The evening of my flight to China, I clicked the China Airlines check-in link in my email. But I couldn’t check in. I tried again. And again. All packed up and ready to catch the bus to the airport, I thought, “Oh, I’ll just check-in at the airport.” I grabbed my planner to put it in my backpack and leafed through it to double check my lists. Saw that my flight was for after midnight TODAY, SATURDAY, not for after midnight on SUNDAY. Holy shit, I missed my flight. Complete oversight. My excuse was that the week and a half prior to my departure, work was insane. It was prime-time building season here in California and the guy who carried the most weight between the four of us in the office took a different position.
I freaked. Hopped online to see what I could do but found it was too late and too expensive to book a flight on another airline. The next 24 hours was spent freaking. Phone calls back and forth to China Airlines’ different offices (US Los Angeles, which is closed on the weekend, Hong Kong, Taiwan), emails to the folks at One River Tea (the 15-hour time difference wasn’t helping!), talking to my seasoned-traveller aunt on the phone to help me get my head straight.
No room on the next flight out. I had to wait until Monday after midnight. But I had to jump through all these hoops and pay to change my flight. The trick was China Airlines’ LA office was closed on the weekend, and they were the only office that could take an American credit card. Hong Kong and Taiwan required some other form of payment through Alipay or WeChat. Oh awesome! Last week I had followed a YouTube tutorial on how to install Alipay on my American cellphone. Tried that with WeChat, too, several times, but it never sent me a confirmation code. I linked my bank card on Alipay and tried to put money into the account but nothing worked. WTF. How can I pay to rebook my flight?! Luckily Alex and Xiaoyan at One River Tea had woken up for the day and said they would use their WeChat to pay! But then I had to figure out how to tell the agent on the phone to send the payment request to a different phone in China. I don’t know how many times I was on/off the phone with China Airlines. Eventually, it worked.
I felt terrible for Alex and Xiaoyan, who had gotten a hotel room in Wuhan a few days before my scheduled arrival. They assured me they would wait there until I arrived. The only connecting flight out of Hong Kong on China Southern was booked, so I had to stay overnight at the Hong Kong airport hotel. Luckily I could pay at the counter with my American credit card for the leg from Hong Kong to Wuhan.
Anyway, I had my insulated stainless steel bottle with me on the flight. Taipei Taoyuan airport has all these filtered water stations where you can pick the temperature of your water. This is tea-drinking country! I dropped some nuggets into my bottle and filled with almost boiling water. This tea was so soothing and strong and resinous sitting there stewing in the heat. It kept me as awake as I could be following several near sleepless nights.
I tried the remaining amount of this tea at home a few times — once in a clay pot, once in a bowl — but I could never replicate the strength it provided while I was exhausted and crazed at the airport.
So thanks, beerandbeancurd, for providing something that gave me the strength to get through that mess! Tea and tea people are awesome.