more days!

my parents stop by in the morning to inspect my luggage, make sure i got everything organized, give me a few pointers. there wasn't much i had to do, relocate the coach satchel, move some small items to fill a few nooks and crannies. i don't consider myself a very skillful packer but i think i did pretty well this time around. maybe my many years of traveling, i've finally gotten the hang of it.

there was a small barcode sticker on the suitcase mary lent to me. i removed it to prevent any accidental luggage rerouting, but there was something on the sticker that i found very interesting: mary's real name. i already found out what it was 4 days ago, but this just confirmed it.

as it was raining, i grabbed a ride with my parents to belmont. so close to my departure, i'd be afraid to ride the bike even if the weather was nice, just to avoid the possibility of injuring myself. i've never had it happen to me before, to have to cancel a vacation due to injury. it'd also be tough to do, given the amount of planning involved and the time i'm to spend in china. actually, that's not true. as far as vacations go, this one is actually easy by comparison. i'm not going as long as i typically would (2 months compared to over a year), i'm going to a place that i'm familiar with and might even consider my second home, and finally there are people there (sunmeng, a handful of former coworker friends) who can help me should i need assistance. the hardest part is just getting there. once i arrive, things should be easier.

after some zucchini korean pancakes for lunch, i went outside in the backyard after it stopped raining. it was still cold and wet, with more rain expected later in the evening, and then a brief snowstorm, followed by more mixed precipitation. i refilled the globe birdfeeder with fresh seeds. i filled those plastic cups with potting soil then soaked them outside in a bucket. i didn't want to leave them outside since temperature is expected to drop down in the freezing range next week, nor did i want to leave them in the sunroom, so i brought them into the kitchen, a blue tarp on the floor to collect the muddy water drips. i will plant the seeds tomorrow.

i helped my father to figure out how to open an old echolac suitcase with a combination lock. after watching several youtube videos, i played around with the 3 number dials so all the tumblers matched when i looked into the small gaps between the dials. then i rotated all the numbers in unison, until finally the suitcase sprung open. it didn't work at first, but there didn't seem to be any reason why it wouldn't work, so i tried it again, and we finally suceded. the suitcase belonged to andy pan, but inside was a bunch of chinese scrolls that belonged to my parents, some of calligraphy, others of paintings.

after dinner i got a ride back to cambridge. i went with my father to the liquor store around the corner to get some beers for tomorrow night's dinner at my aunt and uncle's place.

i went out briefly to the dollar store to look for last minute items. i didn't find anything, but did pick up a few packages of sour gummy bears and sunflower seeds.

as soon as sunmeng woke up, i asked her to help me book a hotel room for my beijing layover. yesterday i determined that the one place i want to visit while in beijing was south luogu alley, to see some old hutongs. not knowing which hotels are good, i went with my old standby - the haiyo hotel. the closest one to south luogu alley was by dongdan station, 3 subway stops away. dongdan is also convenient in that it's only 2 stops away from tiananmen square. maybe i have enough time when i arrive at the hotel that i could pay an evening visit to this beijing landmark (about a mile away walking distance). the dongdan haiyo hotel was advertised as $27 on google maps. when i asked sunmeng to book it for me, the price had gone up to RMB208, about $32. i didn't mind, but it was a basement room, and sunmeng said she could find a better hotel for me. so i spent the next hour and a half searching for a hotel room with her help.

we had a few promising leads that were within walking distance to south luogu alley, but when she called them asking if they accept foreigners, none of them did, not even taiwanese visitors. sunmeng was incensed at this kind of xenophobic discrimination, but it's nothing i haven't encountered before in my china travels. the bigger chains did accept foreigners, and she wanted to book me at a hanting hotel (which is actually the same owner as haiyo) for something like $35, but i decided i wanted to stick with dongdan haiyo, my original choice. i didn't care that it was a basement room, as long as the place is clean and has wifi, i'm fine. i'm not staying in beijing for that long anyway.

i spent the rest of the evening backing up more data. i found some personal files that i forgot to copy yesterday.

while waiting for my backup to finish, i spent some quiet time in the late evening just sitting in the living room, taking in the silence. everything seems so peaceful, so calm. but in less than 48 hours, i will be purposefully throwing myself into the exact opposite. part of the reason for going to china is to reexperience that excitement, of seeing new things everyday. but just days before i leave, i also want to take some time to appreciate the tranquility. my life in the US, or my life in china, which one is the real vacation?

with just 2 days to go, i'm setting up password protection on all my devices (oneplus one and my macbook pro). should i have the misfortune of having these items stolen, at least they won't be able to access any of my personal data. actually, i won't do this until i'm about to leave. password protection is such a hassle, i try not to use it if i can help it.