It’s been years since my last international flight. Pre-9/11 actually. Back then, though, the traveling abroad was back and forth to Germany where my dad was stationed at Karl Schulz Kaserne in Bremerhaven, of what was then called West Germany. I barely remember the flight back to the states, but I do remember that we didn’t go through layers and layers of security.
Last week was my first international travel since 1991. Just getting to the gate was a journey in itself. I’m just glad I wasn’t subjected to Röntgen radiation! Of course our travel plans would take us through the closest airport to the U.S. Capitol Building then JFK in New York, so I should’ve known.
Since travelers with infants can’t do online check-in, curbside check-in, e-ticket check-in or anything else to prevent us from standing in a long line with a restless child, Najwa gave us a glimpse of what to expect. She threw the tantrum we wanted to throw from standing in line for so long, but she’s trained well. Once the camera is pointed in her direction, she starts saying, “cheese!”
Eventually, though, we got the show on the road. Najwa calmed down a bit to say goodbye to Washington, DC. As the plane started to taxi to the runway, Najwa took a moment to look out the window. The plane started to accelerate, and she seemed pretty excited. One thing that helped was no one was sitting behind us so Najwa and I moved to the last set of seats while Nduku sat in front of us pretending she had nothing to do with all the screaming.
During the short flight to New York, Najwa and I went to war. She was infatuated with the tray, with opening and closing the shade, with a flashlight behind our chair, turning the light on and off, playing with the seat belt she refused to wear, and after the 40 minutes aloft, I was already feeling as if I was jet lagged!
One of the great things of flying is the fleeting aerial views of the city you just left. There’s just something about seeing the structures on the ground from a bird’s eye view. The grand Lincoln Memorial, the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC, in general, from the air, is such an amazing site. I love everything about Washington, DC, and the views from thousands of feet in the air only adds to the admiration of our nation’s capital.
Najwa did finally settle down though. It still amazes me how much little ones emulate what they see grown adults doing. I started reading something, a book perhaps, and Najwa grabbed a magazine to be like daddy. Only she still hasn’t figured out right-side-up and upside-down.
Najwa had such a good time, she protested all the way off the plane. Before the flight I wondered how she would take the acceleration, the ears popping, the cramped space we were confined to, but apparently she loved it. While waiting for the stroller, I let go of her hand for a split second and she made an immediate dash back to the plane!
The trip to JFK International Airport, though, was as bad as it got. It was getting late so she started to mellow out. We had aisle seats, but no one sat next to us so we could stretch out a little. Well, let Najwa stretch out a bit. The hop over to Great Britain was peaceful. Everyone was spared Najwa’s wrath. We got a little shuteye while losing 6 hours chasing the sun.
We had a layover at Heathrow in London, England. Or is it Great Britain? Or United Kingdom? Doesn’t matter. First stop was the toilet. So I was looking for a sign that said restrooms or, because it’s our British friends, the loo. Apparently, they like to keep things simple and just call it what it is.
We grabbed breakfast at a place called Giraffe, which as pretty cool. Our waitress reminded me of Minnie Driver, part her look, part her accent.
I have no idea what time it was at the airport or inside my head, but whatever was on the menu just didn’t seem to be what I wanted. Everything sounded fancy. So I asked if I could just get some scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon. Of course they didn’t have Mountain Dew so I settled for water.
While we waited, the waitress brought out some Giraffes, naturally it being the name of the place.
And just as my eyelids were convinced it wasn’t the middle of the night and stayed open, the food arrived. Why did I think that everyone knew cheese in my eggs meant American cheese? Though it wasn’t as gooey as I like my eggs with cheese, it was quite good. Only there was a huge sausage on my plate and I’m a bacon man.
Minnie Driver apologized, so politely, and came back almost immediately with what appeared to me as another failure to communicate. She brought me back a plate of sliced ham. Nduku saw my face as I was about clarify what I had been trying to order for breakfast then said she was about to warn me that bacon to Americans and bacon to the rest of the world isn’t quite the same. That slice of ham was bacon.
What in the bloody hell!?
Anyway, we continued on our journey. It’s been a while since i Had to sit in one place for that long so my @ss was protesting, but we eventually made it there.
When we got our bags, someone came up to me and asked if I was American, which I am, and extended his arm, welcoming me to his country, saying I could skip the long lines and just walk in. When he saw that I still had to wait for the ladies since Nduku has a green card, he went and let them skip to the front of the line where they were taking eye scans and doing the customs thing and off we went. Now that’s how you welcome someone into your country.
From there it was wade through the crowds that were waiting for their parties, who were probably still in those long lines at immigrations or customs. And then came Nduku’s sister Muthethya and her husband Stephen and Najwa’s first international trip was about to begin.