Day 29 – Arriving Home

Editorial Note: I have still got some catching up to do, so even though this is the end of the story in some respects, don’t forget to catch the posts for the previous 4 or 5 days as I am able to finish them. There are still a number of great stories and lots of pictures.

Today started early…a 4 AM wake up call and a 5 AM taxi ride to El Dorado International Airport in Bogota for a 8:35 AM flight. I guess there are probably times when arriving at the airport 3 hours early is necessary, but so far on this trip, it has been an exercise in patience. We arrived at the airport at 5:35 AM, got our exit stamp, checked our baggage, made it through immigration and security, arriving at our gate at 6:30 AM. The only good part about being 2 hours early was that it gave us some time to get a little breakfast at the Juan Valdez cafe across the way from the gate.

At about 7:55 AM as Mary Ann was browsing through the gift shop for some souvenirs to bring home, Cameron’s name was called over the loudspeaker. I got Mary Ann’s attention and she came back over to the bags while I went to the gate to find out what was going on. As it turns out, Cameron has been randomly selected for a security check….yes, you read that right. My 3 year old son was selected by American Airlines to go through a random security check including “bags and body.” For a moment I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say, but I final just got the words out, “you mean my little boy?”

I went back to Mary Ann a bit confused and a little frustrated with this stroke of…well…normal luck for us on this trip. We gathered our stuff and moved toward the gate. As I approached the gate this American Airlines employee motioned to me to get in the back of the line of people that were boarding. He said something in Spanish and the confused look on my face must have made him believe I was just a dumb American, so he made this big, “hey dummy, get in the back of the line” gester. Without thinking, I blurted out in English, “Well, that lady told me to come here!” With that, one of the ladies stepped forward and came to my rescue, shooing the other guy away. I said, “this is Cameron, but we are a family and we are traveling together.” She must have sensed the tension in my voice and began assuring me that everything was fine. She explained that I could take his place for the search. She spoke very good English and proceeded to ask questions about our bags and if we had been approached by anyone to carry anything to the United States. Then they moved us into the next area, which was the same area that everyone was passing through to board the plane. The young man standing there said to me, “I need to do a body search.” I was starting to freak out a little. I was thinking, “what, right here in front of everyone!!” He asked me to hold out my hands, wiped them with a little piece of cloth and put it in a machine. The machine analyzed the cloth and I saw the word, “ALARM” come up on the screen. I thought, “here we go, daddy is going to jail in Colombia!” The guy tested the sample again with the same result. Then he looked at me and said, “proceed.” At first, I wasn’t sure what he meant, but he motioned for us to go on down the boarding ramp. All that, and we are just going to get on the plane?!?!

So after that drama we finally got on the plane and realized they had not assigned our seats together. Some poor person was going to have to seat next to Cameron and Cooper for 4 hours! I waited for the unfortunate soul, who luckily spoke English a little, and I offered to trade seats. She took one look at our two monkeys jumping up and down in the seat and gladly switched with me. =)

The flight to Miami went fine. The boys slept a little for the first part of the flight (Cooper has yet to be awake for a takeoff) and after a bit we had a nice little breakfast. I did some writing while Mary Ann entertained the boys. Once we got to Miami the real fun began.

As many of you know, traveling with two children can be a challenge. Especially when you are dragging two large carry on bags that you have stuffed to the max, four personal bags (one of which is filled with electronics and weighs a ton), and pushing a stroller. To make things worse, the immigration area is a mile from the gate!!! (probably not really that far, but they really could have designed things a little better)

We finally made it to immigration and got in line. The line moved quickly and we stepped up to the window. The agent was very nice and stamped our passports with the entry stamp. At this point in the process, an adopting family has to present a sealed envelope that was given to us at the embassy. The contains of this envelope have to be processed in order for Cooper to receive his certificate of citizenship. We knew this and were excepting a little delay. Last time when we flew into Atlanta we had to wait for about 45 minutes to get this final piece done. We arrived at the immigration office at 1 PM. We left the immigration office at 2:30 PM. Our plane to Atlanta left us at 2:40 PM.

I am positive that had an extremely nice and alert agent not spoke up on our behave, we would still be there. I watched as several files were brought into the office and placed in front of ours in the process. It was extremely hard to watch four immigration agents standing behind the counter talking while two guys were doing all the work. The only thing going through my head was, “yep! we are home.” We had been used to seeing the Colombian work ethic. The people of Colombia are hard workers and they take a lot of pride in what the do. They are also very family friendly. No matter were we went, there was always a special line for people with small children. Not something we see in the states…at least not in Miami.

After leaving the immigration office, we ran to the baggage claim area to find our bags sitting by themselves. We grabbed a cart, loaded them up, and ran to the connecting flights area. The guys there took one look at our bags and shook their heads, pointing us to the American Airlines ticket counter where there was a “Missed Flight/Rebooking” desk (guess this happens a lot). They got us rebooked on an American Eagle flight to Atlanta at 4:10 PM, which put us in Atlanta at 6:00 PM, only about an hour and ten minutes later than we originally were scheduled.

Now, guess what gate our new flight was leaving from? Yep! You guessed it…Gate 60!!! (see the post about our trip down) So we got on the SkyTrain and headed to the end of the airport. We hadn’t eaten lunch and the boys were striving so we got some snacks and before long were boarding the little airplane for Atlanta (it only had three seats across and they seated us on the back row – which worked out pretty good for us). The boys slept for the whole flight. I tried to sleep for a bit, but was interrupted when the stewardess rammed the drink cart into my knee.

We landed in Atlanta on time. Interestingly enough, the plane parked at gate T9. We started our little adventure at Gate T10 only 29 days ago. It seemed only right to finish so close to where we began. We gathered our luggage from the American Airlines baggage claim area and found Mary Ann’s family who had come to greet us. After a much needed dinner (other than a few snacks and breakfast on the plane, we hadn’t eaten all day) we began the last leg of our journey, the drive from Atlanta to home.

We arrived at home around 1:30 AM, unpacked the car, let Cooper look around a bit, and introduced Cooper to Bama. He and Bama have some bonding of their own to worry about. We finally got the boys in bed and crashed ourselves around 3:30 AM.

We were exhausted…but we were home.