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Chapter One: So Little Time....
The Great Emma Adventure started out long before this day, or at least the build-up to it did. For the previous three weeks, it seemed that neither Lynne or I had gotten a good night's sleep since THE CALL. This was not due to THE CALL itself; rather it was because of everything besides THE CALL.
I was deep in the midst of a company move. What better way to celebrate the Holidays but by moving your entire company headquarters to another location! Ask Jeeves was moving from Emeryville, California to Oakland, California. While this distance is a scant ten miles, it could have been on another planet for all the work that had to be done by my division and others. With all the timing of an earthquake, I was M.I.A. for the entire weekend plus a day before our trip as the Ask Jeeves offices moved their entire computer network to the new digs.
Meanwhile, Lynne was busy holding the fort (and Paden) down and preparing what she could for the actual trip to Taiwan. As always, she was the model of efficiency, getting together what was needed. Fortunately, we had already experienced the trip once already. In fact, we were fortunate in that we were even going to the same places that we had gone to before, right down to the hotels! We would not be in unfamiliar territory.
We had also had the "travel briefing" from Erin at HeartSent, a slimmed-down version of the same meeting we had for Paden's Adoption. It was a real sense of deja vu as Erin went through all the documents and requirements. Much of what she said was met with nods and "uh-huh's" not because we weren't paying attention, but because it was old hat.
So the big day came, but not as before. I had not been working before (read: unemployed), so the clock seemed to tick slowly as the appointed hour of travel approached. However, in this instance, time was like a jet rocket heading to apogee, a certain arrival that could not be slowed or stopped. Frantically, I was still at work on that morning, fine-tuning some of the changes made from the Jeeves move enough so that I could leave in good conscience. No matter, I would leave anyways, but it was a matter of how guilty I would feel walking out the door.
At Noon, I pried himself away from work for the last time, convinced that the rest of the day would be easy and laid-back. Little did I know that Paden would throw his wrench in the works for the first wrinkle in the day's plans. I had decided at the last minute to stop at HeartSent for any final words of wisdom from the gang, and had been there no more than five minutes when I received a call from Lynne, informing me that Paden's school had called to have Paden brought home with a fever and cold. Yikes! I quickly drove over to pick up Paden and bring him home, while Lynne equally as quickly made a doctor's appointment for him.
In the meantime, Grandma Freels had arrived at the house. She was going to play Nanny to Paden while we were in Taiwan. Little did she know she was about to get a sick little boy to handle! The doctor revealed that Paden had contracted the para-influenza virus, which had been making the pre-school rounds that week. We knew that Paden was in good hands with Grandma, but as any parent will attest, the worry doesn't end. A quick stop at the pharmacy, the bank, and other odds'n'ends, and time accelerated into orbit. Suddenly, it was nine o'clock, and my brother was at the door to chaperone us to the airport. Forgetting completely that there was no rush-hour traffic at that time of night, the commute time was cut in half, and we would find ourselves with some slight extra time on our hands in the International Terminal at San Francisco Airport.
Rockets away, the time evaporated quickly as the second serious wrinkle in the trip appeared. Unknown to us (and I'm sure to HeartSent, as well), the counter agent looked in my passport and asked if I had a visa to enter Taiwan. Ummm, no, I had not needed one before... right? As it turns our, my passport, while still completely valid, was less than six months from expiring, and apparently the Taiwan government doesn't like that. I would have to purchase a "landing visa" when I arrived in Taipei. Lynne was sure I would be denied entry to Taiwan, I was sure I wouldn't. But they gave us our bording passes and were slowly wandered to the gate looking at shops and such. Another (minor) wrinkle hit as we wandered through the security checkpoint, and they pulled me aside to check my pouch. It was then that I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to remove my Swiss Army "card" (like a Swiss Army Knife, but in credit card form). They informed me that I could take it back home (ummm, not gonna happen), or give it to them. Oh, well, I guess I can always buy another one....
The panic-filled moments with the ticket counter had eaten away that extra time we had, so soon we were boarding the flight.
Due to the timimg of THE CALL, the only seats we were able to book to Taiwan so near Christmas and so soon (less than three weeks) were in Business Class.AMEX card to the ready, we at least would enjoy our flights, even if they did cost an arm and leg. The last voyage to Taiwan was on EVA, the Taiwan national airline. This one was on China Airlines, and quite honestly, I could not tell the difference. I guess part of that was because we were seated in the exact same location on this flight as we were on the flight to get Paden: right behind a bulkhead! I guess the fact that the instructions in English were after the instructions in Chinese also had a bit to do with it. The one obvious difference? Those business class seats are pretty nice!