12 Days to Beijing: Connecting and closing down.

Since I received my Visa, I have been making significant progress on my move to Beijing.  I have been researching different options to connect with people here in the states and making sure they can contact me without breaking the bank.  I noticed that Skype had a program for unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada for 2.99 a month or 30 dollars for a year.  After signing up for this, I also signed up for a Skype phone number that is local to the San Francisco Bay Area so they can call me toll free.

This takes a bit of explaining so give me a bit here:  The number I have now is a 510 area code.  That is Oakland/Berkeley, California, where I have lived the last 15 years or so.  Most my friends either live in this area or know my area code and are used to it.  So, when they call me, they will call the 510 area code and be connected to my phone, even if I’m in China, and there is no delay or extra charge.  It is rather amazing and a wonderful use of technology that will end up costing me $60.00 a year to get phone calls, and to make phone calls, back to the U.S. from anywhere that I am as long as I have wi-fi or a 3G connection on my phone.  I can also use the video conferencing on my phone or computer with Skype and connect that way.  I’ve made a few calls today and there was no delay and the clarity was perfect.

As to closing down: I’ve been shutting down my old phone service, my car insurance, moving bank accounts as needed, changing addresses and information for contacting me so that there won’t be problems when I move to Beijing and have bills or refunds sent to the wrong address.  There are a lot of little changes that take time but I’m almost done with them.  I’m glad that I decided to become FUNemployed for the last few months so I can relax, have time to make changes without stress, and say goodbye to the people I care about.  It has been a wonderful experience connecting with old friends and spending time with them.  My family has been very supportive and everything seems to be falling into place.

I have been fortunate to have the friends, family and support system that I’ve had in my life.  I know that, in an emergency, I will always have someone to help me out and I believe that is because I have done my best to help and support others in their time of need.  My job as a therapist and social worker made moral sense to me because that is how I see the world; I have a willingness to listen and skills to teach that might help you and I believe you can overcome your problems.  We all need help and we all need to connect.

As for connecting  knowing I already have a phone number and a way to stay connected before I make this move, makes it feel much safer and much more real.

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.