The excitement was palpable in the apartment this morning. The skies over Kiev were grey but the light from the boys’ eyes was enough to brighten any room. Arms spread wide they reminded us with questioning faces that today was the day for the airplane… wasn’t it?!
They ate eat hardly any breakfast. We offered big bowls of oatmeal with sliced apple in it, food quite familiar from the orphanage. They barely touched it. We managed to slide half a banana into each one and a juice box, but that was about all.
Niko arrived right on time to heft the heavy suitcase down five flights of stairs to the van.
Benjamin cried and whined and begged Mama not to make him ride in the car again. He’s definitely associated it with feeling sick. There was no way around it, so we shoe horned him in and Jen sat with a ziploc bag at the ready. Thankfully, we didn’t need it.
We arrived with a full two hours before our flight and not a moment to spare.
The lines were long and the never ending stream of paperwork to get the boys home continued. Jen looked nervously at me when the agent asked for a letter from Dad giving her permission to travel with the boys. She didn’t have that. “Hand them the whole packet and fake it,” I hissed, “Overwhelm them with the paperwork you DO have and it will be fine.” She smiled nervously and started handing them notarized document after notarized document, some in Ukrainian, some in English. The agent finally asked her to stop, stamped the boarding cards and handed them over. Only one glitch: Two of the boys did not have boarding passes for the second flight, “Something in the computer isn’t working, you can sort it out in Zurich,” she assured us. With only 40 minutes to boarding left we headed for security.
The lines were long. We fed the boys juice boxes and apples that we knew wouldn’t be allowed through. They jabbered to one another and to anyone who understood Ukrainian about their flight to “Amerlicka”.
Shoes off, bags though the scanner, computers out; the usual security rodeo. It’s made immeasurably more colourful by the addition of three boys who are just three days out of a completely closed and confined world.
While we waited in line, wrangled for paperwork, insisted on passports being back in hand and negotiated our way through the hoops the boys were in constant motion: Exploring the ropes dividing the lines, checking out the baggage cart, examining the wheels beneath the baggage drop belt, trying to stick their fingers in there, picking up every piece of nasty trash they could find and the ones that were old baggage tags, sticking over their mouths (ick!) pointing at the matroyska dolls behind glass, pushing buttons on other people’s luggage, stepping on toes, sneaking around my barricade to swing the gate door, banging the passport control door handle, intentionally dropping their bags over the railing, trying to stuff extra things through the passport control window, smacking each other with their carry-ons, jumping up and down, hollering and signing to go potty.
There was no time to go potty.
We’d all gone at the apartment but that was before two juice boxes and an apple. That was three hours ago. Max had to potty. He first mentioned it upon arrival at the airport, there was no where to take him. Then in the security line it got more urgent, we assured him we’d go as soon as we got through security. There was no bathroom between security and passport control. Passport control took forever. There were more documents to show, proving that these were Jen’s boys. There were questions about the fact that two children were only confirmed through Zurich, not Boston. More paperwork. “You can go,” the officer told me. “Not a chance, these are my people… our flight is boarding now, please hurry!” She nodded, “You can go!” “Not without them,” I enunciated as clearly as possible.
We ran for the gate.
Max was almost crying. The flight was nearly boarded as Jen quickly took their picture next to the window, planes in the background, and I threw our passports and boarding passes at the attendant. She muttered and fussed. “Zee passport numbers, zhey do not match zee boarding passes.” “OH YES THEY DO!” I emphatically assured her. She checked twice more, shook her head, stamped us through and we ran for the bus.
There are no jetways at the Kiev airport. Busses are boarded and then you are delivered to your plane and climb aboard via the stairs, old fashioned style. The bus, it seems, was not in as much of a hurry. Max whined and clutched himself and danced, signing “potty” with the other hand, in obvious distress. There was nothing we could do. And then, Jen proved herself the travel savvy Mama that she is, prepared for every possible event. She calmly whipped a ziploc bag out of her carry-on, we sheltered Max in the front corner of the bus, and he made his deposit. We were all much relieved. This is the glamourous part of motherhood and travel with kids, to be sure.
The boys were ready to explode with excitement boarding the plane.
Their eyes were wide for take off and over an hour into the 2.5 hour flight they’re as good as gold. Far better than the french children behind us, who are NOT on their maiden voyage. Our boys are casually flipping through travel magazines, as if planning their next destination. Max occasionally points to a photo of a Ukrainian Air jet and says to me, “Airplane! Max!” They ate the nasty airplane sandwich that was served for lunch without complaint; perhaps they send excess airplane food to orphanages?
We’ve made one potty run with all three boys since we lifted off. When they were in the orphanage they didn’t have toilets. They used a row full of little plastic potty seats, like we’d toilet train toddlers with that the nannies then emptied elsewhere. Needless to say, when we took them to a public restroom at the American Embassy it was a high point of their “outside world” adventures. I thought we’d never get Benjamin out of his stall for the sheer joy of flushing, and flushing, and flushing. You can just imagine the delight of an airplane toilet, electric blue flushing fluid and the satisfying “WOOSH” that accompanies it. They may be asking to potty every hour on the next flight!
Jen is quietly working on her laptop. I’m writing and working on photos to post for the friends and family who will wake up wondering about their boys first thing in the morning in America. I’m hoping to post them all when we land in Zurich. Five hours is a long layover. I’ve been practicing my French and little German for the in between. Specifically, how to ask where the indoor playground is, with great hopes that the forward thinking Swiss have installed one in their airport!