Thursday, April 10, 2014

'We're going on an adventure!'

Groggy and emotionally compromised John and I clumsily found our way to our seats inside the small aircraft that would take us to our first connection; Detroit. It was only about an hour flight and though we were low on sleep, my anxiety and John's excitement had us buzzing a bit while waiting on the others to board and settle in.
     "That wasn't so bad..." I murmur to John as he scrolls through The Chive occupying himself.
Looking up at me through his long eyelashes and pursing his lips a bit he replies;
     "How ya' doing. You okay?" I nod slowly while keeping my eyes fixed on the window, looking out at the airport where I picture his parents and grandfather to be staring out at us. I hate leaving family and I'm very poor with flying so this is a troubled moment for me, though I managed not to cry yet I know the tears will come at some point. It is now just a matter of when.
     "Come here. Let's take a picture.." I smile, he did this exact thing the first time we left Des Moines together, then it was for Alaska. That was nearly a year ago now, but moments like that always seem to fix themselves to my brain. I lean into him as he turns his cell phone on us, we both crack a smile and I hear Poseidon meow from the seat in front of me. He hates the waiting, preferring to be up in the air where everyone is quiet and the plane can rock him to sleep.

John's and my ceremonial selfie before taking off
from Des Moines.

     John sends the picture to his parents and I lean back over into my seat. By now I would normally bark at him about putting his phone into airplane mode but we hadn't yet pushed back and I didn't want to cut myself off from the world quite yet, so I remained silent.
      The plane begins to push and my heart sinks into my stomach as I watch our surroundings rotate outside our peephole of a window.
       John's laughter brings me out of my nervous state and replaces those feelings with curiosity. His parents had sent back a selfie of their own. Not only was it comforting but it was pretty comical too.

John's grandfather who happened to also be at the airport
and his parents.

     The first plane ride was quick with neither of us sleeping. We occupy ourselves with games and books. Nothing can hold my attention though, as I think of all of the things we have yet to do. Connections and boarding passes and customs fill my brain, each one creating ten different scenarios of how they could go wrong. I glance over at John who is reading his novel from his phone. Nothing has ever gone wrong when I've flown with him before. I use that as my token to ground myself and it gets me through the remainder of the flight.

     Once in Detroit we do the usual. Bathroom breaks and a quick meal from what was closest to our gate. There seems to be some commotion at the boarding counter but I'm focusing myself on Poseidon. Travel is usually stressful for pets but Poseidon is always so content with just being able to observe so much. It calms me.
    John has busied himself with calling his bank and I'm munching the remnants of my salty airport sandwich when the woman announces our plane is fifteen minutes late. No big deal. We have nearly a two hour layover in JFK before our flight to Venice, so fifteen minutes is nothing. The time of which we are meant to board comes and goes with the chatter picking up among prospective fliers. I'm always fascinated by big groups of people brought together like this. It's like reality tv but more appropriate and you can actually learn something about human nature on occasion.
     "I am very sorry.." The woman announces over the intercom, her slight southern twang dragging out the last word. "We have just found out that the weather at JFK is causing a delay. This flight is currently delayed an hours time. We are very sorry and understand many of you have international connections. Upon arrival at JFK the Delta assistance counter will be able to direct you further."
     The small area we have congregated erupts with people's complaints and worries, mothers settle their children back into seats and activities to occupy them and the over-zealous fliers who lined up to board before being asked roll their eyes and find their way to seats close enough to the counter that they still feel in control.
     I yell for John as he's stepped away to finish his phone call to the bank. "An hour!" I stage whisper to him, he holds up his finger to me in a 'just a minute' motion. I lock eyes with a middle aged man who's facial expression mirrors my own distress, he's well-dressed in a suit and trench coat and opens his mouth to vent;
     "I barely had a half hour layover as it is. I'm trying to get to Paris."
     "Venice.." I reply with an understanding frown.
     John returns and calms me, telling me they will just reassign us onto a different flight. The pilot comes over to sit by us and gives us a better explanation of the delay letting us know that the winds are the cause of our delay. 'winds' I think to myself. Such mighty machines and they can't handle a little wind? I've never trusted airplanes.

