I'm not sure why I thought our travel on the way home would go smoothly. It never does, particularly when I'm a single parent shepherding three kids back to the U.S. so why would this trip be any different? We planned layovers that allowed plenty of time, so the travel gods found different ways to play their funny games in our lives.
At the "travel home" meeting with our CCAI guide this afternoon, we got the first hint that all might not go as planned. We booked one itinerary all the way from Guangzhou to Salt Lake City. Usually this means you can check your bags all the way through, giving you more lenient weight restrictions on your luggage because it's considered an international flight. Unfortunately, our layover in Beijing is 12 hours (we have a hotel room reserved) and China Southern would not let us check the bags through. So instead of having a little carry on luggage to get to our Beijing hotel, we have four monster bags in addition. It also meant we were restricted to 24 fewer pounds than if it had been checked as international baggage, making my packing job more tricky. Nonetheless, we got everything in our bags, on the shuttle, and to the airport in plenty of time.
Two of my sweet daughters, who enjoyed their pedicure earlier in the day, had begged me as they were getting ready to go to let them wear flip flops. They wanted mommy to be able to see their beautiful toes when she picked us up at the airport on Friday. So of course, being the softie that I am, I acquiesced. I mean, I know we're flying first into frosty Beijing and then to snowy Salt Lake City, but how much time would we really be spending outdoors? Just a short walk from the airport to our van in the covered, short-term parking lot, right? And a short walk from the airport to the hotel shuttle in Beijing. But no. I forgot about how China builds their airports. Even as everyone on the airplane disembarked, I still didn't realize it. It was only after I picked Cali up and carried her to the door of the plane that I realized I also had to carry her down the double flight of stairs to the tarmac. On the tarmac we had to walk about 30 yards to the shuttles which would take us to the main building. So Jesi Graci had to walk through the snow in their flip-flops. I look back and Jesi is struggling to pull a carry on bag with one hand while pulling up her jeans so they wouldn't drag and get wet with the other hand. Crazy Americans!!!
We were supposed to arrive in Beijing at 11:15. Our hotel is 5 miles from the airport, so I figured with a little luck, I might have the kids tucked into bed by 12:15. The baggage took forever to come off the plane, but it gave Graci and Jess the chance to further cement in everyone's minds that Americans really are strange. They were both extremely loopy from fatigue, and they played pat-a-cake type games and chased each other all around the baggage claim area, even slipping and falling on occasion. When the luggage finally did come out, we were missing Cali's wheelchair. We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the airport staff guy who had been assigned to push Cali in the airport wheelchair (until hers came through baggage claim) told us to wait in some nearby seats. He told us this in Chinese, which was loosely interpreted by Graci. He made me move Cali out of the borrowed wheelchair into a regular chair and then he took off with the airport wheelchair, which I thought was wierd. After several minutes Graci said, "Well, are you going to go look for Cali's wheelchair?" "Isn't that guy looking for it," I asked. In the flippant way that only Graci has truly mastered she responded, "I dunno." "Welllllll, didn't he say for us to wait while he went to look for the chair?" "I dunno. I don't understand everything in Chinese." Ah, parenthood.
So I wandered off to see what I could do. I couldn't really take the girls with me, 'cuz now we didn't have a wheelchair! So I left the three musketeers (or stooges, depending on how you look at things) alone with all of our luggage and started traipsing into the great unknown of the Beijing airport, looking for someone who spoke a little English. With a bit of luck the wheelchair was soon located and we headed towards the front doors of the airport, where we were extremely late meeting a shuttle for our hotel. By the time we got on the shuttle it was 1:15am. There was one other family on the shuttle-all dressed in heavy winter clothing. With heavy winter boots on. And me with my daughters in flip flops. Remember, I had hoped to have the girls tucked in by 12:15. But this is China. This seems to be my destiny as I embark on these trips. So intead, I got the girls tucked in at 2:20am.
Now would you like to hear the crazy part? After the girls were tucked in, I wanted to call Christi. I had to call several times on the pathetic Skype connection I get here before she even picked up. Then I had to call a couple more times before she could here me. And when I finally did get a connection we could use, albeit one that kept going in and out every two seconds, I realized it was Chrissy Probst (of Puzzle Them Home fame) that I was speaking to. Remember, she's going in and out terribly. I hear her say that Christi was ok. Dead spot. They gave her some medicine for the neausea. Dead spot.
Me: "Is she at the doctor?"
Chrissy: "No. The emergency room. An ambulance had to pick her up."
Dead spot, with my laughing almost hysterically over it. Chrissy has to think I'm the worst husband in the world. She tells me my wife went by ambulance to the emergency room and I start cracking up. Remember, it's about 2:00am here and I'm exhausted. I had called Christi to tell her what zany adventures in travel we had been having, and I find out her news. It's almost too insane to be true. But that's our life. And it struck me as funny. What sobered me up was when I heard Chrissy say, "They ruled out stroke." Stroke?!? Are you kidding me???
At that point she explained what had happened. (The reason she originally started the conversation with "Christi is ok" was because she had left me a voice mail a little while ago which I hadn't yet listened to.) Christi had been feeling nauseaus and light-headed. She called Chrissy and asked for some help getting Elli out to the bus. When Chrissy came over, she found Christi on the floor and unable to get up. That's what I got with over our terrible connection. At this point, she seems to be doing ok. They have her on fluids and gave her meds for neausea. They think it's an inner ear thing.
So now I'm about to go to bed. I have to get up in 4.5 hours and catch a plane across the Pacific. My wife is in the ER recovering from a collapse. We could use your prayers.