Thursday, August 18, 2016

Final Leg...

Getting out of Changchun turned out to be quite the experience. As I mentioned before, flying domestically, our guides can come all the way to security with us. We got to the airport 90 minutes before our short flight to Beijing. Thank goodness we did, because we needed every moment of it.  After waiting in quite a long line, we approached the check-in, only to be told we were not in the system. Our guide Kathy had us move to the side, then she quickly got on the phone, assuming to her employer.  After hanging up, she told us they were contacting the Beijing office, so it would be just a couple minutes. In the next "couple minutes," she made multiple phone calls, cut in front of other flyers to check back in with the ticket agent, and walked away to talk with someone at the information booth multiple times. Was definitely thinking to myself, "someone messed up." We were actually staying calm, as we had a "gut feeling" it would all work out.

Patiently waiting at the airport with our guide. Don't we look calm?
Finally, she had us gather our things and follow her around the corner to another ticket agent. When it was finally our turn up front, once again we were turned away and asked to wait to the side. Looking at our watches, we knew our plane was now to be boarding.  Suddenly the ticket agent was speaking in a more than usual rushed tone and waved us over. Our names had appeared in the system! We checked in and hurried to security where we came to a screeching halt! "Sorry, you can't bring the scooter through here." No, not again (as we watched another stroller go on through). Our guide pleaded for us, and explained we were in a rush, but to no avail.  Once again we rushed and paid to get it wrapped, but this time instead of to oversize luggage, we had to return to the ticket agent to send through (China x-rays your luggage while you're standing there, in case they need you to open it). We ran back to security, said goodbye to Kathy, and thankfully made it through without a hitch. We saw our gate, and fortunately they were still loading. We hopped in line and caught our breath. As we boarded the plane, look what we discovered...

Yep, we had first class seats!  What a blessing. The girls were giddy, as was I, as we had never experienced this before. Jaelyn had her first class slippers on in no time, and we had our beverages before we even took off. Hope I don't sound too ungrateful when I thought "Too bad this was our shortest of the 7 flights we had this trip."

Funny side note I meant to share in the last post. On one of our car rides, Kathy mentioned the driver had some questions for us. One of those was "Why did we adopt children with special needs?" That's a detailed answer to give a guide who struggles with comprehending us, to then interpret, but Mike and I gave it our best shot. We told her that God placed China on our heart, so we responded. We also, yet again, explained how we don't see our children's outside differences, nor place limitations on appearances. What's on the inside is what we want to cultivate, and that is limitless in everyone.  To us, through adoption, everyone gains.  I am not sure how she interpreted this to the driver, but I think we got our point across. I then noticed her typing something into the translation app on her phone. I cannot recall the word she came up with, but it was the name to one of the Buddhas, meaning virtuous Buddha.  She told me that's who I was. Mike laughed pretty hard at that one! 

Now back to Beijing. We met up with our new guide and driver, whose only job was to get us to our hotel, then back to the airport in less than 24 hours.  We were told the drive would take about 40 minutes. Wrong. Our driver cut that time in half by driving on the shoulder of a major freeway the entire time, surpassing all traffic! This, despite the sign stating to leave 3 meters for emergency vehicles. Oh my.

Our last hurrah for the trip was in meeting up with my good friend Ying. I have known him for nearly 10 years now, as we have been on eight or so trips together, working in orphanages. He lives half the year in Shanghai, half in the US. He is a very generous man who was actually returning from a Visiting Orphans trip to Siping, so our timing to meet up in Beijing was impeccable. We enjoyed one last meal with Chinese eggplant together.

Early the next morning we were off to the airport. This time our driver stayed between the lines the entire drive! We learned our lesson and had kept Kaia's scooter wrapped, and sent it through baggage from the start. Our tickets this year were the cheapest I had ever paid in any of my previous 12 trips to China. Part of the reason was the low cost of fuel now, but part was due to our return flight being multiple carriers. With the first leg being a quick flight to Shanghai on a Chinese flight that is connected with Delta, we thought it would be no worry. Let's just say they only had two ticket agents working in Shanghai, causing a long back up.  We ran, as best as we could with Kaia, once we finally had tickets in hand. When we got to security, there was actually a man holding a "Delta" sign, which allowed us to surpass the long line. Seems we weren't the only ones running late.

Fortunately the flight home was uneventful. Wish I could say the same about our drive. Kellen picked us up from the airport for our nearly 2 hour ride home, only for us to find ourselves sitting on the side of I-5 in Seattle, just a few miles away.  We found that car rentals won't pick you up on the side of an interstate, and tow trucks only carry two passengers.  Quite an adventure, but we finally made it home after hopping over the guardrail, down a hill of blackberry bushes, and through a gap in a fence, to be picked up at a physical address by Enterprise Car Rental!  Mike and Kellen returned the next day to pick up our van (our insurance would only tow within 12 miles) and bring her home.  Thankfully it was just the alternator, and not the transmission like we thought. We were planning on trading her in this Fall anyhow, so got an early jump on it.

Goodbye Vanna...
Hello Pearl...

And as difficult as it was for some of us to leave, we were all happy to be home and in our own beds. We know this was not a "Goodbye" to China, but a "See you later."

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