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Iceland volcano leaves travelers in limbo

By Nicole Saidi, CNN
Paulo Wu of Taiwan says he spent five days in the airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on the way back from Germany.
Paulo Wu of Taiwan says he spent five days in the airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on the way back from Germany.
  • Stefano Poma is going to embark on a 1,000-mile bus ride to get home to Italy
  • Poma's family puts laptop in his spot at dinner table so family can talk
  • Paulo Wu of Taiwan slept for days in cots set up at the airport in Amsterdam
  • Has the Iceland volcanic eruption interrupted your travel plans? Share your story
  • Air Travel
  • Iceland
  • Europe

(CNN) -- In the empty spot at the dinner table where Stefano Poma should be sitting, a smiling father's face beams from a laptop screen.

A four-day trip from Stockholm, Sweden, to Milan, Italy, has swelled to nine days and counting because of the volcanic ash drifting across Europe from Iceland. The family set up a video-chat terminal at the table to tide the kids over until Poma can make the more than 1,000-mile bus ride home.

Through the rectangular display, Dad read books to the kids as they held up their plates of pasta to show what they were eating on camera.

"It's amazing what you can do today," says Michele Anenberg-Poma. "We thought, 'Take that, volcano.' "

Since the volcanic eruption beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland, many travelers and families are finding themselves in unusual situations.

Poma is expected to arrive home Wednesday night. Anenberg-Poma says daughter Emilia, 10, and son Giorgio, 8, are handling the situation well, although the boy's imagination is going wild.

See the family's digital reunion

"My son drew the cutest photo of a volcano exploding with palm trees and helicopters rescuing people."

With the ongoing volcanic eruption, some people in Europe face unwanted vacations of sorts, with great destinations but limited funds.

Christopher Davies and his wife, Darcy, publishers of a wine magazine, say they are stuck in Rome, Italy, and their five days' worth of travel insurance have run out. The Denver, Colorado, couple say they were fortunate to be getting $300 per day while it lasted.

When in Rome ...

"Rome is an expensive city, so after hotel expenses, there is only enough left over for pizza and a bottle of wine."

They're staying in a hotel and hope to fly out on Saturday. Others are stuck in transit, hoping for a bus ride or stuck in an airport.

Paulo Wu of Taiwan slept on a cot in the airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, before getting a room at a hotel. He departed for a trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany, but got stuck in Amsterdam for more than five days. During his stay in the airport, he has documented the scene around him: the cots set up, the crowds waiting and the general scene about the airport. He says he has gotten to meet people and been able to help others because he speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese.

Cots strewn about airport passages

"I am traveling by myself, but I have met many friends from different countries, on occasion I am offering my laptop to let them write e-mails to their families, or chit chat through Skype. And sometimes I try to help people who doesn't speak English trying to communicate."

He says people are starting to be encouraged about leaving the airport and are waiting for flights to resume. In the meantime, the wait has been an interesting spectacle.

"The airport occasionally brings some band to play on the waiting lounge area. That livens things up a lot!"

Wu says he has experienced other delays, including getting grounded in Canada during the September 11 terrorist attacks and also being in Hong Kong's airport when former President Clinton was there.

How will airlines deal with backlog?

"As a global business traveler, I see so much, and experience so much. Every time, I get the chance to be in the right place at wrong time."

The timing hasn't been so good either for Ned Morgan, a U.S. master's student studying in Brussels, Belgium. He says he was hoping to make it back home to get a job interview. Now, thanks to the volcanic ash, he's just glad he has an apartment to go home to.

"I haven't had much luck with finding jobs and having the opportunity to finally get a chance was amazing. I was hoping that everything would go smoothly, but I was horribly mistaken."

Read more about Morgan's story

He's also disappointed he's going to miss meeting with his girlfriend and her family in the U.S. for her birthday party. He says he never expected he would be stranded in Europe, but he's starting to feel like he's "stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere" with train stations swamped and people trying to figure out how to get home.

"Being stranded in Europe wouldn't seem like such a bad thing, but under these circumstances, it is the worst thing that could have happened."

Things work the other way around, too, as Judy Cariker of Forth Worth, Texas, can tell you.

She and several other households are hosting a group of British tea enthusiasts from Pakenham, England. The group was supposed to go back home this week, but they're now camped out in Texas.

The women were visiting as an exchange of sorts after a group of U.S. women visited Pakenham last year. Cariker said the visitors did a great job of hosting an English tea on Texan soil.

"They cooked everything that we had to eat. It's been quite an event."

See a photo of the tea ladies

Cariker says they're keeping busy with planned activities such as the "retail therapy" they'd already penciled in, but she anticipates that they'll need to work to find ways to keep everyone occupied and happy. She's not sure when they'll be able to go.

"No one will likely leave until late this week at the earliest."

CNN's Rachel Rodriguez contributed to this story.