Thursday, June 30, 2005

Take this job and... 

Well, I officially gave my notice to Wombatsch... twice. Tuesday afternoon I sent off an e-mail saying that my last day was going to be July 29th. Our HR person shot back a reply requesting that I submit things in writing, including my reason for leaving. So after my shift, I wrote up a short note stating my intention to "terminate my employment" on July 29th and that the reason was that my wife had accepted a teaching position in the ol' PRC. I also felt inclined to add something nice, like "Gee, I'll miss you guys" or something. The problem was, I didn't know how honest that would be. As one can tell by my recurrent whining, I am burnt out with this job and the industry. When I was in Minnesota, I really didn't give one thought to the job. I can't even say that I missed my co-workers, though they are a nice bunch of people. (or is that "bunch of nice people?") So I ended up writing "I am leaving behind a very good job and a great group of co-workers", and wished them well. (Of course, this was addressed and given only to my supervisor, who might share it with two or three people, max. But hey, it was late.)

Today I come in and in my e-mail is a note from my supervisor, stating that my letter was the "nicest resignation" she had ever read and inviting me to apply for my old job when and if I come back. (You an be sure I printed out that little mail.) The "nicest" part, however, had me scratching my head for a bit. Finally it occurred to me that few people are probably inclined to write "nice" resignation letters. It's probably all they can do to keep from cussing folks out. (I've composed a few fantasy resignations like that over the years.) Anyway, I've committed myself to departing and got a nice ego stroke in the process. What remains is deciding if I'm going to send the typical farewell blanket e-mail to all my co-workers and if I'm going to tell anyone about the blog. (It would be better than lying to them and saying that I'll remember to keep in touch... I'm so lousy at that.)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Reverse culture shock 

Day one back in the world

Ah, to be actually online again with my very own laptop! I thought that last night's post would bring closure to the event, but it seems that an epilogue is in order.

I didn't describe the closing ceremonies too much, but they were very much like a graduation. After the program we hung around and schmoozed and a number of people were taking pictures. (One of my classmates even had a video camera and interviewed everybody.) Finally the reception wound down and we headed back to the room. I wrote my post while the girls went through their bedtime rituals. I then decided to mosey over to the campus chapel for the 10 pm evening prayer service. It seemed like it would be a nice cap to the day and besides, I wanted to enjoy one more midwest summer night. (The low humidity here in Seattle makes for some chilly evenings.) I ran into a number of the class of '05--I think about half of us were out and about that night. There were tears and hugs and "let's keep in touch". As I made my way back to our room, I thought that it was a rather nice end to the whole experience.

Of course, I saw a number of those folks again, at breakfast. Only about a third of our total number this time, however. The rest of the morning saw a dwindling of our numbers as the Sauerkraut van ferried people to the airport. We were in the last run, which included four people other than ourselves. We got dropped off at the good ol' Humphrey terminal and it was just us and Harriet, an EFL teacher headed to Poland. As the van pulled away, I gave her a hug and wished her well. She pointed out that she would be right behind us in the check-in line. Oh, well. Guess I got caught up in all the leave taking. Anyway, we all made it through security (Man, was it ever tight. Forget Texas--don't mess with Minnesota.) and then since we had time and were hungry, we had one more lunch together. Eventually our number came up, however. We made our final farewell and boarded the plane.

The flight home was uneventful. We inquired both at the Sun Country and SeaTac airport lost and found, but whoever had our camera on the 12th must have lost it again. That sucked, but what can you do? I've still got my good ol' Retina and Poodlepums has her camera, so the family isn't suffering.

Well, not over that, anyway. Our arrival at home was somewhat depressing for me. I hadn't thought much beyond making some blog entries and painting the bedroom. Had I
really thought about it, I might have considered that not only would I have a pile of mail to wade through, but I'd also need to file away all the nice papers I was given during training. And, of course, there was a message on the machine from work, asking me to call in if I was available for overtime. Guilt trip #43 returns. sigh. In training we talked about reverse culture shock--when the person who has been residing overseas comes back to their home culture and is overwhelmed by those things they haven't had to deal with. Guess I got a small taste of that tonight. Oh, well, what can you do? Back to work....