     An hour later we finally boarded and an hour after that we take off. It is an uncomfortable flight filled with frustrated people all worried and panicked, with no way of figuring out where they were going next.

The view from our window while preparing to land in New York.

     We touch down in New York, or I should say slam down. Eliciting shouts of panic as we smack the runway. We come to a quick halt and everyone is okay despite our rough landing. It is a quick unloading as we are all in a hurry to find out where we need to be next. Sure enough our flight to Venice has left without us so John and I discuss with the travel agent that instead we'll be flying to Rome and then connecting to Venice. Not so bad. At least we'll still be going through customs in Italy.
    We follow the direction of the agent to leave the airport entirely and walk outside to a completely different building so that we may go to our Italian airline counter to retrieve our passes, and through security for the second time. This was distressing as we had less that an hour until our new flight was set to take off. After fourty-five minutes at the ticket counter, the frantic agents finally figure out how to get us our passes and one of them personally escorts us through the airport and security as the gate to our new flight is completely closed already.
     While running through the airport I muse to John that we should try out for the Amazing Race at some point. He chuckles at my sarcasm.

    Safely aboard what can only be described as an airborne ark of sorts we're on our way to Italy thousands of feet in the air. The seats are beyond uncomfortable and we're surrounded by Italian speakers. The flight has free movies though so we occupy ourselves that way. Though there is quite a bit of turbulence and I am very upset by it, John holds my hand and we make it through.
     After a two-hour romantic comedy and a greasy pasta dinner from a plastic tray, the lights are dimmed and people are settling. John suggests taking Poseidon to the bathroom so that he can feed and water him. I get up letting them by and remain standing to stretch my back and legs, my extremities tingling from sitting so long.

   All of the sudden a woman a few rows back begins screaming.

She is yelling in Italian and the lights are off so I cannot see what's going on. I immediately sink down in my seat with a hard 'plunk' and glance at the bathroom holding my loved ones. They are in front of me and the commotion is behind. I wonder if John can hear any of this. If he had I imagine he would have come running. That's just how we are. I am a sheep, he is a sheepdog, and at any sign of a wolf, he jumps.
I converse with a woman behind me as the lights come on.
     "I don't speak Italian, I don't know what's going on."
She has long dark hair and is young, but older than me.
     "Uh..." She pauses, "that man has collapsed, they want to know if anyone has...medical training."
      "My husband is an EMT!" I practically shout. "Let me go get him!"

I run to the front of our section and get John. I briefly explain and we switch places while I collect the cat and take him back to my seat. John disappears into the small crowd forming around the man as I watch him and an elderly woman converse back and forth with the people seated by the man including the woman who had screamed. Eventually a doctor from first class makes it back and John comes back to sit with us.
     "He's fine, he's just dehydrated and panicked by the turbulence. He's okay." He explains it to the bilingual woman I had spoken with earlier and the news spreads and yet again people start to settle.
The man is returned to his seat and the attendants aid him while they return the plane to its normal state dimming the lights. At this point we are halfway over the ocean, and halfway to our destination.

