Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Countdown Is in Single Digits

I agree with Catherine - when I first looked at the USA Softball schedule, starting in February, the final game in California last week seemed so very far away; and in the middle of it all, time just seemed to drag. Suddenly we are 8-9 days from leaving. It's heeeeeerrre! ;-)

All the visas are done, doctor's letters for medications are collected, pet care is lined up, and now we start the little tasks like making sure the papers and mail are stopped or taken care of, getting the lawn taken care of, going through clothes and shoes to make sure we do not need anything additional, etc.

China has never been high on my list of places to visit, but as I read through the two guide books I bought and the suggestions our host has for little trips, I find myself looking forward to the trip more than I expected. Language will always be a barrier, it was in Athens. But because it was the Olympics, people seemed to go out of their way to really try to communicate or help find help. (It also helped to know the Greek alphabet to describe signs as we drove!) Looking at a few of the Chinese symbols in our guide books...I feel helpless. But it will be a grand adventure!

Our host has assured us that the Chinese people will be the same as we found in Athens. They sincerely want to put their best foot forward and make it an enjoyable stay for everyone. They will go out of their way to be as helpful as possible. The only real drawback with this trip is not having our own transportation. We have a driver who can take us to the train station or to the nearby store, and public transportation can take us to the Olympic venues, but not having our own car will be something completely different. How we take that for granted here, the ability to just pick up and go whenever, where ever.

We leave the 8th and spend the day in NYC with the boys. We had to connect to Beijing through Newark no matter what, so we decided to take a day and see a little of the Big Apple. We land around 11AM, and will most likely take the boys on the Staten Island Ferry, then on to Times Square. We will try to hook up with some dear friends and old neighbors for an early dinner, and then we will go see Phantom of the Opera that evening. Noon the next day will find us Beijing bound, landing around 10AM the next day.

We have a couple days before the first softball game to acclimate and also to see what other tickets might be available. This Olympics, it has been near impossible to get tickets for any other sport other than softball and that was questionable at first. But we do have guaranteed softball tickets, so that is one more item crossed of the list.

Until next time!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Getting Ready Volume 1

Our visas are done, Michelle's visa is done, we are just waiting on Vince, Liz, Claire, and JR's visas. When we get to our host house, we have to check in at the local police station - all nine of us - within 24 hours, or risk a rather large fine. This process has made me appreciate an exchange from "Hunt For Red October", one of my favorite movies, a bit more.

Capt. Vasili Borodin: I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck... maybe even a "recreational vehicle." And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?

Captain Ramius: I suppose.

Capt. Vasili Borodin: No papers?

Captain Ramius: No papers, state to state.

Capt. Vasili Borodin: Well then, in winter I will live in... Arizona. Actually, I think I will need two wives.

Captain Ramius: Oh, at least.

"No papers?" "No papers, state to state." I have a feeling we will be reminded daily of how fortunate we are here.

Our "host family", the Johnsons, are really going out of their way to make this trip as easy as possible. They are ex-pats and have been over there for a while, and Laura (our hostess) has been so helpful with tips on what to expect, making sure their housekeeper will help us, arranging a driver to get us to the train station...the list goes on and on. The house is a good ways away from the stadium, but I think having the house with all the amenities will more than make up for the time we have to spend traveling.

I am also loading photos to a new photo site, Picasa. I will use this for USA Softball and Beijing pictures. So let's see if the first slide show works. It is pics from USA in Ft Worth and in Killeen. Slideshow is up at the top right of the main blog page here.

Animal care is covered now as well, too. Duke will board at the vets and Abbey will stay with friends. With Duke's back issues, this is better for him.

OK - for now - adios. (Got to look up how to say good bye in Chinese!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

One Month From Today...

...we will be leaving for Newark, then on to Beijing on the 9th, arriving the 10th.

We have most preliminary preparations done. Passports up to date, check. Place to stay, check. Airline tickets, check (although Continental keeps changing flight times). Visas, check. To do yet - figure out Houston airport transport, hotel room in Newark for the night of the 8th, Phantom tickets, make sure everyone has all clothes and other necessities, arrange for doggie care and house sitter, get my classroom ready, and I am sure there is other stuff I am forgetting right now. Put it on the list on the fridge.

The days are flying by, and I am sure in no time, we will begin packing and panicking over little things. Until then, I have tons still to get done around the house that is on my summer to-do list and some doctor's appointments to get out of the way. (the ones I tend to procrastinate over) At least I got the painting at mom & dad's done at the beginning of the summer. That was a big check off on my list.

Until next time...