Just when I thought my trip couldn't get any worse!! I remember sitting outside the Chengdu airport with my head buried in my hands, crying my heart out. There was absolutely nothing I could do at the time but cry. What a nightmare!! How on earth did my life get to this stage? I wondered. I'd never felt so alone and scared in my life! At the time, I just wanted to be saved somehow. Can you imagine? A massive Samoan woman crying outside of an airport in China? People looked at me like I had some sort of disease!
Every time I think of this exact event, I cringe BUT if you keep reading, you'll find a plot twist - truly amazing twist! Don't worry I won't hold you any longer, so here's how it all began...........
October 2015, I fly to Chengdu, China via Guangzhou to meet the manufacturers the sourcing agency had found for me. I had planned out the whole trip over 10 days. Immediately prior to leaving, I hadn’t slept for more than 48 hours as I was working on my website.
After 12 hours of flying, we land in Guangzhou at 5pm local time and my connecting flight was at 6.45pm. I had a bit of time so I sat down and had something to eat, 5.30pm I start my 10-minute stroll to the International Transfer area. As I go up the escalator I notice the super long queue of about 300 people – the thing I found with China and I say this respectfully, is that there is no such thing as a queue if there are no barriers specifically outlining a queue area. So, just imagine 300 people all bunched up, pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line. Crazy right?!! I know!! I had an hour so I figured I’d be fine, plus I wasn't really in the mood to be squashed in this so called line in front of me. 15mins went by, 30 mins, 45 mins, 60 mins now I was panicking and still no where near the front of the line. I was so tempted to push in many times but in the end I decided to wait. I got talking to a middle aged Kiwi man behind me, he assured me the flight would wait for me. I always hear passengers getting paged in the New Zealand airport page so I figured it was probably true. 7pm and I finally reach the desk!!
While waiting in line, I watched a Kiwi lady unsuccessfully push in to the line, she was on the same flight as me from Auckland. She somehow ended up behind me when we got to the front of the line. I started a conversation with her and found out she was from Hamilton and we were on the same flight to Chengdu. I let her in front of me and after clearing customs she saved a seat for me on the extra large golf cart looking cars that transport passengers to the other side of the airport. We never really exchanged names, maybe we did but I couldn’t remember hers but I saw on her boarding pass her name started with an S, so for the purpose of this story I’ll call her Sophie. I jumped on the cart, there were no seat belts yet the driver was racing through the terminal like no one’s business. We finally got to the gate only to find that the plane had already taken off - My heart sank, I started secretly panicking in my head.
Sophie started tearing up a little, my eyes were getting watery, I wanted to cry so bad but goodness we can’t have both of us crying! I just wiped my watery eyes and took a deep breath. I went to the bathroom, washed my face, looked in the mirror and told myself – You got this Gus!! All of a sudden, I had a huge boost of energy and confidence in me. I knew my next step was to speak with someone who had magical powers and could push the right buttons to achieve my goal. Once I’m determined – nothing can ever stop me!
After being passed around from desk to desk seeing about 5 different people, we finally headed out of airside to speak to the General Manager. I explained our situation in the simplest, broken English possible. The manager kept looking at her colleagues speaking in their language. By this stage, I was super frustrated, my arms were waving in the air, with my head and index finger swaying from side to side on beat. On top of that, my forehead lines were clearly visible and my broken English was now perfect. This whole scene was enough to persuade the manager that I was dead serious.
Sophie, my new friend who was mostly silent during this whole ordeal, allowed me to do all the (yelling) talking for us. The manager did a bit of typing, looked up and said “we only have one business class seat”. I didn’t even get a chance to breathe and Sophie said “yep I’ll take it” she then looked at me and said “I need that seat because my son is waiting for me”. Absolutely stunned, I didn’t even know what to say, I was so shocked *jaw drop* I couldn’t believe she actually did that! I mean, had I had the chance, I would’ve said no we both need to get on.
Anyway, I thought about elbowing her at the time as my elbows were rested on the high desk which aligned with her face but of course, that wasn’t an appropriate thing to do. I was really stunned, I went silent for a bit and then I said to the manager – “Umm no! I need a seat” The manager looked shocked too, you know that look like “Aren’t you guys together?”. Sophie had never said a word to her up until that moment. The manager told me to come back in 30 minutes. During the 30 minutes, I was praying to God for a ticket, a free ticket – never prayed so much in my life until that moment! After 25 minutes, I went back up and she had issued us both tickets right at the very front of the plane! I felt so relieved. I grabbed my tickets and walked over to the baggage area to collect my bag that was taken off the missed flight. We were checked in and finally ready to leave – I couldn’t believe it. It was the best feeling ever walking into the plane.
Trust me when I say my nightmare gets even better – I had no idea. We arrive to Chengdu about 10.50pm, collect our bags and head out. Sophie needed a phone to contact her son so I asked around. I also helped explain and direct her son to find us. None of my colleagues were present, I missed the original flight so I thought they must’ve came and left. They weren’t picking up the phone either when I called. I start praying quietly in my spirit, asking God to get Sophie to offer for me to come with them to their place and I would find my own way to the factory in the morning. I didn’t want to ask because I thought there was a chance she would say no and I’d be embarrassed. There was no offer at all, her son turned up took his mum and offered to drop me off to the hotel next to the highway – “hell naw” I thought, so I thanked them and turned down their offer.
