Friday, September 17, 2010

Copenhagen At Long Last!

PHX ---> CPH

This has been an insane week and I have been wanting to write about our arrival in Copenhagen for awhile but finally have the time. I must first just say that this city is so beautiful! It is so green and full of nature! I am so excited we are here and feel so lucky to be living here.

Matthew and I have been packing up our house for over two months. In addition to packing everything, we also needed to sell or get rid of a lot of stuff. We started the process as soon as we found out that our green cards were accepted- in the end of April.

In the last month or so, we started to feel like we were really short on time and have been working really hard to get everything done. I gave my work a 6 week notice and my plan was to hire someone new and train them for 2 weeks and then have 1 full week to get everything else done. I hired a new Human Resources Manager who seemed great. She started on a Wednesday, exactly 3 weeks before I was to fly out. She worked for 3 days and then on Monday morning she texted me that she would not be returning to work. TEXTED ME!! I was so shocked she was so unprofessional that she couldn't even call me. I had spent that weekend working to prepare to turn everything over to her. I changed my access on my systems and forwarded her all my 200+ emails and basically had everything ready for her to start. I was right in the middle of trying to reconcile the new 401K plan I had implemented and open enrollment (when all employees enroll for new health insurance) was days away. I was so swamped but excited to give everything to her and then help her figure stuff out. When she quit, I had to undo everything I had done and basically get back to work on the 401K and open enrollment stuff. I hired another guy a few days later but he couldn't start for 2 weeks! He couldn't start until after I was supposed to be gone. So, I had to work a lot of hours to keep everything going. I also told my boss I would stay on until just before I left the country so they wouldn't be without an HR Manager for 2 weeks. Basically, I should have had hours and hours to get stuff done on the house and instead I had to work a lot. That put our schedule WAY behind. Up until the last possible minute, Matthew and I were scrambling to get our house packed up. Family and friends were so nice to help. Marie watched Olivia a ton and I am so thankful for that! Also my mom, my dad, Janet - my mother in law, Jenny, Ellen, Laura and my friend Tony all helped so much. Thank you Marie and Jaime for throwing us the goodbye party and to Wayne and Carl for moving the couches and to Rod and Paul for their generosity. Thank you all!!!

I think the packing up and finishing the house was hard on both me and Matthew, but Olivia has had to endure a lot of watching Lady and the Tramp and Toy Story- just general boredom. She has watched more tv in the last two weeks in Mesa than she has her entire one and a half years combined! She was bored a lot, but she got through it! I am so glad Marie took her to play with her and her kids so often.

My Aunt Ellen gave us an idea to pack our stuff in large boxes instead of suitcases because you could fit a lot more stuff. She was right. We bought 6 huge boxes and loaded them up. They each could weigh a maximum of 50lbs and we used our bathroom scale to get them right to 50lbs. We paid the extra $50 each to bring an extra box, so I had 2 boxes, Matthew had 2 boxes and so did Olivia, since we bought her a seat. We also had 3 carry ons and 3 personal items. 1 of the carry ons was our dog, Bug. We also brought a bike. It was in a huge 6 foot by 4 foot box. We had an insane amount of luggage.

My mom and dad helped get us to the airport and then we dollied all our boxes and bike into the airport. The attendant roped off a special section for all our stuff. We arrived at the airport at about noon on Wednesday, September 8th. The United Airlines workers behind the desk then proceeded to ignore us for about 45 minutes. We asked for help and they seemed to be trying to find someone to handle us. Eventually someone came and started weighing our boxes and checking us in. About half way through the process, the lady helping us told us that we could not board the plane because we had bought one way tickets to Copenhagen and you can only travel there with a roundtrip ticket. I explained to her that, no, we had green card- work visas- and we did not need a return flight booked. She should have known this by now as she had been staring at our passports for the last half hour. No matter. She called someone (Danish embassy? US embassy?) and soon she said we were okay to board. We watched them take our 6 boxes and bike box and then went to security. As any traveling mom knows, when you go through security with a car seat and stroller, which we did, you have to take the child out and take apart the stroller. So when we got to security we had to take Olivia out, put the car seat and stroller on the belt, take bug out, put her bag on the belt, take our 3 laptops out and lay those on the belt, unload our shoes, other carry ons and personal items. It was crazy! We had like 15 different pieces going on the belt. It took forever and people were so annoyed we were slowing things down. All in all, the check in and going through security process probably took us a full 2 hours.

We got to our gate and waited about a half hour until we boarded. The flight went really, really well. Olivia did so great. She went to sleep pretty quickly and slept for almost 2 hours. The flight was 3.5 hours. She just played with her stickers and books the rest of the time. I was so relieved, but also knew we were not even half way done. I have been really worried the last few months about how well she will do on the plane.

