“I’m going to go home,” said with more certainty than the previous couple of hundred times as Heather and I discussed staying in China or going home. Heather is my friend upstairs on 18. I’m on the 15th floor of the apartment building. She is the one with the little boy who rides the little truck who comes to my door with his music playing from the steering wheel mentioned in a previous post
I had decided to stay in China and help her as long as she stayed. She couldn’t take the baby outside and go to the store, walk the dogs, etc. So when she did those things, I watched the baby. So, this certainty in her voice this time sounded like it was a done deal. I replied, “Ok, if you are definitely going, then I will get my ticket, too. We can go together and I can help you on the plane.”
We had talked about flights. I found one to leave on Friday, February 14. I finally, after much indecisiveness and turmoil, hit the submit payment button and selected my seats. Done! No more debate.
I messaged Heather the next morning and told her I had my ticket. Did she have hers? No. The baby had developed a fever. And a rash. Of course, it was a terrible situation. It was frightening to think where she would go, what would she do, and most importantly what did he have?
Once she got him to a hospital, one that did not accept virus patients, she learned he had roseola. Much better than the virus! He was covered in a rash by now. She wasn’t going to be on a flight anytime soon. I felt so bad for them.
The day I left, it began to rain. I love the rain and it so rarely rains in Beijing. I wasn’t excited about hauling my luggage in the rain, though. I kept gathering my things and putting it all by the door trying to debate when I should call a taxi. I looked back out the window and it had begun to snow. And snow. And snow.
Ugh. Will flights be delayed? or even cancelled?
I finally head downstairs having packed like I wasn’t going to return to China, though I still have quite a few things there. I had two 50 pound suitcases, a 75 pound carry on, and a 15 pound personal item. I got them all on the elevator, down the elevator and out the door. To get to the street, we must walk up a car ramp. It is the only way out right now as all other gates are locked. By now, the rain had frozen and the snow was coming down in a very wet snow.
From the parking garage I was able to push one suitcase up the ramp along with the carry on. 125 lbs. I was slipping all over the place. I left them sitting at the top of the ramp and walked back for the rest. I pushed the next one up the ramp along with my bag that had two laptops and an iPad, chargers, a book, passport and everything else I could get inside the bag. The wet snow was filling my bag with the laptops inside. I stuffed a blanket over the top to keep them dry.
At the top of the ramp is a gate. It is just short enough that my bags won’t go underneath it. I can’t take them around it, either. Arrgghh…
If I let go of the larger suitcase, it will fall over. Everything else is getting soaked. By now I was sweating and breathing heavily. If someone comes and takes my temperature now, I’m doomed.
Finally I was able to tilt the luggage under the gate, one by one and get it to the other side. But now, I had to lift them over a little one foot wall, or walk thru water that was quite high. I chose to lift them. I got them to the other side. One 75 pound carry on is on one shoulder, my 15 pound bag is on the other and I’m lugging to suitcases behind me. There is now so much snow on the ground that as I pull the luggage along, the snow builds up under the wheels and I am pulling all the snow with me until I can not pull them any further.
I kicked the snow off the wheels and move the luggages to a new path, pick up the other bags and start again. Ten steps more. Repeat. Ten steps more. Repeat. I’m nowhere close yet.
Finally, I stop and take one piece at a time, pulling the luggage with two hands while kicking the snow away. I got it to the curb and walked back.
I needed to call the taxi. So I did that and it would arrive in 6 minutes. Hopefully I could get the rest to the curb by then.
Next piece of luggage wasn’t much easier. It was still picking up snow. Finally a guard came over and pulled it to the curb making a new path. I was thankful. I Went back for number 3 and 4. Finally, all were at the curb.
I mentioned it was a wet snow? I’m drenched. My hair is soaked. My shirt is soaked and my jeans are well on their way to being soaked, too.
I hope the driver doesn’t turn into the McDonalds parking lot because if he does we won’t meet at the right spot, which would mean I would have to haul everything across the parking lot. He turned into the McDonalds parking lot.By now,
I could not even think about pulling all of those bags over there. I left all my things there and walked over and pointed to my luggage which had fallen over, so it was hard to see and gestured for him to drive around to the luggage. Luckily, he gets my game of Charades and pulled around. Finally, we got everything in his car.
By now, I am at wits end and I’ve only just left the apartment. I got out my phone and messaged my friend, Shack who is dropping my car off at the airport upon my arrival. “I’m about to lose my shit!” And of course, Shack being Shack says, “Keep breathing, Cath. You got this. Think about your grandkids and Amy and Eric and all your friends. It’s worth it, keep your head up and keep moving toward Tulsa.” Always a breath of fresh air. OK. I can do this.
It was really snowing then. The roads were so slick and we didn’t slow down. There was accident after accident on the highway. We were all over the place. We finally made it in one piece. I went to get a cart for my luggage, but first wiped it down with bleach wipes and pushed it back to the taxi. I gathered my things and headed to the airport entry.
Going inside they stopped me to take my temperature. I’m wet and cold so I thought I would be ok. I was.
Now the entry is a downhill ramp. The cart and I were rolling quickly. My feet just slid all the way down to the bottom. The girl at the bottom of the ramp looked a bit nervous as I rolled toward her. She was motioning me to go left. I finally got the cart to slow down and turn. I stopped for another temperature check. It was ok!
Ok, to the gate. I made it and got my boarding pass, unloaded two pieces of luggage and headed to security. This was such a hassle this go round, as I had two laptops, an ipad, camera, phone, chargers, etc. All of which need to be unpacked and placed into individual bins. At least there was no one there, so I wasn’t rushed.
Unpack, scan, repack. Lug that 75 pound carry on and 15 pound bag to the gate. I looked for my friend, Craig who was supposed to be at the gate near mine. I could not find him. I called him and he said he had been kicked out. Now he is a prankster, so I thought he was kidding, but…he wasn’t. He had booked a flight to New Zealand where he is from by way of Australia. Australia would not let him transfer through there because of the virus. So he could not travel.
I went and sat down to charge my phone. I wandered around a bit after that. Then went back to my gate. I sat down. There were quite a few people at the gate. waiting. I heard “Flight CA 125 last call to Seoul.” “What?” Last call ! I never heard the first call. I never saw anyone move. Oh My Goodness!
I ran to the gate just in time. Though it was not far to run as I was right there! How did that even happen? Oh well, I’m on.
I’m soaked, I can’t breathe in my mask, but I’m on. A couple from Kansas and their two kids came on just after me. They didn’t hear anything either until “Last Call.” So bizarre.
We are given so many forms to fill out, all health related. My pen didn’t work. I tested it before I left, but nothing. The Kansan gave me a pen from her bag. I had to wipe it with bleach first. She understood. She had some interesting stories to tell, too. Every region, it seemed had different scenarios playing out.
An hour and a half later, Air China flight CA125, was about to land in Seoul, South Korea. We made it out of China. What awaits us out there? How will we be treated? We are all arriving from China, after all. The rest of the world isn’t accepting many passengers from China. The nice Kansan husband helped me with my 75 pound carry on. He got it down from the overhead. We disembarked.
We walk up the jetway and saw a person who could easily be headed toward Mars with his/her white space suit and helmet. As we arrived to the top of the jetway, we were given a lanyard to wear around our necks identifying us as arrivals from China.
Wait, who else wore this on their neck? Ugh, too late, it was now on my neck. I didn’t get to bleach it. We followed the arrow that read, “From China.” Where would it take us?
The Journey Home, to be continued.
I can barely keep my eyes open.