Monthly Archives: June 2004

We Were Due

We Were Due

Like Bubs said, we were due. It was time for us to suffer a mega-pain-in-the-ass experience. As if the 20-hour bustrip to Beijing in May wasn’t enough, our trip back to China was HELL. Luckily, some pleasantries did precede Hell. Generally, things in the US wrapped up for us easy enough. I spent a week frolicking with friends in NYC and in Raleigh. Upon my return, I worked up to the wire and got everything with our townhouse squared away–mostly anyway. I made another stop to see the parents. We went through the usual motions, arguing about Johnny, intentional childlessness, life in China. Fortunately, our heated discussion was cut short by yet another episode on the Wipe Johnny’s Ass Show. Moral #1: You never have to grow up when your parents insist on treating you like an invalid. Needless to say, my stay in Frederick again fell off schedule thanks to continuing computer woes. My parents’ laptop kept abruptly shutting off in the middle of typing. As if I hadn’t suffered through enough customer service nightmares with my own laptop, I got to call Best Buy. I guess it’s partially my own damn fault. My parents would have been fine restarting the computer each time after emailing, but I just couldn’t deal with the major flaw. Plus, I knew they were on some 3-year warranty, so I just had to get it taken care of immediately. Thankfully, the rep quickly deemed the issue a hardware problem so I was actually able to bypass all the bullshit phone troubleshooting. Just in case the laptop would be out of commission for a while, I backed up files and updated my dad’s desktop with hospital access software. Well the updates screwed over the operating system and in the end, my schedule was delayed about 5 hours because I had to reformat and reinstall everything. To make matters worse, I didn’t have my software discs so I had to do the manufacturer’s restore. The desktop is now running Windows 98. FMF flashback! Happy for me, the system is up and working. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

On Thursday, I made it out to Long Beach, CA on JetBlue (so NICE!). Can I tell you the security line at Dulles was backed up along the entire length of the terminal? At 5:30 am?! Thankfully, our pitstop in CA was relaxing. We stayed at a bungalow at the Fairmont in Santa Monica. So nice. We considered it our belated anniversary celebration. Palm trees, white sand, access to a pool and hot tub. It was awesome! Which turned out great because LAX was a nightmare and a half.

First, we were supposed to confirm our flights 72 hours in advance. We forgot. Then, LAX was super-unorganized. China Eastern agents stood around with dot-matrix printouts of passengers taped together. There was NO ORDER anywhere. We got into a line twice that we didn’t even need to get in. Security was a joke. Some lady flipped through pages of my magazine, then the agent walked our luggage across the aisle into a corraled area. Yeah, really secure. Like people can’t just go under the ribbon and fuck around with all the un-supervised baggage there. Anyway, we were put on standby for our flight. Then all the seats were booked, so we got routed on another flight. We asked for a class upgrade and the agent said business class was booked. When we boarded, that section was completely empty. NEVER AGAIN, China Eastern.

Then we weren’t even seated together. I asked the guy next to me if he minded moving and he avoided eye contact and never responded. So I asked him again, like “are you deaf?” Didn’t want to move. Fine, whatever asshole. Yeah so you get the point. The trip back wasn’t good, but I guess we were due. We entered China through Harbin in Manchuria and then flew into Shanghai. About the only good thing that happened was that since we sat at the front of the economy section, we were first to deboard. We breezed past customs, etc. When we finally arrived in Pudong, we had a system all worked out. I waited in line at the bank (currency exchange) while John waited for baggage. That part went pretty efficiently. 🙂 We arrived home late Saturday night. I couldn’t sleep so I got started on our loads of laundry. So I was a little wired…

Today is Sunday. John and I are back to our lives here. This morning, we were up early. We went to the food market, got salad stuff, fruit. We also rode our bikes to City Supermarket to get ingredients for our veggie wraps and hit Baastian for baked goods. We had a ton of mail in our mailbox. In the afternoon, I went to pay our rent and our utilities. Took forever, but I’m glad it’s out of the way.

The dogs were delivered around 1:30. We spoiled them immediately with treats and new toys. Now Remy and Martin are totally conked out in the bedroom. The past three weeks have undoubtedly been very difficult for them. But the Gou-Eshleman nuclear family is back! and we’re (or I’m) thrilled for the start of a new workweek. Yay!

Can I go Home Now?

Can I go Home Now?

No offense to my American buds over here, but geez, can I go home already? I’m entering week three in the States and I maxed out after about one and a half weeks. I just don’t have the patience for this lifestyle anymore– suburbia madness (this NoVA, after all) that’s obsessed with cars, consumption, and waste. I remember how John and I used to spend every weekend running around town doing shopping errands and cleaning. We probably wasted half our lives buying things we thought we needed, accumulating piles of junk. My poor parents– their basement has become a storage center for our things. Fortunately, we downsized some. I think after we move back, we’re gonna have a big yard sale. Thinking about all the clutter just gives me a headache. I never put two and two together before– but a smaller living space helps keep the goods to a minimum. We’ll see. I think that’ll be the biggest challenge of living here.

