Having been sucked into the vortex of another seemingly never-ending system implementation at work, I seem to have lost sight of China. So as things have slowed down a bit, I've refocused. This purposeful refocus serves not only to distract me from the drudgery and stress of the current project, part of it is to actually start to prepare for the trip. If you remember how engrossed I was leading up to the Russia trip, you'll realize I have a lot of work to do.
One day this week, I added the week numbers to my calendar in Outlook. This week is week 20 of 2011. I leave on week 37. Damn, 17 weeks. I better get my act in gear!
With the gift card my firm gave out for Employee Appreciation Day, I bought four books off of my Amazon wishlist. I'm reading one now which is an account of an American who went to university in China in the early 80s. Granted, that was when the barriers to our being in China were newly removed, but I am noticing a painfully sharp strictness in how life was for the Chinese under post-Mao Communism as opposed to what I learned about Russian-brand Communism. This actually disturbs me more: not telling foreigners your birth date and not letting them throw you birthday parties; not being able to dance, work out or even do tai chi; suffering through a painfully high-carb diet; having to speak against their parents if they were determined to be enemies of the party -- whether true or not. It really is just unbelievable to me. And I mean "unbelievable" in its most literal sense. I just do not believe what I'm reading. Oppression just seems to me to be so extreme then. I hae to wonder how it has changed now. Surely eased up with more exposure to the west?
I've also given my Netflix queue a workout and have really enjoyed some wonderful movies set in China. Not One Less was a very touching, true story about a substitute school teacher in rural China who struggled to keep all the kids in class until the permanent teacher returned. It was fascinating, the conditions they teach in as well as how she motivated them to stay. Raise the Red Lantern tells the story of a woman who became the fourth concubine in a family and how she suffers under the stresses of that lifestyle. And at the suggestion of my fellow panda-fan Bev, I watched The Last Emperor, which amazingly I had never seen before but thoroughly enjoyed. Bev told me that it is fairly representative of how life was in the Forbidden City.
Today I killed some time before real work began plotting on maps where the Starbucks are located in the Chinese cities I'll be staying in. Looks as though I am well-looked after in Beijing and Chengdu. There are none in Ya'an, and none near my hotel in Shanghai. I'm unsure where my hotel in Xi'An is, so that's up in the air. It's just nice to know it's there...not that I'd necessarily have to go, other than to buy the requisite city-specific merchandise.
Somewhere in the fits and starts of my sleep patterns recently, I had another dream about being in China, but darned if I can remember it now. I'm hoping for a return to a more sane existance soon, one which will allow me to enjoy the next 17 weeks and get back to the real business of trip planning and watching Panda-Cam all day at work again!