The middle of the world is in Ecuador. I’d ask, “who knew?”, but apparently, a lot of people know and now I’m one of them. And thanks to me so are you, if you weren’t. Also, Michael and I went there. Not to the specific point of 0°0’0″, but to Ecuador.
Michael celebrated his 10 years anniversary with Compassion international last year. One of the very generous things Compassion does is send their employees (and a companion) on anniversary trips at 5-year marks (5 yrs, 10 yrs, 15 yrs, 20 yrs, etc..) It’s a great opportunity for employees in America to connect with where the work is done. For Michael’s 5 yr trip we went to Indonesia. Michael’s work anniversaries conveniently happen to coincide with our monumental wedding anniversaries. (His 5 year at work was our 20 year. His 10 year was our 25.) So we combine them. So for our 25th wedding anniversary and his 10 year work anniversary, we took a trip to Ecuador!
Last minute packing.
It started they way other trips of ours have started – with a delay. We were leaving from Colorado Springs through Dallas/Fort Worth and planning an overnight in Miami. We did that, but everything was pushed back a few hours. Our overnight ended up being a long morning – we were in our hotel by 3am and checked out at noon. So we did get a little sleep.
We left Colorado Springs with a few other Compassion employees who were also taking anniversary trips. So we all started the journey and managed the delays together. In Miami, we met up with the rest of our group. I’m not one to get too mired in the details so I was a bit surprised to discover there were 30+ of us. I’ve done other trips with Compassion and it’s always been in the 20 person range. We made introductions at the airport and started getting to know each other. Most of us were from the states, some had international travel experience and others were getting their first stamps in their passport. We had one couple who had made the trip all the way from New Zealand. But we all had some things in common, this was an opportunity for us to learn about what Compassion really does and (for most of us) a chance to meet our sponsor child.
We boarded the flight for Quito, Ecuador. We arrived, gathered our luggage – there was a very, very lot of luggage because we all brought along our personal luggage and gifts for Compassion projects and gifts for our kids. We made our way through immigration (giving me my second stamp in my passport) and met up with some of the staff from the Ecuador country office. We boarded a bus for our hotel for the night. We were exhausted and a bit disoriented and we had an early start the next morning so we made our way to our rooms with instructions to gather really early the following morning.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
by the time we got to colorado springs we were sure that lady liberty’s message was directed to us. we were tired, cranky, hungry, and stinky. knowing we were going to need to get here and there and everywhere while we were in colorado springs i had taken a little time while we were in tokyo and found us a deal on a rental car. my only requirements were that it be able to seat five. i didn’t even care if it could seat five comfortably, i just needed for five us to be able to sit in the car – legally. here’s what i had reserved.
except i had forgotten something. there was no way all five of us and our luggage were going to fit in that car. .
when michael went to pick up the car he was able to get us an upgrade.
and now we’re living the american dream in our mondo big s.u.v.
once the car situation was sorted we headed to the house of some friends who were putting us up for the first several days of our trip. (spoiler alert: this is where we learned that monica can not plan both a vacation to tokyo and a trip to america.) we rang the bell and no one answered. odd, but we managed to come up with several scenarios that had them out of the house at the moment we were due to arrive. rather than wait around we figured we’d go grab dinner. as we headed to dinner we realized we were gonna be awfully close to some other friends and we decided to stop by there first. plus it would give me a chance to check my email to see if there was an update from our friends that weren’t home. my email didn’t give me any new details, but it did answer our questions with some old information. i’d penciled in the wrong dates. oops. rereading the emails i discovered that the friends who weren’t home weren’t home because they were out of state. luckily, the friends we were visiting are kind and generous and all around amazing because they went ahead and put us up several days before we were due to arrive at their house.
and we spent almost the entire first week in america kicking jet-lag and trying recovering from a bad case of undiagnosed nastiness.
we left tokyo and headed for america. (i’m pretty sure the slow boat to china would have gotten us there faster – if we’d been headed to china that is.)
