Part I: An Introduction
In the spring of 1998, after nearly 60 years of absence, my brother and I, with several others, decided to go to China and discover what, if any, evidences remained from our childhood years. My parents, who were missionaries to China, and our family lived there prior to WWII but we had not returned since. Much to our surprise and pleasure we found many sites still standing and even a graduate of my Dad's seminary still preaching in an interior village.
We had so little time to really 'soak in' our past, coupled with interest others had in our experiences that we planned a second trip, purposely spending more time tracing our roots. This is an account of that second visit.
Our "return to China" in May of 2001 began rather ignominiously, to say the least. Even before departure problems surfaced. For some reason, our travel agent, or his agency, had booked us, at first, on four different airlines-leaving from Vancouver, San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles, arriving in Beijing at different times. A couple of us were even routed through Tokyo! This was corrected and we were re-booked all on the same flight out of LAX, leaving May 7 in the early afternoon. Thus, everyone could leave the morning of May 7 from their homes- Nebraska; Denver; Indiana; and Seattle.
A month or so prior to departure the visa applications were due. Problems again! I had sent out the old application forms used when we went to China in 1998 and took those completed forms to Seattle a few days before they needed to be sent to the consulate office in San Francisco. Our travel agent picked up the applications and than exclaimed, "These are the old forms". I had told him I was using the extra copies left over from the previous trip but that comment apparently hadn't registered. Anyway, we had to overnight new forms to everyone, with instructions to get them back by Wednesday. Marj and Del's forms didn't get back to Seattle in time requiring more overnight mailing. Also, Pete had not signed his passport and needed a picture for his visa so those had to be overnighted at the last minute.
David and Michelle, Pete and Raywait in the LA airport while Ed checks us in
Fortunately, all these details were completed on time and the visas were received. Because I received the visas and passports from our travel agent only a few days before departure I kept them with the idea of delivering them to the others at the international airport in Los Angeles, where we were to rendezvous by noon on the 7th.
There were eight of us in the group: Del and Marj [Marj is Louise's cousin]; David and Michelle [David is my cousin]; Ray, [whose parents were missionaries with us in China]; Pete [long time friend and retired missionary ]; Louise and I.
Pete, Louise, and I drove from Boise to Seattle on Friday where we stayed with, Mary, Pete's sister in law. Over the weekend he pursued some information from relatives on his family tree and we attended Seattle Mariner games. Sunday we attended church in downtown Seattle.
Monday morning, around five-thirty, Mary drove us to Seatac airport to catch our flight to LAX. As we started out, Pete reminded us to 'check and be sure we have our tickets'. I assumed ours were safely in my pocket so didn't really check as the three of us were crunched into the back seat.
At the airport we went up to the ticket counter, I reached into my pocket and the ticket envelope was missing!! I knew that was where it was, but we went through all pockets and handbags anyway, to no avail. I asked the agent if he could issue us an e ticket but he indicated that we had to have the paper tickets. I rushed outside to see if they'd fallen out on the street but no luck.
We called Mary's home but, of course, she wasn't back yet, so I left a message, assuming the ticket envelope must have fallen out on the seat of her car. It was now a few minutes after six. We thought of renting a car but rejected that idea, knowing it would take too long as the flight left at 7:30. Then Louise suggested a taxi. I raced outside but the two taxies in sight were just leaving, so I rushed down to the baggage claim area but none were there. I ran back up to the ticketing level and spotted a taxi just pulling up but the driver said she couldn't pick up passengers there.
Rushing back down to the baggage claim level, I saw the van and rental car area across in the parking garage and remembered that that was where pick ups were now occurring, so I went back up a half flight, raced across the walkway, down to the landing and spotted a lone taxi driver with a big Indian, turban and all, just getting into his vehicle. I ran over and asked if he was free to take me, which he was, jumped in and told him I needed to get to the Sandpoint, university, and children's hospital area quickly because I'd left my ticket at home. It was now 6:14 a.m. He took off at 70-75 miles per hour down the freeway. While he drove, I prayed!!
We got to Mary's at 6:38. Mary was looking through my car, having already searched her car after getting our message on her phone, and was going through a big envelope of stuff Pete had put in the back seat of my car. As I got out she shouted, "I haven't found the tickets yet!" I started to reply then glanced down. There on the grass by the sidewalk was the ticket envelope! I yelled, "Here they are!" grabbed the ticket envelope, looked in to see if the tickets were still there, which they were, hollered, "Thanks, Mary, see you in two weeks," and jumped back in the taxi. It was 6:40. As I got back in the taxi I asked the driver, "can you get back in time, my plane leaves at 7:30!" He said, "I'll have you there by seven."
The driver took off going 50 or so to the freeway then poured it on, weaving down the freeway among lanes at 80-85 miles per hour. We pulled up to the ticketing area at 6:59. The fare was $76. I gave him two fifties and told him to keep the difference. I jumped out of the taxi and rushed into the ticketing area. Louise was sitting calmly in the waiting area with our two suitcases! She said that at about a quarter of seven, she'd given Pete the passports, as we had everyone's passports, and told him to go on ahead. If we didn't catch the plane we'd find them in China somehow!!
We rushed to the counter where we were immediately processed, caught the subway and got to the satellite and our gate. Everyone else was checked in. Louise went on board and I rushed over to the newsstand, grabbed a couple of newspapers and got on. As I boarded the attendant asked, "Are you the one who lost the tickets?" I said, "Yes, how did you know?" "Your reputation has preceded you" she responded. Fortunately, or providentially, all three of us were in the same row so we could relax, catch our breath, review the morning, try to recover a little, and plan ahead.