16 October 2010

Getting close, now

With only a few days until we depart for China, the list of things to do doesn't seem to be getting smaller.

A haphazard pile of things to bring is slowly gathering in my suitcase, which lies open on the living room floor, and into which I've been tossing random items over the past week as they came to hand or came to mind. There are a couple of long sleeved shirts, a pair of pants with legs that zip off (I want to have shorts if I need them, but also want to keep exposed skin to a minimum). There are a handful of games: No Thanks, a deck of cards, Farkle, San Juan, and a print-and-play game called Pocket Civ, which might be good for the airplane.  I'm trying not to let those take up too much space, being conscious of my tendency to bring way more games than it would be possible to play on any given trip. Besides, I have a ton of games on my iPod Touch, and the international adapter set for the charger, should taking in the bustling and historic ancestral land to which I'm travelling prove boring. Methinks I'm over-preparing.

In my backpack so far is my passport, small binoculars, a shrinkwrapped tin of spearmint Altoids, and my camera bag.  In my camera is a new 16GB Class 6 SDHC card, which should give me plenty of speed for video recording and lots of pictures. I just ordered a pair of headphones with a mic to use with my iPod Touch. With it, I hope to be able to use Skype or Google Voice to "call" home using VOIP. I'll also have my phone, but I won't use it except for emergencies due to the $1.99/minute roaming charge to call home from China.

I've applied for an absentee ballot since I will miss the general election. I've received a PDF of my grandfather's thesis, although a trip to RPI is in order the day before departure so my brother and I can photograph the large maps and drawings that weren't included in the PDF.

Things still to do: Get cash. Trim down the contents of my wallet. Wash some clothes in our new washer, which arrives on Sunday--the old one died over a week ago.  Stock up the iPods with music, games, a good Chinese phrase app, and maybe a recorded book.  Pack some more clothes appropriate for the weather in China. The long range forecast our first day in China says Beijing will top out at 58 degrees F, with a low of 38--very similar to what it is here in central NY in October. (The Kunming high is forecast to be 67, Dali 57. Although far south of Beijing, both are at much higher elevations--6,207 ft for Kunming, and 6,535 ft for Dali).

I have to pick a book to read on the plane. I finished Deborah Fallows book, Dreaming in Chinese. I highly recommend it to all of my traveling companions. It's a quick read with many observations and insights into the Chinese language and culture. I enjoyed it very much.

And the list goes on. There will seemingly always be one more thing that could be done before the trip. I haven't yet reached the tipping point, where the preparations that have been made outweigh what remains that could be done. The goal this week, then, is to reach that point, and avoid the moment when I will say, "D'OH! I forgot blahblahblah," at a point where it's either too late or too far to go back and get blahblahblah. However, as the trip looms larger in the windshield, so to speak, it becomes harder to plan for. I'm nearing the point at which the it will cease to be some future event for which preparations can be made, and will become something that is happening, regardless of preparations. Palpability, if you will. The moment is not far over the horizon. It's not 5:00pm on Friday or noon on Saturday, or even the moment of takeoff on Sunday. It looms around some nearby corner--one I will reach sometime this week. It will fill the whole windshield, and I'll be in the middle of it, and unable to think of anything else because it will here, it will be happening, a long-awaited event.

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