Our flight from Indiana to JFK in New York went smoothly. I'm terrified of flying, really, so I've always been thankful to have lap kids to distract me during take offs and landings... not sure what I'll do next time we fly because Mary Michelle will probably be too big to ride on my lap. I sat next to Anna - she chattered the whole way. I also listened to Nadia and Victoria right behind me who also kept up a good conversation. One of the few things I do enjoy about flying is looking out the window... New York City and the airport are pretty amazing from way up high.
Once on the ground, we had to gather several pieces of carry-on luggage that we'd had to gate check (it was a smaller sort of plane), set up the strollers (you should have seen Mary Michelle's eyes - this was right after we climbed down off the plane and before we walked back into the building; it was loud and there were airplanes everywhere) and then began our trek to the departures ticket counter where we had to get boarding passes for all of us. God was gentle and gracious to our family - we finally had someone who, for our first time in all of the times we've flown, figured that our family should all be seated together, even if it meant we took up a few rows. Thankfully, our luggage had been checked all the way through to Niamey as we've had to pick everything up in JFK before and switch it for the next flight ourselves. Then it really takes us awhile to get to the next gate!
Once we had our boarding passes, it was back through security (see the previous post) - and although we didn't get special "family" treatment, people were generally kind and helpful and just as we were starting to load up the strollers and head off to find our gate, who should come walking up but our friends-more-like-family... well, at least the younger half of them.
Like the great guys they are, they shouldered a few bags, grabbed a littler's hand and led us down to where their parents were finishing up their dinner. Last year, flying home for furlough, our families had arranged to travel together and unbeknown to most of our gang, we'd scheduled ourselves on the same flight back to Africa. Jonathan, who just loves these guys, asked at least 263 times from the time we started through security in Indy when we'd be seeing them. Tim kept telling him we'd left them at JFK... maybe we'd find them there again... and we did! Actually... they found us... or probably heard Jonathan asking that question the 262nd and 263rd times. :-)
What was really special was being able to start those wonderful hellos on the American side of the ocean, instead of having to wait for our arrival in Niamey. It didn't make the goodbyes hurt less, but did distract us from the sting, kind of like a Dora the Explorer BandAid on one of Elsie Mae's booboos.
The kids sat down and out came the laptops, books and Gameboys as some played and some watched while the parents got to visit for a bit and make those last phone calls or text those last messages before we boarded the plane for Casablanca.
We started boarding around 9 PM, plane was pretty much on time for take-off, ate dinner and then tried to sleep because when we landed in Casablanca, it would be around 10 o'clock in the morning. It is kind of wierd but beautiful flying into the sunrise like that - and Casablanca looks amazing from the air.
To be continued... again... tomorrow!