26 November 2011

Views to be missed

One thing about moving is that we are starting to pay attention to things we will miss.  And San Francisco has so much to miss.  I’ve been in my car more than usual lately trying to accomplish all those tasks on my list and I’ve been trying to pay attention. stop. notice. this. life.  For example, the other day I was getting off 280 at King driving down toward the Giants ballpark and there was a guy in a huge pick up truck with a grizzled grey- snouted dog riding shotgun.  Here was this working class-looking guy in his pick up truck and he was singing at the top of his lungs, head thrown back, singing with utter abandon driving along on this gorgeous blue-skied fall day.  A couple days later I was driving down California cutting over from Divis. to my office downtown.  I went up and over Nob Hill, shifting into low gear to follow the cable car lines down California.   And there was that one tower of the Bay Bridge framed between office buildings.  Another blue sky day and I thought, it’s no wonder that view is a postcard fave.   Finally, to be missed for good is the South of Market view from my Main Street office windows.   The office is on Main between Folsom and Howard and my view looks to the South and West over the temporary Transbay terminal’s white tentlike shelter rooftops, past the boxy Schwab building, little precious brick Town Hall preserved between shiny behemoths, and past the uneven Orrick roofline to see bits of Twin Peaks and Bernal hill.  It is an unusually open view because the old Embarcadero double decker freeway used to connect up to 101 and turn into Fremont St. there.  That was torn down, taking years and years of demo, after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake rendered it unstable.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Loma_Prieta_earthquake
 It left behind several empty lots a couple of which have not yet been filled in.  My view is right over those lots.  In just a few weeks it’ll be “my view WAS….” 

19 November 2011

To do; To file; Too hard

We have our outbound flights!  United flies directly and though their service is dreadful at least they fly nonstop.  I used miles for business class seats so maybe the jet lag won’t be as debilitating as last time.  LiLi will love having her own screen.   I think I was 38 years old before I ever flew business class.  She's doing it at 8.  

The rest of the list is growing, day by day.  I do maybe five or six things a day from the list and yet it never grows shorter.  A friend had a law partner who had three piles of papers:  to do; to file; too hard.  I feel like dividing this list into the three. 

Even thinking about boxing up all of our stuff is in the too hard pile tonight. 

1.     Visa
a.     Copy birth certs and passport pages for visa ap
b.     Complete visa ap
c.      Call visa agency to figure out what other docs I need:
d.     a photo in 2-inch, white background, bareheaded (you  & kids)
e.     the registration of temporary residence in Beijing (you & kids)
f.      Beijing mobile phone number as your contact number
g.     BC and translated version w/ official seal of translation co.
2.     Work here
a.     Deal with paperwork w/r/t quitting job, chose separation date
b.     Figure out what address to use for the bar
c.      Pay bar dues for next year
3.     Make appt w accountant
a.     Taxes
b.     Insurance
c.      Overseas exps
d.     rental
4.     health insurance
a.     Post on BJmamas query re local health insurance
5.     Set up VPN (do it b/f leaving b/c can’t download software there)
6.     Upload all CDs into Itunes (why oh why have I not completed this before?)
7.     Digitize address book (ditto)
8.     House
a.     long list of house fix its
b.     Post house for rent on Craigslist ?  
c.      Create timeline for packing up rooms
d.     Get boxes/bins
e.     Find storage space for “
f.      Get basement ready for bins
g.     Figure out what basement furniture to give away
h.     Post to freecycle/Craigslist free [what happened to the guy who wanted the electric can opener and knife?]
i.       Drop at Goodwill
j.       Figure out what things/docs need to leave accessible
k.     Set up all bills for autopay (but what about paper bills and other mail?)
l.       Prepay insurance
m.   Prepay prop taxes
n.     Ask Jen to watch mailbox, pay bills? Give key?
9.     Ask Gregg to be on call for house fix its
10. Banking—figure out how to pay SF bills from BJ; figure out how to pay BJ bills (cash)
11. School
a.     Wire RMB to school [DONE!]
b.     school uniforms?
c.      school bus?
d.     School physical?
12. BJ real estate agents
a.     Make spreadsheet of apt s
b.     Post to BJMamas re complexes
c.      Match bus schedule (ck side of street for pick ups)
13. Ask BJ Jen for her Ayi agency name/contact: find BJ afterschool homework helper/cook/Ayi
14. Doc appts for both
a.     Get scripts for:  antibiotics
b.     Check in with travel clinic re rabies shots
15. Deal with Verizon
16. Deal with Comcast
17. Deal with PGE
18. Buy new laptop battery
19. Lock desktop files so house-sitter can use it?
20. Make packing list: what games? Dvds?  Narrow down LiLi’s stuffies to bring.  Coats, hats, gloves plus summer.  Start “to bring” bin
21. Sign up for SFPL on line Chinese or re-up with ChinesePod or take Pimsleur out of library?
22. Figure out what to do with car
23. Figure out what needs to go into the safe deposit box

14 November 2011

The Big Decision

Last week I made the ultimate decision to quit my job and move me and my kid to Beijing.  I have wanted to do it at least since spending the better part of last summer traveling around China.  My daughter, LiLi, is in a public Mandarin Immersion school in San Francisco, CA.  Her Mandarin is excellent and her accent sounds like a native, or so I'm told.  But, I'm also told that learning Mandarin in the US, even at a good school, means that at the beginning of third grade she knows a few hundred characters; if we were in China by now she'd know around 2000. 

We have some friends who moved to Central and South America so their kids could learn Spanish and I've long thought that that was a great idea.  I've recently reconnected with them, read their blog, and been inspired by their courage and sense of adventure.  I also met a family this past summer in Beijing who decided then that they'd move with their family of three young kids.  The dad, from Ghana, said that Mandarin is going to be so important to our kids' generation and that the place to learn it was right there, in Beijing.  A couple of weeks later they went home, packed up their house, and moved.  Since then I've hooked up with a whole cohort of expat families who have done the same thing for the same reason. 

Since I have been telling friends and other school families about our plans, I've been asked how it feels.  It feels:  exciting; overwhelming; exhilarating.  Mostly, it feels "right."  The last few days I've been reflecting on that, and the various considerations and pieces of the life-altering-changes puzzle.  A big piece is  Mandarin Immersion.  What better place to immerse my daughter in the language?  But there are other pieces too.  There are professional considerations, mid-life crisis ones (move to Beijing or buy myself a black Jaguar E-type?), getting unstuck.  Heritage is another big piece.  My father was born in China and left during a Japanese invasion in the 1930s when many Mainlanders fled.  He recalled running through a field as bombs were dropping.  He was the youngest of four kids and remembered my grandmother pulling on his arm to run faster.  He was about my daughter's age when they left China for Malaysia, later coming to the US for college and medical school. So there's a huge piece that feels a bit like I'm going home.  It's odd because though I've traveled in China a handful of times, I've never lived in China.  Perhaps there is something to the fact that some hotels and the visa ap refer to US born Chinese (even half-Chinese/half-Caucasians like me) as "Overseas Chinese." 

We will move to Beijing in late January 2012.  I intend to write here some of our experiences and welcome you to join us on this adventure.  : )