I watched them walk out, smiling but holding back my tears. I felt so lost and alone, I didn’t know what to do. For the first time I was actually scared. It was midnight, everything is closed, WIFI is only for locals, no one speaks English, I only have NZD on me and it’s absolutely worthless in China!
I went outside sat down and just started crying. I started wishing I had just stayed home, wishing I had pushed through the line, wishing I didn’t listen to that guy, wishing I didn’t help Sophie. I sat there watching the clock tick, it was past 12.40am and the best plan I could come up with at the time, was to sleep at the terminal until the morning then walk 30-minutes to the international terminal. A lot of people walked past and started staring at me crying. I hated looking vulnerable and weak in front of these people.
I started to hear my inner voice talk to me - What on earth are you even doing?! My gosh Gus, get the hell up and do something! Why are you wishing all of that? Why did you come here? Walk around find internet, do something but don’t sit here and cry! Through my tears, I found the courage to stand up, I wiped my tears and pushed my trolley back into the entrance. I asked the security for his seat so I could sit down and think of a plan. My tears were still flowing and at the time I was praying again “Lord please intervene, yes yes I know I’m a little brat most times but can you please punish me another day aye, I desperately need you to intervene like ASAP please”. I tried so hard to stop my tears but I couldn’t.
A non-English speaking lady came over with her hotel sign for the 500th time, I just ignored her and gave her my best "REWA HARD" angry look so she looks away and starts talking to the security guard in their language.
An Asian man walks past, overhears these two backstabbing me in Mandarin and sees me crying. He asks me in the most perfect English “Are you ok? Is there anything I can help you with?”. My heart nearly stopped. I couldn’t believe he spoke English LOL and he looked like he genuinely wanted to help. So I start to summarise my whole life story LOL and he said to me “Well, I’m waiting for my daughter. When she gets here, you can come with us to our hotel if you trust me”.
I knew straight away God had answered my prayers and sent me this guy. Even though I’m very paranoid when overseas, I just felt at peace with this guys offer so I took it up. To be completely honest, I thought to myself if he tries anything I’m sure my massive as South Auckland, Samoan arms would do damage to both him and his daughter – this comforting thought made me go along with them LOL.
His daughter finally arrives about an hour later, we head outside and there’s a Bentley waiting for us. I smiled and thought to myself “Daaammmmnn Daniel”. The driver takes us into town for a little ride, during the ride my new friend explains that he and his wife live in Tibet and their daughter studies English in Shanghai. They had just moved back to China after living in the USA for 6 years. I knew his English came from somewhere LOL I summarized the other part of my life story, told them I was from NZ. He said NZ was on their books for a holiday – so I told them they could stay with me and my family – well that was until I realized we were going to stay in a 5star hotel – I thought yeah I’ll probably get a loan and pay for a hotel room for them haha!
It’s 3.30am, the receptionist gives us a 50% discount since I was only there for a few more hours. The room cost $470USD = 3225CNY. The hotel doesn’t accept any foreign cards or cash. So my new friend offers to pay for the room and the bond of $500USD. I gave him $1000 NZD, he declined it politely saying to give it in the morning. He takes me up to my room on the 27th floor and its HUGEEEEE! I have a super king bed, a whole lounge area, desk area. The floor, bathroom and toilet were tiled with marble! It was absolutely beautiful. My friend walks around the room to make sure everything is ok, gives me his number to call for help if needed and instructs me to use all 3 locks on the door when he leaves and then he leaves. Wow! What a true gentleman! An angel indeed.
I just could not believe what had happened to me in the last 24 hours!! I said a prayer of thanksgiving, had a 45-minute hot shower and went to bed. I finally had internet so I was able to get my life back in order – well that’s what it felt like. The next morning, I checked out and called my friend down to the lobby. I give him the NZD, he politely declines saying he wanted to bless me and if he ever came to NZ I can help him then. I just gave him a big hug and thanked him for caring. My colleague picked me up, I had 3 Mc Chicken combo’s that morning, I was starving. My room came with breakfast but the food was Chinese and I wasn’t quite used to all the brightly coloured food just yet so I chose to starve a couple more hours and opt for McDonalds instead LOL.
While reflecting on my experience, at first I described it as a nightmare because it truly felt like one at the time. However, the more I reflected, the more my experience became a story of inspiration for me, a blessing in disguise. My experience motivated me to keep moving forward, keep setting goals and striving to achieve them – I will achieve them one way or another!
Here are my top 5 lessons from this experience.
My encouragement to you is to never let anything get in the way of achieving your dreams and goals. I’m not quite there yet but I will get there, one day at a time. I’m happy to say that this has never happened again, I’m a more experienced China tourist now haha but I do have many more stories of similar experiences that I'd love to share with you in the future.
Have you had a similar experience? Share your stories in the comment below, I'd love to read them. If you enjoyed reading this blog, share it with someone you care about, someone you know will benefit from reading this! Sharing is caring!
Can't wait to hear about your stories below!
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