Early this morning I awoke, having fallen asleep watching tv. I was met by the news that Japan had just suffered a massive earthquake and at the time only 30 people had been killed. By the time I woke for work, that number had increased tenfold, and would probably continue to do so during the days and aftershocks and tsunamis that are to follow. I then read in the Globe this morning that Southeast China suffered a smaller, but still significant, earthquake the day before that.
After I got confirmation that the two people I know in Japan are safe and sound, I reminded myself that exposing myself to risks like this is one of the side-effects of global travel. I won't deny it: I did pause a moment and wonder about going to China in September. I reminded myself again that BiFengXia, the panda center I'll be volunteering at, is the replacement panda center for the much better known Wolong center which was decimated in an earthquake 3 years go. They lost several pandas in fact, before they managed to relocate the population to BiFengXia.
But like the bombings and unrest in Russia that occurred in the months leading up to my trip there, I have the same feeling of helplessness about natural disasters that might take place in China. Yes, it may happen. But fear of it happening when I'm there for 12 days cannot suppress my wanderlust. Go (unless forbidden to do so by the authorities) and go I will.
I received my confirmation and receipt for the tour yesterday, along with a welcome packet, insurance form, visa form, some demographic data and suggested reading list for the trip. The visa form is not nearly as involved as the one for Russia. Since I do not have a Chinese consulate near me, I'll be calling on the agency that got my Russian visa for me to do so again. I trust them now that I've sent them my passport and gotten it back successfully once before.
I'm still checking airfare daily, hoping for a little drop, right now it is running around $1500 before upgrading the seats to Economy Plus. I was contemplating adding a day at the front end of this trip so I can spend a bit more time in Beijing. I'm still undecided on that. Next up I have to purchase travel insurance by the 17th in order to get the "cancel for any reason" coverage.
My pre-trip reading will begin shortly. I was quoted in another Fodors guide, which entitles me to a free travel guide, so I chose China, of course. That saves me $25 and is arriving shortly. I also ordered a condensed history of China that reviews say is "readable". So wheels are in motion. It's hard to believe that 6 months from right now I'll be in Xi'An!
Here's the map of the trip: