Thanksgiving in Spain day one.
We left the house by 9:00 am to drive to Dover Delaware in hopes to catch one of the two flights leaving that day for Rota Spain. I loved watching the kids get ready for the trip that morning. They know the system, backpacks full of dollar store wonders, scarves, soupies, sleeping bags (for plane ride and crashing in the airport). Sally Jane sat in the back of the car and said, “Oh Mom I am so excited to being going on another trip”. I find that amazing because she really knows what she is getting into and still wants to go. She understands the long hours at the airport and watching her mom and dad stress over if their name will be called to get on the flight. Waiting on an old school bus on the tarmac for who knows how long, before you get to walk the 37 stairs to take you to the top of the C5. Then to fly on a plane with old yucky everything and bathrooms with no running water to wash your hands, just moist toweletts. We realized that in Sally Jane’s short life of 4 years she has now visited Europe 4 times – she seems to have a memory from every trip.
We said our prayer in the car before we drove off for Dover and talked about what we should ask for and be grateful for. Then for the 3-hour drive to Dover Jeff and I listened to the book The Help on CD. It is even better than the book. Annie Kate listened to her new cd on her ipod “Owl City” while the little’s sat in the back and discovered their dollars store surprises in their backpack’s and laughed their heads off at the funny lines from the book. (most of the time is was when it had to do with the word poop)
We arrived at the airport an hour early and felt confident that we get one of the 19 available seats. The Dover terminal has a spankin new (last week) lounge for the soldier and families to hang out in while spending sometimes days there. Leather sofas, hardwood floors, large pool table, stone fireplace, flat screen TV’s everywhere, nice library collection, large flat screens to play video games, outdoor bbq area and a 20 stadium seat theatre to watch movies in. There could have maybe been 20 people in the entire airport. The girls spent time in the children’s center building, playing and watching Disney channel. I sat there and finished my book The Magicians Elephant by Kate Dicamillio. Oh it is a gem of a book and I can’t wait to read it to the girls. It reminded me much of The Marvelous Journey of Edward Tulane.
Without much waiting we were called up and made the flight. We paid $5.00 each for a “box nasty” which has water, sandwich, warm coke, M&M’s, breakfast bar, apple or orange and a bag of chips and comes in a big white box. The flight itself, amazingly free. I am still amazed each time they hand write your boarding pass and write $00.00 in the cost line. I had looked up before we left as I usually do what it would cost for 5 to fly to Spain. I keep the number in my head when the long process or anxiety of getting a flight weighs me down. So whenever I say, “I am saving $3640 for tickets” it makes the inconvience much easier. Then I stared realizing how in many ways it is so convient. We can bring as many bags as we want, check in or carry on, the security line in never more than a 5 min wait. You park your car in a spot in front of the terminal, most flights going through customs is saying hello to a police man from Spain as you walk out to get your luggage that is waiting for you when you walk in the terminal.
Dover AFB is where many if not all the fallen soldiers fly through when returning home to their families. The few times we have been there we have seen the company practicing how to carry the casket off the plane. Today we saw one being loaded on the small plane to fly home to his/her family. This is one of the reasons they are very strict about not taking photos on the tarmac to be respectful. As we waited for the big, blue school bus to pick us up, we watched through the large glass window a casket being carried onto the white small plane. Standing at attention the entire time (20-30 min) were two soldiers in fatigues and one man in a suit. The did not move a muscle as it was slowly moved on the plane. I say this every time by the process of flying is always as much of the experience as is the trip itself. I told the girls that in there was someone’s, mom or dad, or brother, son, uncle, aunt – etc. I have so much gratitude for the supportive families of those serving overseas as well as those serving.
After the small plane took off we were then allowed on the bus to be taken to this time a c5. There were only 15 passengers for a plane that has 72 seats. We figured that the plane would be full of soldiers and we were getting the extra seats. But lucky us we had the whole top of the plane to ourselves. Which means all 5 of us each had our own row, to sleep or lie down on or make tents with our sleeping bags, Caroline and Sally Jane opted for the later. We had our own little city going on on there. Jeff read most of the time, I watched some rented movies and craft podcasts I put on my iphone (love that thing) Sally Jane did a lot of running around and Caroline played cowboys and Indians. Annie Kate slept for most of the way on the row near the exit. It is the coldest row in the plane as you can feel the wind blowing through the door. She was really hot so she sat up front. It gets warmer the more you move back to the plane, so the rest of us where somewhere in the middle.
Our 8-hour flight was cut short because they said we caught an awesome tailwind and we got there 2 hours early. That was good news and bad news. WE now arrived at 5:30 am instead of 7:30. Car rental on base does not open until 8:00 am. That was bad news. I was no longer having major anxiety that we were going to crash in the ocean, that was the good news.
There was a 24 café open next to the terminal so we ate a huge breakfast. Then we went to the playground area, the kids remembered it from last time because it is a large pirate ship, and we set up camp. We laid all of our sleeping bags, pillows out on the grass and as a family slept for 2 hours in the most wonderful Spanish coastal wind. It was one of the highlights of my day. I felt like we were camping in Utah where there is no humidity or bugs, just a cold breeze.
We woke up at 8:00 to find the café full of Spanish Army soldiers eating breakfast and watching us vagabonds wake up and take town camp.
So we made it to Spain. We feel so blessed to be here again just a little over a year after our last trip. We plan to see the southern coast this time, but are still trying to talk Sally Jane in letting us take her back to an afternoon at Gibraltar and see the monkeys.