We’re in Oxford! We’ve reached the end of our first full day here, and it’s been busy.
Our flights went well, overall. I was praying that our only major issue would be the transport mix-up. Our transport from our apartment in Auckland to the airport showed up at 7am instead of 7pm, as requested. I’m happy to say that this really was the only big issue with our travels.
The flight from AKL to LAX went very well. As always, we flew Air New Zealand for our long-haul flights. I have always been impressed with them and they didn’t disappoint us this time around. Thanks to a convincing stewardess, the only other gentleman in our row of 4 seats decided to move back a few rows, giving him 2 seats and giving us the entire row to ourselves. He’d declined at the first request, and as the stewardess walked away, she looked at me over her shoulder and shook her head with a grimace. I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Who willingly chooses to remain in a full row with a toddler? But those Air New Zealand crew are not to be dissuaded, and they gracefully and charmingly came back with another attempt, this time remarking that they had a first class meal service that was extra, along with first class champagne and wine, and basically held it out in front of him like a carrot – it was his for the taking if he wouldn’t mind moving back a few rows. They also pointed out that in addition to him being more comfortable, we would be more comfortable as well. I was so grateful to them and to the passenger, who decided to move and told us on his way out that he was doing this for our sake. Our sake or not, I was thankful and said a silent prayer of gratitude.
Joe was wired from all of the different stimuli, first at the airport and then on the plane. Whoever invented the touchscreens for the back of airplane seats wasn’t thinking about how attractive they would be to small children. Or maybe they were. I was glad that he found it entertaining, but did wish that there was some means of keeping it turned off after a point. He was awake throughout dinner and ate like a starving toddler (he didn’t have his own tray, as he was a lap-child passenger, but he loved the food from our trays!). I basically fed him till he was pushing the food away, and then he fell into a food-induced coma and drifted off to dreamland, where he thankfully stayed for a full 6 hours. Chris was able to sleep for almost all of that time, too. I’ve never had much luck at sleeping upright, and Joe was being a fitful, so I stayed awake and made sure he didn’t unsettle himself too much. I didn’t want to watch a movie for fear of waking him, so mostly I just stared at the flight progress on the screen and eventually dozed off.
Joe woke up around 6:30am NZT. He was happy and playful for about 2 hours, and then went right back to sleep for another 2 hours, waking when we had about 30 minutes left in the flight.
It was strange to be in Los Angeles without staying in the USA. I did some shopping in an airport store, buying goldfish crackers, mini Crystal Light packets, and a small bag of reduced fat Chex Mix. These are all unavailable in New Zealand, and Joe snarfed down the crackers like no one’s business. We were in LAX for just over 2 hours before boarding our second Air New Zealand flight to London. As we flew across the USA, I said a silent “hello” to various family members: my brother + his family in Kansas, my sister + her family in Iowa, my brothers-in-law + their families and sister + her family in Wisconsin, my brother + his family, my parents, and my siblings in Indiana… so close, and yet so far!
The second flight wasn’t quite as nice, but still not bad. It was very, very crowded. I was glad that Joe fell asleep just before dinner, otherwise one of us would have had to have skipped the meal. He ended up draped across our laps with the trays semi-extended. The Air New Zealand crew felt badly that we were so jammed in there. Of course, the people in front of us kept their seats reclined for as much as possible (they were the passengers who the crew had to ask at least once, sometimes twice, to sit upright during meals/for landing/for takeoff… you know the kind I’m talking about!).
After the meals were cleared, one of the staff came back to talk to me. He right away apologized that we were so crowded and wanted to know my name, Joe’s name, and Joe’s age. At first, I thought there was some sort of problem. Joe is quite tall for his age (taller than many 2 year olds) and I wondered if perhaps they thought we were trying to sneak an overage child onto the flight. I asked if something was wrong and he said no, no problems, but they were wondering why we were seated in that particular row. He explained that, normally, they try to seat families with lap children in a bulkhead row. They might not have an extra seat, but there is extra leg room. He said that they even had some spare seats in those rows but as they weren’t aware that we had a child, those seats had already been taken by others. I’m sure my eyebrows raised a bit when he said that they didn’t know we had a child on board. How could they have missed that, especially when they were checking us in and handing us a child’s seat belt?
I didn’t mind, but I was slightly regretful of the fact that we could have had a bit more space but didn’t. The steward said that he would see what he could do and would get back to me. About 5 minutes later, he came back and said that he’d gotten an exit row seat in the cabin behind us. It would mean splitting up, but it would give us 3 seats between the 3 of us instead of just 2 seats, and that perhaps Chris and I could take turns and have a rest. Sounded great to me! I took the first shift in the exit seat and relaxed back there for a little over 2 hours. Chris had the 2nd shift for about 3 1/2 hours (he was willing to come back sooner, but by then, Joe had fallen asleep with his feet on my lap and I didn’t want to risk waking him).