you can follow along on the handy dandy map below… we all started together at point a. haneda international airport in tokyo. but we didn’t stay together long. michael, a16, and s13 left at 23:55. they flew to point b – kuala lumpur, malaysia. from there they went to point d – bangkok, thailand. they were well into their journey when chan and i left from point a – tokyo, japan – and headed to point c – singapore. from singapore we flew to point d – bangkok, thailand. that’s where we all met up and got on the same itinerary. we had an overnight layover with an early morning start. after a little less sleep than we wanted and in less than high spirits we headed back to the airport and left from point d – bangkok, thailand – and landed at point “nearly-the-same-as a” – narita international airport, tokyo, japan. yep, we were back to very, very close to where we’d started and it had only taken 36 hours and 30 minutes to get there.
we boarded the flight in tokyo – point a – and were finally headed for america. point b – san francisco, california was our point of entry and where we’d get to go through customs. never a fun experience. also, i don’t think i’ve drawn the flight path correctly on the map below. the correct path goes north and then south. i did learn about lambert conformal conical projections while trying to figure that out.
from san francisco, california – now point a and not my favorite airport – we were headed to denver, colorado – point b. about 1/2 way into our flight we lost power to the cabin. they eventually announced that there was some problem with an oven and the only way to deal with it was to turn off the power, but they assured us all was good. which we believed until we landed. we were greeted on the runway by all kinds of emergency vehicles. they followed us all they way to our gate. and then they boarded the plane and we had to sit and wait until they gave us the all clear. which they did, eventually. we got off the plane and got ready for the very last leg of our flight. point b – denver, colorado – to point c – colorado springs, colorado. just a hop skip and a jump away. we boarded the small plane, not personal plane small, but small enough. after the flight attendant gave all the required plane information and warnings including that we could turn on our electronics after we were “airborning”, for real she said “airborning”, the plane pulled away from the gate. and then stopped. and then pulled back into the gate. after a few moments the pilot came on and said there was nothing to worry about. they just couldn’t get the engine to start properly so they needed to plug in again and then we’d give it another go. (not very confidence building.) we did eventually take off and land at point c.
and that’s how you take 58 hours to get to america.
“maybe it’s human nature to think one’s own situation is the unique and incomparable one, the transcendent exception.” ~ sue monk kidd the mermaid chair
chan and i left chiang mai yesterday and the goodbyes at the airport were a validation that our decision to move here was a good one. it was emotional and so very painful, but also proof of how he threw himself into life here.
knowing we’re not the first to make this journey doesn’t make it any easier. but it is helpful to know others have survived it, their kids have flourished, and it’s all been worth it. i can’t wait to see what the next few years bring for chan and i hope he takes on university life the same way he’s done it here. but before we tackle the next few years we’ve got a week in tokyo to take on. (it was on the flight from bangkok to tokyo that i came across that quote from sue monk kidd.)
we seem to like to take the not the easiest way possible route when it comes to travel when we go to and from the states and why would we choose to do it differently for a family vacation. michael, a16, and s13 left friday night for bangkok and had an all night layover before heading to tokyo – via kuala lumpur. maybe not the most direct route, but to hear them tell it it was up there with one of the most miserable. chan and i left chiang mai saturday morning (16 hours after the other guys) we flew to bangkok had a two hour layover and then headed to tokyo. directly to tokyo.
they took the yellow route. we took the purple one.
we arrived 1/2 an hour before them and our first stop was the fancy japan potties.
after our pit stop we went got our passports stamped and then on to collect our luggage. since we were ahead of the rest of the family we went ahead and gathered their luggage, too. they made it in, we all went through customs and then it was time to figure out how to go about finding the apartment we’d rented for the week. luckily we had an address in japanese and our taxi driver could read japanese (amazing, i know.) our two bedroom apartment was bigger than we expected. it has a washing machine. and best of all it’s vey own fancy toilet.
it was well past midnight at this point and we had 3 hungry kids on our hands. so michael and i braved it and found a convenience store where we picked up some assorted snacks. including the goldilocks and the three bear version of cup noodle.
we were all asleep by 3am. that’s way past my bedtime and we ended up sleeping a tad late on Sunday morning. which was alright, because i’d purposely left sunday as a pretty easy tourist day.
