Sunday, February 21, 2010

Preparing to Go, baby steps

It has been a couple of weeks since we got our big news, and now we are busy trying to get everything done to get to China. The list seems endless, but we have little victories that keep us from the pit of despair. For instance:

Getting a visa: The list of required documents is pretty long, but the good news is that the school will shepherd them through the application process. We dutifully copied passports, transcripts and our marriage license, took passport style photos (10 each) with a white background and both ears clearly showing (gosh, do I wear earrings or not?), and took digital pictures of our diplomas (some of which were a bit hard to find, but we had a nice trip down memory lane). All of this went off in a package to the director's secretary in Shanghai, where she will get it on her second day back after the week off for Chinese New Year, and happy Year of the Metal Tiger to all of you, by the way. If all of this goes well, we will then have to go to LA, the site of the closest Chinese consulate, and our visa will be granted. Probably. We hope.

Getting immunizations: China doesn't require any immunizations to enter the country (which I found surprising), but we found strong recommendations for hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, malaria, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and even some lively discussions of yellow fever. I was donating blood last Tuesday and answering the questions about any recent immunizations when I noticed that the hepatitis question was for the last six months. Fortunately, this was before I gave blood, so my brain was still working and I asked the interviewer about the vaccine, which it turns out is given as three shots over a six month period. We called the county health department right away to get our vaccinations, and even so, the last hepatitis B vaccine will have to be administered in China. By the way, we skipped the rabies and Japanese encephalitis vaccines and went with hepatitis (a series of shots) and typhoid (an oral dose of four pills).

Taking care of the house: We are keeping our house in Flagstaff, and don't want to leave it sitting empty, but finding the right people is a tough call, especially as we would like to come home over the summer break. We had some ideas in the form of two lovely college girls we have known for two years, so we invited them out to dinner, plied them with Wildflower Bread Company pasta, and sprung it on them. They really did look like deer in the headlights, but they recovered gracefully and said they would think about it. A few days later, they called and asked us to meet them at Starbucks, where they plied us with Americano coffee for Joe and a rather bad iced tea thing for me, and accepted our offer! We are really pleased, because we know these girls very well and feel completely comfortable in having them in our home. We still have a few details to work out and have to draw up the lease, but that was a large burden lifted, so thanks girls! Also, we've had this dirtbike in our garage since the summer, when our former neighbors moved out and asked us to store it for "a few days." We were worried about what would happen if we left and it was still there, when we got a knock on the door from our neighbor coming to pick up the bike.

Taking care of Jack: We have been told that Jack could come with us, and it is possible in this present reality, but the more we read about it, the worse it sounds. Assuming he survived the 14 hour plane flight (a dog who is terrified of loud noises), he would then be in seven days of quarantine and we would be unable even to see him (a dog who doesn't like being alone and has severe food allergies). At the risk of being unkind to my new country, there's no way I'm trusting the communist government with the safekeeping of my dog! There is much more to this whole issue, and I'll just say food and fur trade and leave it at that, but the upshot is that Jack needs to stay here in Flagstaff. Joe keeps reminding me that God has been very busy putting the rest of this China package together, and He will take care of our precious Jack as well.

Meeting new friends: Jimmy Buffett says that "everybody's got a cousin in Miami," but I think he might be a little behind the times. As soon as we started sharing our good news, everyone said, "Hey, I know a friend/sister-in-law/former co-worker/father's former wife twice removed/whatever who lives in Shanghai, so I'll give them your email!" It's really great to know that when we show up, we'll have the Chinese version of Welcome Wagon (kids, ask somebody old to explain that reference). Also, we are amazed at the similarities between us and the current staff of SCIS: four NAU graduates and two ASU graduates (well, I can be nice when I'm that far from home, I guess). Also on staff, a recovered attorney now teaching first grade (she and I have already exchanged emails) and a medical doctor who decided to teach science AND plays the violin. We are going to love these people!

There is probably a lot more, but we are learning things as fast as we can. My sister and brother-in-law sent us a DVD to learn Chinese, or at least to start. We are checking out library books on China in general and Shanghai in particular and devouring them. Did you know that Shanghai has a magnetic levitation (maglev) train that takes you from the airport at 270 MILES PER HOUR? I didn't think so! and aren't you glad I shared that important piece of information? Well, then, more in the next post; I've got to go read some more!

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