Home! It seemed like a long time coming. It was the most stressful and in many ways the most rewarding trip I have had to China to date. But, I say that every year, the rewarding part, not the stressful part. This WAS definitely THE most stressful trip I had ever taken. I had always prepared for times and experiences such as these and this was the first time I had to actually executive my emergency plan.
It was only about two minutes from realizing what had happened that I called my wife Donna in the States to make the calls, cancel the cards, and start the replacement process. We had talked about his for the last 17 years I had been traveling out of the county, most often without her. Donna usually stayed home with a pocket folder of backup and duplicates of all credit cards, visa’s, passports, airline itineraries and just about anything else one could imagine.
As I ran through my mind about how I could have been so careless, and retracing my steps in my mind I thought about the Didi that was ordered, how I walked from my apt to the school’s gate, got into the car, getting out of the car and reaching for my fanny pack/bag as I watched the driver pull away. Thankfully, I had my cell phone in hand when all else seemed to be lost. I knew that everything that had been lost could be replaced. Not easily and sometimes not cheaply, but replaced nonetheless.
Everything lost could be replaced… except… FLAT STANLEY, the original art form of that paper pal and traveling companion entrusted to me by my grandson, Gavyn!
By the time I had actually reconnected with Matthew and my grandson Gavyn it was a couple of days later and I acquired Flat Stanley 2.0. My children had heard from my wife what had happened to me so the Facetime calls from each of them came through quickly. Aaron was the easy call. I explained what happened, got lots of sympathy and “Oh no’s” from Aaron and Kara. It was Matthew I dreaded talking to. Not because I was fearful of anything Matthew would say, but because I knew I needed to tell him to relay to Gavyn that I had lost his Flat Stanley. I called him before he could call me. I remember when much of the excitement had died down calling Matthew to inform him of losing Flat Stanley. “Oh Nooo…,” were Matthews words, “Should I tell him?” “No, I will,” I said slowly as I rubbed my forehead. There wasn’t sugar coating this, but I said, “I’ll tell him the next time we talk.”
The next time we talked was right then. Gavyn was in earshot and I was on speaker phone. “What?” Gavyn asked. Yep, I told him. But I quickly pulled out Flat Stanley 2.0 and showed him to Gavyn and even showed the Delta Wings that were a part of the photo. I was 12,000 miles away and the photo was blurry but he noticed right away that the new Flat Stanley. He said that’s not the same… it looks shinier… I tried to explain as best I could, and I apologized profusely, but there was no acceptance. I’m not sure what was harder, actually losing Flat Stanley or telling Gavyn that I lost Flat Stanley!
When I arrived home I realized that it was the Episode of Flat Stanley and the attempt to bury this tragedy in creativity that really saved me from completely falling apart. Flat Stanley and his escapades was one of the most fun events that I have ever experienced in all my years of traveling to China to minister and teach.
But December 29, 2017, (coincidentally Josie’s 5th birthday), was steamrolling toward me and I tried to stage an official handing back… but the entire ceremonious event was just FLAT! Flat Stanley 2.0 that is!
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.