Hospitals & Weddings & Stereotypes, Oh My!

It wouldn’t really be fair to spend 2 weeks in America and not give any sort of recap of our time there – after all, adventures happen at home too.

After spending a few days in Santiago, Chile, which was an extremely modern and easily navigable city, we received bad news on the home front on Thursday, the 13th. We had spent the evening at an over-priced expat sports bar in the nicest neighborhood watching the Bears vs. Packers game as it was illegally streamed from the internet (surrounded by 35ish Packers fans from Green Bay, Wisconsin, decked out in jerseys/hats and other team paraphanalia – when asked why they were living in Santiago – they replied “because Wisconsin is boring”). When we arrived back at our hostel, we checked our email and were told that T’s grandmother was in the hospital undergoing emergency surgery after her aorta ruptured suddenly. This was our worst nightmare come true and the only real reason we ever contemplated not going on our trip – fear of something horrible happening to a family member. We immediately called Delta to see if we could get our flight changed to ASAP instead of Monday night. We booked our tickets with skymiles, so we knew the change policy could be tricky, but usually airlines have contingency offers for family emergencies. After more than 30 minutes talking to two incredibly unhelpful morons whose only solution was for us to purchase additional miles for the low-low price of $1400/person in order to change our flight, Tyler was SO sad, tormented, and frustrated, he went to sleep (circa 2am local time). I was not willing to give up just yet and proceeded to email* as many Delta emails I could find online as well as post on Delta’s Facebook page and my own Facebook page.

Thank God I have a number of doctor friends with the most ridiculous schedules and one of them happened to be checking FB while in the hospital that night. He told me to try tweeting @DeltaAssist. Since I don’t have a Twitter account (and actually never wanted one), I had to create one and give myself a crash course on how to tweet. First thought, trying to explain something in 140 characters is RIDICULOUS, and it’s really no wonder America’s youth can’t spell/speak correctly. My first tweet (a 140-character version of my email below) caught the attention of someone, and I was able to DM (direct message) with a representative at @DeltaAssist. In about 5 minutes of back-and-forth, he/she asked for our names, skymiles numbers, flights we wished to change to, name/relation of family member with emergency, and the name/number of the hospital she was in. 5 minutes later, our new flight info was in my inbox and we were scheduled to leave the next day. Twitter = success, though I haven’t even logged into my account since. Delta customer service did finally respond to both my FB post and direct email after a couple of days – we were given 3700 miles (i.e. essentially $37) each for our dissatisfaction. I suppose it’s the thought that counts, but at the end of the day, the lesson is to use technology to your advantage and apparently forget about the idea that all customers should be treated equally. Best of luck to those customers in a similar predicament that don’t have/know about Twitter….

Our time in the USA would prove to be more stressful, jam-packed, and exhausting than any of our travels. We had a couple-hour layover in Atlanta and my parents (who had anticipated us having almost a full-day layover on Tuesday with our original flight schedule) met us at the airport for a brief but lovely breakfast. I most happily devoured a bagel and cream cheese – something I had been craving for 6 months. My parents, being the most dependable and reliable people I know, brought our phones and other assorted things we were supposed to get on our layover as well as homemade brownies and blueberry muffin bars. Even though we had seen them relatively recently in Argentina, it felt amazing to have a few precious moments with them before heading on to Chicago. I think it helped calm us down and sort of mentally ground ourselves to be ready for “home” – especially not knowing what we would face with Grandma’s health.

We spent 6 nights staying at Grandma’s house with Dad M. and visited her in the hospital most of the day everyday that week. If you’re lucky enough to know her, you know she is not your average 81 year old, and of course she beat all of the outrageous odds against her. She was talking, eating, and walking before anyone expected her to even be awake- a true miracle – so much so that her surgeon came in and recorded her talking to send to colleagues who didn’t believe his stories of her recovery. Despite the circumstance, it was great to spend so much time with family, and Tyler and his dad especially were able to stay up late at night bonding over their own special world of MBA basketball. Grams is now in a rehab facility and doing fantastically well.

While in the ‘burbs, we managed to get some errands and shopping done – like buying ridiculous amounts of super-DEET bug spray and replacement shirts – and picking up T’s groomsman tuxedo accessories for Scott & Kailey’s wedding on Saturday, the 22nd. As the highlight and original reason of our home-break-between-continents, we were excited to see our dear friends tie the knot as well as catch up with so many of our other friends all in one place/weekend. We moved our backpacks and “Chicago suitcases” (packed in February and left with T’s cousin Chris and contained such items as my dress/shoes/makeup for the wedding) from Grandma’s to a hotel in Oak Brook for Friday and Saturday nights. We managed to cram in all of the following from Friday night thru Sunday night: rehearsal dinner, drinks with friends, T- frisbee with friends, breakfast with my cousin&wife and auntie&uncle, T took a tiny nap, T got ready with groomsmen/groom and took pictures etc, pedicure with friend that took WAY too long, getting ready, helping organize wedding party at wedding, wedding, reception, T-drinks after reception, pack up our millions of bags again, visit Grandma in hospital, drop of Grandma’s car at her house, get picked up by Mom B., go to Tante Audrey and Uncle John’s house for double-birthday celebration and catching up with family time, get dropped off at restaurant in LaGrange for Charlie’s moving-away to SF dinner, get dropped off at Erika and Kurt’s in downtown to spend 3 nights in the city. Throw in approximately 9 hours of sleep in there and that was our weekend.

