All we could do was look around us in awe as the elegant streetlamps escorted us past tall, beautiful high risers on the right and the ocean on our left. A giant ferris wheel brought Alyssa's camera out (which, if you know Alyssa, is a regular occurrence).
The rest of that trip was fairly uneventful. Close to 1:00 AM, we were dropped off, ready to enjoy our beds.
For the next three days, I was bookin' it. I still had things to put in storage, three hours of work, plates to renew, power of attorney form to get notarized, and vote in a city 15 minutes away before we packed our bags for the plane and went to Singles' meeting at church. But, somehow, I made it.
On the third day, we didn't sleep because we would be leaving the next morning at 3:30. Our ride picked us up and we arrived at the airport a mere 30 minutes before our flight. And guess what- lucky ducks, our line was the longest we had ever seen at the little Columbus airport! We fidgeted. And waited. And fidgeted.
"Houston? Houston! Anyone for Houston?" Oh, joy! One of the airport staff called our flight! By God's grace, we were pushed to the front of the line with only a few other people and a few minutes later we were racing for the plane. We had barely turned the corner before hearing, "Calling Nikitah and Alyssa Luse...." A few minutes' longer wait and we would have missed the flight.
Two flights and a few days visit with our Arizona grandparents' later, we were just two days from the next leg of our journey. And then disaster struck. The disaster's name: Hurricane Sandy.
Why do we call natural disasters quaint little names? Is it to make it sound like things are not so bad? Well, if you have seen any news channel, you know that Hurricane Sandy was not a nice lady. She was one bad girl. While you and other people not living in New York may have been staring at their screens in shocked sympathy, there was a select few of us who were thinking, "Now what do we do, if...?"
Yes, our first connecting flight was in New York City.
Early in the morning we received the dreaded phone call informing us that our flight had been canceled. We were shell shocked. Surely it couldn't have been as bad as all that. Could it? More news watching. Yes, it was as bad. In fact, it was horrible. But would we let a little old hurricane keep us down? No way! Alyssa's first move was to call the agency we booked through. They wouldn't pick up. After what was probably close to an hour, she received an answering machine. She left a message. Then she tried the airline. Another hour later, she was told our flight would be partially refunded. By then we were both close to a nervous breakdown. This was like sitting there while our savings went down the drain- as we watched! But surely, if the European airline were told we wouldn't be able to make it, they would either move or refund our flight? So she tried the airline, where she received an outright no. They would not help. It was not their fault that we would not be making the flight. No, it was Hurricane Sandy's.
We were down, but we weren't out. We still had one weapon in our arsenal that we hadn't used- Mom and Dad. We opened up Skype and immediately Mom went to work. It didn't matter that they were a giant body of water away. They would help any way they could. So, while they called any number they could think of, it was my turn. I grabbed the phone and recalled the numbers Alyssa had called. On my first call, no one answered. Thankfully, on the second I met with a little better results. I got a person! And she went right to work, muscling the airlines to provide us with a flight. But while I was on hold, Dad called. Mom had found someone who had found a flight! Now what? If she called back with a flight, who would we let help us? Well, this was a different dilemma.... Just as the woman came back on to tell me she couldn't help, the guy Mom was talking to, signed offline! Now we had no help!
Just as I was about to give up... God provided a miracle. The man called Alyssa's cell phone. We were back in business! Soon we had a new flight and had been partially refunded for the old. We hung up and celebrated. Whew! At least that nightmare was over. We went to pack our bags.
And then the phone rang.
Not another cancellation! By this time, I was actually kind of okay with it. If we lost that 700 dollars and had to pay about 2,000 dollars each for a new flight a few weeks later, then whatever. Just... whatever. Such is life. And yet, a few minutes later, the man had found another flight. But mid-purchase, that flight, too, was canceled. What would we do???
Finally, we purchased another flight and were fully refunded for that one. We finished packing and went to bed. What would the morning hold? Would we ever make it to Romania? Or were we now new residents of Arizona? These and many other thoughts ran around and around my head, but I still somehow fell asleep.
