Thirty-one hours. From the door of my parents’ home in Oregon to the door of our home in Kudjip, Papua New Guinea took 31 hours. I imagine it’s longer for those traveling from the Midwest or Eastern USA, but it was still plenty long.
I think whirlwind best describes the trip. It went well over all, but each time we landed it was a race to the next plane. And the race started at the very beginning. We arrived 2.5 hours early with only 2 people in front of us in line and still just made it through security to the gate as they started boarding.
After landing in San Fransisco we made our way to the ticket counter to get the new boarding passes, went through security, and had enough time for a bathroom break before boarding again. By this time it was 11:30pm and we were all tired. The kids slept for 8-9 hours, which helped a good part of the 14.5 hour flight slip by peacefully. The remainder of the time went fairly well. The oldest three watched some nature videos and did a few fun activities we purchased with support from our LINKS churches. The youngest two got a little antsy, but I really can’t complain, because I was feeling antsy too!
After landing in Sydney with very little time to spare, our oldest daughter fell apart. She was tired and didn’t want to pull any bags or carry her backpack. She wanted.to.sleep! Big brother stepped up and helped her out. The strollers we hoped to have available for use in the airport had been sent straight to PNG, so we were quite a sight trying to juggle kids and bags while moving as quickly through the terminal as possible. Security must have felt bad for us (or they didn’t want to listen to tired kids complaining) because they whisked us to the front of the line. Next came the transfer desk to get our new set of boarding passes. It takes for.ev.er to get seven people and all their luggage squared away, but thankfully they called ahead and had the plane held for us. There were also courtesy strollers here! My tired back was quite thankful for this small luxury. After rushing to the gate and boarding the bus out to the tarmac for the plane, and getting everyone situated . . . the flight was delayed because of a problem with the runway. I thought for sure we’d miss our next flight as it, too, was going to be a close connection.
On this four hour flight there was one meltdown over the lunch that was served (a delicious chicken meal that was not a sandwich), but overall this flight went smoothly. And then we saw it! Our first look at Papua New Guinea, beautiful and green. The kids thought they saw a coral reef in the ocean as well. Once we touched down our big girl exclaimed, “I like PNG already!”
The pilot had radioed ahead that we had a close connection, so there were people waiting at the plane to help us through immigration, collecting our bags/strollers/carseats and onto customs. All but one bag came through, but we decided not to wait for it. Just as we left customs someone ran up with the final bag. At this point we re-checked the baggage, got new boarding passes and headed towards the domestic terminal. Once again was a security check (I’ve missed mentioning a few others on the journey), but thanks to all the helpful people working at the airport we made our last flight.
The one hour trip to Mt. Hagen was some of the most turbulent of the trip. Finally, the plane came out of the clouds to show the airstrip surrounded by beautiful green mountains. While circling once we saw the MAF hanger and planes and then we touched down. And it was here, on the ground, that I got air sick. With all the rush I had forgotten to take the final dose of meds to help prevent it from happening. But, thankfully, we didn’t have to rush off the plane this time.
Two of the missionaries from the hospital station met us with two vehicles. One came to haul the people and the other came to haul the luggage. Eleven of the bags/carseats did not make this final flight, but arrived the next day.
It was about a 45 minute drive to Kudjip Nazarene Hospital and we were greeted by a crowd of missionaries in the front of our house. It was fun to meet all the people in person we had heard about and interacted with online.
It was a tiring trip but about 2 minutes after arriving the kids were busy looking for all things that creep and crawl and off to play with new friends.
About two weeks after being here, our oldest daughter wanted to know when we would be going back to the States. I thought maybe she was feeling homesick. “Two years,” I told her. “Oh, good,” she exclaimed, “we don’t have to be on the plane or go through security again for a long time!”