After nine years in New York City, a period in which my wife earned her Bachelor’s degree and became an American citizen, we’re on the move again. Determined to keep the dual-continent lifestyle, we’ve uprooted our lives for the second time in a return to Asia that is not “forever”, but “for now”.
Leaving was not easy, but it went nearly as smoothly as possible. I could have done a better job of last-minute preparations in the final week (when X had already departed), and I am deeply indebted to Piers calling me on my last day in town and inviting himself over to help out. “Bory,” he said upon walking into my apartment. “You are not ready to leave!” This was about two hours before my car to the airport would arrive. Continue reading Farewell, New York: Back to Asia
Even though Mrs P had returned about once a year, I hadn’t been back to China since we left in August 2007. Upon my return, I immediately regretted not having gone back sooner.
After three months living alone in New York, I boarded the plane for Beijing around 5pm. I had just received, the day before, a Kindle e-reader from Mom as an early birthday present, and I was downloading books and magazines for the flight while putting back beers in the airport bar. What a great device for travel!
Let me tell you: no matter how attractive the price, I will avoid at all costs in the future flying Air China. I have become accustomed to having a personal TV screen in my seat for long-haul flights; not available here. They have a single screen for the whole cabin, the “entertainment” they choose is horrendous, and the screen flickers and distorts the colors to boot. The plane was so old it had ashtrays in the armrests!
I was connecting directly to Chengdu and should have landed at 10pm; delays for “weather” meant I didn’t arrive until nearly 3am, with most of that time spent in the Beijing airport. But I arrived!
For the next week, I did little else besides sleep, eat and read. A typical day involved waking up around 7 or 8 (ok, I slept in the first couple of days) and making coffee, then sitting down to read for 3-4 hours. Mom might make me a boiled egg or a bowl of tang yuan, then go to the market. Dad would get out his game board for “Five in a Row” and study a book of strategy, playing practice games against himself. Mrs P might be reading as well, or working on her thesis. When Mom returned home, Dad would start chopping and slicing everything she’d purchased, and she’d cook a big lunch which we’d all sit down to around noon.
These lunches were the highlight of the day. Typically they’d involve six or seven dishes – ribs, duck, fish, and several bowls of greens. Dad and I would drink beer or liquor, and sometimes a family member or friend would show up to share with us. Xiao Niang (Mom’s sister) was a frequent guest. After the meal, we might take a nap, or go for a walk. In the evenings we’d either read or watch TV, or else meet up with a friend of ours (there are a few still around Chengdu). It was most relaxing.
Labor Day weekend we flew out to Shanghai to see the old crew. Party weekend! First, to Brad’s restaurant, where he is no longer working for anyone else but has his own place, and naturally it’s awesome. There is no greater feeling in a restaurant than sitting down and being attentively taken care of without ever looking at a menu. Course after course flowed from that fine kitchen until we had to beg the man to stop; we literally couldn’t eat any more. He came out to see us and said, “You guys are waving the white flag, eh?” We sat there and drank wine the rest of the night, and once the other guests had left, Mallon brought out the guitars.
That was a lead-in for Saturday night, when we officially got the band back together for a rocking gig at YuYinTang. Nearly everyone who ever played with Georgia Sam turned out for a spectacular evening – Eli, Adam, Yam, Fabian – and we had some new dudes who brought it to a whole new level. All due to Nate’s very meticulous organization and motivation skills, we were able to pull off a crazy show that had people going mad. For a small taste, check out this cover of Zep’s No Quarter:
Good times with family, good food, good music, good friends. What more is there in life?
Back in Chengdu, a crew of Mrs P’s friends helped me celebrate my 31st birthday in style, bringing me a cake in the middle of a music club and singing for me. We had such a great time. It was all over too fast. When can we return? As soon as possible, as far as I’m concerned.
Postscript: I did manage one more city on my way out. Since, in my infinite wisdom and prudence, I had booked myself an overnight layover in Beijing on the way home, I was able to hook up with both Sam and Jeff for one last night, drinking beers in a hu tong until the wee hours and stumbling onto the plane at noon, “a little bleary, worse for wear and tear…”
Mrs P has been back in China for a few weeks now, and I’m getting pretty lonely 🙁
But she is having a great time with the family, speaking Sichuan-hua and eating Mom’s food again, and that makes me very happy 🙂
Also, something amazing happened. Listen to what she wrote:
There is something miracle happened to my home. 11 years ago, my mom bought a plant is called Widened Microsorium, it had bloomed once at the time, and then never since. After 10 years, just a few days ago, that plant has blooming again, and the unique color combination and elegant shape caught my parents attention immediately, and they believe is because I’m coming, therefore luck forces rare flowers to bloom.
Don’t call it Two Thousand Ten or Two Thousand and Ten. We’re done saying “Two Thousand” now. It’s a relic, appropriate only for history professors or others who want to sound dignified. That’s my two cents. We can still hang out.