I really appreciated the efforts of the steward. I’m sure that the people we sat between in the exit row weren’t thrilled about losing their empty seat. I apologized to them for taking it, but the guy sitting next to me was really nice and said that the steward had explained how cramped we were, and that it was fine.
Joe slept for basically the last 3 hours of the flight. He slept all through breakfast (again with perfect timing, allowing me to eat my meal in peace).
We actually touched down at Heathrow about an hour ahead of schedule thanks to some good tailwinds blowing us across the USA. However, we had to wait about 20 minutes for a gate. Still, getting off the plane 30-40 minutes sooner was nice. We went through Immigration (we made it almost all the way through the zig-zagging line before Joe, who was exhausted, began to cry, and the line attendant rushed us through), picked up our luggage, and zoomed through Customs. Our driver was waiting for us but right away told us that he’d been waiting over an hour and that because of this, there would be an extra fee. I didn’t really care about paying an extra fee at that point, but what wondered what time he’d expected us to meet him. It was 11:35am. Our flight touched down at 10:25am. He said that he’d arrived at exactly 10:25am and I thought, “Everyone knows that you don’t show up at the airport at the exact arrival time of the flight, especially for a family with children – you wait at least 20 minutes for a domestic flight and 30 minutes for international, giving people time to get luggage, get through any necessary lines, and then go to the bathroom if needed.” Oh well. Maybe we’re the only ones who do that. I just don’t like showing up at the airport to meet someone and having to either (a) circle around and around, or (b) pay for parking and wait. The driver and Chris had a great chat on the drive to Oxford, all about philosophy and coffee, two of Chris’ favorite subjects 🙂
Our apartment is nice. Not fancy and not large, but it meets our needs. It’s about 1/2 a mile, maybe less, from the grocery, a major shopping center, and a library. I’m already missing my dishwasher, though, and the fridge is teeny-tiny (slightly larger than the type of mini-fridge you’d expect to see in a university campus dorm in the USA). Chris has a 30 minute walk to his office, but he’ll probably just take the bus once we figure out the routes.
We had a bit of a disappointment when we first arrived. Joe was exhausted and I thought I would put him down for 45 minutes, just to recoup a little bit of lost sleep, but alas! No portacot! I was sure that I’d emailed the owners about this and that they’d said they could provide one, but I was in such a sleep-deprived fog that I didn’t want to trust my memory. I pulled up the internet and did a quick email search. Yep, they had promised to provide a portacot. I called all of their numbers without any answer, leaving a message on one of their cell phones.
I called back again a while later, and one of them answered. She told me that she’d completely forgotten about the portacot but would bring it by later. I started to ask what time, but she interrupted me and said, “Look – I’m really busy serving lunch here and I can’t talk to you. Can’t you just make do?” I was tired and overly sensitive, but I bit my tongue and told her that I was sure we could make do and we said good-bye. Joe was crying in the background, but I wasn’t comfortable leaving him to sleep in the middle of our bed, and whenever I try to sleep next to Joe, it just amps him up.
Chris ended up taking Joe for a walk. Joe was crying off and on and we all needed to either rest or get some fresh air. I opted for rest. Chris and Joe opted for fresh air. I was going to take a quick shower before heading to bed, but guess what? No hot water! Or rather, very little hot water. I’d turned on the faucet, gone into the bedroom to grab a change of clothes, came back and hopped in, only to have it turn icy before I’d gotten more than half of my head wet. I jumped back out and kept fiddling with the knobs, trying to figure it out. I tested the sink faucet and found that it had no hot water, either. At that point, I did start to cry. Sometimes, having a short cry helps put things in perspective, in my opinion, and I felt better after about a minute. I dried off, climbed into bed, and slept like the dead for 2 hours, not even waking when Chris and Joe got home and Joe was apparently banging on the bedroom door.
The portacot eventually arrived. Joe and Chris ate dinner (I was feeling sick from lack of sleep). Joe fell asleep at 6:30pm (6:30am NZT) and slept straight through till nearly 7am. Amazing. I was bracing for a 2am or 4am wake-up cry, but it never came. There was a brief 3am cry, but it was along the lines of, “I’m sad and lonely! Where am I! I can’t find my pacifier!” We gave him a pacifier (I only give him one when he goes to sleep or, here recently, when things are really out of whack with his schedule) and turned on his sleep sheep. He thankfully went right back to bed, and so did we. I’m hopeful that tonight will go just as well. Chris had to head out for a faculty dinner (Joe and I were invited, too, but we declined) so it’s just me and Joe. I’m finishing up this blog and then, hopefully, going to figure out how to work the TV set and then go to bed!