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine... 

Ah, to be actually online again with my very own laptop! You don't know what it's been like!
Well, duh! How can they know what it's been like if you haven't been able to post?
Voices? Am I hearing voices? Have I gone mad?
Hardly. You're just resorting to a lame literary device to introduce your previous posts from the last two weeks.
The last two weeks? Why, those posts were all rather short and boring. Why would I introduce them?
Sheesh. Who writes this dreck? (ahem) "Why, Hamburger Lad, don't you realize? You may have been offline for most of the past two weeks, but you can travel back in time and change the past. You can make all those posts that you wrote but never posted." You know, the long and boring ones.
Why, you lousy--
Stay in character, burger boy, someone might be reading.
Oh, um, yeah. "Uh, what a wonderful idea. That way I can share all my thoughts on all the Sauerkraut training I received."
Not to mention getting out of posting for the next two weeks...
Shh! "But who are you, kind stranger? And how did you know about my internet problems?"
Oh for crying out loud, just can the script and set the machine back to June 12th. Oh, and you might want to bring extra change on Thursday. the kids are supposed to pay full fare before 6:30....

Thursday, June 23, 2005

And in the end... 

Day twelve of our Sauerkraut training

It's over. We have received our official Sauerkraut pins and training diplomas. (No decoder rings--maybe that's only for the long termers.) Of course, I haven't turned in my official Sauerkraut contract yet. Like yesterday's panel of experts I didn't find out about the session until it was too late. Serves me right for playing hooky. But I did get all of my reading done and even caught up on my online comics.

As you can imagine, it's one of those bittersweet things. If we weren't going off to China, I would have added a number of names on our Christmas card list. (Oh, that's right, we were going to send out Christmas cards before we left. I've got to remember to get on that when I get time.) In one sense, it's a bizarre time of life to be starting relationships. But then again, is there any
bad time to start a relationship?

Anyway, tomorrow we awaken from our dream. We leave the mountaintop and head down to the valley. I wonder how long it will take the euphoria to crumble. And I wonder if maybe, just maybe, I might be able to smuggle a smidgen of this peace and contentment back into the trenches.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Right behind 

Day eleven of our Sauerkraut training

And as we head down to the wire, the euphoric fog is dissipating. What was exciting is becoming routine and thoughts of home are starting to creep in. Not that I'm still not enjoying this, mind you. But the end of training is coming at just the right time.

I can't even think of anything exciting to share with you. I crashed a couple of the long termer's sessions, which were good but not really blogable. I also missed a joint session--another Q&A panel featuring the overseas veterans, including the TEFL teachers this time. Fortunately Noodles was there, so she could tell me what jokes I missed. I also made headway with my notes. I think that I might just be able to read through the rest of them, if not tomorrow then over the weekend.

Oh, one thing I did was read over my past entries. Remember the little sarcastic comments I made about the Mandarin lessons? I totally repent of them. Jeff's lessons have been less a straightforward language lesson and more a focus on the sounds, tones and accidentals of the language. It really augments Carol's lessons well.... though I still need a translator.

After supper we got touristy and took public transit over to see Minnehaha Falls. We had a nice hike along Minnehaha Creek from the falls down to where it flows into the Mississippi River. We also enjoyed a selection of short and amusing videos at the Lake Street/Midtown light rail station. A highly recommended destination for the whole family. (I should really expand my
Travel Guide to Seattle one of these days.)

Anyway, one more day and we will be fully equipped and ready to go. China beware!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Left behind 

Day ten of our Sauerkraut training

It's twelve minutes after ten o'clock in the evening--our Minnesota bedtime, ya know--and Noodles is attempting to teach Poodlepums how to sing the alto line of a song. The reason for this was because Poodles was lamenting the fact that she would not be able to participate in the kids choir this year and was annoyed that adult choirs don't sing in unison. Noodles is attempting to show her the joys of singing in harmony.

