With that, we knew each one of us could take 2 check-in suitcases, one carry-on, and one personal bag. As we were packing, we ended up having to "hi-jack" Karen's 2 check-in bags to give us more bags for donations. We basically were able to pack all of our personal items, along with Seble's clothes, diapers, toys, etc..., into one suitcase and then into our carry-ons. It wasn't that bad but that left us 5 bags to load full of donated items. We also were going to take 2 extra rubber maid totes. We got one tote through on the first trip so this time we would try 2 totes. We knew we would at least pay the extra fees for one tote but we were hoping to get at least one waived if not both.
With all this in mind, we started strategically packing our bags. Each bag could not be over 50 lbs. If it was, we would be charged an overweight fee of $150-200 EACH. You can imagine how we packed and repacked a few times as we switched items from one suitcase to another to make sure we got as close to the 50 lbs as we could. I kept saying there is no way we were going to fit all this into our bags. When all was said and done, I was blown away that we actually made it. All that we wanted to take, especially the items donated by others, we were able to get all in the suitcases we had.
We were flying out Christmas Eve and would actually be in Ethiopia for Christmas. We even got some items for Solomon's family and wrapped them in Christmas paper.
This was a fleece blanket for Wass that we got, which was made by Karen. Wass said he loves anything Disney or Looney Tunes so we decided to go with the Disney Cars material.
Karen was a trooper as we piled more material on her for her to make 3 more blankets. The striped one is for Solomon and his wife's bed. Then she made 2 of the soccer "fut ball" blankets, one for Leul and one for Dugum-Solomons' sons. She did a WONDERFUL job and we are sure they are going to LOVE them.
On December 21st, we got a sad phone call. At this point, things became a bit stressed. We were scheduled to fly out on Lufthansa, December 24th. We received the news that we did not get confirmation on our Embassy appointment for December 27th. It wasn't just us but our whole group of 7 families, so we may have to place our tickets on hold. This only would add more costs to the already expensive process because the airlines charge a fee to place your tickets on hold and they are not cheap fees.
Too bad the airlines don't get together and make an exception for adoption families going through the same problem since it's not like we are wanting to place them on hold. We are at the whim of the United States Embassy. Whatever they say, we have to follow in order to get our daughter home. There is always hopeful thinking for future families going through the same process that maybe one day, the airlines will be generous enough and waive these fees.
Anyway, we continued with our already planned holiday Christmas's in case we still get to fly out. We waited until the very last day, December 23rd, to see if we would get the miraculous phone call saying we were confirmed. Only ONE family got confirmed, but unfortunately, we did not get that phone call and had to place our tickets on hold. We would not be spending Christmas in Ethiopia.
With this news, we decided to re-check our luggage and make sure we were at the correct weights, especially since we did finish packing some little things that we forgot the first time etc...
We wanted to make sure we didn't change the weights so we pretty much repacked every bag.
Can you tell Amber has had enough of packing? :-)
On our first trip, we used our bathroom scale to weigh our suitcases. We were able to get each suitcase from 49.7 to 50.1 lbs and hoped they wouldn't be too serious on the 0.1 lbs over the limit. When we got to the airport, our 50.1 bag weighed on the airport scale, 50.2 lbs. That basically said our house scale was right on.
Knowing this, our second time around, we felt very comfortable weighing the luggage on our scale again. This time we had them packed from 49.9 to 50.2 lbs. Pack the bag, weigh the bag, adjust the bag, then weigh the bag again. Done!
One week later on December 30th at 8:30 am, we got news that we were confirmed and had to be in Ethiopia for a January 3rd Embassy appointment and not the January 10th appointment we thought we would be getting. Looks like we will be over there for Ethiopia's Christmas which is on January 7th.
I made the call to our travel agent, Candy with Reach One Travel. She was apparently working on getting 2 or 3 other families over there too from our group for the same date. Amber was scheduled to work that day so we really couldn't leave until that night when she got home or the latest, the next day, and I was left to make all the arrangements without her help-other than a phone call here or there between her patients. I mean, we COULD leave and WOULD have left if we had to but just wanted to give Candy all our information so she had some room to work with trying to get us tickets. With that information, Candy worked on the other families first and then got to ours.
In the mean time, waiting for her to call back, I made some calls just to see what tickets were going for with this late of a notice (we needed to leave in 24 hours!!) I got one quote saying it was going to be around the $3000 mark PER ticket. A few more prayers later, one was able to get us $2300 and all the others seemed to be around this amount. Well, Candy did get back and said she worked on getting one family in the air the same day at 2:00 or 3:00pm. After about one more hour of her finally working on our tickets, she made the phone call back saying she got us our tickets. We fly out tomorrow evening and to top it off, we only had to pay $50 more than our original ticket prices, only $1,750 a ticket!! Prayer works!! We were totally blown away that she was able to get them that low and literally in 7 hours! We still had to pay the enormous cancellation fee to cancel our first tickets which was another $1000 ($325 each ticket) but she saved us so much more with the tickets she got us it was amazing. We were thrilled and allowed us some more time to get some last-LAST minute things done.
