Monday, October 27, 2008

Travel back to Lithuania

let's just say: Chapter 1 in the works........

On Tuesday we packed all 6 of our 50 pound bags and 4 carry ons into my friend Kim's suburban. I had weighed each bag maticulously the night before so I could get the maximum amount of all our treasures in them and not pay an overage fee. With Kim's 2 year old daughter and my girls in the car we headed off to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As we got closer to the airport Sonshyne reported that she was in fact already car sick. Being as she gets airsick quite easily I began to worry out loud about not having purchased Dramamine to keep her from throwing up on the plane and how expensive it was going to be at the airport so Kim suggested that we jump off the freeway and seek out a pharmacy. A great idea, but neither of us knew the area and it was in the heart of Los Angeles. Not a great place to go exploring, but go we did.

As we excited the freeway I suggested we check with a gas station, cause "those are always a good place to get directions". We pulled into the first gas station we saw, but as we began to look around we noticed that not even the gas station attendant was willing to open his doors to the people who were lined up teller window style to pay for thier gas. The guy holding a car bumper and talking to someone in another car was the second indicator that maybe it would be unwise to stop here. As we drove though the station and back onto the street the vagrants sitting on the side of the building and the trash heap in the middle of the dead end road confirmed that we had in fact made the right decision.

As we got back onto the road I noticed city housing was just across the street. My mind raced with the fact that these people are hurting and would I be willing to live in this area some day if we ever came back to these parts. These people need hope too. And instead of seeing them as unfit or unsafe for my presence I had a deep sense that God really loves them as much as he loves me. A good reminder as we drove down the street.

Somehow we managed to find a shopping mall just down the road and under the freeway that had a Rite Aide, which was funny because we had just been lamenting that I had forgotten to eat any of the Chocolate Malted Crunch that I had gone to such lengths to purchase a pint of the day before and was still sitting in Kim's freezer. We could get the Dramamine and right that wrong all at the same time!

As we got out of the car something seemed different but I couldn't put my finger on just what it was. We walked through the store and I was hardly fazed by the stares we received upon entering the building because we get that all the time in Lithuania so it felt normal really. I walked back to ask the Pharmacist where the Dramamine was and then began to notice the workers were black. A bit unusual it seemed since from my experience the Pharmacists and workers tend to be Asian. "Well, that's cool" I thought. I am a little more aware of skin color these days since I am surrounded day in and day out by white faces in Lithuania. When I see one black person in Lithuania I want to run up and hug them because to me they represent the diversity that is lacking in this country and what we loved so much about living in the LA area.

I found my Dramamine and went to purchase it and a black woman rung me up. I notice 2 black men were manning the photo shop area and when we went over to the ice cream counter there was a Hispanic woman who took our order. As we were waiting in line an elegant black woman in a stunning yellow haulter top came up in line with her baby in a stroller and I looked at her as you do when someone walks up behind you and immediately realized that the look on my face had seriously crossed a cultural barrier for she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen and her bright yellow haulter was the perfect dazzling contrast to her rich deep dark perfect skin and I knew my face had a look on it that had to be explained because she was looking back at me a bit puzzled herself. The kind of puzzled that says a fight might be on the way. I blurted out," Oh my gosh, you are sooooo beautiful!.........uhhhhhh (as I'm gaining my sanity).....and that color looks so good on you!" She kind of stood there for a moment not sure what to make of me or how she should respond. As we both kind of froze in time trying to decide what the next thing to say was, Kim turned around and informed her that,"she's not from this country!" Yes, wierd as that was it did the trick and seemed to aliviate any fear in the woman that maybe I was hitting on her. I was just a foreigner who did not know the customs of this culture and so she thanked me. The girls and I then ooohed and awed over her baby and retreated to the outdoors to eat our yummy ice cream. Kim joined us shortly and as the woman came out she spoke a few kind words as she walked past. I think she appreciated the complement.

