Thursday, January 20, 2011

Journey to Maire, part I

First of all, we need to apologize to everyone who’ve been trying to follow our journey to unite with our daughter. Many of you have been waiting for an invitation, and many who are already members have been waiting to read some new posts. Unfortunately, the Internet connection we have in our Changsha hotel room doesn’t allow us to gain access to many sites, including facebook and any site with “blogspot” in the address. We’ve finally gained touchy connection to everything using a tunneling device, something I knew nothing about until a day ago.

Beyond our Internet problems, everything has gone swimmingly with our adoption so far. As some of you may be aware, we prefaced our trip to China with our annual Hicks family vacation. I was wary about attending the family vaca this year because of it’s close time proximity to our trip to China. However, nothing could have been better for Angie and I than to go to a tropical paradise just before embarking on one of the greatest life changes we’ll experience. We were packed and ready for China a week ahead of time, and instead of spending the week before China stressing about every little detail, we actually were able to relax a little. With a lot of help from a resort kids program and free mixed drinks.

So we return home from our Dominican vacation ten hours before we must again depart for our transit to China. Ang repacks what we already packed and I run around gathering last minute changes. We spend the time with our dog Hoagie. Lucy doesn’t deal well with change, so she was booked into the doggie hotel for the duration. Hoagie spends most of our time together asleep on the second step of our staircase. We drop our boys off at school that Friday and we’re off to the airport yet again.

I don’t know who our travel agent is, but she booked us on some pretty tight transfers. Something about us being her cheapest clients or some such thing. At Minneapolis we learn just how out of shape we are as we have to sprint through half of the airport to make our plane to Seattle. Just as we finally reach our concourse, they make a last call for all people boarding that flight. Suddenly, the concourse grows by about a mile and a half, because, of course, our gate is the furthest one out. I hear the flight attendant saying something about the Wells party just as I reach the gates. “That’s us” *pant, pant* “We’re the Wells’!” *gasp!* We sit down on the plane and we hear, “We’re going to be holding for about eight minutes to allow some passengers to make their transfer!” Damn you!!! But hey, at least they had time to get our luggage on.

So then we have to make our international flight in Seattle. We’ve got Internet capability on the Minneapolis to Seattle flight, but I want to save my computer’s battery, a decision I will later regret since the 11-hour flight to Beijing does not have Internet capability. The flight attendants assure us that our Seattle connection will be nothing like the Minneapolis one, since the gates will be in the same terminal. They tell us the gates will likely be only a few gates apart. They are correct, but it doesn’t matter anyway since the flight to Beijing is delayed because some of the flight crew is coming in from a delayed flight from Detroit.

That’s good. We have time to sit and relax for the first time in two days. We eat our last hot dogs and cheese fries for the next two weeks and wander around the terminal. We find a neck pillow to replace the one we lost at some point during the frantic dash in Minneapolis. We change some money to Chinese Yuan. Believe it or not, it’s raining in Seattle.

After a short wait, shorter than we were initially told, our plane is ready to board and we’re off to China. Our plane follows the Alaskan coastline. We’re able to see it out our window the whole time even though we’re chasing the night. The moon keeps the snow lit up. We see vast mountains and snow. Every once and a while there are a collection of lights, and we wonder, why would they live there? Somewhere halfway between Alaska and Russia we wonder if Sarah Palin can see our plane from her back yard.

We don’t want to sleep. We think it will help us adjust to the time change in Beijing. We’ve got to shift half a day. Course no sleep on an 11-hour overnight flight is a tall order, especially since we only got about four hours the night before. The choice of in-flight movies doesn’t help. Sure, it starts good with “The Social Network”, but then the offerings go downhill with “Going the Distance” and “Charlie St. Cloud”. I can’t make it through the Drew Barrymore debacle without a couple Zs, but I don’t miss enough of it. After the Zach Efron ghost thing we each catch maybe an hour’s worth of sleep, bringing our total for the past 48 hours to about five.

So, twelve hours after the sun set in Seattle we’re in Beijing at 9 p.m. We’re so tired at this point we don’t care if we ever see the sun again. A Chinese man holding a sign that says “Mr. Wells” meets us coming out of the airport to take us to our hotel. He doesn’t speak English very well, but after a little checking we confirm that he is indeed from the hotel we’re booked in and we wait for the shuttle to take us to our night’s lodging.

He leads us across a busy street to the parking garage, where our shuttle awaits. We think for a moment we might get hit as the cabs seem too willing to get close to the pedestrians, but it’s a busy airport. I mean Beijing is a big city, right? We don’t really take note of much, as we are so tired. The hotel lobby has little registration islands rather than a traditional counter, and we experience our first money miscue when the very understanding lady checking us in asks us for “200”. When we hand her 200 in U.S. she says, “Oh no. 100 is enough.” She only wanted 200 Yuan, which is less than $40.

Our next little foreign confusion comes when we open our room door. All the lights are on. Everything looks great until the door shuts and all the lights go out. We flip the switches and nothing. We open the door back up and the lights come on again. We flip the switches again and close the door and the lights go out. When we open the door a third time, I notice a little slot just inside the door about the same size as the door key card. I slide the key card in and when the door shuts, the lights miraculously stay on. In seconds, we hit our concrete-like mattress and are out. The next day will bring us another domestic flight to our first week’s destination of Changsha, Hunan, a meeting with adoption friends we’ve known for two years but never met, and hopefully the end of this eternal night.

Stay tuned for Part II.


Nicole said...

Can't wait for more updates!!! Hi Maire!!!

Amy said...

Great update Andy! I didn't know you were a writer too. I meant to tell you guys about the light/door card issue. Oops! Glad you figured it out in your state of exhaustion. Safe travels to Guangzhou and I am betting the internet connection will be better there.

Paige said...

I have tears in my eyes once more but this time from laughter. Andy, you did a great job of making me feel like I was running right along side of you through the airport and scratching my head when the lights went out every time the door closed. I can't wait to read the next part. In the meantime, enjoy these priceless moments with that beautiful daughter of yours!