i woke up once at 9:30 only to check the clock on my phone and figured i could sleep a bit more. i finally woke up around 11:30. not in all my time spent in china have i slept this late before.
i had things to do today, my first full day back at home. things like buy some groceries. visit the cafe. and clean up the mess i made in the living room when i unpacked 2 fully-loaded suitcases plus a large backpack.
my house wasnâ€™t entirely empty during my sabbatical. my former roommate david came to stay here with his wife for 2 weeks soon after i was gone, and before i came back, a girl attending summer classes at MIT whoâ€™s the relative of a friend of my aunt lived here for 2 months. mostly the house is still the same, but i still notice the little things, like scratched up pots, burnt utensils, and stained bathroom rug. just some minor wear and tear.
i cut off my verizon cable and internet while i was gone, which saved me more than US$100 a month. but the MIT girl was staying here, i started services again, this time as a new customer. i donâ€™t have as many channels as i had before, but before i left, i was starting to come to the realization that i donâ€™t watch all that much television anyway, and was toying with the idea of cutting cable altogether, partly to save money, but partly also because i donâ€™t use it very much anymore. i think iâ€™m getting HBO but i have to check the contract (which my father signed on my behalf) to see when the free period expires so i donâ€™t end up paying for something i donâ€™t need.
while moving the air conditioner back down into the basement around 1:30, my mother called me asking to see if i wanted to visit the cafe and say hello to my aunt and grand uncle. i brought out my trusty out trek grocery beater bike. the tires were a little soft but still in good condition and just needed a tiny bit of air to be operational again. i cleaned off some mold thatâ€™d grown on the bike seat. i keep my bikes in good condition and there wasnâ€™t any rust on the chains.
riding to the cafe on that familiar road, i couldnâ€™t stop smiling. the pace of life here is slow compared to china, the difference between a developed and developing country. everything seemed the same, yet at the same time it all felt new too, which was a weird sensation.
i also wore my helmet, something i normally wouldnâ€™t do. for one thing, it was actually a little brisk and i just wanted to wear something on my head to keep warm. but american traffic actually feels scarier to me compared to china traffic. you think that wouldnâ€™t make any sense, given how the chinese seemingly drive without any concerns for traffic laws or speed limits or pedestrian safety. but because chinese streets are so dangerous, iâ€™m always on high alert when i go out. back at home, with less cars and fewer people, it should feel safer, but i actually feel the opposite because i can feel myself becoming complacement in my expectation of safety, and thatâ€™s when accidents usually happen. despite their aggressiveness, i feel china drivers are actually far more driving savvy compared to american drivers. here we just take a simple road test and thatâ€™s it, while in china, you have to take mandatory courses which can last several months and pass a series of road tests before you can get your license.
it was 2:00 by the time i got to the cafe. i said hello to my aunt and grand uncle while my mother fixed me up a bowl of beef noodles. i stayed until 4:00 before leaving for my parentsâ€™ place.
they did some renovating while i was away, replacing all the windows (which iâ€™d only seen via video chat while i was in china), and redoing the front and back steps. theyâ€™d hired a friend of alex to strip the paint off the house in preparation for painting; he ended up stripping a part of the shingles down to the bare wood, which is pretty amazing but a somewhat unncessary level of detail. the bare wood actually looks like, like a cabin in the woods, not sure if we should paint it or stain it instead.
my parents came home about half an hour later along with hailey. we were all curious to see how sheâ€™d react having not seen me for over a year. she was surprisingly chill, no barking, just wagged her tail a little bit while huddled on the couch. there was some face licking which was the extend of her welcome before she jumped back on the couch.
i gave my father a slideshow of my month long trip in western sichuan back in august, helped him set up his new tablet pc and phone (google account, e-mails, chinese input methods), and showed them how to use the mango tv wireless entertainment box (streams television/movies from china). after dinner i left for home around 10:00.