So on second thought the decision to leave for 3 weeks of traveling the day after the semester ended was probably not the best idea. Like, not at all.
When we booked the tickets we gave no thought to how tired we would be or how much we would have to have organized to leave on time. In addition to that Friday being the end of the semester, it was also my 27th birthday. Happy Birthday to me. I finished my last class at 3:15, tiredly waved goodbye to my students, and went to the department office to turn in the last of my grades. I then went back to my apartment to begin packing and cleaning.
The token birthday dinner plans were upset by the unanticipated remodeling of the restaurant I’d chosen. We stood in the rain outside the restaurant as I struggled to decide on a backup plan. I’m not gonna lie. There was definite tearing going on. It’d taken a lot just to think up ANY birthday plans that had sounded good. I wished it wasn’t my birthday. With the time constraints on the evening, there weren’t a lot of other options close by. So off we went to The Old Chinese Junk, a “British pub” in the sense that it is actually owned and operated by a Brit, but really more of just a restaurant. We usually just refer to as The Junk. We found a number of other teachers from our university there having a bon voyage celebration for a teacher who isn’t returning next semester. We joined them and the birthday-ness of the evening was thankfully somewhat obscured.
We got back to the university somewhere around 11 and I had to go into high gear packing mode. Packing is an activity that I find extremely difficult. It never gets easier. At least for me. Especially as we were going to two completely different climates and needed appropriate clothing for both. The clothes that I’d washed earlier in the day were nowhere near dry yet so I began attempting to dry them with my space heater. I was also downloading books and music to occupy me during the travels, charging all electronic devices, organizing travel papers and cleaning out my fridge and cupboards. I went to bed at 2 and got about 6 hours of sleep.
In the morning breakfast consisted of the remaining contents of my fridge. I was trying to simultaneously clean and pack. My clothes were not all dry, my room was not entirely clean, my luggage seemed too big, etc, etc, etc. But somehow by noon, Sarah and I were heading off to the train station. The horror stories about traveling during Chinese New Year had caused us to buy our train tickets well ahead of time. I felt a little sheepish at the emptiness of the train when we boarded in Zhuhai, but as we stopped at other towns, the train filled up and it seemed that it had been a worthwhile precaution.
The first part of our trip was a week on the island of Hainan, the “Chinese Hawaii”. Our flight left from Guangzhou at 8 PM. So though we had HOURS in the airport, things did not go according to plan. Let me provide you with the email that I sent my mother upon arriving in Hainan:
We made it safe and sound, not without some frazzled nerves though and profanity by yours truly. I think we really did have some angels courtesy of your prayers. We had major communication problems with where to check our luggage and I lost my temper a bit, but then someone helped us and it got resolved. Later we got stuck in a security line with only ten minutes before our flight left and I was panicking. Suddenly they opened another security line next to us and Sarah and I were numbers 3 and 4 in line instead of like 20. Then we were RUNNING through the airport to our gate which was MILES away and I desperately flagged a little airport cart who stopped for us. He drove us to our gate (of course we paid for it, but that’s okay). When we got there they were still boarding. SO it was a very exciting day and Sarah commented that we arrived here through none of our own merit.
Yes, we really were running through the airport a la “Home Alone” or any other desperate dash to the boarding gate movie scene. And yes, the gate was like the last possible gate in the airport. We never would’ve made it. It was the closest call I’ve ever had for a flight. Sarah and I were baffled at what we’d done wrong. (Just not left enough time for everything, obviously).
There’re so many things I wish I could’ve done differently that day. I wish I could’ve kept my cool. I wish we’d not traveled that day. I wish I’d remembered to print all my travel documents ahead of time. I wish we’d left MUCH more time to get to our gate. Yet somehow we made it to Hainan, had the pleasure of being fleeced by the taxi driver and got checked into our hostel. We slept very well that first night and awoke to seven days of exploring a beautiful tropical island.