- House: We will rent out our house, so I've been meeting with our real-estate agent and friend to see what the options are and what a management agency would do for us.
- Chinese classes: Paul and I are taking lessons in Mandarin. Three to four times a week we sit down with our private teachers (we have different ones on different days) to practice conversations, read and pronounce Pinyin (Chinese written up in roman letters rather than foreigners), and read and write some basic Chinese characters. I love it - I've always loved learning languages and there is nothing like learning a language when you know you actually will be needing it.
- Work: I am still working my regular job and will do so for another couple of weeks. More than anything, this is what keeps me from thinking too much about our upcoming move. I think that once I leave my job in mid-May, reality will quickly settle in. Paul has already started working for the Beijing office on March 1 and as we speak (or type) is already in China for an office retreat.
- Schools and home: So we found a school, as I reported recently. We also finally decided that we are going to give up on the idea of living in the city, and we will temporarily "retire" to the suburbs (or "LaLaLand", as my friend Lisa calls it). It will be close to Simon and Thomas' school and I am sure we'll all be making lots of friends in that area. Paul has been looking at some more houses this week, and we may find one soon that will become our new residence!
- Contacts: Many people have put me in touch with their friends, former neighbors, or family members in Beijing, so occasionally I need to really manage my Gmail to stay on top of all the Beijing correspondence. I have totally run out of questions to ask, though I am sure that means nothing for the amount of surprises we'll run into once there.
- Shipping and cleaning-up: One thing I am looking forward to is selecting the few items I would like to take to Beijing, and finding meaningful places to go for all the other stuff in our house. After 10 years in the U.S. and about 8 in DC, we've collected quite a melting pot of items. I plan to give the kids' clothes to some friends, have a big yard sale sometime in the end of May, and then bring all the rest of the unwanted items to the Salvation Army. The rest, we'll have the movers pack up and ship to China.
- Buying: Just before we leave, we'll also have to buy some items that are a little harder to get in China. People have recommended bringing items like flashlights and batteries (not readily available), tampons (too expensive), and shampoo (local brands to harsh). I don't know what my China adventure is going to look like, but at least I can wash my hair in the dark. I am leaving the chopsticks at home.
- Visas and tickets: The World Bank will pay for our flight to China, so we'll just need to buy our tickets once we know when we go. Our current plan is actually that I would go to the Netherlands first, with the boys, and then go to Beijing a little bit later in the summer, a few weeks before school starts. A nice summer in Holland is not a bad idea. Once in China, we'll have to convert our entry visas into a more permanent visum for living there.
- Work in Beijing: I haven't given this too much thought yet, but I do have some ideas for what I want to be doing in Beijing. My ideal job would involve working with technical experts or other professionals in Beijing, in organizations and at Universities, to help them strengthen their English writing. That way, I get to do what I love (work with text and people) and learn a lot about Chinese culture and arts and sciences. Yep, that would be cool. In terms of things to do though, I'll need to update my resume and start reaching out to some contacts in Beijing.
Well, I think this might be enough for a list of things on my mind. I hope your list is a tad shorter!