How in the firey blazes of Hades are we going to carry all this stuff? We are somehow going to manage the transportation of two small children, two car seats, a stroller, four carry-ons, and five 70 lb. suitcases. How? I don’t know but we’ve got to do it through 4 airports with just my husband and me. But I take solace in the fact that we are not the first military family to undergo this feat, nor will we be the last. In the now immortal words of our Commander in Chief, “YES WE CAN!”.
So began our journey to Okinawa. We flew from my husband’s hometown in Iowa to Raleigh (with a layover) since the military wouldn’t fly us out of our leave location. From Raleigh we flew to Washington Dulles. For those of you not familiar with airport names, that’s Washington D.C. not Washington State. From Dulles we flew 14 hours to Tokyo, and from Tokyo to Okinawa.
6 coach class flights later, we arrived after dark in Naha Okinawa. But not without much adventure in between. Saying goodbye to our families was difficult but not as horrible as I anticipated. My mom and mother-in-law were a mess, but that’s to be expected as their children and grandchildren move to the other side of the planet.
As our wheels left the tarmac, lifting off for Tokyo, I had a small breakdown with the realization that this is going to be the last time I will be on American soil for a while. And let me tell you, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Tears fell for about 10 minutes until the gravity of my current situation hit me. We. Are. Stuck. On. A. 14. Hour. Flight. With 2 young kids.
All said and done our flight wasn’t bad. There were individual tv consoles in the backs of all the head rests. Our flight attendant has a daughter who is married to a military man and lives overseas, so he made it his personal mission to take good care of us for the entire flight, and boy did he. We got first class treatment. Free drinks, free tv and movies, and pretty much anything else we wanted. If for any reason he ever reads this, bless his soul. He is probably the reason we survived the trip a little less worse for the wear.
It was the end of the long flight that brought about the most drama. The baby and I drank some milk. We both got sick. She barfed twice about 30 minutes prior to landing, so she and her car seat smelled like puke. Then as we were in our final approach for landing, the waves of nausea were pouring over me. No sooner did we land than I was in the plane lavatory losing most of what was in my stomach.
I managed to get off the plane and to customs where I thought I was going to be sick on the floor, and the Tokyo airport does NOT use their air conditioner liberally. Not to mention that, but as you approach customs, there is an announcement that anyone with illness should report to the “health office” aka, where they quarantine your sick ass until they are certain you won’t infect the population of Japan with some terrible disease. The only thought running through my mind was “If they quarantine me we will miss our flight to Okinawa, and Andrew will be PISSED.”.
So there I am standing in front the of the customs agent, attempting with every last ounce of my strength to be normal while I am sweating through my clothes, trying like crazy not to blow chunks, all the while I’m holding the baby who smells like puke. How was I going to explain that my issue was not due to some infectious disease, but a mild case of food poisoning in addition to the fact that I’m having a panic attack due to the whole prospect of possibly being quarantined. And anyone who has ever had a panic attack knows that it does not make nausea any easier to bear. I’m pretty sure the Japanese would not be very understanding of a mother and a baby trying to enter the country whilst vomiting.
Finally we made it through customs and had to pick up our luggage from our international flight in order to report to the domestic flights counter to check our bags for our flight to Okinawa. My dear, dear, wonderful husband collected all of our stuff while I spent 20 more minutes in the airport restroom puking my guts out.
Eventually we made it to the terminal for our last flight where my amazing husband took care of the kids while I slept on the floor for an hour. Our last flight was short, and uneventful, and I was feeling slightly better because I had nothing in my stomach except a little bit of water and a sedative. We landed in the dark, and the last thing I remember was pouring myself into bed in our hotel room on base.
That was literally and figuratively the longest trip I’ve ever taken. The memory makes me shudder, and I thank God every day that it’s over. Thank goodness there were many better things to come!