Yet again, it’s almost 1am as I write this. My eyes feel like sandpaper, and I feel slightly dizzy–now familiar symptoms of jet lag–but I’m deliriously happy to be in a comfy hotel room writing on my computer after 20 or so odd hours of travel! It’s surreal–to think in one 24 hour period, I can travel to the other side of the world.
It was an adventuresome day today to say the least.
I hit some major snafu’s in my travel plans, but they ended up being glorious blessings, and it could’ve been so much worse! (My other castmates probably have another story to tell.)
Being that I knew somewhat what to expect this go around, I didn’t have the nerves like on our last tour leg, and the travel itself went very well. I only had approximately an hour to make my connection to Shanghai in Chicago’s O’Hare. I knew as soon as I read the itinerary, if there were any problems in Wichita, I would be in trouble, but I thought perhaps I was just worrying over nothing.
Funny how things tend to go…
I didn’t sleep Thursday night but perhaps 40 minutes or so–I thought it best to pull an all nighter so as to stave off the upcoming jet lag a little bit better when arriving in an Asian timezone.
I arrived at the airport in Wichita around 6:00 a.m. for my 7:30 flight. Upon boarding, we were informed of a grounding of all planes going to or leaving Chicago.
Hence the hour plus wait commenced.
A panic began to set in, as I quickly found out that my flight out of Chicago was the only direct flight to China that day, and I had a connecting flight in Shanghai I couldn’t miss. I began making phone calls, and the travel agent shook her head and sighed as she failed to find a replacement flight for me.
“I don’t know what to tell you, miss. If you miss that flight to Shanghai, you’re in trouble.”
Almost exactly an hour later, the grounding was lifted, and we took off for Chicago. We landed at10:35am–exactly 5 minutes after my flight to China was to take off. I walked into the airport at 10:45, and the flight was gone.
After going to 2 ticket counters and standing behind at least 50 people waiting to talk to 1 person, I decided to try being resourceful. I noticed a gentleman walking by me with a United tag, and I asked him for help. I told him my situation, and he said, “Miss, come with me”. He then introduced me to workers in the international division from Asia, who proceeded to book me on a new flight directly to Beijing with incredible speed! He also told me he was working with them on a project to help make sure customer’s luggage wasn’t lost, so while I had a completely new flight booked through United, he went personally to baggage claim, and came back and informed me my luggage was ready and on the plane going to Beijing, though it had been previously checked through to Shanghai in Wichita!
I called and texted a few folks, bought the biggest cobb salad to-go I could find, (oh, how I’ve missed fresh salads in Asia!) and found myself shortly in an aisle seat (woohoo!) on a 12 hour flight (shorter than my planned 14 hour original Shanghai flight), sitting next to a woman FROM Harbin no less!
Miraculous! (What is that Scripture about ‘entertaining angels unaware?’ I think I found one in the Chicago airport terminal working for United!)
In Beijing, I checked into China Southern with little trouble, which was fantastic, given that NO ONE spoke English at the counter. I ran into my fellow cast mate James at the gate, and had the most relaxing flight to Harbin. It was about an hour’s drive by car to the hotel. It was dark by the time we arrived, so checking out the city will have to wait until tomorrow.
I feel terrible for the bulk of our acting company, who were stuck in Shanghai with a majorly delayed flight to Harbin–the flight I would have been on with them if I wasn’t rerouted to Beijing. (our flight was an hour and a half, the one from Shanghai was 3 hrs). I don’t think they’ll be here until 3 or 4 am at the earliest.
I am so not used to my circumstances being so serendipitous–it was a regular miracle, I tell you! Thank you to my friends who lifted me up from afar…I miss you guys heaps already!
It feels surreal to be back in China—most likely because I haven’t seen most of the company yet. Talking to fellow cast mate James was very calming and set me at ease. That’s the kind of guy James is–a kinder, sweeter, laid back guy I doubt you’ll ever meet. He helped me get my bizillion pound luggage off of the carousel in Harbin, and I couldn’t help but smile and take a moment to appreciate a guy being a gentleman. (In the Beijing airport, as I hauled my bags up the stairs in the sweltering heat, three businessmen just stared at me with indifference.)
Suddenly, it feels like I never left, as I brush my teeth with bottled water in the bathroom, and feel strangely comfortable in my complete lack of understanding both spoken language and every sign and Chinese character–just like a few short months ago.
I am so excited to sing the beautiful music of Rodgers & Hammerstein again with such a talented cast, and explore the interesting cities in this leg of our tour.
But for now, I’ve got a much anticipated date with my pillow and some shut-eye.
P.S. The attached flight photos are all too telling of the world we live in. As we flew over the North Pole and Siberia, I thought the first photo was just showing patchy clouds, but you can see as the picture series progress, they are indeed large chunks of detached, melting ice. I liked the final shot best of the sunset on our last flight of the night, between Beijing and Harbin.
It looks just like I felt–serene, and full of thankfulness and grace.