Tuesday evening B, J and their Mum came over to say goodbye and gave me some beautiful presents, including a fantastic picture drawn by B.
Wednesday was the day that it all suddenly felt real. All of a sudden I was leaving tomorrow and I hadn't packed much and it seemed like there were a million things to do. In the morning it all came to a head when I realised that we had Bekki's walking boots and mine were in Cambridge. Luckily my Mum was able to home for a couple of hours before work in the afternoon. She calmed me down, and a visit from Little One, Little Flower and their Mum also helped to make me feel better. Actually, in the end, a two hour drive to and from Cambridge was probably a good thing because it meant I couldn't be at home by myself panicking, and I got to see Bekki one last time.
Wednesday evening went in a bit of a blur. We got my bags packed and then had the chance to play the 'take things out again until the bag is under the weight limit' game. I got to play that again in the morning having thought of a couple more things that really did need to go in.
Thursday morning we'd set the alarm for 5am. Actually, I set it for 5.05am because that didn't sound quite so bad. We got up and got the last few bits and pieces sorted out and finally left the house around 7am. It was quite slow on the motorway, but we made it the Heathrow with plenty of time. I spent ages at check in because we were trying to find out if they would be able to put my luggage in the heated section of the hold (because apparently asthma meds can freeze at altitude which can affect their effectiveness). In the end I don't think they were going to put them there, but to be honest I don't really remember, it's all a bit hazy. But while I was waiting I got to finish filling in my green card and the lady on check-in checked it and told me I'd done it right.
I went upstairs and said goodbye to Mummy and Daddy for the last time, and then headed into the security checks. I have to say that I think the system was better explained at Heathrow but they were more thorough at Chicago. Once I was through those (bag, body and shoes got checked) I was into the shops bit of the terminal. I went in WHSmith and got a couple of bottles of water and then had a wander. I had ages to wait and they hadn't even posted a gate number so I pretty much had to either wander or sit somewhere and I was too hyper to sit down! I found a place that had watches and bought myself one (I've been meaning to all week, but time had disappeared. I use my mobile phone when I'm home, but I was leaving that with my Dad for him to use while I'm gone. So, if you try to ring or text me you'll get him)
They put the gate number up so I decided to head down there even though there was loads of time left. I ended up sitting there a while, but that was ok, it was fun to people watch! We boarded the plane and I found me seat. I was on the end of the row of seats in the midde (There were 2, 5, 2 and I was on the right hand end of the 5). I said hi to my neighbour and told her it was my first ever flight which really surprised her :-)
On the ascent I was aware of my ears popping a lot, but I kept swallowing and sucking on some mints and yawning (all flying tips given to me by various people) all of which seemed to help. We got to have a choice of various things to watch so I got to see Hairspray, and also caught an episode of New Tricks (It was the one about the ice cream sellers). About 5 hours into the flight I'd pretty much had enough, but we still had another 3 hours to go.
Hmm, other things I noticed on the flight - the noise the toilet makes when it flushes is kind of scary, I could not have slept even if I'd wanted to because I had too much adrenalin rushing around my body, and the whole ears popping thing goes on for a very long time. I'd alway assumed, for some bizare reason, that it was literally the moment of take-off that you had to make sure you were sucking\swallowing\yawning, but actually that goes on for a lot longer. I guess it makes sense because you go up really high (35,000 feet), but it did surprise me at the time. I also noticed when we started to descend, even though the captain hadn't come on to say we were, again because of the air popping. Also, it was amazing to look out as we descended and see the clouds like a fluffy layer of cotton wool. (I'd write that more poetically, but I'm tired people!)
I was a bit nervous at Chicago because I knew I had to go through immigration, customs collect my luggage and re-check it and myself. It was immigration first and they take an electronic fingerprint of both index fingers. The guy kept telling my to press harder and it began to hurt because I was pressing so much, but I guess it must have worked in the end because he let me through. Next I had to collect my bags and boy was I glad that I didn't have black bags because there were so many of them. One other person did appear to have the same bags as me, but as they had a lot more labels on their bags it was easy enough to look at them and see they weren't mine. Both my bags came out eventually, and I just about managed to get them off the carosel without bopping anyone on the head. Customs was ok, all I had to do was hand over the form I'd completed on the plane, the tricky part was wheeling two suitcases and holding a form in my hand at the same time.
I went through door for people transfering to another flight and got to hand over my bags again and then walked out and panicked. I had no idea where I was meant to be going next or how I was supposed to get there. I followed the crowd and a helpful airline guy looked at my ticket and told me to get on the train that was waiting and get off at terminal 3. One thing I noticed was that the trains run of the opposite sides of the tracks, although I guess that makes sense with the whole drive on the other side thing too.
Ok, this post has to end here because it's almost dinner time and my brain is going a little fuzzy. More about the rest of the journey and meeting Blest and her family either later on or tomorrow.