Somehow I feel like I can't leave the story of my trip from Beijing to Glasgow out of all of this. So here it is.
I left Christina's grandmother's apartment at about 3 pm Beijing time (8 am Glasgow time). I wanted to give myself plenty of time at the airport because I figured it would be packed. So Christina and I went to the nearest subway station and, of course, this is the one time I've ever seen that escalator broken. And getting down to the metro level took about five flights of stairs. With my suitcase. And the stairs were slippery. It seemed to be a disaster in the making, but I made it to the bottom without falling and decided that if that was the worst I got on the trip, I would be okay. Me and my big mouth.
We got to the airport at about 4, giving me 2 and a half hours until my flight. I got to check in and there was no line (it literally took me ten minutes total). So much for packed. We killed some time by buying a few Beijing snacks for my family to try, and then Christina headed home and I went on to immigration and security. This took me maybe twenty minutes because I had to take a shuttle to the right place. So I wound up at my gate well over an hour before I had to board. It was dull, but I'd rather have extra time than wind up sprinting through the terminal to make my plane.
The plane boarded on time and the captain came on to give the usual spiel-- welcome, thanks for flying with us, we're looking at a 3 hour flight today, etc. And we're just waiting for air traffic control to give us the go ahead. Just waiting. For an hour. Normally I wouldn't have too much of an issue with that, except that my layover was only an hour and a half, and Hong Kong is a big airport. I was a little bit antsy on the flight. My trip to Beijing had been so smooth that I hadn't even thought of having issues on the flight out. We landed about ten minutes before my second flight was supposed to board. Then we taxied for fifteen minutes. Then we had to take a shuttle to the terminal because we had stopped on the tarmac. China had one more personal-bubble-popping ride for me. Our entire flight crammed onto one shuttle. At this point I was quite confident that I would miss my flight and get stranded in Hong Kong.
But luck was on my side (knock on wood). When I got in I saw a Chinese lady in a British Airways uniform with a sign that had my name and flight number on it and said, "PLEASE CONTACT US!" I'm not sure why that message was necessary- talking to her seemed like the most obvious course of action. She whisked me away and led me at a solid power-walk straight to my gate where I was just in time to sprint onto the plane. I think I got on at around the time it had been scheduled to leave. Lucky for me, it was running a bit late. So I took my seat (in the middle, again) and settled in. A few hours in, I tried to turn off my reading light so that I could go to sleep. Except it wouldn't turn off. None of the buttons on my armrest were working, including the flight attendant pager. So I went up and asked them if there was any way to fix it. They did what they could, but nothing they tried worked. Fortunately, there happened to be an empty (and dark) seat a few rows ahead of me, which was a window seat that had no one in the middle either. That was the best upgrade I could have hoped for, so I took it and eventually managed to get a few hours of sleep before they served breakfast and came around with landing cards.
Immigration was a breeze at Heathrow, too. We were the first flight in, so there was no line. Of course, no sooner had I gotten past the immigration officer than I heard my name over the intercom, being called to the British Airways customer service desk. I had wondered if my bag had been as lucky in Hong Kong as I had been. It hadn't. The man at the desk was really friendly and told me that Hong Kong had notified them and that my bag would be on the next flight in, which would arrive in about an hour. He said my options were to wait around for it or to go on to Glasgow and they would fly it up there for me. Since we didn't have train tickets to Glasgow yet, I decided to wait, but I needed to leave the baggage claim area. My mom was waiting for me and I had no way to contact her. The man told me that that was fine, all I had to do was go in the staff entrance across from the doughnut shop to come back in for my bag. Perfect.
Off I went to customs, where according to the sign, I had to declare food. I still had that bag of snacks, so I went in to the "I have things to declare" area, where I found an empty desk. I waited awkwardly for a minute until an old man walked in and asked if I had something to declare. I had to fight the urge to say, "Duh," since if I didn't I would have taken the "I don't have things to declare" line. He asked what it was and I pulled out the sealed bag of snacks, explaining to him that they were some candies from Beijing.
"What are they made of?" he asked.
"Well, they're like... rice dough stuff... with fillings..." I answered. I thought the explanation would sound more articulate than it did.
"Any meat fillings?"
"Um, they're candies... so no."
"Alright, then, love, rice is fine," he said with a smile. "It's really just meat and dairy you have to declare."
"But the sign says food," I replied.
"Just meat and dairy. Here's a pamphlet."
"Um, thanks." I took the pamphlet and left. I'm not quite sure why I took the pamphlet, but I still have it.
Finally through all of the checkpoints, I met up with Mom. It was wonderful to see her after so long, and we had coffee and chatted while we waited for the flight carrying my bag to arrive. When it did, I went in the staff entrance and explained myself to the man who checked people in. A British Airways guy had to come and escort me through, but it was less awkward than I had expected. I guess it happens pretty regularly. I got in just as the bags started coming on to the carousel. So I watched and waited. And waited. And waited. And eventually bags just stopped coming out, and it seemed like no more were going to. I waited a couple of minutes to be sure, but then went back to the service desk. The man was surprised that it hadn't come out, but assured me that Hong Kong were really good about getting bags where they said they would. I should give it another ten minutes. So I went back to the carousel and watched the empty track moving. I didn't wait quite ten minutes, but as far as I could tell, bags weren't coming any time soon. Back to the customer service desk. The man was really surprised that it still hadn't arrived and apologized profusely for my wasted time. The best course of action now was for me to fill out a report and have it sent to Glasgow, where I could pick it up later. I had just signed my first name when the man says, "Wait!! It just scanned in on Carousel 7! Go check, I'll keep the report open, just in case."
Thrilled that I might not have to wait longer for my bag, I sprinted to the carousel, ducking under the tape that is supposed to keep people in line. Needless to say, I almost did a face-plant in the process. But my bag was finally where it was supposed to be. I grabbed it, went back to thank the man at the service desk, and went back out to meet Mom.
The rest of the trip was pretty smooth. We went to the train station and caught the next train up to Glasgow, which was about a 4 and a half hour trip. The British countryside is gorgeous, and I was deprived of clear blue skies in Beijing, so I loved it. Dad picked us up at the train station and took us back to the flat. I was excited to see him and Iain. So now the family is back together, and we're just hanging around while Dad finishes a business call so that we can go get dinner. We got to the flat at about 2:30 pm Glasgow time. After some unnecessarily difficult calculations, I figured that from leaving Christina's grandmother's place to arriving at Dad's flat, I was traveling for about 29.5 hours. I think that's a record for me.
And now, it is time to eat. So I hope some of you found this whole thing as amusing and ridiculous as I did.