It's always hard to remember when it occurs, but there always comes a point pre-trip when things just start to happen and I realize I'm going, whether I'm fully ready or not. This has started to happen in the last week or so.
First I received the visa, which is mildly disconcerting only because the only thing I can understand is my own name; the rest of it could read "Panda Stalking Psycho, Beware!" on it and I wouldn't be any the wiser.
Then, one night last week I sat down and went through all my luggage and gadgets. I found the plugs I need and other things I want to take (neck pillow) and culled out things I don't want to take, like numerous cosmetic bags, plugs for Europe, and a UK hair dryer! I ordered a back-up battery for the iPod, paperbacks for the plane rides (Daniel Silva, you better be entertaining at 35,000 feet over the North Pole!), started to flesh out movies and tv series for the iPod, got prescriptions refilled, bought a new windbreaker, compression stockings and still more clothes (hey, summer sales!). I've found ways to post to the blog and Facebook from behind the Chinese Firewall, as well as access email from there. I've confirmed that I'll have an internet connection for every city except Ya'an, where I'll be for three nights. So yes, you will get panda pictures, almost as they happen....
It's almost time to start notifying credit cards and banks that I'll be away and to expect activity in China. I need to start buying snacks, write up the instructions for the cat sitter and stop the newspaper. I know it seems like a finely tuned machine, but I can actually give myself an anxiety attack thinking of all there is to do. ALL there is to do. I still need to figure out how to get to the airport at an ungodly early hour and how to get home at an ungodly late hour.
But it will all come together. It always does. And the weeks and months after the trip, this flurry of activity will all be a distant memory.