You take them both, and there you have the facts of life . . . remember that TV show from the 80s? It was a bit beyond me, as I was pretty young then, but I do remember watching it and liking the idea of the girls living together, learning to get along, going to school, and having fun in the process. Whoever wrote the tune for the theme song should get an award for memorability: I can still hum it today!
This past Saturday was one such day where we experienced the really good and the really bad about living in our Asian city. Saturday is the day when we get together with our other American friends to have lunch, sing, and read the Word, then put the kids down for naps while we do our study. It is a really refreshing time. And Saturday was particularly good. The lunch was excellent, the fellowship was encouraging, the girls were fairly well-behaved (except for one moment where Clara Anne pinned Chloe down and looked like she would kiss her . . .but then bit Chloe on the cheek! Chloe was more upset about being pinned down than being bit, but I think after all was said and done, Clara Anne was more upset about the biting, given the punishment she received for it!). We relaxed and enjoyed an extended time of prayer as well as some in-depth study. We lingered late into the afternoon, relishing the time.
Finally, we made our preparations to leave, packing up Chloe's pack-n-play and various other items, and went outside to catch a taxi. We then realized we had perhaps lingered too long, since it was now almost 6pm, rush hour on a Saturday, and our friends live on a very busy thoroughfare. We waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . standing on the side of the road, me holding Chloe on my hip while John held Clara Anne. Even Chloe tried to get into the action by putting her little arm straight out and waving the hand--catching a taxi like a pro! Except, there were no taxis to be had. Finally after about 30 minutes, John left me with the girls and our stuff and went walking down to a large intersection where he thought his chances would be better. Sure enough, 10 minutes later, he had found a taxi and come to pick us all up. Our hero!
The driver informed us that during rush hour, very few taxis will go looking for fares on that busy street where we were waiting. He said there's just too much traffic. So now we know for the future--if it seems like the timing is bad, we'll just walk down a block or two to get to a better intersection.
Since by now it was 6:45 and we were all feeling hungry for supper, we decided to not go directly home, but to first eat supper at Pizza Hut. There are actually several Pizza Huts around our city, but we directed the driver to one in the downtown area, not so far out of our way when we did want to return home. And just as we were pulling up to the Pizza Hut, it started to sprinkle.
Now, there's a strange phenomenon in our city when it rains. It is as if all of the taxis are magically, instantly occupied. Even as we disembarked, I began to wonder about finding a taxi home later if the rain were to continue. John was wondering the same thing. "Oh well," I said, "If we can't find a taxi we can always just put up the pack-n-play and let the girls go to sleep wherever!" Haha. It didn't turn out to be so far from the truth.
We enjoyed our supper, and even stalled a bit at the end, because the rain was by then coming down in torrents and we had not seen a single available taxi go by in the hour plus that we had been sitting with a view to the busy street outside. In fact, crowds of people were gathering across the street in a hotel lobby as well as under the overhang of a shopping mall, apparently all waiting for transportation. Our chances did not look good.
Finally we felt we needed to go and give it a try. We made our way across the street and joined the throng outside the hotel, and tried to see if there was any possibility of transportation. Of course, every moment we were hoping against hope that suddenly a taxi would stop just in front of us and someone would get out, leaving us free to make our way home. But time went by, and finally John decided to take my jacket (he had not taken his when we left home in the sunny noontime) and walk down some of the bigger streets, looking there for taxis. So that left me managing both girls who were fast getting rowdy and showing the fact that it was way past their bedtimes!
After about 45 minutes, he returned, soaked, with no taxi. We decided to regroup in the lobby for a bit, trying to figure out what to do. We even contemplated staying the night in the hotel if there was no other option, and if the rain did not let up. We could have also taken a bus, though it would have meant walking several blocks in the rain with both girls, and waiting who knows how long for the right bus to come by.
By now it was almost 10pm. We were both tired and cranky, though the girls were having fun still. They actually played and occupied themselves quite well, given the situation. They probably thought it was a treat to get to stay up so late! Finally we noticed that some taxis were coming up to the hotel and dropping off people, so perhaps if we got in that line we could get one. We went back outside again, and I waited off to the side while John stood in line. Two, then three taxis came and went while others butted their way in front of John, and finally John decided that he was going to have the next taxi, no matter what! More than two hours of standing out in the elements (not counting the 40 minutes earlier) with two small children, a pack-n-play, a bag, a purse, and a pregnant wife was enough! About 10:10 "our" taxi pulled up, we thankfully loaded up with sighs of relief, and by 10:25 we were home. So close, yet so far away! I don't think I've ever been so thankful to see the dingy outside of our building, except perhaps when we returned from America!
So there you have it--the good and the bad, all in one day. We've never had an experience like that before, and I'm not sure what we could do to prevent it from happening again. It does seem like our city has fewer and fewer taxis, so waiting for taxis (in the past, practically unheard of!) may become a more regular part of life here. We may just have to start building some "taxi-waiting time" into the time we plan to leave in order to get somewhere on time.
For John, the moral of the story was easy. "Next time I'm taking my bike!"