Hello again, everyone!
For once, I can actually write my own blog and post myself as I’m here in the States at the moment, for our Chinese New Year holidays. My quick return, after the summer itineration, is mostly due to my father who hasn’t been doing very well. While it will be a fast visit for me, about 2 1/2 weeks, it’s important to me to make time for my US family, namely my parents. The summer was rather busy so this time around will give me more time to spend helping out a bit. In fact, today’s duties included picking up my dad’s lunch at our senior lunch center, driving the car’s load of Goodwill items over to Terre Haute (15 miles away) and sitting in the church office as the sub for the secretary.
Slipping back into the American lifestyle feels a little strange but after a couple of days, it’s as if I never left.
A Birthday Journey of Great Rewards:
This trip back to the States was especially fun because I traveled on my birthday, January 12. I have always wanted to do this. Crossing the International Date line gives me 2 birthdays, actually, in two countries. I left China at 10 a.m. Thursday and I landed in America at 3 p.m. Thursday the same day.
Naturally, I had to tell everyone along the way it was my birthday. Why not? For a 47-year-old, I look pretty good!
I started my birthday-dropping announcements at the hotel in Shanghai, where I spent the night before my flight began.
“Today’s my birthday,” I told the desk clerk at check-out. “Do I get a discount?”
She just smiled and charged me the usual $35 for my stay there.
Oh, well. It was worth a try.
On the Flight Overseas
My other announced birthday remarks brought about a bit more notice.
On the airplane, I just happened to joke to the flight attendant serving me lunch, “Today is my birthday! Can I get a candle for my dessert?”
While her reply was similar to the desk clerk (a “not sure that will happen” smile), she made sure to wish me a happy birthday and later offer me extra snacks throughout the flight (peanuts, pretzels, cookie packages, more drinks). She also told her colleagues the birthday girl was in Seat 27-C, giving me a bit more special attention as each one passed along the aisles. Winks and nods my way followed when our eyes met and there were whispered “Happy birthday!” greetings during the in-flight movies or when they passed me by.
I also told the Chinese sitting near to me it was my birthday. So not only did I have our Delta flight crew wishing me a happy birthday, the Chinese were doing so as well.
So far, my forwardness in announcing it was my birthday was paying off. Thus I figured why stop on the airplane?
US Immigration and Customs
Upon arrival in Detroit, where I would catch the next flight out to Indianapolis, I decided I’d try the same thing upon entering the country through US immigration and Customs.
When it came time to check my passport upon entry, I asked our immigration and custom’s officer, “Do you notice anything interesting about my passport?”
He looked at me strangely.
“Should I?” he said.
“Date of birth,” I hinted with a secretive look.
He warily peered downward at my passport picture and gave the entire page a careful going over. At that point, I wondered if I’d made a mistake until his face broke into a wide grin.
“Oh! It’s your birthday today. Well, welcome back and happy birthday!”
At the Detroit Airport
So far, I had fared quite well with my birthday ploy. No sense in giving it up quite yet since I had 2 hours to cruise through the Detroit Airport before the last leg of my journey.
There were numerous shops to enjoy, including my favorite that sells newspapers and magazines. I always pick up a NY Times there coming and going from the country as well as Diet Mountain Dew, which I can’t get in China and enjoy immensely.
When purchasing these two favorite items, I told the cashier, “It’s my birthday today. I’m definitely going to enjoy this Mountain Dew and newspaper after being out of the country for awhile.”
“It’s your birthday?” the cashier said with surprise. “Well, happy birthday!”
Then the good-natured person standing behind me decided to add his birthday greeting to mea as well.
“Your birthday?” he said. “Happy birthday!”
But it was the chocolate shop I stepped into that truly made my day right before I boarded the plane. Their “60% off Christmas Chocolate” table caught my eye. I would never think of purchasing such specialty chocolates as-is because they’re just too expensive. I mean, $5 for a little chocolate candy bar? Get real!
But sale items I keep my eye out for, so when the chocolate shop’s sale table popped up with tin-foil Santas, festive Christmas wrapped chocolate boxes and holiday bars, I made a point to stop by and purchase one.
After doing so, I noticed there was a “free sample” tray of chocolates sitting on the counter so I helped myself to one.
“Oh, my gosh!” I gushed. “This is SO delicious! I haven’t had chocolate this good in ages. This is really making my birthday special. Thank you!”
“Today’s your birthday?” the girl said, handing me my chocolate purchases. “Well, in that case, have another! And happy birthday!”
I certainly wasn’t turning down that birthday gift, you can be certain of that.
Family and Friends Send Best Wishes
And, of course, there were birthday wishes awaiting me from my brother, who picked me up at the airport for our 1 1/2 hour drive back to my hometown, as well as my parents, anxiously awaiting my arrival. I likewise had a load of both email and mailed cards from my Chinese students, friends and church groups as well, wishing me blessings for my birthday.
In other words, for my two-day birthday in two countries and over the ocean as well, I think I got my money’s worth for my 47th year.
Thanks to all of you who sent special thoughts my way! Be looking for more posts in the next two weeks. I’ll also be posting pictures from the school year I was unable to do myself so be looking for those.
Ping An (Peace!) until next time.