Published: July 3rd 2010June 28th 2010
crappy, old but still caffeine source
I couldn't decide if I should list this under Shanghai or Chicago...but since it started with Shanghai I went with the China listing.
The final day in Shanghai it rained and rained. Big huge drops. Our friend Ting came over in the morning to say goodbye. She said Shanghai was crying because the Slavens were leaving. I appreciated the rain more after that. Felt appropriate that the skies were crying as we were also quite sad and emotional as it was really time to say goodbye to Shanghai.
Our ayi also came early. She arrived with her husband to collect a load of furniture, dishes and other things we had given her. Watching her say goodbye to Emily was just heart wrenching. She and Emily have become quite close over the past two years. When Emily woke up, she went and sat in a chair and then the ayi was suddenly bending over her and they just hugged and hugged. I watched them embrace for what must have been many minutes. Just hugging and not talking. It was so moving. Mark and I both considered grabbing our cameras but then out of respect for the moment, we just watched
last rainy day
check out that umbrella handle...or lack thereof
and appreciated the gift of another person in the world loving our daughter.
We had our 9 huge and overstuffed bags--one zipper burst from all the times it had been back and forth across the world. I sewed it shut. We had 8 carry-ons and they were almost all not suitable for "under the seat in front of you" usage. We were breaking all the rules and luckily we didn't get in trouble for it. I was gently scolded by one flight attended at the very end of our journey home. She saw all our large carry-ons and questioned me. I was ready for a long negotiation but I just explained we were moving home from China (this happenend on the last flight from San Francisco to Chicago) and she said "oh wow...well try to put some of it under the seat in front of you" and let us through. Phew.
As part of the goodbye ritual of our last morning, we went to say goodbye to a couple key figures in our neighborhood. First, I went across the street and said farewell to this woman I saw almost every day of our time in Shanghai. Her job
is to collect money from people who park their bikes in front of the mall across from our place. It started off that we would acknowledge each other with a smile or a nod but in the end we had a couple good chats and she watched my family come and go to our various meals and activities, subway rides and shopping expeditions. I told her we were moving home to the USA and not coming back (meaning this was no vacation home, but the real deal) and she smiled and nodded. I had Mark snap a photo of us which I hope to bring her a copy of someday. I imagine she'll still be there, monitoring the bikes and motorcycles as they park in front of the mall. Collecting the fee and smiling at anyone who takes the time to smile at her.
It was still pouring rain, but we also had to go say bye to the fruit stand guy. Emily and he had become friendly after all her trips to buy fruit for our weekend breakfasts. Every time she went there, she came home with some sort of bonus--a new fruit to try or an extra
one of whatever she was buying. He seemed a little confused by all the hoopla I was making about our departure but he took time from unpacking bananas and smiled and posed for a goodbye picture with Emily.
I had arranged for a large van to come get us but after seeing our luggage situation, I texted the driver and asked for a second car. We loaded up all our luggage in one car--the car company we hired for the ride to the airport--and the 4 of us all went in the second car which was a new Expo taxi (yay! new taxi). We said goodbye to the ayi and her husband and our home for 2 years and were off to Pudong Airport for the journey west.
Our flight was a pretty easy one even though it was FULL. No rows to ourselves this time. Four Slavens in the four middle section seats. There was a cat under the seat 2 rows in front of me and I'm not sure if it was physical or psychological but my lungs started to constrict and my throat began to itch soon after I learned of our furry traveling companion.
We paid how much to have an allergy attack for 10 hours? I took asthma medicine, Benadryl and eventually felt better. I didn't drink any free wine though because of the warnings on the medicine. Darn it. Free wine opportunity wasted.
We arrived in San Francisco and had a long stop before our next flight home. We went through customs, and due to the volume of our luggage, we were sent to the x-ray line for nothing to declare. We were the only non-asians in that line...hmmmm...but our stuff went through without any real inspection beyond asking us if he were bringing back any meat or plants and we were welcomed home without incident. I noticed the other passengers were being scrutinized more thoroughly and their bags were being dug through in a much more intensive way. Again, I will just say, hmmm.
Mark's brother Matt picked us up at SFO and we spent the day with him in the city. Nathan and Matt went rock climbing while Mark, Emily and I hung out at Peet's, checked out the new iPhone at the Apple store and bought retro candy (pop rocks and lemon heads) at a cute candy
shop we found.
We picked up the rock climbers and headed to lunch at Tommy's Joynt on Van Ness in San Francisco--the legendary spot where my parents had their first date. Or so I believe. They loved it, I know that much for sure. We all feasted on gigantic portions of American classics such as roast beef, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and baked beans. Scrumptious food and a fun trip down memory lane for me. I ate many meals at TJ's as a kid living in Berkeley. We did a quick drive down Lombard Street before heading back to the airport. We were all really tired by this point, but it was a nice way to break up the long trip (and of course it was great to see Matt). I wish we'd had more time in California but we'll be back soon I'm sure.
The final 4 hours of our journey home quite literally flew by and were back on Salem Lane before midnight. I had to call and request 2 taxis to get our luggage home and after hauling it all inside, surveying our house and the stacks of mail and packages, we ordered pizza,
watched the same 2 year old Tivo shows we watch everytime we return home.
At this point, we are basically over the jetlag--it was an incredibly fast process for all of us this time. NOW we are used to the traveling. Now that we are back for good. Oh well. It made it a lot easier to come home and get stuff done.
We spent a few days at home and enjoyed seeing a few of our friends before zipping off to Mark's parents place in Ohio to see our family, celebrate Emily's real birthday, our country's birthday, and collect our car and some miscellaneous important things we stored in Ohio for the past 2 years.
I found out this week that my blog is now in the Travelblog Hall of Fame. How cool is that? I am, if nothing else, a lover of validation and praise. What a nice acknowledgement of the effort I put into this 2 year chronicle.
I have one or two stories and adventures that never made it into the blog. I think I will probably add them even though we are back. When I figure out my next blog project,
I will be sure to share it here as well.
A couple end notes about our return. Of course our car died the day after we returned. We were en route to breakfast at everyone's favorite pancake house when it was making odd noises. We made the tough call to go to breakfast and face the consequences later--breakfast is really important in our house. After breakfast, the car went to the shop, we got a rental and so it goes.
We were driving back from someplace--oh I know, it was from the dentist--and I spotted these crazy giant Target carts with motorized fronts. Something for a parade perhaps. I took it as a warning sign. Beware of all that American consumerism you once so actively took part in. Try to control yourself! I made it about 4 days before my first trip to Target and I spent under $100. A sort of victory.
The other fun tidbit is I was all set to use our full size washer and dryer. Dryer is broken. I think it got wet due to water coming into the vent over the winter or during these crazy last few summer rains. Regardless,
we had no dryer. laundromat? Friend's house? Heck no. We rigged up a laundry line using rope, some patio chairs and 5 gallon water jugs filled with hose water to serve as weights. It was hilarious to be sure. And oh so bloggable. But also just annoying. I wasn't looking for a good story to share. I just wanted soft towels and fresh sheets to put on my bed. So the adventure is already continuing. Whether I want it to or not.
There are more photos below