Sunday, October 26, 2008

There's No Place Like Home...

After a whirlwind trip and the Saturday that would never end... I am safe at home! Rhonda and I left the Vlad Motor Inn at 1:30pm on Saturday 10/25 - Vladivostok time. Since they are 15 hours ahead of Michigan - that's 10:30pm Friday night at home!

The trip was not without it's small hiccups. At the super modern (sarcasm) Vlad airport, there was a "system problem" (all we could get given the language barrier) and Rhonda's boarding pass wouldn't print. They hand wrote her a boarding pass for that leg of the flight and told her to see an agent in Seoul. (However, to add to the mystery, all of the bags were able to be checked under her name!)

Upon arrival in Seoul, we were once again pushed and shoved (and literally CLIMBED over) on the plane by our Russian comrades. That was probably the most odd thing about the trip. I had been warned about this by the fabulous Jesse and Jason (who should, by the way, write a book on travel tips to Vlad as they nailed EVERYTHING!), but it's the most offsetting thing to actually experience. We made it off the plane and were ready to start locating our next gate, when we realized that time was not on our side. We had to do the proverbial OJ Simpson through the airport (and I don't mean holding someone up at gunpoint!) to get to our next gate, which we decided was far enough away to be in Japan, not Korea. We made it in time to get Rhonda's new boarding passes and collapse in our seats.

Touching down in Atlanta was a welcome sight. We dined at TGI Fridays (food!), and the bathrooms actually had TP (more on that later). At the gate, we splurged for the $75 upgrade to 1st class, which turned out to be so worth the money. As we started heading out the runway in Atlanta, we had not quite reached full speeds yet (but almost), when suddenly the captain slammed on the brakes and pulled off the runway. Apparently some warning indicators had turned on, and they wanted to check it out. Thanks Delta! It turned out to be nothing, and while the delay was annoying, it's good to be home safely.

Some general musings from Vladivostok:
1) The city is very cool. Being right on the Sea of Japan, the bay views are amazing. It was foggy there many mornings, although we weren't so sure that some of that wasn't pollution. No EPA there...
For anyone who has traveled in Europe, the city could look like almost any major European city. Lots of apartment buildings that look old and run-down on the outside, but are likely kept up well inside. They max every inch of space!
2) Traffic Devices... or the lack there of! We saw a total of about 4 traffic signals in the downtown area. Now this is a city of 700,000+, not 7000. No stop signs, etc. Road lanes, sidewalks, etc are merely a suggestion.
The trip downtown was probably 15-20 miles, but would normally take 45 minutes to an hour because of the complete chaos on the roads. You want to turn? Just edge out, someone is bound to stop (right?). It's the ultimate game of chicken. AMAZING. And not for the faint of heart!
3) Toilet Paper - my new best friend. You don't know what you've got until you loose it, right? Oh yes! People told me to bring TP on the trip - and I did... but until you experience this, you can't actually believe it. Public bathrooms are lucky to have toilet seats (yes, seats) and NEVER have paper.
4) It's getting hot in here... maybe it's just me because I tend to be scrimpy on the heat in the winter (old house!), but MAN do they like the heat. The baby home was kept at about 80-85 degrees. The Korean air flight had to be about 80 degrees. Same with Scary Tatiana's office. The weather was very comparable to fall here - about 55-65 each day, yet I rarely wore my coat...

More later, I am sure, but I have two kitties who are begging for attention. Roo (the giant beast!) slept with me all night, and I awoke to 7 toys delivered to the side of my bed. It's good to be home!!

12 comments:

Barb said...

Glad you made it back to your home safe and sound. I have enjoyed reading about meeting your daughter, and am very happy for you. BTW, you're very funny:)

Tiger & Kar said...

Welcome home! What an adventure - - any idea what your total flight time was? Are you going to have to do medicals in Moscow or do they do them in Vlad since the two cities are so far from each other? How's the jetlag?

Anyway, very glad your home. This post was great. Love your sense of humor!

Nichole said...

Yeah, home again home again, jiggy d jig!! Glad you are home safe and sound! Love hearing all the details of your trip. Thanks for sharing.

Charlotte in Pa said...

Welcome home!

Amy D. said...

Glad to hear you are safe and sound on American soil!!!

Sara said...

We had the best time with you two!
I'm glad to see you've made it home safely. Hope you recover from the jetlag soon! We've been trying to sleep it away all day! :)

Anonymous said...

Yay! Welcome home you seasoned Russian Traveler!

Now you have experienced the heartbreak, the rush, the love at first sight, the last minute bombshell they drop before you see your little one, the smell, pushing and shoving, the running across Incheon because you have 15 minutes to get through security and make it to your plane.... AHHHHHHH! the Russian "smile," the high tech Vlad international Airport, (I actually love the place now) and the best of all meeting your daughter!!!!

Congratulations! You have survived the first half of your journey.

We had such travel drama (including a missed Korean flight from LAX to Korea (imagine missing your flight!) that we have now totally prepared in case of just about anything. Running shoes for the airport, all luggage must have wheels, carry everything u need on the plane, bring a video camera to catch those precious travel drama moments (like missing your flight to VLAD and spending the night in LAX baggage claim to get your suitcase back!!!) and water bottle!

We even had plane drama over Vlad, where we couldn't land because of turbulence. We had to turn around and land in Yangyang, Korea to refuel, where there is no "real" airport. We were flying with a plane full of Russian dock workers. Let's just say we didn't bond or blend! lol

It all went well though! You have signed the important paperwork for your daughter and sooner than you know, you will travel back for your court date, and you will be able to scoop up your little girl and bring her to her new home! Time to start that nursery and get your online baby shower happening!

So you better start having some talks with your kitties and apologize to them right now because they will be really "loved" by your little toddler! She will love to pull their paws and tails... lol I say my cats deserve it for waking me up 3 times a night...

And we got NO GIFTS from our cats! Just complaints for more food! That's ok, Alina is learning where kitties' eyes and nose and tail are... hee hee

We are so happy for you! A book? Maybe both of us will collaborate!

Best, Jesse + Jason

jeanette wunderly said...

Welcome Home! Can't wait to read more and see more pictures! I learn so much by reading blogs of what to expect on this crazy journey. Thanks for sharing.

Lea said...

Amy sorry I missed you at the Vlad Motor Inn. We were so very thankful to finally get there. We were at the Artom Baby Home. Hope you enjoyed your visits with your child!!

Le

Little Patch of Heaven said...

Glad you made it home. Love the details of your trip. It reminds me so much of our trips away from Moscow. I had forgotten about the toilet seats. This made me chuckle. Take care and hope to hear more:)

Roger and Joanne said...

Nice to meet your blog. I'm with the same agency as Mike & Heidi and that is who I found your blog through. Yea....what is up with all that heating? Weird. We hope to soon be traveling to Vlad for a girl ourselves. Hope your wait won't be too long. As another mentioned...your humor comes through in the blog. Very funny!

-Joanne

Troy and Rachel said...

The title of your post has it down pat! I'm glad you are home safe!