So what does this have to do with Sauerkraut training? Nothing. I was digressing. Today was the day when I ended my training. Sort of. The three TEFL instructors happened to sit at our table at breakfast, so I tendered my resignation. None of them seemed bothered in the least. So after breakfast I went to the library and checked my e-mail and browsed a few blogs. I didn't post on my own blog, because I'm going to time travel and post this entry in a couple of weeks from now. But it was quite enjoyable to do some relaxed surfing. After that I dug into some of last week's handouts I had yet to read.

When lunch time came, I felt rather odd. A whole mass of the English teachers came bursting out of class and heading to the cafeteria. (Noodles wasn't with them as she had gone to observe an actual ESL class.) I felt a bit alienated, as if I was no longer part of the group. Yeah, I know I had ditched out of the class, so I technically wasn't part of that group. But it was more like I had let down the team or something. Obviously my childhood alienations were bubbling to the surface.

Anyway, that didn't matter so much. You see there's two tracks going on this week. One for the TEFL students and one for the folks who are going out on long term assignments. (I don't know if these are open ended or four year terms.) The long term folks get extra cultural training and sessions specifically geared towards the country to which they're going. Anyway, at lunch time I met the guy running the long term programs. I mentioned to him my change in status and he gave me an open invitation to sit in on the long termer's sessions. So for a couple of hours after lunch I sat in on what was essentially a private question and answer session. So I got some extra tidbits of advice on how to adapt to a new culture and how to help the kids deal with culture shock. (The big advice for the former: Get your butt out of your apartment and get out amongst the people from day one.)

In a sense, I was getting trained for China today. A big part of my life will be finding something to do while Noodles is at work.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday I've got Friday on my mind 

Day nine of our Sauerkraut training

A bit of changing gears today. Today was the first time I got to participate in the Teaching section of our training. It was quite different with a new set of teachers and a different focus. The first troubling thing that I noticed was that I was having trouble concentrating. I didn't know if that was due to getting to bed late last night or the fact that the material really didn't apply to my new vocation. Anyway, the different groups presented their homework--some quite flamboyantly. My own presentation was pre-empted by a storm warning that sent us all scurrying to the basement. It was a beauty of a mid-west thunderbuster, the sky darkening 'til it seemed like twilight. Some folks outside our building had been having some sort of outdoor gathering and as we headed downstairs, we saw about a half a dozen people struggling to drag their little canopies inside against the wind. Afterwards, I noticed that a few of the struts had been snapped in half, though whether that was done by the wind or by the folks trying to fit the flurshugginer canopies through the door, I don't know. Anyway, once again there was no tornado (Danke Gott) and I ended up giving the short version of my presentation.

The afternoon was more lectures and some teaching exercises. (Well, actually they were more like games.)(Edutainment. Yeah, that's it.) I ended up on a slightly sour note as we were supposed to plan out a short (5 min.) lesson where you taught something you knew how to do to the others in your group. At first blush, that seemed to be a great assignment. I figured I'd try to teach something in the area of desktop publishing--something I know well and that may be useful to these future teachers. The main problem, however, was finding an aspect of DTP that was small enough to fit into the five minutes. Not only that, I had to find some task that could be translated to pencil and paper (since we weren't given computers with copies of Quark Xpress) and in which the "students" could demonstrate that they've learned something. I started fleshing out the concept of doing a basic newsletter layout, but by the end of class had abandoned the idea. Any design would be guided by the content and media of the newsletter and I thought that answering such questions would add too much complexity to the subject. After supper I went back to my room and toyed with the idea of teaching the construction of a simple html page. That fizzled as my memory of html code was limited and I had no access to any references, either books or websites. Noodles offered some alternate topics, none of which clicked with me. And then she suggested the idea of either blowing off the assignment (respectfully, of course) or just abandoning the program entirely.

