Tuesday, April 19, 2011

from Langkawi to KL to Kolkata to Frankfurt to Rothenberg obT

As soon as we arrived in our first hotel in Germany, the kids started shrieking with excitement. Before we had even carried the suitcases upstairs they had stripped all of their clothes off and were literally jumping up and down, giddy with anticipation. A bathtub! A real bathtub! It was almost too good to be true.

We kind of had a feeling they would enjoy Germany, but what they love about it has been a bit surprising. L. can't get over how clean everything is, and how orderly, and she can't get over the fact that we can use water from the tap to brush our teeth. BR likes being ignored by people—tourists don't even want him in their photos! A. loves that there is a steady supply of sandwich meat and cheese. Okay, we are all enjoying that. And the fact that beer, really good beer, is cheaper than water. Jeremy is already planning our move here (which is funny because I could have sworn that last week he was set on moving to Malaysia…).

I had to laugh when L. leaped out of the car at a rest stop along the Autobahn and rushed toward the grass. "Dandelions! I forgot all about these!" And she keeps talking about how it "smells like snow." The air is chilly in the mornings, and very clean. It's not cold, but our bodies aren't used to it after the sticky heat of Malaysia and the even hotter weather of Kolkata in mid-April. Still, we are happy to be here. Really, really happy. It has been a long week.

On Monday, we were still in our Malaysian beach paradise. L. and I decided to take advantage of the morning shade in the "cove" and took off to explore the tidal pools. About ten minutes in, she slipped and ended up with a pretty deep gash from a sharp rock or oyster shell, I don't know which. She needed stitches and I had mistakenly left the kit in our stored suitcases back in Kolkata. For the last ten months I lugged the pack of anesthetic and sutures around with us through four moves and then, when we finally needed them, we didn't have them (sigh). She and her daddy ended up at an ER, but they let him do the work himself and she was really brave.

Tuesday: we left Langkawi early and grabbed a flight back to KL because of a complicated visa situation. It was a shame, not to mention expensive to change our travel plans, but we figured it would be worthwhile so that we could make our one-day layover in Kolkata in a hotel and not in their charming airport. (India requires recent tourists to get special permission to re-enter if they haven't been absent for at least two months and the Kolkata airport is not the least bit charming.) At least the Embassy had already approved our application and notified us by email, so all we had to do was show up and get the passports stamped to prove it.

Yeah right.

The details are too long and stupid, but the end result was that on Thursday, when we tried to check in for the flight that would take us from Malaysia to Kolkata so that we could make our connection to Germany, they would not allow the kids and me on the flight. Jeremy was allowed to go, they said, but not the rest of the family. We begged, we pleaded, we found a sympathetic ear who made some phonecalls to Kolkata airport authorities who then made more phonecalls and so on, and they finally let us on.* When we finally arrived downtown in Kolkata, to the very guesthouse where we originally landed back in November, we had been upgraded to an A/C room and our good friends Paul and Steph had dinner waiting for us. It was especially welcome since I had woken up sick that morning and the day had been a long and dramatic one. We crashed early.

Friday, we spent the day doing a little re-packing, planning, and ran a few last minute errands. L. would need proper shoes in Germany (not quite flip flop weather there yet) and I knew where to find some and how to bargain for them, and how to catch an auto-rickshaw and a quick lunch. But it was hot, and every outing is an adventure in India. Still, it really felt good to be back, this time with the knowledge of how to get around—and we even had friends now! Jeremy pointed out how much we accomplished in a single day when only a few months before it had been an effort even to step outside the gates of the guesthouse. So much had changed in just five months.

At 10pm it was time to head to the airport for our overnight flight, and because of the time difference from Malaysia, we had started the day around 5:30am. Both L. and BR fell asleep on the way and we got caught in a particularly impressive (and pointless and completely avoidable, but that goes without saying) traffic jam that slowed us down. A bad start.

With the camera, I paused to document our departure, catching L.'s I-was-just-woken-from-a-deep-sleep facial expression. Poor kid. I hadn't meant to torture her, my intent was to show off my packing-light-superpowers (check it out: six months worth of gear for a family of five packed into three big bags and two carry ons!), but just as a snapped the photo, BR let out an insane scream in my ear. He had been asleep a minute ago, so I was holding him on my hip while he clutched his blankie. "A bug! There's a bug on me!" The noise was like someone was stabbing him in the eye with knives.

I looked down and saw a mosquito on his arm.

Seriously? So much fuss about that? We've seen thousands. I set him down on the ground and rolled my eyes, then tried to convince his sister that her legs would, in fact, hold her if she would just please try to stand up and walk. Just then, a gigantic roach scuttled past her—the same one that had been crawling on BR a minute before. Ahh... Yeah, kiddo, I would have screamed too. And here I had been mentally composing a post about how we had avoided unpleasant encounters with those guys (I have a very special and intense hatred reserved for roaches. They aren't just unpleasant or gross: they are E-vil).

I would tell the story of how we made it onto our flight to Germany but it is excruciating and I think I might have PTSD from it. Just imagine a place you have been to where people do their jobs in a most inefficient, exasperating and just plain stupid way—the DMV, or whatever—and then try to picture going there with the usual bunch of cranky people who are just as annoyed and tired as you are, in the middle of the night, with jetlag and three tired kids. Imagine that you have to stand in no less than eleven different queues. 

So, yeah, we all slept hard on the plane. That was nice. In fact, flight time was the most uneventful part of the trip. Besides the immigration process in Frankfurt which was all smiles and welcomes and goofing around with the kids.

Then we picked up the rental car, drove around in circles for awhile, and eventually found our (super cute) hotel in (super cute) Rothenburg. The kids had their bath, it was a beautiful sunny day so we went for a stroll and then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to stay awake but in the end we only made it until about 7pm which was okay because we all slept through until 7am the next morning anyway. (The duvets helped, I think, mmm…)

Originally I meant for this post to be about the fun time and good start we've had here in Germany. How the kids are loving it as much as we are, and how we are all happily seeing the medieval sights of Rothenburg ob der Tauber while stuffing ourselves with cheese and schnitzels. As I sit here typing up the story, however, A. just spoke up from her bed where she is tucked in for the night.

"Mom, I don't want to see cool stuff tomorrow."

Really? That's too bad. Because there is this really cool castle that I think you'd like…

*apparently Kolkata Immigration has its own unique interpretation about the new two month absence requirement. They apply it to return trips made to the country of origin, not to third country destinations. Since we had not gone back to the US, and since we have a multiple entry visa, and since we were only coming through for transit purposes, there was no need for special permission, they said. So all those hours Jeremy spent at the Indian Embassy in KL and the flight change to get back early from Langkawi, not to mention the fees we paid for the stamp? Completely pointless.


graMoM said...

we are So excited to see and read about your travels! tell A. that I agree with her: who wants to see cool STUFF? I wanna see cool kiddoes (and their parents!)!!

lepetitprince said...

what a journey!But you are in Europe yeah...We also are packing up but with so much more stuff.Have a nice trip back home.Auf wider sehen, nein auf wieder horen (over the phone sometime in the US)

Catherine said...

I love your travel diary! Traveling mercies. :)

Theresa Preston-Werner said...

I realize I've lost track of where you are and why... ahhh. Would it be weird to post that when you change places? I miss you and think of you often. P.S. I had lunch with Rachel in SF last week--turns out Kelly was re-located there, so they just bought a house on the Peninsula.