Despite its location in the middle of a giant ocean, Tahiti isn't actually so hard to get to. We took a 4 p.m. flight out of Nashville, 4 hr flight to Los Angeles, 5 hr layover until 11 p.m. LA time, then an overnight 8 hr flight to Fa'a'ā airport in Papeete, Tahiti, landing at 6 a.m.

The hardest part of a day like this is just getting to the flight. And it is added stress that people are coming to stay in your house, you have to leave it clean behind you, which is the opposite of what usually happens when one leaves on vacation. We ended up skipping church and needing that time to keep going over and over the packing and the cleaning, even though we were "packed" Saturday night. Manimal took his normal nap at home, but we kept Hamish awake with plans for plane napping. Our lovely neighbors gave us a lift to the airport in their minivan at 2. 

As a general rule there were not any actual hiccups with any of our travel either direction, but that doesn't mean it was smooth sailing. We could not check in at a kiosk because of our infant in arms, and thus were forced to wait in a decently long line, made so by previous days' bad weather in Texas and midwest that had forced cancellations on cancellations. We were behind those people trying to rebook. Even when we were finally being helped, our individual check in took much much longer than usual. There was a little fear when the woman asked us about visas. Alli calmly informed the woman we did not need visas for travel to Tahiti. And she was right, whew. (we once missed a little jaunt into Australia because we'd failed to get visas renewed)
We'd hoped to get a good sit down lunch at the airport but instead had time for a quick run to pick up prepared sandwiches and bring them on the plane.

The flight to LA was fairly smooth. We wrestled Hamish into a little nap.  Manimal was pretty happy but busy. We landed in LA thinking we had a long layover, but we didn't realize what a disaster LAX is, so we needed most of the time. 

Although we booked the flights together, because we changed airlines (American to Air Tahiti), we had to basically start over on the checkin process. We had to go out of security, outside (it wasn't nearly as warm in LA as it had been in Nashville), and walk down the sidewalk past 2 terminals to get to the international terminal (after a couple of mis-informations from different American Airlines desk agents in their terminal). Inside, we stood in line to get new Air Tahiti boarding passes, and went back through security. Thankfully we got waved to a priority line (because of the kids?) and made it through quickly. Praise the Lord, our luggage was checked through behind the scenes. We finished security and had 2 hours to spare. 

We stopped first to get dinner. By this time it was about 10 p.m. our time and the kids were so tired. As we were eating, Alli was paged back to the ticket counter. She tried to find an Air Tahiti representative at our gate but they weren't there yet. We really didn't want to go back through security, but as we were finishing sandwiches and trying to decide what to do, the ticket agent found us. We still owed taxes on the infant ticket. She called back to the desk to run the credit card, but then ran the round trip again a few minutes later with the receipt. 

After that was taken care of, we changed the kids into jammies and went to find a quiet spot to bed down. After a bit of coaxing, Hamish laid down with her Meowie and her pillow and slept on the floor for about an hour and a half. 

Manimal, on the other hand, went into full on sleep-fighting mode. He ran. He climbed. He rode the people mover and yelled at planes. He was cute in the most manic way possible. Alli finally wrestled him into submission at 10 p.m. (midnight his time). 
Then came the perilous journey boarding the plane with a sleeping toddler. 

We had prayed for a bassinet seat and we got two bulkhead seats with the bassinet and one in the row behind. Alli and Hamish sat at the bulkhead with me behind. Manimal stayed asleep through boarding and takeoff when they finally brought the bassinet. 

Unfortunately I had remembered it being much bigger. (I'm assuming the bassinets are the same size?) 
We used one on Hamish's first flight when she was 8 weeks old and again when she was 18 months old when we flew to Paris. For comparison, she was about 30" and 21 lbs at 18 months. Manimal was 31" and 25 lbs 9 oz at 16 months.

He fit, but barely. He couldn't rearrange himself at all, so every time he wanted to turn his head or roll over he woke himself up and was unhappy about it.

He comforted easily, so was still basically asleep most of the flight, but it was a hands on flight for Alli. She says they both got one good chunk of sleep--about 2 hours--with him in arms, but that was it for Alli. 

Hamish, meanwhile, made a cozy nest with her bed things and slept solidly for at least six hours on the plane in addition to her pre-boarding nap. 

