Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Johnny Cash’s version of the old song "Wayfaring Stranger" just came up on shuffle, so it seemed like a reasonable title. I'm back at Home #1 for a couple of weeks (halfway through now), and it's very nice to be surrounded by familiar things, like the cat sitting on my lap as I write. Oh, and the wife too. It's wonderful to be with D. Next week, it's back to Home #2 – when I'm in Beijing and I say "I’m just staying home tonight" I mean Seasons Park, but this house in Seattle was home before that, so I guess I have two homes.
Of course, the weather has been pretty crazy here in Seattle of late. I missed the big storm by a few days, and D had to get through it on her own. She's had all sorts of adventures of her own while I've been half a world away. The power was out for a few days after the Storm Without a Name (apparently there's a contest to give it a name, but I don't think it's done yet). Just to make things more interesting, the power went out again after I got here, though it was a problem unrelated to weather. We got conflicting stories about what happened – either a car hit a power pole in the neighborhood or something happened at a substation, possibly involving a construction crew. Anyway, we spent an extra half day in the dark, and I got to revisit my fire-building skills.
But I'm getting out of order here. CL's driver (Mr. Y) took me to the airport, which is a fair distance out of town. The Beijing construction boom spreads all the way (it was getting dark when I arrived, so I didn't really see much of it then), including freeway improvements. There is still some open country between the city and the airport, though I couldn't tell if it was farmland or what. The airport itself is in the middle of expansion too. I believe there's a whole new terminal that will handle international flights. Customs getting out of China was a breeze. I filled out a couple forms, handed them to people in uniforms, heard the familiar thunk-thunk of them being stamped, and went along. The setup is rather different than any I've seen before, and it took me a while to figure out which signs told me where to go for the United ticket counter. After getting my boarding pass, it was on to the security lines. Passengers to the US and on US-based airlines have separate lines with higher security more or less corresponding to what we have to do domestically. Non-US passengers looked to have a more streamlined screening.
Before boarding I had time for a cappuccino and a muffin, since I didn't have lunch before leaving the apartment (and had nothing left to eat anyway). The 747 was not very full, so I had plenty of room to stretch out. Most of the rows in the back section of the plane had only one person per row. I was in the center five-seat section on one aisle, and there was a man on the other aisle, but no one in the middle at all. There were four movies and two and a half meals. I started watching the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but couldn't see the screen well enough to make it worthwhile, so I went back to my Zen and book. Once again I put the music on shuffle, mixing up 2500+ songs. For the book, I'm working my way through Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky, which is a very good, very big science fiction novel. I caught a little sleep, but even with the extra room couldn't get very comfortable. I managed to more or less watch The DaVinci Code, but skipped My Super Ex-Girlfriend and couldn't stay awake for Little Miss Sunshine. The food was neither hideous nor great, so I'd call it a bit above average for airline fare.
I sent D a message from the airport in San Francisco letting her know what my progress was. It was a little strange how things work there for an international flight. I had to wait at the carousel for my checked bag, then hand in the customs form I'd filled out on the plane. After going though US customs, I had to recheck my bag.
The SFO-SEA flight was uneventful, and I was glad I'd stowed a snack in my pocket, since all they provided was a tiny packet of pretzels. I did notice several people on the plane that had also been on the Beijing flight. No in-flight entertainment on this leg at all.
When I got to Seattle, I messaged D, and we talked on the phone (she was at work), and I got a loud unintelligible greeting from her coworkers. While I was waiting for my bag, I heard my name paged overhead, and the woman at the information desk informed me that my bag would be coming on the next flight from San Francisco. I filled out a form with the address to have it delivered to, and went upstairs to wait for D to pick me up. It was so nice to see that familiar Subaru and the familiar person inside.
When we got home (#1), the cats seemed confused and avoided me at first. It didn't take long for them to decide that I was either someone they knew or a new person who could be their friend.
The time zone change hasn't been too bad, certainly nothing compared to the move to China. Several nights I've awoken at two or three and been awake for a few hours, and my energy flags a bit in the middle afternoon, but it's nothing severe. We'll see what it's like going back the other direction. It's nice seeing rain, and grey skies that are grey from natural causes. We've even had some sunshine, and views across Puget Sound to the Olympics (the mountains, not the Games). The condo buildings next door are to the stage of getting roofs, where the last time I saw them they were foundations and the start of frames.
D and I met up with my sister C and brother-in-law S on Friday afternoon at a coffee shop in Seattle. It was a short meeting, but nice to do it in person. I passed along a few China items for them to deliver to the family east of the mountains, and C gave me a 2007 calendar her daughter made with family pictures, along with some other photos for my Beijing apartment. On Christmas day it was the ritual phone calls to and from various family members, and the good news is that everyone is doing well. I heard even more stories about people reading this blog, like old high school classmates. Feel free to say hi in the comments – you don't have to be a member or sign up or anything.
D and I have been shopping for some things I'll take back to China with me. In all my looking around, I've yet to find towels I really like there, so we got some at Costco. Similar story with kitchen knives. I'll also be packing up some of my clothes that I left behind, now that I know better what I need. The raincoat was wasted space, but more sweaters would be good.
And that's about enough rambling for one day. It's time I did something constructive, like fix myself another cup of coffee. The soundtrack for this writing has been more shuffling as I rip some of the CDs I own legitimately to the Zen. It's been Blur, Yma Sumac, Holst's "Mars", Tweaker, Sarah Vaughan, David Bowie, the Commodores and so on (as if there's a pattern…).