Since everyone is wondering how the journey from Qingdao to Cape Town went, I thought I would tell you a little bit about it. There were ups and downs, but overall I felt like it went very well – considering that this my first time traveling along with Elijah – and I am very grateful!
When it comes to goodbyes, Justin and I are no good! We know better than to spend the night before we have to depart with others. In that regard, we are necessarily selfish. We really value time alone, especially before we have to part ways. We were, however, in a slightly different situation this time because close friends of ours are leaving Qingdao (the day after Justin leaves for Cape Town) and we knew that this was the last chance that we would have to all hang out together. Fortunately, we were all packed and sorted, so we made our way to dinner and then home by 9pm so that we could get a good night’s rest. One of my private students took us to the airport in the morning, and that made our goodbye a little less stressful. To catch a grubby old taxi, when you are feeling teary-eyed and emotional, is no fun at all. We got to the airport, cut the queue (thank you Elijah), checked in, walked to the security-check area, looked at each other — and then burst into tears! My husband – oh my incredible husband, I’m so proud of who he has become – prayed for Elijah and I, walked through the security check with us (don’t ask, this is China, they are so distracted by the look of us that they didn’t even ask to see Justin’s ticket), filled out our departure cards, and put us into the line. Watching Justin walk away was tough, but we just kept saying “only 7 days!” and that made everything slightly more manageable.
From the minute Justin left and I was alone with Elijah, I was amazed at how helpful people became. They helped with my bags, opened doors, assisted me in putting the Ergo back on after the security checks, and one kind man even held sleeping-Elijah while I strapped the Ergo to my waist. Baby boy was super tired so he fell asleep before we had even made it through to the boarding gates. Once on the other side, a lady saw me heading to the water machine and she ran to help me fill my water bottle. It was so refreshing to have so many helping hands.
Our first flight was from Qingdao to Hong Kong, which is only about 4 hours but it felt like 10. I was seated next to a young guy who agreed to move after I made the suggestion. Boy oh boy was he lucky he moved. Elijah was so squirmy that after two hours my arms began to ache! It felt like he would never calm down. He jumped, he turned, he pulled everything. It felt like I was going to go insane. There was no relief – and I kept wondering how the heck I was going to make it through that flight, 6 hours in Hong Kong, AND another two flights! By the time we landed, I couldn’t wait to get off the plane. I was dying to go to the toilet, so I quickly grabbed a trolley, threw my two bags onto it and raced off to find the restrooms. Once inside the handicap toilet (the trolley didn’t fit in any of the other stalls) it dawned on me that there was nowhere to put Elijah. Oh my word! I’m not going to go into details, but I figured it out and trust me, it wasn’t easy by any means. At this point, Elijah was still wriggling and active so that only made my predicament even worse.
Shortly after that, Elijah fell asleep in the Ergo while I walked around the airport looking for a place to grab some food and Skype Justin. Of course – none of the restaurants had any baby chairs, so I was forced to hold Elijah again. The minute I sat down, got settled and opened my computer, Elijah kicked into high-energy mode again. We called Justin, and little man was so happy to see his father! My excitement started to die about an hour later, when once again, my arms felt like they were about to fall off due to over-exertion. It was 10pm, I was tired, but Elijah wanted to play. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to put him, and my body ached. I felt like I had made a terrible decision in thinking that I could travel alone with a baby.
Above, That guy photo-bombing us was the one who gave up his seat so that we could spread out a bit, so we’ll forgive his weirdness in this picture! Below, Skyping with daddy. Look how happy Elijah was to see Justin!
I figured that Elijah was probably overtired since it was way passed his bedtime, so I started to walk… and walk… and walk!!! I watched his eyes get droopy and his energy fade. Even though my back, shoulders and arms all ached, it was good to have Elijah finally calm down. If he was older, I could have let him run around to tire out but at 7 months old, I just couldn’t bring myself to let him army-crawl on the dirty airport floor. My only option was to carry him. At around 11pm I got some coffee and settled down on the floor, near our departure gate. The caffeine started to kick in, and at the same time I felt at peace about the rest of the journey. Elijah made friends with a group of 20 Koreans that were traveling to Johannesburg, and one of the moms held him for a while. It must have been around then that he started to get tired, because the minute we boarded our plane, he was quiet and calm.