When we landed in Chicago, I realized that Olivia had gone to the bathroom everywhere- all over her skirt and legs and so I had to go to the bathroom and change and bathe her. Then we had to take Bug outside to go to the bathroom and stretch her legs a little. Also, the Chicago airport is so huge that we had to go to another terminal for our SAS flight to Copenhagen and we had to go down and out of the secured area to get there which meant that we would have to go back through security. We had a 2 hour lay over so we were not too worried, but knew we had to hurry. So we hurried to run our errands (Olivia and Bug) and then went back through security.

Chicago has a huge airport and the whole process took forever. As we were finishing up in security and dragging all our items to nearby seats to put everything back together, an airline worker came up to us and said that the flight to Copenhagen was already boarded and everyone was waiting for us. They brought out a special golf cart just for us to get on so they could rush us to the gate. We could hear our names being called over the intercom as well. We started frantically shoving all our laptops back in the bags, try to put the car seat and Olivia and Bug back together. I got my shoes on but Matthew didn't. They were rushing us like the plane was leaving at that very moment. It was the most stressed out/frantic I have ever been. We grabbed our crap (I was holding Matthew's shoes) and got onto the golf cart thing and they took us to the gate. We ran up the ramp and onto the plane. I was holding two carry ons- one hanging in front of me, one in back, 2 huge coats, Matthew's shoes, and Olivia in her car seat. I was easily carrying 100 lb. I asked the flight attendant where my seat was and she gestured up the aisle to the right so I went that way. I could barely fit through the aisles. I had to go through first class and all the people were looking at me like I was a piece of crap. I am sure I looked completely frazzled and was carrying all these things, Olivia was fussing and my shoes were untied. After first class I started going through the even more narrow aisles in the coach section and I was obviously physically unable to go much farther. Not one person offered to help. It was a huge plane with two aisles and not one person even smiled. I scanned the plane and there were no empty seats anywhere. I quickly realized that the flight attendant had sent me the wrong way. I tried to turn around which was near impossible. I was about to totally lose it emotionally. I think I am generally pretty laid back. That moment was the most emotionally unhinged I have ever been. It was the culmination of the last 2 months of moving and stress and especially the last few days where we had gotten only 2 or 3 hours of sleep each night. Finally, a nice flight attendant who knew what she was doing came and took my coats and a bag and Matthew's shoes from me and helped me to my seat. Matthew had been sent the correct way and so he was almost to our seat. The attendant put all my stuff down and then left. I still had fussy Olivia and all our crap and was trying to find room in the overhead compartments. Again, not one person helped. I loaded all our stuff and got Olivia situated, Matthew came and settled in and then I just sat there. Another nice Swedish attendant came up and brought us some water and was very nice and was looking at me and asking if I was okay and if Olivia was okay. I literally could not answer her. I just stared. Matthew answered her and he helped me get all our personal items arranged.

There were a couple of Russian men behind us in when we were going through security in Chicgo. They were visibly annoyed at all our crap. As we were frantically trying to get our stuff together and get on the golf cart the airline sent for us, the Russians went ahead of us and took our golf cart! I couldn't believe they were so rude! The airline sent another one for us. When I was trying to get all our stuff in the overhead compartment and settled in our seats, I looked to the people sitting right behind us on the flight and it was those Russians! I heard them say that our dog smells. Burn. I have never had anything against Russians and have always wanted to go to Russia, but at that moment in my crazy state I just thought to myself- at least we have been to the moon. I was in a weird mood.

We then sat on the plane for another 15 or 20 minutes and then left ON TIME. That is right, we were not late, they just boarded early and then decided to make us rush. I could not believe it. Oh well. We were on the plane and, barring a crash into the Atlantic Ocean, we would make it to Denmark.

The flight was 8 hours and it could not have been better, given the circumstances. Olivia slept a lot again and then woke up and was in a good mood and played with her books and stickers and with the tv on the seat in front of us. I could not believe how great she was. I think it was a special gift to us because we needed the time to relax. Matthew and I tried to sleep a little but mostly we just sat and stared and tried to recover from the last 2 months. It was good we had a break because it was about to get worse.

When we got off the plane, we went down to baggage claim. We saw our 6 boxes on the belt and they were extremely beat up. They had holes in them. Some were ripped open. One was completely ripped open with a little bowl next to it containing Matthew's underwear and socks that must have fallen out along the way. We were just freaking out. The boxes looked like someone had been throwing our boxes about 20 feet onto the ground as a fun game to see if they could make them pop open. I was so mad. I was just foaming. Somewhere some baggage handler is wearing a pair of Matthew's trouser socks. So, we made a pile of the 6 destroyed boxes, 3 carry ons, 3 personal items and Olivia in her car seat. Then we had to find the stroller and bike. I went to go find them and the bike box was completely ripped open too. There was a huge hole in the bottom. It looked like the pedals and wheel were still there, but it was bad. It was obvious that it had been thrown and abused. We were so mad!! We assessed the damages later and the frame is bent and the derailer is destroyed. It will cost a lot to fix it. We paid $200 to ship it so that we would not have to pay $500 for a bike here. So frustrating!

