It seems like light years ago that we were stuffing ourselves with stuffed pizza in Chicago saying goodbye to loved ones.
Make that 8,500 miles.
We survived our flights to Kunming, China, in spite that Jeff zappled his i-touch apps before leaving Chicago. Our first stop was Beijing. As long as the flight was, we reminded ourselves that it was better than being stuck in Cubs traffic.
We re-caffeinated our bodies at a Starbucks (you read that correctly) before boarding a three hour flight to Kunming. Jeff wondered how the school’s welcome committee, Sovi and Kurt Andreasson, would know who we were at the arrival gate in Kunming. Like duh. We were the only non-Chinese people on the flight, make it the entire Kunming airport.
We arrived at our apartment at two am in the morning. Located in the massive Lakeside Dreams development on the south west side of the city, our new abode is fully furnished with four rooms, and is about twice as large as where we lived in Chicago for the past 11 years. We have a view of the mountains and rice fields with a chorus of bullfrogs singing outside of our bedroom window. Such a welcome change from car alarms. Sovi and Curt gave us a welcome kit that included towels, whole wheat bread and Skippy peanut butter, my saving grace.
After they left, we began unpacking our luggage—the 250 pounds of precious cargo that defined who we were. We sprawled it onto the couch: a mountain of underwear, wrinkled work clothes, two fountain pens, two computers, a flashlight, milk duds and a lone tootsie roll. Our booty also included my yoga mat, Matt’s ashes, and a handful of Christmas decorations (which we will be keeping up all year long).
Jeff and I looked at the pile and said—this is it? This is all that we brought?
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pack Direct TV, hugs from our moms or other conveniences of America. But somehow, we’ll be able to transform unit 901 into our new home.
It wasn’t so supposed to be this way. By now, we were supposed to be in Bangkok, teaching cute Thai kids English, eating mangoes and fried bugs for dinner. But instead, the city caught on fire and we got a note in our inbox from the US State Department warning us not to go. Adjusting to living and working in Thailand would be weird enough without a threat of a civil war. That was May twenty-something ( a date I’m unsure of) but on May twenty-eighth ( a date I’m AM sure of), a tenant would move into our condo in Chicago. We had to be out of our home, someway, somehow. Miraculously, between packing up our boxes and watching the Red Shirt protests on CNN, we got new job offers in Kunming, China.
The contract date wouldn’t begin until August, leaving us two months to live uh, well nowhere. That’s when we began our Homeless Tour. We’ve squatted on couches, floors, foam cushions, bunks and spare beds everywhere from Door County, Wisconsin to Memphis, Tennessee. We put more miles on our car in six weeks than we had in the entire year, missing the magical moment when our odometer flipped over to 90K. Along with chewing on our fingernails while stressing out over lost VISAs in the mail, we got to devour regional treats such as boiled peanuts in the south and rhutabega pasties in the north. It might sound fun, but it’s been crazy. Nothing prepares you for living in a communist country like moving back in with your parents. Suddently, you’re living by someone else’s rules when you’re used to writing your own. But as of Sunday, our tour is over. We’ve condensed our lives down to 200 pounds worth of baggage plus a few carry-ons and will board a big bird to fly to Kunming, the City South of the Clouds.