Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Trip Home

Did I wait long enough for the last post?  A dead battery in my laptop, a visit to Idaho, and a house full of 16 people kind of delayed everything. But here we go.  Oh, and I will add photos later. Its now late and I'm ready for bed. So check back to see some awesome photos!

Our flight wasn't until 11:45 PM so it was good and late when we were ready to board.  Steve bought sandwiches while I sat in the waiting area.  Heidi was busy entertaining the sweet couple next to us.  They have a story that I was interested to hear the ending to... wonder what happened. Their daughter was supposed to get married in Fiji but she didn't have some of the paperwork she needed so they didn't know if the wedding would actually happen... Too bad we never saw them in Fiji to ask the outcome!!

The kids had sandwiches and Steve got us little calzones.  My kids ate more of mine than I did!!  The couple was laughing at everything that was going on.  Sitting in a waiting room for an hour tends to wear on the nerves of everyone. There was one very rude man that snapped at everyone - good thing we didn't sit by him on the plane! Thankfully they allowed everyone with children on the plane first.

We had a quick dinner on the plane and then Heidi fell asleep.  She had a rough night because she couldn't get comfortable - which means I couldn't sleep either.  She did sleep enough that those around us didn't want to throw us off the plane so I'm glad about that.  Even though we left at 11:45 PM, we got to Fiji at 5 AM their time - and it was only a 5 hour trip. We were EXHAUSTED.  Because it was a longer period than 10 hours that we would be in Fiji, they wouldn't let our luggage stay checked so we had to pick it up. That went over well!!  We had four trolleys that we dragged from the luggage claim over to the long term storage. 95 Fijian dollars later, we had everything stored and we were ready to go sight see. 

We found an awesome taxi driver that took us over to see the white sands.  He took a few detours on the way to show us a carnival, his house (where he asked his mother-in-law to feed us for dinner later), and then he showed us some good souvenir shops. You could tell he loved what he did.  We went and saw the white sands and they were FANTASTIC.  I didn't want to leave.  We were not dressed for the occasion though.  One child had pajama pants, I had jeans, Heidi had pajamas (she was MELTING by the time I was able to change her, but luckily I had a change of clothes for her in my purse), and a few others had pants. It doesn't help that we'd left Australia when it was cold!!  We adjusted clothes the best we could to make us more comfortable, and went on to enjoy the beach.

We enjoyed it all. The kids had fun in the sand and in the water.  I found a hermit crab and picked it up thinking it was cool. Apparently Gavin did not.  He FLIPPED out. I had never seen so much terror in such a little boy. He was frozen stiff with his eyes opened wide and the scream that came out of him was sheer terror. Apparently it looked like a spider that his mom was holding? I'm not sure what was so bad but every time he saw the crab he screamed again.  His reaction spread to Ethan who decided it wasn't cool either.  I guess we won't be getting a hermit crab as a pet...

I was clicking pictures as fast I could because that sand and the view was just breathtaking.   After the boys had enough of screaming at the crab, we decided it was time to move on to the next part of the trip. Even though I didn't want to be dragged away!

Our next leg of the trip was spent snoozing, staring at the ocean and looking for the banana trees.  I forgot to mention that we were all squeezed into one taxi. Steve sat in the front with the drive and the rest of us were in the second seat. Yes, 7 of us. So all of the sightseeing also included shifting of ways they were sitting.

We stopped at a souvenir shop where we enjoyed looking at the fun gadgets, clothes and other cool things. Steve got himself a straw hat and we got something for each of the kids.  They offered the kids  some amazing fruit drinks.  Afterwards, Steve bought some bananas from a road stand and we devoured them.  Bananas in Australia were incredibly expensive because of the flooding in Queensland, so we hadn't bought any since we left.  Only 5 months but it seemed like forever!!  Plus they were fresh bananas so they were that much better.

We went to an 'eco park' next.  Which is their way of saying zoo.  It was awesome. My kids held iguanas and snakes and they got to feed a turtle.  The birds were just plain cool and we enjoyed walking through. It was small as far as zoos go but everything was native so that made it even better. They told us about the huge spiders in several places - and I'm glad we didn't see a single one!