Now, all of our bags were weighed and double weighed and stacked next to the front door ready to be loaded into the suburban. The next morning we loaded up then headed off to pick-up Karen, then Salem to pick-up Grandma Tami, who would be watching the kids while we were gone, and then to the Portland International Airport.
(PS-Dog stayed home)!
This sort-of felt like deja'vu when we got to the airport. A weird feeling like we were just here a month ago or something....weird....
Luggage all loaded on the airport carts and coming through the revolving doors.
With our help in tow.
This was the time we have been praying for. It was time to check in our luggage AND see about getting one, if not both extra totes through without being charged the extra fee. The lady that helped us was named Arlene. She started asking us the questions about where we were going etc... and we told her Ethiopia. We were adopting and going over to bring her home. She looked at us and said she just checked in another couple yesterday that was going to Ethiopia and they were doing the same thing. We asked if it was the family we knew and she remembered their name and said, "Yes." She asked if we were from the same orphanage and we said yes. At this point, she called over another lady named Patricia. They were so excited for us and the whole process. It was fun to deal with people this excited for us and for adoption. We then asked about the two extra totes. She told us that there were "certain" people that were on shift the day before that weren't there today so they could waive the fees for BOTH totes! The reason they weren't there was because this was New Years Eve and they took it off because of the holiday. It was so neat to actually see how God worked the situation out for us and to get these ladies to help us with our luggage. It was great!
Luggage has been weighed, verified, ticketed, and ready to be taken over to the check in belt.
Cassidy pointing to our flight to San Fransisco on United Airlines and showing it is ON TIME!
Final pictures before entering the security check point.....Is it going to be the x-ray machine, physical pat search, or the strip search?
I guess it's going to be the x-ray machine this time....phew!
We definately got to the airport early but it was so much more relaxing knowing our bags were checked in and all we were doing is waiting for our plane to arrive.
We saw some people walk by with a bread bowl filled with soup. It looked so good we decided to get some dinner before boarding. We thought we had plenty of time but when we got back to the gate we saw a whole bunch of people standing around the gate. We asked Amber what was going on and she said they are getting ready to board. Talk about scarfing down our bread bowl with clam chowder. It's just not as good when you can't enjoy it as you eat. O'well. We are craving it now-it was so good!
As we were getting ready to board, we ran into Theresa Buriani and her sister-in-law, Lisa. It was so fun to see a familiar face. We met Theresa and her husband on our first trip and now she was heading back too to bring her kids home. We boarded and it was off to Dulles International Airport.
We arrived in Dulles right on time. Met up with the Buriani's again and found our way to our Gate. A bit of a run around finding our gate because we were told that since Ethiopian Airlines has purchased the newer and bigger 777 airline, one stop from Dulles to Addis, they couldn't fit it into their current location. It seemed some workers there knew this and some didn't as we were told different gates a few time. We finally located the correct gate and camped out until our flight.
We were one of the first people to check in since we were there so early. The Ethiopian airlines noticed we had 2 extra totes under our name and required us to pay the extra baggage fee. We told them they were checked in from Portland to our destination, Addis, and the extra baggage fee was waived by United. He told us that Ethiopian Airlines and United work together but it was not their decision to waive the fee for Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian has to charge the extra fee. I asked to speak to the manager as a last attempt. He said the manager is not here until closer to boarding time. He held our boarding tickets until then. We had to sit and wait it out.
Our flight had finally arrived. It was a huge plane.
Look at the groundsman walking just behind the HUGE engine of this plane. Kind of puts the plane into prospective.
Our group only got bigger. Here is where we met up with Jeff & Melissa Rapp. Another couple that we met on our first trip. They even brought their daughter. After normal conversations, we heard the Rapps were only bringing 4 suitcases. With 3 of them, they are allowed 6 suitcases but only brought 4. Thanks to the Rapps, they allowed us to check our extra 2 totes as their 2 additional spots. The Ethiopian Airlines ticket guy agreed and gave us our boarding tickets. We didn't have to speak to the manager so we were now set to board.
On the plane getting ready to take off. Addis, here we come. Ethiopia or Bust!!
Through-out the flight we watched movies, tv, listened to music, and even was able to view the tracker channel. It shows where our plane is in comparison to Addis. Also shows the altitude, time, and temperature outside. Amazing how cold it gets outside at this altitude.
Some sleeping was done but ended up being more multiple small naps then actual sleep.
At this point we would have been getting ready to land in Rome for re-fueling. With us being in the newer 777, they don't need to re-fuel and so we flew right past Rome. Saved a good hour or two.
Going over the Sahara Desert and even saw the Nile River.
We were finally approaching Addis. This was a town/city just outside Addis.