My Rectilinear Life


Dalian, China
December 11
US expat living in China. Another 40-something woman experiencing mid-life crisis, only this time in China, with dumplings.


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NOVEMBER 12, 2009 2:51AM

Preparing for Our Move to China, Part IV

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Flipping Out

Tonight I developed a cough.  Is there such thing as a stress cough?  Maybe my body is pre-emptively preparing for the pollution. 

This move is going to be slow torture. Tomorrow the international shipment goes out. On Monday, the rest of our stuff gets packed up and on Tuesday it gets shipped to storage.  On Wednesday we fly to California to spend a last few days with friends and on Saturday we fly to China. See, slow torture? We may as well be on the slow boat.

But we don't arrive until Sunday because of that great time vacuum, the International Date Line. And that's about as far as my brain will let me go right now. In an attempt to calm me down, my brain says we should only think about how we get there, not about what happens after that.

Sorting and stacking

Here's what it looks like when you try to determine which things you cannot possibly live without and pile them in a corner and wait for some dudes to show up and put them in a shipping crate and send them to China where some bureaucrat will have to approve your application to become a resident of a Chinese city and another bureaucrat will tell you whether you can import your shit into his country now that you're a resident.




Filling out forms

The funniest form we've had to fill out thus far was one for the shipping company.  "l certify that this cargo does not contain any unauthorized explosives, incendiaries,  individuals, or other destructive substances or items."  Nope, no individuals in this pile.

Taking some Chinese lessons

We've been preparing for this move for two years now and have used just about every resource possible to learn the language: college classes, the local Chinese school for kids, private classes, the Internet, and one-on-one tutoring.  The big final exam is coming when we land in China.

Several of the Chinese employees of my husband's company have been here in Arizona training for a few months. Some of their wives have graciously been meeting with a few of the expat wives to help us with our Chinese.  It has been loads of fun. 

I met with them for the last time this week and promised to get a white board for my apartment so that we could continue meeting once we all manage to get to China.  It's gonna need to be a big white board.




Tomorrow night I go for my final private class and the kids take their final class on Saturday.  Chinese is such a mofo of a language that after two years of work we are still underprepared.

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I really feel for you--you are going to have to embrace this as an opportunity for adventure. I lived in Tucson AZ for 4 years and I love and miss Arizona. I didn't want to leave either but life called me away. AZ is an amazing place and really does a deep healing on a lot of people, but I have a feeling China will give you a lot to write about and maybe some experiences that you will be deeply glad of later on in life. Bon Voyage!
Hi Poet. The truth is that we have been in Arizona only temporarily and haven't invested much of ourselves in appreciating its good parts. I have to say that if there were one city in Arizona I could miss, it would be Tucson. I still can't even believe that Phoenix has an excuse for existing other than developer greed.

We are thrilled to be going to China, but the stress of actually making it happen is draining us. My kids are starting to show signs of distress and it makes me so very sad for them.
Wow! Moving across country is stressful enough....and I did it throwing away EVERYTHING and only brought 3 bags with me on my flight to Colorado. The sorting is the most stressful. I have moved plenty of times (Usually solely by myself). But I took everything with me, and it also did not take much out of me. But when you are sorting and throwing things away-it can be draining because you have to decide, "Which piece of "memories" is more important than this piece of "memories". Completely draining indeed. I kind of get the feeling what LOTS wife in the Bible felt like now. Even though turning back to what she lost was definitely futile; she just didn't realize how much of an attachment material things can have a hold on her. It's so true. Our material possesions have such a deep hold on us, that we don't realize it until we get sick, or drained. And it's not just the physical move. It's more to it then that........ Definitely feel for you, DEFINITELY!!!!! But hey, enjoy your experience in CHINA..............when you get there. And breath a sigh of relief when you finally make it there.........'WHEW!!!!!!!'
mandarin is vastly easier to pick up than english, being both simple in structure and completely regular. you'll be chatting freely with the neighbors about the price of chicken feet and the gyrations of the shanghai stock market in a few months, never fear.

reading/writing was harder, but pocket electronic dictionaries fix that pretty well.

the hard part is getting your head around the fact that china is the patron society, you are the client. get used to being modest, reticent, and humble, and you will survive.
Well, the dudes showed up on time and put our shit on a truck. Goodbye shit. For now. I really hope to see you again. Especially you iMac, loaded with games and tv shows that keep my kids out of my hair. And you, too, favorite pillow.

Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

And let me just say, R. Mariea, that I could not imagine distilling my stuff down to 3 bags! I would love to be that mobile. I wish I could do a better job of detaching. I tried to convert a lot of old papers and stuff to digital, but I barely scratched the surface.
My best wishes and hopes go with friends just moved back from there...lets just say they are very glad to be back...
Wow, OTAN. I cannot even begin to imagine the vast undertaking. I can barely handle a move across town, let alone to a different country! I hope you'll keep posting on OS if possible; I'd love a look at China through fresh eyes.
This whole thing is sort of our version of a mid-life crisis. With two small kids and two full-time jobs in the Silicon Valley we were stressed to the max. I'm taking 2 years off for the adventure of it. My husband will work in China (and if I get too restless, so will I.) Once we actually get to China, I actually think the stress will decrease for while.
I wish you well. We (my wife [who is very adept at picking up languages] and I [who is not]) that our foreign service reckons that 400 hours of intensive training will bring a fledgling diplomat up to borderline competence [remember: these people are more or less self selected for language abilities] while Chinese takes 2200

I love China - the energy - everything - but I am not so sure I would want to live there for any length of time, because I don't believe the typical Chinese loves foreigners any more than does the typical Bible Belt American. That Chinese knows, just as the Bible Belt-er knows, that he is a superior being, and you are not. Most, almost all, in my experience, are cordial about it - but the attitude certainly has changed in the past fifteen years, and in another could become oppressive.

That being said, it should be quite an adventure. I hope you are prepared for the Chinese mocking your attempts to speak Mandarin.
Geeze, bit what an adventure!
After reading the original post and the subsequent comments, I don't know whether I should laugh or cry! Moving to today's China is NO BIG DEAL, whether you're heading for one of the major cities along the Pacific coast or inland. Unless one's heading for the poorest part of the country, i.e., the Northwest, today's China has every modern comfort you can think of, depending on your tastes and size of your pocketbook. From Chanel, Prada to Wal-Mart as well as the ubiquitous Starbucks, Big Mac and the Colonel, they've been around since 1979. Where've y'all been? As long as one forgets about that chip on one's shoulder as the "Me, Big White Savior" has come to rescue all you hoi polloi, the Chinese would welcome you with open arms. Just remember, you are guests there and they're the hosts. BTW, did you really "ship" your Mac instead of carrying it with you on the plane? Good luck! Not to worry, now that Lenovo, a Chinese company which bought out IBM's notebook division, notebooks are literally dirt cheap, much cheaper than Stateside and with all the bells and whistles you'd want or need.
Ray, I think you'll find that the posts and the comments are remarking that moving across the street is a stressful enterprise. No one has implied that China is some backwater. Just far away and with a different language.
And with cultural differences. In fact, in my first trip abroad as a teen I went to the UK. Same language. Plenty of cultural differences. That's kind of the point of going somewhere, isn't it?
Sounds like it's going to be a clockwork mandarin orange(s).lol

Good luck.