It’s now been almost 2 months since this deployment ended (holy crap, it’s been a really fast 2 months!) and I haven’t even blogged about getting to Germany, homecoming and all that good stuff. So I’ll start it now, with part 1, getting to Germany. Future parts will be coming in a few days.
I had my whole trip planned out. I left from my town, which has only two terminals at the airport and then I had one layover only, in Detroit, where I have been many times – it was going to be an easy trip. I was going to go to the USO when I got to Frankfurt the following morning and take the shuttle to Seth’s post, and get dropped off at Amy’s house, who I was going to stay with until the guys got home. Sounds super easy right?
In reality: I had a little puddle jumper plane from my town to Detroit. Except little puddle jumper plane was coming from Detroit and for whatever reason, the pilot wasn’t there. (It was decent weather out, so in my mind there was no reason for any type of delay). I had about a 90 minute layover in Detroit, which was kind of cutting it close for an international flight. When I found out that my flight to Detroit was going to be delayed, I asked about changing it. I walked up to the ticket counter, cut some guy off because he was about to get in line before me, and he cursed at me. But hey, I got the nice lady (who also waived my $150 overweight luggage fee – yes, I am not ashamed to play the military card in situations like this) and she was very nice and helpful in getting me rebooked. First, she said she could send me to Chicago, then Amsterdam then to Frankfurt, where I’d be getting in the following afternoon. She also said that it would be a first class flight because that’s all that was available. I, looking back very stupidly, turned that down because I was scared to go to an international airport alone. Yep, I turned down a first class flight across the ocean. STUPID ME but I wanted as direct flight as possible. So she rebooked me to Chicago to Frankfurt. My plane leaving my town was delayed a little bit and it was nearly impossible to get to my next gate and get my seating arrangement in time for my flight to Frankfurt. I didn’t know this at the time, but I didn't even have a chance of making that flight. It was like a scene from a movie: running so fast with my carry on bag through the very warm Chicago airport, dodging people left and right, hopping over pieces of luggage sitting on the ground, screaming, EXCUSE ME, PARDON ME, COMIN’ THROUGH. MOVE IT OR LOSE IT, LADY! Ok maybe I wasn’t really saying that out loud, but I was in my mind. Running and hopping over luggage did happen though. Anyways, I hop on the tram – my gate is literally on the other side of the airport and realize I have 5 minutes before my flight takes off. And my tram ride was 3 minutes. I was dripping sweat because it was so hot in the airport and I was wearing a fleece jacket. But I couldn’t stop and waste time to take it off. I got to the ticket counter and the lady tells me the doors to my flight have already closed and I can’t get on that flight. I started to cry. She tells me not to cry, it’ll be OK. I tell her, I’m going to Germany to go to my fiancée’s homecoming ceremony from Afghanistan and I don’t know exactly when he’ll be there, so I need to get there immediately. She says to another lady at the ticket counter, oh crap, we don’t have any more flights to Frankfurt tonight. I started to cry harder. She tells me again everything will be OK. She throws some possible flight times out there and I tell her none will work, I need to get to Frankfurt ASAP. She finally says she can send me through London/Heathrow then Frankfurt and I’ll get in at like 5 PM the following day (I was supposed to be in at 7 AM). I say, fine, I’ll take it (not happily). I text my mom and she says: Oh how exciting! You get to go through the busiest international airport! I text back: yeah, I’m really excited. More opportunities for me to get lost. I was assured my luggage didn’t get put on my original flight to Frankfurt, because luggage does not get put on an international flight if the passenger is not on the flight. Good news, right? Yep, until you're rebooked a billion times and your luggage really has no chance of getting to your destination when originally scheduled. I eventually got on the plane to London/Heathrow and only sleep for a few hours in an uncomfortable seat. I got London/Heathrow (thank God they spoke English – that was another fear of going through an international airport) and walked around for a while, like a sweaty, nasty American who has had no sleep. I found this internet café place with free internet access and computers to use so I gchatted with Amy to let her know my new flight info and what time I’m expected in. She informed me that the USO