The girls sat on the kitty rides to eat their cones and that gave me time to cruise the parking lot with my eyes. It was only then that it dawned on me that we were the ONLY white people in the whole area. Kim had noticed it right away evidentaly and it was her undoing when the vagabond who was hitting on all the ladies coming out of the store and then asking them for money leaned on the coin box of the kitty rides to have his smoke near where our kids were eating as if to say "these belong to me". Three girls in the car eating ice cream per Kim's suggested suddenly seemed like a fine idea to me, and we loaded up and got back on the road. I think she said something about us being in Compton. Interesting.......

It wasn't much farther down the freeway and we arrived at LAX. I had printed out my itenerary online so I knew exactly which airline to be dropped off at. It was the biggest print on the paper, "Lufthansa". It was at terminal 3. We pulled into drop off only and I payed for 2 carts to hold all our luggage. Three on each plus one carry on. I assured Kim she did not need to stay and help. Sonshyne and I could each push a cart and Hevenlee could pull the remaining carry on. Plus, I knew time was of the essence for her if she were going to get on the road and beat traffic back home. She finally gave in, we hugged and cried, took one last picture and then she left. I wanted to linger with the thought of just how much I would miss my 'sister' as she drove away, but my mind quickly turned to the task at hand. I was now alone and curbside with two small children and ton of luggage that needed to get to its destination.

It was time to start the routine of getting checked in and all the stares that goes with the maximum amount of luggage and 2 small kids. Sonshyne and I pushed the carts while Hevenlee pulled her carry on. I was busy keeping my eyes on Sonshyne. She was doing a superb job for a 6 year old who couldn't see over the top of the luggage she was pushing. I coached her verbally and she kept right on pushing without one complaint. I was quite impressed with her.

We pushed up a small grade to get through the automatic doors. I was afraid the weight of the luggage would over take Sonshyne and she would begin loose ground, but she kept coming forward. Now inside the building we pushed past a woman sitting on a stool staring at our plight. I wondered how I could get a job at the airport sitting on a stool watching people suffer. It was slow going but eventually we got down the hall and were about to round the corner. I looked up to see a humongous line and that is when it happened. Yes, of course something happened or I wouldn't be going to such lengths to retell this story. I was keeping such a close watch on Sonshyne that I had failed to see just how close to the line poles Hevenlee was getting with her tote. As she rounded the final corner with her pull bag in tow, a wheel got caught on the base of the pole and refused to budge causing an unexperienced 4 year old to hold on tighter and not put her hands out to catch herself as she fell chin first onto the hard, tile floor. She immediately popped up onto her feet and the crying began. The kind of crying that lets a mom know that all is not well. All eyes from the enormous check in line on us, I raced to her side having no idea what had just happened only to find that blood was gushing from her chin and down her fesh white shirt. I immediately covered her chin with my very 'sanitary' hand. I stood there thinking,"What do I do?" Think, think, think , think think , think, think. I began wispering into Hevenlee's ear to calm her down a bit while I tried to figure out our next move. Here I am in the middle of the airport with an obsene amount of luggage and 2 little girls, one of whom is screaming and bleeding. I remembered I had a bandage in my purse. Which was completely random because I don't usually keep one in there and just that morning decided throw it in.

Sonshyne followed my instructions maticulously on where to find my purse in one of the carry ons. As we were working together, some kind woman appeared and produced several tissues to aide in gettting the bleeding to stop which was much appreciated and put to use immediately. Hevenlee's cries did not stop but the bleeding eventually did enough for me to have a look under her chin. I always wondered if i would know if my child needed stiches or not. Would it be obvious or would I have to take her to the doctor to find out. Well, as I looked at her chin I would find my answer. She most definitely needed stiches. At least 3 I was sure of it. I put the bandage on her chin that Sonshyne had found. It was a temperary solution while I tried to figure out what to do next.

