Sunday, May 30, 2010

Side effect: Feeling rejected!

Renting out your house and trying to sell some of your belongings leads to a really weird situation: That some people might actually reject the things you like.

For example: I love our house. It has enough rooms for kids and cats, nice colors, and lots of sunlight. So what if the kitchen is old , the windows leak, and the road is a bit busy? But our rental company told us to fix the window and make some other changes throughout the house to get it ready for the renters. And I understand that. But what about the people who walk into your house to see if they might rent it, and then just zip through it and leave. I can they not like my house?

Today I was rejected again when someone came to look at a sofa. They looked at it for 30 seconds and then decided they did not want it because it had too many spots! That sofa has been great for us for three years - nice and good, pretty and all. I never noticed the spots! The weird thing was though that their rejection of the sofa really made me feel bad. As if somehow the things in my house are not as nice as I have always thought they were. So somehow I felt rejected... and then I also felt bad about wasting their time to come look at an old sofa. That's a lot of negative emotions for just one effort to try to sell the sofa!

The rest of today was a lot of fun though. We learned George indeed will have a new home with friends of friends. We had a goodbye party with friends at a swimming pool. And we packed some boxes and delivered lots of things to Good Will (een soort Leger des Heils), which really helped clean up the house.

Everyone is off to bed now - Simon and Thomas fell asleep right after swimming, and Paul and our friend Randy are now also off to bed. I am outside (on wireless!), enjoying a nice evening in Washington. Good night!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Would you like to meet this kitten?

"Meet George. He is a handsome male of around ten years. He likes to sleep, play, catch the occassional mouse, eat a lot of food, and hang out in the sun. His owners are moving to China and won't be able to take him along."

A friend -- who gave George to us years ago -- is actually actively looking for someone to take in George. And then we also have Mischa (better know as Misch Misch) who also needs a home. Misch Misch is going on a trial playdate at our neighbors house this weekend. I hope he'll treat the other cat nicely so he might have a new home too. I guess everyone is moving.

Last week at work

This week is my last week at work. Two more days and I'll be... officially in transition, unemployed, or on vacation, depending on how I want to look at it. The process of leaving my work has been interesting, because for many weeks I felt I wasn't ready to go: so much to do at work, and China still seemed so far away. Then suddenly, in about two weeks -- the last two weeks - everything shifted and instead of "China" being a bit of a distraction at work, work became a mayor distraction for getting ready for China. (A colleague came up with this phrase.)

I originally had visions of leisurely walking Simon to school, stopping at the bakery, reading the paper, and then doing some packing. But it looks like my next few weeks will be filled with packing, shredding, filling out forms, updating addresses, opening the door for people to fix stuff in the house, and more shredding, and packing and forms. But now I am eager to get really started - there is a lot to be done. More than I can even imagine right now. (I will keep you posted on progress.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Goodbye Parties

Luckily this post does not mean: "goodbye to parties", but rather that I am suddenly finding myself in the middle of series of goodbye "celebrations" related to our upcoming move.

Our house is not even packed or rented out (aargh!, but it is work in progress) and I already had two goodbye parties. This coming week is my last week at work, so last week Saturday I went over to my boss' house for a great dinner with colleagues (and some of their dogs), and last Thursday we had a good happy hour with everyone working on my project. (For this project, I have been working closely with another company, so this was a whole other set up colleagues and friends). Next week Saturday a Church friend will host a party at her pool, and on Monday we go over to our friends just up the street here, for another goodbye event with neighbours. Oh, and last Tuesday we had a goodbye dinner with our next-door neighbor on the left. I guess this means it is all becoming real!

P.S. We're not gone yet. We don't have a ticket, but are looking at flying to the Netherlands sometime late June, after June 20. Stay tuned - I'll let you know when I know more :-) .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's in a name? 田 安 娜

If your computer is set up to let you see Chinese characters, you could read this e-mail I typed up today to send to my Chinese teacher. (If you can't see characters, you probably see nothing but little squares or weird type - sorry).

你好Zhang 老师
谢谢你的 Email. 明天我 也可以 上课 2:30。 这 时间 很好。 明天四 点 钟 我 去 东 明。 我们回家。
现在 我 睡觉。
田 安 娜

A short e-mail to thank her for her email and confirm our class time for tomorrow (2:30pm). If it looks impressive (maybe?), I can quickly dispell that myth because I simply reused some of my teacher's language in my response, and also used a neat feature in Word that helps you convert pinyin (the Chinese characters written out in words) to Chinese Characters. It's still fun though, to put those few basic sentences.

And did you see the signature line? That's my name in Chinese: Tian An Na.

