more days!

i gathered up my travel documents (US passport, taiwan passport, taiwan-china travel passport, taiwan identification card) and made a count of how much money i will be bringing with me to china: $2900 in cash, plus another RMB2000 (which is only about $300). my plan is to deposit $1000 into my chongqing bank account, leaving me with $1900 of cash reserve. once i've distributed all the items people asked me to bring for them, i will get back an additional $400. i think a monthly budget of $1000 allows me to live pretty well in china; the biggest chunk of that budget will be spent on my apartment, which will be around $300/month. i also collected all my subway/bus cards (chongqing, changshou, chengdu, xi'an). it certainly helps that the dollar is fairly strong compared to RMB ($1/RMB6.5).

with just 3 days left before i go, it was about time that i packed up my suitcases. if it was up to my mother, she would've been packed weeks ago; she doesn't understand how i can wait until i'm almost about to leave before i start packing.

when i came back from china i brought 2 large suitcases to pack up a year's worth of stuff. i bought them online through jd.com after much research, and they seemed to be really good suitcases. but after just one use, one of 4 wheel assemblies on one of the suitcases cracked loose. when my parents used the other suitcase on their taiwan trip last year, they came back with a wheel completely missing. so much for quality!

my parents did get a set of samsonite suitcases, one large, one small (suitable for a carry-on). my original plan was to stack the smaller suitcase inside the larger one, but that left me with very little storage space. and with the amount of gifts i was bringing to china, i had to use 2 suitcases.

the 2 samsonsites were already in my house; my father brought another large suitcase, one of their old but trusty standby. it had an older design that only had 2 well-worn wheels. i also managed to get my father to give me a ride to the somerville target so i could buy a box of hefty jumbo ziploc storage bags (2.5 gallons, 15 per box, $4.39). this is how i pack all my clothes, since the days of southeast asia traveling in 2005. these bags are so indispensable that i still use the same ones from more than a decade ago, although most of them don't zip anymore. it was time to get a fresh supply.

another trick that i discovered just today was using cardboard shoe boxes as suitcase organizers. that meant i didn't have a bunch of small items spilling about everywhere. normally i'd just toss them haphazardly into my jumbo storage bags, but this is a more elegant solution. it helps that i amassed a collection of shoe boxes courtesy of frances' many orders. they have a tendency to burst open though, so i keep them tight with a rubberband.

i was surprised to see mary back at home around 2pm. i was hoping i could have more time to myself for packing. she said she came home to take a nap. i asked her if the washing machine was going to be a problem because i was just about to do a load; she said it was okay. mary did something that caught me off-guard: she volunteered one of her own suitcases for me to use. it was one of those hard-shell varieties, but incredibly light. it also came with security locking, but mary gave me an external lock as well. so of course i switched to mary's awesome suitcase over my parents' old one. at first i didn't want to, because i didn't want to be responsible if the suitcase gets damaged, but in the end the pros outweighed the cons.

michael called to let me know they couldn't print anymore from their new macbook pro. i raced down to harvard square to take a look. this was one problem i could easily fix, and the solution was simply to restart the machine, which solved everything. i also showed his sister yulia how to do a time machine backup, and i updated their daily sales document (i must've copied an older version when i transferred it the last time).

by late afternoon i pretty much had everything packed. it was time for the weigh-in: mary's suitcase was 52 lbs, the samsonite was just 40 lbs. the hainan airline weight limit per luggage was 51 lbs.; just a simple matter of moving over some heavier items to the lighter suitcase. one reason mary's suitcase was so heavy was the 8 boxes of baking mixes, 2 jars of tomato sauce, and lixiaoli's rock books, which were surprisingly heavy for books that small.

i made a quick visit to star market to get some baking soda for the refrigerator ($1.29/box). i noticed it earlier when i was eating some ice cream and could taste the faint aroma of fish. the freezer is so full of mary's frozen fish, you'd think it was the aquarium's food locker. i do have baking soda already, but they're more than a year old. as for the old baking soda, i used it in combination with some vinegar and hot water as a soak for my contigo mug, trying to get out all the brown stains on the inside.

there was some commotion outside in the early evening: some moron had parked their car in the bend in the road, which prevented a fire truck from getting by. for the next 20 minutes i heard them trying to squeeze the truck through the impossible pass, until they finally gave up and backed themselves out. i'm surprised nobody called the tow company to come and haul away the illegally parked car. at the very least i hope it gets a ticket.

for lunch i ate half of the ham & cheese sandwich i bought a few days ago. i ate the other half for dinner. mary kept forcing me to eat her wood ear mushrooms dish; i wasn't to be polite when i kept on refusing, i just don't like her cooking, it's not very good. in the late evening i did get hungry enough to have an instant cup of spicy korean ramen.

i spent the rest of the evening finally backing up my photos. actually, i'm trying to remove the photos off of my macbook pro, but to do that i need to copy them onto external hard drives, hence i indirectly back up everything in the process. i copy the photos onto two separate drives, in case one should fail. i ended up reclaiming 200GB worth of space on the SSD drive, and a whopping 400GB of space on the old HD. i can probably squeeze out another 100GB of space on the SSD if i toss some movies. that will give me 700GB worth of photo storage space, plus the 2TB portable drive i'm bringing as a backup.

lihui asked me to pay $25 for a VPS. he's trying to use the hong kong-based virtual private server in conjunction with shadowsocks as a way of circumventing the chinese firewall. he couldn't pay it himself because the company is based in the US and won't accept his chinese credit card.