Our next stop was at our driver's house.  I must admit it I felt very strange going to this person's house and eating with him and his family.  They were very sweet though and the food was AMAZING.  His family was from India but had been in Fiji for a couple of generations. They still knew how to make good Indian food though!   The kids played soccer with his son for a while and then it was time to head back to the airport. It was a wonderful way to spend a day in Fiji!

We got to the airport and sat around for a rather long time.  We could have driven around a little longer but I was getting antsy and didn't want to worry about getting all of our stuff together and miss the plane.  There was no need to worry. I think we were there about 5 hours early... 

We had to argue again with the stewardesses about getting luggage checked.  They sent us over to the main person to whom I finally just said "Look, we've lived in Australia for the last 4 months and got sick and had to move home. This is ALL of our belongings and we have no other way of getting them home. With eight people you're GOING to have this much stuff so what do you expect us to do?"  They talked for a few minutes and finally just let us check as much stuff as we wanted without charging us more.  Apparently Frazzled Bear Mom was enough to not mess with!  They told me that LA may charge us more when it gets there but they'd just let us through. I thanked them a million times and we were on our way with 6 less pieces of carry on luggage.  Don't get me wrong, we still had plenty of carryons. I'm really quite amazed we made to Australia with as much as we did with no other arguments...

Anyway, we had time to let the kids play, Heidi dance to the Fijian singers and for Gavin to fall asleep in a very uncomfortable position.  

Jakob decided to make it worse by pulling the bag out from underneath his head so Gavin landed on the floor - on his head. He was tired enough that it didn't even faze him. He just kept right on sleeping.  After changing diapers on the two younger kids, making sure everyone used the potty and getting drinks from the drinking fountain, it was time to board.  We had our arms packed so Steve and I had to each take one of Gavin's arms and walk him to the plane. I felt so bad but we had no other choice.  He was out again as soon as he had his seatbelt on.

We had excellent seats this time.  Heidi was given a bassinet again and she was out before we took off.  Ashley made it a little longer but then was asleep before they served dinner - and wouldn't wake up for it.  The other boys ate their dinner and then slowly dropped off to sleep. I sort of slept. Enough to where I was okay when we landed.  We had breakfast and then it was time to land. I was so happy to be landing in America!!  I nearly cried the first time I saw the US flag. I was HOME!!

We got all of our stuff and headed over to make it through customs.  They saw everything we had, the amount of kids we had, and our US passports and put us in the shortest line.  The man in charge had a cool Russian accent and made jokes with us. We made it through and headed towards the baggage claim to collect our luggage. Four trolleys later, we headed up to get our rental.  We thought it would take an hour to get everything done. We were to the rental counter in under 20 minutes. Sweet!!

There is an episode on Spongbob where he is in another town and he's trying to catch a bus to Bikini Bottom.  No matter what happened he couldn't catch the bus. When he was looking away or at a vending machine, the bus would come, but as he sat there waiting, there was no bus...

That's how it felt for us.  We had to catch a shuttle to the car rental place.  We saw several buses pass while we waited to see if we could get someone to get us and all our stuff. As soon as we went out to actually get on the bus there was NOTHING. We  saw shuttle after shuttle for every other rental place but nothing for ours. 15 minutes later one showed up but it was too full. Luckily the next one there was room and we hopped on.

We had to wait outside at the Rental agency while Steve went in to get his car. Yes, his car.  They had 12 passenger vans and other bigger vans but no one would allow us to drive one out of the area.  So we got to take two cars.  After Steve picked up his Jeep Grand Cherokee, he loaded it and the kids helped while I went to get my car.  I had a Nissan something.  I forget what it was but it was a NICE one.

I took Andy, Gavin and Heidi, Steve took Jakob, Ashley and Ethan and off we went. I had NEVER driven in LA or anywhere near it.  I was scared to death. Out of all of this, I count that as one of my major accomplishments. :)  I actually had an easy time - even though we both had to remind ourselves to drive on the right side of the road before we ever started driving. And a few times after that... don't worry, it was all mentally. We didn't actually drive on the wrong side.

