It always feels like leave is too short, this time it felt long and short at the same time! Ben and I loved being home for the month we were able to see and spend time with friends and family. I know we’re going to be missing a lot of life events, but we hope to still keep in touch and be part of what we can.
Our leave started on August 17, we drove home to Clinton Twp., MI and then the very next morning drove with the family up to Caseville, MI. The beach was beautiful and it was nice to have a relaxed atmosphere. After the week was over, we drove back to CTP and the next night drove right back to Virginia to meet the movers and pack up our house. Pretty sure the whole PCS experience would need an entirely different blog post to explain… Needless to say, the pack-out went well and we drove back to Michigan 3 days later. The rest of the two and a half weeks we got to spend with family and friends. Ben was able to travel to Ohio to see one of his Army buddies and I was able to visit with local friends as well as my friend who drove in from Indiana with her boyfriend to visit. All around it was a great trip and send off.
We ended up leaving Michigan in a rental car (a cute Ford Fusion) on Saturday night. That was by far the most difficult drive. The 12 hours turned into 14 hours because we could not stay awake and had to pull over to take naps. Thankfully we made it to Virginia Sunday morning and stayed with one of my best friends and her husband. Later that day we got to throw a baby shower for her and her husband. Monday was spent catching up on sleep and errands that needed to be done right before we left. Ben and I went to go see our “last US movie” The Campaign, which I thought was hilarious.
Tuesday morning included a trip to the Army Veterinarian for the pugs. This was our last appointment and check out task before being able to leave for Naples. I was so nervous that our snub nosed dogs wouldn’t pass their final exams, but thankfully they passed with flying colors! *sigh of relief* They required almost as much paperwork to board the plane as we did! Immunizations, rabies certificate, microchip information, and International Health Certificate were all needed in multiple copies for both dogs. Having all this paperwork is fine with me because as long as they’re cleared and healthy, dogs flying into Italy do not require a quarantine. Hooray!
So after the appt. we dropped off our rental car and then went out for some lunch/dinner with friends before leaving for the airport. Thanks to Angela and her husband, we squeezed all our luggage, the pugs, and us into their Jeep Patriot and headed over to the air terminal on Norfolk Naval Base. Our orders had us leaving at 2330 (1130PM), but if we had animals, we were required to check in 6 hours before the flight… We got to the airport around 515 PM and said goodbye to our friends.
The AMC Terminal was so much different than a commercial airline. We had security check immediately inside the front door, but it wasn’t as crazy as you’d think. we just threw our luggage, carry-ons, and shoes in a bucket and walked through. There was no real inspection of the contents, definitely a lot easier than we were expecting. They must have super x-ray vision into our bags 😉 And the dogs were just wheeled through without any inspection. We could have shoved anything in their crates! But I’m going to pretend that they did an inspection before loading them on the plane… Getting booked at the counter was also very easy. We got our boarding passes and checked all our luggage in about 15 minutes. Ben and I each had one suitcase and I also had my seabag with all my uniforms in it. No extra charge thankfully, just paid $112/pug for them to fly!
After we were all checked in, we still had about 5 hours before boarding and were told by security that we could stay with the pugs until about 30-45 minutes before boarding. So that’s what we did!!
Finally at about 945 PM we said goodbye to the pugs, they were lined up in a row in a kennel with the rest of the animals that were on the flight getting ready to be loaded. It was hard for me to leave them, but I said my prayers and went upstairs. There are only 2 gates at the terminal, we were boarding through gate 2. Upstairs all they had was a cafeteria and USO, and a lot of seating for everyone. Boarding the plane didn’t take long and we got settled in our window/aisle seat. After all the times Ben and I travelled to see each other back and forth from MI/CO/VA, this was our first flight TOGETHER! epic. He was good for cuddling 🙂
The flight lasted a total of 9 1/2- 10 hours in the air. We spent the first 5 hours flying from Norfolk, VA to Lajes, Portugal. When we stopped there, we all got off for a chance to stretch our legs and walk the dogs. The dogs did amazingly well! I was grateful that all my worrying was for nothing and that they had handled the ordeal better than expected, no heavy breathing or signs of concern. Penny was her usual yappy/sassy self and Galway was his usual whiny /loving self. We walked them while the plane was cleaned and refueled for about an hour and a half before reboarding. The staff at the Lajes terminal were so nice and welcoming, I’m sure we’ll be back to explore. Then it was the last leg of our trip.
We finally landed in Naples at 540 PM (Italy time, almost noon in MI). I wish my phone hadn’t died because I wish I had pictures of our first look at Naples. It’s what we expected, a little run down in the city but not much different than an urban city back home. My sponsor Jenny and her husband Dave were there to greet us at the terminal. Of course the Navy being the Navy we had to stand in a long line and sign a book saying we were there before we could get our bags and the dogs. Our hosts drove us through the crazy Italian highway to the hospital base. We saw a huge family squeezed into a little car including a mom holding her baby on her lap, I didn’t see any seatbelts. Culture shock number one is in the books!
As soon as we got on base we checked into our “temporary lodging” which is an apartment like building run by the Navy Lodge. It’s a two bedroom/two bathroom suite with a living room, kitchen, and laundry area. It’s awesome! But I’m already ready to move into our own place so we can officially get settled! So don’t come visit quite yet 😉
our patio and view and between those buildings, if you look hard there’s Mt Vesuvius in the background!