Amazing Race Moments

Back in the day before we had kids, or smart phones or 3G or travel apps, we decided to fly from our city in China to Shanghai on a whim. We had our Lonely Planet guidebook and a map. That was it. The tickets were purchased from a single-window travel agency on a street corner. We told them the date and destination, handed over passports and waited an hour until a guy on a bike rode up with our paper tickets.

The next day we were on our way to the airport via “black taxi” meaning the vehicle wasn’t a real taxi…it was a guy with a little van who hung out near the front gate of our school and made his living taking people wherever they needed to go because hardly anyone had a car and taxis didn’t frequent our part of the city. This guy said he’d take us to the airport (or at least we think that’s what he said even though we only knew enough Chinese to ask a question and sometimes maybe understood the answer…) so we trusted he knew how to get there.

After cruising along for quite some time, little by little we don’t recognize any of our surroundings. The urban scene has turned a bit more rural and time seems to have slowed down. Instead of a shiny new airport freeway, we’re bumping along a village road, avoiding moon-crater potholes and watching chickens scurry along beside us. The realization that we’re cutting it pretty close hits us as the driver pulls over and asks a cluster of idle workers which way to the airport. I’m not kidding you…they each pointed in opposite directions. Continuing on, we pass the same chicken a few times and it’s starting to become obvious we’re very lost.

I’m not the best at taking things in stride, especially when I’m about to miss the flight I’ve saved and scrounged to afford, and I have no idea how we’d get a refund (we wouldn’t). So I just kinda lost it! Have you seen those scenes in “The Amazing Race” when someone completely loses their cool? I know I’ve sat on my couch watching a reality show flip-out and judged them. But, all of a sudden, I was the star in my very own reality show! Oh how America would hate me if they saw me now…sitting in the back seat of a “bread loaf van” saying “this guy is an idoit!!” …”how do you say that in Chinese???!!!” (thankfully I didn’t know how to say that in Chinese).

As I continued my hissy fit, threatening more than a few times to get out right now, we finally stumbled upon the airport expressway. Hallelujah! We knew where we were. Except the driver had no idea how to get onto the main road. He ended up driving UP the EXIT ramp. Oh, my goodness. All the words that came out of my mouth. Wow. Just wow. Thank God there was no film crew in that van.  Somehow we made our flight.

To this day this is one of my most unbelievable “Amazing Race Moments.” I had to coin a phrase for them to break their power to make me feel like scum, because that’s what I’m prone to think when I see someone else making a huge deal over something like this on reality television and the producers of the show write the story to make them look like a villain. I’m wondering how many times I’ve let myself write my story so that I believe the “I’m a horrible person” lie because I got upset and made some bad choices.

Here’s another one just in case you don’t believe me. My mom was visiting us, and a new, top of the line, indoor playplace for kids had magically appeared in our neighborhood. The GRAND OPENING day came, and I decided to take my two oldest kids and my mom out for the day. Since the place was quite pricey, I never imagined every other person in the city with children and a mother would be there, too.

When we arrived and found a “One In, One Out” waiting situation, I was stunned. A cheery girl with a clipboard and a feather pen handed us number 70 and 71 on a sticky note. Since we all had a number, no one concerned themselves with standing in line, like waiting for your name to be called for a restaurant reservation. But then, all of a sudden, a lady and her kid walked up and strolled into the front door without a number or anything. Crazy herd mentality ensued. People RUSHED the door and my mama bear instinct kicked in because I thought someone was about to get hurt.

This was TEN YEARS after the previously described “Amazing Race Moment” and my Chinese has improved. I started yelling and flailing so loud in Chinese “This is not a zoo!!” “We are not animals!” “Line up!!!” at the crowd! I guess my frantic frenzy motivated the previously apathetic feather pen girl to actually do her job and she sprang into action, demanding everyone get in line by their sticky-note-assigned order. Another scene right out of “The Amazing Race” which would invite the viewing audience to scorn me.

So what have I learned? Nothing, obviously,  since I still have “Amazing Race Moments.” Ha..but really… I’ve learned that like it or not, this traveling and overseas living thing we do is gonna get the best of me some days. I can hide and be ashamed of these incidents because I’m afraid other people will judge me and put me on their “world’s worst humans” list, or I can tell you about it and we can laugh together because I’m willing to bet you’ve got a handful of “Amazing Race Moments,” too.  Thank God they’re few and far between!

I dare you to share one of your own…

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Do you have any “Amazing Race Moments” of your own to share?

