This post has very little to do with travel - except in terms of dealing with travel issues. But it tells you a bit about me. And since it happened while I am traveling, I am including it here. Fell free to skip to Chiang Mai 😉
I like plans. Everything does not have to be planned, but once I have a plan, I don't like to change it. It is a character flaw, but it makes my life work. If you have ever traveled with me, you are nodding your head as you read this.
A perfect example of this is a typical day at Jazz Fest. The car leaves from Soniat at 10:15. If it leaves at 10:10, I am thrilled. But it does not leave at 10:20. Once I arrive at the Fest, I don't really care what happens, but I like to have my start of the day planned.
When I turned 40, I decided that this inflexibility was something that needed work. So I took a vow to try to be more flexible, and became "Flexible Maggi - 2007". The fact that the title of this blog references 2017 gives you some indication as to how well this is going... it is a work in progress.
On Monday morning, I got to take this new iteration of Maggi out for a test drive. And I survived the plan change without a tear, at least I think so. This also explains why Monday was such a very long day for me.
My older sister - MA is the smartest individual I know personally. But all that knowledge mixing around in her brain sometimes means that simple things are overlooked. This is one such event.
MA and I began planning this trip about six months ago. we had been playing around with itineraries, but the big pieces started to fall into place in January. Over the next few months, we began to work out details around specific cities and flights. The internet is a glorious thing!
As our departure date approached, I sent MA several reminders to bring her passport down to Atlanta. Everything else is easily replaceable, but the passport is a pain. When she arrived in Atlanta, she sent me a note confirming that her passport was with her. The countdown began.
Over the next few weeks, we finalized our plans, and talked about packing. Typical travel stuff. I left for Thailand two weeks ahead of her, so she was able to fill in some gaps for me with items that I had forgotten. I reminded her to call the bank and make copies of key documents and there were a few other minor items to address. But she was basically packed.
I awoke on Monday morning early and looked at my phone. There was a WhatsApp message from my other sister, MO, asking me if I knew where to find MA's passport. A bit of panic crept in. I was on the other side of the world and unable to help search, so all I could do was stress.
I started sending frantic messages with suggestions as to where to look. I knew that it had made it to Atlanta, and had been used to obtain an Australian travel visa, but that was about all I could offer.
After 2 hours of searching in Atlanta, my sisters decided that the passport was truly lost and MA was going to have to obtain and expedited passport. So with me in Thailand and the two of them in the US, we started doing research on obtaining this document. MA's plane was scheduled to leave at 1:05 pm on Monday. It was now about 9 pm in the US.
The first piece of bad news we received was that the next appointment for an expedited visa was on July 14th. The passport then usually takes 1-2 days to arrive, so this would mean a one week delay (minimum!) to MA's travel, and leave me by myself for 56 extra days. I was really sad about this fact.
MA and MO finally decided that their best opton woud be to go down to the passport office to see what coud be done in person. The office opened at 7 am on Monday. MA went ahead and printed all of the required documents and the two of them finally went to bed.
The old Maggi would have cried, and maybe she did, a little bit. But flexible Maggi decided that Mom (who passed away in 2011) knew where the passport was located. And the best place for me to talk to Mom is in a Catholic Church. Crazy, I know but it works for me. So I went online to figure out where in this land of Buddhist temples was a Catholic Church.
Google sent me to Sacred Heart Cathedral which a about a 40 minute walk. I knew that this break would do me good.
This whole experience brought back memories of my Mom. I can remember spending a good day or two after each vacation searching through Mom's room to see where she had hidden her rings this time!
We had been burglarized one time and this left a lasting impression. The hiding places were often ridiculous! I can remember finding her rings in the toe of a sock that had been paired and stuffed back in the drawer. There was more than one time when I would arrive home to find my mother on the floor of the kitchen, sorting through trash to find something that she ad accidentally thrown away. So I knew that if something could be found, that lady would show me the way!
As I walked to the church, I started to realize that we had options. MA had used my Sky Miles for the ticket, so the easiest thing to do would be to cancel the existing ticket, re-deposit the miles into my account, and book a new ticket using miles to Jakarta, which is where we were eventually scheduled to connect. MA could then extend the trip at the end to make up for the shortened front-end. I was actually feeling pretty good about these options!
So I found the church, but it was locked. Fortunately, it had a grotto, which would have to do for my conversation with my Mom.
By the time we were finished, I had a plan. I moved to a coffee shop across the street and began searching for alternate flights on miles. The options were surprisingly numerous, though each would involve 3-4 connections. I took some screen shots and sent them to MA. It was late in Atlanta, and early morning in Chiangmai Mai, so I had a few hours to kill until something could happen, so I went to continue my exploration of the city.
As I was walking up the street, I saw a boat launch for tourist boats. What the heck - I had time to kill. So I signed up for a river cruise in the afternoon, and continued my walk.
There are no real highlights from this day, but it kept me busy and it served to distract me from the situation in Atlanta. I did find a good technology store and decided I might be able to improve my IT issues if I got a new power core for my iPad ( I was partially right - a five year old iPad will still have its issues). The boat ride was fine - nothing that interstitial to share, but it did give me a feel for the area around Chiang Mai. There are some very nice resorts up the river.
I found a good Indian restaurant for dinner - no curry for the first day in a while - and then headed back to my hotel. It was getting close to morning in the US and I was eager to see what was going to happen with my sister. I was surprisingly okay with any outcome at this point.
Some time after 6, I received a WhatsApp (may I refer to these as texts from here on?) from MA saying that she had not had an epiphany overnight so the passport was officially lost. She and MO were headed to the passport office to try to be first in line.
There was not update until after 8. MO sent me a note that said MA had an appointment that morning for a passport and that there was a possibility that she would be on her originally scheduled flights! This was not even a possibility merely 7 hours ago! I tried not to get too excitedly because - really - this is a government project. I am cynical whenever government is involved. But I started to think "just maybe..."
The crazy thing is that I got a text from MO around 9:30 that MA had finished her interview and the passport would likely be done in an hour! Seriously! Now I was anxious.
The next update I received was around 11:15 and it said that they were pulling into the airport. There is a 90 minute cutoff for international flights so I thought that she might actually make it. I sent a note that said "if she doesn't have time to check a bag, she can buy anything she needs in Singapore." Holy smoke - she was going to make it!
Then I heard nothing. Flexible Maggi resisted the urge to request an update. It was not easy.
Some time around 11:50, I received a note that said MA had made it through security and was now waiting at her gate for departure. I breathed a sigh of relief and said a big thank you to God (and my Mom, frankl, because I would have not made it through the day without her counsel) and finally went to sleep. My sister WAS going to be joking me - as planned! - after all.
In case you are wondering how this showcases the "new and improved" Flexible Maggi, 2017, the old Maggi would have cried several times and NOT considered any reasonable alternatives. And this experience has already been put into practice three times in the time since! I consider that a win.
If al goes well, there will not have to be a Flexible Maggi 2027.
And I meet up with MA in Jakarta tomorrow afternoon!