i called the IRS agent who's been chasing me the past 3 months - the exact amount of time i've been out of the country. he wasn't at his desk so i left a message. i drove to the cafe (my parents left a car outside) to get some lunch and say hello and good-bye to suhan's mother, who'd been visiting from taiwan but was leaving today. i got a ride back home along with an external hard drive big enough to copy all my china photos onto it. how many photos did i take? i'm still not sure, but if i had to guess, somewhere between 20-30,000.
i called the IRS agent again and this time i managed to get a hold of him. he seemed annoyed at first, before i explained to him that i hadn't been avoiding him the past 3 months; i was just out of the country. i told him the places i went, purposely mentioning hong kong since guessing from the agent's name and accent i figured he was cantonese. he had a good chuckle after i cleared things up, and later we spoke under better terms. he explained what was going on (he never actually said "audit," it was an "investigation"), told me what documents i needed to produce, and rescheduled a housecall appointment for next month. i don't think it's anything major, one of my freelance clients probably filed a project for 2005 when i thought it was for 2006, so the IRS thinks i didn't report my earning.
i went out grocery shopping, a basket full of junk food. "tony?" i heard somebody call my name from down the aisle. i looked and saw my neighbor jen, who busted me for my bad nutritional choices. we chatted briefly and made tentative plans to catch up.
the rest of the night i worked on sorting out my photos. it took a few hours to copy everything from the two portable drives i had with me in china, and then a few more hours moving the files around. i'm still only half way done, but looking over some of the photos gave me a review of what i'd been doing since july. there were a few places i'd forgotten i went, and some people i'd forgotten about.
in some ways this was a more fullfilling trip than the one to southeast asia last year. southeast asia was a series of exotic and beautiful locations, but i could never really understand the people since i didn't speak the native languages other than english. china however, with my mandarin capability, i was able to integrate myself completely into the culture, and really get a better sense of what it is to be chinese. at first it was a bit of a culture shock, and the rudeness annoyed me (the spitting, the loud talking, the not waiting in line, the littering, etc.), but after a while it became very liberating to live everyday without so many rules, and once i left the mainland for hong kong, that's when i really missed china: the people, the culture, the language, and of course the cheap food and hotels. now when i look back, i have nothing but a warm fuzzy feeling for china, and see myself returning again soon.