Saturday, September 10, 2011

Moving week...

 I am a big disliker of messes and clutter: I love cabinets, shelves with neatly stacked boxes and containers, tidy storage units and clean, elegant table- and sidetable-tops with room for a candle or some flowers, and my teacup and book. In my home, I am content when there’s a special place for everything: Shoes in the shoe cabinet, books on shelves, pencils, erasers, rulers in a small box in a drawer, toys in baskets, photos in the Egyptian chest, papers in sorters, and electronics in the electronics cabinet. I am not a neat-freak, but I like… order. It makes me feel comfortable and happy.

Our apartment is currently a mess: along with half-unpacked suitcases and everything that came out of them, there are open, half-filled boxes everywhere. Every surface is cluttered with books, school material, computer cables, toys; but there’s no point in putting anything away because it all needs to get packed into a box over the next week anyways.

Having to look for a small unoccupied spot on the coffee table to put my tea cup down kills me, and seeing all our belongings laying around the house makes me feel at unease and a little nervous. I keep having to remind myself that soon, soon I will get to organize everything in our new apartment. Soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flying Czech Airlines via Prague with children - never been worse

Is it because I’m getting older? Or is it because over the years, I’ve been accumulating young travel companions? Whatever the answer, flying seems harder and harder every time I do it.

This summer we didn’t even fly return to the US, but a meager 1,1 + 3,5 hours, with a one hour stop-over in Prague - from Lebanon to Denmark and back.

Checking in at Copenhagen airport is always comparatively easy, with short lines, helpful attendants, effective luggage- and security handling, and a wonderful children’s area. Every time I go through it, I wish I would run into the CEO so that I could give him or her an appreciative hug, and say “Thank you for thinking about me – nothing but a poor parent - and making my life a little easier!”

Once we leave Scandinavia, however, we are on our own. While the flying itself will be only slightly unpleasant (usually children will be occupied by food, sleep, or entertainment on the plane, and there isn’t really much that can go wrong), it is the queuing-part of a trip that will really kill any parent of young children. My youngest son, Abraham, is a very energetic two-year old, and like anyone his age, he does not like to wait in line. If he is put in a confined space to wait in line for a long time, he will eventually start to climb on the walls (literally), pull on the bands delineating the queuing area, try to run off, wander around, bother people, yell, or do whatever it is that people this age do when they get bored in small spaces.

Getting through check-in and security at Copenhagen airport and flying for a few hours is unpleasant, but not by any measures. In fact, all this would be all right – controllable - if Czech Airlines and Prague Airport weren’t so adamantly working against people traveling with young children.

Prague airport - which could be a quick, fun stop for us: off one plane, a play at the airport playground (which they have), and on board the next plane – is a long, queue-infested walk of terror. The Czech Republic – European Union – Schengen – WHOEVER it is – has turned a transfer at Prague airport into any parents’ nightmare.

As soon as you get off your first plane you have to stand in a no-line line to show your passport(s). People will be able to simply push their way past you and your children since there’s no system. If – when – you get past this, you have to walk through a transfer-transfer hall but to get to *your* transfer hall, you have to go through another passport control with often very long lines. To add insult to injury, on the way you will have to pass the airport playground and get through a tantrum - your child will SEE the fun playground and want to play but because of all the checks there’s no time to stop. The screaming will last you all the way to the next - seemingly random - security check. Really: why, oh why?! do they have to check our bags again when we are only transferring? We already went through this – in a much more efficient and pleasant way, may I add? – when we started our trip. In Prague, the lines will be extra long (because why keep more than one line open?), with no LEGO stops like in Copenhagen, and by the time you get to the actual security point, you will hold up the line trying to get your laptop out of your overfull bag with half a hand - while trying to contain a screaming and kicking toddler with all your might. (Try it. It’s hard.) Now, right after you don’t think things can get any worse (you’ve either dropped your laptop or your toddler at least twice) – the Czech security guards will be completely non-understanding and search you extra just for bringing kids – you’ll end up in a new, REALLY long line to go through boarding, with people consistently getting ahead of you in line. Because really; doesn’t everyone have boarding privileges over a mother with three young children? Czech Airlines rarely ever announce that people with children should board the plane first, and IF they do, they never enforce it. In fact, single people often push their way past people with children (because it’s easy – the parents are too busy keeping their kids in line under control to notice), and the attendants do nothing to discourage this. By the time you get on board, waiting in line behind every single passenger trying to fit their luggage in the over-head compartments, your children are beyond exhausted, at best.

Hint to all of you traveling without children who give me angry glances when my child is throwing a 30-decibel fit during take-off: IF YOU HAD LET ME ON THE PLANE FIRST, MY TIRED TODDLER WOULD HAVE GOT TO SETTLE IN AND FALLEN ASLEEP BEFORE TAKE-OFF, AND YOUR FLIGHT – EVERYONE’S FLIGHT - WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT!!

Did I mention one of my older boys threw up?

Sigh. It’s good to be home. No. More. Flying. For. A. While.