We were seated in the front row of economy class and therefore had plenty of leg room and two seats to ourselves. I couldn’t imagine having to sit next to someone for 13 hours while trying to feed, change and care for Elijah. Having an open seat next to us was a huge blessing! The only sucky part about sitting in the first row was that Elijah wasn’t the only baby on the plane. There was a 10 month old Chinese baby in our row, and she DID NOT STOP CRYING!!! I was very thankful that I was not “that person” with the crying baby, but I felt bad for this couple who didn’t seem to know what to do to make their daughter stop crying. I have heard – many times – that Chinese babies cry all night long, and this baby proved that to be true. She kept waking Elijah, me, and the rest of those seated around us. So despite having a perfectly behaved little one for the longest leg of our journey, we had to endure almost constant crying and didn’t rest as well as we could have.
|Good Morning Africa!|
By the time breakfast was served, Elijah was getting bored and frustrated. He had chewed on every toy, bottle, and napkin that he could find. He was eager to stretch out and play so I lay a blanket on the floor and let him relax right there at my feet. When I needed the toilet, which happened a number of times on our 13 hour flight, I had to ask one of the Korean ladies sitting nearby if they would hold Elijah for me. The air-hostesses had told me that they “weren’t supposed to” for liability reason, but honestly – how the heck am I supposed to use one of those miniature plane restrooms while holding a baby!? It felt a little weird leaving my baby with a stranger, but she had been smiling and waving at Elijah for hours, so I figured that she liked babies. After asking her once, I kept only asking her, and by the end of the flight she was so in love with Elijah that she gave him a gift from Korea.
Landing in Johannesburg was surreal. I was back in South Africa, and every little thing that I saw gave me an oddly nostalgic feeling. I couldn’t connect to the wifi, and therefore couldn’t contact Justin or my parents. I found a baby-changing room and locked Elijah and myself in there for an hour. I cleaned him up, changed his clothes, fed him, and rearranged our bags. I was very excited about the fact that in 3 hours I would be introducing my son to my parents.
Our third flight was even better than the second one. We were seated between three very funny guys. I loved the sound of their accents and the jokes that they made. They took turns playing with, and holding, Elijah, and all of them very considerately turned away when I needed to feed him. Elijah had all the passengers in stitches because he kept making funny sounds and laughing his head off. He was showing off, batting his long eyelashes, and putting on quite a show! Yes, his energy had returned but so had mine, and this was only a 2 hour flight. Once on the ground, we picked up our bags and then walked down a long corridor to where my father and step-mother were waiting. They were over the moon when they spotted us, and both of them couldn’t wait to hold their grandchild.
|Welcome to South Africa little one!|
It only took about 30 hours, but we were finally in Cape Town.
For many months I tried to imagine what it would be like traveling to South Africa with Elijah. How he would look, and how big he would be. It all turned out wonderfully and we were very happy to have arrived safely in mommy’s city of birth.
At 7 months old, Elijah had never been in a carseat before because in China we only use taxis and buses. He was completely fine being strapped in which was a relief since we didn’t know how that might go down. My dad handed me a bag of biltong (dried meat) – my “first food” request – and we made our way back to the house.
It has been a wonderful week so far, and I’m happy to be home. I wish that my brothers were here to meet Elijah, but they are both currently working in the States. I am missing Justin and counting down the days, but having Elijah here makes it hard for me to pine like I might have in the past. Justin, on the other hand, has kept busy all week so that he doesn’t have to think about the fact that both his wife and baby are so very far away. We will be reunited on Monday, when Justin completes the same journey that we just did. It is great to be back in South Africa, but it will be even better when I have my best friend by my side.
|We are excited to be reunited!|