My last day at work was fairly unceremonious, except for the cake and going away ceremony held before lunch. I spent the morning getting last minute things handled and handed off to the people in the office who would be covering my duties till my replacement was made. The office had become very dependent on me, but I also had become very dependant on them as well. I will miss them very much, even the constant interruptions in my work day, as it is always nice to be needed and told how valuable you are! It was hard to wrap up the last minute account requests, hand off instructions on how to take care of things until my replacement was in place, etc. I left a bit early and went home to get the packing taken care of in earnest. The early afternoon was spent finalizing personal business, like closing bank accounts, cancelling last minute accounts etc.
I spent the rest of the day sorting out what was going with me on the plane, what was getting mailed to me, and what was going to be boxed up for storage. I knew the post office closed around noon so the entire rest of the night was spent getting the parcels made up and ready to go. I filled out the customs forms on USPS web site in hopes of simplifying the process, more on that later. It ended up taking 7 total boxes, each having a box of clothing, a CD book, a photo album, and some various books. These were all packed, inventoried, tapped up, and set aside for the post office trip. I then placed together the vital things not in my suitcase of duffel bag yet and then got some shut eye as I was feeling the beginnings to a cold setting in (Walgreen’s will be missed as I stocked up on Day Quill, Theraflu, Airborne, and hand sanitizer).
Saturday morning was an early wakeup call that saw me packing everything into the good ole sun-chicken, which held all 7 boxes incredibly enough. My boxes were 20x20x12 and weighted within 4 pounds of each other! I got to the post office and had to ask for a cart, which took 10 minutes to secure one that was suitable for the task. After getting the boxes into the cart and into the post office I was informed that because they were not weighed I had to stand in line, the long line of crotchety people buying stamps and picking up certified parcels. I stood in line and labeled the boxes as per postal regs and patiently waited my turn. Two hours later I made it to the counter, and after answering pretty darn close to 20 questions was allowed to put my boxes on the scales and get the process rolling. This is when the pre-printed customs forms and postal paperwork issue exploded. The postal worker stated there was no carbon between the forms and he had to write in 2 boxes on all 5 copies, so I was instructed to fill in the actual carbon forms they provided as all 7 boxes forms were worthless. They were nice enough to allow me to stay at the counter and fill in each form for each box, then process the box when the forms were done. I got out of there just before they closed and was cursed by cranky old people more then anyone should ever be subjected to!
My best friend Tony then showed up shortly later and we tackled the main problem at hand… getting more boxes and getting things into the proper order. Now this is when I basically went into throw away mode and began filling the dumpster down stairs. By 9 PM we had a vast majority of things into their boxes and those boxes into the minivan. There was still quite a bit left but the majority of the important things were handled, TV, PC, electronics, and vital papers. I finished my packing, loaded my car with what I was taking on the plane with me, but as much into the rest of the space of the car as possible, and went to bed.
Sunday morning I headed south to Kenosha and we unloaded the minivan and my car, then made the final run. We had 2 ‘cram’ boxes set up and filled those and then began another dumpster run. The storage unit in the basement was finally taken care of and the furniture was placed on the sidewalk for easy adoption. We filled the minivan with all remaining boxes, weapons, electronics, etc., which was surprisingly enough another full load and then went to unload it. Sunday afternoon was spent tossing the football and relaxing at my best friends place, as I had turned over the keys and did the official turnover with the apartment manager (hope to get the deposit back!!!). My goddaughter is a bit too young to know that I will not be able to come over and see her every other weekend for some time, but when her father gets reassigned this fall that would happen anyway. She spent all week telling her daycare class about my move to China! She is too smart sometime.
Monday morning came and I began taking the stereo system out of the car. It took me nearly 5 hours to install it, and only 35 minutes to fully uninstall it (including the CD changer in the trunk and the cables that went to it… head unit, EQ, 1 front amp, 2 rear amps, CD changer, 2 subwoofers.) all without breaking a single thing! My cold was getting worse at this point and I was out of Day Quill and almost out of Theraflu. Tony got home late that morning and we headed to the airport, he and the family were headed to Texas for the week (time with the grandparents) after dropping me off. I checked in ok and grabbed a quick lunch and then began the 5 airport adventure of flying 980 miles (direct flights were more then my 1-way ticket to Shanghai so I opted for the economic option). Milwaukee to Cincinnati was ok, but the flight to Philadelphia was delayed, so I missed my connection to Charlotte making me miss the following flight to Birmingham. I eventually made it to Philadelphia as all my efforts on the phone to salvage the trip were shot down as I was put into the transfer loop from Hell. I was able to get into touch with my mom and discovered the airport in Birmingham had a tornado touch down that evening so it was very fortuitous I was disrupted in my trip, again the phrase by Morpheous in the Martix Revolutions; ‘Everything has happened as it was supposed to.’
Thanks to a dedicated Delta employee I was able to get the first flight out to Charlotte and then a connection to Birmingham booked. I also received a ‘discount’ at the airport hotel and spent a short night playing phone tag with baggage to make sure my bags made the transfer ok, they did. It was an early morning, 4AM that saw me trying to convince the ticket clerk at US Air that I did have reservations and everything was good to go… He almost caused me to be late; I made the flight as they were closing the doors! Charlotte was cold and rainy as I finally got back into touch with my mom, she did not have the airline, flight number, or gate I was arriving at in Birmingham, and despite it being so early I was glad to be back on the plane. After flying to China twice in the past 4 months all the small planes were an unwelcome nuisance. We pulled up to the gate in Birmingham to a bright and windy morning, a vast contrast to the previous day of storms and tornados!
