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Friday, August 9, 2002, CST

Day 16, Our last day, and the not so smooth flight home


This is what I jotted down, the morning of our departure.

I don’t have time for any new posts, as we will be leaving for the airport soon.  We definitely have mixed emotions, about ending our journey, but getting home to friends and family again. Michael, however has no hesitation is saying he wants to stay in China longer, and not go home yet. It is pouring rain right now, so I have a feeling that we have some adventures left.


I’ll complete this travelogue complete with some summaries, and details, as I have time over the next few weeks, and be glad to answer any questions from potential travelers, now that we are experts J.  All that we have left is the plane ride, and seeing your faces when we return.


See you soon!

We certainly did have some adventures left, and all we had left was a plane ride, turned out to be the understatement of the trip.


Since it was pouring rain, no one cared to venture out, and we spent our last morning in the hotel. There would be no more last minute shopping, or walk in the neighborhood. We had seen our last glimpse of Hong Kong last night.  Packing for the trip took much of the morning, and everyone showed up early for the airport shuttle, which I took as an indication that we were ready to go home.  It was monsoon conditions, through our bus windows, as we took our last look at people struggling to cope with the weather. Any space made by people staying inside was taken up with umbrellas, and the streets looked as crowded as ever.  The bus slowly threaded its’ way through the neighborhoods, we had walked so often, and as the view became less and less familiar, it made us realize that our trip was coming to an end, and we were well on our way home.


It was still raining hard, when we arrived at the airport, and the departure board soon showed that our plane would be at least 30 minutes late. The 2 hour wait passed quickly, and we had some time to do the last bit of shopping, and unload any Hong Kong dollars remaining. We would soon be using US dollars again.  We were disappointed to find out that the plane was full, and we were too late to obtain seating assignments next to each other. When we boarded the plane, almost an hour late, we were scattered about the plane. Stephanie had the only window seat of the group, as the rest of us were all in the middle sections.


As the plane rolled down the runway, it was pretty foggy and visibility was pretty low.  When the nose lifted off the ground, we felt a vibration, and one of the noisiest take-offs we had ever experienced, but after a short time, things got smooth again.  We didn’t think too much of this, until after 20 minutes, the pilot came on the PA to announce that we were running on 2 engines, and jettisoning fuel. Apparently, the vibration was an engine failure, and we had to turn back to Hong Kong. Later, Stephanie reported that she saw flames from the engine, and after her mother went to sleep, she thought nothing more of it. No one else on the plane seemed overly concerned either, and the crew was very calm. It took almost an hour to dump enough fuel to land, and as we touched down, we were accompanied down the runway by fire trucks, and emergency vehicles. We stopped on the runway for an inspection, and they almost did not let us taxi to the gate, because one set of brakes were overheated, but soon we were able to move to a remote gate.


They announced that we would be boarding a new plane in 4 hours, and to keep us busy, they gave us dinner tickets to one of  the airport cafes. Of course 400 people descending upon this little concession, was not very efficient, and there were long lines.  We soon discovered a trick we had learned in Beijing, and that is that the lines for Chinese food is always non-existent, even though there may be long waits for western food, so noodles and Cha Sui, it was, for us. They gave us phone cards to use, so we spent the remaining time we had, trying to figure out how to make a call, and that managed to kill the last hour of waiting. Since I had plans to retrieve my car from the repair shop, that afternoon, one of my calls was to my mechanic. At last, we boarded for the 2nd flight home, and 12 hours of flying.


It seemed to me, that the second take-off was not much different from the first, but at least we kept going, and it wasn’t very long before they were serving yet, another dinner. After a movie, most of the plane was asleep. I managed to get in about 6 hours, and since I knew we would be landing around bedtime, I forced myself awake for the last 4 hours of the flight.


We finally landed 6 hours behind schedule, although, due to the dateline changes, we actually landed on the same day we took off, and 2 hours prior. Luggage was also the longest wait, as in China, we were usually one of the few passengers with any luggage, and also, US immigration and customs turned out to be the most crowded and longest wait of the entire vacation. It was all worth it, however, as the reward was to see our families and to be home at last.


Grandpa pronounced this sojourn “Mission Accomplished”, and we never saw him again. Our family got home about midnight, which was mid-day, Hong Kong time, so we were wide awake. It wasn’t until 3am, that I finally dozed off, even though I knew I had to get up at 5:30am, for my autocross.


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