Thoughts of assessment raced through my mind: Kim is gone, I have no transportaion or cell phone, my daughter needs stiches, we have entirely too much stuff, we need to check in, do these airports have doctors in them?, if they find out she needs stiches will they let us travel today or will I have to postpone our trip home to get Hevenlee the medical treatment she needs?, how much is that gonna cost?, how horrible that you would think about money at such a time!, think think think think think think think! Ahhhh, somebody help me!!!!!!! Okay pull it together, one thing at a time..........

I decided to get us in line so at least we could check our bags and get rid of some of our stuff. A simple solution to one of our problems which helped to alleviate the tension that was building on my shoulders. There is nothing worse than watching a line you need to be in walk by you and know you are not part of it and yet you are standing and waiting alongside of it. So I figured we might as well be standing in it while I thought of what to do next. We were there plenty early and I figured after we checked our bags we would have time to seek out the first aid department if they had one. Still not thinking straight we pushed all of our stuff in line.

I asked the woman waiting behind us if she had a cell phone I could use. She did and I called Kim immediately to see how far away she had gotten. She offered to come back, but I didn't see any need for that just now. I asked her if she knew anyone who worked in the LA area who could come and do stiches. She did not. I filled her in on the details and told her I would call her back if i needed anything and said goodbye. I saw an airport worker and asked him if he could help us. I explained the situation and he disapeared. I was hoping this kid was somewhat responsible and didn't just go off to do another job. Hevenlee began to feel better and quiet down a bit. I told her that if she wanted to cry out loud that she was more than welcome to keep it coming. Maybe the annoying noise would get people to notice and we would get helped quicker. Going with "the squeeky wheel gets the oil' here. So she piped right up and stopped surpressing it. Go sister! I knew she was hurting and was just trying to be brave. Oddy enough the bleeding had stopped which seemed unusual for a open face wound. It was then that i noticed my hands had blood all over them from holding her chin minutes earlier. Oh well, that was the least of my worries right now. Maybe the blood on my hands would alert people to the seriousness of the situation and they would be more concerned and less anoid by the crying child at my knees. Sonshyne stood a silent vigle near the baggage cart in her charge, moving it up as the line moved forward. What a trooper.

The young man reimerged and wanted to escort us to the first aide department just down the way. He did his best to try to get the woman in charge to let us cut in line and check our bags so we wouldn't have to cart them off and loose our place in the eternal line. She said no dice, so he helped us get out of line and push our stuff back.... down.... the......same...... way...... we......had just come not more than 20 minutes ago. If there isn't something I hate more, it's loosing ground and we were loosing ground fast. I go to incredible lengths to get where I am going and not go back to where I just was. There's the woman that stared at us on the way in.......there's the door we entered and now we're passing it by......sigh.....

We entered a door that was much too small for all our junk to fit through. The airport guy was patient as he managed to get each cart through it. There was an obvious remodel going on in this part of the airport and it looked as if we were going through a narrow abandoned coridor of some sort. The surroundings were dirty and worn and in much need of the face lift it seemed it was in the process of getting. We stopped in front of an old door that had a placard posted to the side of it that said "First Aide." Ah, finally we will get the help we need. I still wondered though if they knew we needed stiches that they wouldn't let us get on the plane. After 6 weeks in the States I was really ready to go home today.

