We had a good tailwind and made it back across the Pacific in just under 8 hours. Karen and I had a couple hours sleep, Alden at least 6 hours and Elwyn a restless (and often too hot and itchy) 4 1/2 hours. The new Narnia movie played, which was disappointingly confusing if, like me, you have forgotten the details of the first movie or the books.
We got to the Vancouver Airport at about 11:30am Vancouver time and headed to customs and immigration. As we came down the stairs, we could see the long, winding lineup of at least 8 international flights having arrived within the last hour. Alden was basically still sleeping on my shoulder though Elwyn had a spark in his step, excited to be home. A YVR staff member noticed us coming down the stairs, pulled us out of the line and walked us up to a special fast-track immigration counter. A couple questions later and a glancing look at our passports and we were picking up our baggage from the luggage rack. Brilliant! At least 2 hours of waiting eliminated!
We had been booked on the 6pm flight from Vancouver, but because of our early flight arrival and ultra-fast customs check-in, we were able to get seats on the 1:15 flight. Karen took us to the Maple Leaf lounge in the domestic departures wing. She and the kids had a free lunch while I had a refreshing shower (still salty from having spent 2 hours walking around carrying Alden in hot Tokyo the day before). Though our luggage somehow lagged behind (delayed in the shuffle between international and domestic flights in Vancouver), we arrived in cool, green and sunny Ladysmith. The boys dashed around the house looking at all the ripened tomatos, dark green cucumbers, and the aquarium fish. Had a great ukranian supper (borcht, perogies and beans) with grandma and grandpa and fell easily asleep by 8pm.
In all, it was an excellent trip. Elwyn and Alden have recounted a number of times about the distinctive food (espcially zaru soba and nori), the humid-hot air, the tatami rooms, the use of seperate indoor and bathroom slippers, the fancy electronic toilets and the great rail system.
I think we could have packed at least 1/3 less and have been every bit as comfortable, and definately have to use a better fitting backpack for Elwyn in the future (note to travellers with kids, ultra-low volume, proper fitting, proper weight distributing small backpacks (just enough for a few small toys, a few snack, some hand wipes, and a bottle of water) may be the most important thing I can recommend).