I mused on that one for a while. Looking back on the day, I could see how I had really been in over my head. And I had no real incentive to try and rise to the challenge. Looking down the road, it also seemed like it might be better to spend the rest of the week reading all of the material that they had piled upon us last week, as once I return home, I will be swamped with work and painting once again. So tomorrow I'm going to drop out--from the assignment, at least. They may end up talking me into warming my chair for the day. But that's tomorrow's worry.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Soon we'll be shopping in Sensurround 

Day eight of our Sauerkraut training

And on the eighth day, we rested.

No classes. No note taking. No cafeteria service. We slept in and after a light breakfast--bagels and fruit--we went to the 11 o'clock service at a local church. For lunch we had ethnic food--a Minnesotan potluck. Actually there was one oddity. Someone had brought an African "soup", served over sticky rice. I qualify "soup" because to me it was more of a vegetable paste with beans and a chunk of meat. Oh, and jalepeños. Those kicked in about five seconds after you took a bite. I managed to down about 3/4 of the rice before I gave up, chomping down on plain bread between spoonfuls. It tasted quite good, but my mouth wasn't up to the challenge.

Afterwards we changed our clothes and hopped public transit to the Mall of America. I had decided to go see
Star Wars III while Noodles and the kids browsed the mall. However, I was cranky most of the way to the mall, as I thought the show started at 3:00 and we only just arrived at that time. We strolled up to the theater anyway and discovered that my memory was bad and that the show didn't start 'til 3:30. A nice little Father's Day present.

[I suppose at this point I should do a review of the film, but I'm too lazy. Suffice it to say that I think I'm getting too old for this sort of thing. I think I spent every fight scene thinking that the Jedi knights were wasting a heck of lot of energy doing their Jedi flips and jumps.]

After the show, I rejoined the family and we strolled through the lower level. We avoided the rides at Camp Snoopy, but we did catch an entertaining act by a trio of acrobats and jugglers. I enjoyed that almost as much as the movie. (Scary how my values are changing...) We then attempted to go dine in the food court, but the food court had closed up. Some of the "sit down" restaurants had later hours, however, so I had a big ol' hamburger at Kokomo's Island Café. Finally we headed back to our home away from home, on a perfect, muggy midwestern night. Life is good.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Day seven of our Sauerkraut training

I don't believe it. I've got a homework assignment for Monday morning. What the heck is up with that?

Today started okay. I still had a low level cold, but I was functioning okay. The plan was to attend a seminar on raising kids in a foreign (to them) culture, then hang out in the college library, have lunch, and take the kids to a children's museum in downtown St. Paul. Well, the first hiccup was that the library didn't open until noon. So we wandered back to our room and I actually ended up taking a short nap. Actually, backtrack a bit. After the session, which was all nice and informative, Noodles and I talked to the head TEFL instructor to get her opinion of my sitting in on the classes. She made a good case for the training helping my relating to the folks over in China, so I decided to go with the program rather than lounging about and relaxing.

So back to the nap. I napped, awoke and went to lunch. Then I checked the e-mail, made a short blog post and gathered bus info for our excursion. The girls and I had our outing (yawn! I'm getting too old for children's museums... except for the water tables, of course.) and then came back for supper. Noodles arrived in the dining hall soon after we arrived and announced our mutual assignment. Turns out that our group has to read chapters seven and eight of the book,
More Than a Native Speaker, and give an oral report upon what we read. The group divvied up the labor and my assignment is to tell how chapter seven, "Speaking: A Linguistic Juggling Act", relates to my experience. The scariest part of this is that of the eight people in our group, I've logged in the second highest amount of hours teaching ESL, hence my assignment. A whole six or eight hours covering for a vacationing teacher at our church's program. (Actually, I should drop character and point out that the majority of my colleagues here are young punks in their twenties. But they're good kids and I'm sure they'll do fine.)(I would expect only one or two of them to get arrested.)