I slept as well as adults normally sleep on planes with an added layer of guilt for having a seat to myself, and the additional challenge of being woken up any time Alli needed to go to the bathroom, at which point Manimal would cry inconsolably about mommy until she returned.

There was also some switching around as the flight went on- another family had the bassinet adjacent to Manimal's, but this little girl was even less interested in sleeping in that thing. Part of their family was in the row with me, and I'm not even sure where the rest went in various interims, but they played musical chairs and we were eventually free to use at least 3 of the seats together.


Eight hours later (so basically nothing compared to a Singapore flight) we finally arrived! Hamish was very confused by the steps as we disembarked. Where was the jet bridge? Where was the airport? 

But as we strolled across the runway in the 90 degree heat with a Polynesian serenade, she was already pretty sure she'd like it. 

The airport was tiny and we breezed through customs and immigration. Sadly, no one met us with flower necklaces; those were all being handed out by resorts to their arriving guests. This was disappointing, but we pushed through. We all changed clothes in the airport, and felt much more climate-appropriate. Well, Manimal was half-changed and a little bit unhappy about mommy's potty break:

Alli wrote this all out originally, so let's just give her her voice here:
We decided to ride together in a cab to our host's house to pick up their car. We got the car in the parking garage after a couple false starts with the door code. When we tried to install the car seats we realized the seat belts in the old Ford Fiesta didn't lock. That makes car seats hard. We did our best and wedged every last bag in the car and took off to Carrefour for bottles of water, a baguette, Pepperidge Farm Tahiti cookies, and a couple of beers--our first of near-daily grocery runs. 

Then we drove to the ferry in downtown Papettee. Kyle and Manimal (snoozing in his poorly-installed car seat) loaded the car in the ferry underbelly, while Hamish and I went upstairs to the large upper deck lounge. The ride was about 40 minutes and was extremely pleasant. We took advantage of the rest time to grab a bite to eat, then we arrived in Moorea. 

We landed in Moorea about 24 hours after we had left home. And we still needed to find the fare (pronounced far-ay, a traditional Polynesian home made with native materials) that our exchange partners had arranged for us, on the other side of Moorea. Moorea is small:

but it still takes some time to get around (we stayed in the Northwest right by Les Tipaniers). By this time we were exhaustrd and our cell phones were both running on minimum battery. Our various directions and details were scattered among a few emails and we had no wifi. The GPS map Kyle had loaded before we left wasn't working at a resolution to be useful. Hamish was cheerful and rested and had questions about absolutely everything she saw. 

Praise the Lord, we finally found a landmark name in my phone. We were to go to the beach and ask for Francis and Michelle who rent kayaks. It was a very tired Daddy who finally found a French woman in a bikini at a beach hut renting kayaks and got the keys to our fare.  It couldn't have been more lovely: a little wooden house immediately on the beach, with a deep front porch, a living room and kitchen, a bedroom with air con, and an upstairs loft that would sleep several more. 
ours is the building right behind that tree, see proximity to water.

view from our fare:

We unloaded our over packed car, and tried to get everyone to nap. The kids refused; the lure of the beach immediately outside of our door was too strong. After 30 minutes we gave up and put on bathing suits. Joy ensued. 

"Thanks, mom!"

The Manimal has never been to the beach and Hamish's experience is pretty limited--just the "beach" in Key West a couple of years ago. Moorea has no waves at all. The lagoon is calm and shallow, just perfect for little ones. The sand was soft and white. They couldn't have been happier. 

Also, God made us this:
It is a complete rainbow that we could not capture in one frame. It's also a weaker double rainbow. It was magnificent.

We made 6:30 dinner reservations at Les Tipaniers, the nearest hotel. But by then the kids were way too tired. We had our first poisson cru (usually good tuna marinated/"cooked" in a lemon/lime juice with tomatoes, green onions, cucumber, and coconut milk)--it was wonderful, but overshadowed by fatigue. 
(notice Alli's t-shirt sunburn already; that's just from the car ride). We walked home, and put Manimal immediately down. We decided it was too hot upstairs for Hamish, and so read Bible and Mimi in our air conditioned room. She was sound asleep before we finished, so we put her to bed in our room. We snuck out to the porch for a quick decompression--a beer for Kyle and to look for the stars--then finally, sleep.