První týden, Part One: How I almost lost my wife and daughter in Paris

We’re in Prague! As you might have guessed, our last six weeks in the United States kind of got away from us and we dropped the ball on the rest of our “How to Blow Up Your Life” series. But make no mistake: Our lives are now officially blown up. The whole story of our last week would be quite long and scattered, so I’m going to share just a few of the highlights of our trip and the first week in our new home. Part one is the part where I wasn’t sure if we were going to actually make it.

Wednesday, October 21

We were so close! We somehow managed to pare down our belongings to five overstuffed suitcases, crate up our beloved wonderpup, and get ourselves on a plane. We made our connection Boston without incident and survived the transatlantic flight surrounded by a group of French high school students. Before we knew it, we began our initial decent into Paris where we would make our final connection.

We were eager to land not only for a chance to get away from the French youth group, but also because it meant we would be reunited with our Gus. He had been checked into luggage back in Columbus and, we were told, was to be automatically transported along to the second leg. Because Paris was our initial point of contact in the European Union we would need to pick him up there and take him through customs. Thankfully we had a four hour layover to do this. We didn’t realize just how much of a good thing this would turn out to be.

After getting off the plane we decided that January and Lucy would hang out in the terminal where we arrived while I went on a Gus-finding mission. I was laser focused; I barreled straight for baggage claim, periodically stopping to ask random people “I just arrived from Boston, I’m continuing on to Prague, my dog was checked in baggage, do you know where I would find him?” About half of the people gave me blank stares, the other half casually waved their hand in some direction, and then I would move on to the next person who looked like they might know what they were talking about.

One of these people—and this is an important point to the story—was a gentleman at the customs line. There was nobody else in line, so I walked up with the same question: “I just arrived from Boston, I’m continuing on to Paris, my dog was checked in baggage, do you know where I would find him?” He asks to see my passport and I, of course, show it to him. He waves me through and I go on to the next person. This continues for a few more minutes before I hear it: The same wonderful yap of a border collie who is a little confused about where he is. I turn a corner and am reunited with my world traveling dog.

I put the wheels back on his crate and begin playing a slight variation on that same game: “I just arrived from Boston and we’re continuing on to Prague. I just picked up my dog and need to recheck him for the next flight. Do you know where I would do that?” A polite-yet-vauge wave and we’re on to the next person. We finally find the ticket counter at Air France where a very helpful woman gets Gus’ spot confirmed and paperwork filled out. I’m told, though, that Gus can’t be checked in for another 90 minutes, so we spend some time outside while I start thinking about how I can try to contact January and Lucy to let them know we’re all set.

Vous êtes ici

A photo posted by Andy Soell (@amsoell) on

This is where FaceTime saves the day. Both January and my phones are in airplane mode (so as to not incur crazy roaming charges) but I managed to get mine on the public wifi. Fortunately, January had done the same for Lucy’s iPad and I was able to get ahold of them by FaceTiming Lucy. I told them that I was going to be another 90 minutes, which only left us another 90 minutes to get ourselves checked in. January and Lucy started to make their way over to the terminal that Gus and I were waiting at in order to save us all a little time.

About 45 minutes passes and I’m beginning to wonder where they’re at. It shouldn’t take them that long to get here, should it? Check my phone: Missed FaceTime call from Lucy. I call back and that’s when I hear the news: They’re stuck back at customs. Their passports are in my backpack. Which is on my back.

Now, Gus has been checked back in for the flight, so at least I don’t have to wheel around a 70 pound crate anymore. But now I need to figure out how I’m going to get January and Lucy their passports. I’m pretty sure I can’t just retrace my steps the whole way. Those big-ass doors are there to keep stuff like that from happening. So I find myself playing yet another variation on a familiar game: “Hello. I accidentally took my wife and daughter’s passports through customs and they’re stuck in the L terminal. Do you know how I can get them to them?” Finally, a somewhat put-out information desk worker agreed to walk them over. So I handed over their passports and held my breath that this woman wouldn’t just throw them in the trash and go on a coffee break. Twenty agonizing minutes later I’m back with the rest of my team and we’re going through the security line for our final flight.

So that’s the story about how our four hour layover in Paris turned out to be exactly the right amount of time and we somehow managed to not miss our flight into Prague. Stay turned for Part Two where you’ll hear all about how we almost ended up stranded at a different European airport for an entirely different reason, and why Tasci Gibson is the best for rescuing us.