A pole dancer abroad
Travel they said, it’ll be fun they said. Travel is good for the soul, it shows you new and amazing things, educates you about other cultures and often times reminds you just how lucky you are to have the life you do back home. But it can also come with challenges and set backs which make you question the very nature of our universe and why the hell you thought it was a good idea to travel in the first place. My recent holiday has been one of extremes. Extreme awe and wonder, extreme weather, and extreme disappointment and stress. The plan was simple, fly out of Sydney to China on the 1st of August, enjoy some sightseeing and dumplings, fly back home on the 12th of August a more cultured and worldly soul. What unfolded was not so simple.
When you run a small business that is essentially a one woman show, a decision has to be made when you go on holiday. Do you shut down, or do you entrust your precious baby to another person to run in your absence? I choose the latter, not wanting to have any delays with customers getting their precious shipments of pole wear. I mean, as much as I’d like you all to think that I’m an Einstein level genius, it’s not rocket science to pack and ship orders, it’s just a process that you follow. I asked a trusted friend to house sit, look after my kitty and also pack and ship any orders that came in. They agreed and we went through the process of packing a few orders prior to my departure so I could show them the ropes. I also left a very detailed standard operating procedure document with screenshots and detailed instructions for them. And of course they were still able to reach me via Whatsapp and email while I was away, I was in a different country, not on another planet. They told me everything would be taken care of and off I went on my adventure believing that my business was in safe hands and my customers would still enjoy the same level of service I had always provided them. Turns out that wasn’t the case. I watched from my phone as orders started coming in and yet I didn’t see any of them being fulfilled. I began messaging and calling my friend to get an update, they assured me everything was fine, they were just working through the process and it was taking them a little longer then expected. Everything was not fine (insert deep narrator voice here). I left my little business on Thursday, when it got to the following Tuesday morning and orders still hadn’t been sent out, I lost faith in my friend and decided to put a password protection on my website and inform all customers that if they choose to place orders from then on they wouldn’t be despatched until my scheduled return from overseas on the 13th of August.
At this stage I had several orders which I was still trying to get my friend to despatch for me. On Tuesday afternoon I was advised that all orders up to that point were lodged with the post office. However there was no scan from the post office, so either there was a problem with the labels on the items, unlikely as the post office would’ve realised this when they were lodged with them, or my trusted friend was lying to me. I called again, only to be assured that they had in fact lodged the parcels at the post office despite the lack of scan events. I didn’t know what to do at this point. I was in China, thousands of miles away, I had hundreds of dollars of stock that was now untraceable, no tracking from Auspost, but assurances that they’d been sent. I emailed all of my customers to advise them of the situation as best I could and assure them that if their parcels weren’t delivered by the time I was scheduled to return on the 13th of August I would send them all out via express post myself.
This wasn’t to be the end of the tale. We were scheduled to fly from Shanghai to Xi’an on Friday 9th of August, but a typhoon had different plans for us. No planes flew out that night, or the next day. At this time we weren’t sure what our tour organisers would do with us, would they extend our tour so that we still got to finish the remaining two days, or would they book us on flights straight home to Australia. We met our tour guide at 7:30am on Sunday morning to go to the airport and sort out our flights. We were booked on the domestic flight to Xi’an again at 7pm that night, and then on an international flight back to Sydney on Wednesday the 14th as 4pm. We called the airline in Australia to change our connecting flight back to Adelaide from the Monday to the Thursday of that week. We spent all day at the airport in Shanghai where you can’t even buy a drink. Seriously, there are hardly any bars at airports in China and they have the worst coffee in the entire world. I emailed all of the customers who had placed orders again to advise of our changed schedule and apologise again for the delay and to thank them for their patience and understanding.
We made it to Xi’an as planned, spent the next two and a half days there finishing our planned tour, then headed back to the airport on Wednesday to catch our flight home. Except when we went to check in the airline didn’t have any record of us being booked on the flight. The flight was completed booked out, no seats available even in business class, which I would’ve paid for at this point just to get home. Thankfully our tour guide was still with us at the airport and started making phone calls to arrange other flights for us. Without her I don’t know what we would have done, the language barrier in China is very difficult to bridge. At this stage we didn’t care where we flew out of, how long it took, or which city we flew into, we just wanted to get on a plane home. It took several hours, but eventually our tour guide informed us that we were flying back to Shanghai that night and that we would then fly from Shanghai into Sydney the next night. The drama wasn’t over yet through, we checked in using the self-serve system, but when we went to drop our luggage at the check in counter the staff realised that all of our passport numbers were incorrect on the booking. Which couldn’t be fixed at the airport we were at, it had to be done at a different location. We were running out of time to catch this flight now and our group was holding up all the other passengers as well. Our tour guide once again smoothed the way for us and we were allowed to drop our bags and proceed to the security gate. At the security gate we encountered the same problem with the passport numbers and weren’t allowed through. Again our tour guide had to come through with us and explain the situation and then we were granted permission to go through security and get very thoroughly frisked. I mean buy me a drink first before you go for the grope. We made it to our gate just in time for boarding then were further delayed for half an hour after boarding before we were allowed to take off. We arrived at the airport on Wednesday at 1pm, flew out again at 9:30pm, landed in Shanghai at 11:30pm. One of our group members luggage didn’t show up initially, we waited another 15mins for the staff to discover it had become stuck on the belt somewhere and to set it free again. Our tour guide had arranged for the airline to shuttle us to a hotel for the night. We waited another hour for this to eventuate, finally reaching our hotel at around 2am. Again I had to email all of my customers to advise of the change in our schedule and new despatch date for orders of Monday 19th of August.
It really was quite a stressful time for us not knowing what was happening with the store at home, not being able to tell our customers exactly what was happening with their orders. Having to email updates and apologies two or three times to some customers. Not being sure of our schedule the whole time and not having much power to change things ourselves, but relying on our tour guides.
We’d like to extend our heart felt thanks once again to any customers who have been affected by this negatively. We really do appreciate your support, patience and understanding. We were so disappointed with how this all unfolded and will take many learning's from this experience to ensure there are no repeats in the future.
Things I’ve learnt about China:
- Domestic check in opens 3 hours before boarding and your tour guides will make sure you’re there that early every time
- Coffee sucks everywhere
- Wifi is very slow and not always easy to access
- There are no mini bars in any of the hotels and no bars at the airport
- Toilets are a minefield to navigate, majority are squats, toilet paper not always included
- Always carry tissues and wet wipes with you because of the toilet situation
- Hotels very rarely have pools
- The language barrier is a large problem for important things like flight bookings, we’d have been totally screwed without our tour guides
- It’s a great place to visit and I really do recommend it
- It’s cleaner than you think it will be
- It’s greener than you think it will be, lots of trees and vegetation
- The temperature is never reported above 39.9C because there’s a law that school and work is cancelled for all citizens if the temperature is above 40C
- Road rules don’t seem to exist, it’s like dodgem cars out there
- All the taxis seem to have both their engine and fuel lights on at all times
- Taxis are ridiculously cheap, even when the driver is obviously ripping you off you don’t care because it’s still really cheap compared to Australia
- People will push in front of you in queues all the time
- There is lots of queuing, we queued for nearly an hour to get into the Shanghai museum, then only had 15 minutes to look around before we had to meet up with the group again and move on to somewhere else
- For a nation that seems to hate the capitalist west, they certainly try and sell you lots of stuff
Love Fi xoxo
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