I’ve been “Shanghaied”

Many of you knew that I had an unexpectedly extended stay in Shanghai. It’s a few weeks later now, and we are back safe and sound in Singapore. Now that we’re getting into a routine again, I am taking the time to sit down to write about my experience.

It’s funny how the Lord uses circumstances to change your perspective from complaining to thankful. I wish I could say that I was quick to be thankful… but my stay in Shanghai reminded me that I am often quicker to turn towards complaining, even if it is inward & in my heart.

Almost a month ago now, I was heading back to the States for my Christmas break. To save money we bought a ticket that would fly me to Shanghai, keep me in Shanghai over night, and fly the rest of the way back to the States in the morning. While I checked in my luggage in the Singapore Changi Airport I was notified that I would have to un-check and re-check the luggage at my lay-over Shanghai. Initially I wasn’t too pleased about it. Apparently the reason for needing to re-check my luggage later was that my connecting flight was after midnight while my initial flight arrived before midnight. Oh well.

I made it to Shanghai fine. But that’s when trouble started …

Somehow (I am still puzzled as to how) within a minute of getting off the plane I noticed a pain on my finger. I looked down to see a small chunk of skin a few layers deep missing from one of my fingers. Great.

A minute later as I was walking to go find immigration/customs/etc, my flip-flop decided to break. Not just like a simple “top starts to release from the bottom.” No, this was a “the middle of the flip flop wouldn’t stay in and there was no way it was going to stay on my foot.” The good news, I was right about flip-flops being easy to take on/off for the purpose of traveling. The bad news, I didn’t consider that one of the pairs would break. Thus I ended up walking through the airport with one bare foot. I am sure I looked ridiculous walking through immigration with one bare foot while everyone around me had donned downy coats in preparation of the cold weather.

This is the first reason I became thankful for un-checking my luggage: I had shoes/socks in there! I fixed my shoe situation and continued walking.

After I got out of customs a polite lady at a random counter asked if I need help. Come to find out she was trying to convince me to stay at a hotel. I tried to explain that I was spending the night in the airport and that I couldn’t not leave the airport as I didn’t have a visa. (Perhaps I might have been able to go to an airport hotel for the night without a visa… I don’t know. But either way, I wasn’t planning on leaving the premises.) She said, “oh, but it will get very cold here.” I helplessly responded that I didn’t have much say in the matter, and thanked her for her time.

She was right. It was cold in the airport. I had already put on my jacket from my carry on… but it didn’t take long for me to realize it was nice for me to have my checked luggage with me. My coat left the checked luggage and went on my back. I settled in on a chair for the night. (2nd reason I became thankful for un-checking my luggage.)

Thanks to my thoughtful husband, I had a engaging book to keep me occupied during the night when I wasn’t napping. (Although, I am embarrassed to say that the book was found in the teenage section of the bookstore! Oh well, the “Inheritence” helped keep me occupied during my long haul…)

Morning dawned. The airport that held people napping through the night like myself awoke. And it thankfully started to warm up. (I guess they believe in energy conservation.) As the bustle increased, I got ready to go to my next destination: a gate. Luggage re-check went well, and I passed security fine.

I took another nap and read some more. Finally about 12 hrs after I had gotten off my previous plane, I boarded the plane bound for the US.

Getting On - Trial 1

The plane left the gate. We got about 300 ft. from the gate. Then we stopped.

We waited.

From my window seat I could see 5 workers walk out to under the plane. I don’t think this is a good sign.

We waited more.

We finally went back to the gate being told that there was a mechanical issue. (Note: they said “mechanical reason” but “issue” makes more sense.) This was not the gate I was looking forward to seeing again so soon. After more waiting (about 2hrs after we initially boarded the plain) an announcement was made that we were letting us off as the mechanical reason was not something that could be resolved right away. The announcement was accompanied with reassurance that they would let us know once they had more news.

People poured out of the plane and walked back to the boarding area, none too happy to be back in the same airport. I was thankful that I was off the plane in 2 hrs instead of 13… but I was hoping to get off in America, not China.

