It's been just over a week since we saw this group of people waiting for us at the airport:
We started our long journey back to the US on Friday, April 19th. We left Guangzhou, China around 9 am and took a three hour flight to Shanghai, China. We collected our luggage, re-checked it for our international flight and joined at least four other guys from Jamie's company for our long 13 hour flight to Chicago. Normally I don't get too excited about our long flight, but it was special because another family, that works for the same company as Jamie, was in China finalizing the adoption of their son.
I'll be honest and tell you that I set my expectations really, really low for this flight. I knew that LBean and EBean would be fine; they have flown this flight many times. But, ChinaBean on the other hand, she is my loose cannon. Not many people get excited about traveling with a 20-month old on a 13 hour flight. I was also a teeny-tiny bit bitter about having to sit in the back of the plane in economy when Jamie had enough miles to get us into Economy Plus for free. But, strangely enough, they're weren't 5 seats together in Economy Plus. Instead we were in the very, very back of the plane. It actually turned out to be a wonderful place for us. No one was behind ChinaBean and we put EBean in front of her so if she kicked a seat, it was just her big sister's (sorry EBean)! ChinaBean surprised me and slept as we flew over Japan to western Alaska in her car seat and from Alaska to the Canadian boarder on my lap.
When we landed in Chicago it was snowing - no kidding! We got in the longest line I have ever seen for immigration, but thankfully they moved everyone through quickly. Many flights from the day before had been cancelled or delayed because of the extreme rain and flooding in Illinois and there were a lot of travelers at the airport. After we collected our luggage, we had a special line we went through to hand over ChinaBean's immigration papers. One friend, who flew into a different airport last year with her daughter from China, was sequestered in separate room for a half an hour while they processed her daughter's paperwork. Thankfully we were all kept together and it only took about 5 minutes to process ChinaBean's papers.
We rechecked our luggage again and then crossed our fingers that the flight to Peoria would not be cancelled. We were in luck and our last flight took off as scheduled. As we were getting ready to land EBean looked at me and said "Let's go find a grandma!"
I did not know what to expect when we landed. The only thing that was for certain was that my mom (my dad was also flying back from China that day, but on a later flight) and Jamie's parents would be at the airport along Jamie's cousin & aunt who would be taking pictures. I was secretly hoping that maybe a few of my best girlfriends would be there, but I didn't know if they would be able to meet us at the airport at 9:50 at night. (Although, I knew all their kids would be in bed and dads could be at home to watch them...)
When we walked out into the airport we saw some really excited grandparents...
A "welcome home" sign...
Once I saw these excited faces...
I started to do this...We call what I did the "ugly cry". I might have made some loud noises along with my crying. It was not pretty (my friends have confirmed it), but it was sincere.
We had been traveling for 36 hours. We left 70 degree weather and landed in 30 degree weather. I hit US soil for the first time in 6 months and for my big girls it had been 9 months. I saw friends I hadn't seen in over a year. And, I was celebrating the fact that our entire family, all 5 of us, were in the US together. I really didn't know if it would ever happen.
Love from the grandparents and China Grandma (Cathy).
We made it!
This just sums it up right here!
I love seeing all of my close friends oohing and aahing over ChinaBean!
It really was a perfect ending to a long journey. I will treasure these memories for a lifetime. Thanks to Josie and Jan for capturing it all for us.
(And, I love that my friends know me well enough that when I send them my flight schedule that it might be my not-so-subtle hint to please come meet us at the airport!)