Monday was busy in a good fun way, but Tuesday was just busy – not in a good way. Among other things, I had to return my router (which of course couldn’t be returned here and had to instead be taken all the way over there) and send things at the post office (actually the shed behind the post office, as the post office has been completely gutted for an unnecessary redecoration).
I had to finish packing the things I wanted to take home and find others to adopt the rest of my things. I left several bags of clothes for the few friends who are kind of same size as me, and bequeathed my TU SERV-ICED-AY08 sweatshirt to Carlos. I like the idea of leaving my clothes with friends; not only does it mean less waste, but here in China where everyone’s wardrobes are so small, I really feel like I’m leaving behind something that will remind people of me.
I held an auction of sorts for everything else, showing my possessions off like Vanna White and begging Jelle, Bo, or XuLei to take them off my hands. Some vicious rock-paper-scissors battles erupted over my alarm clock and the Buddhist scroll, but I was just happy to have everything gone.
Jelle, XuLei, and I had lunch at Caiqingjie (site of my first meal in Xiamen and now site of my last). I ordered the most typical meal: 地三鲜, 干煸土豆丝, 铁板牛肉.
Once I finished packing, my guy friends helped me out by checking my bags. One by one, they lifted each suitcase and estimated the weight. It was a little odd, witnessing this weightlifting exhibition, but it really helped me out! Pun and YongZhi helped me take the bags downstairs, where a friend from church was waiting with her car and driver to take me to the airport. XuLei and LiXiang accompanied me in the car, but they couldn’t go in to the international departures area so we said goodbye in the main lobby of the airport.
This is approximately where things started going wrong. Apparently I had read Cathay’s baggage rules incorrectly so instead of paying $25 to check my third bag, I had to pay $25 for the one bag that was a few kilos over 23kg and another $100 to check the third bag. We moved some things around and begged and pleaded to get out of the $25, but it was still significantly more expensive than I was planning.
I went through security without problems, but it quickly became apparent that our plane was not going to take off on time. There was a lightning storm in the place our plane was coming from; even an hour and a half after our scheduled departure, the plane hadn’t even taken off to get to us yet. We got free drinks, though, which obviously made everything okay, right?
I had the longest layover of the trip there (3 hours), so it was really the only connection I wasn’t at all worried about missing. But isn’t it ironic . . . On top of the 2+ hour delay, we had a last-minute gate change and had to wait for the ground staff to catch up with us. To make a long, painful story short, I stood in the aisle of our parked airplane watching the time tick by on my watch as I missed my connection to LAX by about 10 minutes.
It turns out the only thing that is less exciting to look forward to than a 13-hour transpacific flight is an indefinite layover followed by a 13-hour transpacific flight. We had arrived shortly after midnight, a whole bunch of us now with no way to get to Sydney, Johannesburg, Vienna, Paris, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles. The personnel in the Hong Kong airport were completely incompetent as they tried to get all of us alternate itineraries to our destinations. They had no idea I was heading to Minneapolis, so if I hadn’t said something I would have ended up stranded only one airport closer to my final destination than I currently was. An employee came over to me after about an hour of waiting and I was expecting to see a series of flights to get me home . . . but instead he asked to see my current itinerary, which I had already given to another employee. Like I said, completely incompetent.
After another hour, they brought me a new itinerary – but it required a 9-hour layover in Los Angeles at night and I unequivocally told them that was unacceptable. They tried again, got me a flight to LA and another to MSP four hours later, and finally agreed to take me to a hotel.
We walked across the entire airport to the airport hotel, where I waited for another hour before the Cathay employee told us that they were full. No room at that inn, so we walked back across the entire airport to take a taxi to the local Marriot. “It’s a very nice new hotel,” the man told us, as if that made any difference at all at 3 o’clock in the morning when we should have been halfway across the Pacific.
My room was nice, but when I started up my computer to call my parents back home I discovered that internet was not included. This was the last straw for me, and I just went limp on my bed and started sobbing. I had finally reconciled to the fact that I had to leave Xiamen, but that was only okay because I was going home; now I was in neither place and no hotel, no matter how nice, could fix that. In the scheme of things, Hong Kong is ridiculously close to Xiamen – a 10-hour bus ride away, to be specific – just close enough to be depressing that I had only made it this far. I hadn’t slept the 36 hours before leaving Xiamen (trying to make the most of my time there) and now I was up to 48 hours without more than a nap on the flight over. I was no longer on the mainland where I could use my cellphone to contact friends, not in the US yet where I could borrow a cell phone to call home, and without internet I couldn’t even tell my parents that I was delayed. I had paid an obscene amount of money to fly Cathay (formerly my ideal airline) and to arrive home in the morning, but now that expenditure just seemed like a total waste. And on top of that I had to pay $20 to use the internet.
It was just too much. I didn’t even try to hold it in, just sobbed out loud in my empty hotel room. I had cried a few times during this year in China, but this was only the second time that I burst into tears this way: these-events-are-too-much-for-me-and-my-mom-isn’t-here-to-make-it-all-better-so-my-only-recourse-is-to-weep-like-a-small-child sort of meltdown. I finally got the internet working and called my parents, probably scaring them as I still wasn’t able to stop crying. I told them I wasn’t going to be home until dinnertime on Wednesday (missing two meals! No wonder I was crying!) and they told me to go to sleep.
So I did. The bed was really nice, but I still cried myself to sleep.