Phew! What a trip! It was really great seeing everybody but we are thoroughly exhausted from traveling. Thank you to everyone who sheltered us and took the time to see us! We really enjoyed our time with people but between getting to the USA, traveling within and heading back home, we are going to put a hiatus on traveling for a while and perhaps having our Xmas trips in October or something to avoid the holiday traffic.
Ok so let’s summarize the craziness of our international travel! The winter storm in the Midwest really did not do us any favors. It was like a precision sniper attack on our trip plans because Sunday looked fine and Tuesday looked fine…it was just Monday that went to shit. There was supposed to be 5-8 inches of snow and ice and yeah, it really came down on Monday.
Blah! We woke up around 8 and found out our plane from Des Moines to Chicago was cancelled. We tried to book another but we were super late to the game as all the other airlines leaving out of DSM had all been booked. So, we decided to call upon our travel insurance…super smart idea btw when traveling internationally…tip of the hat to Teresa on that one…well our travel insurance said that their policy covered rebooking within 3 days of the canceled flight. The soonest they could get us out of Des Moines was January 1st so to hell with that because we would have gotten back here on the 2nd and we have to work the 4th. Instead, they offered us a full refund, which we took, and cancelled all 3 of our flights. Panic began to slowly set in but we kept our heads cool and thought of a new plan: drive to Chicago O’Hare and fly out there because there are so many international flights out of O’Hare we can find SOMETHING to get us back to Amsterdam. I wanted to leave during the winter storm and catch an evening flight but Teresa was against that, which was probably a good idea since we saw tons of cars in the ditches along I-80 when we left the next day.
So, we got up a 5:45 am CST, left by 6:15 am, got to O’Hare around 12 pm via driving in an SUV. By the time we got there, we were totally feeling like crap but at least dropping the car off was easy. Next, we hopped into a shuttle to the airport but the guy forgot to stop by the international terminal!! When we started doing another round, I mentioned it to him and he apologized. Another couple was also trying to get to that terminal too and were stuck making the extra loop with us. We pulled up to Aer Lingus (Irish airlines) and got our tickets pretty easy and then entered the security checkpoint line. So there were four lines that made L-shapes with the X-ray check at the short end of the L and they were all stacked inside each. A smart person would say, “hey, I should take the innermost line because it would geometrically have the shortest length to the X-ray” and at the time the point of entrance of all the lines was at the same place. Well, Paul didn’t think of that because Paul was beyond caring and wasn’t thinking too good and took the outside line, which was geometrically the longest distance. Turns out I made a smart choice as there was a flight leaving to India and for SOME REASON there were about 40-50 passengers over the period of 30 minutes (flight leaving in 40 minutes) who hadn’t gotten through the X-ray so the staff expedited those passengers by having them cut in front of the people in lines 1 and 2. We bypassed all that trouble so while it was the longest line, it was one of the shorter ones for us…guess line 3 would have been fine too and bit shorter but AH WELL…I was tired!!
We got through the checkpoint at roughly 2 pm CST and then ate a stupidly expensive lunch which consisted of a small hamburger each, 4 bao buns total, and a few potstickers for like $35. After we got to the Aer Lingus terminal I began noticing how Irish many of the people looked. A lot of the older ones looked like granny (mom’s mom) and it wasn’t just the abundance of people with red hair, it was the faces, eyes, nose, shape of head…it just felt very Irish. Now onto the red hair. Holy crap there were a lot of red-headed people. I know in general it is rare but in that terminal it didn’t seem so rare and I know that’s to be expected but it’s different when seeing every 10th person with red hair. So we boarded our plane on time around 3:30 pm and got off the ground close to 4:30 pm. There was a small delay but we made it up during the flight due to our crazy strong tail wind (125 mph). The ride there was plenty peaceful. Not enough for me to sleep but that’s because I have a hard time sleeping upright like that. Teresa slept a little but we ended up watching a movie (American Ultra…I liked it a lot more than I was expecting to) and then later I watched as Teresa played a game on her tablet. The airline had a solid selection of music because I created a 3.5 hour long playlist and just jammed out the rest of the time. Now, landing was scary shit. We hit some crazy winds. Our tail wind turned into a strong head wind as soon as we flew over Ireland. As we descended we were thrown up and down a lot. I could see Teresa turning pale and she was in a full cold sweat trying not to vomit. I almost never ever ever get motion sick but I was feeling not so good either. I’m amazed she didn’t lose it there, I had my hand on the bag in case it happened. The scariest part was just before landing because I could tell the pilots were struggling to keep the plane level as it descended and looking out the window I could tell we were at a really really bad angle (the plane was tilted too much) for landing. I’ve never really been scared to fly and don’t have much fear in a plane crashing in general but seeing the angle and how close we were to the ground I began to worry we were going to have trouble walking out of it. The pilots corrected about 50 feet above ground and we made a rough but successful landing. Teresa was soaked all around in sweat and was cold and clammy. (Teresa: Thanks for dealing everyone how gross I looked! :p) We got off the plane and immediately rehydrated. At this point, we were all out of whack emotionally and physically. It was 5 am in Ireland, 11 pm CST. We had roughly a 2 hr layover in Dublin and then a 1 hr flight to Amsterdam. We couldn’t sleep well in the terminal so we stayed up more and then our plane was delayed 1/2 hour.