Anyway, we didn't have cell phones so we had no way of contacting each other.  We had the agreement that if either of us got tired, we'd pull off to stop and walk around. I followed him so if I decided I was tired, I would pull ahead of him and then pull off.  We made it outside of LA and quite a ways out to Hesperia before Steve decided he'd had it.  He couldn't find radio stations and he was tired.   I had been tired shortly after we started driving but blasting the a/c and the music really helped (I love Matchbox Twenty, Hanson, and Mindy Gledhill for helping me survive).  We ate at In N Out (where a guy told me I had a nice ride - too bad it was a rental!), which is Steve's favorite place.  He decided after living off Ginger Beer in Australia, that Barq's Root Beer is not so good.  We ate, shared CD's and were on our way again. Our next goal was Zzyzx Road.  We thought we were closer than we were...

I kept my kids singing and talking and so did Steve.  The trip flew by. By about 8:00 I had the shocking realization that it was still light...  In Australia it had been getting dark at 5:00!!!  That threw me more than the jet lag or the hotter weather.   We made it to Zzyzx Road where the kids had a potty break (hey, it was dark) on the side of the road and decided that we'd stop again in Primm to get gas for my car. Apparently my Nissan didn't get great gas mileage compared to the Grand Cherokee.  So we stopped again there and walked around for a while. The kids were fascinated by all the lights.  Andy and Gavin had been waiting to Vegas for a long time and were really excited when they finally saw the lights.

After Vegas things started getting quieter so we had to be much more alert.  We stopped at a gas station and grabbed drinks so we'd have something to keep us awake. We were getting so close!! Andy kept talking about how he remembered that Ashley threw up going through the Virgin River canyon several years ago. I tried to get him to be quiet but of course he kept mentioning it so that Gavin decided that HE needed to throw up.  Luckily it didn't actually happen.

We FINALLY made it to St. George.  I expected to have this warm "Yay I'm home!" feeling but instead it was as if I never left.  It was like another chapter had closed and been ripped out of the book. I knew I'd left, I knew I was coming home but it felt like that move to Australia had been a dream. A day or two into visiting Steve's parents, his dad mentioned the same thing.  I was so happy to be back again!

After spending time there we made it back to Utah Valley. I was thrilled. I still didn't have that "I'm home!" feeling.  It was, again, like I'd never left.  We'd spent the night with our friends the night before we left for the airport so it felt like we were just continuing on. 

Sunday morning we got up and got ready for church. We decided to go to our ward and surprise everyone. We hadn't said anything on Facebook or anywhere else purposely so we could surprise them. I did have one neighbor I needed to tell because I knew that Sacrament Meeting would have had a rather large drama play out if I didn't. She assured me that it was a good thing I'd told her beforehand. :)

We left for church and as we were driving closer to Eagle Mountain, I began to feel a warmth and a feeling of peace that I had been waiting for for so long.  I finally felt like I was home. I finally felt that feeling that I belonged somewhere and it was the best feeling.  We still didn't have a home, no job but we knew we could stay with my parents so I was content with that but I still loved that feeling of peace I felt.

The surprise worked great. We loved the double takes we got from people when they realized we were actually sitting there.  We assured people that we were not here visiting, that we were back.  And MAN, was that a great thing to say!  The kids went right back into their classes and I enjoyed my classes. Heidi even played in nursery. For a few minutes...

So that's our story of our move to Australia.  Its been filled with a wild roller coaster ride but I'm happy with the ending.  I am still amazed that we made it through seven flights with so many bags and kids and only once did we have a delay(from Sydney to Canberra at the very beginning) and we never missed a flight!!  Since we got home, Steve has found a job (we're very excited), the kids are registered in school, two kids are signed up for soccer, and we got our house back.  We had amazing tenants that took great care of our house and were willing to let us move back in. They found another place and we move in this next week.  I cannot believe the blessings we have received since we got home.  

We have spent  two weeks with our friends (15 people in one house) which has been soooo much fun. Our kids get along great, we get along great and its been an awesome adventure.  The last week was spent in my hometown and I loved it!  My son got to be baptized with his cousin and we went swimming every day.  I'm very ready to move into my house and have a quiet life of being a mommy and nothing else.  Is this the last of our adventures?  I'm sure we'll find others to keep us busy. But for now, I'm content to stay home and UNPACK.