So where was I? Oh, yeah, my assignment. It's kind of stretching things to say that I have experience as an ESL teacher, so I've had to bring in my experience as a language student and in training other people in work procedures to round things out. And as for the section of the chapter that talks about testing students' speaking abilities.... heh, I get to ignore that entirely. So I guess, I'm managing. Still, I can't believe I'm doing homework again after almost twenty years of being out of school. What's even more hard to believe is that I'm not waiting until Sunday night to do it.

I have no mouth... 

... well, I don't need to scream, really. But I am frustrated in my attempts to post something. I formally gave up on my attempts to get my laptop online. Of course, informally, I might be at the Mall of America tomorrow and might sneak over to the Apple Store and look for a close out Airport card. Or I might just go see Star Wars while Noodles and the kids ride the rides. (Mall of America. I can't believe I'm actually going to go there. I feel so... suburban.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Coming around the stretch 

Day six of our Sauerkraut training

Today we finished the first half of the training. All the cross-cultural stuff is now packed in the official binder. We ended up with an interesting little game where the group was split in two and each group was sent off into a separate room. Each group was taught a "culture" and then everyone took a turn going over into the other "culture" and trying to fit in. It was fascinating how we were able to adopt our own "culture" and then encounter serious frustration when attempting to cross over to the other. After the exercise, we gathered together to debrief. Each group was asked to describe the other, and surprisingly it was mostly negative. While it never got out of control, tempers and pride rose as we discussed our artificial differences. It put me in awe of those anthropologists, traders, explorers and plain ol' immigrants who actually have gone out to a people of an alien culture and attempted to interact with it without the benefit of books or training. It was a sobering and challenging experience.

Tomorrow starts the specific training for ESL, or TEFL, or whatever acronym you use to describe teaching English to someone who didn't grow up speaking it. The handful of folks who are not English teachers have received their official Sauerkraut certificates and decoder rings and will be shipping out either today or tomorrow morning.... except for me.

Technically, I'm not going overseas as an English teacher--I'm going as a child wrangler, cook and dishwasher. I'll start my official training tomorrow, since the usual kids' program isn't running. Noodles will be starting her ESL training, and I need to watch
das kinder. We'll do something fun, I'm sure. Once the kids' program resumes on Monday I have the choice of sitting in on the ESL classes or goofing off. The latter is tempting, the former seems a bit more responsible. Of course, since I'm not qualified to teach ESL in China, the courses may be as useful to me as sitting in the campus library and surfing the web all day. I'll have to think about this one. I almost wish I had known about it before hand so maybe I could have gone home early and done some painting.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Keep on truckin' 

Day five of our Sauerkraut training

The novelty of it all is starting to fade. The morning sessions touched on relationships again, though this time the focus was more on co-workers rather than any ol' person you may encounter. In the afternoon we focused on the home office and what resources they offered to the folks working overseas. They brilliantly scheduled the least interesting topic--the corporate structure--right before the most dynamic speaker--the fundraising coach. With a loud voice and a Missouri twang, she woke us all up, got us out of our seats for some oddball "team building exercise", and then sat us back down and talked us through all her material. You probably won't be surprised to hear that the question and answer session ran over. We are talking money after all.

After supper, Noodles got a ride to a thrift store to replace our broken suitcase. I made yet another attempt to connect my laptop to the internet. This time I borrowed a phone cord and tried to dial up the university's server. I got the server to answer the phone and connect, but the username/password the guy told me to use wasn't accepted. If I had any money, I'd break down and buy an Airport card. (Not that their wireless connection is guaranteed to work.) Oh, well, at least we can check our e-mail easily enough at the library.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Day four of our Sauerkraut training

What happened? I got a full night sleep last night--none of this wake up at 4 am and toss and turn for an hour stuff. But I had a low grade headache and was late for two sessions today. (Well, technically I was late for three, but the last was a photo session and all we missed was a bit of standing about waiting for our turn.)

