons. not chocolate) and slowly perusing the snack box offered on the flight. I didn't get out any of the interesting stuff I had in my backpack because I thought it best to keep all of the good stuff for the super long flight the next day. We were in the international transit section of the airport by 6 pm. We checked into the transit hotel, ditched the backpack in the room and headed out to find some food. Kanyon kept assuring me he was not hungry because he really wanted to play in the fun airport kid zone playground. I kept assuring him he needed to eat first! After scarfing down some really good burgers we were finally at the playground by 7 pm. This gave us about 45 minutes to play and let the boys get some energy out!

If I haven't said it already, I'm in love with the Seoul airport. They have a hotel that is INSIDE the airport. This means we get off the plane, get our boarding passes for the next morning at the transfer desk, breeze through a security check and we're good to go. No standing in line to clear customs or immigration (twice!). Then we get to goof off in an amazing airport complete with Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks and 4 different kiddie play areas to choose from. When the kids get sleepy we just roll on over to gate 43, take the elevator to the 4th floor and viola! We're in a hotel! They even have baby cribs for the little ones so we don't have to bring a pack-n-play!

So after a good night's sleep and peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast (leftover from lunch the day before...haha) we headed out to get coffee for mommy and then play. We enjoyed an hour of peace as I sipped my freshly brewed goodness, Kanyon made a new friend and Corbin slid down the slide. The big fun of the morning was abruptly ended when I had to go to the bathroom and discovered that it is not fun for kids to be hauled away from the play area and locked in the family bathroom. I hated to do it, but I couldn't leave them there and I also didn't want to sit in wet pants for the next 14 hours on the plane...haha. On the way to the gate Kanyon saw a little Korean Air transportation set (the same one he had been playing with earlier when he made friends with a boy who had the same set at the playground). The time was right for an impulse buy, and that little set saved the day. He played with his new airplane and trucks for HOURS on the plane! (but I wouldn't let him open in until we were in the air...delayed gratification is key on long flights!)

So we boarded the flight and found our seats on the bulkhead row, made friends with the lady and the 20 month old girl who were sharing the row and settled in for the long haul. Another travel note: if you're traveling with a lap-child, always call ahead and ask for a seat assignment. Otherwise, you'll be stuck in the middle of the huge plane with a kid on your lap, no access to the aisle and a sleeping man on either side (this happened to me before the first year before I figured it all out...) And, if you're traveling with kids, call ahead and order kids' meals! Korean Air offers great kids meals and they are so yummy and entertaining. Kanyon and Corbin both enjoyed a hambuger meal complete with fun finger foods and blueberry cheese cake. The flight attendants were a little confused when I kept turning down the regular meals (because they bring the kids' food ahead of time and I'd eat their leftovers). One of the flight attendants was particularly concerned that I was not eating so he brought me extra pizza snacks later in the flight...and bananas, too after I turned down meal number two! My strategy was that I'd fill up on the kids' leftovers so I didn't have to battle the lap-child while trying to eat my own food later! I guess he just thought I was starving myself.

The food was good, the on-demand entertainment systems in the back of the seats were awesome (Kanyon played mini-golf for an hour and watched a strange Korean cartoon for another hour), the seats were great. And it's a good thing, too because Corbin did not sleep a wink! Kanyon finally gave in and slept the last 30 minutes, but Corbin never did! I somehow managed to watch a whole movie (The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon if you must know), but I really have no idea how that happened. But again, the big challenge was going to the bathroom. If you ever find yourself on alone on a plane with two little kids, just know you can actually all three fit in the bathroom at one time! Put the smallest kid on the baby changing table (that is located directly over the toilet), you sit on the toilet, and the other kid stands in the corner. Then you do the hokey poky and you turn yourself around and the kid sits on the toilet. Then you change the baby's poopy diaper (way to go, Corbin) and that's what it's all about!

And as for the rest of the flight, I really don't know how I ever do it. Somehow, 12 or 13 or 14 hours or whatever it is passes by and I find myself on the other side of the world. I like to think of it like climbing a mountain. If the flight is 12 hours, I imagine myself climbing uphill the first 6 hours, have a little party when I reach the summit, then it's downhill for the last 6 hours! From time to time I also remind myself that people in China travel on trains for way longer than 12 hours (some of them without the luxury of a seat). So I've got it pretty darn good to be on a plane for half a day with people to serve me pizza!

The story ends with a smooth landing in Dallas, being annoyed while standing in line to clear immigration because I'm surrounded by people who just breezed off a flight from Cancun and have the gall to ask why my kid is crying. Oh dear. But, we had the nicest immigration officer ever who gave my kids "Cars" stickers and said "Welcome home." Finally. I finally got a "welcome home" after 3 years of entering the country through that same checkpoint! Finally. And, I only had to push the luggage cart about 20 meters before my mother-in-law saved the day by meeting me in Dallas and driving me the rest of the way!

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