Greetings from sunny Tucson, AZ! Unlike my last post date, I have seen no snow falling, just sitting way on top of mountains where I did not go. Instead, we slathered on the sunscreen and hiked by a roaring creek in the Catalinas on our last spring break for a couple of years. We do have a break later in the spring in China, but it's called "Tomb Sweeping," when we are supposed to go clean up the tombs of our ancestors. If you have any ancestors buried in Shanghai, let me know and I'll see what I can do next year.
So we have started our Farewell Tour (T-shirts yet to be printed) here in Tucson with our friends Steve, Edina, Lourdes, and their various children. This has been very useful for our trip preparations, because the first day here we attended the second annual Tucson Festival of Books (a must do for those of you near the area next year) and I met JA Jance, a favorite author of mine, who was very enthusiastic about the trip and recommended getting at least one Kindle of books, much to Joe's delight (he's been asking for a Kindle for some time now). She also tried to introduce me to Janis Ian, the singer, but I didn't really pick up on that in time and ended up looking like an idiot. That's a story for another blog, perhaps called "How I Manage to Misunderstand Everyone," or maybe that's a new CBS show for the fall. Anyway, Steve and Edina have just come back from an orchestra tour in China (she's a violist), so they were full of great books and even greater ideas. Steve used to work for Delta, so he is my new expert on how to get my stuff to China, and what to ask about transit visas and cargo shipping.
We got our second preparatory newsletter from dear Jeff, and we are delighted to learn that we are the farthest ahead in getting our documentation ready (our competitive spirit knows no bounds). My sister Rhonda attributes this to the fact that she started telling us what to do as soon as we called her with the news of our contracts. She is my bossy older sister and suggests I should be grateful for that, which of course I am. I Googled the school's address and found a pretty specific map location, but couldn't get to the street view, either because Chinese law prohibits it or because I'm not that great with Google maps, I'm not sure which. My new colleague Wendy writes to say that the kids are really great (as in, not that spoiled), but I should brush up on my ESL (English as a Second Language) skills, because some of the new students need a bit of help getting started. Our friend Rick (the counselor who will be in South Korea) had a bit of a health scare, and we thought for a few days that he might not be going abroad after all, but he turned out fine and will be there a week ahead of us, so we can't travel with him as we had hoped. Our friend Nate, who speaks Chinese and therefore travels there on business every three months, has been sending us pictures and news items to help us acclimate. I would post the pictures, but they're not really for public consumption. The news item was about a man who had to be rescued from his apartment when bottles of something unmentionable fell on him, but the really funny story was about a Shanghai lonely-hearts club made up of five women who were fleecing these poor men across China. They were discovered when one of the women claims to have actually fell in love and her would-be suitor turned her in to the cops. The Shanghai Daily News is certainly an entertaining news source!
Jack is currently without prospects, and he's really starting to warm up to strangers, realizing that he's got to find a good family. Tiffany the dental hygienist called to say that she has many reasons for turning him down, including general disinterest on the part of her boys and the fact that she hasn't actually mentioned her current four cats to her apartment manangement. Probably not a good situation, but better to know now than too late. I broke the news to my 90 year old Aunt Clara, who said, "Well, to each his own, I guess. You never know what good you might do there." Way to have our backs, Aunt Clara! I'm also starting work on my "Arizona" necklace, which will incorporate a lot of copper beads and red glass chili peppers. I haven't decided whether to augment this with Arizona gemstones or perhaps try my hand at creating the state flag in beads. I'll let you know and might even try posting a picture to this blog - oh boy!