Day 6 in Beijing: Rain

Flooding intersection near work

Flooding intersection near work. One either walks in the water or in the street.


Notice the different reds and the KFC in the upper right corner.

Notice the different reds and the KFC in the upper right corner.

This morning was a bit muggy and humid.  Not much compared to Beijing standards but to me it felt that way.  On the way home it was a different story.  The weather was, as one of the receptionists at work said, “Severe rain.”  She was right.  The streets here are pretty flat and the runoff doesn’t really runoff.  The crosswalks get totally overwhelmed and you have to either walk in the street or walk through about 4 inches of standing water.  Since I’m wearing pretty nice clothes for work I do my best to walk in the street and not get hit by passing cars.  So far so good.

I tend to love thunderstorms and this was a wonderful one.  It had rain, hail, thunder and lightening.  I was smiling the whole way even though I was getting drenched.  By the time I got home, after a 15 minute walk, my pants were soaked up to the knees.  Maybe next time I’ll take a picture of them to give an idea of how strong the rain comes down in Beijing.  And it doesn’t stay mainly in the plains here either.

0 Days to Beijing: Arrival.

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!

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.

Hui liao!

8 Days to Beijing: Shopping frenzy and emotion tracking.

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.

9 Days to Beijing: Allegro Ballroom

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.

10 Days to Beijing: San Francisco Carnaval and dancing casino style salsa

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

13 days to Beijing: Dad and Dementia

This is a picture of my father and my nephew, Nathan. It is probably from 8 years ago and it shows the playful nature of my dad and captures his spirit well.My dad has dementia.

We aren’t sure if is caused by Temporary Ischemic Attacks or Alzheimer’s Disease.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  Actually, at this point it doesn’t really matter.  We can’t do anything to slow the progression or help him remember more than about a 5 minute span of time at this point.

I took my dad to get an MRI today.  The doctors wanted to see how his brain is adjusting and if there were any major changes since his last one in 2009.  It was nice to spend some time with him and watch as he smiled and remembered who I am.  He still has that ability, which is wonderful, because I’m fairly sure he will not have any memory of who I am when I return in three years.  We joked a bit and we enjoyed being with each other.

My dad still has a strong hold on the distant past but not of the recent.  Because of his memory issues, his life is primarily lived in the present moment.  This can be wonderful because each second is new and interesting.  However, most the time, it is not that experience for my dad.  Imagine if you had forgotten the last five years of your life and now were trying to retrace every moment, in present time, without understanding what you were doing five minutes ago.  It is like the movie Momento without the fun and intrigue.  It is, primarily, a sad and fear-inducing existence.  I’m grateful my dad was able to enjoy most of our time together and that we were able to have some wonderful moments during this visit.

It will most likely be my last time I see my dad and it will be, for me, a wonderful memory.  I hope, somewhere in his mind, it will also be a wonderful memory for him.

14 days to Beijing: The Countdown begins

The countdown is on.  14 short days until I move to Beijing.  The end of my current life in America is beginning.  The starting of my future life in China is beginning.  It is a wonderful transition.

I have been saying goodbye to many friends, family and even to places that I love in the wonderful Bay Area.  I have been very lucky to live here and know the people I know.  I have an amazing family, including my brother Robert, who lives in Beijing, and it has been sad saying goodbye to the rest of them.  It has been the same experience with saying goodbye to my friends.  This, to a large degree, was to be expected and continues.  Moving causes loss, grief and also a thoughtful recounting of memories and time spent together.  It allows one to view, from close up and from a distance, what they have done, who they have met, and what they have wanted to be.  And, depending on one’s desire, where they want to go and what they want to become in the future.  Sometime, just being in the present moment is more than enough.

Strangely, I have also been deeply touched by the places I am saying goodbye to in the last few weeks.  Lake Merritt in Oakland, where I dance casino style salsa with many friends for many summers, is a major place.  Going sailing with other friends and looking at San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Treasure Island and Alcatraz was incredibly touching and special.  Visiting my hometown of Healdsburg and getting to say goodbye to it held a special place in my heart.  It, like me, is changing.  As is everyone and everything at all time.

I look forward to updating this blog more regularly and keeping in touch with photographs, videos and things I learn about China with daily posts.  It may only be little tidbits but I will try to impart a touch of what I am learning and experiencing and hope it entertains and enlightens you about the world I am moving to and into.

14 days to Beijing.