    The rest of the flight was uneventful, in comparison at least. I am uncomfortable and cold so I stay awake the entire time watching movies and checking on Poseidon periodically. It was an eight hour flight and the longest he's been on in his five months of living but all things considered he did beautifully.
     After landing in Rome we link up with another young woman who is flying to Venice for military purposes and travel as a group to our gate. After getting our passports stamped at what we realized later was actually customs we experience a brief layover filled with confusion on how to use the European vending machines and a short, sticky-warm shuttle ride to our flight. Our flight from Rome to Venice is short and though I typically cannot sleep on planes my body begins to shut down and I awake as we land in Venice.
    As we land John and I marvel at the canals and rivers running through the land below us. The sight is amazing. But coming from someone who spent the last nine months in Alaska, the most breathtaking sight for me is how incredibly green everything looks. I haven't seen bright naturally occurring colors in I don't know how long. Living in a watercolor blue and gray landscape you don't realize you miss the bright earthy tones until you're plummeting towards them at a controlled decent.
We link up with our new friend, Adrienne, we had met in Rome and head for baggage claim, soon confirming our fears that our bags would be lost what with the flight switching. Only one of ours, mine filled with all of my makeup and clothing is missing. Adrienne, however doesn't get any of her bags. After quick conversations with lost and found we're sent away with packets of information and promises our bags will be delivered to us in Vicenza when they arrive.
    John and I walk out of the baggage claim area and realize there was no customs process confusing the two of us quite a bit. Just after reaching the military assistance desk we realize there is no one there and no one to help us.
    "Great." I complain. That was our one way to Vicenza, the town we'll be living in that is roughly and hour away.
     "I guess we wait?" John says pressing his fingers to his temple and closing his eyes. We were completely done with the travel process at this point and are expressing only exhaustion.
Adrienne runs over to us, her small frame startling us both as she seemed to appear out of nowhere. Her sponsor had been kind enough to pick her up from the airport and the two of them catch our expressions.
     "Here, I can take you guys too!", her sponsor is about the same size as John and dressed in civilian clothes. He has lots of tattoos but a very kind, laid-back Californian type vibe. After he assures us he can take us as well, we pile our luggage and ourselves into his station wagon and settle in for the drive. As we drive through the cities he explains where to go and what you can do in each city. He also explains the road systems and signs and why people drive so crazy.
     As we speed and wind in an out of traffic we marvel at the stone buildings with pillars and villas with tile roofs, mixed in with run down shops and new-looking restaurants. Between towns are farms and small neighborhoods.
    The entire time Craig, our driver and rescuer talks excitedly about the places. We stop in a little neighborhood in Dolo. A small town east of Venice, that is split down the middle by a small blue-green river. Out of the car we head to a cafe Craig has been to and sit outside taking Poseidon with us and ordering sandwiches and cafe or cappuccino. We learn Craig is fluent in Italian so he assists in our ordering and understanding the receipt.
     Soon enough we are on the road again with our windows rolled down and the fresh Italian air flowing through. We nearly get into a dozen accidents.
     "This is normal here.." Craig explains. "Everyone here drives like maniacs, but I wouldn't have it any other way." He flashes a smile at Adrienne who is sitting in the front and she giggles.
     We hit base and he explains it is Italian owned and ran, so we are met with an Italian gate guard who checks us much more thoroughly than we are used to and head for the hotel.

The street we stopped at for dinner.
The cafe we ate at is the white building with the awning
third from the left.

We say goodbye to our new friends and thank them for the ride again. It was a great way to travel and learn and John and I are extremely grateful as we notice the military bus we were supposed to ride arrive minutes later as we are checking in.

We spent a little over an hour in Dolo sight-seeing and eating, had we turned down the ride we would have had to spend that time in the cramped Venice airport. We realize we got very lucky.

Our room is comfortable and large and we are settling in nicely for our extended stay. John only had to report in this morning so we spent the day walking around base, talking to people, visiting little shops and eating. The weather is gorgeous and though we are very jet lagged we attempted to spend most of the day out on the little town.

Poseidon getting the feel of his new surroundings.
We believe he's settled in quite nicely as he has not
protested much.

I'm excited to see what this weekend holds as we hope to get off of base and into town. I can't wait to shop and John can't wait to eat as every meal we've had so far has been amazingly fresh and delicious.

Overall it was a rough journey but I wouldn't have it any other way as it makes for a great story, I have a feeling that's exactly what this time in our life is meant for..great stories.
     Great stories and adventure, that is.

Or as they say here, Avventura.


  1. This is wonderful. I love your writing and am so glad to be able to follow along on your journey. Love you guys and so glad you are there safe and sound. AL. aunt Laura.

  2. Hey there! I stumbled across your blog while looking for information on Vicenza being my husband and I will be pcsing in a couple months! I'd love to chat with you if you'd be willing!

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    -Amanda S.