Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home, at last

After going to bed at about 2am this morning, I thought I would sleep until about 10. However, I woke up at 6, tossed and turned for about 15 minutes, and decided that I had better enjoy the morning while I can. Now, I am listening to the washing machine run, and nothing else. Complete and utter silence. It is a wonderful sound, for now at least. Bobby got tired of this sound over the past couple of weeks with no family. His entire system is about to go through shock!!!

I will briefly update you on my trip to "Amerrrrriki' as the kids call home. We left our apartment on Monday at 1pm Ukraine time (5am B'ham time). After going through customs in Kiev with new birth certificates, visas, and 25 pounds of documents, we were on our way. Our flight left on time, got to Amsterdam at about 8:30 pm, as scheduled, and we got something to eat (McDonalds's) before going to our hotel at the Amsterdam airport. Our hotel room was a "triple room", meaning 3 twin beds and was only for 3 people (I knew I would need to sneak 3 kids in). I left Kevin just outside the lobby area with the other 4 kids while I checked in. I received the key, motioned for Kevin to lead the way with everyone else and proceeded 3 doors down to our room. I opened the door, let everyone in, and knew immediately that not enough heads had come through the door. I turned around, looking into our room, and 4 pairs of eyes are looking at me through the dim light of the hallway. I asked Kevin, "Did everyone come in?" His answer was, "No, Keri Jo is out there somewhere." Great answer from my usually responsible son. I guess he would have just left her out there and told me later!!!! I go out of the room, to the lobby, and find Keri Jo standing by the railing that overlooks part of the airport. She was in her own little world; not afraid at being alone in a strange place, just standing and looking.
Once we got baths and settled in for the night, sleep came easily. The room was nice, and 4 of the kids were able to sleep in 2 of the beds that had been pushed together. Kevin slept in the floor, and I had the other twin bed.

We got up early the next morning (check out time was 9am), and I went to check in at the NWA/KLM service counter since the Kiev counter told me that I would need to check in there. Thankfully, everyone speaks English there and I was able to get a nice lady there who advised me that the tickets for the 3 new kids was issued incorrectly, but there were plenty of seats on the plane, and she corrected the mistake. I am so glad that we did not have the large-boned "Helga" at the next window who "Haccchhtted" to everyone that came to her (I am sure that you have heard the Dutch language). She must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and I felt sorry for all of the foreign travelers who went to the "service center" and ended up at her window!!!
We had lots of time to wait at the airport. Time went slowly, but we boarded and took off on time. After a 9 hours and 15 min flight, we exited the plane, glad to be on American soil (in Memphis). We proceeded to immigration services/customs with everyone else on the plane and were shown to a small room where others with passport problems, etc. are "interviewed" by gunned men and women in uniform. The kids behaved exceptionally here. I am not sure if they were tired, or afraid of the uniforms/guns. We waited for about 30-45 min, then proceeded to our gate. Upon arrival, the gate was full of people waiting to get on the small aircraft. As soon as the ticket agent saw me, he said, "You must be the Kemp family". I thought to myself, "Oh, how nice...He actually knows our name. He must have been advised by Immigration that we are on our way." How wrong I was!!! His next statement was, "Our flight has been oversold by 3 seats, and everyone else has checked in. I will try to find someone to give up their seat for you and your family". 2 "someone's" came forward willing to give up their ticket in exchange for a hotel room for the night and a credit voucher to be used to buy a later ticket. The 3rd "someone" did not materialize, even after the ticket agent went on the plane after all passengers had voided. The plane left without us on it. My spirits are still up, I am in Memphis and I can drive home.

Next, I proceed to the car rental kiosk. I began calling, "Do you have a rental car leaving tonight, one way to Bham, for 6 people?" What seemed to be a very easy task of renting a car and driving to Bham was beginning to look like it was not to be!!! I called every car company listed, but most companies were completely booked, some had no one-way service to Bham, and one only had a compact car. The last company that I spoke to was the national reservation # with Alama. Yessss!!!!! They had a minivan. We excitedly got on the shuttle to the off-site car lot, and went in the the lady standing at the counter. "Ma'am, I don't have a reservation for you." Those words that you never want to hear!!!! I am still not concerned and explained that the reservation had just been made. She called the national #, I spoke to another lady there and was told that my reservation had been made, but it had been made for November 2, 2010!!!! Yes, next year. The lady at the ticket counter looked at me, glanced at all 5 kids and said, "We don't have any kind of car for you." Now was the moment that everything was not all right and the outcome that I wanted looked bleak. I was going to have to spend the night in another hotel!!! My weariness and whatever-you-want-to-call-it, came forth and I started boo-hooing, right in front of this lady. I might show a lot of different emotions in these situations, but usually this is not one of them. However, I think that God knew what would work in this situation, and as usual, He is in ultimate control!!! This angel in front of me immediately said, "We will find you a car." She picked up the phone, made one call but no luck on the car. She left the counter, was gone 2 minutes, came back and asked for my driver's license and credit card. She told me that there were 2 minivans just outside the door, take my pick, the keys are in the car. The kids could not believe that they were going to ride in such a "royal" car, after seeing the small European ones all of their lives. As we left the car rental gate, I almost expected for a guard to stop me and tell me that it was a mistake, and that we needed to take the car back. But, no, I made it safely out of the gate, and to B'ham in about 3 hours, arriving home at about 11pm.
Once we arrived, it was like Christmas morning!!! Lots of ooohs and ahhhhs, running up and down the stairs, and the pulling of 2 teeth (Kolby). I am not sure what it is, but if you are adopted into this family, you must immediately lose some teeth (Katie also lost a tooth on the first night that she was here). So, in addition to it being like Christmas, the tooth fairy will get to visit!!! Bobby was able to meet the plane that we were supposed to be on (our luggage made it), retrieved our luggage, and partied with church friends that had come to meet us for the first time!! He was able to call other family and friends to let them know about our delay. Thank you all so much for your out-pouring of love and support, not just yesterday, but for the last 5 weeks!!!

So, what started as an adventure, has ended with an adventure!! We are all home, under one roof. Bobby had done an amazing job with cleaning the house, changing beds, etc. in preparation for our home-coming. The kids had "Welcome home" signs and balloons and a few gifts that others had brought. It was all such a welcoming sight, and it smelled like home. There truly is no place like home!!! Now, I am drinking coffee, waiting for the pitter-patter of little feet.

NOT!!!! You obviously don't know how loud newly adopted Ukrainian children are - their voices and their feet!!!!! Can't wait until they get up!!!


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