In The Realms of Kafka

Nicholas Quirke was dumbfounded, confounded and a little hysterical on 6th March. On arrival at Kunming airport, a 3 hour stopover in southern China, he stepped into  a bizarre and bewildering series of events that would have had Kafka reeling. His worry about not having a ticket for the 2nd leg of his journey proved to be justified. He discovered the flight to Kolkata had been cancelled.  There was no indication of what was happening, no upcoming flight details and no one to speak with. Everyone he tried to talk to at the airport could not speak English which meant he was completely in the dark. He initially thought he would sweat it out till the morning and find somewhere to sleep.  His phone and I pad were in need of charging, he had no cash, ATM machines would not take his card, all he had to eat was some sachets of cooked tofu Wei had given him which resembled Dog Food and nowhere to sleep. The Airport WiFi supported only WeChat, so he could not access his Itinerary to see what was going on. And to add to his obstacles, he was due to be met by his friend Amrit at Kolkata which had already proved difficult as he was only in contact through FaceBook and China  blocked the social networking site. Nicholas found a corner to rest and decided to contact Kate again to see if she could help. She managed to communicate through FaceBook with Amrit, who downloaded WeChat and they could message direct which gave him some relief. He gave Kate his Opodo log in to check what was going on and discovered the flight was changed to 10.50. Again he felt some relief, though he started to have concerns about dehydration. He then set off on a mission to locate a point where he could charge his phone and use his laptop. He settled in a couple of places but the points didn’t work and he then scoured the immense airport to find somewhere. Security couldn’t understand him and didn’t want to and eventually he was assisted by a Chinese gentleman. By now it was 5am. During this time flights were announced for way beyond the one he was scheduled on so he contacted his sister again who got in touch with Opodo for him. He finally found a bank of chargers but you needed to pay for them and there was no obvious way of doing this and no one was using them. He discovered a point where a Chinese couple were watching TV on their phone. he asked if he could use it as his phone by now was dead they were very understanding and he was able to contact his sister again. It transpired that Chinese Eastern Airlines cancelled the flight and booked him on one that went at 11.40pm on the 5th which was while he was flying from Beijing on, yes, Chinese Eastern Airlines. This meant there was no connecting flight anymore and if he wanted to go to Kolkata he would have to get a new ticket. Kate sorted this out, arranged for him to be on the next flight which wasn’t until 11.40 pm that night. He was exhausted by the worry and lack of sleep having been up at 6 the previous day and was once again on his odyssey wandering round an airport at night. A highlight of the morning was meeting an Indian medical student whom Nicholas gave up the charger for as he was looking desperate and they had a long talk which was a relief from the blank stares and giggles he was getting every time he opened his mouth  There was no Hotel available and he tried calling Platinum Services at American Express who once again he could not get through to. It required him to got back onto his now travel agent, Kate, who sourced a hotel and booked it for him. How he was going to get there without any money he didn’t know. He couldn’t see any taxis when he got out of the airport and decided to just start walking and hope he could find it. He felt a hysteria descend as he trudged along the empty streets. A taxi pulled up and the driver spoke a little English. Nicholas explained he had no money only a card the driver said he would take him to an ATM then to the hotel. He was truly relieved to reach his destination. The only hurdle now was to get them to let him check in early. Of course they couldn’t find the booking, said he was at the wrong hotel, but translator and some diligent research on their part meant they found him. They wanted a 400 yuan deposit, which he did not have.They of course did not take foreign cards, cash only. Thy arranged for the shuttle bus to take him back to the airport but he tried to explain that was no good. They got the bus and he was accompanied by the bell boy. They got to the airport, and it was a surreal sight as they walked the entire length only to discover that it was an exchange office and the hotel still had his passport. The good news was the teller spoke English and she was able to direct the boy to the bank. It was midday by the time he finally got some sleep. Nicholas enjoyed a wonderful shower and freshen up before going off to the airport. A soothe uneventful evening and flight. Nicholas got to Kolkata safely. Immigration was slow but he was delighted to see Amrit and his friend DG waiting for him. They got an Uber to the hotel, and had to wait in the street as, despite having been called to advise he was arriving and told it was ok, they did not want to let him in as he was a foreigner. Problem was solved as Amrit invited him to his apartment to stay. Nicholas was very grateful and delighted as he felt he was now experiencing the authentic Calcutta life.

1 Comment

  1. Oh Nick, how horrific, must have been so stressful. Happy to hear you are with your friend now and you can put the chaos behind you and enjoy your stay xx

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