Monday, July 30, 2012

Move to Turkey - Part Deux

Saturday, July 29th The Big Move – Part Deux.
Having survived the leaving Texas portion of this move, our heroine now turns her attention and experience to the arriving in Turkey part of the move.

The trip actually went very well, all things considered. A whole lot of things that could have gone wrong didn't. And a lot of things went surprisingly right.
Tuesday the 24th was our last day at the house on Culberson Station. All our household goods had been loaded into 12 wooden crates on a flatbed semi and departed on Monday. We had eaten dinner with the Tangs, the Starleys and the Cases, enjoying one last evening with good friends we will miss. Then Tuesday morning we left Carson and Rory in the hotel room and took the older two back to the house to finish things up. The Relief Society ladies came to help clean. Geoffrey and Brannick painted and swept the garage. The house was ready to go by noon and we dropped the older two back at the hotel with some cash and instructions to walk to one of several fast food places nearby and get some lunch for everyone. (Its lovely having older children.)
Geoffrey and I headed to the airport to pick up Evan, who had been visiting his Riggs grandparents and going with them on a trip to San Diego in anticipation of his upcoming 10th birthday. We were able to squeeze in this tradition the very last week of our time here. We got him from the flight attendant with praises of his good manners and took him along for the rest of the day. He told us about the flights (his first) and the exciting adventures he had in San Diego.

The rest of the day was just the house inspection, the carpet cleaners (praise to the man who can get sharpie marker out of a cheap carpet!) and trying to shut off utilities and such. We took the kids for dinner at a deli restaurant I'd had a gift card for since Christmas and then hit Half-Price Books for a book on CD to listen to in the car, some Mad-Libs for Evan for the plane ride and a coloring book for Rory. We also had to go buy yet another piece of luggage so we could combine Rory and Evan's duffle bags. We ended up leaving their smaller ones in the hotel room.

On Wednesday we got up at 5:30 am and loaded all 14 suitcases on top of and in the back of the Excursion. The new luggage rack worked great. After all the suitcases were strapped onto it we wrapped it in some industrial plastic wrap made for that purpose.

After a quick trip to the hotel breakfast bar for some scrumptious breakfast sandwiches (the best we've ever tasted), we got on the road to Dallas about 7:30 am. The drive went well, with the total failure and shredding of the plastic wrap being the only snafu.

On arriving in Dallas, Geoffrey dropped the kids and I off at the hotel, unloaded all our luggage and went to take the car to the Vehicle Processing Center for shipment. This turned out to be a 5 hour ordeal in a hot warehouse which included getting the car washed, the gas drained, and talking the officials down from a $1650 fee for an oversize vehicle (something we had not been told about) to a $750 fee. Ouch!
Meanwhile, I bought Hot Pockets and sodas for lunch at the hotel sundries shop. With no transportation and no stores/restaurants within easy walking distance, this was the first of many overpriced, desperate meals on our trip. The hotel had a laundry so I washed all the dirty clothes our family of 7 had produced since Monday – a surprising amount. And then took the kids swimming in the indoor pool. We were the only ones using it, which was good since my children were very loud and wore themselves out trying to see whose cannon ball could splash the ceiling and how long they all had to swim walk around the inside edge of the pool before it turned into a massive whirlpool. They were also quite proud that they caught a spelling error on the pool signage – Children SHOUD not use the pool without adult supervision. 
 It was posted on very professional looking signs in two places. Apparently someone at Homewood Suites corporate shoud not make signs without supervision.

The hotel served a complimentary weeknight dinner so we dined on yummy fajitas in the lobby. Geoffrey joined us as we were eating dinner. We compared notes and decided that I had certainly had the easier of our two afternoons. That evening we repacked, re-weighed and re-carted all the luggage downstairs to a room off the lobby. We had scheduled the shuttle for 6 am the following morning to get us to the airport.

Thursday morning we all got up sometime in the five o-clock hour and stumbled down to the lobby where we grabbed some muffins and bagels and piled into the hotel shuttle van with all our stuff. The driver suggested he drop us off at the curb side baggage check. We had planned to dump it all on the pavement, send Geoffrey and boys to get multiple luggage racks and then cart everything upstairs but his plan seemed much simpler. So a wonderful American Airlines employee checked all our luggage and printed our boarding passes within 5 feet of where the driver had dropped us off. He was also kind enough to put priority tags on our suitcases, ensuring they would come off the plane first in Baltimore where we needed to re-check them. Once upstairs in the security line we also discovered he had given us priority access through security, allowing us to by-pass a huge line in favor of a much shorter one. That $20 tip was money well spent and we probably should have given him more.