The next day was the day of the flight. Laying there in bed, the sun streaming through the window (it is almost never cloudy in the desert), I didn't want to open my eyes. So long as they were closed, we were still going to Romania, right? I had to laugh at myself and got up.
Our flight was still on! That was pretty amazing, if you think about it. From what I knew, things hadn't really improved that much in the Big Apple. Later, we would find out that 1600 flights had been canceled and many people would be without power for over a week. Grocery stores were losing all of their refrigerated stock. People had no heat. The elderly couldn't get out of their apartments because there was no light in the halls and no working elevators. And yet, we had gotten a flight. The Lord was working. But we both knew we wouldn't be able to relax until we had made it to our destination. So much could go wrong! We could get to JFK and our next flight be cancelled. We could run out of funds trying to buy a new ticket! Or we could even get caught in Salt Lake, which was our new mid-way stopping point to NYC.
But God provided. We arrived at the airport, spent an hour chatting with our grandparents, went through security, and had a short Skype chat with the parents before our uneventful flights to New York.
New York. Ah, New York.... The city of stars and Broadway Musicals. Of constant traffic, subways, and skyscrapers. A city now riddled with blackouts, seen even from a plane high above in the early morning dark. Unfortunately, that meant that the AirTrain was out of commission. We almost walked from Terminal 3 to Terminal 8- a long walk, let me tell you! But a bus, specially commissioned for the blackouts, caught us and dropped us off. We went into the Baggage Claim area. Wow. The airport was less packed than I imagined it usually was. 1600 fewer flights would do that to a place, I supposed. But there still was no room to sit in the waiting area, which had been transformed. Pallets and people lay everywhere, trusting that the people around them would not lift any of their baggage. There still were too many people for my taste, so, after my breakfast of a giant scone and Alyssa's of a coffee, I convinced her to move to a safer location. We dragged our bags- two large, one guitar, two carry-ons, and two really heavy backpacks- to the elevator and onto the second floor. That floor was normally the AirTrain floor, but was now being commandeered for a few people's private use as a waiting room. We settled down. And waited for seven hours. By then, I was wiped. But a cold tile floor doesn't make for very comfortable sleeping quarters. I mean, if it was just cold, but comfortable, or warm and uncomfortable, I probably would have slept through the whole seven hours while Alyssa talked on the phone to our parents. But as it was, I awoke long enough to go on a food hunt (which, by the way, the food had all expired yesterday, but I figured we would survive) and watch 1 1/2 movies.
The baggage drop-off line was ridiculous. Whereas Delta didn't weigh our carry-ons, the European one did. And did not like what they saw. We ended up paying for Alyssa's carry-on as a second bag on top of the guitar (which we already had planned on paying). We said good-bye to another $140. This was getting more expensive than I had planned for.
Thankfully, the security check didn't give us any problem and four hours later we were on the Transatlantic flight, half-dozing through the take off. Looking up to see Alyssa's eyes closed and mouth hanging open mere inches from my face, made me smile. What a pair of beauties we must be. I settled in for the ride.
Dusseldorf proved to be interesting. We sat in an extremely cold waiting area, open to the winter-y air for part of the two hours' wait as people filtered out to the bus idling on the tarmac. When the doors finally closed and we were with our future fellow passengers, I couldn't help but listen to them. Romanian. They were speaking Romanian! We were almost home.
The next flight was short, but long. We were ready to see our family. We were ready to be done.
On Romanian soil, we handed our passports to the ladies to be stamped. They looked a little concerned that two young American girls were coming to stay in their country, but they stamped them anyway. We were the last to be in the line. The last to get our bags. And the last to head for the doors to Romania, free from airports- for a while at least. And just as we were heading toward the door, we saw them on the other side- our family.
So that's the official version of how Alyssa and I got here, to the crazy, strange land of Romania. But that's only the beginning of our journey. The future promises to hold much, much more. And what are my words of wisdom to you all, my dear friends, family, mildly interested acquaintances?
Traveling is overrated.