The travel was brutal. The time in North Carolina with my daughter and granddaughter was great. The break was welcome. But it will be some time before I make that halfway-around-the-world trip again.
My return trip to Batam was not nearly as fraught with difficulties as the trip to the U.S., but it was long – and continuous. There were five flights/airports, two taxis, one ferry, about 12 hours of waiting in airports, and about 28 hours in the air.
I am still amazed that they can keep a huge airplane in flight for 15 hours over the Pacific Ocean. The plane (an Airbus 380, which is an impressive aircraft) was full, mostly with Chinese and Chinese-Americans. Since I can’t sleep on a plane, I managed to watch most of the interesting (to me) movies that were available on the in-seat entertainment system, trying mostly unsuccessfully to doze off from time to time.
I did manage to find power outlets and Wi-Fi at the airports but was unable to post anything on my Facebook or blog pages in China. They were apparently blocked.
In Guangzhov, as we were going through immigration, I ran into the young woman who had screwed up my U.S. connections on my flight over (as a result of missing the flight and having to endure a one-day delay at a ratty hotel). She recognized me and was pleasant, even though I threw a fit when they made me stay over 24 hours. When I told her of her mistake, she offered a weak apology. It didn’t really matter to me at that point but I wanted to let her know so she would do a better job next time around for someone else.
I did encounter a small problem in Guangzhov, where China Southern Airways officials did not want to let me on the plane because I did not have a ticket to leave Singapore. After explaining several times that I lived in Batam, across the straight from Singapore, that I would be taking a ferry to Batam, that I started my trip in Singapore and, therefore, wouldn’t have a return ticket, and that I worked in Batam (showed them my work permit), they finally relented. I had to sign a waiver.
Then, when I arrived in Batam, the immigration officer asked for something I did not have. Apparently, I received a small piece of paper when I left that was supposed to allow me back on the island. Some notes were made and I was allowed to enter.
Everyone at Smiling Hill was happy to see Mr. Ken was back and the girls all loved their t-shirts. But I ran out. Had hoped to have a couple to give a couple of lady friends but we have more staff than before so all the shirts were spoken for.
When I returned, however, my apartment looked like it had been reclaimed by management. All my stuff was hidden away in cupboards and everything was pristine clean. And my cat was nowhere to be found. It was apparent that the apartment had been commandeered for use by guests, which I found later to be the case.
The cat, being take care of by Siti, one of the Goodies waitresses, had been moved to the home of Yuli and Sarijan a few days earlier. Yuli is the bar manager and Sarijan, her husband, is our jack-of-all-trades guy at Smiling Hill. They live in a small building behind the offices. Siti and Yuli brought the cat back and he seemed pretty blase about my return (that changed after everyone left).
I was determined to stay up late Saturday in an effort to speed my jet lag recovery, and even hoped to head downtown for some pool, but the batteries went dark about 7:30. I awoke about 3 a.m. and ended up doing my laps in the pool about 5:30 before anyone arrived at Goodies. Last night (Sunday), I managed to stay awake until 9:30 and got most of a night’s sleep.
So it’s back to work with a renewed sense of purpose, and a different perspective on what is “home.”
And thanks again to my daughter Kim and her husband, Danny, for having me in their home for two weeks. It was a lot of fun.