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England – Day one

I’m sitting here, Easter morning, watching my kids play with the toys I picked up yesterday for their Easter basket, and feeling homesick.  Being in another country has been a wonderful and strange experience for me.  We were late in picking out the kids Easter things, and so we ran to the store last night.  And found no Easter items.  So, we found a clerk, and asked.  They ran out on Friday.  Living in the states, I could never imagine the megastore type place to run out of Easter items.  We put something together, ran to another store, found some cadbury eggs, and put together Easter baskets.  In gift bags.

So, my England trip, as any trip, started out with us flying out of Portland.  The Portland to New York portion of the trip was easy, the kids were well behaved, and other than losing some toothpaste to security, there were no glitches.  We got to New York, and went and had dinner while waiting for the 4 hour layover to be over.  The one thing I have to say that Air France was really really wonderful about was making sure that I was able to get on with the kids, before the mad rush of people getting on, and helping me get settled.  When we got on the New York to London portion, the steward spent a while with us, explaining how the flight was going to work, and how the tv’s worked, where the bathroooms were, etc.  Then the flight was delayed, and delayed, and delayed.  About 3-4 hours after we were supposed to leave New York, we do.  By the time we leave, my cell phone is dead.

We arrive in England, it’s morning, the kids have been amazing, and I am ready to get through immigration and customs, and see Geoff again.  Everything had gone so well, I guess it was meant that something would mess up.  We wait in the line, and it’s finally our turn.  The guy asks me why I am in England, I tell him to meet Geoff’s family.  He asks me when I am leaving, I tell him.  He asks me to show him the return ticket, I do.  He asks when Geoff and I met, I tell him, he asks how we met, I tell him, he asks if we have met up before, I tell him.  He asks when Geoff’s birthday is, I tell him, he asks what Geoff does, I tell him, he asks what Geoff’s parents do, I tell him I don’t know, he asks the layout of Geoff’s house, I tell him I don’t know, he asks Geoff’s cell phone number, I tell him, I don’t know, but it is in my dead cell phone.  We get sent back to the bench.  I get my cell phone and my laptop out, and get Geoff’s number.  I give it to the guy.  I am in tears, tired, and wondering what I said wrong, because I have apparently set off alarm bells in this guys head.

He brings me up again, and asks how much money I have on me, how much is in the bank, what I do for a living, how me and Bart get along.  I tell him not much money, not much in the bank until the 1st, that I am a student, that Bart and I get along well, that I have a letter from him, notarized, allowing me to bring the kids for the three week visit, as well as a notarized letter stating I won’t stay, and the questions go on.  I am sent back to the bench.

A little while later, he comes back with another guy.  They say, lets go get your luggage.  So, we go to baggage claim.  Where my bags are all that is left, and they are tossed on the floor, like something forgotten.  We load my 2 big suitcases, my duffel bag, and my 3 pieces of carry-on onto a cart.  Now, the 2 big suitcases are full of clothes, one of mine, and one of the kids, and the duffel has shoes.  We take all of it to a little room, and the guy that isn’t the one I have been dealing with searches all my luggage.  He is from customs.  As I have nothing at all that I am not allowed to have, this goes easy.  All my luggage goes back on the cart, and off we go, back to the bench.  We sit there a while, then I have to drag it all to the bathroom for the kids, we come back, we sit some more.  I am just in tears.  I don’t understand what is going on.  When the guy who I have been dealing with from the beginning sees me in tears, he asks why I am crying, and do I feel guilty.  I say no, I am just tired, and don’t know what’s going on.

Finally, about 3 hours from getting off the plane, a woman comes and gets us off the bench.  She takes us to another part of the airport, and takes me and the kids into a little room, where we get fingerprinted, and our pictures taken.  While we were in there, all of my luggage has been tagged.  Oh, and when they went through all my bags, they took all my medication, so that I didn’t try to overdose, as they said.  Luckily I had popped an anxiety pill and a couple of pain pills before we got to that point, so I didn’t have that issue going on.  So, anyhow, fingerprinted, photographed, feeling like a criminal.  They offer the kids and me food, I can’t eat, the kids take the food, and they start to head us into another room.  Before they do, one last violation, a full pat down.  At least a woman did it.  A very kind guy got Geoff’s phone number from me again, and told me that there was a pay phone in the room they were leaving me in, and he would call Geoff and give him the number so that he could get ahold of me.  And they took my luggage to another room, and me and the kids went into family detainment.

