This adventure starts out very similarly to one about 9 years ago when I set off for Kiribati for the first time in the Peace Corps: "I've packed my bags, repacked and repacked and repacked and still my bags are overweight." I also reminisce as I wonder "What have I gotten myself into this time?" Well, it turns out that our bags weighed in under our allotted amount and travelling to the other side of the world is not as bad as one might think. We came armed with bribes of gum and electronic devices and when all else might fail, we have the children's Benadryl and we're not afraid to use it!
It turns out that the first flight of only under an hour was a good thing so the kids could play with everything on the plane and be the curious children they are, and the surrounding passengers only had to put up with us for a short time. After dinner in the Charlotte airport and getting on the next flight to LA, we thought the kids would be tuckered out and bed down at their normal bedtime. We did not forsee them being seated so closely to two other children close to their ages and similar electronic devices to keep their conversations flowing. Needless to say, there was enough excitement to keep them up for the entire 5 hour flight. We collected ourselves upon arriving in LA, apologized to the old man sitting next to us, and went on our way to the international terminal and checking in with Air Pacific. We scarfed down our last bite of McDonald's hamburgers (note to parents: do not offer your children their first Big Mac at 11:30pm with only 15 minutes to eat it!), and proceeded through security and to the very end of the terminal to board our plane. We saw a couple of Kiribati folk that Conn knows and ended up sitting near one on the plane. We sat in the first row behind first class and had the extra leg room for the kids to move around in, and the bassinet for Parker to sleep in... both blessings. James and Tanielu were asleep before the plane left the terminal, and Parker was shortly after reaching our cruising altitude. No Benadryl needed, although Parker was close. We all got some sleep but not nearly what any of us needed. Everyone did great despite the circumstances. Parker started getting antsy about an hour before we landed, but we walked around the airplane a couple of times and he waved at the other passengers as they smiled and adored him. Upon our arrival, we took a smooth path through immigration and customs in Fiji. The customs official looked at our mountain of 9 checked bags and 5 carry ons, taller than I am, and asked "Is that all you have?" Good to hear a sense of humor at 5:30 in the morning.