So far, our re-entry has been pretty smooth. But I digress. Let me start at the beginning of the end.
We last posted about our last day in China. We were pretty ready to get home. But, we were kind of dreading the trip. Just a LOT of logistics with a LOT of kids. LOL
We had a very early wake-up...3:45 for Simon and me and 4:30 for the Gs. We met our guide in the hotel lobby at 5 am. We couldn't believe how quiet the lobby was! Although we did see a few all night party-ers coming "home" at that time.
The ride to the airport was uneventful, but our guide told us a couple times that they have had "many problems" with similar flight schedules as ours was that day. So I was a bit apprehensive. If I had known what was coming, I would have high-tailed it right back to the hotel, called our travel agent, and re-scheduled our flights. Hindsight.
We were flying out of Guangzhou to Shanghai, and then to Seattle. The way China operates, we were not allowed to check our bags all the way through to Seattle. We were told we had to pick up our bags, re-check them, and then get on our international flight. Well, okay. As it was, we had a 2.5 hour layover before our Seattle flight. Plenty of time, right???
Wellllllllll, as we boarded our flight in Guangzhou (one of those get on a bus, ride out the the middle of the tarmac, climb some metal steps, and get on the plane kinds of boarding), we could tell something was wrong. There was NO AIR. It was STIFLING hot in that plane! Oh no! Could this hold us up and eat into all of the time we would need for our transfer in Shanghai? You better believe it!
The air conditioning was "broken...thank you for inconvenience." I think what the computer-generated translator meant was "sorry for the inconvenience." Uh, yeah! You better be sorry!
So, we sat on that tarmac for I-don't-know-how-long. All the while, I'm trying to swallow the lump of PANIC that has started to make its way up from the pit of my stomach. Please, God. PLEASE let us make our connection!!!
Finally, our flight is ready to go--with a fixed air-conditioner(!)--and I refuse to check the time. I don't want to see how late we are. I just keep praying the entire time.
Oh. I forgot to say that say that our seats on this flight were in 6 different rows...37C, 43C, 44C, 45C, 46C, and 47C. I was in 43C and Gladdie was 4 rows behind me in 47C. Really, Shanghai Airlines? REALLY?!?! So I
So, we're in the air on our way to Shangahi, eating some sort of rice noodle breakfast, and things are looking up. I'm feeling pretty good about. The pilot announces our descent into Shanghai--"we will land at 10:10 am" (our connecting flight wasn't until 12:00 noon!)--all is right with the world!
Well, all WOULD HAVE been right with the world, if Shanghai Pudong Airport wasn't the BIGGEST AIRPORT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD AND OUR PLANE HAD TO "PARK" A MILLION MILES AWAY FROM THE TERMINAL!!!!!
I am not kidding.
We landed at 10:10. You know how long it takes to disembark, right? All the pushing, shoving, etc. Women and children first? Connecting flights first? Don't be silly!
As a family of 6, we were LAST off the plane. Stuffed into a bus, and away we go to the terminal. Halfway there, the bus stops. And just sits there. It's 10:34. PANIC. Why have we stopped? Come on, people, let's go!!!! Oh, and Gladdie indicates she needs to use the bathroom. Of COURSE she does. Of course.
Turns out, we were stopped waiting for PLANES TO GO BY on their way to take-off. Seriously. That's how far away from the terminal we were.
And it's 10:34. And our connecting flight leaves at noon. And we still have to...well, you get the picture.
Finally, FINALLY, we arrive at the terminal. We rush to a restroom. We RUSH to the baggage claim. I RUSH to a Delta person. I show her our boarding pass for the Seattle flight and how it starts boarding at 11:25. She nods, says "wait here," and goes to look through the baggage claim door to see if any baggage is coming yet. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that she sensed the PANIC in my voice and was WILLING our luggage to get there ASAP.
But remember how far our plane was out on the tarmac? Well, our luggage had to come all.that.way.too.
Finally, FINALLY our bags come through on the conveyor belt. It is now 11:05.
NOT EVEN KIDDING.
We race to pile them onto 2 luggage carts, race to the "Transfer Desk," race to put them through an x-ray machine, race...
Wait. Why did you have to put them through an x-ray machine when they just came off a domestic flight, you may ask??????? Well, as my wise sister, who used to live in China, says: TIC. (This Is China) I think I remember Simon, at this point, yelling "I need you to stop throwing the luggage, Amy!"
Race to put our bags back onto the carts, race through the elastic maze to the transfer desk...
And then we stand at the desk for what seems like HOURS!!! The time is now 11:20.
It looks as though people behind the desk are working on something, but what that something is??? We do not know because NOBODY is telling us ANYTHING!
I seriously thought about bursting into tears at that point. Maybe that would help our cause.
Finally, FINALLY, after hand writing the luggage routing numbers from stickers on each piece, a woman indicates that we can start putting our bags on the conveyor belt (THEY HAD TO RE-TICKET EACH BAG!!!!), and before we get to our 2nd luggage cart, she brings our boarding passes to us, writes "25" on mine, and says "3rd floor." We then frantically leave our 6 pieces of luggage with total strangers, trusting they will load them and tag them correctly.
Gate 25, 3rd floor. Okay. We can do this. The time is now 11:25. Our flight is boarding. Now.
We race. And I mean RACE. Think Amazing Race style. Gracie and Gemma are ahead, I'm carrying a 35-lb backpack in the middle, and Simon is carrying a 50-lb backpack AND a 45-lb little Chinese girl. Said Chinese girl is absolute DEAD WEIGHT when it comes to being carried. Said Chinese girl is also yelling in Mandarin, taking Simon's glasses off, and slapping his head, almost playfully. Seriously.