12 Comments

  1. Ruth June 7, 2016

    I cannot handle that show! I watched it once and was like, “THIS IS INCREDIBLY STRESSFUL!”  It’s like all my real life worst moments. Or it would be if you threw some children into the mix.

    My most recent not so gracious travel moment was coming back to China a few months ago with my 5 year old, 2 year old, 2 month old, and (thank goodness) my mom. We had already been traveling for 24 hrs when we made it to Beijing. We were waiting in the security line when it just stopped . Eventually found out the computer stopped working and they didn’t know how long it would take to fix. Oh, and it was the only line we could go through with a stroller. Everyone is done by this point – baby is screaming, toddler is lying on the floor crying, and I am not even caring if I look like the obnoxious  foreigner with a hundred people standing around watching, I just want someone to fix this problem!!  We lived through it and now everyone has another story to add to their crazy foreigner repertoire.

    I  like what you said about not letting those moments define you. I’ve been having a lot of those moments with my kids lately and feeling horrible about myself for losing my temper again. “I am a terrible mom and all they’ll remember is me getting mad at them and I’ll never be able to change…” Such power we can give our failures instead of remembering hoe much we need that grace and allowing ourselves to move past those moments and start again.

    1. M'Lynn June 8, 2016

      I feel like I’ve had that experience, but in reverse. Once we land in USA we have to check back in, go through security again and then go to the regional terminal to get on a tiny plane (50 seats) and people stare at us like we’re horrible parents because at least one of the three kids is crying during the security line, then the layover then the actual flight (they take turns crying…or all cry together…sometimes I join them). The last flight is only one hour, but by that time we are all DONE because we’ve been up for more than 24 hours at that point. And it’s HARD!! So I have to remind myself to pack plenty of grace and M&Ms and take lots of deep breaths! I’m so thankful my parents drove 5 hours to pick us up this year so we could skip that last flight! Just strapped the kids down in a car and drove!!

  2. Brittany June 8, 2016

    Oh my goodness, what an adventure!! We felt a little like Amazing Racers when on a short term trip to Romania before we moved here. I was pregnant with my first and we were flying standby. In July/August. Worst decision ever!!! On the way there, I was so excited we got on our very first flight only to have an attendant come and tell us we have to get off because the plane was too heavy. That lead to so many re-routings and running from gate to gate and thankfully, we arrived on time. However, when trying to leave, we got stranded in Budapest. We were stuck there for 4 days without being able to fly out and then one seat was available so I flew out alone. Pregnant and alone. And my husband waited an additional 6 days before he finally just had to buy a ticket to get home. Never again will we fly standby!!! We can laugh about it now, but we were miserable! And it certainly did not save us any money. In fact, we spent a lot more on food and lodging than if we had just bought real tickets!

    1. M'Lynn June 8, 2016

      Brittany, I’ve never flown standby and this story has convinced me that I probably never will!!

  3. Marie June 8, 2016

    Every time I am in a non-western airport I feel Amazing Race moments come upon me and thankfully I can restrain my impatience.

    Once my son who was 5 at the time and I were walking ON the sidewalk when a furgon driver (a van taxi) decided to drive on the sidewalk. Since I was holding his hand I yanked him out of the way. If I hadn’t moved so quick we both would have been hit. Mamma bear unleashed her wrath! I screamed, “You stupid idiot! You almost hit us. Learn how to drive!!  What an idiot!” All in English and I’m sure he understood the anger behind my words even though he wouldn’t have understood the English. Everyone walks here, it is noisy and this day was no different until I lost my temper. Everyone stopped and watch the crazy American lady lose it. It was so quiet.

    I loved how you said these moments do not define us. At the time I felt bad for losing my temper but now I laugh at it.  I choose to learn from my mistakes.

    1. M'Lynn June 8, 2016

      Yes…may we be quicker to laugh, offer grace to all (including ourselves) and quicker to forgive (even ourselves). But…oh, my that mama bear instinct is strong! And sometimes feels like a knee-jerk reaction. I can see why mama bears eat people. LOL. And…some of my most bewildering Amazing Race moments have happened in American airports! Those kind are extra sneaky because I tend to let my guard down and think things should go “just so” in America.

