On the plane to Guangzhou, I was having one of those crazy dreams you have when you are out of breath and everything was closing in on you. When I woke up, I was drenched in sweat.
Ever lose a bag in an airport? Most of the time it's really not a big deal. You just walk up to the lost bag counter, give them your claim ticket and tell them what flight you were on and they would locate your bag and get it to you in a timely fashion. I know I am being simplistic here but that is usually what happens. It happened to me in France one time and three days later it showed up at my hotel.
But, after living in China now for over four years I did not have a lot of confidence in the process and Guangzhou was only the next stop before the final destination of the day, Hong Kong. Some how experience was telling me my chances were slim.
As it happened, the plane was an hour late getting to the gate. At baggage claim, standing all alone, I stared at the baggage carousel for what seemed like an hour after the last bag was claimed, I thought, yea... no bag. No hope. Not happy. Not surprised. A long day already made longer, emotionally crushed and somewhat irritated at the thought of never ever seeing my bag again I announced to anyone and no one in particular at the lost baggage counter in my best Chinese, Hello??? my bag.... not on my flight... can you help me?
An airport agent slowly walked up to me and asked me for my claim ticket. I said mei you! meaning I don't have one. She then asked me for my passport and flight. I give it to her and she leaves. Five minutes later she comes back and says my bag is on the next flight to Guangzhou. I asked her when it will arrive. She said I don't know. It's not that losing a bag in a Chinese airport is uncommon, what is uncommon is that they actually find it.
Such is the topsy turvy world of flying in China. Sometimes there is a flight sometimes not. You lose bag, no problem! Maybe come. from Kunming next flight? Maybe? Later... maybe tomorrow. Will my bag be on it? Who knows? Maybe? Possible! I didn't have time to find out. I explained my dire situation to the agent. I must go.... Hong Kong... now.... Can't wait. immediately she makes a call. A tall young man in a very official blue suit came from out of nowhere and in his best English asked me, Asscuse... Can I herp you?
I told him Hong Kong now... America tomorrow
Oh so solly you bag.... now in Kunming and maybe can arrive tomorrow.
I said.... too late. Tomorrow, I from Hong Kong arrive America.
He looked at me with that glazed look of disbelief.
I repeated, tomorrow Hong Kong arrive America!
Oh! He repeated what I said then I repeated then he repeated then I then asked for a pen and paper. On it I wrote in big capital letters, Albuquerque New Mexico USA! I pointed to it and said tomorrow! My bag here! I must go now!
I said ok?
He said ok ok, like he got it. Then he said, can to give you the email?
I said OK!
I gave him my email. We agreed he would email me when the bag arrived and when he would get it on a plane to the States. We shook on it. In one of the only positive moments of the day, he gave me every reason to feel confident I would see my bag. He smiled. Mei wenti... no problem! Ok I said and started for the metro, my bag now in the hands of the Chinese travel gods, and feeling .... OK!
An hour on the Guangzhou metro to the train station. Too late now to catch the direct train to Hong Kong, I buy a ticket to Shenzhen hoping to make the border before midnight.
Forty-five minutes on the train to to Shenzhen, 40 minutes from there to the border, half an hour to cross the border and another hour into Hong Kong and to my hotel and my bed and a shower. It all happened in slow motion. People and places blurred. Standing, sitting, I remember feeling tired of traveling. I remember my eyes were burning and my back aching and my fingers and toes numb. I remember feeling hungry and then I remember everything finally coming to a stop.
It was supreme relief to arrive at my hotel in Honk Kong. Yet I had just hours to sleep until I had to put these clothes back on and spend one more day flying, feeling sticky, dirty and tired, for a few hours I could relax, lay horizontally and let my body stop moving. Nothing felt better.
One more day.... get up do it again.