Surprise! For all I knew, Geoff and I were flying to Hong Kong for an extended weekend to celebrate my big 60th birthday. We were to leave from school at around noon with the school driver to take us to Hongqiao airport, bag all packed, sans nightie, sans passport. The first surprise came when Geoff allowed me to get into the car, then said, “I have a surprise for you. I am not going with you.” What? I was not feeling great about this new development but okay, trust me, he says. He handed me a packet of envelopes with instructions on the top about when to open the first one. He closed the door, waved good-bye and the adventure began.
Second surprise: I was not going to Hongqiao Airport. I figured it out as we drove past the exit and on. I sent him a text. “This feels very weird.” And then: “Do I have a passport?” “No,” he texts back. A few minutes later, he texts, “Trust me.” Okay.
At 2:00 pm, I opened the first envelope and read the instructions. Printed underneath some pictures that detailed where I was supposed to wait in Pudong Airport. Yes, that’s right, in Pudong. The pictures placed me in front of the International Arrivals gate no later than 2:30. Brilliantly, I deduced that I was meeting someone from Vancouver, flight arriving at 2:35. But who would it be? As it turned out, I had an hour to wait. Each time people came through, I stared at faces. After the first 40 minutes, I began to think that strangers were people I knew.
I began to consider who it might be: Probably a girl friend, since I gravely miss my girlfriends here. Could it be Ria? No, she’s been to China and has newly moved to Pentiction. What about Karen? Doubtful. She has not expressed any interest and was concerned about the WCs. Nancy? No, her husband has some medical issues at the moment. Lynne? She was just here so no way. What about Jan? Most likely. She is my oldest friend. On the other hand, maybe it would be my brother and his wife or my aunt and uncle. But why would Geoff not be with me? No it had to be a girlfriend, most likely Jan.
Surprise number three: “Terry, Watt,” I hear from behind me and turn. There are 5 of my best friends! NO WAY! I roared and then stood still in total shock. It took me a moment to unfurl the “Welcome to Shanghai” banner Geoff had made for me, then walk to them and hug and shriek at each of them. Surprise doesn’t begin to cut it—shock is much closer. I was gobsmacked entirely.
Geoff had hired a driver and a 6 seat van to take us all to the hotel. “All aboard!” Mr. Janca (Ed. note: Okay, let me straighten out some people here. I am sure you have all travelled via air and when you get off the plane there are drivers holding up signs with the names of arriving passengers on them. In the effort to keep Terry from knowing what was going on, I could hardly have the name “Watt, Therrien, Rollins, MacPhail, Cregg-Guinan or Waldie” being held up could I? So, I took a letter from each the ladies names in alphabetical order: Jan, kAren, lyNne, nanCy, riA. Thus Janca. I explained this in my instructions to the visitors, but they all continue to call the driver Mr. Janca – these are the women their husbands are dealing with, folks) was awesome and did what he was told, quite happily. Geoff had thoughtfully installed 6 champagne glasses and 2 ice cold bottles of champers, which we immediately cracked open and drank. By the time we got to the hotel, everyone was over the jet lag and I was whirling like a top. First stop, the 12th floor to check in. Sorry, no passport. Now I know that this is not to be trifled with in China. The hotel MUST make a copy of your passport and visa and have it on file, repeat customers included. It took a few calls but eventually Geoff was able to send the copies to Peter the manager and he was satisfied. The hot h’ors d’oevres arrived within a few minutes of being installed in the room, along with flowers, ice buckets and ice. On the bar were a dozen bottles of white wine and 6 large beer were cooling in the fridge! Let the games begin!
After several drinks and appies, I opened the envelope. Included were subway cards, a train ticket home, a certificate for foot massages for all, a new charge card for me with which to purchase 2 dinners at places already reserved, a whack-o-cash and an itinerary for some of the activities. Geoff had thought of everything! (Ed. note: I fall on bended knees to beg the forgiveness of any of the 5 husbands – any husband really, involved in this. I just had too much time on my hands.)