Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Hours

Author: Stephanie

We've now been in Napoli for five hours and what a whirlwind. We checked into the air terminal at the Norfolk Naval Air Station on Tuesday night. After checking our mountain o' luggage, we took Scully outside to walk and play for our final couple of hours. Since he'd been at the kennel for a week, we didn't want to put him in his airline crate until the last possible minute, even though the kennel manager told us they'd given him lots of extra treats and walks since it was his last visit. He also went to the dog bar-b-que at their pool, where (we were told) he spent two hours sitting directly by the grill (hotdogs on deck) rather than playing with the other 25 dogs in and around the pool. We have got to train him out of this obsessive begging.

We flew to Naples on a charter flight. The military contracts with commercial airlines to do flights like this, so we were on a normal airline (with a first class section, and sadly, we were NOT in it!). At our layover in the Azores, we landed on the Navy base for refueling, so everyone was off-loaded into a waiting terminal. It is hot there. Pretty...but hot. We, along with the other nine pet owners, were allowed to exit the terminal into a guarded, gated area where our pets had been delivered. We could take them out of their crates, walk them, let them drink out of huge bucket of water provided, and so on. Scully seemed just fine, so we didn't worry during our second leg. For the rest of the flight, I'd asked to move to a seat with a window since some folks had off-loaded for good in the Azores. Nathan elected to stay in his seat, meaning he got two seats to himself and I got the same. This allowed us to stretch out and get a little more rest. We had departed Norfolk after midnight on Tuesday night, and oddly, the flight crew served us dinner about 1am. Since it was long past dinner time for all the destinations of our plane (we had lots of stops, but thankfully, Naples was the second), I'm not sure why we got dinner rather than rest time, but food is food, so we ate it. By the time all of this was over, we only had about two hours of sleep prior to landing in the Azores.

We landed in Naples about an hour early, but our sponsors along with the wife of the Command's XO were waiting to greet us. Another odd event is that we did not go through customs. Families on PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders were shuttled to a different line than the others on the plane. That visa I had to get (the one that almost didn't arrive in time) was stamped, Nathan showed his orders, and off we went to baggage claim, where Scully awaited and a customs agent did not. What a refreshing lack of bureaucracy.

Our sponsors had arranged for Scully to stay with the daughter of a government service worker here who has a great reputation for keeping dogs. They drove us far out of their way to her house to drop Scully off, where he raced around their humongous yard playing with their dog (Scully has a girlfriend now!) and drank copious amounts of pool water (glad he's not sleeping in my bed tonight!). Then we stopped by their house nearby, and got to see what a typical house available to us is like. One word: gorgeous! Tile floors with mosaic insets, beautiful wood trim, marble staircase, unique iron banisters, rooftop terrace with a view, gated yard. This just reinforced our deep desire to live out in town! They then drove us to the Navy Lodge where we're staying (none of these places are near each other, so our sponsors really went out of their way to help us, not just in this but in a number of other ways). Our sponsors also pushed the Navy Lodge on providing a date for when a pet room would be available to us (it's this Friday), so it's yet another great help. Many of the other pet owners on our flight who were getting off in Naples did not have lodging arranged at all and said they had not been able to secure lodging on base. Several of them were unsure where they were staying. If that had been us, my nerves would have been "all aflutter," in the words of Mrs. Bennett from the PBS version of "Pride & Prejudice," which I got to watch this week with Nathan's Aunt Lisa.

We are in a nice villa with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, living room, laundry room, and outdoor terrace. We'll move to a similar villa on Friday with Scully and expect to live here for 6-8 weeks while awaiting housing (either on base or in town). We dined on parmesan cheese and wine from our sponsors and mac & cheese from the base chapel (the base chapel provides a Welcome Aboard bag which includes some food, and best of all, bottled water - tap water should not be drunk) while watching fireworks from the terrace. We couldn't actually see most of the fireworks due to a large building in the way, but the little we could see was a great welcome.

Tomorrow is a free day. We'll sleep late, go to the grocery store, and something else that I can't remember now due to extreme fatigue. Hopefully I'll remember tomorrow as I'm supposed to call our sponsor for help with it. Orientation begins Friday. Off to sleep now.

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