So, the original-original plan was to return to Austin, permanently, on June 28th. That plan was replaced with the original plan, which was to go to Hong Kong in mid-June to renew my visa for the extended stay in Shanghai.
However due to circumstances beyond my control, the original-original plan now is back, with a slight modification in that I'll be returning to Shanghai after all. So I'll be in Austin for about two weeks (landing at 1 AM on June 29th) only to renew my visa, after which I will return to China until January 2009.
I was originally really really hoping to go to HK because I've never been there and could take a couple days off work for tourism. And the more I think about it now, the more excited I am to go back and see my friends and co-workers (and family!) that I've only been talking to voice- or text-wise for so long. Nothing beats a good face-to-face. And like I said several months ago when facing the prospect of returning permanently, I am really really really excited to see how different I feel when I get back. I kind of doubt it will be like in MD where I felt super familiar the instant I landed.
I know that it will be surreal to be back and see people whom I haven't talked with in so long. I am imagining it will be similar to the first time I came back to MD from college. I spent most of the time wandering around going " .... I grew up here." It was a very strange feeling, and to be honest, I still feel like that a little bit every time I go home -- although now it's way less prevalent than it used to be. But back then, I felt like a ghost at times -- I think it's mainly because many of my friends had also moved on at the time. This situation obviously is different because most of my friends are still in Austin :-) It's strange for me because six months either can feel like an enternity or a blink of the eye. It sort of flips back and forth at random.
I also am planning an itinerary, well, not an itinerary, but a list of things to do (okay, maybe that's an itinerary). These include things like going to Barton Springs (top on my list, actually), spending several hours relaxing at Mozart's on Lake Austin, and eating at various restaurants (County Line, Shady Grove, Kerbey Lane, Olmeca's, etc.) Mmmm. Also BOOK SHOPPING at BookPeople. Oh yes. Definitely reading the Austin Chronicle. Mayhap Mt. Bonnell and Zilker Botanical Gardens. Catch a show at Room 710 or Emo's. OH AND HOW COULD I FORGET THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE.
And perhaps I will take a tour of the town, on my own since I'll have a car, via a Lonely Planet guide and take some pictures with my new camera, now that I'm far more disposed towards using it for things other than parties :-) I imagine there also will be dining with friends and well-wishers. And I really look forward to randomly swinging by people's cubes at work and popping my head in with a well-placed "Ni hao!" Haha. I'm also bringing gifts, which reminds me, I need to finish shopping for ya'll. Maybe this weekend.
I learned a new Chinese idiom today -- "Lightbulb." (Unfortunately I don't remember the Chinese for it.) It's what you are when you go someplace with a friend and their significant other. In English we would call this being a "third wheel", I guess because a bike with three wheels would not run very well (but when I tried to explain this to my co-workers, I realized that tricycles are perfectly serviceable vehicles. Hm, peculiar.) Anyway the Chinese call this position a lightbulb because, it's like, you're shining the light on this couple so they can't do anything untoward. I hope you all find that as hilarious as I do :-)
Not much else has been happening lately. When my parents came they bequeathed unto me a voltage converter, which means I can charge my Nintendo DS, which means I spent some time this weekend playing Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. Fun times. I really love LoZ games -- for the most part, the puzzles in the game make you feel very intelligent when you solve them. I played through some of Twilight Princess for the Wii last summer and that was an excellent game also. And I still fondly remember A Link to the Past for the SNES.
It has been raining pretty much nonstop since Saturday afternoon. I was sitting at the Thumb, drinking coffee and reading, when a loud crack of thunder nearly deafened me. I was outside but under an awning, so I kept on reading as the rain started to pour down. It was great -- very relaxing.
It was really coming down, and the rain wasn't showing any signs of letting up. And then all of a sudden out of nowhere, this little frog started hopping around the plaza in front of us. I have no idea where he/she/it came from, but it went hoppity-hoppity hop and was so great :-) I really wish I had had my camera on me, but I did not, so I was unable to capture the moment. Completely random though.
Then I ducked into a KFC for lunch and ended up talking with two random women. Everybody likes it when a lao wai can speak some Chinese :-)
The rain stopped for a bit on Sunday, so I went exploring because I was feeling antsy that I hadn't done that in quite awhile. I took the metro to a random stop, which ended up being the Nanpu Bridge stop. I then wandered around taking pictures of nothing in particular. I took the ferry across to the Pudong side, then wandered around some more, finally going home when I saw the sign for the metro. I guess I spent about 3 hours doing this. It was pretty fun, and I got some great pictures that I'll try and upload to flickr soon :-)
On Monday the rain started again, and it literally has not let up since. My co-workers said this is the beginning of the rainy month in Shanghai, where it's hot and humid but rains constantly for like a month. Oh joy!! Just like in Austin last summer when we had that freak monsoon that nearly wrecked my boat party.
Sorry dad -- doesn't look like I'll be rollerblading anytime soon ;-) And it looks like maybe Suzhou will have to wait until I get back from Austin, too.