So what the hell have I been doing here with all my free time? Heh, heh. I’ve actually had quite a whirlwind tour over here. I’ve seen the parentals, family, former co-workers, John’s colleagues, college friends– gone to Baltimore, NYC, Raleigh. Yeah, got the Amtrak experience (excellent– the train is soooo nice), and also flew on Independence Air on its second day of operation. I’m flying out to the west coast soon, this time on JetBlue. Gotta rack up those frequent flyer miles you know, from as many different airlines as possible. That’ll do a lot of good. 🙁

Outside of catching up with friends, John and I got a lot of logistical stuff done, the most important of which involves our townhouse in Reston. The property management company was a disaster– no statements, no response to my calls, no response to the tenant’s calls. So I spent about a week trying to obtain files on my property (the lease, listing agreement, etc.). Propman fed me a barrel of crap information, saying my tenants were Section 8 (eligible for federal subsidies) then were not Section 8, that maintenance issues would be addressed, that I would get a copy of the lease. The Larsens, whom I met and are thankfully very nice people, also had a hell of a time dealing with Propman. Apparently, the sink had been leaking at move-in and it took a week to get it fixed. I hate incompetence. Needless to say, I terminated our relationship and hired on another management company, one that is also computer savvy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

In other news, I’ve done more reading in the last week than I’ve probably done in the entire last year. I read the spring issue of Ms. Magazine— it was like an issue specially made for me, with really excellent pieces on pornography, childlessness (by choice), and the global pursuit for white skin. I am also almost finished reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Such an eye-opener. I’m renewing my vows not to eat meat. In addition, I’m going to try and cut out fast food. No more McDonald’s apple pies and french fries and ice cream cones. The truth hurts, but in the end, it’s only food. I’m now looking into a macrobiotic diet, one that is generally vegetarian and consists largely of whole grains, cereals, and cooked vegetables. It doesn’t sound much different from what I was eating, especially in Shanghai where cheese and chocolates are expensive. I dunno. I have to read more about it. Anyway, I think I’m finally ready to just adopt a new program for myself. I need to be healthier.

The Land of Stuff

The Land of Stuff

Once again, John’s company called him back to the States. Another urgent project deadline was approaching, but John was stranded in China because he had lost his passport, which also contained his precious Chinese visa. Yeah, that incident happened weeks ago, but I’ve kept it out of the blog. No need to freak people (i.e. parents) out, right? So John had to reapply for his passport through the US Consulate in Shanghai. Took about 10 business days to get it back. The process wasn’t too bad– the main crisis regarded his Chinese visa. Because neither of us is sponsored by a company in Shanghai, technically, we can only obtain a tourist visa. Last February, we went to Hong Kong to obtain 1-year, multi-entry business visas. That really hooked us up, but apparently, once you lose your visa, the Chinese government will only issue you a 30-day max tourist visa: you have to get out of the country and reapply for your visa. A huge tedious pain in the ass. To top that off, US-China relations are in the dumps these days. The Chinese are angered that the US government has required all Chinese applicants of the US visa to get fingerprinted. In retaliation, China is tightening its issuance of visas to US citizens. Damn Bush! He’s single-handedly ruining the reputation of Americans overseas.

In a way, it was good John lost his visa. We had forgotten the toture of getting things done through the Chinese government. We had forgotten about the archaic, disjointed “computer” systems; we had forgotten about the long lines, the running back and forth to show documentation to various departments. It was a real joy going through the process again. We relearned the emotion of anger.

I guess things worked out somewhat. John had to get out of the country, and fortunately, this timed well with work. Also, several of my students cancelled class in June, so I too, was able to get away. For me, this is the first time back in the US in six months. My first impressions? Big. Everything is huge– the roads, the cars, the homes, the people, the food portions. The US is truly the land of excess. My father used to say to me, “You just don’t know how lucky you are.” Back then, it was a seriously broken record. I thought I DID know, but honestly, living out of the US, particularly in a developing country, you really come to understand that statement. I’d venture to say that even the poorest of Americans do not know the abject poverty that exists elsewhere. The magnitude is astounding. China has a population of over 1 billion people. The majority are rural dwellers/peasants. Poverty has driven many into the cities, to take on manufacturing jobs– jobs for which there are no worker unions, worker rights, OSHA regulations… but when these workers and their families live on the brink of starvation, such issues are really of little concern. The struggle for survival makes all those things that we Americans find so intrinsic to human rights, sound like fluff. Being in China makes me appreciate my extreme good fortune in life. I really have had the freedom to make choices about my life and how I want to live it. That doesn’t exist in as many places as I had originally thought. There are a lot of great comforts in the US: central air/heating, cleaner air, plenty of food, etc… But I miss Shanghai and want to go back already (after just a week in the US). There is something to be said about gaining this new perspective. We still live well in SH, but our life is less about accumulating stuff and keeping up with the Jones’. In that sense, we feel even more liberated than we did living in the “Home of the Free.”