A sister’s promise…

This blog post is dedicated to one of my biggest fans….my Aunt Patty who turned 80 today! 
Happy Birthday, love your favorite niece….written by your second favorite niece!  So as we prepare for our next visitors (Britty and Keith), I wanted to catch you up with what happened when we had our first visitors. My sister wrote the following blog entry for me after her Christmas trip to China.  
“It was over a year ago now that my sister told me that they were moving to China.  I was confident when told her I would come visit. She was so confident that she told the kids after she broke the news to them that they were moving. I of course had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Well after reviewing dates constantly, the decision was made that Christmas and New Year’s would be the best time.  Not knowing at that point the cost, but that did not matter, they are family and a promise is a promise. I know this would be a trip of a lifetime even though China was never on my bucket list.  The dates were set, 17 December 2012 to 3 January 2013.  Tickets were bought, visas applied for and the packing had begun.  I should have known this was not going to be easy when the first thing that went wrong was Hurricane Sandy hit NY while our passports were in NY and what should have been less than a 5 day turnaround took over two weeks.  Yes, I did get nervous that they were lost.
Then on December 16, we had our first accumulation of snow of the season.  OK, no problem. We decided to get a hotel in Portland so that we were not late for our flight on the 17th at 8:20am. 
On December 17, we arrived at the airport at 7:00am and we checked in and were ready to go.  Our dates were specifically picked so that I would be there for the kids’ Christmas play at school the night of the 19th.   We board the plane on time although the snow was still falling. The plane does not move.  It seems to be an issue closing the door under the plane.  After an hour, we get off the plane.  After another hour they tell us to see the attendant if we are going to miss our connecting flight in Detroit.  Yes of course at this point we would miss our connection.  They are having issues getting us new flights all the way to Chongqing, so I have to call my travel agent.  It’s time to board again, no time to chat.  She will work on our flights while we are in the air.  The plane departs from the gate, and we are on the runway getting DE-iced.  After an hour or so goes by there is another problem with the plane.  The DE-icing on one of the wings is stuck and it is necessary in the air for this to work properly. This can’t be happening. You can’t be serious.  Now we have to wait to get back to the gate, another hour and we get off the plane.  No more re-booking as they say this plane is not going anywhere. Next we get the ticket agent on the phone with our travel agent. We need to be in Detroit on the 18th to get the plane to Shanghai.  Decisions are made to put us in a taxi and take us to Boston where we could fly out the next morning.  The taxi driver is from Somalia and says he has been to Logan many times, fantastic!  We  are soon lost and Dawn has to give him directions to get us to the airport hotel. We check in get a hotel room and wait for the next morning. 
Day 3….December 18th.  We make it to Detroit and get our connection to Shanghai. We are not in the seats we should have had because this is now a new flight, we are in the back of the plane in the row in front of the bathrooms where everyone congregates, then my TV is broken and after two hours the flight attendant takes masking tape and tapes it up so that I can at least watch a movie.  We land in Shanghai and go through immigration and customs, no problem.  We get to the domestic terminal with time to spare.  Phew, we check in and are told we do not have tickets.  For 5 hours we get passed around from one person to the next with no one giving us any information or help for that matter.  Most people claiming not to understand English.  I am trying to text (5:30pm) Liz and let her know what is happening  only to lose internet access after thirty minutes and have no way to contact her again. It was after 9:30 when I was finally was able to contact her again and tell her we would not be arriving.   They just wanted us to go away.  Thank God, Dawn had patience and was able to secure our seats on the first flight out in the morning. They told us to go to a hotel (which we had to pay for), they dropped us off in a three star (at best) Chinese hotel that didnt have heat and was freezing, no hot water and we had no energy left.  We collapse after thirty something hours without sleep only to pray when we get up in the morning something will finally go as planned. 
 December 20th.  Back at the airport they are still telling us we do not have tickets, back and forth again.  We show our confirmation numbers and finally we have tickets??  Don’t ask, I have no idea.  Anyway boarding passes in hand and on the plane and arrive in Chongqing.  See Liz waiting for us as we exit the airport.  One hug and the world is safe again.
Our first hot showers, lunch at Mr. Lee’s, first introduction to Chongqing Chinese food, (we like) and waiting at the bus stop for Will and Ella.  I do not think their feet hit the ground coming off that bus to reach us.  Hugs and kisses and the last four days are nothing but a memory as this is why we are there.
December 21st to January 2nd was a whirl wind.  Markets, City traffic, an amazing trip by high speed train to Chengdu and we saw our first temple and walked for miles, dinner at the Lazy Pug where the owner from Chicago sat down with us and talked for hours.  Then the Panda Reserve, what an amazing experience.  We received our Christmas present from Liz, Chip and the kids of being able to hold a live Panda up close and personal.  Words cannot describe the experience, the only place in the world that this is possible.  Then back to Chongqing and Christmas Eve party with lots of their new friends.  Christmas morning was a treat as it is the first Christmas day I have ever spent with Will & Ella.  Later we went to the sports complex and rented a Mahjong room where Ella and Aunt Mary proceeded to win most of the games (that is still being contested by Liz). This is also where I received the nickname Aunt Pea from my darling niece as I told her we were two peas in a pod.  Not sure I will ever live it down nor do I want to.  Christmas dinner was at Hot Pot, wow, what an amazing dinner, I ate more vegetables than I did meat.  An experience everyone should try.Image
We were up early the next morning and off to the airport for our trip to Beijing.  A whirl wind three days seeing the sites of Tienanmen square, Forbidden City, Drum Tower, Ancient City, Summer Palace, Olympic Stadium Birds Nest, but none of it compared to the magnitude of the Great Wall.  The Great Wall is just breath taking and mesmerizing especially when you think of when and how it was built.  We ate in a few different restaurants, but the food in Beijing was bland in comparison to Chongqing.Image
Back to Chongqing we visited a  Temple on the mountain, Antique Market, Three Gorges Museum, Hong Ya Dong, Ciqikou Ancient Town where we smelled Stinky Tofu for the first time, I would not recommend it, especially on an empty stomach, (Blach).  We took a gorgeous walk up a mountain, and ate at a new restaurant thanks to Nick (Liz and Chip’s tutor), New Years Eve with the neighbors and lots of desserts. 
JanuaryImage 3rd.  Time to say goodbye, now do you think the flights home will be smooth?  Not.  Delta web site said plane out at 12:20, e-mail from Travel Agent 14 days ago said 9:00.  We went to the airport for 7:30 and guess what?  No tickets for this one either.  After only a couple times back and forth we have our boarding passes for the 9:00am flight.
Thank you Liz, Chip, Will and Ella for a very Merry Christmas, A Happy New Year, (year of the Snake now) You gave us an experience of a lifetime that we will never forget.  We love you!”