Our guy knocked on the door and another young man emerged from what looked like a room about the size of a small walk in closet. Consequently, we were not asked to come inside so my concern about leaving our luggage unattended in the corridor quickly vaproized. I asked it they had a they did not. Can anyone here do they can not. Well, do you at least have a few bandages, scissor and some aticeptic.......bandages but no sterile scissors and no anticeptic. Wow, my hopes of help here simply melted to the floor. So much for "First Aide", I was on my own. I knew I needed to get the wound under Hevenlees chin disinfected and closed and it did not look like i was going to get any help here. I had enough friends in the medical field to know that I could butterfly it with medical tape at the very least. How to improvise that? I also knew that in one of the 6 gargantuan bags I had a pair of hair cutting scissors in my make up bag. That would be more sanitary than the desk scissors the man had in that dinky office. I knew that the chances of finding those scissors without looking through every last bag was slim but it was the only way. I quickly went to the first bag unzipped it at the top and low and behold the make-up bag was right there scissors inside. That was a miracle of God to me. I never find what I am looking for in the first bag! Not ever. In fact it is almost a gaurantee that it is in the last bag I look in. This believe it or not calmed me to the core. God was in fact fully present even though I had not sent up one single prayer during this whole episode. His peace in fact surrounded me and gave me the courage to press on and keep the air positive for the girls. We were on a "big adventure". They seemed to be fine with that. As long as mommy was okay, everything was ok! And I was in fact "ok". We can do this!
The useless first aide boy produced a few large fabric bandages and had been able to find a two small packets of antibiotic ointment. After I had found and began using my scissors he was also able to find a pair. Fancy that. I used mine anyway.
I cut the sticky strip off the bandage to use as the tape. It was just the right size. After removing Hevenlees temprorary bandage and applying ointment I pinched the wound together and taped it shut. The other bandage the young man gave me, I put over the whole thing. Poor kid, the bandage practically covered her whole chin. But she was happy and didn't seem to be in any pain. I asked for several more bandages and cut the ends of them off for future use, thinking I'd probably have to change the dressing a few times in the next twenty four hours. I stowed the scissors back into the luggage and we set off to get back in line.

As we began heading back the way we came we passed again by the door we had originally entered only 40 minutes earlier and the woman who stared at us and was staring at us again for the third time and to our line that had grown even longer. The place in line were we were before we left was at the break in the line to keep the thouroughfare clear and being monitored by an airline attendant. How I longed to resume our position. The line had grown even longer than before and I eyed it all the way to the end. As I resigned to having to start the line waiting all over again a women from the info desk came out and demanded that we take up our original positions. This put me in a most awkward position. I really really wanted to do what she demaned but knew most people would see this as cutting and might get quite upset. I did the one thing I knew to do.......I made an announcement and asked permission from the whole line in my booming cheerleading voice. All eyes on us again, no one seemed to respond other than to think I was weird and so I asked the women I was in front of and they were more than gracious enough to say yes. I was blown away. I took a deep breath. Now all we have to do is travers this crazy Disneyland like line to check these bags and we'd have smooth sailing!

We waited in line for at least 20 to 30 minutes before we were at the front of another monitored break in the line which gave me the opportunity to ask the attendant if we would make the 5:30 flight. The line seemed to be moving awefully slow. She gasped. She informed me that this flight was being checked in for her 4:20 flight and we most certainly were in the wrong line and in fact, to my horror, we were at the wrong terminal all together! I assured her that we did want Lufthansa, it said it right here on my iteneray. She pointed out that it said in very small letter underneith Lufthansa that the carrier for Lufthansa was United and United was at terminal 7 and terminal 7 was at least a 10 minute walk from here..... All the blood drained from my face as I realized the magnitude of all this new information. How in the world was I going to get half a mile away on foot with 2 small girls and all our CRAP. I numbly pushed our stuff out of line and began gearing up for the task at hand. It was still early because I am obsessed with getting to the airport with too much time to spare. We had 3 hours and it looked like we would probably need all of it too. If it took a normal person with a minimal amount of luggage ten minutes to walk to terminal 7 then it would probably take us 10 times as long.

More to come..........cause i am just gettting started!


Anonymous said...

wow sophi... can't wait to hear the rest. you really do make everything an adventure don't you!
~ Debbie Vinall

Anonymous said...

Sophi! I feel like I am reading an action adventure book! I was reading it over the phone to my mom and we are both in suspense! When is the next chapter going to be released? We'll be there at midnight to get our copy. :)

Glad your home safe,
Debi Grisso

Michael Yeates said...

I really need closure on this story.