We run, up 3 flights of escalators, looking for gate 25 arrows. Finally find a "Gates 16-29" sign and kick it in high gear.
Then, everything comes to a crashing halt. We have to go through immigration. You heard me correctly. To LEAVE China, you must pass through immigration.
I find an employee directing foot traffic, show her that our flight is BOARDING NOW, and she rearranges the elastic maze for us to squeak ahead of lots of people. Yeah! It's now 11:35.
But wait!!! She asks us if we have our yellow cards filled out. Yellow cards? What yellow cards? Nobody said anything about yellow cards.
We need to fill out a yellow card for EACH member of our family, including passport numbers, names, addresses, and flight details. ARE.YOU.KIDDING.ME.
I really just wanted to fall to the floor in a puddle, curl up in a ball, and transport myself to another dimension.
No way! We've come this far! We are NOT missing our flight!
Simon and I take 3 yellow cards each and start writing. I have no idea what I wrote. I'm sweating like crazy, the pen is slippery in my hands, my handwriting is unrecognizable. WHATEVER!
Finally, FINALLY we get our yellow cards filled out. I think people were steering clear of us #crazyAmericans because we walked right up to the immigrations officer with no one in line in front of us. I show him our boarding pass--that our flight is BOARDING NOW--and he
Whew! We're home-free! Just gotta find our gate. The time is 11:45.
But wait! We still have to go through security! That's right. SECURITY.
Do you know what a PAIN this is when it's just one person? Try multiplying that times 4 kids who have electronic devices that must be removed from backpacks. Add to it a wee Chinese girl who thinks everything is funny and a game, and a technology coordinator whose ENTIRE backpack must be emptied--- Every laptop, every battery pack, every tablet. #untimelyfirstworldproblems
I about fainted at this point. But, this Mama was not about to be denied. No way, no how!!!
I yell--yes, yell (not my finest moment)--at the Gs to remove their iPads from their backpacks and get ready to go through security.
I gotta say, the 3 Gs were rockstars here. Somehow, I honestly don't know how, I and the 4 Gs are through security and ready to go. Poor Simon is getting practically cavity-searched at this point. I say to Gracie: "Gate 25...RUN!" The time is now 11:55.
She and Gem take off. I yell at Simon that we're going on, he yells back at me "I'll carry Gladdie...you go!" and we're off!
Imagine this, if you will...
1. Sweet Gracie leading the pack...rolling her carry-on behind her, sprinting like a champ. She's always been our map-reading, directional wizard. So far ahead of me that my mom instincts remind me about stranger danger and child abduction, but I just shake it off. No time to worry about that now!
2. Gemma right behind her. Running like crazy but having to hold her pants up with one hand because they're too big! (Telling me later that she plays soccer...she could keep running.)
3. Me, lumbering with my heavy backpack, sweat dripping--yes, dripping!--down my back and legs.
4. Gia, what a champ--alternating between running and walking fast, keeping up with me.
5. And Simon and Gladdie. He's carrying her and running with his backpack on. He's soaked through his t-shirt. She doesn't know how to wrap her legs around when being held, so his knees are hitting her legs with every step. And she's just having a grand old time laughing, hitting his head, yelling at him in Mandarin, blowing raspberries in his face, and taking his glasses on and off.... still.
I cannot make this stuff up.
I kid you not...Gate 25 was THE.ABSOLUTE.LAST.GATE.IN.THE.TERMINAL.
Of COURSE it was.
I see the gate before I'm actually there. I see the attendant holding her hand out to take my passports/boarding passes. I expect a "you made it!" from her. It seems like a mirage.
We all, except for Gladdie of course, are doubled over trying to catch our breath. There appears to be some kind of problem with one of our boarding passes. At that point, I don't care. They can't leave without us. We made it, right?
Much to my surprise, while we are waiting there, panting, several more passengers come to the gate...all looking surprisingly calm, cool, and collected compared to how I'm sure I appeared at that moment. I felt a slight triumph at not being last to reach the gate. Ha ha! Victory is mine! I shall not be denied!
They finally get us checked in, hand me all the passports, and we take the escalator down to the "hallway" to the plane. There, they check our boarding passes AGAIN. Apparently, there is STILL something wrong with one of them. I care not. I'm in a state of euphoria at this point, having made our flight just in the nick of time. Or maybe I was really that close to passing out from exertion. I'm not sure. I do know that my legs felt like jelly at that point.
Finally, FINALLY they let us through. Oh wait! One more bag check before you enter the plane. "Ma'am, do you have any bottled water in your bag?" "Sir, I just RAN through this ENTIRE airport in less than 20 minutes, including immigration AND security with 4 kids, one of whom doesn't understand a thing that's going on. When do you think I had time to purchase a bottle of water? And speaking of water, I'm absolutely parched. Do you have any?"
We get on the plane, find our seats, get the Gs situated...and for the next 12 hours, I don't care what happens.
So, getting back to re-entry...
It's actually gone quite well. My folks, 2 sisters, nieces/nephews, in-laws, aunt/uncle, and cousins all greeted us at the airport.
We rode back to mom and dad's where we stayed for 3 days.
We left China Friday morning and returned to Seattle on...Friday morning. So we basically had to relive a day. Except for Gracie and me, all the Millers stayed up until 6/7 that evening. From that night until now, all the Gs have slept at least 8 hours (Gladdie, more) each night. Praise the Lord!
We drove back to Idaho on Monday. #swaggerwagon And the 3 Gs went back to school today.
I will stay home with Gladdie for the rest of the school year.
None of us got sick, like in 2014.
So far, it's been the smoothest re-entry of them all.