Sunday. A day of rest. Not so much.
It was time to get a bank account. On a Sunday, no less. Banks, on a Sunday? Yep, in China, banks are open on Sundays. They are open seven days a week actually. My brother’s wife, Shan Shan, helped me with this issue and the following wireless phone ordering also. It would have been impossible without her and I owe her a debt of gratitude. She led the way and did all the talking and told me where to sign and what my account would do for me. Basically it is simply checking and an ATM card and that is all I need at this point. The attendant seemed to find it enjoyable to be opening the account and smiled and laughed a lot at the little mistakes I made when asked to do something.
I also needed to get my new mobile phone number. I’ve been borrowing a sim card and it was time to get my own one and my own phone number. There are many different plans in China and it is very confusing. Shan Shan and I had to decide which plan would be the best and we decided on a monthly plan to start and then possibly a multi-year contract in a month or so which is an excellent bargain. I then was asked to pick a phone number and was told it would cost about sixty dollars to get a phone number. I was given a piece of paper with about 80 different combinations and decided on a number with a lot of the number “4” in it because it was easy to remember. The clerk told Shan Shan and me that not only was that number free because Chinese people don’t like the number “4” but I will get two dollars off my monthly bill for the same reason! Shan Shan had no idea and had never heard of this deal before but since the number did not have a “8” in it it wasn’t a “lucky” number. I do have one “6” in it so it is a little bit lucky.
As far as I’m concerned, it is extremely lucky number because it saved me about 200 dollars a year!
Since I just got here, and my brother had some friends in town, we all decided to do the touristy thing and went to the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. I can try to explain, with words, the grandeur, beauty, power and how awe inspiring these buildings are but I’d rather let the pictures speak for themselves.
These first five are from The Temple of Heaven:
These five are from the Forbidden City:
After arriving approximately 36 hours ago in Beijing, I started my new job today.
I thought I’d be hired to work part-time as almost all the other clinicians work part-time and that was discussed before coming over to China. Instead, I was offered a full-time position! I have to say it was a total surprise and I’m overjoyed to be a full-time employee at this international healthcare company.
I met many of my coworkers and am incredibly impressed with the professionalism of this company. Everyone is incredibly friendly and very conscientious. The office building is only about four years old and it is gorgeous inside.
The first floor is the reception, assistance/phone call center, and Japanese medical staff. This is where clients will call in with any type of question and talk to professionals about their options.
The second floor is the medical staff and psychology. We have a lot of people from different cultures and therefore the agency is set up to have doctors and clinicians that can speak many different languages. The medical staff has everything from dentistry to radiology. Again, I’m truly impressed.
The third floor is mostly business and professional staff. It is a very open room with lots of air space and glass meeting rooms.
I am looking forward to working with everyone and meeting my first client as soon as possible.
I woke up in a new city and a new life. Obviously, many remnants of my old life remain and I’m taking the parts that I liked with me and leaving behind the ones that I didn’t like or want to bring with me. It is one of the true benefits of traveling; you can be whomever you want.
I think the core of me is still the same. A person never really escapes who they are when they travel because they will make connections with people that allow them to continue to be the person they were, at least in many cases. I’m trying to do that and expand my horizons in many ways while I spend my first three years here in Beijing.
To do that I went out with my brother and did some walking around the neighborhood. I went to a few stores and bought some things that I need to start my life here. Nothing special, just hangers, shaving cream, hair gel and the like. I’ve been spending a good amount of time cleaning up my room and putting clothes away. I’m close to done and have to thank my friend Jill for helping me pack everything in a very compact manner. She’s done a lot of traveling and I’m convinced I was able to put so much into my luggage only because of her suggestions and our figuring out fun ways to pack. One of the ways to do that was to put shirts and socks inside my shoes because the shoes end up taking up so much space and I didn’t want to crush them as they are quite nice and very comfortable. As I’ve been unpacking, my brother’s dog, Leo, has been my constant companion. He is extremely cute and very friendly.
Tonight I saw the Berlin Ballet at the Egg in Beijing. The dance performance was fantastic and the Egg is amazing. It is the National Centre for the Performing Arts and a work of art. Then tomorrow I start my new job and meet my coworkers.
Ni hao, Beijing. I’m here.
