A Chinese miracle
Just to prove that miracles are not the sole (soul) domain of the Western religious-philosophers-‘we-are-the-chosen’ we discovered that even in China miracles do occur. I am defining miracle as that which is outside the ‘normal’ realm of our flitterings through life; those events that happen with some possible intervention beyond some dim bats occasional form of self-interpreted helpfulness. I grew up (really I did) with the notion that according to the Methodists anyway that China’s communist darkness would never allow in a sliver of light that would guide a couple of lost Westerns who were not lost until the Chinese directed them toward a path that could have led directly to disaster – disaster in the sense of experience deprivation of wanted experience, not a disaster of impending doom.
OK! The story.
We left Campus Village all excited about getting our sorry asses to Adelaide in time for Narda’s sons and one of their 30th birthday parties; one son flying in from Atlanta, Georgia, one from Hanoi and birthday boy at home in the Adelaide Hills with granddaughter in tow; and us popping in from China just for a party. We booked our flight six months in advance knowing that everything would be booked for Chinese New Years. We got to Dalian Airport three hours in advanced knowing how they have a tendency to stuff things up. We had gotten an email the night before saying our flight was on-time and wishing us a great journey or ever what they say, in Chinese. At the China Southern counter, ‘flight canceled’! After recovering from the shock of that news we were informed that another flight to Guangzhou was leaving in a few hours, which of course would be too late to hop onto our flight to Melbourne.
These are the same people, I am sure, at least it is the same airline, who lost our Piggly Wiggly umbrella – see the previous post https://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ after it made the journey from Atlanta, Georgia to NYC to Melbourne > Adelaide > back to Melbourne to Guangzhou – then somewhere between Guangzhou and Dalian China Southern managed to lose it – the umbrella.
After finding someone with some English to understand that we could not miss our flight to Melbourne they said they could fly us to Shanghai then put us on another airline, China Eastern – which we hate, but we had to get to Melbourne by the next afternoon to continue our flight on to Adelaide to get to Narda’s son’s birthday party in the Adelaide Hills. We had even taken two days off from work without pay to do this. Plus Narda surely wanted to be at her granddaughter’s christening – which a fellow worker wondered how we got two days leave to attend a pagan festival – which is Sunday. We had to get to Australia.
We got ourselves OK to Shanghai and ran through the airport dragging too much crap as we do, getting into line – body blocking aggressive Chinese passengers trying to pass us in the queue and collapsed in front of the ticket counter as we tossed out suitcases of too much crap onto the weighing machine. ‘Flight full – no seats, take your bags off’. Holy guacamole – did they really say that? We told them about China Southern saying we could switch airlines – we had our vouchers but they said to go and wait at the standby counter. Narda was fighting back tears, I was trying to keep us from annihilation, and the crowding people around us all looked like enemy foo fighters – whatever that is.
At the standby counter they said the flight was overbooked and already full. Narda said we had to get on the flight to get to Adelaide for her son’s wedding. Me, never being good as a spy or secretive person said whose wedding, which of course upset Narda all the more because I am a bit of an idiot in these situations.
They said we would be moved to the top two if any seats were opened which would only happen if there were two no-shows, the chances we none to slim. We looked at the options which would be to try and get to Guangzhou the next day and hope we could get onto the next night’s flight which too was booked full and we would miss Narda’s party which was the whole idea of this trip we had planned for months.
At 7:30 the flight was closed and at 7:32 we got the call to the desk with a simple ‘passports’ and that was it. We quickly got our suitcase onto the conveyor belt and got our boarding pass plus a sticker to put on our clothes that indicated that we were to rush through lines like customs and passport control and all those other things the Chinese like to check us out with. These things always tax me – running through airports with camera bag, computer bag, things falling out of my pocket – it is easier for Narda – she is organized with stuff in one bag, and she is seven and a half years younger than me and I get out of breath trying to keep up with her but of course what man could keep up with such a vibrant chick on a very focused mission of seeing her sons within 24 hours? Puffing and panting, waving off potential heart-attacks, leg cramps, a very real stomach ache, and head ache I followed her through the VIP lines and somehow we got to the gate panting and puffing to find the flight was delayed by an hour.
We use to fly through Shanghai on China Eastern as part of round-the-world fares with Star Alliance and every time, this would be at least four if not five times, the flight from Shanghai to Melbourne was hours late. Now our concern was the flight Melbourne to Adelaide which Narda said left Melbourne at 11:30 AM and we were due to arrive at 11 AM the next day. Thirty minutes to get through baggage, customs and get our boarding pass at Qantas domestic which is a long hike from the international terminal
Bottom line was that we were on a plane finally though 20 rows apart but at least on the same plane. I told the first hostess that I saw about our changed flights and that I had to have vegetarian. Two reasons for that is that one I am a vegetarian two even Narda orders vegetarian because the meat meals on Asian airlines are shockingly horrible and taste worse – so I am informed. I was told there were no vegetarian meals but she would check first class and lucky there was. I asked to trade my economy seat for a first class meal to a first class seat but her English was not good enough to understand my request, or else she thought I was not funny, or possibly just stupid, nevertheless, I did get a good meal for din din and again for brekky.
We got to Melbourne at 11ish and the impossible task of getting the next flight loomed. We discovered the best thing about being the last onto the plane meant our luggage was the first down the chute at the end of the trip. ‘The last shall be first’ of my Methodist upbringing was actually realistic. Now I wish I had listened to more of their fairy stories. Whilst waiting for the baggage we changed over some 26,000 RMB that we had stored away and got about $3700 Australian for it, a bad deal by hundreds but we were not fretting now. It was good to have some real currency again. The passport line was long as several flights arrived in Melbourne at the same time. For the first time ever we tried using the kiosk for checking in with our passports because we had the new ones with electronic chips in them and it worked saving us another long line. At baggage inspection the line was incredibly long and Narda pleaded with some official type and we got sent through a very short line and no one checked our bags which is very unusual coming into Australia we had saved about 45 minutes so far but we only had 15 minutes to get to the gate so again we ran through the airport panting and puffing and collapsing at the counter pleading to get onto the plane leaving at 11:30, it was now 11:15. The counter person said there was no 11:30 flight that in fact our flight left at 12:10 so for the first time since leaving Campus Village 24 non-sleeping hours earlier we actually had enough time to walk to the gate and sit and wait.
So that is our miracle.
Arriving in Adelaide Narda’s three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were all waiting… of course Maggie burst in to tears – probably not of joy – of seeing us. Ooops
But she made good a few moments later for a good family photo
And we got to Stu’s birthday party, worse for wear, and even stayed until about 11 PM last night. Now, the next day, Saturday, we are booking my flight to Melbourne next Thursday for me to see my son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia, for a couple of days before going back next Saturday to arrive Sunday night in time to be at work Monday morning. And tomorrow Narda and sons are all excited about baby Maggie’s christening.
A fun week we will have next week. We have rented a sea side place for Narda’s three sons and a couple of wives, granddaughter and us for four days; Pt. Elliot, which is where I use to live with my two sons back in the 1980s when I was a single parent wondering what would become of my life. And now I know thirty years later, married, living in China with one son left to share it with and my new great family.
In general I must say life is good.