Time to pack up my life for a year in Chi.naville. You would think that after doing this cross-atlantic jaunt several times the packing would get easier. It does in some ways. I now know that one person cannot possibly drink 15 boxes of crystal light packets in a single year. (learned that the hard way, haha). But it also makes things harder because I have so many "can't live without" items because I know just how meager my options are for everyday imperatives once I step off that plane into the logic-free zone.
Here's the (in-progress) stash of Ame.rican goodies:
As you can see, the dogs are quite concerned that I pack the right amount of everything and therefore are monitoring my packing progress.
I have in my head a labeling of the items. The "I will not get on the plane without this" stash and the "if my bag is too heavy, toss to mom to send to me later, even though she won't" stash.
Here's how it goes down:
years supply of tampons (non-negotiable)
years supply of deodorant (I'd fight someone for this)
lotion/body spray (could go, but I'd be sad)
leave in hair conditioner (toss-able)
vitamins and dayquil/nyquil (non-negotiable)
clean and clear facewash/astringent (not doing a repeat of last year when I ran out and cried)
Oil of Olay: (I would swim home to America for this product)
sensodyne toothpaste: (toss-able)
years supply of makeup (someone would die if they took this from me)
3 boxes of peppermint tea (it could go, but there's be deeply emotional consequences for me)
disposable razors/shaving cream/loofah (could go)
travel size products for my trips (could go, but didn't make it last year and was missed)
years supply of contacts (um....don't wanna be blind. although not seeing all the people staring at me might be nice. hmmm...)
HUGE box of fiber one bars/pudding boxes/larabars/crockpot seasoning packets: (undecided)
BPA free water bottle (these things gotta be replaced every year after the crap they go through in asia)
HUGE vat of vanilla extract (non-negotiable - ch.ina, you can have my 20's, but you can't have my woman-hood. girl's gotta bake. in a crockpot.)
several pairs of size "tall" tights: (non-negotiable and not heavy, thank goodness)
books/lined notecards: negotiable to an extent
bilingual Bible: (non-negotiable)
a fitted sheet: (non-negotiable, fun fact: there are no fitted sheets in Chi.na)
medical forms (duh)
gifts for Chinese friends (non-negotiable, I've gotten smarter about these. This year they get .5 ounce bottles of perfume)
and this is BEFORE we get to the fun fun clothes portion of this packing extravanganza. And before I start thinking of the small carry-on things: (ipod, chargers, convertors, chinese phone, passport, etc.)
Annie thinks it's going good!
Now off to Walmart (again)! I still need a shoe water proofer, more larabars, and a white button down shirt.
And maybe a little swing by Chik-fil-A. Just because I can. Because in 72 hours all this goodness goes away.
Oh America, why do I leave you and your neverending supply of shampoo formulated for curly hair, cheese, and size 10 shoes?! Oh well. I guess there's more to life than being comfortable.
Even though I still hang on to so many Amer.ican things that make my life "easier" - like, tampons. I used to say that one day I would be able to just fly to china with some shoes and clothes and be fine, but now I don't think that will ever happen. At least not until they start importing oil of olay. :)
Last weekend I had the priviledge of spending 48 hours in the nation's oldest city to celebrate a dear friend's upcoming wedding. It was 2 days filled with a trolley ride, visiting my sister, burritos, sunny skies, homemade popsicles, the winery, dancing, and a lingerie shower whose pictures will remain unseen. ;)
Seeing Flagler College and being in St. Augustine always fills my heart with gladness.
It's just such a good place filled with good people. It's an awkwardly small town - yet somehow endearing all the same.
I was convinced yet again that I know the most awesome people on the planet. One of the cruddiest parts of living on the other side of the world is feeling so out of touch. These little glimpses are the only real tangible ties that I have to my friends that I only see once a year...
...but celebrations bring us back together and I am really thankful to have celebrated the marriage of two amazing people with some dear friends from near and far...
Congratulations to Caroline and Nate! I can't wait to hear about the wedding in September.