The wedding was wonderful and Jen R. did a fantastic job of marrying S&K – but maybe I’m biased since she married us too, hehe. Kailey looked stunning and was fully of happy tears – as was Scott – and the ceremony was sweet, funny, and exactly them. Their families are fantastic, but Mrs. Meyer gets a special shout-out since she reads our blog and so warmly greeted me with a mom-hug (you know the kind) even though she’d never met me before! Our friends are all living their own incredible lives that include getting puppies, moving to new cities, starting new jobs, having babies, etc., and we were happy to hear their stories and catch up. All-in-all, the weekend was a hectic blast, and when we landed at the Caldwell’s apartment with essentially all of our worldly possessions in hand, we were ready for some sleep and downtime. I’m supremely lucky to have friends like Erika and Kurt (whose dependability falls in the same range as my own parents), for not only did they let us take over their apartment with all of our crap, buy me milk even though she doesn’t drink it, AND agree to store our extra luggage until who-knows-when, they let us use their white-noise maker so we could sleep in.

Our 3 final days were filled with meetings, lunches, dinners, and random errand running (like getting my broken backpack fixed at a local shoe repairman and T’s driver’s license renewed). My dad was coincidentally in town for a couple days for a conference, so we had dinner plans with him as well. Even though we crammed in time with a few friends, it wasn’t enough, and there were plenty of people we didn’t get a chance to see at all. I know some people (both friends & family) were probably disappointed or upset with us, even if they did understand the ridiculous circumstances of our brief American holiday, but I can assure you we honestly did the best we could. In the good ‘ol US of A, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

On Wednesday night, we left for a 4-day adventure in Seattle, site of our possible new home. I won’t go into details regarding jobs or moving, but I will happily discuss our experiences and first impressions of a city we have always wanted to visit. The hotel we stayed in was absolutely beautiful and in a great location near Pike Place Market. I woke up Thursday morning to the sound of Nirvana being blasted somewhere below our hotel window and couldn’t help but laugh-out-loud – of all the stereotypes I’ve seen come to life in the past 7 months, none were more amusing than this one. Seattle is a city of neighborhoods, much like Chicago, and has a great vibe to it that is reminiscent of San Francisco without the pretention. Despite wanting to experience the real weather of Seattle, the weekend was instead absolutely perfect – gorgeous sunny days with cloud-less blue skies and just the right breeze. Weather like that makes it impossible not to fall in love with a place. We walked the city with its hills and epic views of the water/mountains, absolutely absurd number of Starbucks stores, and numerous “interesting looking people” – and we really liked it. It’s a bit more expensive than Chicago and is certainly much more green & granola, but hey, vegans are people too and composting is cool. Seattle has so much to offer with its outdoor activities and gorgeous surroundings and smaller population and really awesome social/volunteer/tech scene – adventure in the USA is alive & well in that big town.

On Sunday night, we flew EVA Air (the Taiwanese national airline – totally recommend – great service and food and decently sized seats) to Taipei and then on to Phnom Penh, landing on Tuesday morning local time. Upon landing in Cambodia, we were instantly enveloped in stifling humid heat and a certain smell only found in this part of the world. All we could do was look at each other and smile – commence Part 2 of One Year Leap!


*My email to Delta was as follows and should be a lesson to all who want to make me angry at 3am while I’m in a foreign country trying to be a good family member: My husband and I <insert our skymiles numbers> used 60,000 miles EACH to book a ONE-WAY ticket from Santiago, Chile to Chicago, Illinois, USA on 9/17/12. Due to a tragic family emergency (my husband’s great-aunt died last week and his grandmother – her sister- is now in the hospital facing death due to an aorta collapse), we would very much like to get out of Chile ASAP. We understand that flights may be booked, and we’re more than happy to pay some sort of change fee etc. However, your phone agents were LESS than helpful in offering us a “buy more miles” plan that would amount to 40,000 miles each, equalling $1,400/each. Though I understand this is some sort of ridiculous policy that your company needs to maintain for normal business proceedings, the fact that you have ZERO help in an emergency situation for 2 loyal Delta customers is ABSURD. Even if my flight cannot be changed, the fact that you cannot change my husband’s flight to tomorrow, which I know has room on it, for a reasonable amount (even a few hundred dollars) is incredibly sad. You will MAKE more money and yet your policies prevent you from doing so. My father is a 1,000,000 miler on Delta and has wasted most of MY childhood on your planes – I always knew it was for no good reason. Trust me, I will post and write to any and all parties who may be remotely interested in this story to make sure they know how short-sighted and inhumane your policies are. In the meantime, we’ll be in Santiago praying for our grandmother.

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