We left our apartment in Astana to go to the airport early in the morning last Saturday. Ever since this trip, flying out of Astana has made me very nervous. Having a flight canceled and needing to return to our apartment would have been a particularly unwelcome development in this case since we had already gotten rid of our food in preparation for our leave of absence. I decided that my main goal for the day was to leave Kazakhstan, and that I would try not to worry too much about how long it took to actually get home.
It was probably good that I didn't set the expectation bar too high because we had a very Kazakhstan-esque (or at least Astana-esque) exit from the country. Not only did our plane need to be de-iced when it came in from Austria, but the high winds made it impossible to get it de-iced. So after they boarded us late, we sat on the runway for a couple of hours, waiting for the winds to die down. We did eventually take off and land safely in Austria, but by the time we got there, we had already missed our connecting flight.
There were no more seats on flights to the US from Vienna that day, so we had to fly to Munich, and from there, to Newark. The flight to Munich was fine. The layover was short, but we didn't need to go through customs or security, so we had enough time. Newark was another story. By the time we got through customs and rechecked our bags, the TSA had closed one of its security lines. In order to cope with the influx of passenger in its other security line, the TSA instituted a cordoned-off multi-line system. We stood in one line...in order to get to another line...in order to get to the line where we actually removed shoes/belts/coats and ex-rayed our carry-on luggage. By that time, we were running against the clock, and the gate was far away. We took off in that direction...only to find out that there was a last minute gate change that would require running in the other direction. We then overshot the gate because it fell somewhat out of numerical order.
In the end, we had to beg to be allowed on the plane. The employee at the gate was convinced that we were garden-variety dopes who had simply failed to arrive at the airport two hours early (I ask myself here why information like what flights passengers are coming from isn't more readily available to these employees). Another gentleman joined us completely out of breath, having also come from an international flight. Even though my primary goal was to get out of Kazakhstan, I was relieved to not have to spend the night at Newark.
Scott and I are now happily ensconced in my parents' house and pathetically grateful to be out of the clutches of the airlines for the foreseeable future. Several of us in the house have colds at this point, but even being sick is a bit easier at home. We are happy to be home, and anticipating a very merry Christmas tomorrow.