Now that the team has been back for a little over 24 hours, the jet lag and time 15 hour time difference has caught up with everyone in a big way!
The trip back to the US was interesting to say the least. After eating breakfast Wednesday morning at the hotel, we loaded the bus and went to the Birdsnest and Water Cube to have pictures taken of our group. From the Birdsnest we then traveled to the PEK airport. We were 30 minutes too early so we stood in line until the counter opened. It took several minutes to check in our group of 24. We then had to take our 22 trunks to a different location to drop off. They wanted to inspect our trunks so different trunks had to be opened. For whatever reason, the trunk with the cereal gave them great difficulty. This process took far too long; however, we finally were finished with our checked luggage and could proceed to the customs/immigration counter.
Our group walked through the new Terminal 3 at the PEK airport. It is really a beautiful airport and was completed just in time for the 2008 Olympics. We had to take a subway to the International departure gate. Once we arrived at this location, we then had to turn in our temporary residence card and have our passport stamped. We walked to our gate and several decided to get a snack before we boarded.
Once we boarded our plane, I crashed. My head was bobbing like a yo-yo! I was asleep before the plane was even loaded. This was some of the best rest that I had had since we left two weeks prior. Once we took off they fed us a meal of beef and rice (imagine that). It was actually very good! After arriving in Seoul, S Korea, we had to go through security again. I treated everyone to a Starbucks drink and then it was time to board our plane bound for LAX. For some reason we left late from ICN and then taxied for over 25 minutes until we took off. This was not good for we had a narrow window to clear immigration and customs at the LAX airport to catch our flight for PHX.
The flight was uneventful and many slept, journaled, and watched movies. We landed at the LAX airport late. We had less than two hours to catch our next flight and there was no way humanly speaking that this could happen. The odds were seriously stacked against us. The Asiana Airlines terminal is off site at the LAX airport. Once you land, you have to take a 10-15 minute bus ride to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. We were sitting toward the back of the plane which meant that we would not be on the first bus but would have to take the second bus.
We took the second bus and it seemed like forever until we arrived at the terminal. The first “break” that we caught was that an Asiana Airline employee gave our group an “Express Connection” pass. This meant that we bypassed the immigration line to a special line. There were hundreds of people in line to clear immigration. We were so fortunate to have this pass to skirt all of those other people. We still had to clear immigration one by one, but it was so much faster than the other way.
Once you clear immigration, you must then retrieve your checked luggage so that you can clear customs. As “chance” would have it. Our luggage was so slow that I told our group there was no way that we would make it in time. My mind is now racing on how to get our group back to TUS with missing our LAX flight. We finally have all 47 pieces of luggage and now must get in the customs line that seems like a mile long. We work together to clear customs and they do not check any of our luggage. This is a major victory for us.
We then have to push our luggage in carts to the “connecting flights” luggage counter. The man refuses to take our luggage! I then go to the Asiana counter to have sweet words with the agent. The bottom line is that it is not our fault in any manner that the plane was late. He then talks to the man who refused to take our luggage. They take our luggage. Once we have dropped off all 47 pieces of luggage, we must now “sprint” from the international terminal to terminal one. This means that we have to run past terminal three and two before we get to the US Airways counter.
Half of us do not have boarding passes, another great obstacle. We now have less than 30 minutes and we have to get to terminal one and get a boarding pass before we can go through security again. The half that had boarding passes went on ahead of us. The other half went to the US Airways counter. The first words out to the agent’s mouth, “You are too late!” Those are not good words. I said she had to give us our boarding passes to allow us to at least try to get to the gate and that she already had our luggage. She begrudgingly started printing our boarding passes.
Another miracle of sorts, the security line was not busy. This just does not happen at the LAX airport. We all clear the security line except for Shelli. She had to have a pat down and a search of her luggage because something triggered the gunpowder alert. They ended up taking her tube of toothpaste. She “runs” (walks fast) to gate 10 from the security line and is the last person to board the plane. Now if our luggage will just make it…
By divine intervention, we make it. There is no other way to look at this… many in our group began to pray as soon as they realized we were in trouble. So we take off and land on time at the PHX airport. Although it took ONE HOUR to get our luggage at the PHX airport, there can be no complaints from any in our group. The alternatives could have been so much worse.
Mr. Bee was patiently waiting for us. We load the bus and head for In n Out Burger. WOW – it was so good and so needed. We then took off for our final two hours to TBT.
We arrived at TBT around 11:00 p.m. Wednesday night. Many family and friends were awaiting our arrival and the reunions were sweet. Once we unloaded the bus and loaded our vehicles it was time to head for home. Home, sweet home! Those are good words after a long two week mission trip.
We went home and as it typical, we unloaded everything into the house and then had to unpack our suitcases. We started laundry and unwrapped our souvenirs and were still wound up from our return trip. Shelli, Jonathan, and Jennifer head for bed. I was not tired because I received another notice from the beloved IRS about my ongoing 8th audit. Just love those guys! So my adrenaline was way up! I did laundry and wrote reviews for our trip on Tripadvisor.com. At 6:00 a.m. I decided to go ahead and go into TBT to see all that I needed to get caught up on.
I finally crashed at 4:00 p.m. I slept hard until 7:00 p.m. Thursday night. I got up ate a bite of food. I went back to bed at 10:00 p.m.; I woke up at 3:00 a.m. And here I am, getting caught up on all my blogging. I’ve heard from many in our group that they are having sleeping problems, eating problems, and time change problems. This is so much fun!
Finally, I look forward to the testimony service on Sunday night, August 7! At 6:00 p.m. we will listen to the testimonies of our team members. I have already heard many of their testimonies in our own team service in China. You are in for a real treat as they share all that God did in their hearts and lives. It will be an awesome service – don’t miss it!