I got an email this morning from a presh-head student named Bill. He sent me a photo album entitled "happybirthdayjessica" filled with pictures from his recent trip to Xiamen. Here are some of my favorites:
I paid for my Doctor degree yesterday and today...
...in 14 test-tubes of blood (testing for AIDS/HIV/STDS/nourishment/iron, etc.), a chest x-ray, TB test, EKG, sonogram, eye exam, hearing exam, and pee test.
My "foreigner physical exam" is almost complete.
You see, I needed to turn in the "foreigner physical exam" with my paperwork to Zhejiang University back in January. But I forged it.
Plagued with memories of the exam 2 years ago on my very first day in Chi.na (literally, 2 hours after landing on the ground), I googled what blood tests and EKG's should look like and filled out the form, left it without a signature, and turned it in.
As ridiculous as that sounds (my mother can't believe I did that) I don't regret it for a second.
ha. I'm even proud enough to blog about it. I feel like I won. Because I forged the form, I am able to get it filled out in Amer.ica rather than Chi.na.
The exam in Ch.ina is an incredibly invasive, non-private, intrusive, obnoxious, more negative adjectives, experience.
It is basically a series of rooms that you bounce around to, wait in line, and then get whatever test is in that room. It's like a bunch of magic doors with surprises behind them in the form of awkward experiences.
When a woman weighed me, she yelled out my weight to the other workers in another room and made clicking sounds at me. (I would later learn this is a sign of disapproval). When another woman was placing my EKG bits over my chest, she pulled up my bra in front of a line of middle-eastern business men. The sonogram lady smacked my stomach and laughed after applying a generous lump of cold goo. And the x-ray technician somehow forgot to give me a lead jacket (because they didn't have any). I was on my period and had to answer to my male boss when he asked me if it was my, "lady time" during the pee test. And they couldn't find my veins to take my blood because my arm was, "too skin".
Now, 2 years later, the small incidents of that day are small and funny. Little blips in an eventful two years. Almost forgettable except for their humor factor. But on that day - I was shattered.
Many other expats have similiar physical exam stories. It is a bonding tool. If you're meeting a new person who just moved to Chi.na you can ask..."So, how's the exam go?" and expect to bond over 20 minutes of lamentation concerning no privacy concerns, overflowing pee cups and exposed body parts.
In January, I was faced with the awful task of re-visiting that foreigner exam center because my visa was changing from a work visa to a student visa and therefore needed an updated test. My money was super low at the time from my trip to Thaila.nd/Mala.ysia/Sing.apore and the test costs about $120 USD (a week of work). The price was the icing on the cake, my grand excuse to not go through with it.
So, here I am. In happy Amer.ica getting my forms filled out honestly and with integrity and for an affordable $10 co-pay. I'm making it right, getting it done. In a hospital that is clean - with clean needles, nurses that speak english and don't freak when I step on a scale, people who don't poke and prod and laugh, my own room at the doctors office to change in, and magazines in the waiting room. It's so nice here, strangers even make conversation in the waiting rooms.
There's just so many things every day that I come in contact with that make me proud to be Amer.ican. Today it was the beautiful interior and comfortable atmosphere of the Trinity Health Center, the friendly nurses and front desk helpers, and the jovial octogenarians waiting in the blood lab. Preciousness all around.
Because I was an overzealous photographer in my early months as an expat - here's some photos from that fateful day in August, 2008:
Oh, the things that once were tragic that are filed under "slightly amusing" now.
Funny how that happens, huh? :) But I'm still not going back there - no, sir-ee. I'm happy it's over. :)
This summer in Amer.ica has been wonderful. I'm getting enough sleep, speaking my own language, and gorging on diet coke. It's good goal-making time since I feel like I'm in a saner state of mind here than in everyday crazy/unpredictable/illogical Chi.na.
Well, these 8 hours of nightly sleep in an air conditioned home have caught up to me and made me do crazy things...
I just signed up (mentally - website's down, no surprise, though - c'est la Chi.na), for THIS:
Day one of training starts tomorrow - I'll post my calendar of training and excitement and joy once I figure out how to make a calendar to post online.