The flight was fantastic. Business class with a lay flat seat. Flat screen tv with movies and games. Met a wonderful person named Ralph on the plane and talked about China, the U.S., and wine as we are both wine enthusiasts.
Just arrived at the Beijing Airport!
This is a picture of my brother’s wife, Shan Shan, and me right after she met me at the gate. She’s been helping me to become settled and it is going well. At this point, I’ve been up for about 20 hours, with only a 30 minute catnap, and am actually feeling pretty spry.
The weather is overcast, somewhat muggy, but cooler than usual. My brother’s apartment is very nice and I have a room to myself until I find my own apartment in a few weeks. It is wonderful to come to a foreign country and have family already present and there to support me. Make this transition so much easier. And this will be a major transition. I am leaving behind a lot of family, many friends, my communities and my culture. I’m looking forward to this experience and seeing how it makes me question my own beliefs and thoughts and how it will help expand my way of thinking. I enjoyed living in Australia and Japan and definitely feel living overseas allows me to be much more open-minded and malleable to conditions that I would not have to deal with if I only lived in America. Lots to learn in a very short time since I start work on Friday, which means I only have Thursday to relax, get rested, and unpack.
I am a fan of David Burns’ style of therapy. He is famous for the book, The Feeling Good Handbook, and is a master at therapy. All of his work is based on research, testing and is verifiable so it is easy to see when you are helping a client and when you are not. In fact, clients rate the therapist and the usefulness of therapy after each session. He uses a lot of empathy before using any techniques or tools with clients because it seems so many people go unheard and so many therapists, including me, miss so much of what our clients. He has a very specific way of doing empathy and it is similar to Motivational Interviewing.
In regards to this therapy, I have been going to a supervision group, led by the amazing Brac Selph, PhD, for the last three years. They have become like family to me. This was going to be my last supervision with the group before I leave for Beijing and it is also Brac’s last group also. He is an amazing therapist, superviser, and dare I say, friend. I am honored and humbled ot have learned from such a brilliant, dedicated and kind person.
The group met and discussed endings, finality and what we have learned and what matters to us. What I love about this group is that everyone is comfortable and is willing to be vulnerable and we work on personal work as well as client work. We do not talk about clients as much as we play them live so we can get a better idea of how we, as therapists and people, have missed what our clients need and our own projections and beliefs of what the clients should be doing are actually hurting our clients and reducing the effectiveness of the work we do. We learn that our egos, and our inability to be honest and vulnerable, is often the cause of the problem with our clients. It sounds easy to be vulnerable but it is truly an art and this group has helped me become much more proficient in it.
I will be sad to leave this group but it seems to be the right time for me. I feel like they are also a part of my family that I’m leaving but it is for the right reason and allows me closure as I start this new chapter in my life. I have learned, through therapy, studying, and this group, that all is impermanent and there is no truth out there. Life is what you make it and to take in emotions deeply, live and die with them in that second, and let go. Be at peace, treat others with respect and care, and move forward as best you can.
I ended up spending day buying clothes and getting ready for my new job in Beijing. I went to see my friend, Alethea, who helped me shop for clothes at Macy’s. She has a fantastic eye for fashion and I have known her for about 20 years or more. She is also married to one of my best friends, Randy, and I have seen their relationship bloom and marriage happen between them. They are a wonderful couple and have a fantastic kid.
I bought a bunch of slacks, shirts, undershirts that are specially made for hot temperature climates, fun socks, and other things that I will need. I still haven’t been able to realize that this is final and I’ll be moving to Beijing for three years. However, by going shopping and imaging myself wearing this clothes in an office, it is starting to sink in more and more each moment.
As it starts to sink in, I’m starting to finally feel a little nervousness and anxiety. I feel this is normal, and expected, and it is easy to deal with because I know that I should feel some anxiety. It is not very much and it is mostly the nervousness that comes with excitement and change. It is interesting to note when I tell people that I’m moving to Beijing for three years whether they respond with, “Are you excited?” or “Are you nervous?” as those seem to be the two main questions that people ask. I have no idea what those questions say about the people asking them but it would be interesting to find out and see why some people tend to be nervous about changes like this or excited.
