Friday, March 27, 2009

The Long Ride Home

We are back, and SO so glad to be here.

We left our Kolkata hospital at about 4:30 pm (India Time), which is about 4:00am West Coast Time, on the 25th. The doctor recommended we take the ambulance to the hospital (which in the end felt like almost as big a gamble as the taxis), and that Trina use a wheelchair along the way to conserve energy.

We flew for a little over two hours to Delhi. We arranged for Trina to have three seats, since there were many empty ones, so she could lay down. This helped a lot. They had a special lift to get the wheelchair people off the plane, and then no wheelchairs for them. I was really angry to see that two very old ladies had to walk a very long way. The ground staff said it was the airline's responsibility; the airline said it was the ground-staff's. One man said "contact the airline." Let's just say that he got the wrath of Ron late that Indian night.

Fortunately, one of our flight attendants was compassionate and got us a chair (good thing; it was a long walk). The old ladies had given up and left already, knowing the futility of trying. Having helped one of them take a few shaky steps, I was so angry she had to walk...

Anyway, we had about a two hour layover in Delhi, and then got on the plane. It was brand-new, which was nice, and the entertainment systems were personalized (but without many options). The flight was 15 hours! With the help of some medicines, we each slept about 9 of these hours, which is a real miracle. This was in part because an angel of a man was willing to give us his three seats for our two, so Trina could lay down again.

Then another two and a half hour layover in New York at JFK. The border guard said "welcome home" and I got all choked up (how embarrassing). We found Trina a turkey sandwich (albeit pre-packaged) and I had a greek omelette. We split a big blueberry muffin. Mmmm. I also bought six apples, which during the flights helped me manage my stomach acid (from my antibiotics). They also were the source of much unfortunate bloating and socially inapporpriate activities...

In the US, I'm not allowed to push Trina's wheelchair. As it turns out, then you are expected to tip. I assume I cannot push it for liability reasons, I don't know. But since I physically was able, I was kind of bugged by this (let's be honest, I was so strung out a rainbow might have annoyed me). We learned a lot about what handicapped people go through every day, and it isn't pretty. Trina's situation was temporary and not terribly acute, and yet it was really frustrating. And in the end, you are supposed to tip people when they actually get you where you want to go (the hard part is, most of these people are immigrants, and are clearly low-wage workers, and so you also feel that you really want to tip them). Wanting to tip them on principle and not wanting to have to pay extra for being handicapped (on principle) is a bit of a catch-22. I'll let you guess how we handled it.

Then off to SanFrancisco. This flight was about six hours...and it felt like the longest. I think Trina slept for about an hour; I was grateful for this. No sleep for me--just "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (don't bother if you haven't already). The movie was no good, and the captain kept interrupting it by talking about inane things (and the movie kept moving forward while he was talking). No extra seats for laying down, and no food except for sale. The seats were older, but actually had much better padding. Still, my back started to hurt in a spot that has only hurt once before (when we flew home from Bangkok). This flight felt like it would never end. The captain told us when we were over Boise (I was like, "no, turn north!") and said we only had 150 miles to go (and two hours). That didn't seem right (are we going seventy five miles an hour?). An hour later he said we had 200 miles left to go. That's about how it felt...

I had to talk the wheelchair man into waiting while I ran to the SanFrancisco Sourdough Bread company's store in the airport. My dad had suggested we get Trina a really good turkey sandwhich as soon as we got home. Since Trina's dad used to live in SanFran (and Trina has been there many times), we figured this was our best opportunity. So her Dad looked it up for us before we left and told us roughly where in the airport it was. Boy did I have to run, far. This didn't do a lot for my already gamey appearance and smell. And the wheelchair guy wasn't too happy about it either.

But boy did we get the best turkey sandwhiches available. Great roast turkey (not the slimy deli stuff), swiss, cranberries, lettuce, a little mayo, onion for me (not Trina) and swiss for Trina. On the most amazing, freshly baked sourdough bread--the quintessence of this category. It turns out Trina does have an appetite post E. coli when she likes the food!

