Tuesday, April 1, 2008

End of the road

Above: I'm not sleeping, I'm praying, or just resting my eyes, or thinking

Another Europe trip has come and gone. From the initial planning of the itinerary a couple weeks after Europe 2007 to the first meeting with interested families, to the booking of transportation, accommodations, and attractions, Europe is on my mind throughout the year. It is my sincere wish that those who joined me and Mr. Johnson on this journey are left with a feeling of camaraderie with the rest of the group, an appreciation for the world outside of Canada, a sense of adventure, and a lasting impression of the history and culture of Europe.

I don't think I need to summarize the trip - it's in the other journal entries -but we definitely squeezed in as much of Europe into each and every day, and even allowed some time for shopping, eating, and sleeping (in order of importance girls?).

As we drove to the airport, I felt happy to be going home to my family, but sad to be leaving the bus (despite the smell) and the other 41 people on it. Though I’ll see all of them again, we’ll never be in that same group on that same adventure again. So now we have the memories, and the 26,817 photos on my computer!

Here’s my email to all the Europe parents explaining my eventful trip home from Munich to Toronto to Vancouver – I think it makes a pretty good final story for this blog.

Lots of people were asking me about the circumstances of Karsten’s and my extra wait in Toronto.

First things first - it was NOBODY'S FAULT, except maybe mine. Here's how it all played out:

1. Our flight from Munich was delayed because of an accidentally inflated escape ramp.

2. On the way to Toronto, I asked the steward about our connecting flight, set to board at 15:25 Toronto time. Our plane was set to land at 15:30 Toronto time. He said they would hold the flight for us.

3. Just before landing, they announced a bunch of details about connecting flights, but did not mention flight 161 to Vancouver. I asked about this, and they said we would just be taking a later flight.

4. As we were clearing customs, they started shouting from the connections passport check for passengers on flight 161 to hurry to the front of the line, recheck the baggage, and move to gate 137 as quickly as possible. It was at this point that the group spread out a bit. Most people entered the secure area through the third level of the airport.

5. I waited behind to ensure all of our group got through, and hurried what I thought was the last of them up the three flights of stairs to the security check. Karsten was there waiting with his mom's bag. He hadn't seen his mom or Joel pass through security, and had been told by others they were behind. Apparently, there was another security check entrance to the departure gates, and not everyone used the one on the third floor.

6. I got Karsten to guard my bags as I ran back to customs to see if they were there. The security guard of course would not let me in and told me to go check with Air Canada.

7. I ran back up the stairs to the AC booths and asked them if Joel Taylor had boarded the plane. No Joel Taylor is on the plane they said. They suggested I go back down to the customs office.

8. I ran back down to the bottom level and found the customs office. I told him I was the guardian of a student who may be being held in customs. He said, "We can't release any information sir". I said he's with my school group, and I need to know if he is in customs still. He said, "He's in good hands, sir". I said, "So you have him?", to which he replied, "We can't release any information sir". I said, well nevermind what I said, but I ran back upstairs to where Karsten was waiting.

9. The security guard at the boarding gate entry said to run over to the information phone and have them paged. I did so, and we never heard the page. I ran back and asked again - they said they had paged in a different part of the airport, and so they paged in our part of the airport. Meanwhile, I was watching the monitor, seeing flight 161, flashing Delayed in yellow everytime I passed one while running around like a maniac. I ran back to the Air Canada desk with a list of students, parents, and passport numbers, and while doing so passed two monitors. The first one still flashed flight 161 Delayed, but 100 metres later, it had disappeared off the screen. The AC employee confirmed that the plane had left.

10. I got Karsten and we brought our bags over to the AC counter. They were very helpful, and we went through my list, name by name, and checked off everyone, including Joel Robertson-Taylor. I should have remembered that the first time I went to the counter! My mistake. "The only people from your group who didn't make the flight are Craig Bresett and Karsten Krumhardt," she said. "That's us!"

11. They found the two last seats on flight 33, leaving at 8:30 PM Toronto time, and I had them data-link to the plane to tell Jackie that Karsten was with me and that we were already booked on the next flight to Vancouver.

12. Karsten and I enjoyed a gourmet pizza and excellent conversation, then he watched some educational programs on my Ipod, and I did my Munich blog entry. We also took a cab to the CN tower, climbed the 1000 stairs, and took a cab back. We forgot to take pictures though.

13. I called my wife and Karsten called his dad to explain the situation.

14. We calmly boarded flight 33 on time, and Karsten slept almost the entire way to Vancouver, while I, stuffed between two guys bigger than me, tried to retain some sanity as my day of travelling home stretched into its 24th hour.

15. In Vancouver, Karsten went home with his dad, and I went home with my wife and three wide awake kids. They insisted I stop at James' house to pick up my luggage. Arriving home at 1:45, they also insisted we continue the tradition of gift giving immediately upon arrival. My son Jude, who is 5, pulling my larger carry-on bag on the way to the car, asked, "Daddy, is this bag full of chocolate?" At 2:45, all gifts had been given, some Dumon chocolate had been eaten, some Pesto had been tasted, and I had phoned my kids' school letting them know that they would be absent for the morning on Monday. Having got out of bed at the Easy Palace at 7 AM Europe time on Sunday, I finally laid down at 11:45 AM Europe time on Monday. What a long and strange day.

16. Somehow, I slept through my 6:30 AM alarm, and when I finally woke up at 7:30, I first wondered why James had his arm across my chest (it was my son, who had crawled into our bed), and then wondered why he left the hostel room door open. Oh, wait, I'm home, that's my bedroom door. And by the way, if you've never been to Europe, it is very common for a double occupancy room to be one double bed.

17. I actually made it to school for the start of first block, walking in at the start of Oh Canada.

So, one extra adventure for me and Karsten. Again, if there is anyone to blame for the mix up, it was me. I should have told Karsten to go through security with his mom's carry-on while I continued to search for the not-really-missing people from our group. But we all made it home this year, and I was impressed to see a lot of the kids made it to school Monday. I understand if some stayed home to rest, but it is important to try and normalize your schedule again as quickly as possible, and force yourself to stay awake until at least the early evening so you aren't waking up at 2AM every day for the rest of the week!

Above: Europe Moms and Dads smile as they abandon kids for a night on the town in Trier. A night on the town on a Fundy Europe trip is kaffee mit milch or café au lait or caffè con latte (depending what country you are in) at the nearby coffee shop. Mr. J and I were good babysitters, and made sure the kids didn't fight, brushed their teeth, and got to bed on time.

To the parents who did not come on the trip: Your kids were supported and cared about by an amazing group of moms and dads in Europe. The chaperones had the students' best interests at heart at all times, and they made the trip safe and fun. Mr. J and I thank them from the bottom of our seemingly made-to-order Europe 2008 steins (a gift from the parent chaperones), which, of course, we will use for drinking Fanta or ice water. Your kids themselves had what I hope was the adventure of their lives - so far. I wish I had seen and done all that when I was in grade 9!. They were fun, friendly, respectful, and enthusiastic - I couldn't ask for anything more.

Craig Bresett


Kaveboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaveboy said...

Ha Ha Ha
Your a great writer Mr B.
Really funny stuff
We're all glad to have all you back safely.

number40 said...

Thanks Mr. B and Mr. J for all the fun and adventure we enjoyed in Europe. I will never (and I mean NEVER) forget the over 2600 stairs we climbed in all the castles, cathedrals, etc. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!