Winnie Returns!

World Travel
World Travel

Winnie returned home in Virginia from her month long visit to China Sunday morning.  She reports she had a nice visit traveling around different family in different towns around south-eastern China.  However, her flying experience coming back to the U.S. left something to be desired.

Winnie flew out in mid-May and arrived in Guangzhou as uneventful as more than 18 hours traveling time and two flight connections can be.  Our (her) biggest worry was making connections in Los Angeles, getting from the United Airlines terminal to the International terminal for her China Southern hop.  I prepared some maps for her and wrote out where she needed to go to make it easier for her to get help.  It turned out she had no real problems and made her connections smoothly.

She landed in Guangzhou and spent the evening with a cousin there, then left the next day with her cousin by train for Luchuen.  Her cousin has a small flower farm in Guangzhou, and Winnie took some very pretty photos.

Once in Luchuen Winnie just bounced around visiting different family households and exploring Luchuen, then went up to Nanning to her parents’ house.  Winnie was living in Nanning when we met, but her family is originally from a small village outside Luchuen.  In Nanning she did more of the same as in Luchuen, visiting family and exploring Nanning.

Winnie left almost three years ago, and reported that she hardly knew Nanning anymore because of all the new construction.  It also rained nearly constantly while she was visiting, so it was difficult for her to visit any of the parks or outside attractions she really wanted to see.

She did have a chance to do some shopping, of course.  She bought lots of clothes for herself, some shirts and clothes for me along with handicrafts and knickknacks for us and to give as gifts to our friends here.  Her parents sent back a full English-language set of the books “Journey to the West” for me to read, as well as a full companion set of DVDs based on the books.  Winnie had been telling me about the stories, which are very old and famous in China, for a while now.  She had been trying to find English-language editions of the DVDs here in the US before she left but with no luck.  The DVDs her parents sent back are only Chinese language, so I guess I’ll need to read the books first to understand the movie…

She also took a lot of family pictures during her trip. I’ll work on posting at least some in our photo gallery section for family members as I can.

Winnie’s only real travel excitement was coming back to the US.  She flew directly out of Nanning into Guangzhou for her return hop to Los Angeles, arrived in Guangzhou no problems.  She went up to the China Southern ticket desk to check in for her 10:00 AM flight, only to discover the flight was canceled “one month ago, and her travel agent should have told her.”

Not good.  Winnie spent nearly one hour haggling with the ticket agent to get first her flight to Los Angeles changed, finally getting a flight leaving 9:00PM that night.  Then she spent nearly another hour getting her UA flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. changed.  At that, she was lucky; she reported that an American couple trying to get to Philadelphia was still there after Winnie left the counter, trying to make new connections.

Then she needed to call me and tell me that she would be arriving in Washington at 6:19 AM Sunday morning instead of Saturday midnight as I expected.  She paid about $20 for a phone card, and then discovered the airport phones didn’t allow international calls.  After more haggling, the ticket agent allowed Winnie to use the company telephone in a back office.  The first I knew there was a problem was Winnie calling about 10:30 PM Friday night, when I expected her to actually be in the air somewhere over the Pacific, telling me “I have a big problem, the flight was canceled.”

After I calmed down, we got the new flight information figured out.

Apparently, the 10:00 AM flight was canceled due to not enough passenger reservations, which is a nice way to run an airlines if you can get away with it.  Which, apparently, the Chinese government-owned China Southern Airline can.  They were decent enough to put Winnie up in a – cheap – hotel for the day so she didn’t have to sit around the airport.  Winnie of course had almost no money with her for her return trip home, as she didn’t actually expect to need any. Except now she did.

Once in Los Angeles, she navigated back to the United Airlines terminal and went to check in at the ticket counter for her changed flight, using a ticket that didn’t allow for changing flights.  She waited about 30 minutes in one ticket line only to be told, once she finally got to the counter, to go to a different line.  She worked her way to the second ticket counter only to be told, once again, to go somewhere else.  By now it was almost 30 minutes to her flight time and she was almost in tears worried that she’d miss this flight.  Finally, some kind, caring, United Airlines service employee decided to do their job and help her.  She made her flight.

I did meet her when she landed and we retrieved her one checked bag okay, just a bit more battered and beaten from its second round trip to China.  I made breakfast for Winnie as soon as we arrived home, and then she spent most of the rest of Father’s Day Sunday sleeping.  Winnie did have her priorities straight, though.  While I was making breakfast she was already outside checking and weeding her vegetable gardens.

Yesterday afternoon, Monday, she was already back to her job.  Oh the joys of International jet-setting!

Here’s to hoping on her next trip back to China, I’ll be able to go with her for at least a couple of weeks.

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