The plan is to be there toeing the line on November 14th for my 6th half marathon - first one in 2 years.
Big Sur International 21 Miler - April, 2008
I figure...why not? Right? It's in Hangzhou so there's no excuse not to do it. It's the best time to make a decision like this; when I'm rested, content, and my belly's full of momma's cookin'. Six weeks into training I'll be kicking myself, these days of comfort a distant memory...but no turning back.
Hangzhou Half Marathon - I'll be seein' you in 14 weeks.
A few weeks ago upon returning home, I scored a jackpot at the Salvation Army. 6 books for 3 bucks! It felt like Christmas. If Christmas were to feel like getting a whole lot of things you want (which I guess it shouldn't just be about that. But, anyways)...
Right now I'm reading this little gem:
I'm reading his travelogue about his jaunt through Europe, recreating his first trip there when he was in his twenties and seeing how things have changed, in order to somewhat excape my Asia-tracked mind. I want to know about other things. I want to know that somewhere in the world an old lady is sitting by La Rive Seine drinking wine and wearing a summer scarf and chances are she doesn't give two hoots the amount of Amer.ican debt Chi.na holds or the state of Ameri.can diplomacy in Asia. There is so much...else. And I get to go there in books. Isn't that a great thing?
Though I'm reading this novel as escape-lit, much of what witty Bill says resonates with me. He describes the travel experience gloriously. I particularly love this:
"I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses" (pg 36).
Bill, dude, I get you.
Thank you, random person who donated your book to Salvation Army!
What are you reading lately? I need more book recommendations to take back with me for the coming year (I have to buy english novels in bulk before I leave again)...
I'm cleaning out files on my computer and organizing the over 15,000 pictures I took last year. (15 - thousand, holy junk). And for 2 months I didn't have a camera! whew.
I keep an "untitled" album each year of my fave "Chi.na pictures" - pictures that don't have posed people in them but just capture a random moment of Chi.na life.
Here are some of this year's crop:
~Taipei, Taiwan - October, 2009
~Hangzhou Dianzi University, choir performance (the theatrics were a bit much, personally) Hangzhou - April, 2010
~kite making factory in Weifang, Shandong Province - January 2010
~chicken, at least the parts we didn't eat, Hangzhou - March 2010
~Taizhou, Zhejiang Province - November, 2009
~dinner with students, Hangzhou Dianzi University - May, 2010
~Qiandaohu (Thousand Island Lake), Zhejiang Province - May, 2010
~Qiandaohu (Thousand Island Lake), Zhejiang Province - May, 2010
~Beijing - June, 2010 ~Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province - December, 2009
~Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, November, 2009
I'm not a very organized person, but I love organizing pictures to make way for new ones. I like to be able to find that specific shot I want in a stash of thousands, hidden away within the confines of my computer.
It's fun to go back and look, laugh, and remember.
I googled my new university last night hoping to find some info on rankings to give to my parents and ease their souls about me leaving for 8 million more years. Or maybe it's my soul that needs to be eased....but I digress.
This past week was full of randomness. My parents and I flew to Chicago. Wonderfulness ensued.
...got dressed up one night and saw Elton John's broadway show Billy Elliot. It was reallyyyy good...
...were trapped inside our hotel because these hotties were filming Transformers 3 outside our windows...(which mom decided to announce to everyone, "look! Terminator 3 is here!" haha)...
...hi Shia!... ...we ate a loooooot of glorious Ameri.can food...
...saw great street art and took 8 million mirror photos of the 3 of us...
...and cheered on my mom as the cutest participant of the Chicago Rock n' Roll half marathon! Jake the bachelor was there, I wanted to get a pick, but apparently my camera was sick of photographing celebrities. ha. Only my awesome mother would run a half marathon in a pink floral dress and sparkly pink glitter headband, like a champ...
It was a great week, but it is so good to be home with the dogs. When the days at home are numbered, they are more precious. Tomorrow my sister comes home for a short bit, yay.