I can't think of a unified theme to describe today. We talked about relating to other people (expatriate co-workers and nationals alike) as well as physical and mental health issues. The latter was a bit challenging, as there are so many things I do which violate the guidelines for a healthy life style. And then right after the lecture I turn around and have a double helping of mashed potatoes. Not my idea, mind you. Poodlepums didn't like it and gave me hers. Which would be the greater sin? Wolfing down the carbs? Or wasting good food?

We also had a second mini-session of Mandarin lessons. I think the worst thing you can do, when starting out, is to have more than one language teacher. I've already noticed some differences in pronunciation between Carol and our new teacher, Jeff. Who do I believe? Carol is Chinese, but lives in a part of China where Cantonese is the main language. Jeff learned his stuff in Taiwan and would be more sensitive to how an English speaker would learn the language. Actually, it's not that big of a dilemma. Both teachers are going to get trumped by the populace of Yunnan--the people to whom we'll actually need to communicate. Still, I'm lucky to get a bit of a head start.

On my way to better things 

I'm in Minnesota being quite busy with our training courses. Not too busy to write, per se, but too busy to write during the limited moments I can snag a library computer. Anyway, I'll have to decide if I type up my journaling when I get back or just let the blog gather some dust and go onto new things in a week or so.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Day three of our Sauerkraut training

More of the same, only different. Today the focus was on cultural issues--becoming aware of our own cultural biases and preparing for the inevitable conflict with our host country's culture.

Today I was thinking that it's almost scary how much I'm enjoying this--the people, the mental challenge, the more relaxed family time, the midwest summer weather. I'm even enjoying getting up early in the morning. I've long considered sunrise to be a beautiful part of the day, but working second shift for the past 12 years has meant that the sun rises in the middle of my night. Scary to think that in two months it will change.

We're still working hard, but it seems that the stress is fading. From Bloatmeal's perspective, I am on vacation. It seems like vacation from my perspective, too.

Monday, June 13, 2005

School days 

Day two of our Sauerkraut training

Crimeny, is it only Monday? It seems like we've been here much longer. Today was just like being back in school--schlepping around my book bag, taking notes, running errands between classes. Of course, it's much worse for Noodles, who actually went to a real college. For me, a proud commuter college grad, sleeping in a dorm room and dining in cafeteria is just a poor substitute for my old bedroom and a quick stop for lunch at Portillo's. (Did I mention that this training is happening on a college campus?)

The sessions focused mostly on business--insurance, aspects of traveling, dealing with paychecks and taxes. In between, I attempted to hook up my iBook to the college's network. The network resisted all of iBook's advances. sniff. So it looks like I'll have to stick to using the library computers during normal library hours. Or find the time and money to buy an Airport card and try to make a wireless connection. Since that is highly unlikely, it looks like this may never make the blog. Oh, well, it's nice to have the leisure to write.

Oh, one other event: Everybody has to meet with the Sauerkraut's shrink to follow up on all those psycho exams we filled out many weeks back. Noodles and I got our review tonight. We were interrupted by a siren which we think signaled a tornado. It took us so long to figure out that we should probably seek shelter, that we didn't even make it down the three flights of stairs to the basement before the siren stopped. I'm hoping that was a real warning siren and not a Sauerkraut test of our ability to act quickly in time of crisis.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

(Insert witty travel headline here) 

Day one of our Sauerkraut training

Y'know, one common theme I've encountered in my readings about living abroad (travelling, too) is to be flexible. In fact that's one of the things I expected to be discussed about during these two weeks. What I didn't expect was lab work the first day out.

