Chapter 4 – We Finally Meet
The first leg of my trip was from New Orleans to Los Angeles International. From there I made connections to Cathay Pacific airlines for the flight to Hong Kong. We left about midnight for the 15 hour flight.
Because we were crossing west over the international date line, we would gain one day. So although we left on Midnight Friday, we would not be landing in Hong Kong until Sunday morning. We flew in the dark the entire trip, catching sunrise as we landed in Hong Kong. I had a scheduled 10 hour layover in Hong Kong for my connection to Nanning City, scheduled to leave at 4:00 PM.
When I first made my plans I had thought to head out and briefly visit Hong Kong again (I had last visited in 1995). But we landed at the New Airport, built on an artificial island in the middle of Victoria Bay and a long way from anywhere. So I hung out at the airport; I found a place to take a shower, change clothes and had a decent meal after exchanging money. I purchased some postcards, found a computer terminal and a little past noon wandered down to the gate for the Nanning flight.
Just as I arrived at the gate I heard my name called. I ran over and discovered they were waiting for me – it seemed that after I bought my tickets several months earlier, the Nanning flight had been moved up three hours. We took off as I wondered how I was going to contact Winnie from the airport, or if I was going to have to wait three hours in Nanning.
Most of the people on the flight were Americans going to adopt Chinese babies from a Nanning City orphanage. When we arrived in Nanning, they were met by a Chinese woman representing the orphanage. I quickly discovered this woman was the only person at the airport who could speak both English and Chinese, and had a cellphone. I explained my situation, gave her Winnie’s phone number and asked her to call to let Winnie know I was already in Nanning. She called as I watched her talking – I didn’t need to know Chinese to know Winnie was a bit excited on the other end. The woman hung up, and told me Winnie would arrive in about one hour.
Sure enough, one hour later Winnie pulled up in a taxi. I knew she needed to act reserved in public, but I did give her a big hug – for Chinese this was about the most emotion ever displayed in public. We rode back to Nanning talking a little, but mostly just looking at each other.
We had known each other for 14 months, but this was the first time we’d actually been together.
Winnie had arranged a hotel in downtown Nanning for us for the two nights we planned on being there. (I have since learned that this is the hotel where most foreigners stay when they come to Nanning to meet their future wives). She also arranged to have a “chaperon” there as well; one of her girl friends with her friends little boy. We talked for a while, Winnie poured some tea and I relaxed. After a while we all went across the street to a restaurant and had a wonderful dinner.
Thankfully, Winnie’s friends went home after dinner and left us alone. We walked back to the hotel; once in our room I presented her with a diamond engagement ring in the traditional “western” custom and a few small gifts I had brought for her. The rest of the night was ours.
We spent the next day exploring Nanning City. We visited a few of Winnie’s favorite parks and did a bit of shopping. That evening we joined two of Winnie’s friends, a married couple, at a wonderful restaurant for dinner. It turned out the restaurant also had a dinner show of a “traditional” marriage ceremony, and I became part of it; My Chinese equivalent to a bachelor’s party and an event Winnie had arranged for me. After dinner we went over to Winnie’s apartment to pick up her clothes and then back to our hotel.
Next morning, Tuesday October 14, our wedding day, everything started wrong.