Back to the redheads…I thought the O’Hare terminal had a lot…in Dublin there were even more!! SO MANY REDHEADS! We left Dublin on a much smoother ride but AGAIN I got stuck next to a crying baby. I thought this baby was going to be cool because during the whole layover it was super chill and then when we began to take off…screaming in my ear. The baby was hot and cold too…like 10 minutes of screaming followed by 5 minutes of peace and happiness then back to the crying and screaming. I couldn’t even feel angry anymore. I just imagine moms traveling alone for as long as we do with a small baby and then I begin to realize that this is when a mother’s infinite patience is developed. The mom the whole time never lost her cool, never got angry, tried to make the baby smile again and apologized to the people sitting next to her. I felt incredibly amazed by her and impressed by her depth of caring and love for her kid. I don’t know if I could muster that kind of patience and love under the conditions we had had but probably I could. So even though the baby made it difficult for me, I couldn’t be angry because there was someone who was having it much more difficult than me.
The plane to AMS was very smooth and we landed and got our bags by 11:00 am (4:00 am CST +1 day). Customs was a breeze and I was again reminded by the Dutch propensity to tease and crack jokes. Made me feel at home again haha. It really did feel good to be back in the Netherlands and I really liked hearing Dutch again. I know we aren’t great at it yet but it felt good to be presented by the challenge of what they are saying. It’s rewarding because we can pick up the general message of things which is a nice feel. I need to regain my courage to speak it again though so class will help with that on Monday. We got on a train by 11:30 am back to Nijmegen and arrived here by 1 pm (6 am CST +1 day). Now we had been awake for ~24 hours with at most 1-2 hours of rest. The weather here is totally amazing! It’s in the mid-50s and sunny and feels just great! We got to our apartment and found a blasted wasteland from the Barf-ocalypse. The cats puked everywhere except for our bedroom, which was closed the whole time. I had never seen so much vomit and it all happened in the past 4 days as our cat sitter said there was none before she left to go back home (and we trust her because she’s a really good person). So this is what happens when the cats move from wet food to dry food. Most of the puke had undigested food in it. I also saw the holy monument to The Great Shedding whereby cats asexually reproduce by shedding enough fur to accumulate the mass required for cat sentience to spontaneously form inside the furry proto-cat. I spent the next 45 minutes cleaning puke off everything by peeling it off with a knife, scooping up the bits and then washing it thoroughly with a wet rag. Teresa took care of Mountain of Poop, which had achieved never-before-seen altitudes. I then worked on the nearly formed proto-kitty by brushing the fur off the pillow and then throwing the pillowcase in the wash. The cats really missed us and couldn’t stop being around us. They were also looking worse for wear too so we brushed them and the result was another proto-kitty looking like it was about to achieve critical mass but we stopped it just in time
Afterwards, we could finally sit down. Teresa went to get some snacks and then I ordered dinner and we watched Rush Hour. We tried to stay up as late as we could, which was about 7:30 pm (1:30 pm CST +1 day) and then crashed. I slept very very well. I love this bed and it was great to be home again. I got up around 3:30 am and went to play some games and then went back around 8 to sleep until around 10:30. Teresa slept the whole night and got up around 8 (good for her). We are super jetlagged today and I suspect it will be some days before everything is back to normal.
Sometime last week we got a message from the State Department about Dutch New Year’s saying that fireworks are legal and often much more powerful than American fireworks. Also, it said the Dutch throw them in the street, at cars, at bicyclists and walkers. We asked our Dutch catsitter if that was true when she dropped off the keys and she totally, whole-heartedly agreed. She said she doesn’t go outside on New Year’s Eve because mostly it’s the kids that do that crap. Today the city sounds like a warzone. The firecrackers (mostly gunpowder, none of the colorful stuff yet) are going off every 5-10 minutes and they are LOUD. I have no idea how much gunpowder is in there but it’s gotta be a lot. We had one go off right outside our apartment and it gave me a jump. It sounded like somebody discharged a shotgun into a car tire and the tire exploded. It is damn loud!! Next year, I’m going to have to get me some of that stuff!! Well now we’re relaxing and going to continue to take it easy the next couple of days until we get over this jetlag and work starts again. Have a happy New Year’s!!
A $10,000 plane ticket
Just a note from Teresa here. In our search for plane tickets we found one so ridiculous I had to take a picture. It was for Monday afternoon leaving Des Moines, but look how much American Airlines wanted for a single ticket: $10,424!!!
I looked at the details and it was 3 flights, two were First-Class tickets and the third was business class. Still, I don’t know how the hell you justify those prices! I said it better come with a personal masseuse, 3 course meal, and full size bed for that! And the first class cabin better have a gold toilet or something.