Within 10 minutes of getting in the room, where two other women were already seated, the phone rang.  It was Geoff.  Trying to talk past the wall of tears was nearly impossible, but I did it, and I put on a brave face.  No, I didn’t know what I had said that got me detained.  No, I didn’t know how long they were going to keep me.  We talked just for a few moments, before he got off the phone, telling me everything would be ok.  They were interviewing him too.  His mother called me not 10 minutes later.  They both worked so hard to keep my spirits up, telling me that they were going to get us out, and that we were going to have an amazing trip.

I’m not really sure how long we were in that room before someone came to interview me.  I had been told they wouldn’t wait to long, because I had the kids.  One of the women in the room with me had been in there for over 24 hours.  So, I knew that it could be a real long wait.  A woman did come for me, and it could not have been but an hour later, I don’t think.  We went into a room, and we talked about my relationship with Geoff, where I thought it was going, and so on.  She was really nice, and the conversation turned to the children.  Now, here is where I swear things turned around in my favor.  The woman made a comment about how she had no kids, when I told her that they were my world, and that I would never dream of trying to stay in the UK, because I would not want my kids taken away from me.  She told me that she wouldn’t know, she had no kids, she really wanted them, but that she had had 2 miscarriages.

OMG, a place where my infertility issues can work in my favor, and I swear they did.  I told her that I was sorry for her troubles, and that I had had 3 miscarriages before I had my successful pregnancy with Aiden, and then 2 more miscarriages before my successful pregnancy with Ciera, and then another a year ago Thanksgiving.  She looked at me, and said, so I still have hope?  And I said, of course you do, there is always a chance, I never gave up, and now I have these two.  She was Muslim, and talked about how she prayed for children, and now that she saw me and heard about my losses, that she now had hope, and she would continue to pray, but to see my success, that she now had more hope.  And our interview was over.  She left the room, and I could actually hear her on the other side of the wall, arguing my case, telling them that she did not see me as a risk to trying to immigrate to the UK illegally.

After that, it was quiet again.  Another woman came in with a glass of water and some tissues, telling me she was sure I was going to be released soon, that she did not see me as someone who would be sent home on a plane, and she was sure that my detainment was almost over.  She tried so hard to reassure me.  She left, and the phone rang again.  Out of the entire time I was in that room, the phone rang every 10-15 minutes, and it was always Geoff or his mom, and I was the only one of us in the room that got phone calls.  The other women stopped jumping up in anticipation after the 4th call, and I felt bad for them.  I was glad I had my support system though.

While I was on the phone with Geoff, they came in to tell me that they were releasing me.  I told Geoff that I was on my way, and that I would see him soon.  And off I went to repick up my luggage, and head out of the airport, 6 hours after I got in that line to go through immigration.  We saw Geoff waiting for us, and the kids went running to him.  We headed out of the airport.  Poor Geoff, he had picked up food for a picnic with us, and had been waiting for what he thought would be an easy wait for us once the plane arrived.  We got in the car and headed to his house.  He even did really well as we were going 70 something down the freeway and my freedom hit me again, and he saw me suddenly turn green, and he tried to figure out if it was best to open the window or find me a bag.  I luckily did not get sick, but it was a close thing.

One thing I do have to say, we had no jet lag, which was this huge surprise to everyone.  I say that it’s all immigrations fault.  We slept about 5 hours on the plane, and instead of being in a situation where we could allow jet lag to get us, we were forced to be awake all day due to immigration.  We got to Geoff’s house, had dinner, and it was soon time for the kids to go to bed.  Then I went to bed.  And we just kept on going, like we hadn’t lost 8 hours.

Well, I guess this is it for today.  So, that was my first day in England.  Soon I will be writing about the rest of my trip, but yeah, that first day was a whopper.

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