This is crazy. Finishing grad school, finishing grades for my students, cleaning the house, classroom, and car. Packing up the goods and gifts and few clothes I'm taking. Mostly toilet paper, bandaids, and medicine. I've collected a few gifts to give to my host family... a bottle of Boordy wine, notecards, a book about Utah and a book about Maryland. I'm going to be living with Sally and her parents. I can't wait to meet them. The host families are having a send off dinner tomorrow night. It should be fun. Then one week until we depart for Beijing.
One of the problems already is the H1N1 virus scare. China is checking for flu symptoms as US flights arrive. Technically this means we will have to get a nose swab before entering Beijing, then go through customs, and hopefully not miss our flight to Xi'an. On a down note, if someone on our plane has flu symptoms, we will be quarantined for a week!
Preparing for the travel is what is the most interesting. I have been accumulating stuff and not officially packing. It is supposed to be extremely hot. Hot. And smoggy. I still can't decide if I'm packing an extra suitcase in my luggage or just taking two both ways. The luggage really will be a pain on the last leg of the trip because we will be on a "soft sleeper" (having a bed with a cushion) train from Xi'an to Beijing for twelve hours. That train ride will be nothing compared to the near 48 hours of real time it will take us to arrive in Xi'an (if we make our connecting flight).
We will arrive at our host school to meet our host families and the principal of Tie Yi High School (one of the top 10 schools in the country). The students we are staying with will not be participating in many of the events, dinners, and field trips because all of them will be studying for their "gaokao" (gow cow). This the Chinese college entrance exam similar to our SAT (haha, the math in the American SAT was called "elementary" by our guests in February). It is a two day test that is given the first week of June. The parents await their kids inside to read their expressions as they leave the test, After watching a student slobber on their final exam in my class because "it doesn't matter anyway I passed and am graduating and going to college" I find this an interesting comparison of cultures.
So I guess I will blog as often as I can. Facebook and email as well. The phone will be a little tricky and the iPhone as cool as it is, will cost a bundle. $1 per text and $2 per minute talking. But it will work for emergencies, as an iPod, camera, and my bff.