Finally got home on Saturday evening. I didn't have a chance to post in Narita Japan as the connection was too short to use the Crown room or so I thought. We ended up getting expedited boarding...which just meant we spent another hour on the airplane! Perhaps not the best choice... All this so that we could get the overhead baggage space.
The in-flight service on both legs was pleasant, but I think I was spoiled by the China Southern flight attendants and the Customer Service Reps at the NWA counter in Hong Kong. The only downside is that they use the 747 on the ATL-NRT route so there is no individual entertainment system . The result was that I got to watch the same episodes of ‘MadMen ‘ (twice) and ‘The New Old Christine’ (three times). Side note: Wasn’t “Christine” the Steven King story about the possessed car? How did it end up with ‘Elaine’ from Seinfeld?
Ranting about Atlanta Airport:
Getting through immigration/customs then rechecking your bags, going through TSA and getting out of Atlanta Airport SUCKS...Ok I said it. I am sorry for everyone I offended and I imagine Jen will make me pull this down once she reads it, but it really is terrible. By far the worst airport experience that I had was the last one in the good ole USA. Why? Let me enumerate. (If you don't want to hear the rant go past the numbered parts)
1. We were told by CCAI (and I believe the US Consulate in Guangzhou) to go through the NON-US Traveler lane at passport control. This slows you up a ton as there is a requirement for all non-US folks to fingerprint, etc. No big deal, but the agent at the US told us (after we waited in line) that we should have gone through the US Citizen line...Note to follow on travelers.
2. After you go through the immigration line...they point you to a little room where you take your sealed brown envelope. Cool...I get it they have a process. However, you show up in the room and everyone is seated at a desk, there are no written instructions and after standing around wondering if I was in the right office the guy behind the keyboard looks up and says...leave the envelope in the bin and have a seat....No "Welcome fellow citizen and weary traveler", No "How can I help you?"...this guy obviously never did any time at Chik-Fil-A or China Southern Airlines. Finally sometime down the road the guy pulls our documents. Doesn't say anything...just hands us Jacob’s passport and says, "You can go." Now, I am perhaps a bit of a guy who likes some ceremony, but I would have loved it if he said. "Congratulations, your son is now a citizen of the greatest republic on the planet and in the history of the world.." But no...After being up for about 24 hours at this point this irritated me a touch.
3. Claiming your bags at E concourse to go through customs and then re-checking them to pick them up at bag claim #1. This must have seemed like a good idea to someone at the time...But I have to say that this is the dumbest, slowest works program that I have ever seen. Again, my point of view was somewhat slanted after being awake for more than 24 hours, but please...If you have never had to do this process before the signage, workflow and 'helpful agents' make this rube goldberg process all but indecipherable. When you add that to the hour + that it took for our bags to make it from the recheck point to carousel #1 you must really say that America's busiest airport is poorly designed and equipped for international travel. Travel through Beijing and Hong Kong was easier by a factor of 10.
4. Going back through TSA to transit the airport so you can get out...OK, OK, I get it that security is a big deal. However, the process is begging for a redesign. Somewhere around here, we were asking each other how many times and ways we could be inspected. The only cool thing is that no matter how long this process took...it really didn't matter because our bags took so long to get from E concourse to baggage claim.
5. Finally we made it a bit harder on ourselves because we forgot that we had thrown in some apples for the journey. The cool little beagle at immigration reminded us and we had to go through the agricultural inspection...Another x-ray of the bags...Laughing by this point.
Ok...the ranting is over...if you skipped ahead you were probably smart.
Blessings in the Fridge:
We were blessed on arrival to our home to find meals in the freezer provided by the McBryde's and the folks in our Church. What a way to bring our focus back on how blessed we are. Many thanks to Tiffany, Eric, the Cornerstone Sunday School class, our church family at Carriage Lane and our other dear friends and fellow believers.
Finally, I have to publically thank my in-laws for taking care of so many things while we were gone, not the least of which was our precious children and our 'dennis the menace' dog.
I am sure we will post some more pics and video of Gotcha Day. Thanks to everyone for the prayers, skype calls, love, meals, support, emails and friendship.
We are truly blessed, and Jacob is now home with the family that God planned for him before the beginning of time.