For some reason known only to Big Brother, the last month and a half in China, all blogs and nings and many other websites were blocked. It probably had something to do with the Tianemen Square Anniversary. Well, finally, I am able to update my blog! So many things have happened which I could have blogged about, but as I'm getting old, my memory is fading. Maybe an onset of early Alzheimers.
To cut a long story short, Tony finished his exams and Grade 12, and lolled around for a month and a half watching TV and playing on his computer and doing no packing. We all nearly died of shock at the school's award ceremony, when he was awarded a certificate for the most improved student. He has worked really hard at school though, and I am proud of him. Monday, he received a large trophy for sportsman of the year. While I was terribly proud, I did wonder where the hell we would pack it into our luggage.
I completed the thirty hubs in thirty days challenge and have been working quite hard on my latest book. My goal is to complete heaps of writing this holiday. That way, I won't spend any money!
The rest of the month of May flew past so quickly, with my birthday, Kerri's birthday and the farewell parties and end of year functions that start to fill up your social calendar. It's strange how you start to feel yourself subconciously withdraw from people, as you know that you'll be leaving soon. I think, it helps to cure the pain of leaving close and dear friends behind. But, when you close doors behind you, other doors always open in front of you, and that is something that bears remembering. It's probably hardest leaving Kerri behind, but so many people and her friends told me that they'll take care of her and I mustn't worry. I know that she'll probably be the one taking care of her friends rather than them taking care of her, but she's with a great community of people, so I must stop worrying. I'm too young to go completely grey. Even if I do have the early signs of dementia.
The Swine Flu Pandemic is causing strange behaviour. Not only are Hong Kong primary schools closed because of Swine Flu, but Nanjing Airport is taking temperatures of all passengers on the plane before they are allowed to get off. If they detect someone with a sniff, cough, sneeze, runny tummy or temperature, they put them into quarantine. Last Thursday, one of our teacher's husbands was on a flight into Nanjing. Someone on board had a fever and was put into quarantine. We had a big farewell party at their house on Friday, went with them to the staff party on Saturday night, and then on Sunday they had China Health Services knocking on the door. The guy with the fever had swine flu, so everybody who had been on that plane was put into quarantine, including all the people they'd been in contact with. My friend and her husband stretched the truth. Okay, they lied, and said they hadn't been in contact with anybody since he'd returned. Forget about a wild party at their house with easily fifty odd peopl on the Friday following the flight! There gate was chained up, and a security guard was put at their gate preventing them from leaving and others from visiting. What a way to end their time in China! At least, the Chinese Government delivered restaurant of their choice food to them every day! Imagine the expense of doing that to everybody who had been on that flight?
Our trip home on Wednesday was an adventure, or rather, a series of adventures. But then again, this is us we are talking about, would you seriously expect anything different? The school has a tradition of students and teachers going into the gym to do a yearbook signing and saying their farewells to each other. I headed to the gym with good intentions. Andy, one of Tony's friends asked me to sign his yearbook, in the corridor outside the gym. I could feel my eyes well up with tears and knew instinctively that if I set foot in that gym, I would break down in front of everybody. Leaving, is so hard to do. Great friendships you've made over three years, people you've traveled with and got to know so well. It's very hard and not something I'm good at dealing with. So, I just turned around, headed to my classroom, hid out there and drank a sprite, waiting for the final bell to go, ending my time in China, and escaped through the back door, too cowardly to leave through the front and have to say goodbye to everybody. I am yellow from head to toe. My blood is yellow. I am a coward.
The driver had arrived at 7am to pick up our bags, but saw that we had too many, so he booked a small van to take the baggage and he would just take us. Mike, our driver, we'll miss him greatly. I'd struggled to sleep, knowing that we hadn't quite finished packing and sorting stuff. Talk about leaving it to the last minute! So, I was up at 4am, packing, sorting, but we still managed to leave Siobhan's guitar behind! Probably just as well, as we would never have been able to carry it with all our luggage! We had two large suitcases, two large backpacker's backpacks, one large gym bag, two small gym bags, three small wheelie bags that can only just fit on as handluggage, a huge metro bag with teddies and two Wii fits, two laptops, another laptop bag with Siobhan's Wii in it, and my big sling shoulder bag. As you can tell, we had a lot of luggage. The smaller wheelie bags were each heavier than our hold luggage. We were seriously overweight, and not from eating too much KFC either!
