I'm back! Shall we begin?
After a useless day at work, I rushed home to take a nap, pack, and take the last shower I would take for quite a while. Jamming extra diapers into everyone's luggage, throwing out the garbage, and turning on the lights to give the illusion of occupancy, we lugged our nine suitcases, six adults, five carry-on pieces, one baby, one baby stroller, one baby car seat (because StupidShuttle does not provide one even though it would be virtually useless in the non-seat-belt-believing country of Pakistan), and one stuffed monkey onto the shuttle. The driver took us through possibly the most congested route through rush hour DC to drop us off at Dulles Airport for our 10 p.m. flight.
Although my father has had to suffer the inconvenience of having a terroristic name and thus is an old hat at the SSSS (Super Special Security Silliness) procedure, this was the first time that I was subjected to the same. I really wish I had worn my "my name causes national security alerts, what does your's do?" t-shirt. Separated from the rest of my boring-named family, my father and I entered the puffing machine and had our bags hand-inspected when my personal attendant encountered a baby bottle full of milk but no baby attached. Due to the liquids restriction, I had to prove that I had a baby in the near vicinity to justify the milk. Luckily, I spotted my tall brother-in-law over the barrier strolling down the hall and motioned frantically for him to bring ZP to us. The scene was right out of a prison movie with me on one side of the glass wall waving and jabbering nonsense and ZP pressing his chubby palms against the glass to try to get closer to me; all that was missing was the corded phone so that we could talk to each other about that special cake he was going to bake me.
In retaliation for the indignity I had just suffered to get through security, I ordered a big plate of cheeseburgers and garlic fries for the enjoyment of my fellow passengers. We boarded the flight, settled ZP into his reclining baby seat that was perched up on a tray near our knees, and arrived in London the next day with eight hours to kill.
Not having slept much during the flight, I felt rather delirious. We found two armless benches (suitable for stretching out) near the window where we could watch the planes take off and land. I was so out of it that I was watching for the newspaper taxies to appear on the shore, waiting to take me away. I tried to sack out in the "quiet lounge," but between the snorers and the cell phone talkers, I didn't get much rest. TP and I left ZP in the care of my parents while we tried out Cafe Uno's soggy pizza and salad. LB and KG, in the meantime, had escaped the confines of the airport for a quick jaunt into the city.
We whiled away our time by entertaining ZP and snacking. An Afghani woman with twins spotted our group and over the course of a few hours, eventually sidled up to us until she was on the adjoining bench and was able to chat us up. I couldn't fathom how she managed to travel alone with two two-year old twins in tow, but figured out that one way was to befriend fellow parent travelers such as ourselves who were more than happy to watch her kids while she used the facilities/attended to one kid and then the next/etc. I bought her kids and mine some milk from the café and eventually we all headed over to our gate for the next leg of the journey.
The flight from the UK to Pakistan was not surprisingly miserable. There were two babies in our section that were sick and when one would drop off to sleep, the other would take up screaming, crying, and kicking. Then, they would trade off. ZP was well-behaved but every time he would nod off, another round of shrieks would fill the cabin and he would wake up. By the time we arrived in Islamabad, we were all bedraggled and bleary-eyed. Thankfully, my grandfather arranged for a shuttle to collect us from the airplane and whisk us away to the VIP lounge to rest while our luggage was attended to. After a brief mix-up with two of the nine suitcases, we sorted things out and took several vehicles back home for our welcome breakfast of parathas, omelets, and chai. I could go on, but that would dip into the tale of "Day One" which is coming up next. So. Stay tuned!
Lesson of the day: Do not travel whilst five-months pregnant with a feisty toddler unless you have an entourage to go with you.