Wednesday, September 20, 2006

15 Minutes

That’s how long we were in Germany before we were nearly deported. There was a yellow “Police line, do not cross” and everything. Special units were called in. Oh, you think I am joking… alas, no, I’m not.

Ok, backing up for a second. I must say that traveling with a group of Chinese certainly has its moments. The shear torrential downpour of blog-worthy events is priceless. I don’t think I could make this stuff up if I tried.

When I arrived at the airport in Beijing to meet Aaron and the three Chinese engineers going with us I immediately noticed the large amount of luggage the group was carrying. I’ll be the first to admit that I pack extremely lightly, sometimes too much so (symptom of too many years hiking with the Boy Scouts… what you don’t bring, you don’t have to carry), but the amount of stuff that they were carrying was definitely beyond the norm, not to mention of course that it was all packed in those obligatory Chinese plastic canvas bag things. Side note: you would think with the amount that some of my ex-girlfriends would pack for a two day beach trip, (read: enough to move to a foreign country for five years) that I would be accustomed to people packing more than necessary… but no, I am not. I never understand people over packing; it just makes it more inconvenient for you. But, I digress like usual…

I questioned Aaron about the excess baggage and he told me “food”. I hoped he wasn’t being literal, but when he opened one back I knew the horrible (absolutely hysterical) truth… they had packed 2 suitcases full of food (ramen noodle, sausages, vacuum packaged fish, etc) and a WHOLE NOTHER suitcase full of water! Yes, they had a suitcase full of water bottles!!!

Even though I knew the answer before I asked, I questioned Aaron as to why, on a travel-heavy trip, they would pack what had to be an additional 50 lbs of food & water. The answer? “Water is very expensive in Europe. It costs 1 or 2 € per bottle!” Well, I guess he is right, when you compare it to the 0.10 € it costs in China. The best part that truly does defy all logic? They had to pay extra at the airport check-in for carrying too much weight! Kinda defeats the purpose is all I’m sayin’…

Ok, so after check-in, our flights were pretty uneventful. Beijing to Dubai was a good 6-7 hours. After a three hour layover, the 6 hour flight to Frankfurt was not all that welcome. Anyway, moving on, we arrived in Frankfurt, collected our bags, and too the shuttle to the train station to go to Hanover…

…when Aaron realized the bag with the video camera and two digital still cameras was missing. Retracing our steps in his mind, he decided they must have left it in our baggage cart at the shuttle stop. Aaron and I raced back to the shuttle and waited impatiently (move you geriatric bus driver!!!) as the shuttle neared Terminal 1. As we approached, I knew my worst fears had be realized. Aaron had seen how worried I was on the trip and thought I shared his worry… that they had just lost thousands of dollars worth of electronic equipment (try paying for that our of your salary when you only earn $120 per month). What I hadn’t told Aaron was my primary fear what that the unattended bag would be treated as a bomb and the bomb-squad would be called in.

Traffic had been cut off from the Terminal loading area. All passengers still inside the terminal were being evacuated to the other side of the building. Police tape was being laid and the bomb squad showed up in about 30 seconds flat. Heavily armed men in flack jackets were everywhere and a small vehicle was unloading a bomb robot.

As our shuttle slowly creeped forward, I finally convinced the driver to let us off. Just as I exited the bus, the police had realized that their bomb was just some idiot leaving their bag behind, and had begun to clean up the tape. I looked over and saw the bomb squad chief holding the camera bag. Before I could say anything, Aaron said, “That’s my bag” and I suddenly found myself sheepishly trying to explain that I was traveling with a group of Chinese men, some of which had never left the country before, and we had so may bags that we accidentally had left one behind.

I can honestly say I was shocked when the handcuffs didn’t come out. I really though we would be taken somewhere and put back on a plane to China. After a very stern lecture form the captain about how expensive and disruptive false alarms like these are (damn it, Aaron, stop smiling! Try and look sorry and not just happy that you have your bag back!!) he wrote down our information and said we could be on our way.

Well, it is time to go to bed now. I am in a guesthouse in the outskirts of Hanover and am pretty stuffed. For dinner tonight I had ramen noodles with fish cakes and sausages. It was actually pretty good!