With Evan now an experienced air traveler, only Rory had a first time run through security and other airport adventures. But I think all the kids got a thrill from holding their individual passports for each check-in. They kept wanting someone to stamp it, which wouldn't happen until we got here to Turkey. All the kids handled the airport wait and boarding well and the first flight from Dallas to Baltimore went quickly and smoothly. Rory sat next to Geoffrey and I and kept busy with coloring books and a craft project I had stuck in his backpack (thank you Hobby Lobby).

When we arrived in Baltimore, another fortuitous airport employee offered to use his massive luggage cart to take all our bags from the baggage claim of one terminal to the check-in counter of another. When we reached the international terminal we were greeted by a sea of brown military uniforms. Young servicemen and women dressed in uniform with matching duffle bags, sitting, standing and lying in the longest check-in line you have every seen. And the check-in process hadn't even begun yet! Luckily it did begin only about 20 minutes after we got there and they checked families in separately from the servicemen. This check-in was slightly different in that we had to weigh not only our 14 suitcases but also all our carry-on bags and ourselves! Well, we had to give our body weights anyway. Apparently, they calculate something based on total weight.

After we were all checked in we had lots of time to kill. Lunch was the first order of the day and we found a Samuel Adams Brewery restaurant outside of security where we got a reasonable lunch at unreasonable prices. Thank goodness for per diem funding per family member! It was a pretty good lunch with good service though and except for yours truly spilling a full glass of ice water in my lap (I do this occasionally to reassure my children that everyone spills) the meal was pleasant. 

We found a nice area in the international terminal to camp out for a while and played cribbage, did craft projects, and made final phone calls including one to get our cell phone service turned off. As the departure time drew closer we went through security again, found another place to hang out near our gate, played canasta and charged all our electronics. Just before boarding we decided to get dinner and spent $86 dollars on 7 personal pizzas and 7 bottled waters. See what I mean?

They boarded families first again and so we entered and got settled in our row. We had the three seat row on one side and the whole middle 4 seat row. Unfortunately, the plane had some electrical issues and so we all sat in the plane at the gate with no air conditioning for far too long, about 40 minutes before they got things fixed and were able to leave the gate. Now I never begrudge aircraft mechanics for being thorough, even cautious in their maintenance and repair of any plane I will be flying on. But we all did get very uncomfortable and even when we were up in the air the temperature never did get low enough to feel cool again. Feeling hot the whole time made the 7 hour flight very very long. But we managed. Geoffrey had brought along Benadryl for Rory and Evan, which allowed both of them to get lots of sleep. In fact, Rory was so deeply asleep that we had to carry him off and back on the plane during our stopover in Germany. The rest of us snoozed when we could, watched movies, read and made the best of being confined in a small space for a very long time. The flight was completely full so there was no chance of being able to stretch out at all. 

Our stopover in Germany was short and hot. I'm not sure Germans do air conditioning normally as theirs is not a hot country but I sure would have appreciated it in the very small, very crowded terminal where we waited for the plane to be cleaned and re-stocked. Once back in the plane we had another electrical problem and another sauna-like wait on the tarmac. This time lasting almost 2 hours. It was miserable!!! I was so glad that Rory stayed asleep through all of this because there just wouldn't have been enough cheese for all that whine! Actually all the children on the flight stayed quiet during this ordeal. I suspect we weren't the only parents administering Benedryl that day. The rest of us bore it as best we could. We had some very grumpy faces but the older kids valiantly refrained from complaining for the most part.

Remember how I sewed snuggle quilts for Rory and Evan to use on our trip? All those cold airplanes and airports where a nice Mom-made quilt would be just the thing? Well . . .not so much needed on our adventure, although Rory did get his out and sleep under it for part of the second flight where it did finally get coolish in the cabin.

We had hoped that the second leg would be less crowded and allow us to spread out a bit more but that didn't happen. Fortunately, this last flight was only about 3 hours and a few of us were finally able to get some sleep. There comes that point where your body is so tired that it just doesn't matter how non-conducive the circumstances are, you will sleep.

On arriving in Turkey we actually disembarked the plane out on the tarmac, allowing us to see just how huge this plane was. I wish we could've taken a picture but that is not allowed on the flight line of any base. After a short wait through a customs/passport official line during which the much anticipated stamps were issued, we gathered our luggage and walked outside to meet our new home base.



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