A multitude of passengers gathered around various flight attendants, each with their own version of what they thought would happen. I waited patiently away from the crowd that was growing in size & anger. It was unclear what was going to happen, and the poor flight attendants who seemed to have little more understanding than us were left to attempt to reassure the angry mass with empty promises.

Thankfully a sweet lady introduced herself to me and we struck up a happy conversation (while the unhappy dialogue continued apart from us). This lady was kind enough to let me hang around her and her group of American friends. Myself and the group held the opinion that there was no use getting angry at the flight attendants for a situation that was obviously out of their control. We decided to wait together until direction of what to do was more clear.

After a while the crowd dissipated (it seemed like many got fed up and left to go find lunch or a hotel or sympathy elsewhere). Snack & lunch were eventually served to those that were patiently waiting. However, there was no announcement of any sort, not even the notification that they were serving food. It was more like a realization that, “oh that person has food… oh they have food for us” … I was able to mooch off the group that let me stay near them.

I sort of lost track of time. But all we knew to do was wait.

The sun set.

Shanghai Sunset

I was thankful to have such a beautiful view. Had I not waited in the airport for so long I wouldn’t have seen such a breathtaking sunset. My pictures don’t do it justice though!

A long wait = A beautiful sight

Finally sometime around dinner time an announcement was given to move to Gate 18. We dutifully obeyed the instructions, but with little knowledge as to the purpose of the move.

We waited longer at the new gate.

The next announcement that was given was, “Please come up to the desk to receive your compensation.” It took a while before we realized what compensation was. Apparently if we signed a form in Chinese and put down our phone number they would give us 600 renminbi (approx. 100USD) in cash for the inconvenience of waiting. When it was my turn to receive cash there was a sudden flurry of activity/talking amongst the flight attendants.

A few minutes later an announcement came over the loudspeaker, “We are now boarding.” Just like that. No preamble… well, unless you count the hours of waiting with a total of three previous announcements as a preamble. The flight crew was so rushed to get people on the plane and into the air that no order was given to boarding the plane. It was every man for himself; just don’t get left behind!

As there was no warning before they suddenly told us to get on the plane, several fellow passengers were unprepared. Members of the group I had become friends with had just gone out to dinner. Friends ran frantically trying to find and retrieve them so that they would be able to make it onto the plane in time.

Within a short while all impatient passengers had been loaded up. We were all seated and ready to go.

Paraphrase of Announcement #5: “Some luggage was incorrectly put on this plane. Please be patient with us as the luggage situation is sorted out.”

That was not exactly what we wanted to hear. But we were by now accustomed to waiting, so we took it in stride as best we could. Eventually the situation was sorted out. The plane (apparently a new one, not the old plane) left the new gate. We headed to the runway. And finally we left Shanghai… and not a moment too soon.

I was thankful for several reasons:

  1. Had it not been for rechecking my baggage I would’ve been miserable, cold, and with 1 flip-flop & 1 bare foot. Instead, what I originally dreaded (rechecking the bag) was a huge, warm, blessing in disguise!
  2. The Lord blessed me with friends in the airport; I wasn’t alone.
  3. The sunset was gorgeous.
  4. I didn’t have a connecting flight. Many passengers had connecting flights that were made through other companies. Neither airline company was willing to take responsibility and put them on a new flight. I didn’t have to deal with that.
  5. We didn’t take a plane that had mechanical issues!
  6. We eventually arrived safely in New York JFK airport!!! Hurrah!
My brother met me at the subway station. He snapped this photo to send to my hubby who was waiting to hear if I arrived :

Tired but safe and sound


One response to “I’ve been “Shanghaied”

  1. maureen Czebotar

    If you remember when you first bought the tickets, I warned you about being “shanghaied!” (basically, kidnapped) Sorry that it came true!
    Enjoyed your post; on the other side of the world, many were praying for you as the word went out that you were stuck there. Jesus is Lord over all situations and locations!
    Glad you came to see us in the USA; the time went by so quickly… we miss you again.

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