田 安 娜
Tian An Na

Tian means "field", which is my last name, and is in meaning related to Van der Heijden, which-- if it were spelled differently-- also refers to a kind of field. "An" means peace, and is the same "An" as in Tian-An-Men-Square, the infamous Tiananmen Square (Plein van de Hemelse Vrede). And "Na" doesn't mean anything really, but this character has the right sound to complete my name. An-Na.

Tian An Na - I am not sure when I'll need to use it, but it will sure come in handy to have a name that people can remember and write down.

I'll soon tell you more about all our new names, because also Paul, Simon and Thomas are the happy recipients of fabulous new names. For now, I have to go 睡觉 (sleep).
再见 (Goodbye)
田 安 娜 (Tian An Na)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saying goodbye to an old friend: the college textbook

Today I was on the phone with companies that will store our stuff, for a fee. So we'll have to figure out what really needs to be shipped to China (clothes, kitchen things, a few pieces of furniture), what needs to be stored (photo albums?), and what can be thrown or given away (the rest).

But what needs to be stored? If I don't need it the next three to five years, when will I ever need it? And if I am paying $100 a month for storage, I could save $6000 over five years and simply use that to buy the things I need then.

I was at a party tonight (Congratulations Dottie and Sam on graduating from Wesley Seminary) and my friend--who lives in a small basement apartment--mentioned her college textbooks that she has in storage. That reminded me: half a bookcase upstairs is dedicated to these old textbooks and course materials. Seriously, does anyone need to keep a textbook from 1990 on physical chemistry, "Physical Chemistry with Applications to Biological Systems", on their shelf? Or what about a 1991 book, "Basisboek milieukunde"? I suppose I could keep it as a historical record to see how our views on the environment have changed.

I mean, the truth is that never in my life will I actually use these books -- If I ever had a question these books could answer, I would first check the Internet, then call a friend, and then buy something new on, before I would climb the stairs to dust off this book to see what the latest thinking was back in 1990. Yet, at the same time that I am making fun of it, the friendly, familiar, green cover of Physical Chemistry is looking at me (and if you were in Milieuhygiene T32 with me, you might know what I am talking about!), and it reminds me of a time when I felt I could still really learn about this world and understand it. I may never need the book, but it is so comforting to know that if I ever wanted to remember the formula for photosynthesis, it would just be right there, just the way I remembered it. And I would recognize the drawings of the chemical structures and the lines of equations, even though I'll probably never understand them again. I suppose I feel that by throwing away the book, I am tossing out my last point of access to all the knowledge that I gained in College. And when I do that, I am going to have to finally admit that I am indeed not using much of all that knowledge that I gained in college. A sad reality. As a result, I am finding it hard to say goodbye.

Tomorrow,I am going to weigh this book. Storage is $3 dollars per 100 pounds per month. I can then see how much its sentimental value is worth to me.

P.S. After thought: Just before publishing this blog I reach over to look at a picture from when Paul and I moved our precious few things from Cincinnati to Washington DC, back in 2000. (The before-mentioned Physical Chemistry book is in the U-Haul on the picture.) While reaching over, I tip over the vase with tulips sitting next to the computer: water goes all over the table, under the books I am writing about, and then floods on the ground. Luckily or unfortunately -- I am not sure -- the books didn't really get too wet. I am putting them back on their shelf now.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday, etc.

This week it seemed a lot of things (finally) moved forward. For the longest time, people have been asking me if we're getting ready for our move, and I never know quite what to say. Answering "no" would suggest I am sort of stupid, or at least in denial. "Yes" would be a bit strongly put, considering the slow pace at which our preparations are unfolding.

But this week, a few things made a little jump forward:
  • On the school and health front, Thomas and Simon had their test for tuberculosis, a test that had been required by their new school. The doc's office also completed their health forms, so I was able to send a final package of electronic documents over to the Western Academy of Beijing. When we get to Beijing, they'll need one more vaccination, but for now they are done.
  • I entered my last month of work at IRG. May 31 will be my last day at International Resources Group.
  • Paul is in Beijing and has done more house hunting. We kind of know what neighborhood we want and so are patiently waiting for a good house. If we don't have something exactly on August 1, we will stay in a furnished apartment building, which will not be bad because it might take about 2 months for our belongings from DC to arrive in Beijing. (Apparently the World Expo in Shanghai is causing shipping to take a bit longer than usual.)
  • Today someone came to look at our house to possibly rent it.
  • Tomorrow, someone else is coming to see if they want to buy our car. (One of our cars, I have to sheepishly admit. The other one is sitting unused in a side street, but that is another story.)
  • And earlier this week, I signed up for a service to stop the junk mail (the unaddressed or unwanted mail) that we're getting. I should have done that years ago.

Meanwhile, I am still working, playing soccer with the kids (never enough according to Simon), and hanging out with some friends (Hi Lisa!). The weather in DC was wonderful today, blue sky, warm air, nice breeze. Yeah for Spring in DC!