First of all, this was the first time the family had ever taken a military rotator anywhere. Oy. I am not sure why we decided this would be a good thing over flying commercial, but what's done is done, right? We had the morning to say goodbyes to friends on base, clear out the temporary quarters we had been living in, and drive ourselves in a borrowed van to the military airport downtown. We unloaded all of our stuff, dragged it all into the terminal...and waited. Our friends the Js were there, and Hannah told me about a play room for younger kids upstairs. This was somewhat helpful, although it was about 8 feet square and stuffed with toys and books that likely had not seen any disinfectant in a few decades. Nevertheless, it placated our wigglier family members and helped pass the time until we were ready to go through security.
|Our friends Tuba and Hannah came to say goodbye to us and other friends who were traveling.|
Bwahahahaha!!! No, just kidding! We were stuck in a small waiting room on the other side of security for an hour while plans for takeoff were in limbo. Unable to walk out to the plane--where some folks had already boarded, yet unable to return to the USO area to play and eat snacks, all we could do was sit and wait. Thankfully the security people took pity on us and we were able to get some water bottles.
Finally, after a long, sweaty hour, we resumed our shuffling and herding onto the plane...
...where we waited for another couple of hours or so before a flight plan could be approved. So much time has passed now that I don't remember the details, but it had something to do with Rome's air space. All I remember is that Seanin had not napped and was rapidly approaching manic/meltdown mode despite the "fun" of this new adventure.
Eventually we received approval to leave Naples, and while I had anticipated this would be a bittersweet moment, it actually was more of a relief than anything else to watch the city fade away below us. On to Rota, Spain!
At Rota we were required to leave the plane. Silly us, thinking we'd be boarding again after a brief visit to the bathrooms and chance to stretch our legs. This time we were in a bigger waiting area with a few hundred of our new closest friends, all contributing to the rising temperature as the sun disappeared over the horizon, taking the last vestiges of patience and good humor with it.
A couple of hours later we got back onto the plane and began the journey over the ocean. You'd have thought Seanin would have slept at this point, but let's just say it was an incredibly long night.
Landing in Norfolk, VA, should have been a relief, but the process of getting allllllll of our luggage and then a taxi was another excruciating couple of hours. We had reservations at the Navy base for a night, but by the time we arrived and got semi-settled we got a grand total of about 2-3 hours of sleep before we had to be up and loaded into the taxis to get to the airport.
|Seanin enjoys waiting on the luggage cart in Norfolk while Ted and the older kids look for our bags. This is quite possibly the only time he actually smiled during this day's travels!|
A lieutenant from Ted's squadron met us at the airport to help orient us, and then we piled into a rental van and made our first Very Important Stop: Chick-Fil-A! A Star Wars troop was there for a family dinner event, which delighted the kids. (I'm sure the younger boys thought this was entirely for their benefit!) The manager heard our story...just arrived from an overseas assignment, etc...and came to thank us for our service and tell us that he was buying us dinner! What a blessing! It was a much nicer way to end our trip than we would have expected after being so tired and feeling yucky from all the travel.
Final stop: Offutt AFB temporary housing! Oh, such a joy to be in a 2-story HOUSE and get a decent night of sleep! We caught up (a bit) on our rest and met our landlords the next afternoon so we could tour the house we were pretty sure we wanted to rent. One look at the house made it a done deal! The Lord truly answered our prayers in so many ways. We set our move-in date for May 26 (the soonest the movers could schedule delivery of our household goods) and spent the next week getting familiar with the area, purchasing our own big white van, enjoying Stateside specialties (such as wide parking spots and cheeseburgers), and generally getting as settled as possible.
After all of our European travels, we can say honestly that we are glad to finally "land" and stay put for awhile! We certainly won't be pursuing air travel anytime soon at any rate, lol.