The morning started fine. We got up way too early--it was "way too" since we stayed out late to catch Balkanarama at Georgia's--and headed off to the airport. The lines seemed rather long, but we realized that this was the first time in a few years that we've flown on a weekend. We didn't book our own flight and neglected to secure seat assignments. (I thought about it briefly on Saturday, but iCab didn't like the airline's website and I never got around to booting up the laptop.) The agent managed to get the girls adjoining seats, with Noodles and I planted separately elsewhere. We thought it was
chaka raka de--no big deal. The kids are of an age where they can sit responsibly by themselves. After we boarded but before we departed, a flight attendant came on the intercom and asked if anyone had lost a camera case. I briefly thought I should check with Bunnah, to whom I had delegated to carry on the camera. (My carry on was the laptop, don't ya know.) But I was pinned in at my window seat and since I didn't hear howls of dismay from row 23, I didn't bother to check.

Anyway, after a nice flight, Noodles and I hung out in our seats until our young'uns come forward. Bunnah, as you have guessed, did not have the camera. She thought that
we had it. We rushed forward to ask the flight attendant about the found camera. Predictably, she pointed out that she had announced it over the intercom. We quickly established that we had no interest in assessing blame and wanted to know whither to inquire about our camera. She sent us to the baggage claim office. We headed over there--Noodles upset, Poodlepums devastated, Bunnah quiet and myself copacetic. Of course, it was all my fault and I wasn't going to get angry with myself. I just kind of handed the case to Bunnah and didn't bother to tell her that it was supposed to be her responsibility to bring it along. Anyway, we went to the office and Noodles tried to explain the situation to the baggage dude. In a perfect world, I would have handled it, being of more rational mind, but Noodles finds it very theraputic to take charge and try to solve the problem when crises occur. Besides, I wasn't much help. I couldn't even remember what make of camera it was. (I'm pretty sure it began with a "T"...)

Meanwhile, while we are attempting to deal with lost and found paperwork, our bags arrive on the baggage carousel. Poodlepums lugged all of them off the belt. She also noticed that the one we call the Chinese suitcase had an open latch. We closed that and Noodles grabbed the side handle to drag it out to the pickup area. She grabbed it and the Chinese suitcase--the suitcase we had purchased in Guangzhou, China for 280 yuan after the handle broke on its predecessor--broke a handle. It also had a big dent on the side. This was
not being a good day. So in various states of negativity, we wandered out to door #5, where the van with "Sauerkrauts" written on the sides was waiting to pick us up.

Well, it was
supposed to be waiting. Maybe it had waited and the ever vigilant airport police had forced them to move on. So we waited instead. And waited. With a sense of deja vu, I went back into the terminal to call the number that we were supposed to call if the van wasn't there. Then I came back out because the number was a St. Louis cell phone number and I was too cheap to pay for a long distance call. After another 15 minutes or so, I stopped being so cheap. "Oh, yeah, sure," the voice on the other end said, "we must have missed you. We're heading back to pick up another load of passengers so we'll be there in about twenty minutes." So we waited. And waited. At one point I was lounging against our suitcases with both children leaning back against me. Finally after 45 minutes (or so) I spring for another call to offer to make our own way to the training site. It was then when I found out that the Twin Cities' airport has two terminals. While we were sitting at door five of the Humphrey terminal grumbling about the driver, he was sitting at door five of the Lindburgh terminal, probably grumbling about us. Oh, well. We missed the official registration time, but we did make dinner. Really can't complain if you make it by dinner.

Oh, yeah. Then there were all sorts of opening ceremonies and meet and greet type events. That was relatively boring, from a blogging standpoint. Well, I suppose I should mention that one dude has offered to give us some Mandarin lessons. sigh..... I know I'll appreciate it in a couple of months, but I was hoping to take break from that.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

It's just business 

I'm leaving work tonight with a small load of guilt. Sunday we fly out to Minnesota for two weeks of training/orientation with the Sauerkrauts. (What, exactly, we'll be learning, I have yet to discover.) My coworkers, on the other hand, will be staying put and dealing with a big load of work. Normally, that wouldn't phase me--I developed the philosophy back when I was working at Portillo's that even if people are working while I'm having fun, the time will come when they get to rest and I'll be laboring. This time around, however, I've had multiple days off in the past month and have another block of days scheduled for July. It still shouldn't bother me, I know, but it does.

