Have you ever missed your flight to America in an international airport at midnight with a baby and surrounded by people who don’t speak your first language? Well, I (Abby) have. If you can imagine, it was not a fun experience. Looking back I can sigh with relief knowing it all ended up alright and I made it to the states and back here again in one peace, but at the time it was the most stressful experience I had been in. God was so faithful during the whole ordeal to provide just the right people at just the right times to help me on my way, including an amazing woman from Japan who, instead of going home after a full day of work at Japan airlines counter, decided to drive me in her personal car to a travel agent at 4am in the morning and then to several hotels to help me find a place to sleep for a few hours. Besides giving birth, I don’t know that I have ever been so exhausted! (carrying a 17lb baby around can add to the strain!)
In the end I had to buy my whole ticket to the states all over again. I was so discouraged as this trip was a surprise visit to my family and we really weren’t planning to spend that kind of money otherwise. God provided again when I found out I could request a refund and might get reimbursed. PRAISE THE LORD I was eventually fully reimbursed the original ticket cost! My troubles didn’t stop there though, as the moment I finally landed on American soil (insert teary eyes and quivering lip), the snow storm of a lifetime was just hitting the northeast and all the flights were grounded. So close yet so far! I had literally an hour long flight left to be in home sweet Michigan and now my flight was cancelled. I honestly wasn’t surprised at this point. Maybe the sheer exhaustion had worn away my senses, but I calmly approached the counter to find out what my options were. They put me on standby for the soonest flight available which was about 3 hours away.
I prayed fervently that somehow I would get on that flight! Slowly the airport started filling with more and more people whose flights were grounded and I really started thinking I might be living out the movie “terminal” for the next few weeks. Side note: EVERY airport needs to offer FREE WIRELESS to travelers! I had NO way to contact my Mom in MI or Nathan since I had an Indonesian cell phone and there was no free wireless at O’hare! Get with the times already Chicago! A lady at starbucks pointed me to a “free 10 minute wifi” computer where I fumbled through the slow keypad (you know the kind where you type and then the words appear 5 minutes later) and finally was able to let my Mom know I would be late. I killed time by hunting for the cheapest possible drink in the airport and settled on a Lemonade from Auntie Anne’s instead of paying $5 for a bottled water. When by headache set in I regretted that decision.
As time ticked by I prayed more and more that I could get on the flight. When boarding time was finally over Me and another Lady were standing there crossed fingered hoping to be called to board. The magical sound of my name came from the speaker and I was filled with a new dose of energy! We boarded and I passed out sleeping awkwardly while they de-iced the place 2 times. We finally took off and as we touched down in Detroit the flight attendant said “we got out of there just in time! They just grounded all the flights out of Chicago!” THANK YOU GOD! I think I was the only plane that left the airport that day, and that pretty much had to be God, don’t you think?
So I made it. My time was split between Michigan and Texas where Noah got to meet both sets of grandparents and his aunts and uncles and cousins. It was a grand occasion!
My flight back started out smooth and I was able to even see my brother and his girlfriend and my aunt and uncle on my layover in Los Angeles. I was pretty pleased with the apparent ease of this return journey until I arrived in Malaysia and saw that, what do you know, my flight was cancelled! They set me up for a flight an hour later than my previous one, which put me too close to departure of my flight out of Jakarta. Yup. I missed it. I might have made it had my bags arrived in a timely fashion but they lost one of my bags and I had to wait until all the bags came off the plane and then fill in a missing bag report.
I finally got over to my terminal where I got to jump right back into my language learning. The guy who was helping me with my bags said there was no other ticket available until the next day at about 5pm! I refused to accept that answer and asked him to help me find another ticket on another airline. So, in a group of three men (who appeared out of nowhere to help me), me, and a droopy eyed baby, we dragged my bags through another terminal and one of the men started hunting for a ticket for me on his phone. He ended up finding me one and buying it over his cell phone with me telling him our names and dates of birth. I know, shady huh? That’s just how it works here and I really had no choice but to trust these guys. Then came the really awkward part when I had to make sure I had enough money to pay for the ticket and literally had to count my money in front of them! They took my to a money exchange since I didn’t have quite enough, and I was able to pay them in the end. Thankfully no one ripped me off.
I was encouraged with how well my language ability came back after a month of not using it in the states since all of this was done in Indonesian and I didn’t have trouble understanding or communicating with them for the most part. Noah was SO good through all of my travels. I think God knew I would have had a breakdown had Noah not cooperated. But I am home now and can thank God for showing me that no matter what, he cares and will give me the strength I need to get through tough situations... But I don’t think I will ever try that particular one again!