Off to Xi’an

I only have a few minutes today to tell you that I’ll be offline until next week.  We will be traveling to Xi’an, China, home to the famous terra cotta warriors, for a short two-day weekend trip.  While weekend trips in Korea feel like brief outings, our trip to Xi’an–about two hours away by plane from Shanghai–feels like a major undertaking.  I hope to have stories to share when I return.  I should be back online on Monday.

Last night my wife’s sister, her husband, my wife, son, and I went for Thai food at Banana Leaf, a trendy Shanghai restaurant.  The restaurant is very popular.  The food tasted undeniably like Chinese-style Thai food–save the peanut sauce.  I was appalled to discover that the restaurant could not serve Pad Thai because they ran out of key ingredients.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding.  A Thai restaurant isn’t Thai without Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand.  We settled for Pad Siew instead.  I think my Chinese family members enjoyed the meal more than I did.  Afterwards, my brother-in-law and I went for a massage.  Not surprisingly, I am really sore today.  It’s been said that the best massages are the painful ones.  However, I think this one was a bit too painful.  My back is feeling the dull pain today.  It was more expensive than I thought it would be.  Oh well, I guess reality never lives up to your expectations.

Have a great weekend.  I’ll be back on Monday.

Pre-China Trip Clutter

Much as I try, life always seems too cluttered.  I sit here tonight typing amidst a pile of things to do to prepare for our trip to Shanghai, China on Saturday.  Every time life seems to cool down, it suddenly shifts into high gear and becomes too hectic.  One of these days I would really like to jump off this crazy merry-go-round.  My new mantra is “Vive el Paraguay!”  I’ve heard that Paraguay, my next assigned location, offers a much slower pace of life than Korea does.  As my predecessor told me by e-mail (we’ve been in contact), “bring lots of reading material [to Paraguay].”  Somehow I wish that were true.  I’ll believe it when it happens, after I’ve made it through four books in four weeks.  I’m sure I will somehow find a way to make myself too busy to chill out–even in Paraguay.  It’s in my nature to do more than I have time to do.

I am really looking forward my first trip outside Korea since I arrived early last year.  First I have to wade through annoying trip planning.  Perhaps the worst part of any trip is the advance planning and preparation.  It’s more than suitcase packing.  It’s the little things like making sure your medical insurance covers you in exotic locations and putting together a photo album for the family back home.  It’s the plane tickets, passports, visas, bill paying, activity planning, transportation arrangements, electricity conversion, emergency planning, cash reserves build up, closure at work, fridge emptying–you name it.  Anyone who’s planned a multi-week trip away from home can relate to the grind of pre-trip planning and preparation.

China isn’t actually going to be a vacation for me.  I will work in Shanghai for about two weeks while my family is on vacation.  Fortunately, I can take time out on the weekends to have some fun.  On Sunday I will visit Thames Town, a new, unbelievable development reminiscent of Merry Ol’ England located in the suburbs of Shanghai.  The following weekend my wife, son, and I will take a short trip to Xi’an, home to the famous terracotta warriors.  As we have spent most of our time in the eastern half of China, I’m looking forward to seeing the Chinese Interior for the first time.  I don’t know how much time I will have to write during my journey in China, but I will post as frequently as I can.  Photos will follow when I return to Korea.