Getting to China

So, our trip to China took a lot longer in many ways that our trip to Togo did, all of which led to me crying into my new pillow unable to sleep.  (In fact, as of writing this on Friday, I still haven’t really slept since waking up in San Fran on Wednesday.)

It should be noted that, as this is a move, we have everything we can possibly bring with us with us.  That’s four HUGE duffel-ish bags, two carryons, two backpacks, and the cats.  So, each step in this is a huge undertaking.

A quick chronology:

My brother and his wife helped get me and the Teacher to Dulles.  I had been told (and wrote down!) that all we had to do with the cats was bring them and a copy of our orders to the desk, and we’d be set.  (Oh, and pay out a fairly large sum of money.)  We get there…and they have no idea who said that, but they know for sure we don’t have a reservation and we need to go to the United Cargo building (which isn’t actually in the airport) to get the cats prepped to go.  Now, we arrived with about 3 hours to spare, give or take, but we needed almost all of that to get from United, to United Cargo, and back and to our flight.  We had to call the booking person again, get everything re-set up (because if there had ever been a reservation, it was totally lost), and then get back in time for our flight.  While tight, we made it.  (Of course, the cats weren’t at all happy about this.)  Also, the guy at the United Cargo building at first was not remotely helpful, just saying he couldn’t do anything to help us.  When we called up the United Petsafe people, he got a bit less hostile, but ugh.  Just…ugh.

The flight to San Francisco was one of the least comfortable ever.  The plane was at capacity, there was nothing to help pass the time, and no food.  One drink.  For a five hour trip.  We ended up buying one of their overpriced snack boxes just because we were so hungry.

We got off the plane in SF, picked up our bags, and went to get a cab to take us to the SF cargo building.  The cabbie refused!  He said that a short trip that took over 30 minutes would cause him to lose his place in line, and he would have to wait forever for another fare.  I told him that we wouldn’t take any time at the cargo building, if it took too long he could leave, etc., just so he would take us.  (We were already exhausted from the ordeal in Dulles and the damn flight.)  He eventually relented, and acknowledged that the time at cargo was really short (they, thankfully, had everything figured out and gave the cats over quick.)

The hotel staff were nice.  I found the La Quinta Airport North in South San Francisco pretty decent.  Not especially nice, but considering they just let you have up to two pets per room, it was definitely very good for the money.

But, when we arrived, we had another issue–no litter box, nor any place to buy one near by.  There were no Targets, Dollar Trees, etc., within walking distance, nor was there a nearby BART (metro) station.  I walked about 20 minutes to a store, found out they had nothing, walked on further and found a store that sold litter and little, wide buckets for carrying things.  (Instant litter box!)  So, while hotel was good, location was lacking.

The next day was actually great. I got done with my consultations very early, and we went out to dinner with my Oberlin “little sister,” her boyfriend, and another old friend.  The Teacher got some extra piercings she’d long wanted.  The third day was also good, despite the most mediocre Mexican food I’ve ever had.  (In SF! And I’m from KY!)

An aside:  One other exception was my experience with taxi drivers in SF. Between the ones who got lost, who had to rely on me and my smart phone for directions, who were just rude, and the one who was blaring conservative talk radio the whole trip, I don’t think I’ve been to a city with worse taxis.  Ugh.

But dear god, Wednesday.  It started early, with us going to SFO VERY early to make sure everything was good.  Which was good, because while it wasn’t as much running as it was at Dulles, there was still some running around!  We got to the desk (and I was apparently pre-testy, perhaps due to our experience in Dulles), and they started to say something about how they could only do this for military, and we weren’t military, and I almost exploded, until I heard him say “only military get free pet shipping” and I explained that I knew we had to pay for it, and that was apparently the only actual discrepancy.  But, we had to go to QuickPak (which took forever to find), and then back up to our flight.  We were able to semi-upgrade to an exit row, so we had a lot more room to relax on the 13 hour flight.

I want to stress that the United people in SFO were all lovely, and I feel kind of bad for being short and testy with them.

That flight wasn’t so bad–it was just LONG is all.

We got to Seoul, though, and we had to run all over that airport to get our kitties taken care of.  First we went to information, who told us that United had taken care of everything, but that we should check with our next airline (Asiana) to be sure.  We finally found the Asiana desk, and they said, no, we needed to see United to transfer the cats.  We got lost, but eventually found the United desk (which required us to go through immigration).  United then took us to quarantine.  The lady there said we needed extra paperwork we didn’t have (that China doesn’t require).  We explained that we weren’t bringing the cats into Korea, but instead flying on with them to China.  So, they had to refigure that, basically how to move the cats from one airline to the other without going through quarantine and such.  When they got that settled, I thought we were told to go on to our gate, which we did.  We got there hours before the flight, and once the attendants were at the gate, I asked them if everything was good and we were set up.  They told me yes.  And then, about 10 minutes before boarding, they asked if I’d paid.  I hadn’t yet, thinking I’d do that at the gate, and then I had to run back to the main Asiana desk and back down to the gate.  (And Becca didn’t even know where I’d gone, which made matters worse for her.) All the running around in Seoul left me absolutely exhausted, and admittedly cranky.

I wish I could tell you much about that flight, but I was so exhausted (I had been awake for something like 25 hours, I think?), and I collapsed into one of the most painful naps of my life as soon as I sat down.  I was extremely sore and kind of cantakerous when we touched down in China.

The China part was not nearly as dramatic as the Seoul part, thankfully.  We went through immigration (which, being a diplomat meant that we could go through the “special” very short line), and then picked up our bags for customs.  This took forever, and then we had to get the cats and go through quarantine.  There was some confusion about where the cats were, as apparently they’d changed up the baggage carousel at the last moment, and everyone assumed our cats would be on the carousel, but in reality the airline was nice enough to just wheel them out to us.  Quarantine wasn’t too bad, but took forever, as didn’t know our Chinese address or phone numbers yet. By the time we got to our sponsor, who had been waiting to meet us since we were supposed to arrive at midnight, it was about 2:30 in the morning.  (Meaning:  I had been up more or less for 30 hours.)  We took the cats home, set up the little jerry-rigged “litter box” our sponsor gave us, and tried to go to bed.

The next part of our story, settling in to Guangzhou, will be less a factual story and more about my own emotions and such, and so will be another post, when I have the energy.

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