Emma and I began our journey home at 3:00 pm Thursday, May 20 - China time. We went to the airport in Guangzhou and waited to board our first flight to beijing where we were to spend the night prior to our BIG day of travel! The flight was delayed about an hour so we did not arrive in Beijing until after 11. Emma did super though! We got to the hotel and Emma could not fall asleep so the two of us repacked the suitcases and finally laid down about 2 am. I got up at 5 to shower and get ready. We left the hotel at 6:20. Our flight from Beijing to Tokyo was uneventful...Emma played and slept. Once in Tokyo, we got a Happy Meal at McDonald's and waited to board our next flight. The first 24 hours had been pretty uneventful.
The flight from Tokyo to Atlanta was very full and I was thankful to have a baby in a stroller because we got to skip lots of lines! We got settled in and Emma flirted with the kind man beside us. I think he was a little leary of sitting by a 2 year old for a nearly 13 hour flight! She did so great...slept most of the time and played quietly for the rest. She did not like headphones in her ears, but she did like to hold them near her ears and listen...and then hold them to her doll's ears so she could hear, too. We were nearing the end of the flight...the pilot came over the PA and said that we were being diverted to Memphis for refeuling because of bad weather in Atlanta. He said the stop would just be about 20 minutes and the weather should be cleared up and we could head on in. We did not pull up to a gate, but instead sat in the "parking lot"...remember we had already been on this plane for nearly 13 hours. 20 minutes came and went...several times over. Finally about an hour later, we were just beginning to move and the power on the plane went off. So we sat in the plane...on the "parking lot"...with no air conditioning...for another hour and a half. All the while, I felt pretty safe since I had a pretty long layover in Atlanta. I kept calling friends and family to check the status of my connecting flight. By the time we got throughy customs and got Emma's adoption paperwork taken care of - congrats baby girl, you are an American citizen! - we ended up not being able to make any connections that night and had to spend the night in Atlanta.
By the time we got to our hotel, it was about 11 pm (eastern time) Friday night...11 am Saturday China time. We had been traveling for 32 hours. The hotel had a little cafe so we got a late dinner and headed to bed.
I decided to go to the airport a little earlier than "needed" on Saturday morning and I am so glad we did. The lines were horrendous because so many flights had been cancelled due to weather on Friday. I realized that we were not seated in the same row, but we were told thyey could take care of that at the gate for us. We got to the gate with just a few minutes to spare - security was horrible. When I showed them our tickets, we realized that not only were we in different rows, but we were on different flights.
Yes, they had a 2 year old flying alone.
At first, they said there was no way we could get on the first flight. Yes, my family and friends were already on their way to the airport to greet us for the 2nd time by now. I nearly started crying and told the woman that I had been traveling for more than 48 hours with a toddler. Thankfully, she got me on the flight and we got home...together....56 hours later.
Once we landed in Tricities, I thought I would lose it! I couldn't believe we were home! I couldn't believe I was about to walk down that hall - the hall I'd watched so many familes walk through this 5 year wait - with my sweet baby! It was almost more than I could handle. Emma walked beside me...strutting her stuff! Her little arms were just swinging - it was totally precious! Then she saw everyone at the end of the hall...she looked at me kind of funny and then turned to go the other way! I said, "Baby - these people are here to see YOU!" It was a surreal moment.
THere were so many people there - family, friends from church, friends from school, friends from China Angels...It was Amazing. My brother and sister in law were in town for a visit and I am so glad they were able to be there to greet us! It was bittersweet though, as they had to leave on a flight jsut a few hours later. But, we did have time for lunch together - and Uncle Tom was able to begin corrupting my sweet girl and he and Aunt Lara were able to begin the spoiling!
Tom had gotten her 3 special stuffed animals. An Eagle because she is an American...a black bear because she is a Tennessean...and a Panda to remind her of her CHinese heritage! I think it warmed his heart that the Eagle was her favorite.
What a day it was! Once we got home and changed, I was able to put my girl to sleep...in her bed...in her room that's been waiting for so long!
It's just the beginning!