shuttle doesn’t run past noon or something, so I’ll have to figure out the train stations myself or sleep in Frankfurt and get on the shuttle the next morning. I told her I’d call her when I get to Frankfurt and let her know what I decide. I finally got to Frankfurt, go through customs, go to the baggage claim…only to find my luggage is not there. So I fill out the paperwork for lost luggage. I ask where a payphone is, so I could tell Amy that my luggage was lost and I’d be attempting the train stations alone. I find one payphone and couldn’t figure it out for the life of me, using my trusty calling card. I decided I needed to get on a train to get to post and go buy my ticket. It was getting late and I didn't know when the sun went down and I didnt' want to be in train stations alone in the dark. Train ticket lady gave me a ticket to a train that left in 7 minutes from then! So I run again to the train track. Train isn’t there yet, and I see another pay phone right by my train track and attempt to use that. This time I gave up using my calling card and tried using my credit card, and didn’t care how expensive it was going to be. That didn’t work either. I spotted a girl with a big ‘ol backpack, who looked to be my age, American and I kinda kept watching her, wondering if she was getting on the same train as me, if she was nice and if she had a cell phone I could maybe borrow… and if I should talk to a stranger in a foreign country. She got on the train before me and I discreetly followed her. I sat in the seat in front of her. And after a few minutes, I start to cry and couldn't stop. Because I didn’t know how to get in touch with Amy, I didn’t even know Amy’s address so I can’t take a cab from the train station to her house (you know, and kind of surrrrrprise her I’m there), I was extremely tired, jet lagged, gross and sweaty, pissed off my luggage was lost and just frustrated. I cried for a good 10 minutes, alone on a train in Germany. It was a beautiful sunset on the German country sides though. The girl behind me pulled out a cell phone and she makes a call…and starts talking fluent German. Damnit! I can’t speak German to ask if I can borrow her phone! She looked American! I cried again, because I can’t use her phone. I talk some sense into myself to stop being a baby, put on my big girl panties, and tell myself that everything will be fine. Somehow. A few minutes later, I turned around and asked the girl if she spoke English. She said yes, and I nicely asked if I could borrow her phone, to call my friend who is expecting me. I told her I was supposed to call at the train station, but I couldn’t figure out the pay phone (dumb American I am). She said she only has one bar left of battery, but I can use it and I tell her I’ll make it quick. She dials Amy’s number for me and Amy says, Oh thank God! I have been calling the Frankfurt Airport and the USO to see if you checked in!! I told her quickly what happened and then the phone died. We were going in and out of service area and we lost service. Nice girl behind me dialed again and I quickly tell Amy what time I’m expected at the train station in town. She said she’ll meet me there. I profusely thanked nice German girl for letting me use her phone and we chatted for a little while. I had one train station change to figure out. German girl got off the train at the same station and pointed me in the right direction for my train track. I got on a train and hoped to God it was the right one. All the announcing on the trains for the small towns are spoken in German. So I listened for the one key word that I know, which is the name of the city I was going to. I heard them say the town name, but the train station signs above the tracks say a different city and I was really confused. I asked someone if we were in the town I was needing to be in, and she spoke German and we didn’t understand each other. I looked out the windows to see if I recognized any buildings or the train station… and I didn’t. I panicked. But for whatever reason, I got off the train. I started walking around the train station and saw a sign that says the correct city I’m supposed to be in (THANK GOD!!!!) and the train station and other buildings start to look familiar. I started walking around, looking for Amy. I couldn’t find her, and I started to walk around the station and then I heard her call my name. I'd never been so happy to hear her call my name.
Thank God, I somehow managed to make it to Army town, Germany. It was the worst flight and travel experience I’ve ever had.
If you read through that, thanks for sticking around! Here are some pretty pictures (a little blurry because the train was going fast!) of the sunset on the German country side:
(Next post will be the agonizing wait we endured before the guys got home!!)