The other day I was doing some packing, and found myself counting out how many pairs of underwear I would need before leaving, so I could pack any extra that were clean. It occurred to me that this is a sure sign that D-Day (that's "D" for Departure, or course) is getting pretty close. It's also probably a sign that my situation has led me to attach undue significance to unimportant things.
The only events of real significance are the arrival of my passport with the Chinese visa in it (got here with two days to spare!), and my inability to actually get any Chinese currency. OK, that last is really a non-event. JW had told me that before leaving that he went to a Bank of America branch and exchanged some US currency for Chinese RMB, so I went to my credit union, got some cash, and walked uptown to a BOA. As it turns out, starting October 1, they no longer do currency exchanges at branches. Account holders have to request the transaction online, then go in and pick it up a few days later. The teller recommended I go to TravelEx in the Westlake Center, so I hiked further uptown and went in. They would have been happy to do it for me, but they didn't happen to have any RMB on hand. The nice clerk there called down to one of their SeaTac branches and reserved some for me to pick up on Sunday morning. At least I got some exercise, having walked all the way from Pioneer Square to Westlake Center, and then down to the Pike Place Market to meet D for lunch at the Pan Africa Cafe for some good African food. That's something I might not be able to find in Beijing.
(I actually wrote some of this next bit a few days ago, but didn't get around to posting. I'll keep with blog format and work backwards in time.)
Pretend this next paragraph was posted 10/19.
Thursday was D's birthday. She had to work, so when she got home, we got ourselves together and went to this new pizza place in our part of town. It's kind of a strange place — a combination of casual and sorta-classy. They've got big screen TV's that were showing baseball playoffs, and the staff dresses on the casual side, but the food is not cheap, and they do the service well, as the waitress did a very nice job of presenting our bottle of wine. Slices of pizza cost around $5, but they're really huge, and a single piece is all one person needs. I've never seen one, but apparently a full pizza is something like 28" across, and costs $30+. Anyway, we had a great dinner and then went home and watched the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera on DVD. What a snapshot of another era! And pretty funny too.
Pretend this was posted 10/18.
Wednesday was a day of relief after a time of mounting tension, mostly dealing with the passport and visa mentioned above. I had not heard any news about it since last week when the letter of invitation from China had yet to arrive. No letter, no visa; no visa, no entry to China. Yikes! I was getting a little concerned, but on Wednesday afternoon I got a call on my cell phone that it had come through. It was being sent overnight express to the Seattle office. That was a huge relief. On the phone, she said that she hadn't been worried about it not coming through in time, but nobody bothered to share that optimism with me. I'm not really a worry-wart by nature, but I was certainly headed in that direction on this one.
Pretend this was posted 10/17.
Tuesday was my last soccer game with Kick Arsenal. We played on one of the nice new artificial turf fields out at Marymoor Park in Redmond, so the distance to get there was compensated by the nice playing surface. The weather was pleasant, heading towards the chilly side, but that's what I prefer for playing anyway. The game ended in a 2:2 draw, which is pretty good considering our record this season. After the game a bunch of us went to the Celtic Bayou (yes, it's exactly what you would think with a name like that) for beers in memory of the departure of the team's last remaining founding member. That's me, if you didn't guess. A group of employees at Ticketmaster started the team back in the spring of 1999, and with all the turnover in players during the intervening years, I was the last one left, and the last Ticketmaster person still hanging in there. Many strange stories were shared, and we ended up getting kind of noisy, though not apparently bad enough to merit a warning from the management. I will not even try to attempt a recap of the topics covered. As far as any readers of this know, I have some dignity.
Thanks for your cooperation in pretending.