Dad and I are almost ready to start our China vacation! We have been planning and preparing for it for several months:
1. We obtained and viewed a 36-lecture course on Chinese history entitled "From Yao to Mao" from the Teaching Company. This gave us a lot of very helpful background information and helped us tell our Chins from our Mings and our Chings.
2. I downloaded a series of 14 lessons in basic Mandarin Chinese from these folks. Actually, if I remember correctly I found them on itunes and downloaded the lessons free from there. I learned to say Hello (Ni hao, or "nee how"), Thank You (Xie xie, prounounced "Shyay shyay"), You're Welcome (Mei shi, pronounced "May Sure"), and Goodbye (Zai jian, or "Zye Djeeahn"). (In real life all the Chinese transliterations have accent marks over them telling you what tone to use. In Chinese, if you say the same sound with a rising tone vs. a falling tone in your voice, they mean two different things. As different as the words "Horse", "Mother", and "Swearing or Scolding" which are all the sound MA with three different tones. See here for more.
3. We packed. And re-packed. And re-re-packed. And took things out. And took even more things out. You see, everyone is very concerned about luggage weight these days. This is especially an issue because we are going to be taking about five internal flights on various Chinese airlines over the next few weeks, and Chinese airlines have even more stringent weight requirements than American ones. To wit, we are limited to one suitcase, maximum weight 44 lb, and one carry on bag, maximum 11 lb. I actually took out enough stuff to get the main suitcase down to around 35 lb, but the carry on was never less than 15 even when I switched to the old, non-rolling one and took out everything but my CPAP and my knitting. I even spent Uncle Sam's Windfall on a travel CPAP that is particularly small and light, and Dad got one too. They were well worth it - very compact and still they worked great. Dad luckily tossed an extension cord with a multi-plug end into his bag at the last minute so we were able to get two outlets close enough to the beds to plug into. The machines were compatible with the 220 current they have over there too. I made sure I wouldn't run out of knitting on the trip; I took four complete socks' worth.
Today we drove out to Chicago where we were met by my brother John. We stayed overnight with him and he will take us to the airport tomorrow morning. Because his birthday will take place while we are in China, we brought him his presents and cards so he would have them on time! Dad kept practicing with his new camera: John's cat Lucky now makes his blogging debut below!