The Journey

October 27, 2020

Fifty-nine hours. That’s roughly how long it took from the time we left for the airport on Thursday to the time we reached our quarantine hotel room on Saturday night. Fifty-nine hours without a proper night’s sleep or regular meals or the routines that normally provide comfort and stability. It was indeed a grand adventure, especially since none of our children had ever been on a plane before, much less three planes in a few days. We had spent months preparing and packing, and it seemed almost surreal to finally be on our way.

At the airport in Charlotte, NC, ready to start the journey.
The children with their travel packs, each with snacks, toys, a blanket, a jacket, and their favorite stuffed animal.

Fifteen pieces of checked luggage , five backpacks, and one small carry-on suitcase.

The first flight was short and easy. We arrived in Washington, DC, about 4:30pm Thursday with no issues. Our luggage also arrived, which was a blessing since we had to claim all of it and then recheck in DC in order to switch airlines. We had to wait an hour or two before we could check-in for the next flight, during which the children ran circles around the mostly empty terminal. So far, so good.

Snack time at the baggage claim in Washington, DC.

By the time we were checked-in again and through security for the next flight it was getting late, almost 8pm, and we were hungry. We exited the train that brought us from the terminal, consulted the concourse map, and made our selection. We started walking and noticed that the first restaurant was closed. We kept walking—closed, closed—they were all closed. Beginning to fear that we would be making a meal of the snacks in our backpacks, we pressed on and finally found a lone Wendy’s open, apparently the only restaurant open in the DC airport at 8pm at night. It wasn’t our first choice since we had eaten Wendy’s for lunch on the way to the airport, but we were grateful to have anything at that point. Finally fed, we prepared for the next leg of our journey, the thirteen hour flight from DC to Dubai.

We thought they would sleep. Surely after trudging through multiple airports and staying up way past their bedtime, the children would be tired enough to fall asleep. Or so we thought. Instead, as we boarded the Emirates flight to Dubai, it became obvious that they were so impressed by the in-flight entertainment system that they were not going to go to sleep willingly. We allowed them to watch movies and play games for a while as we adjusted to the flight. Finally we decided at about 11:30pm (US time) that we needed to turn off the entertainment and try to force them to sleep. We had just gotten everyone settled when the flight attendants started coming down the aisle with the first meal. So, they were up again to eat—or to refuse to eat, and then we went through the process of settling everyone again. Everyone slept off and on throughout the flight, but nothing solid. Our last meal on the flight was breakfast, which seemed to make sense after flying through the night, except that we arrived in Dubai at 7pm (Dubai time) which was a bit disorienting.

On the flight from DC to Dubai

By the time we arrived in Dubai, the jet lag was starting to set in. Our next plane didn’t depart until 9 o’clock in the morning, leaving us with nearly fourteen hours to wait and no idea what to do with it. So, we did the only thing you can do in a situation like this—we made the best of it! We did our best to find ways to entertain the kids, like making use of the terminal playground, reading, playing games, coloring, and of course, riding every escalator and moving sidewalk they could find. Aaron and Kyler were also able to sleep, and Eden slept for a few hours after being wrestled through her protestations that she wasn’t sleepy. Sleep, however, eluded Emily and Ezra, and eventually we all watched the Dubai sunrise and finally prepared for one last flight.

Midnight pizza
Finally asleep
Game time

Despite the excitement of the final leg of our journey, it was by far the most difficult. The Boeing 777 to Mauritius was crowded, and most of the passengers seemed stressed and exhausted likely because they, like us, had traveled from elsewhere to Dubai in order to catch one of the few flights available to Mauritius. We drifted blearily between waking and sleeping for most of the 6 hour flight. The in-flight meal came around 2pm (Mauritius time) but none of the children ate, and by the time we were circling Mauritius preparing to land, they were fast asleep despite our best efforts to rouse them. The realization that we were finally reaching our destination after months of preparation was beginning to set in, and a rainbow appeared among the cloud above the island as if to reassure us that this was where we were meant to be. It only lasted a moment, but it was an overwhelming reminder of God’s love and the love that everyone has shown us along the way.

Arriving in Mauritius; the view of our plane and the mountains from the airport

The children stumbled sleepily off the plane, too groggy to be excited. I paused to take a photo of them with the mountains in the background, but no one was smiling. It didn’t take long for them to wake up enough to start complaining. Luckily only one child collapsed on the floor while the others just hung heavily on our arms as we waited in line for immigration. When we finally reached the immigration counter, we were initially told that we would not be allowed to enter unless we had proof of, or bought, a return ticket home. We explained our situation and presented the papers the school had provided for us showing Aaron’s “in-principle” occupation permit, but the immigration officer seemed skeptical and had to call his supervisor. Eventually, they let us go, but not until the whole line of people behind us had already been processed. From immigration we proceeded to the health checkpoint where we had to (again) provide documentation of our negative COVID tests and then be tested once more. Finally, we reached the baggage claim where we collected all of our luggage and loaded it onto trucks to be transported to the hotel. We then boarded a bus full of other passengers who were going to our same hotel for quarantine and eventually set off. We had arrived at the airport around 3:45pm and finally left around 5:45pm. By now, the children had received snacks and their excitement had returned!

On the bus with snacks and ready to ride
Showing off her muscles after helping daddy load the suitcases

It soon became clear that our caravan of buses had a police escort. At each roundabout along the way, the police blocked incoming traffic so that the three buses would not have to stop. It wasn’t clear whether the police were trying to expedite our transport or ensure that no one got off the bus. Regardless, the cross island drive from the airport in the south to our hotel in the north which should have taken about an hour, took nearly two hours due to the buses getting lost and having to turn around several times. Furthermore, being in the last bus we had to wait for the passengers in the two buses ahead of us to unload and be checked-in at the hotel before we were allowed off the bus. Nonetheless, we were grateful. Grateful to finally be here, and grateful for the beauty of this place that became immediately evident as we drove across the country. By the time we unloaded and were waiting in the parking lot to be checked-in, it was after 8pm and the sun had already set. But as the children dug for seashells in the flowerbeds and ran joyfully around the parking lot, a cool breeze blew, and it became clear that this was one of those moments. A moment to savor and cherish as precious and magical. A moment that would never come again but that marked the culmination of so many hopes and prayers and the beginning of a new adventure.

Pieter Both Mountain
Mountain views from the bus

Beautiful sunset

We finally crawled into bed around 11:30pm. Visions of the journey replayed and then the thought came. Fifty-nine hours is nothing—nothing in the course of a lifetime. And whatever discomfort or challenges came during those fifty-nine hours were worth it. After all, it is often those moments, those hours, of discomfort that shape and define us—for better or worse. Now, as we complete our quarantine, we continue to try to take things as they come one day at a time. We are fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful views and a hotel staff who have been very generous and accommodating. They even provided board games for the kids and one room (we had to book two to accommodate our whole family) with an outdoor Jacuzzi for the children to “swim” in since we are not allowed to go to the beach or pool. We have taken to rising early with the sun around 5:30 or 6am, which means that bedtime has also gotten earlier. We reserve some time in the mornings for schoolwork, but the rest of the day is basically free time. The hotel provides three meals a day, so we are well taken care of. With that, the children are learning to try new foods and have come to love having French baguette with every meal. Aaron and I have also had the opportunity to brush up on our rusty French language skills since most of the staff default to French, although they usually also speak and understand English if needed. We are looking forward to the next steps and getting settled into our house after we leave quarantine. Until next time…

With Peace, Love, and Gratitude from Mauritius!

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