February 26, 2010

How I kept three kids calm during 30 hours of airline travel and airports – The points system

We left our apartment in Santo Domingo at 10:30am on Wednesday, and arrived at my friend’s house in Goiania, Brazil at 5:30pm – 30 hours of travel that involved four stops and two long layovers. Amazingly, the kids managed to remain fairly well behaved for the entire trip and earned the prize I had promised them – a trip horseback riding.

When we left the house, I told my daughters, 8-year old twins and a 6-year old, that they would earn points for good behavior, and that, if they earned ten points, they could go horseback riding once we got to Brazil. I am surprised how well that rewards system worked.

In the car on the way to the airport, when the twins began to fight over whose turn it was to play the Nintendo DS, I reminded them about the point system, and they found a way to resolve their fighting. When my 6 year old began fussing on the plane and kicking the seat in front of her, I reminded her about the points, and she stopped kicking the seat. On one of our long layovers, the twins had to help with the luggage, and when they complained, I promised an extra point for being so helpful with the bags, and they complied.

They managed to behave during a long layover in Miami, an hour wait in a line in Sao Paulo, and the eight-hour flight from Miami to Sao Paulo. We didn’t board the plane in Miami until midnight, as the flight was delayed. Almost immediately after boarding, Tatiana and Soraya fell asleep. They woke up before I did. Luckily, the American Airlines flight has individual televisions where you can choose from a menu of movies. They watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Night at the Museum while I continued to catch some zzz’s, or at least tried to.

When we got to Sao Paulo, I had to offer the girls another point while we waited for quite a bit to get processed by immigration. It turned out that Fernando had overstayed his visa on a previous trip to Brazil. We were worried about that, but, as ten years had passed, he no longer had to pay the fine, and they stamped his passport to get into Brazil.

As our flight was late getting into Sao Paulo, we missed our connection to Goiania. This turned out to be for the best, as our original travel plans involved changing airports in Sao Paulo. As we missed that flight due to delays, we were able to get a new flight that left out of the same airport. We had to wait in line for an hour to re-check our bags. But, the girls sat on the floor and played Mario Kart on their DS’s while we waited in line. Towards the end, they complained they were hungry, as it was past lunchtime. But, they held out until we were helped out, finally.

Luckily, we had time at the Sao Paulo airport to have a decent lunch. We went to one of those serve-yourself places where you pay by weight. The girls loved the opportunity to serve themselves. Raymi served herself rice, beans, and chicken. Soraya got rice, beans and salad. Tatiana got the same. But, she saw the pasta and decided to serve herself another plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce. It turned out her eyes were bigger than her stomach, but Nando and I helped her out with the spaghetti. Stomachs full, we made our way to our last flight – that would take us to Goiania.

The last flight stopped in Brasilia on the way to Goiania, so that was a bit disappointing for the girls, who thought the seemingly interminable voyage had finally ended. But, the fight from Brasilia to Goiania is only 25 minutes. And, they made friends with some nearby passengers and chatted the last 25 minutes away.

Finally, we made it to our friend, Izabel’s house. Izabel was kind enough to offer us a place to stay while we figure out where we are going to live. We are trying to decide between staying in Goiania and going to one of two smaller cities – Perenopolis or the old city of Goias. Meanwhile, the girls are having a great time at Izabel’s as she has a swimming pool in her apartment complex, as well as a very friendly dog.

Now, we just have to figure out where we will take the girls horseback riding.

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