Our layover was supposed to be two and a half hours but then our plane was delayed. They said that there was a mechanical failure, and they were talking like the plane was limping into SFO. When the passengers excited, they didn't look too happy either. Yikes.

That was discouraging. The flight attendants said they had no idea how long it was going to be, but it was going to be long. They were telling everybody that their only options were stanby. Trina said, "Get us a seat now!" (nicely but firmly) and I jumped up and told our sob story. Turns out there were actually two seats on the five oclock flight, and so they put us on that. So our layover was five hours, not 2.5. At this point we were at our wits end. You know how it is; you conserve just enough energy and then the finish line gets pushed out just a bit more...

But we met a nice lady named Anita (an executive at Adobe) who lent us her blackberry to call our family and who asked us lots of interesting questions about our trip, which was a nice distraction. She was a bit of a godsend, really.

I felt really bad for one lady who was headed to Alaska. Her Alaska flight was delayed because of a volcano; her dad had been put in intensive care that day with pneumonia. I really hope she makes it to him soon.

Anyway, as it turns out, when we arrived in Seattle (7:15), they said our old flight was still delayed and wasn't expected in until at least midnight, having been scheduled to arrive at 5:15. (and here it is the next morning and our bags haven't been delivered yet).

The final two hour flight wasn't bad. Mostly, we slept for most of it. I was sandwhiched between two awkward teenagers (angry girl and kind of oafy hasn't-grown-into-his-long-legs boy). They seemed to forget the air conditioning, which again didn't do much for my aroma, but nonetheless I slept.

One final hitch. No bags because we had switched flights. Not a big deal on it's own; but I was told that WE would have to come pick them up. They would not be delivered, because we switched flights. Lucky for me, the flight attendants (in Sanfrancisco) told me my bags had been switched to the correct flight, so I used this as a reason that they screwed up, not me, and they needed to deliver the bags (we are an hour from the Seattle Airport). It seems like everything has to be a fight! My brother in law said he was impressed with how firm I was without being mean. Firm I can do. I'm impressed about the mean part...I didn't have much discretion left in me.

Bags just arrived (next day at 1:10, as I type this!--I wonder when the flight got in?)!

Okay, so Trina's parents were both there (Ron and Ann) and Phillip (Trina's brother) and Emily (wife of Phillip). It was all hugs and tears and more hugs and more tears. After figuring out the bag thing, we headed out for dinner (Trina's third Turkey sandwhich for the day), stopped at Phillip and Emily's to drop them off and see their cute dog (sort of a nephew to us), Montana, and then headed home. After a quick shower, so we didn't soil the clean sheets, we got in bed around 11:00 pm, the 26th, west coast time.

That means we had set out about 43 hours before. We spent 13 hours in airports, 25-26 hours on planes, plus driving, dinner and the like. My stomach isn't doing too well (I'll omit the details), and we both had kinked necks, but we both slept until 12:30 (so, at least 13 hours). Feeling much better, although it was hard to wake up (it's the middle of the night in India--a 12 hour and thirty minute time difference is about as bad as you can get)...I'm sure we will struggle with jet-lag.

That said, we aren't done writing about India. We have stories of the city, of the home for the dying, of the hospital. By the time we are done writing, we'll probably be ready to head off to Mexico for the last (probably less eventful, hopefully) stretch of our trip. We are also thinking of taking a roadtrip south on the way to Mexico. We'll definitely write about that too!

We will keep you posted; please stick with us as we continue sharing our adventures. We will also keep you posted about our developments with law and medical school.

Much love to you all!

We are HOME!!!

1 comment:

Emily said...

Welcome back. Sounds like the trip without end (but just wait til you've got toddlers with you one day -- though hopefully not with the sickness and length!).

So glad to hear that you are home in Seattle and enjoying time with family, and able to recover fully.

Enjoy some well-deserved rest days.

Hug from NYC!