I leave Philadelphia at 11:00 Friday morning. From there, I fly to San Francisco, where I’ll spend the night at Ernie’s place before flying out to Beijing.
I’ll stay in Beijing for five days or a week, then catch the train up to Harbin, where I’ll drop some of my stuff off at my apartment, stay for a few days, and then start travelling around by rail. I have, as yet, no concrete plans for this, other than that my Chinese professor will be in Shenzhen and Chengdu, and that Nicole and Jiajia and maybe Lili will be in Beijing at some point in August, and that I rather liked Shanghai and Suzhou, and have heard good things about Hangzhou, Guilin, and Chongqing as well.
It’s striking me, now that I have slightly over 24 hours left here, that this entire venture has, to date, been characterized by a complete and utter lack of thought on my part.
My friend Katie* asked me if I wanted a job teaching English. I said sure. And I had a job.
(I still have no idea of exactly what I’ll be doing next year, or what ages of kids I’ll be teaching.)
My plan was to get to China and then backpack around for, like, six weeks or so. I shopped around, found a one-way ticket for July 12th on flychina.com, and bought it.
(And while I will be backpacking around China, I still don’t know exactly which parts of China, or where I will be staying, or how I will afford this.)
11 o’clock on Friday is approaching both slowly and quickly now, and it reminds me of the moment right before a rollercoaster cart hits the top of a peak and drops; time moves in slow-motion, and the immediate future is right there in front of your eyes for one crystal-clear instant. (After that, you drop downwards at 9.8 metres per second squared, screaming all the way and usually having a good time.)
Stuff has happened in this last month that really does bear writing about, and maybe it will even be written about at some point. But for now, it is late-ish, and I have packing to do, and goodbye notes to send, and immunizations to get, and hugs to give and last-minute panicking to do.
My parents won’t be able to see me to the gate, and it doesn’t seem fair.
Anyway, kids. I’ll see you all in September,* at the very latest. Take care, OK? Send e-mails? Don’t forget me?
Six weeks of backpacking around China without any real, solid itinerary. A year of teaching English in Harbin without any kind of qualifications. Fourteen months in the Chinese version of Siberia.
I did not think this one out well at all.