For me, it is 95% excitement and 5% nervousness. I feel that is a very reasonable level and will continue to watch and record excitement versus nervousness as I move forward and make sure to keep things in order so that my nervousness doesn’t increase. I know what I need to get done so I’m not nervous and have a plan on how and when to do everything coming up. I believe that my nervousness will actually drop to 0% as I continue on the path for my plan and step on the plane to China and my excitement will increase. What I imagine will happen as my excitement increases is my grief about leaving family, friends and what I “know” as home will increase also which is very different than nervousness. I plan to track this also to learn more about what triggers these emotions. This may sound boring but I actually find it very fun, and enlightening to know what triggers certain emotions and how I can alleviate them if they troublesome in the moment, or engage more deeply in them and let myself be at peace with the feelings and thoughts they bring up. It is all fleeting and impermanent so I do my best to enjoy the feeling and emotion and then move on to what happens next.
I said goodbye to a dear friend today. Her name is Allegro Ballroom. She has given me love, connection, support and shown me a new family. This is where I started dancing salsa about 13 years ago. I remember going there and not knowing anyone at first. Then, I started asking people to dance and asking questions of the instructors and becoming friends with them. I started to hang out at Allegro every Sunday and it became, as I called it, “My church.”
After 10 years I realized that I only missed going to Allegro’s on a Sunday about 10 times total. I would schedule work and vacations around it as I knew that no matter what was happening in my life I was supposed to be there with my salsa family. We ended up sharing birthdays, marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and everything in between in this magical place.
Something I’ve noticed about Allegro is a strange turnover every 3-4 years. It seems, other than the true hardcore dancers, people may get bored, may get married, or some life change happens and then start to disappear. I’m glad that most of my small circle seems to have stayed together with a limited amount of turnover. Thirteen years is a long time to stick with something and it has enriched my life in more ways than I can mention or describe at this point.
So, I said goodbye to my dear friend Allegro tonight. However, even though I said goodbye, she will always be in my heart, and I in hers. I love you, Allegro.
I have yet to go to Brazil for Carnaval and so the best I can do is our local one in San Francisco at this point. I have friends that also set up a salsa dancing area and it is always a great time.
The style of salsa dancing that I do is most commonly refered to as casino style. It comes from Cuba and, to me, is more based on African influences mixed with the European social dances and western dances such as lindy hop and swing. I love the dance, the music and the friend I have made in the community.
That is the most important point for me: Community. Most my family lives in different parts of the US, and even outside of the US, and so the casino community has become a de-facto family for me.
I have known some of the dancers for over 13 years and they have been there for me and I have been there for them. We have all seen relationships start during this time together. Some make it and people get married. Sometime they do not. That being said most of the people tend to be able to stay in the community and give the other person space when they break up and the salsa family stays together.
One of the great things about this community is that it is worldwide. I already have a connection in Beijing to be able to dance casino style salsa and will be going out with David when I arrive. I plan to make my new community a new family for me. It will allow me to connect, have support, give support and do what I love the most: dance casino style.
Here is a video of David when he was in Cuba:
David (Yao Fei Huo) dancing in Cuba circa 2006
We all have friends and family that we must say goodbye to when we leave and that can induce sadness and grief when getting ready to travel. However, my housemate has three dogs that I have grown to love and cherish. The are all very cute and wonderful in their own way and, like humans, have their own distinct personalities. All three were adopted through Milo Foundation which saves animals from shelters and does not allow them to be euthanized.
The first one is Luna. Luna is about a year and a half old chihuahua She entered our household about 9 months ago and was about half the size she is now. She was absolutely tiny and has grown into a normal size chihuahua now. She is incredibly friendly and kind and is not a “yippy” dog and quite quiet. She also has the ability to smile when she is happy and often welcomes me home with a huge silly smile and a wagging tail.
The second is Lucita. She is a beagle mix and reminds me of Doby from Harry Potter. She is also incredibly kind and makes the cutest noises. She doesn’t bark a lot but instead makes little grumble like noises. She is very cuddly and likes to run at full speed around the yard and the house. She’s very low to the ground so she looks like a missile when she is cruising and taking corners.
The last is Che. Che is a cattle dog and lost his leg when he was shot. He is incredibly smart and a great watch dog. He also is incredibly fast and track down balls without any problems even though he is missing a leg. He definitely thinks he is a human and will do silly barks that sound like he is trying to have a full conversation. Especially when he is about to be fed.
I will miss each of these wonderful animals and know that they have been of great comfort to me and, I hope, I have been to them also.