Chapter 5 – A Second Trip To China
Saturday morning I woke up as usual, made coffee and got on line with Winnie. I explained what had happened, where my truck was, and who had brought me home. I also told her what had possibly happened to Brenda’s home, and that she would be staying here until she could figure out what to do next. While we were chatting, Brenda came out and I invited her to chat with Winnie.
The first thing Winnie typed to this woman she’d never met, sharing a house with her husband halfway around the world, was “Are you hungry? Tell my husband to make you something nice to eat.” I have rarely in my life ever felt as proud of anyone as I did then of Winnie.
Brenda did head home on Monday morning and discovered her house had been miraculously spared, even though most of her town was leveled. Life went back to “normal” in the Charest household.
I knew I couldn’t rely on my 15 year-old truck ever again, but decided it would still be handy for an around town “beater”. So I paid for a major engine repair on the truck still in the repair shop up in Brewton. Winnie helped me select a car via the Internet during our chats, an SUV listed in Orlando, Florida. On Saturday, September 30, I drove a rental car one-way to Orlando, picked up my new SUV and returned to Gautier the next day.
I was spending a LOT of money I needed for my China trip.
I was also short on paid vacation time. I had used some of my two weeks annual vacation running to New Orleans trying to get answers from the USCIS, and had used more time dealing with hurricane Ivan. I no longer had enough leave time for two full weeks vacation. My supervisors went to bat for me and got three days unpaid leave of absence approved, enough to get me two weeks vacation.
The Tuesday before heading out to China the repair shop in Brewton informed me my truck was finally repaired. A neighbor drove me up to Brewton after work and followed me home; We arrived back in Gautier about 12:00 Midnight.
On Friday afternoon, October 8, I drove my new SUV to New Orleans and flew west on the first leg of my anniversary trip to China. I was already exhausted, nearly broke, and had taken three days unpaid leave of absence from work to cover my shortfall in vacation time. But I was going to see my wife.
I made connections in Los Angeles as the previous year, but this time flew Southern China Airlines into Guangzhou instead of Hong Kong. The flight arrangements had just happened to work out that way (I chose based on lowest fares), but was perfect. Guangzhou was where the US Consulate was located and one of my planned destinations on this trip. I made connections to Nanning, and somehow once again flew to Nanning earlier than originally scheduled. I arrived two hours earlier than Winnie was expecting me.
This time, there was no translator who could help me with a phone call. By dint of lots of hand signs I was able to get a person to show me where the public phones were and found where to buy the phone cards I needed to make the call with. It took about an hour. I called Winnie, and she promised to head on over to get me. She arrived, as before, about one hour later.
She looked as beautiful as the year prior. We sat in the taxi on the way back chatting and just looking at each other. This time, mostly due to my limited funds, and because we were in fact married, we had arranged to say in Winnie’s apartment while we were in Nanning. She had a roommate, but the roommate thankfully was not home when we arrived at the apartment. Winnie and I had some catching up to do.