      1. Ellie June 9, 2016

        “I can see why mama bears eat people. LOL” – love it!! Yes! 🙂

  4. Jennifer Ott June 8, 2016

    Sigh.  After one month in-country (mind you, a country with power outages at least 8 hours daily…and water is tied to power), we were left at the very last-minute with a huge tiling job to complete between me and my husband (and our four young children).  No national help.  The only others on our team had left the country.  I asked our team to “Please leave me alone!” in an email after I ended up weeping in pain on the floor after ripping my hands bloody on tiles while covered in mastic powder and no water to bathe after 8 hours of work.  My kids still talk about it (Momma doesn’t cry much, let alone spread out on nice cool tile).  Our team leader decided I was irrational after my outburst (I justified it by telling myself I was polite after he told me to ‘just persevere’), so I don’t interact with him much still.And the guilt!!!!  My kids still remembering it.  That one (written) sentence forever determining my fate here.  But I am trying to remind myself that one mistake, one meltdown, doesn’t define me.  Especially since I woke up the next morning, asked forgiveness, and got the job done. Sigh.  Thanks for being a safe place even when the humor isn’t quite there yet.  (Actually, my kids totally make fun of me for that moment, and it has led to good transition discussions.)

    1. Rhoda June 26, 2016

      I’m so sorry that this was your experience. Wow. I wouldn’t have handled that as sweetly as you… Just wow. Maybe, you could bring this up and tell your team leader that you still think of it, it still bothers you, and you’d have been welcomed, sheltered, and accepted if he had just shown you some grace.

  5. M'Lynn June 8, 2016

    “But I am trying to remind myself that one mistake, one meltdown, doesn’t define me.  Especially since I woke up the next morning, asked forgiveness, and got the job done.” Yes, Jennifer! You do that! Down with the shame. Be free 🙂 And…I’ve found that even when my kids witness the worst version of me, I can turn it around by apologizing and using it as a teaching moment. I just wish they’d stop talking about it! Ha! Why oh why do they remember the most embarrassing moments?

  6. Hadassah June 9, 2016

    So, our most recent Amazing Race  is still not in the “I-can-laugh-about-this-now” category.

    We’d spent a lovely week visiting with friends in Europe and were on our way home.  We were on the second leg of our journey with only an hour-and-a-half flight between us and home.  The gate for our departure was crowded, so we decided to sit within eyeshot, but at least where there were seats. (Mistake!) My husband had said our flight was boarding at 5:30 pm, so I wasn’t too worried when he decided to rest a bit, hunched over in his seat with his head on his legs.  I did my best to entertain the girls, and they were having fun with a sweet little old lady next to us who offered them a mint and a little boy who was just learning to walk.  My eldest decided she needed to use the restroom.  I let my husband know, and with both kids in tow, headed for the nearest bathrooms.  Waking up my husband must have prompted him go check our boarding passes, because just as my youngest and I were washing our hands, my husband started yelling for us from the door of the bathroom.  He was adamant that we needed to leave NOW, so I had to pull my eldest off of the toilet (she usually takes her time).  She’s crying she’s not finished, my husband is yelling we need to go, and all the women in the bathroom are staring at us like, “What is happening?”  (It was a VERY small bathroom with like two stalls, but there was a line like in most ladies restrooms).  I wasn’t sure what was happening either!  As we are running through the airport, my husband says our plane is leaving!  Leaving?  But, by the time we reached the gate, it had left.  Turns out, what he had thought was our boarding time was actually the departure time, and we had played and slept within feet of our gate and never realized the flight had departed.  Needless to say, no one was happy.  I returned to the bathroom. (Another bathroom, fearing I might run into some of the same women!).  My husband went to the customer service desk.  He complained that our names hadn’t been called.  But, it did little to change the stern face of the customer service lady, who kept saying, “Sorry!  That is not our problem!”  EIGHT hours and hundreds of dollars to change our ticket later, we boarded the plane for home, arriving three hours before we needed to be at work.  Like I said, still not funny, but I have hope that one day it will be:)

  7. Ashley Felder June 10, 2016

    Amazing Race moments. I do enjoy watching the show, and thought I’d like being on the show, but after living out enough moments of my own, I think I’m good. 🙂 I like what someone commented earlier this week: when things go awry, she just moves away from the ticket counter or altercation and sits quietly with the kids. It panned out for her! I’m going to put this into practice this trip back! My hubby is way more patient than me (although sometimes I get onto him for not being “pushy” enough..haha), so it’s best if he handles those situations. I’m also mentally preparing for my 18mo to only want to be in my arms that entire trek. She’s quite clingy..always has been. I’ve had many metldowns in the past when a child wouldn’t leave my arms…so better just accept it now, right?!

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