Last week was a significant milestone in that I sent my visa application in. I'm using the same agency as I did for my Russian visa, which is located in Arlington, Virginia. Since there is no Chinese consulate that processes visas in the Boston area, I'm relying on the agency to do the legwork for me, for a price, of course. So with this milestone, I'm $201 poorer. All in the name of travel.
Just yesterday I started my staging area for the trip. In case you weren't following along for the pre-Russia insanity, this is where I start piling things up as I think of them; ultimately they will end up getting packed. It's usually a corner of my home office. And it will gather everything from books, guides, gadgets, cosmetics to clothes. The piling has begun!
This morning I looked into what plug adapters I'll need to charge my camera, iPod and laptop. China is proving to be somewhat of a challenge in that there are three possible prong configurations in use. One is the UK plug, one is similar to our two-prong plug and the third is a hybrid I've never seen. I'm fairly certain I have all of these in my collection of travel gadgets. Note to self: look for them.
In order to fully test the powers of my camera, I've visited three zoos locally and learned what the various automatic and manual settings do for my photos. Of course going to see wild animals is hardly a hardship for me, but this "play with camera" excuse works well.
Yesterday I spent about 7 1/2 hours with a friend of mine at a gorgeous beach. The time flew and felt like a heartbeat between the time we arrived and the time we packed up to go. Then I thought about it riding home and realized if that was my trip to China from Chicago, I'd still have about 6 hours left. Gulp. Note to self: find really good plane reading.
One thing I'm really researching is how to access the internet from China. Since they are fairly rigid about access to certain Western sites (blogspot being one of them) I am trying out various methods for accessing Blogspot as well as the internet in general. I really am hoping to find a reliable VPN (virtual private network) that will be immune to their firewalls. Not only do I want to be able to post to Blogspot, but also to send and receive email as well. Fingers crossed.
It hasn't all been really smooth sailing leading up to this point. About 10 days ago I went through a period of about a week where I was really freaked out about going to China. I don't know what it was but for several days I had convinced myself that this is quite possibly the craziest thing I've done. And it just may be. But I can talk myself down with thoughts of seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the most unique culture that I have been exposed to to date, and of course working with the pandas. Sigh...find inner calm. Inhale pink, exhale blue.
Next up on the checklist: find plug adapters, order travel sized products, get prescriptions filled, find good plane books, get visa back, find VPN for internet access.
Damn, lots of work to be done....