Nanjing was not a problem, until the vigilant check-in lady happened to cast her eyes towards our laden trolley loaded with hand luggage. She immediately called security and ran after us, shouting, "You can't take all that hand luggage on the plane!" She probably had a point, as we had only checked in the two large bags, one of the backpacks and the large gym bag into the hold. I quickly explained that we were still sorting out the hand luggage. So, we sat down, discarded Siobhan's rollerblades which she'd forgotten to put in the shipment, the kids' Vietnamese straw hats and my Timberland boots. When the security and check-in lady weren't looking, we jumped up and quickly went through immigration. The flight was delayed about 3 and a half hours, which didn't really impact on our traveling as we had originally had a 7 hour stopover in Hong Kong. Imagine my dismay, when we spotted the vigilant check-in lady and her security man at the boarding pass gate! But, ever quick-thinking, I quickly dispersed our hand luggage amongst other friends also flying to Hong Kong. What would we do when we left Hong Kong?
For the first time ever, I was strong-willed and didn't go shopping at Hong Kong Airport. The thought of having to carry our purchases on top of everything else was enough to put me off. Instead, we left Tony at the gate with all our luggage, and Siobhan and I headed to the sports bar to meet up with some friends who were on our flight and waiting in the airport for their connecting flight to Amsterdam. A couple of apple ciders later and we had time to eat dinner at Burger King, before heading to the gate where Tony had fallen asleep while supposedly guarding the luggage. Luckily, nobody removed any of our belongings! We managed to somehow or other carry our 'hand luggage' onto the plane and make out as if it weighed nothing. The flight was a little bumpy, but uneventful. I had a Chinese man sitting opposite me who spent the whole flight hoiking loudly and spitting into his air sickness bag. As we headed to South African immigration, he hoiked loudly and spat on the floor, leaving a delightful blob of mucousy mess. Ah, what we'll miss about China!
Bribery and Corruption!
Then we arrived in Johannesburg. Collected our luggage, had three large trolleys piled high! We decided to check in straight away for our flight to Cape Town, to get it all out of the way, and then have a leisurely breakfast. SAA are much stricter on luggage and hand luggage than the other airlines we'd used on our trip. Luckily, we'd only approached with two trolleys and Tony had stayed back with the hand luggage trolley. The guy on the weighbridge weighed the two trolleys and we were 70kg over the limit of 60kg! Three of us were allowed to take 7kg of hand luggage on board each. Although I begged, the man would not grant me any slack, and then the porter chipped in and said they should help us. I quickly realised that they were playing a good cop/bad cop routine. I've watched enough American TV to recognise the signs. Anyway, he finally put us down for being 26kg overweight, so we had to pay about $70 (R700). They then signalled for another guy to go and do our check-in, which he did without blinking an eye at the obvious discrepancy between what we were checking in and the weight of our luggage written down on the paper. Definitely a whole team of them at work running this operation. Of course, nobody helps without demanding anything in return, so we had to pay $90 (R900) as a thank you gift. Thank God for bribery and corruption! We would have had to pay more money otherwise, and they completely turned a blind eye to our third overladen trolley.
However, the story doesn't end there. Three of our bags failed to arrive in Cape Town! All Tony's clothes and underpants, his trophy he won for being sportsman of the year and other documents we need! Hopefully, they'll be found and they won't have items missing. Of course, our bags weren't locked! We are too trusting! I'm not sure if it was the scammers who removed our bags, or if there is another operation working there. Hold thumbs they locate them today!
But, yippee we are HOME!
(Already missing everybody from Nanjing!)