I was to log on to China's premier chat platform, QQ on Sunday morning – their Saturday night, to wish Conspirator a happy birthday. I would buy a little cake and some birthday candles, and sing happy birthday. All of this was pre-arranged with Co-Conspirator during our weekly Wednesday chat, while Conspirator out of the room. A weekend call would be throroughly unexpected because our usual chat time is during the week. Since hatching that plan, I had been rubbing my hands and gleefully snickering, anticipating this joyous surprise I would spring, and the delight my dear one would surely feel.
When you live on the other side of the world, you have to do your utmost to ensure your loved ones know they are loved, dont'cha know.
What Actually Happened:
Sometime on Friday, I lost my internet connection. This was not like last week, when it would fade in and out, but mercifully was restored in time to keep my chat date with my friends, thereby allowing us to arrange this birthday surprise. This time it was completely gone. No World Wide Web and no internet TV to enjoy a movie on during the evening. Of course, no QQ: no birthday surprise.
Sam to the rescue!!! As always.
Except Sam was busy hosting a long-anticipated visitor, a former teacher at this school who had set the bar so high that many foreign teachers failed to meet his standard. It took me 2 years to live down his reputation, or at least establish my own and/or outgrow comparisons to him. Knowing Sam wanted to enjoy Byron's company, I didn't want to message him with my trifling internet problems. But then, as always...
Sam to the rescue!!!
He messaged me, asking how my day was going. The perfect opening! I texted back that I was frustrated because of the internet access problem. He had bigger fish to fry: bringing Byron to the school, to meet me and to coordinate a massive dinner in celebration. Would I be available around noon?
Suddenly, I too had bigger fish to fry. House needed cleaning. Snack plates prepared. Hot water and coffee. Getting company-ready. Eating breakfast, which I hadn't yet done. Yep, lots of things to worry about and take care of that day, not the least of which included entertaining 7 guests, one of them a legend of the classroom. It was a very nice visit. We laughed, we talked. We drank coffee and indulged in some snacks. Pictures were taken.
Through it all my mind harbored the joy of surprising my friend on the other side of the world.
And that would be possible thanks to Sam, who, in spite of visiting with his long-time friend and coordinating things so that the experience would be sublime for all, took time out to call tech support about my internet connection. He promised they would be here before 10AM the next day. I calculated: 10AM here is 9PM there. There's a chance I might still be able to make this birthday memorable. This wasn't a fleeting thought, but I had a houseful and a legend to entertain, so I couldn't dwell on it.
It was nice to have the company, and even nicer to be able to slang around with a fellow English speaker who is about my age. Of course we included our younger friends who, maybe did not get all the slang, or even everything we said because, when native speakers get together, they tend to shoot rapid-fire syllables at each other. Our Chinese friends have a hard time keeping up with all of the slang, idioms and speed. That was perhaps inconsiderate of Byron and me. On the other hand, it seems the others didn't mind.
At dinner, we followed the normal pattern. Toasts, tons of food and laughter. Soon the group devolved into women, men and the foreigners respectively, chatting together. The evening wound up at around 9PM. I had ridden my bike to the restaurant – riding is easier on my leg than walking, but strolled along, pushing my bike on the way back. I had a mission, you see. I had to stop at a bakery and pick up a cake for my hopeful meeting online.
After that purchase, I gave my apologies and mounted up. My leg was hurting badly; riding would help relieve it somewhat. They strolled while I rode circles around them, all the way to the housing area.
Next morning: out of bed! Get ready for...! Soon there will be internet, and a birthday song will be sung!
The tech didn't show up.
Gary did, and we had a nice visit. He conveyed his birthday greetings. Chris, one of my colleagues asked if my service had been restored and suggested I reboot the modem. Oh, if only that would have worked the half-dozen times I'd already tried it! He also expressed the hope that this day would be special for my dear, unwittingly waiting for a call.
Now it's Monday, and still no internet. I'm starting to get a little antsy. I have a blog or 2 to write, and I can't write anyone any of the emails that I owe them. Still no sign of the tech, but Sam came by. He's on campus for remedial driver training.
We had nice conversation, except when he got mad about my internet connection not being fixed. After sternly reprimanding the tech for not coming by yesterday, he lent me his phone so that I could send my conspirators a message. Surely at least one of the would be wondering what happened, after all that careful planning, and my not 'showing up'.
Now they know I'm not dead – that was the message title I sent them, and now I know why my online service failed. The whole system had gone to fiber-optics, but my equipment had not been upgraded. Mr. Tech will be by tomorrow to wire my system up, and Sam will take a break from driver training to facilitate the installation.
I write this entry in lieu of the surprise Co-Conspirator and I had planned. It is not as great as seeing my dear ones' smiles and surely it cannot convey how special they are to me, but it is heartfelt. Happy Birthday, my dear Conspirator! Look: here is your cake!