I found my mom at the gate and promptly went to baggage claim. She brought a friend along, the one she stayed with during the storms, and we all carried the baggage to the truck for the trip home. We loaded all 4 bags into the truck and proceeded to drop her friend off and head back to the farm. Mom took the ‘back roads’ way which was nice as this time of year in Alabama all the ornamental trees are in bloom and the forests are just beginning to get their color back. This will be the last time I get to see the pine and hard wood forests I grew up in and camped in for a long time, I have not seen any forests in any of my trips to China. We made it back to the farm just after lunch time stopping along the way for a six pack of beer and some good ole southern junk food! It was nice to sit on the front porch and listen to the birds and breath the clean wood’s air as where I lived in Milwaukee was close to an EMT and fire house with sirens going off all the time and the air was not so clean either.
I toured the fence line of our 25 acre farm taking my camera along, see new pics from ‘Bama, and just enjoying the walk. I remembered I hated doing this as a kid as it was a daily chore to ensure all the fences were still up and holding the live stock in. Now there are only 2 (used to be 3 till the day before I arrived) horses on the farm… my mom is leasing out the pastures to a man who is keeping a few of his older horses here. We called his to remove the recently deceased horse and then my mom and I talked about many things, mainly on my decision to move to China…
The next day was a carbon copy of the previous day only a bit warmer. I was treated to a big southern breakfast and my mom and I talked again and then I ensured all my bags were packed and I hadn’t left anything behind as I always seem to do. We were going back to her friend’s house in Birmingham for the evening as my flight left at 7 AM. We stopped off in Selma on the way north for some business and to take some pictures of old southern antebellum homes for Coco. Of course there are not many of these homes left in Selma as Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson, commanding three divisions of Union cavalry, about 13,500 men during the War Between the States decided to burn and pillage the city to prevent it from being re-occupied as a Confederate outpost. There is a small historic district just off the river that has been restored, that and old Cahaba… but we did not go into Cahaba, not enough time. With pictures in my camera’s memory we again ventured north into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
To adjust my internal clock I again stayed up all night, watching bad TV, going outside for a bit, and just sitting around until daybreak. We made the airport in plenty of time and after paying for only 1 overweight bag this time (I readjusted the weight as 1 bag was only a few pounds overweight last time) I said my good byes with my mom and made my way through security and onto the plane. The flight to Chicago was ok and I ended up sleeping a bit on the way. My cold was past fever stage and now just causing numerous nose blowing and coughing.
I arrived in Chicago and had a few hours to kill. I walked to my gate and tried in vain to hack into their internet connections and ended up getting a newspaper and some breakfast instead. I also began using the Airborne medicine my mom had given me, she is a firm believer in alternative and holistic medicines. It was grapefruit flavor so not so bad, kind of like Alka-seltser. The weather was holding as it was predicted to snow that morning and by noon it was still clear, then like magic as the plane began to board it began to snow, but not too heavy. The flight was packed too, the most people I had seen going to China in my previous flights. I was stuck in the middle seat in the middle row, with the plane being full there was no opportunity to be upgraded to an isle seat. To top that off there were 3 sick babies who cried the entire 14 hour flight in my section. My noise canceling head phones work great on jet engine noise but do nothing for screaming babies! The cold have pretty much drug my energy level down and of the 14 hours of flight I slept for about 8 to 9 hours of that! I did not watch one of the movies I brought along at all, but did listen to the newer ZZ Top greatest hits CD.
We touched down at Shanghai at around 5:40, only 10 minutes late (due to deicing the plane in Chicago prior to take off). I was a bit groggy and made my way through immigration to baggage claim. I found my bags pretty easy and this time got a cart instead of trying to push them around on their wheels like I did the last 2 times. I did not find Coco in the crowd this time as it was still early and the air port is about an hour out of the city and traffic at the end of the day is pure murder. I stood in the waiting area and adjusted the time on my cell phone, Cingular has no service in China. It was not too long that I spotted Coco trying to sneak up behind me and we hugged and then gathered my bags and took them to the taxi cab. The driver had a bit of a problem with my heavy bag, it was about 72 lbs and the size of his trunk so my other bag rode up front with him.
The way back Coco and I caught up and were both of us were very excited and happy to finally be together. We got back to the apartment and began to unpack my bags of the essential items. It was only 7 PM so we got a taxi to the Yellow River Road area, Huang He Rd, and stopped off at a restaurant that was displaying the Chilies Restaurant symbol along with another name. They had spicy foods so we ordered a beef plate. The food was pretty good and it was good to be in her company again, not just chatting and talking via Skype. After the food we walked back and I commented we needed to remember the name of this street as it is famous for its restaurants. It felt good to be walking hand in hand again, and after the flight and all I was pretty tired. We made it home after a short walk and were shown 2 different apartments in the same building as Coco was wanting to see if they had apartments with more space, because I do have 7 boxes of clothing and CDs, and books coming soon, mid April arrival expected. The apartments were a little bigger but 1 was a studio, like the one I just moved out of and the other was very oddly shaped, huge living room but tiny bed room. Neither had larger bathrooms and they were not in very good condition (of course that would be taken care of prior to moving in). We decided it would be best to wait for a bit before seeing if we wanted to move into them.
The building Coco and I live in is a service apartment building and that is very convenient in that they offer many service and opportunities I am not used to in a building complex. They have a gym, hotel, restaurant, laundry service, pizza delivery in the building, 24 hour maintenance service, business service center, full service store, taxi reservation, and 24 hour security guard service, and ADSL. All that and the rent is not as much as I was paying in the US, $365 a month in China verses the $500 I was paying in the states and had none of the services they have here. Oh and the laundry is a pay service, like the ADSL, but not too much… you have an account where you deposit some money and they deduct the cost for each load you take down to them. They do the wash, dry, and folding and if you drop it off early enough you can pick it up that afternoon. It was a good rest when I got back to the apartment as the toll of the day had made me pretty sleepy.