Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

“May Wan Tee”

“May Wan Tee”.  I am probably spelling it wrong, but this phrase is one that will stick with me forever.

In January of 2004, Wendy and I were notified that we had a daughter that we were going to be travelling to China to meet.  There were meetings to attend, forms to be signed, and monies to be prepared.  Most importantly, since we would be traveling out of the US, we felt that it would be in our best interest to notify our credit card banks about our plans in the event security checked in and shut done our cards because of activity in China.  This plan had been confirmed by many other families, especially with credit union banks.

And so our credit union was notified that we would be leaving for China on March 15 and planned to return two weeks later.  We were wished well, and the process continued.  On March 7th, we got a call from our adoption agency, travel time had been moved up and we would be leaving on the 13th now.  Of course we are all excited.  What an ”inconvenience” to leave for our daughter earlier?!?

So we arrive at Newark International and check in for our flight.  We bought three seats round trip to allow for our slightly larger than average needs, plus it gave us leg room.  Bringing Madison back using only three seats was not going to be a problem.  The problem occurred when we found out that not only were our three seats not next to each other, not only were we not seated next to our “open” seat that we purchased, but Madison’s seat was approximately fifteen rows in front of either one of us (who happened to be sitting on opposite sides of the airplane.  This was not a budget flight, this was a major international carrier.  After a panicked and irate phone call to our agency concerning this snafu, all was settled before we took off for Hong Kong.

I have mentioned two details now that do not coordinate with the original plans, and as you are about to read, they will have a major impact.  Once we land in Hong Kong, our entire travel group, consisting of nine other great families, meet our guide for this leg of the trip.  While Hong Kong is still considered part of China, it has its own government, currency, etc.  Are you with me yet?  First order of business is checking into the airport hotel.  We are recommended to do so quickly, and in spite of the thirteen hour time difference we must deal with, and the building excitement of our growing family, we need to get some sleep.  We will be a family with child tomorrow morning instead of two days from now as originally planned.  All we have to do is check in for tonight’s stay, and our return flight.  That is all.  Nothing more complicated than that.  Piece of cake.  Checked in plenty of times to a hotel.  English is spoken by the representative.  Yep, should be smooth sailing.

I hand him my credit union credit card.  He swipes it.  Wait for it…

“I’m sorry sir, card not working.”  I have been awake and on the road for nearly twenty hours.  But I know what I just heard.  Calmly, I asked him to try again.  He had to have done something wrong while swiping the card.

Here’s the pitch… just passes over the corner of the plate – STRIKE 2!  “I’m sorry sir, it is coming up declined again.”  ALL SYSTEMS… RED ALERT!  RED ALERT! ALL HANDS ON DECK!  OPEN THE TORPEDO DOORS!  Now I hit the panic button and do all that I can from jumping over the counter to swipe the card myself.  I urged him to try it again.  The card had to work.  I was told by the credit union that there would be no problem.  And finally, I struck out.  I was told for the third time, “declined.”

I called Ben, our guide, over to the counter and explained what was happening.  I had only $7500 in cash on me, $6000 which I needed for adoption proceedings and still had to buy our in-country flights, meals, and hotels.  And then Ben said it, “May Wan Tee.”  I said to him with a confused look, “What?  English Ben.”  Ben replied, “no worries.”  He was right.  My credit card was not working.  I was going to run out of cash in less than 24 hours.  Still had to buy meals.  All this while I was preparing for one of the most beautiful times in my life.  Why should I be worried?

The most reasonable thing to do at this point, with less than ten hours now until we met Madison, was to try and get some sleep.  Trying to save cash, eating was not a priority at the moment.  And with the time difference, it was already Saturday afternoon here in the US, so the credit union was already closed for the next day and a half.  How was I going to communicate and get this straightened out?  I had a calling card, but that was supposed to last me the entire trip and the minutes would be used up before even getting an answer and solution to this problem.  I decided to try using the internet and reach Wendy’s mom, giving her all releveant numbers and who to contact.  There was one representative at the credit union who knew me personally, and knew I was in China and could clearly help and I would have Wendy’s mom see her.

By the time we headed for the provincial capital city Nanchang, it was evening in the US, 10am in China.  And we boarded a flight to Nanchang.  We arrived at the beautiful Jiangxi Hotel where our current guide, De had us register.  As all the other families took turns doing so, I approached De soon to realize his English was not as good as Ben’s, but I gave it an effort anyway.  I explained everything so far that has happened.  And then… “May Wan Tee.”  Aw, come on!  You too?!?  And then De pulled out his credit card, put it on the counter, and the desk person took the card, and handed me keys to our room.  Just like that.  I knew De a total of five minutes, literally.

His kindness and belief in “May Wan Tee” taught me alot that day.  I was in a foreign country, very little to no English spoken, no credit card, and very limited cash, with two other people I was responsible for, all for the next eleven days, and I was told not to worry.  His favor to me allowed me time to communicate back home, even with the time difference.  It took three more days to resolve, but I was able to do it without worrying.  It all worked out, no worries.  May Wan Tee.

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