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August 07, 2006

last days

Tomorrow (August 8), we will leave China -- for now.

The last few weeks have been pretty intense. Two out of three nights we've been out for "good-bye" dinners with well-wishing friends. Having notified friends in the States of our imminent arrival there, we are getting a flood of "welcome back" messages from that side of the Pacific. I finally printed, and delivered, photos for several special local friends. One of my favorites is Mr. Han, the guy who has serviced my bicycle for the past two years under the shade of a tree at the corner of Gongnong Lu and Wenfeng Lu. I didn't know his name until I asked a couple of weeks ago whether we could take a photo together. He beamed and said it was ok, as long as I gave him a print. I brought him two prints the other day. I also had him repair a flat and tune up the bike, which I am giving to a colleague at work. Mr. Han wouldn't let me pay. I promised to visit him when I am back in Nantong. He said he will be in the same place. We also took several photos of Ms. Shen, the Pharmacy boss, and her son and employees -- including a few shots of "our" sign over the new branch pharmacy -- "Enjoy Long Life Pharmacy." (See previous entry. Terry and I wrote the English version of the sign.)

Two days ago, we finally made it to the Nantong Abacus Museum. We went with Dr. Chen and her daughter, Tingting, after a great lunch at Da Wan Mian (big bowl noodle). We had seen signs for the museum for about two years, and I finally passed it on the road last month, so I knew where it was. It is an interesting museum in a bright new building, but we were the only visitors. I hope the sparse attendance was only because of the heat. We arrived at 1:00, but surprisngly the museum was closed until 2:00. I think this was a long lunch break, which many companies and government offices have. We took the time to stroll through a small park I had wanted to see and to visit the hospital where Dr. Chen worked until she retired a couple of years ago.

Packing has been an interesting experience. We shipped most of our things by ocean container several weeks ago, but we still had much that we thought we need for life before we leave or immediately upon arrive in the U.S. After stuffing six suitcases with as much as the airlines will allow us, we are sending what is left by a combination of ocean container (our Swedish foam mattress pad will pass as a "foam insulation" sample); 2-month parcel post (stuff we needed in China but don't urgently need in the U.S.); and Fed Ex. We also have accumulate lots of things that don't work electrically in the U.S. or are not practical to ship for other reasons, and we are distributing them among our friends Liu Sheng and Tao Hong, our landlady, and my employer.

Even after two and half years in Nantong, there are things we haven't done. I've heard that every Sunday morning there is an outdoor opera in a park a few kilometers from our apartment, but I never actually made it to the park on a Sunday morning. I wanted to go to the neighborhood office of the bottled water company, Dayu, and meet the woman from whom I've been ordering water once a month since we arrived. About six months ago, she started recongizing my voice -- and remembering my address -- when I callled. I determined today that the office is too far out of the way for me to fit in a visit at the last minute. Somewhere in Nantong, there is apparently a Buddhist temple with a vegetarian restaurant. Ms. Shi from the big development zone almost took us there a few weeks ago, but she ulitimately said we'd better not go there in the summer, because the restaurant isn't air conditioined. So, we have activities (not to mention friends) to come back for.

-- Norty

Posted by now at August 7, 2006 04:43 PM