Halfway to Shanghai

Let me clarify, I am not literally halfway to Shanghai. I am not writing this somewhere above the Pacific Ocean. I am however halfway through my scheduled time at the Foreign Service Institute, 74 days into training and 74 days out from the day we fly to China.

Halfway! Holy smokes!

I am surprised myself. I feel as though we have been here longer than that and the departure date is much closer. Probably because with each Friday I simultaneously exhale a sigh of relief as I look forward to a Chinese-free weekend (because I’m a bad student that generally does little or no study on the weekend) and take a gulp of panic as I realize I am one week closer to that Chinese exam. It’s that exam that determines whether or not right now is really the halfway point to an on-time here-we-come China departure or merely an ETD, heavy emphasis on the estimated.

Just more of that baited breath unknown that keeps life in the Foreign Service going ’round.

I have had a shift in priorities as my “To-do in Northern Virginia” list grows shorter and the “Prepare for China” list takes over.

Our Chinese diplomatic visa applications are complete and with the Chinese Embassy; I am just awaiting the call to pick them up. I am crossing my fingers they are correct the first time around. Two and a half years ago I went to pick up our visas with a Spanish classmate. Alas, the visas for her two daughters had been switched – the visa for the older daughter placed in the younger daughter’s passport and vice versa. They had to be redone. I would prefer not to have to do that.

Two boxes of things as well as my jogging stroller headed to Goodwill today. Saying farewell to the jogging stroller was a little harder than I expected. I know, I know, it’s a stroller. It is just that it had been C’s primary stroller, until I had to pack it up in the UAB. I spent the summer Home Leave extravaganza solely with the cheap-o, but surprisingly durable, umbrella stroller. No, I do not jog with the umbrella stroller, but then I do not jog with C anymore. As we are heading for Shanghai, a city of nearly 24 million where the Consulate has it’s own air quality monitor with daily updates…I do not see myself doing a lot of jogging out of doors.

The hoarding of additions for my Household Effects (HHE) shipment to China has also begun. As we get up to 7,000 pounds and I only have about 3,000 pounds of personal effects sitting in a warehouse in Maryland awaiting our departure to China, I have a little extra space to throw in a few more things. Things like three bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and three bottles of Grapeseed Oil. I had two people already in Shanghai email me this might be something to include in my shipment. I have also stocked up on toothpaste for myself and C. Yeah. I know they have toothpaste in China, but some of it is unsafe. Not only did one of my Chinese teachers inform my classmate and I of this, but I also found several new stories reporting this online.

I have begun my stockpile of two years worth of tampons. I wish I were kidding. Unfortunately, I also heard from someone in China that some of these Chinese products are not the real deal. Online I found a link to the following news headline “China-wide fake sanitary napkin ring busted.” You did in fact read that correctly. It is not like they weight much of anything, and so into the shipment they go.

Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, and Doc McStuffins Band-Aids are also hot ticket items. Not that C has a lot of accidents requiring bandages —she does not—but she loves to wear them as decorative skin ornamentation.

Certainly I will be able to buy many, many wonderful products in China. I will also, of course, have mail service, including access to a Diplomatic Post Office or DPO, which generally has fewer restrictions and faster shipping times than the State Department mail or the “pouch.” (Hello Netgrocer, my friend, it has been a few years.) But hey, if I have the space in my shipment, I might as well stock up on some of my favorite products, right?

We all do it. We generally have something, some favorite brand of something that will just make some of those hard days overseas feel a little bit better. A few less shopping trips for days the thought of going to the grocery store in a foreign country seems the equivalent difficulty as splitting the atom.

I also need to begin preparing my cats Kucing and Tikus (Indonesian for “cat” and “mouse”) ready for another overseas trip. Yes, even my cats have been to three countries already and we are set to make it a fourth. They flew special cargo via Amsterdam out of Indonesia (I flew via Tokyo) and I was lucky to be able to drive them into and out of Mexico. This go around the kitties should be on the same flight. Laugh if you will, but I will likely be throwing in at least six months worth of kitty litter into the HHE shipment.

I have 74 days to prepare these and more. Well, I hope. Sixty four days until the Chinese test that will say yeah or nay on the departure.

The countdown has begun.

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