Two Thousand Nine was a cool year, I think. A lot of people are down on 2009, with good reason. Lots of lost jobs and houses, for sure. I don’t want to sound insensitive to that, but things are going pretty great for me and I’m happy. I got problems, sure, but I don’t have life-threatening problems. And I’ve got a lot of good people around me to help out, starting with Xianyi, and extending through my family, to my friends all around the world.
What else was cool about Oh-Niner? I saw a bunch of good concerts, which was a goal of mine, so – mission accomplished. Black Keys back in February kicked it off. Phish on the lawn at Merriweather, where I ran straight into my cousin Nick while roaming the grounds and shared a beer with him. Phish again, this time at the Garden, with the incredible light show courtesy of Chris Kudora – WOW.
I was twice at Carnegie Hall, once as a date to the symphony with Xianyi, and once with her, Dave and Tom for Arlo Guthrie. Amazing theatre. My goal for 2010 is seeing more historic NYC venues – Beacon top of the list (sidenote: too bad Cirque de Soleil’s 6-month run will block the Allman Bros from doing their gazillionth show in a row at the Beacon this March).
We did two great weddings this year. One was an entire adventure vacation, and the other was an intimate affair at home, and our first trip to the Cape.
Although my knee has been slowly getting better over the last two weeks, and I’ve felt good enough to stop using the crutches, I still haven’t been able to completely straighten my leg without pain. So I decided to get an MRI. I figured I might as well do it here since it’s probably ten times cheaper. Some random web searches indicate that back home, without insurance, an MRI could cost a few hundred bucks. Here in Shanghai, I scanned my knee for RMB300 ($37.50). Oh, I also had to pay to see the doctor first. That cost RMB17 ($2.12).
The scan itself is a pain. You have to sit there with your leg stuck in this machine for about 40 minutes, and you’re not supposed to move. The machine makes all these whirring and buzzing noises, then it’s quiet, then it starts clicking and clucking, then it whirs again. I fell asleep and was awoken at least three times with a start – the kind where you jolt awake and your body tries to leap into action like there are commandos invading your bedroom. Each time I jerked my leg a bit and got worried they were going to have to start over again, but nobody said anything. In fact, most of the time I was alone. A doctor came in every 10-15 minutes to check on the computer and see that it was still working, then he’d leave again. I wondered why the computer still had a drive for a 3.5 inch disk – you know, the kind everyone stopped using about 3-4 years ago at the latest.
That was yesterday. Tomorrow they will have my results. Dr Zhai, who referred me to the MRI and was the type of person who immediately gains my trust (I don’t know, he just seemed to know what he was doing), gave me his cell number and told me to call to get his recommendation. Let’s hope I don’t need surgery. It costs about RMB10,000.
Moving is going to be harder than I thought. I’ve been so wrapped up in getting the visa that I haven’t had time to think about the follow-up. And now that we’ve got it, I’m looking around the apartment thinking, How am I going to get all this stuff home?
Does anyone have any advice in terms of shipping? A friend once mentioned a “book rate” on shipping books, but FedEx and DHL both said no such thing exists here.
It’s going to require some masterful cash-flow management (as well as the use of my credit line) to make this happen. If you don’t see the Portfolios cavorting about town over the next few weeks, you know why!
We were up in Beijing for the Labor Day holiday, and it was six days of relaxation and partying. Xianyi and I finally visited the Forbidden City together, although we failed (again) to find our way to the Great Wall. We were just too busy sleeping in each day to bother making the 2-3 hour trip. Anyway, the wall’s not going anywhere. And one of the cool things about Beijing is that you don’t have to go far to see really cool traditional Chinese architecture. The above picture, for example, was taken during our last hour in the city, when I asked the taxi driver to pull over for a minute as we drove to the train station.
The highlight of the trip was the MIDI Festival, China’s only outdoor rock festival. We spent one of our days at the four-day show and had a great time. Probably should have gone on other days, too, but it just didn’t work out. While there, we saw a lot of bands, none of whom I was familiar with. But I wasn’t really there for the music, more for the atmosphere. Here you have ten to twenty thousand young Chinese gathering in Beijing’s Haidian Park just hanging out, listening to music, drinking beer and selling wares. Lots of food stalls, people selling t-shirts and handmade goods, and plenty of cheap, cold beer. It was awesome!
Mostly I spent the hours skating on the mini-ramp that Eli’s company had set up on the grounds. I fell down about 20 times but it was great to watch some of the guys there who really knew what was up, like this Swedish dude:
I was having so much fun skating, I pretty much missed all the bands. But we could hear lots of music, so that was all that mattered.
Here I am looking like maybe I know what I’m doing. To see what actually happened, click here. It’s pretty funny.