Tuesday, January 12, 2016

#1 Nigeria: Leaving Houston

I plan to use our blog as a journal for our time in Nigeria. I don't want to forget anything, so I apologize that these posts are going to be long. We're trying to take lots of pictures, too, so I'll put pictures first for a cliff-notes version and the journal-version after.

 Getting ready to leave the hotel with our stuffed to capacity suitcases! This is half of the big ones.

All the stress and crazy packing paid off and it was SUCH A RELIEF to have the big bags checked and just be left with the carry-ons.  

Fuzzy picture, but showing that the girls were still in good spirits, despite it being way past bedtime and still having over an hour in the airport to go. They really did do SO great with the whole airport and airplane adventure.  

Little Gracie sleeping in her big Business-First Class seat. :) 

 Looks like the high life suits her perfectly. 

I couldn't believe she actually slept 8 hours straight. She slept through dinner, the lights coming on, and announcements. It was cute to see the different positions she ended up in as she tried to get comfy.  

Sophia slept about 7 hours, as well. She didn't finally go to bed until after 2am, and she'd been up all day (minus a 30 minute nap in the car)!!! Russ said for the last hour or so before she fell asleep, she was hyper, telling him crazy story after story.

We flew out on a Friday night, and man, was it a stressful week leading up to it! I spent the better part of the last 6 months making lists of things to stock up on and what to bring with us that we wouldn't be able to buy here, so I felt pretty organized, but the 24 hours before the movers came still turned into, "Just dump it in that closet so it doesn't go to storage. We'll figure out how to fit it in later." The movers came on Wednesday (my goodness. That was less than a week ago? It feels like forever), and that closet full of stuff to bring got more and more full. We decided we would have to get an extra suitcase and pay the $200 excess baggage fee. We weren't excited about that, but were too overwhelmed to think of a better option. I was so bummed because, like I said, I felt so organized, but in the end, we overpacked.

Wednesday-Friday, we stayed in a hotel. Both Russ and I have bruises and scrapes from moving those heavy suitcases so many times..... we moved them around our apartment, we loaded them into the car to get them to the hotel, we moved them from the hotel to the rental van, from the rental van to my sister's house, back into the rental van, and finally to the airport. We ended up buying 3 bigger suitcases in the 3 days before our move. Luckily, we ended up not having to pay the extra fee, but only by replacing smaller checked bags with the new bigger ones. Thursday night, Russ and I stayed up until about 2am going through every single suitcase to see what we could leave behind. That stuff either got put in a suitcase currently at my sister's house or given away.

We checked out of the hotel at noon and our flight left at 10pm, so we went to Lissa's house in between - and we really appreciated having them as a "home base" to finish our suitcase re-organizing and let the girls play with their cousins one more time. Lissa was out of town, but Jason was really helpful in getting the van loaded and in letting us keep all our extra stuff there. I wish I'd taken a picture of our rental van. I really don't think it could have been any more full. We all went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse - a very nice last meal with our family before we left. As we started driving to the airport, it started to POUR rain and hail. It was pretty scary, but luckily it was off and on. Not luckily is when we were picking up the stroller from some neighbors (we had left it in Houston when we went to Lissa's in Katy because it literally wouldn't fit in the van before leaving some stuff at her house), it was raining the hardest it had all night. Russ got completely soaked (so soaked that his clothes were still wet 2 days later), there was a minute or two when we didn't even think it would fit, and Grace's car seat also got soaked when we took it out to put the stroller in. The weather slowed us down so we were a little later to the airport than we'd expected, but the flight ended up being delayed, so we were fine. No one was around to help us valet or curb check our bags, but also no one was there to keep the traffic moving, so Russ and I both just got out of the van to unload and we even checked in while he left the van outside unattended. Once his passport proved it was him, he left, and I checked the bags. The lightest one was 65lbs, but most others were 67-70lbs.

After the stress of driving and being up so late the night before and moving those heavy bags so many times, I was just plain worn out, and at one point, I embarrassingly tripped and fell over a suitcase as I moved another suitcase from the cart to the scale. Not only that, but it dropped on Sophia, so she was screaming, and she and I both have nasty bruises on our knees from it. I think after that the airport attendants realized I was in over my head and helped me move the rest of the bags. When Russ got back from returning the car, we went through security, walked to our gate to make sure the flight was really delayed, and then went to hang out in the United Club with the fancy first class people. We got some snacks and got changed into pajamas before going back and boarding.  Business-First was really nice. The chairs lay down completely flat, or you can move just the back to recline or the front to have a footrest. We got fancy meals, a TV with more choices, a pillow and big blanket, and gift bag with toothbrush, socks, eye mask, etc. It was also just extremely nice to have so much room you could get up and walk around in front of your seat instead of sitting with your knees scrunched up the whole time. Thank you, Chevron, for the classy accommodations!

As soon as we were airborne, I laid Grace's chair into a bed, and she went straight to sleep. I also went to sleep (it was about 11:30 or 12 at that point), but I was woken up at 1:30 when the lights came on and they served dinner. I missed most of it, but was mostly confused about why we were eating dinner at 1:30am. Russ said it was a fancy 5 course meal. Soon after, all of us went to sleep and woke up with 3 or 4 hours left of the flight. Sophia did amazing on the flight, and Grace did awesome, too. Grace did get restless and want to walk around, and didn't seem to understand that there really wasn't anywhere to walk to. It was harder for her since she is too little to watch shows, but for only a few hours, books and snacks and switching between Mom and Dad did the trick. :)

Honestly, at least for me, even with how crazy the jetlag is and adjusting to a completely new country and life here, last week is still more stressful. There were so many hurdles to get over: getting as much as we could packed, getting our car to storage, movers, getting the bags in the van, getting all those last-minute errands done. Once we got on the plane, a huge weight was lifted. The hardest parts were over. We knew it'd be a big adjustment once we got here, but we also knew we would be well taken care of. Getting ready to leave was so time-consuming, it still hasn't even really sunk in that we're gone. Or maybe I just figure we'll end up there again so there's no need to be too sad. But we really liked Houston! We liked being near family, our apartment, our ward, our friends, the restaurants, and the area we lived in. So goodbye, Houston! Thanks for being so good to us! You'll always be a special place to us, especially since Grace was born there!

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