…but without the adult chaperones.
this summer the kids headed to their grandparents’ house in america. and to get there they had to fly. unaccompanied. by themselves. without parents. i would say without adults, but one of them is an adult. (wow – i have an adult child). but he’d never flown alone, much less with his siblings in tow. to get to my parents house they had to manage four different airports, in three different countries. but at least they were together.
ticket counter in chiang mai
one of the airports was in frankfurt, germany. where the drinking age for beer and wine is 16 and hard liquor is 18. and since they were flying lufthansa that was the drinking age on the plane, too. go c18.
they were there five weeks. five weeks. that’s a long time to be childless. and it seems a long time for my parents, who have been childless for quite a while now, to have kids around. but i wasn’t worried about that. they all coped. and they made memories. and then they returned.
the oldest two returned together. they left d/fw a little late. which put them into washington d.c. a little late. a little too late to catch their connecting flight to germany. so they stayed overnight. the airlines put them up in a hotel and gave them vouchers for food. but at 1am they decided it would be a good idea to head out looking for a 7-11. i haven’t heard a lot of positive things about the streets of our nation’s capital. but they were fine. got some snacks. made their flight the next day. instead of germany they went to tokyo. and instead of about 8 hours in the air they got to fly for 14. and they got to spend the night in the airport in bangkok. they arrived in chiang mai a day later than planned, but they arrived.
the youngest returned with michael. they had flight issues, too. but nothing major. their biggest problem was arriving without luggage. but the luggage had all made it by the time we picked the big kids up.
all three kids made great memories. my parents were awesome. they really tried to find something that each kid would enjoy. however… if the occasion every rises for us to send the kids to the states again, we will definitely ask permission before booking the flights. but i sort of think this was a once in a lifetime kind of thing. next summer we’ll all be in the states and we’ll most likely be leaving one behind. and then who knows what summers will bring.
I am going to Australia. Alone.
I am going to hug koala bears, box with kangaroos and wrestle with wallabies (because I just know they are on every corner). I am not going to watch toilets flush the wrong direction (because my friend says they just go straight down, no swirling involved). And I’m going to hang out with Nicola – she’s a real dag.
She lives in Australia! Where I am going!! Yee Haw! I mean Jingoes!
so… where do i begin.
i’m now the mom of a high school senior. wow. his brother and sister are now in the 8th and 10th grade. we’ve completed the school year and we’re all none the worse for wear. picked up report cards today. pleased with those. i’ve got some smart kids.
the last few weeks have been crazy. non-stop activity. plays, prom, finals. and all that they entail. but how quickly we transition because we’re already in summer mode. there’s not enough food in the house (true). there’s nothing to do (not true). it’s hot (sort of true, it’s been hotter). the summer is already dragging out forever in front of us. so what do we have planned?
michael has a trip to india and the united states. and maybe sri lanka. the kids are going to america and i’m staying here. by myself. 2 weeks alone. haven’t experienced that in a long while. and i’m hoping to visit a friend who lives in australia. (squeeee!) i’ve heard their toilets flush the wrong direction. i might spend the whole trip just checking that out. we can chat while i flush toilets, right? and at the very tail end of the summer michael and i are headed to bali! (and by tail end i mean we will be gone for the start of the school year, but the kids will be here and they’re the ones that need to go – so it’s all good.)
i learned something new in the past few weeks. you can’t travel on a passport that is to expire within 6 months. who knew? (i’m sure everyone but me). this isn’t a problem for michael or me. but the kids’ passports all expire in september. and they are traveling in june. michael and i had to go together to get their passports. c18 was good to go, he’s an adult, he didn’t need our help. but, for the other two, it takes both parents to get a passport. so we applied tuesday. and they promise a 2 week turn around. and the kids leave in 16 days from when we applied. and we need to get their thai visas transferred into the new passports. i’m sure it will be fine.