Next, we had to figure out how to move all this stuff through the airport with just the two of us. We got dollies and Matthew pushed two loaded dollies with three boxes each on them. I loaded up the car seat and stroller with Olivia and the personal items and the two of us put the carry ons on our backs. I pushed the bike box with it up against the stroller. The bike would go about 2 feet and they veer off in a crazy direction. This box was like 6 feet wide and the airport was packed and so I was bumping people and trying to steer this stupid thing with the stroller pushing it. I was carrying so much luggage on my back and pushing a baby and a bike and again not one person helped! Hundreds of people watched the spectacle that was my first day in Denmark, but not one person offered a hand. We then wheeled our ghetto caravan to customs.

We have been really nervous about this moment. The last thing we need is for them to have problems with our visas or for them to say Bug does not have all the right paperwork and not let her enter the country. We arrived there all nervous and talked to the agent and she could not have cared less about Bug. She didn't even want to look at her. All that worry over nothing!

So we started wheeling ourselves out to the curb. Matthew's friend, Anne-Greta, was going to pick us up. As I was struggling with my load and Matthew with his, I saw a lady go up to Matthew and hug him and I knew that we finally had help. I was so excited!! She helped us with our load. As we went through the main doors and out towards the parking lot, a pack of Danish frat dudes were sitting outside and started mocking us in Danish. At this point I was happy just to be done with everything and I thought it was so funny! Then they must have heard us speaking English and started mocking us in English. Anne-Greta yelled at them in Danish to get off their butts and help, which they did not. It was really funny! She brought a trailer and we loaded our stuff in and drove to our new apartment. The apartment is so cute, I love it!

This is Olivia standing on our balcony. This is the view to the rear of our apartment. The building in the picture looks identical to ours, so you can see what our place looks like on the outside.

I have more pictures and more stories, a good one about how we almost got kicked out of Denmark, our trip to see Lars and Ulrika and kids in Sweden and you see Olivia below showing off her forehead where she fell at the Copenhagen zoo, but I shall save those for another day.



Kendra said...

Wow! That is wild! Sorry about the troubles with your luggage and stuff. Good luck in your new land!

Evelyn Campbell Curtis said...

Yes, sorry about all of the trouble. It seems like something always goes wrong. It is definitely a blessing that Olivia was so patient with it all! That would have made it about 1,000,000 times worse!

I guess on the bright side, you are there, AND you will have some awesome stories to tell in the future! I look forward to the stories yet to come! Good luck!

~Merrill ~Millennial Preschool said...

Oh my, What a trip! Loren anxiously read over my shoulder and felt bad for you too! You should be a writer, like you wanted too. I could totally imagine all the details and picture the whole scene. Too bad Olivia wasn't at the spitting up stage to spit up on the Russians! So glad you are loving it over there!

Elizabeth said...

Oh my gosh, I can't believe I didn't see this post before! I have been so anxious to hear what happened on your flight, and here all I had to do was look at your blog. Duh.

That trip sounded HORRIBLE!!!!!! I have been on enough terrible flights, with kids and stuff and people staring and running for planes and all of that, that I could literally feel my heart racing as I read what you wrote. I even teared up. What a harrowing story.

I'm so glad you posted that about no one offering help. I'm so unobservant that I rarely notice when someone needs help, and then when I do, I think they'll want to be left alone. (In my defense, I have had a handful of bad experiences with asking someone if they need help and them biting my head off.) But still, what you wrote is a great reminder that we just need to look around us and continue to offer our services at all times. ESPECIALLY on a flight/ at the airport. Some of my very worst memories regarding stressful situations have been at the airport. Eeeeesh!! It still gives me the willies just thinking about them.

I am committed to being more helpful, after reading your story!

I laughed out loud at your "at least we've been to the moon" line. HAHAHAHA!!!

And what stupidity that the airline made you run for the plane when they weren't even leaving!!! Holy cow, you don't mess with people like that! Let a man put on his dang shoes, for crying out loud. Ugh. Insanity. Coincidentally (or not??), the only time I've ever been called to an airplane was also in Chicago (O'Hare) and boy did I run! They were even standing at the gate waving me in like I was totally late, and the same thing happened to me: I got on and waited 20+ minutes for it to take off. Whatever.

Thanks for being willing to relive that enough to write it all out. Aye yai yai.