As I've wrestled with this idea over the past weeks, I realize my dilemma is that I want to do a good job at Bloatmeal and I want to do my best with my China preparations. (not to mention my other roles as father, neighbor, parishoner, blogger, etc.) The line "you can't serve two masters" has been in my thoughts quite often. The thing is, right now I have to serve two masters. I have to prepare for our new life, yet I can't afford to give up the paycheck and insurance that I'm currently earning. Of course, since Bloatmeal is the job I'm leaving, they're going to get stuck with the short end of the stick. When I resolved that in my mind, the phrase "It's just business" popped into my head. "It's just business." I usually hear that line when layoffs are being announced. I didn't like it then, nor do I like saying it myself.

A perfect world would be better scheduled....

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I'll get all my papers... 

...and smile at the sky.

I've heard from The Opposite End of China that the Chinese government wants all websites and blogs registered by the end of the month. Further investigation led me to 計算器 where I discovered that Blogspot is already blocked for people living in the good ol' Peoples' Republic. Hmmmm. I had seen on the China Blog List that some blogs were blocked in China, but I never gave it much thought. Actually, contemplating the future of Hamburgerland has been rather low on my priorities. I mean, I've been aware that I might have to stop or radically transform my blogging life once we make the move overseas, but I've never taken that thought to heart. I've been going along assuming that it would be business as usual, with the possible exception of dropping a couple of links on the sidebar that might offend PRC sensibilities. I'll have to give this one a bit more serious thought in the weeks to come, from the availability of blogging tools to the ethics of maintaining the blog itself. On one hand, I do want to be a good guest and follow all the rules, even if my sensibilities get a bit offended. I can always continue to write, but broadcasting it in a weblog is just a luxury. On the other hand, blogging is a nice luxury and I would be quite tempted to use whatever loopholes I could to indulge myself. One more thing to do....

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

School's out for Summer 

We had our last Mandarin lesson yesterday. One of the last phrases Carol attempted to teach us was "Do you have a translator?" Should I be insulted?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

He had a crooked house 

Painted the kitchen on Saturday. The kitchen is probably the most interesting of the rooms that need painting. It has the most nooks and crannies and it also is probably the most remodeled room of my 80 year old house. On one hand the event went well--there were no radical surprises (like the time I pulled up carpet and found tile glued to the hardwood floor) and at one point we had all four of us painting away. There were a couple of hiccups--like forgetting to paint along the baseboard in one section--but we were able to finish the painting itself by 8:30. Cleanup and kitchen reassembly took a bit longer. (Mainly because we had to celebrate a couple of family birthdays on Sunday.) Probably the worst part about it all was the necessity to compromise. While the overall construction of my house is rock solid, some of the previous remodeling attempts have been sloppy. For years I've been telling myself that when I get around to fixing up this or that part of the domicile, I will do the job right. Well... I've grown to be a bit more understanding of my predecessors. I don't think we ended up doing a bad job, but we certainly cut corners in order to accommodate or time and money constraints. It's a galling thing to dwell upon. But then again, I also have to realize that it's unlikely that I would ever put forth the effort and investment needed to do a "perfect" job. A house, after all, is just a tool to enable one to have a life. And there's only so much of my life I'm willing to forgo in order to have a nice place for my stuff.

(P.S. Go to the Weblogger's meetup tonight on the Eastside. I can't make it, but you should.)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cry if you want 

Another depressing day off. I accomplished a number of little things, but it seemed that every task reminded me of the things yet to do. One of the jobs completed was finally packing up my 2004 financial paperwork, which required me to toss out my 1996 paperwork. sigh. I had almost ten times as much money in the bank back then than I do now. Where did it all go? Actually, I can answer that--it paid for adoption expenses, a car and a porch. None of which can be pawned for ready cash. Darn.

Crimeny, that was a lame attempt at humor. I hope I can shake this funk one of these days.